Category Archives: Advice

655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences

A vocabulary episode with lots of phrases for describing the experience of living in self-isolation. It also includes a bit of a ramble about the situation in the UK, my personal experiences of living in Paris during the lockdown and a song at the end. Vocabulary list & notes available.

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Transcript & Notes

Introduction

Hi everyone, here’s a new episode to keep you company and to help you learn some English that you can use to describe the experience of living in self-isolation. We’ll be looking especially at vocabulary to describe the feelings and emotions that you might be going through during this experience.

Something like 2.5 billion people in the world are in self-isolation at the moment, including me, my wife and our daughter and no doubt many of you too. Not the band.

Some of you out there won’t be in isolation, confined at home or on lockdown, for whatever reason. It depends on the approach that your country is taking to this pandemic.

Maybe you are making personal choices to stay at home even if your government hasn’t imposed it. In the UK for example, the government has only recently imposed it, a week or two late in some people’s opinions. I’m trying not to talk about politics here though, just how it feels to be stuck inside, and as I said – this is mainly a vocabulary episode so I will be talking about expressions like “on lockdown”, “in isolation”, “confinement” and also loads of other things.

In France we are on lockdown and we’re only about a week and a half into it. I’m not sure how long it will go on for. Some people say a couple of weeks, some say it will continue into May, others suggest longer.

If you aren’t sure, being “on lockdown” means being ordered by the government to stay at home for an extended period of time, without a lot of human contact in an attempt to prevent the spread of this virus.

Plenty of countries in the world are on lockdown.

So you might be starved of human contact at this time, or perhaps the opposite. You might be having a bit too much human contact if you are locked up with members of your family, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, flatmates and so on and you’re trying your hardest not to become homicidal under the circumstances.

There are various possibilities in terms of what you might be going through at the moment.

Maybe

  • You’re just lonely because you’re not used to spending so much time on your own.
  • You’re frustrated because you can’t stand not being able to do what you want to do (i.e. go out and live normally).
  • You can’t stand being confined with other people, who you are trying your best to get on with. You might be craving a bit of solitude at this time, just to get away from your family or something.
  • You are worrying about work.
  • You are worrying about family and friends who might get the virus, especially those who are in the “at-risk” category (e.g. those with underlying or existing health issues, or elderly people).

Or maybe

  • You’re strangely enjoying this time.
  • You are really enjoying having more time to yourself.
  • You’re managing to do things.
  • It feels a bit like a stay-at-home holiday, or a “staycation”.
  • You don’t mind self-isolation. In fact it’s kind of normal for you.

I’m slightly concerned about talking about this, because I am very aware that for some of you out there this is a really hard time and I don’t want to be frivolous about it.

I know that a lot of you are not having a sort of “staycation” (a holiday at home / a vacation in which you stay at home). I mean, this is not a holiday for many of you, but a very difficult and worrying time.

But having said that, I am now going to talk about this a bit.

Here’s the general plan.

In this episode

  1. Teach you some vocabulary to describe isolation, lockdown and the things that might be going through your mind as you experience this – particularly feelings and emotions.
  2. Comment on some recent news about this situation, focusing on the UK mainly again
  3. A couple of corrections from the previous episodes in which I talked about this (651 and 652)
  4. Ramble a little bit about what I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks

1. Vocabulary

I’m not talking about symptoms and health issues. I’ve already done that in episodes 651 and 652.

Basics – Some trending words & phrases

First some basics to describe this situation – words which are trending

Self-isolation
To be in self-isolation – “I can’t stand being in self-isolation. It’s doing my head in.”
To self isolate – “Boris Jonson has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating at home” (more on this later)
To isolate yourself (from) – “Those people who are displaying symptoms have been told to stay at home and isolate themselves from other family members.”

Lockdown
To be on lockdown – “We are on lockdown. We’ve been on lockdown for a few weeks in Paris.”
To be locked down – “Paris is almost completely locked down. You’re only allowed to go out for certain things. You might be stopped by the police and you could face a large fine if you don’t have a written justification for being outside.”
The lockdown – “The lockdown is going to last indefinitely”

Confinement
To be in confinement – “We’ve been in confinement for nearly 2 weeks now”
To be confined at home – “Billions of people around the world are currently confined at home, listening to Luke’s English Podcast and washing their hands.”

Quarantine
To be quarantined (keeping a possibly infected person or animal separate from others) “Lots of people have been quarantined at the airport.”
To be in quarantine – “They’re currently in quarantine until further notice”
To quarantine someone – “If you arrive at immigration, you will be immediately quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus in the country”

Containment
To contain the virus – “Visitors to the city have been quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus”
The containment of the virus – “We’re confident that the lockdown will result in the containment of the virus.”

Vocabulary to describe this experience – Feelings & Emotions

Words and phrases you might need to talk about what you’re going through (mainly for those of you who are just stuck at home, not the symptoms of the disease)

Bad things

Bad mood / Relationships
Bored / boredom
I’m just so bored of being stuck indoors
I’m so sick of this boredom
To be at a loose end – “I’m just knocking around the house at a loose end” = bored and with nothing to do
Frustrating
It’s frustrating not being able to do what you want to do
To be/get frustrated
I’m starting to get frustrated. I need to go outside and get exercise.
Depression – “It’s normal to suffer from a bit of depression in conditions like this.”
To get depressed – “Try not to get depressed”
To feel down – “I must admit I’ve been feeling a bit down today.”
It’s getting to me – “It’s getting to me, being locked up. It’s started to get to me.”
It’s starting to get to me
To be locked up (with) someone – “I’m not sure I can face being locked up with my family for another 6 weeks!”
To irritate someone / To annoy someone / To get on someone’s nerves
To be irritating / to be annoying
“Could you use headphones while you’re gaming? It’s just really starting to irritate me.”
“The neighbours have their TV on really loud. It’s so annoying!”
“The sound of them talking is really starting to get on my nerves now”
To be at each other’s throats – “They were at each other’s throats after just 3 days!”
Familiarity breeds contempt
To have enough of someone/something – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going out.”
To be fed up with someone/something – “I’m just so fed up with being stuck indoors all day”
To miss people – “I’m missing my friends”
To be / To feel cut off (from) someone – “It’s quite hard feeling cut off from my normal circle of friends”

Mental issues / Struggling to deal with the situation
I’m struggling to cope = I am finding it difficult to deal with this situation, i.e. I am mentally struggling. I’m feeling upset, emotional, depressed, unable to do anything.
This is like Groundhog Day = A film in which Bill Murray repeats the same day again and again
How am I going to get through this? – to get through something means to progress from start to finish. To be able to move from the start of the experience to the end of the experience without stopping or failing. To get through a tunnel. To get through an experience.
To be overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries – “Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries” (e.g. about the knock-on effects on the economy, or even more paranoid thoughts about what’s really going on)
To get carried away / To let your mind get carried away – “You’re getting carried away. I don’t think things are that bad.”
Try not to think too much – “Look, don’t think too much. Try not to think too much. Just take it one day at a time.”
To feel paranoid – “I started feeling a bit paranoid the other day when I was outside.”
To feel anxious – “It’s easy to feel anxious in this situation”
Nervous vs stressed vs annoyed vs angry
Try not to worry
Don’t panic!
Don’t freak out
Panic buying – “You see footage on the news of people panic buying toilet roll and pasta. Apparently these are the two most essential things for us. Eating pasta and then wiping our arses when we poo it out.” [?]

Going mad
To climb the walls – “My teenage kids are climbing the walls, almost literally”
To lose it – “Any more time spent in this room and I’m just going to lose it.”
He’s lost it – “Uh oh, Luke’s lost it.”
To lose your mind – “I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind.”

Locked in
To go stir crazy – “I’m going a bit stir crazy to be honest” = feeling upset, angry, emotional, mad, mentally unwell because you are locked in somewhere, like if you were in prison. (in the 19th century “stir” was a nickname for prison, or specifically Newgate Prison in London, but now it refers to any situation in which you are cooped up)
I’m getting cabin fever
To be cooped up = to be locked inside, like you’re a chicken in a chicken coop. “I can’t stand being cooped up all day”.
Feeling claustrophobic
Feeling trapped
To be stuck indoors
Stuck (past of stick)
To be stuck somewhere – “I’m stuck at home” “They’re stuck in Morocco” “He got stuck in his car for hours” “I was stuck to the TV watching the news for 9 hours.”
To be stuck indoors – “I’m stuck indoors and it sucks.”

Others
My hands are chapped – “Have you got any moisturiser? My hands are so chapped from constantly washing them.”

On the front line – to be on the front line means to be doing the hardest and most important work. It was originally used to talk about soldiers in a war, specifically those people who are on the front line of the conflict, facing the enemy and fighting with them directly. This is the first meaning, but these days it is used to refer to the people who are doing the hardest and most important work in any situation.

In the past, working in a language school I have heard people talking about the teachers being the ones who are on the front line, meaning they are the ones who face the clients in the form of students in class, so if the students are unhappy for whatever reason, it’s the teachers who have to deal with that directly, rather than the marketing people, the management, the agents etc.

At the moment this phrase is being used a lot for those people who are working in hospitals, so health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and so on. In fact these are the real heroes of the moment.

Any of the negative things I’m mentioning in this episode, including all the boredom, the friction with those you live with, the fears about work, the frustrations and isolation – none of it compares to the struggles, risks and sheer exhaustion of those working on the front line of this situation.

Every evening here in Paris at 8pm people open their windows or go out onto their balconies in order to applaud together as a public display of gratitude for all the health workers who are working on the front line. It’s started happening across the UK as well, and I’m sure it’s the same in many other countries.

And I’d like to echo that. Thank you, if you are a health worker or if you’re involved directly in the fight against this fucking virus. Thank you. (applause)

Oh and by the way, we will beat this. It’s not the end of the world.

Positives
This could be a chance for you to do things
Every cloud has a silver lining
Spending a lot more time together
Quality time
To spend quality time with someone
To reconnect with your family
Reconnecting with family
To catch up on things
Finally catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do for a while

My friend Vanessa on FB shared this

“Day 9 of lockdown
My inner Emily Dickinson is loving this (Emily Dickinson was an American poet who was very withdrawn, introverted and reclusive)
I’ve never felt less pressure to go out or accomplish anything.
I’m loving the mandated family time.
My around-the-world loved ones actually have time to write back to me, quickly!
The air quality is the best it’s been in 40 years.
There have been no traffic jams, nor annoying honking out my window.
The sun shines against a beautiful blue sky.
I’m thankful the tragedy of losing someone to covid has not yet become a reality for me.
What are you lockdown silver linings?
Tell me ⬇️”

Not having to wear a bra to go to work. Lol.

Taking care of your mental health
www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Try to stay optimistic
Focus on the positives
If you’re with other people, just accept that there will be friction.
Work on being generous if you can.
Keep to a routine
Keep active
Get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible
Keep your mind stimulated
Focus on a hobby
Meditate
Do yoga
Play music
Read and write
Write a diary. Pour out your thoughts into the diary. It can be very rewarding.
Cross things off your to-do list
To binge watch TV series

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

To binge listen to podcasts / audiobooks
To binge on something
To spend time doing something
To daydream
To let your mind wander

The next episode of Gill’s Book Club:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Coming in a couple of months I expect

2. Some of the recent news in the UK at the time of recording this

Since I spoke to my Dad in episode 652 and we talked about how the UK government had been pursuing a plan of herd immunity, which basically means → don’t make people stay at home, don’t close restaurants, pubs, gyms and other places (don’t put the country on lockdown) just let everyone get the virus, let every become immune and so what if some people die, at least the economy will be ok.

*I’d like to add a point here after having listened to the recent episode of the Adam Buxton Podcast with Dr Xand Van Tulleken in which they talk about lots of things relating to the situation (I highly recommend it) and I just wanted to add that actually it’s really hard to calculate the human cost of either the coronavirus or the effects of the containment measures. Which will kill more people or cause more suffering? The virus itself or the knock-on effects of all these containment measures and the impact they will have on the economy and also on people’s lives? It’s hard to balance the two things…

Anyway, let’s carry on*

Since then, the government has changed its position and has put the country on lockdown but it was only imposed at the start of this week. Probably a bit late.

I’ll have to talk to my Dad again about this to go into more detail about what’s going on in the UK, although I don’t want to overload you all with coronavirus content.

Also there’s the fact that Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus and today so has Boris Johnson, and you might want to know what I think about those things.

Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus. This doesn’t mean he likes it, it means he’s got it. What do I think? Well, I wish him well of course, like anyone who’s got this. He is in the at-risk category being 71, but apparently his symptoms are fairly mild. I expect he’s got excellent medical care so he’ll probably be alright.

I reckon most people when hearing the news just thought “But what about the Queen, is the Queen OK?” because if the Queen got it that would be very bad news. She’s got good medical care too of course, but still, she’s 93. We know that when The Queen dies it will be so significant that the country will definitely change. It’ll signify the end of an era, there will be national mourning on an unprecedented scale, not necessarily because everyone loves her, but just because she is such a significant figure and one of the only symbols of national unity that we have left. I say national unity, I suppose I mean continuity in the sense that she has been a constant thing for decades, while so many other things have changed and I think the whole of the UK gets some sense of security from that sense of continuity. It’s a complex situation and of course there are various opinions on the monarchy, including many who think that it’s an outdated institution and represents inequality and privilege in society, but still, it’ll be a hugely significant moment when she does die, and the country will grind to a halt (again) for days, with public holidays and various other things happening. So, if she died during this coronavirus lockdown that would be devastating.

And if she got it, died and everyone thought that Charles had given it to her, they’d chop his head off! Obviously they wouldn’t, I’m joking, but let’s just say that the knives would be out (an expression) and it would be extremely bad for his popularity which is already quite shaky. Anyway, this isn’t about the monarchy!

Boris Johnson has tested positive for it too. Apparently he has mild symptoms and is staying at home, working from home. Ironically so does the health secretary Matt Hancock. To be honest, it’s no surprise because until about a week ago the government’s position on this whole thing was to just let everyone get infected, let the population develop herd immunity it’s no big deal really, and if loads of elderly people die and the NHS collapses under the pressure then never mind we’ll just keep calm and carry on.

In fact Boris was bragging only recently during a press-conference about how he had met loads of coronavirus sufferers in hospitals and how he’d shaken their hands and he was shaking everyone’s hands. I expect he is eating his words now. What’s perhaps more serious and shocking is how irresponsible he’s been. Sure, he’s got it now which a) doesn’t help him or the country, or his pregnant girlfriend but also b) he’s possibly spread the virus to loads of other people, potentially thousands (due to the way the virus spreads exponentially) → so congratulations Boris, you have directly helped to make the situation much much worse than it could have been.

Here he is, talking about it in that press conference.

3. Corrections from episodes 651 and 652

I said that flu was a form of coronavirus. Apparently that’s not true. Coronavirus and flu are totally different, and while flu is a killer, Coronavirus is potentially a much bigger killer, because of the way it spreads.

And for those people out there saying “Flu kills more people per year than Coronavirus, what’s all the fuss about?” here’s a clip of stand up comedian Nico Yearwood talking about it on stage before the lockdown when the comedy clubs were still open.

I accidentally said that we should be washing our hands for 20 minutes. Obviously that was just a slip and I meant to say 20 seconds. (We corrected that in the RT report)

I also said that masks don’t stop you from getting the virus. I realise now that I had almost no actual evidence to back that up. It turns out there are several types of mask and some are more effective at protecting you from this than others.

Disposable face masks vs N95 respirator masks

CNET.com
Disposable face masks block large particles from entering your mouth (which I suppose means that small droplets containing the virus might still be able to get in, and anyway you can probably still get infected through the eyes and ears too, potentially – but maybe these disposable masks can help prevent you spreading it around),

So that’s the disposable face masks. Then the more tight-fitting N95 respirator masks are far more effective at shielding you from airborne illnesses. Those are the ones with the filters fitted in the front.

Both of these masks could potentially help protect you from getting a viral infection, but US government officials have emphasized that the American public should not purchase face masks to prevent themselves from getting infected. Instead, only people who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus should wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Apparently the N95 masks are much harder to find than the standard disposable ones.

ADDITIONAL (added after recording – this doesn’t appear in the episode)

I have just been sent this video on Twitter. The message is clear. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Masks help to prevent the spread of the virus. They might not be perfect, but they’re better than nothing. In the Czech Republic they seem to have been very successful in containing the spread of the virus. 

4. Personal experiences of lockdown / self-isolation with a 2-year-old child

Some details about what we’re doing and some of the challenges we’re facing

France has been on full lockdown for nearly 2 weeks now. Almost everything is closed except certain shops selling “essential items” –> note that the wine shops and cheese shops are very much open in our area :)

My daughter isn’t going to creche so we have to look after her all the time. That’s great but also exhausting. I’m not complaining, we knew what we were doing when we created her, so, you know, it’s our fault. Anyway, the thing is, it takes a lot of time and all that, and my wife and I have work to do but it’s not bad, we divide the day and I look after her in the morning and in the afternoon it’s the other way around.

I still teach classes for the British Council but now they are happening on Zoom – the videoconferencing platform. Actually, Zoom are doing pretty well out of this, aren’t they? I had just a few hours to learn how to use the platform but it’s pretty good. It’s not as good as teaching in real life, but it’s not bad. → Talk a bit about teaching on Zoom.

One thing I thought the other day is that this crisis is going to force us to change and will be a driver of change in various ways. Certainly we’re all becoming a lot more familiar with videoconferencing and I think a lot of employers and employees will realise that working from home is really doable and will become more and more normal.

Let me now talk about going outside and staying indoors. Most of our time is spent indoors of course, but we do go outside from time to time.

Going outside
Feeling a bit guilty and also a bit nervous (don’t want to catch the virus, but don’t want to spread it), but going outside is vital for our mental and physical health.
Strict instructions from the government, which we are trying to comply with.
People are getting pretty angry about this on social media.
Only going outside for a bit of exercise, staying max 1km from our home.
Only ever just one of us, or one of us with our daughter.
We just walk around the block, choosing quiet streets, crossing the road to avoid people etc.
It’s like a ghost town
It’s quite eerie
It’s also quite peaceful and wonderful
Paris is a very beautiful city and usually it’s very busy and stressful. Not at the moment. Well, not busy anyway.
The weather has been fantastic, which makes this much easier to deal with.
But it’s also a dirty place, like most inner-city areas.
Rubbish and also general uncleanliness.
I wonder what condition the place will be in after weeks of this. Are the streets usually this dirty or is it just more obvious now?
Rubbish on the floor, dog poo not cleaned up.
I’m teaching my daughter to count and we often count things we see in the street. She now counts the dog poo. There’s nothing I can do about it. At least she knows she should avoid it. (I’m still not sure if there is a taboo about talking about this in Paris, which would be odd. Surely the taboo would be to let your dog do it and then not clean it up.)
Actually, I think Paris is always like that!
Anyway, let’s not dwell on it too long.
Some shops are open – those ones for essential food, supermarkets, boulangeries (bakeries), cheese shops. Yep, I live in Paris!
Queues are more orderly. There are lines on the ground. People know that they have to stay at least 1m away from each other. There’s more politeness actually.
Not touching anything.
Getting our daughter to run while holding my hand.
Jumping onto manhole covers.
Looking into the windows of guitar shops.
Spotting things in the street and counting them.

Staying in
The main challenge for us is: keeping our daughter busy, keeping up her education (even though she’s just two and 3 months), limiting screen time, maintaining our mental health – I mean just trying to stay in a good mood, getting enough physical exercise for all of us but especially the little one, managing to get work done and also keeping in touch with friends and family. I feel like we’re only partly successful in all areas.
Yoga for kids
Reading, reading, reading
Using a pre-school app on the ipad
Worrying about screen time
Playing games for numbers, colours
Listening to music
Limiting screen time
Speaking a lot more English
Showering together
Washing hands and singing happy birthday to celebrities

Overall → things are really not that bad for us at all. We are incredibly lucky.

For some others this might be an impossible time.
Some people have been laid off
Some people who are self-employed are unable to do their work
Some people will be unable to feed their kids because schools are closed (and they rely on those schools to provide a decent meal once a day)
A lot of people will have lost money
Some people will be worried about loved ones who are in vulnerable positions
And of course some people will be sick with the coronavirus and feeling terrible, wondering if they should go to hospital etc.

Song

So Lonely by The Police/Sting

Chords & Lyrics
tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-police/so-lonely-chords-364306

What’s your experience?

Leave your comments below and let us know 👍

654. Computer-based IELTS / Stories about The First Time… (with Jessica Beck from IELTS Energy Podcast)

A chat with Jessica Beck from the IELTS Energy Podcast about the new computer-based IELTS test, plus some funny stories about doing things for the first time, motivation in language learning, dealing with the stress of public speaking and seeing “The Fonz” on a ski slope. Get a $50 discount on Jessica’s new IELTS online course by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/3keys

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Transcripts for the introduction & ending

Hello listeners, how are you? I hope you’re alright. How are you all coping? I hope you’re all doing ok out there in podcastland.

Here is a new podcast episode to listen to and this time I am joined by IELTS teacher Jessica Beck who you might know from the IELTS Energy Podcast and All Ears English.

Jessica has been on LEP a couple of times before as you may remember. She is a specialist in IELTS preparation, having taught IELTS courses for many years now both in classrooms and online.

Just in case you don’t know, IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. It’s a proficiency test which reveals a person’s English level, and it’s fiendishly difficult, requiring a lot of preparation in order to make sure that you get a result that reflects your English at its best. I recently talked about the speaking part of the test with Keith O’Hare in episode 640.

Jessica recently invited me onto an episode of her podcast – the IELTS Energy Podcast, and we talked about differences between American and British English (because the IELTS test features both versions so it’s interesting to compare them and look at some common vocabulary differences).

That is #850 of The IELTS Energy Podcast, called “What’s a Zebra Crossing? Luke Will Tell You!” There’s a link on the page for this episode if you’d like to hear it.

IELTS Energy 850: What’s a Zebra Crossing? Luke Will Tell You!

And now Jessica Beck is back on my podcast again in this episode.

Here’s a little overview of what’s coming up, in order to help you follow the whole thing.

First you will hear some chat about the weather where we live. I’m in Paris and she’s in Portland up in the North West of the USA near Seattle. This smalltalk should give you a chance to get used to the speed of the conversation, before we move on to talk about the computer-based IELTS test.

Planning to take IELTS? You’ll need to prepare properly.

Some of you will be planning to take the IELTS test in the future and you might be wondering about the best way to prepare, especially if you’re studying at home. If that is you, then you could check out the 3 Keys IELTS course which Jessica and the other girls at All Ears English have created. It’s a really solid and complete package which includes pretty much everything you need to get success in this course, including video lessons, test practice and 90 minutes of one-to-one counselling with one of the girls over skype.

I suggest you check out the Personal Coach course for the computer based test. And listeners to my podcast can get a 50$ discount on that, which is nice.

Check out www.teacherluke.co.uk/3keys for all the information. You’ll hear some more details about that later.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/3keys

So there’s some chat about the weather and then some chat about taking the computer based version of the test, but it’s not all about IELTS. I think we just talk about IELTS for the first 10 minutes in fact and then you will hear us sharing a couple of personal stories about doing things for the first time, one involving the importance of not giving up even when it hurts, and the other story is about how to deal with the stress of public speaking. We reflect on the lessons learned from those experiences and their relevance to the challenge of learning a language.

Also, listening to this you will be able to notice differences between Jessica’s American English and my British English, not necessarily in terms of vocabulary used but more just in terms of our intonation patterns or the tone of our speaking in general. It will probably seem really obvious at the beginning, especially if you are very used to hearing me speak.

Listening back to this conversation myself and during I somehow felt extra British (a bit awkward, perhaps a bit posh and quite wordy) and that Jessica was being extra American (super enthusiastic, energetic, positive). Actually, we end up making fun of each other’s speaking style at one point as we do impressions of each other presenting our podcasts. It’s a bit of a laugh and you should enjoy it.

Anyway, I will now stop rambling now so you can listen to this conversation with Jessica about IELTS and about what we learned from the challenge of doing some things for the first time and I’ll talk to you again briefly at the end of the episode.


Not sure who “Fonzie” is? Have a look… (he’s the guy in the leather jacket on the motorbike)

Ending

Thanks again to Jessica for coming on the podcast again and sharing that story. I can’t believe she saw The Fonz on a ski slope. That doesn’t happen every day, does it?

I’m genuinely curious to see if any of you actually know who The Fonz is. He is mentioned in the film Pulp Fiction, if you remember. The scene in the diner with Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer and John Travolta. There’s a kind of Mexican stand-off (of course there is, it’s a Quentin Tarantino film!) and if you don’t know what a Mexican stand-off is, it’s when loads of people point guns at each other in a film (and maybe in real life I don’t know).

Anyway, Samuel L Jackson manages to make Amanda Plummer’s character calm down by saying “We’re going to be like 3 little Fonzies here, alright? And what’s Fonzie like?” and she’s like “What? Wh…” “WHAT’S FONZIE LIKE???” “He’s cool.” “That’s right he’s cool. So we’re going to be like three little Fonzies here ok” etc. It’s a memorable moment, if you remember it that is.

Anyway, if you are considering preparing for IELTS and you have, say, 30 or 60 days available ahead of you, then you might consider the 3 Keys IELTS Personal Coach course for the computer test, and if you’re interested go to teacherluke.co.uk/3keys to get a $50 discount.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/3keys

Alrighty then. So how are you holding up?

It’s a tough and weird time, there’s no doubt about it. As I’ve said before, this virus isn’t just a threat to your physical health. Obviously you need to take steps to avoid catching it, but also to avoid spreading it too, but at the same time please do look after your mental health. Keep yourself busy, find a routine in your daily life, do some indoor exercise like Yoga. Read books. Don’t spend the whole day staring at social media or watching 24 hour news. Use this as a chance to get some things done that you’ve been putting off for a while. Keep in touch with friends and family. Just a few ideas. I mean, what do I know? In any case, do take care of yourselves out there and I hope that this podcast can keep you company just a little bit during this weird time.

I’ll speak to you again soon, but for now, Bye!

649. An Unedited Ramble (March 2020) Never Explain, Never Apologise? / No Stress / Method To The Madness / 3 Songs on Guitar

Luke talks on his own without stopping, restarting or editing, including responses to comments about recent episodes, thoughts on the methodology behind this podcast, some vocabulary teaching, a few songs on the guitar and more. This is no-stress episode, and a chance for me to just check in on you and make sure you’re all doing ok out there in the world! 😉

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Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay.

Episode Notes

These are just notes and not a full transcript. Some chunks of target vocabulary are highlighted in bold.

In this episode you’re going to hear me talking on my own, which probably means it’s going to be easier to understand and follow what I’m saying than some of the episodes I’ve uploaded recently, because I’ve uploaded some pretty challenging episodes over the last few weeks and months, and years… I try to mix it up a bit, with some challenging ones and some easier ones. Let’s say the easier ones are when I’m on my own and the more challenging ones are when I’m with other people or when we are breaking down recordings of other people.

But this one is just me, and you, because you’re involved. You’re listening aren’t you?

I hope this will come as something of a relief to you, at least to those of you who are pushing yourselves by listening to my podcast, and who might have quite a tough time understanding the more challenging episodes.

I know that some episodes are difficult to follow sometimes, because of the speed of English you’re hearing from my guests and me, and because we might be talking about subjects that you aren’t so familiar with.

Anyway, no stress today, there’s enough stress in the world. The plan here is just to chat to you, have a good old-fashioned ramble on LEP.

So you can have a bit of a breather today and just enjoy listening to this. And I hope you listen to all of it, from start to the finish. If it makes any difference to you, I will sing you a song or two with my guitar at the end. So if you’d like to hear me singing again, as I do at the end of episodes sometimes, then stick with it and keep listening until the end. Don’t be tempted to skip forward. That’s cheating.

Two words: deferred gratification.

It’s important to have a bit of self-discipline and I’m talking to myself there as much as I’m talking to you. 

When I decided to do this episode I thought (and it’s always like this, with these rambling episodes as I’ve come to call them) I decided initially to just talk without preparing anything in advance. Just no pressure, no specific agenda, just speak my mind and try to express the ideas which have been building up in my head since the last time I spoke to you like this.

The idea is that I can keep it authentic, in the moment and I don’t have to spend ages working on it before I even start recording. That’s what I think when I decide to do an episode like this.

But that’s easier said than done, because…. (What happens Luke? How do you end up writing so much in advance?)

Basically: I want to talk with no preparation, but then I have to write some things down or I won’t remember to mention them, but then I end up starting to type out everything in advance. 

It’s hard to know when to stop preparing and when to start recording.

So I’ve decided to just get started here without worrying too much about having every single detail prepared in advance. 

I know it’s probably not an issue for you, but I’m just giving you bit of insight into what goes through my mind when I prepare and record an episode. 

So → No more preparing, it’s time to start talking, which might mean there is some rambling here, which is fine and great.


Episode Aims

  • The main aim of this episode is to check in on you (make sure you’re doing alright) but not check up on you (to investigate, gather information, spy on someone)
  • And just chat to you about various things on my mind, things that I think are of interest to you as a member of my audience.
  • Talk a bit about recent episodes, just to establish where we are.
  • Give a few bits of news.
  • Respond to a couple of comments I’ve received
  • Have a bit of a laugh → just have some fun on the podcast because that is one of my favourite things about doing this. Just messing about and having fun, with no stress involved!
  • Sing one, two or maybe three songs on the guitar, which I will leave until the end.

As we go through all of this, I am sure that there will be various expressions, vocabulary and other language points that will come up. [A lot of it is highlighted for you here]

When I talk in episodes of this podcast I am sure that some people don’t notice what the method is. Most people like to think there is a specific pedagogical method at work and in my experience it is necessary to tell people (my students for example) exactly what the method is in order to put their minds at rest so they know they’re in safe hands.

What I will say is this – it might not be obvious all the time, but there is method to the madness I can assure you. I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years now and to an extent I am now just always teaching. I’m always in teaching mode. This means that I’m always thinking about what you while I am talking. I’m always thinking about the listener not because I’m so selfless and wonderful but because I know what I’m doing.

*You don’t need to justify it Luke*

Let’s just say this → Even when it’s not obvious that I am teaching you, I am teaching you. Every minute you listen to this (and indeed most other things you could listen to, but the difference here is that I am doing this specifically for you as a learner of English and even more specifically as a LEPster) … every minute you listen to this is a minute in the bank of your English. 

I’ll talk more about methodology and this podcast in a bit. I’m still technically in the introduction here.

I have no idea how long this will take, but it usually takes longer than I expect, so this could easily be two episodes.

But seriously, let’s forget about the clock for a while, ok? Don’t worry about how much time is passing. If you need to stop for some reason, just stop. Your podcasting app will remember where you were when you stopped and you can carry on again when you’re ready.

The main thing is: just listen, just try to follow everything. If you can follow it all without trouble, then fantastic, give yourself a little pat on the back. If you can’t follow it all, just do your best, keep going, don’t give up, rewind and listen to certain bits again if you need to. 

And this is where your podcasting app will help once more because you should have those helpful buttons which let you skip back by a few seconds. I use them a lot when I’m listening to podcasts, including ones in French (Any good french podcasts to recommend Luke? I’ll add that to the list for this episode – see below) 

You will see various notes on the page for this episode. This is all the stuff I wrote down before recording. It’s not a transcript, but if you hear me saying something and you’re wondering what it is, check out the page and you might see it written there.

I understand that checking a website isn’t all that convenient, even when you have a smartphone to hand. 

But anyway, it is there. If you’re listening in an app (including the LEP app) check the show notes → There is a link there that takes you right to the relevant page each time. That’s one of the fastest ways to get straight to the correct page. Otherwise, join the mailing list to have the link sent to your inbox, or just check out the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk where you can find everything.


Is everyone ok out there? Let’s be honest, this is a pretty crazy time. I hope you’re doing ok. Hang in there, stay positive!

Recent episodes 

Ian Moore → It’s interesting that Jack in the comment section mentioned that he found it waaaay easier to understand Ian this time compared to last time. This could well mean that his English listening skills have improved in that period – considering there are about 300 episodes between Ian’s first appearance and his second. So, I’m very happy to hear that, basically. 

I’m also happy to have had Ian on the podcast again. He really is a very witty man, not to mention well-dressed. There are a few videos of him online, doing comedy, being interviewed on TV and so on, and he is very good. 

Alan Partridge episodes

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. (or so they say)

“You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (and you shouldn’t try to) ~originally attributed to John Lydgate and then Abraham Lincoln.

Slightly puzzling stats for the AP episodes. Part 4 and 6 have a similar number of listens, but episode 5 has about 25% fewer listens. What’s that all about? 

The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming → The main point is, focus on the message, not how the message has been delivered to you. I would also add: be thoughtful, be respectful, think about the other person, listen to them and pay attention to them, adapt your style accordingly. Ultimately it comes down to compassion. Be compassionate. Think about the other person, think about their situation, be less self-involved. Thinking about the other person, what they want and what they are really trying to say → this helps a lot. It helps you avoid conflict and it helps to bring more respect to you. In theory.

Recent Amber & Paul Episodes

It was fantastic to speak to them on the podcast recently. I think it’s best when the three of us have a specific aim for an episode, especially if it is a game of some kind. 

Amber had her baby! It’s a girl. Mum and baby are both doing fine. I’m hoping to speak to Amber soon about it, with Paul there too. Congratulations to Amber, her husband, and their little boy who now is the brother to a little baby sister.

Quintessentially British Things 

James – A few people going Hmmm. Some saying how fun it is to listen to the two of us, a couple of people saying they found James to be a bit rude because he kept cutting me off. We have a close relationship, but like all brothers we fight sometimes etc… conditions for recording, we both had a lot to say, etc. We mention it at the end of an upcoming episode we’ve done about music.

James’ comment

Hi people, sorry if I came across as rude / impatient. It was late, we were tired, and I’m afraid to say I was very, very drunk. ; )

Ones with Mum and Dad – all positive saying they found them interesting and lovely and I’m lucky to have a family like that, and I am. Episodes of Gill’s Book Club (which it will probably be called) should arrive this year. RT report too, when we feel like it!

A lot of conversations with native speakers at normal speed. What is your method, Luke? 

Upcoming music episode with James

Thoughts about the challenge of listening to some of my episodes.

I like to consider the thoughts of my listeners but ultimately I have to go with my gut and use my own judgement

The majority of comments come from LEPsters with pretty good English. So I don’t hear from lower-level listeners so much. 

Comments on the website → More people came out of the woodwork and that’s great. I’m not concerned. People need to go out of their way to visit the website, find the episode page, find the comment section, possibly sign into the comment section (Disqus) and write a comment in English. Most people just end up being ninjas often because there are various little barriers in the way. I get it! 

People comment in various ways → comment section, email, twitter, facebook, Youtube. The LEPsters’ comments are spread out all over the place. So they’re not all consolidated in one place. Maybe I should just stick to ONE platform, but I think this would ultimately make it more complicated for people to listen.

Premium → I am working on new stuff all the time. I say it’s about grammar, vocab & pron, and it is, but that sounds a bit dry doesn’t it? Remember – it’s still me, I’m still trying to do it in the LEP way, which means I make efforts to keep it entertaining at all times, as well as clear. Upcoming episodes will be about common errors I’ve noticed in comments and emails and things.

LEPster meet up in Paris + stand up show from me?

World Book Day – Thursday 5 March. www.worldbookday.com/

You’re reading a book, right? What are you reading?

Name: Miguel

Message: Hello there Luke, it is a great pleasure to be one of your thousands of listeners. Must admit that I am on the ninja´s listener side…Just a quick question, What kind of book would you suggest I should read in order to improve my english comprehension? I am going for the c1 advanced by the way and the big deal for me is the huge amount of sources offered on the Internet…

Thanks in advance my friend, carry on the good work!

Luke’s Reply

To be honest Miguel, you should just pick a book that you really want to read and that you will probably enjoy. You could pick the English version of one of your favourite books or perhaps a book of a film you like. 

You can also get graded books at the C1 level, which would also be a good idea. 

I’m assuming you mean reading novels rather than grammar/vocab books. 

Hope that helps. 

Check these episodes from the archive

French podcasts (difficult to find the right one for me, I must be quite picky)

Un Cafe Au Lot 7 → Louis Dubourg chats with French stand-up comedians, including some of my friends and acquaintances. Paul is interviewed there, so is Seb Marx and also some other big names like Fary and Gad Elmaleh.

French Voices → Conversations with interesting people with some things to look out for in English at the start)

French Your Way Podcast –> Specifically about teaching us French, making things clear and memorable, correcting certain mistakes, a lot of it is in English. Jessica is on maternity leave, starting in June. She’s probably fully involved with her baby. I hope she comes back soon when she is able to.

This comment is sponsored by LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Message: Hello Luke,

I have been a regular listener of your fantastic podcasts since 2018 and I am the one who requested an episode on the topic of “articles” a couple of weeks ago.

I just finished the fifth episode of this series this morning and I must say that it is the most brilliant episode that you have ever recorded. I didn’t not think you were capable of doing that in 2009 because this requires a lot of experience. I do not know if the Lepsters realize the amount of work that you have performed to complete this series. During the last 20 years, I have often searched for such a lesson focused on the right use of articles but I have never found it. There are so many rules but also exceptions that it drives me nuts. As a neuroradiologist at Lille University hospital, I regularlly write scientific papers on neurovascular diseases in international journals and I am frustrated to systematically see the editorial office of the journal change my sentences by adding or removing articles. I feel more confident now even if it takes a long time to master the correct use of articles.

I don’t know if I have correctly used the articles in this message but I am very happy to get a comprehensive document on this topic.

Thanks a lot Luke and keep it up. You are such a lovely person who is very inspiring to me.

Take care

Xavier

Luke’s response

Oh what a wonderful email, thank you very much Xavier. 

Yes, you used all the articles correctly in this email. I’m glad to see my episode has helped you!

I’m also very glad to receive emails such as this, from interesting and intelligent people who actually use my content to actively improve their English. It’s very inspiring.

TRANSCRIPTION PROJECT

This is a community effort in which LEPsters can transcribe episodes of the podcast. 

I’ve mentioned it before, now I’m mentioning it again.

Antonio’s comment

The transcription project is one of the most powerful options we have in this podcast.

Since I started learning English, I’ve always heard the same piece of advice from teachers I’ve been listening to, which is: “We must read, listen and write to have better English skills.”

Well, the transcription project is the perfect example and could allow us to reach this goal entirely.

The transcription project does not only involve transcribing but also proofreading episodes. That’s why I created two teams. The Orion team makes the transcriptions, and the Andromeda team proofreads and corrects the texts done by the Orion team.

And I want to tell to people, asking to join the project, that we can fulfil our goals staying in this project longer than one or two episodes. Nobody is going to encourage us or give a hug or give a kiss. Still, the joy of seeing this project growing up and becoming better than when we started participating in it is immense. Staying for an extended period allows you to see your real improvement.

When you proofread the episodes you did one year before, you are going to find a lot of mistakes and misheard words. That means that you can hear sounds and terms you couldn’t hear previously. That also means that you are becoming a better English speaker.

As I’ve often said, the transcription project is a hard task to do, sometimes we can feel bored, but we can not forget why we are doing it and what goal we want to reach. Mastering a language when you don’t live with native speakers is very hard. This project and Luke’s English Podcast episodes allow us to fill the gap. However, we need something more to stay in this project longer. We need to have another goal. A different goal than learning English. A goal which means giving back something to others.

Yes! Learning plus giving back is something much more powerful. We learn English for free, and we transcribe episodes and correct them for free.

Doing that we fulfil another goal: We help everyone coming to LEP to learn faster with our transcripts. The number of them is close to 342. (probably more since this was done – because 618. The Climate Crisis is also finished now and needs to be proofread).

I started my collaboration in 2015, and even if I am not as good an English speaker as I want, I know I am much better than then.

Thanks to people joining the Orion and Andromeda teams, staying with me, and helping me to continue with this project.

Cara Leopoldptholome/Antonio • (Paraphrased / a reply to a different but similar comment also by Antonio)

I don’t think people realise how important it is to keep listening and coming back to the same material, instead of just moving on to the next thing. Your engagement becomes much deeper and you’re more likely to learn and remember the new words, as well as improve your listening skills. I also really like the fact that it’s collaborative and that the transcription improves over time as more people listen to it – a community effort!

3 Songs by Neil Innes

Click the links for lyrics and chords.

I Must Be In Love neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/oooolalala.html

I Love You neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/loveyou.html

Let’s Be Natural neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/natural.html


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


634. A New Year Ramble for 2020 (Part 1) Pod Stats / Welcome to LEP / Travelling with a Toddler

Luke wishes you a Happy New year and rambles about recent podcast statistics, new year in the UK, welcoming new listeners to the podcast, and some stories about travelling to the UK with a toddler by plane. Transcript available below.

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Transcript (95%) and Notes for this Episode

Introduction

Hello there and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you’re doing fine wherever you are in the world. I’m back from my holiday and am now ready to record a new episode for you, and here it is – this is it right now, it’s actually happening and you are actually listening to it with your actual ears which should be connected to your actual head which contains your very real brain which is now processing sentences in English as you are hearing them. Welcome back to the podcast!

I have listeners all over the world. Let’s have a look at my top ten countries for 2019 to get a sample of where my audience is located.

In this one I’m going to do a few things, including welcoming any new listeners that I have here at the beginning of this new decade. I’m going to give a reminder about the aims and methods of this podcast for learning English. I’m going to talk about what I did during the Christmas holiday, give an update on my daughter’s English progress, give some news about the podcast and upcoming episodes, new year’s resolutions, a comment about one of my heroes who died on 29 December, and a few other bits and pieces. This might get long so it could be a double-ramble. We’ll see.

  • How are you?
  • Where are you?
  • What are you doing?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How are you listening to this?
  • How long have you been listening to the podcast?
  • How’s your English coming along?

New Year – New Decade – New Start → here’s to fresh new challenges for the 2020s and to another decade of listening to English with this podcast. I am looking forward to making more and more episodes this year and into the future, and I can’t wait to actually take ideas that are swimming around in my head and make them happen in upcoming episodes of this podcast. So many things to talk about, so many things to do, so much English to teach you.

Transcript / Notes on the website

By the way, I am reading most of this from a script that I’ve been writing for a couple of weeks. 90% of the episode is transcribed in advance, and the rest is being read from notes.

I haven’t been able to podcast during the last 3 weeks or so, but in spare moments I’ve been writing notes in a google document on my computer and my phone and I’ve put them together to make a sort of transcript for this episode. You can find the transcript on the page for this episode in the archive at teacherluke.co.uk You’re listening to episode 634.

Happy New Year!

Happy new year! I hope you had a good celebration. I expect new year is a bigger celebration around the world than Christmas. Certainly, in my experience living in other countries I’ve noticed that new year’s eve is recognised all over the world as the big event, with fireworks in all the major cities and so on. It’s pretty cool.

I wonder what you did out there in podcastland. What are the typical things that happen on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day in your country?

In the UK it sort of depends on your age.

When I was younger it was sort of mandatory to go out to a party or a club or something and when you get back to college or work everyone’s asking each other what they did for New Year’s. I remember many occasions when I went out in the centre of town with some mates for a nightmare evening of loud music, too much drinking, singing, hugging and shaking hands and an impossible mission of getting back home to bed when all the public transport is closed and the taxis are all taken.

I actually had a very quiet New Year’s Eve this year. I generally don’t really like to do much on new years eve these days, maybe because I’m so boring now, or perhaps it’s because I just like the company of friends or family at home to see out the old decade and see in the new one, in some comfort. Also the fact that we’ve got a 2 year old daughter can make it a little bit more tricky to go out and party like I used to.

Anyway, this year I was in, my wife had gone back to Paris a bit early, I was at my parents’ house. My mum went to bed to get her energy back and so Dad and I sat up and from about 11pm we started podcasting, recording a conversation about some of his favourite aspects of Britain, which will be coming in an episode soon. We were actually podcasting while Big Ben counted down to midnight and you’ll be able to hear it soon.

Welcoming New Listeners

First of all I’d like to welcome any new listeners that I have. Welcome! My name is Luke and this is my podcast for learners of English. I expect you’ve found the podcast by searching things like iTunes or Spotify for podcasts for learning English, or maybe a friend recommended it for you or something – leave a comment in the comment section (my website is the best place for that) saying how you found the podcast.

So I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and I’ve been teaching English for nearly 20 years now. This podcast has won awards, don’t you know. Yep, 4 awards based on audience votes, a British Council Elton nomination, and I came third in the British Podcast Awards in 2017 – not bad!

In these episodes I talk about all sorts of things, but the main aim is to help you improve your English through listening. The principle is twofold. Firstly, we all know that doing plenty of listening in the target language is a vital part of developing your English. You can’t expect to learn a language unless you actually listen to it, get to know how it sounds, the rhythms of English and also the typical ways in which it is structured. You need to do plenty of listening, regularly, long term – and hopefully this podcast can help you achieve just that.

In each episode you have to just follow what I’m saying or follow a conversation with someone else and just try to keep up. I try to make my episodes entertaining as well as educational. I talk about learning English, give tips and advice, but also talk about loads of other topics in some depth to give you a chance to hear a range of different vocabulary.

The second part of the principle here is that you can develop your vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation a lot through listening. The grammar and vocab come from both trying to notice new language while you’re listening, and from the episodes in which I am specifically teaching or explaining new language to you.

The pronunciation part comes from copying me, shadowing me, and doing the pronunciation drills that I also publish. I also have a premium subscription in which I specifically teach language and give you plenty of pronunciation practice.

So if you keep up with my episodes, follow the advice I give, enjoy the different topics and conversations and follow my instructions for working on your English, you should find that your English improves accordingly.

Of course, this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. I mean, it’s also necessary to practise your speaking, your reading and your writing too in active ways. You could check out my sponsor italki for the speaking practice and check out my episode archive for plenty of other episodes in which I give specific advice about other areas of your English and also for specific things like the IELTS test.

The best way to listen to my podcast is through the LEP app which is available free in the app store. With the app you have the whole archive, some app-only episodes and access to the premium content. When you listen with a podcast app on your phone, the app will remember where you stopped listening (like at the end of your morning commute to work) and when you press play again (like at the end of your working day) the episode will continue where you left off.

Also on YouTube you can check most of my episodes (just audio but some videos) and there you can find the automatic subtitles which are 99% accurate.

I also have a transcription project done through my website in which a team of keen LEPsters (listeners to this podcast) transcribe my episodes by dividing each one into 3 minute chunks, then each member of the team transcribes his or her chunk and the whole episode is then completed. After that the more high-level listeners proofread the scripts, the end goal being for me to eventually publish them on the website or turn them into an ebook perhaps. Transcribing 3 minute chunks of my episodes is an excellent way to work on your skills as it requires a lot of things – being able to listen intensely for every single word, being able to recognise different words and phrases and how they are actually said by native speakers, being able to write with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, being able to reproduce exactly what you hear. It’s great training for your English.

Check my website for the entire episode archive and loads of other things. The episode archive on the website also contains loads of other content, like episodes of other people’s podcasts that I’ve been invited on, YouTube interviews with me and so on.

Sometimes I’m featured on other people’s shows and I usually will add a post in the archive so you can listen to it or watch it.

IELTS Speaking with Keith O’Hare

For example, recently I was featured in a video with a YouTube English teacher called Keith O’Hare. He specialises in helping people prepare for the IELTS speaking exam and he’s been doing a series in which he asks other online teachers to take a speaking test on video so you can learn how it is done.

He interviewed me in December and it’s now available on YouTube (link below). So, watch the video in order to see me taking an IELTS speaking test, to learn some of the language I used and also to get feedback from Keith on my performance. I also give some tips for learning English. I’ll be having Keith on the podcast at some point to interview him about IELTS speaking.

Language Analysis & more on Keith’s website

ieltsspeakingsuccess.com/ielts-speaking/native-speakers-do-ielts—luke-thompson/

So if you are new to the podcast – a hearty welcome to you. I hope you stick around and listen to the other episodes too, and consider becoming part of my online community by putting your comments in the comment section and maybe taking part in the transcription project. You can find the details for that on my website.

More intro…

A New Year Ramble, meaning that I’m talking about all the stuff that has been building up in my brain over the holiday period.

Obviously, it has been very busy, with looking after the little one, travelling to London, Birmingham, other parts of the country, dealing with the stress of Christmas, but also having an amazing time catching up with the family, exchanging presents, eating delicious food cooked by my mum and walking in the park to get some fresh air.

Normally I am podcasting quite a lot during any given week, pouring out ideas or teaching content into my podcast feed. Then I go on holiday and things start backing up a bit – I mean it feels a bit like a traffic jam with things that want to come out but the road is closed. So I’ve been imagining doing this episode and planning the next few episodes ahead.

And this episode is going to be me pouring those things out onto the podcast..

Let me talk you through what I’ve been thinking at certain quiet moments when my mind has been able to think about the podcast a little bit. Sometimes, like when my daughter is having a nap and I sort of have a nap too, or just before I go to sleep or something, my mind drifts to what I’m going to do on the podcast when I come back in January. I think about what my audience seems to like, what excites me about doing this, what things I think would be fun or useful for you to listen to and I turn it all over in my head, planning and thinking about the next episodes and waiting for some kind of inspiration to strike. Normally I keep thinking like this until I get a tangible idea of what the episode is going to be like, then it’s just a case of preparing for it and recording it. But once I know basically where the thing is going to go, the rest is just a case of trying to make the vision in my head into some kind of reality.

So during the holiday, I didn’t have many chances to record things, but plenty of chances to just think about it all.

Order of upcoming episodes and thoughts about previous ones

Whenever I go away on holiday and leave the podcast for a couple of weeks, the most recently uploaded episode gets loads of downloads. It stands to reason. The top episode in the list is going to be listened to more because it’s there. And so if you upload one episode and another one straight after it, the first one gets fewer downloads because they don’t know it’s there. It gets hidden behind the next one, which should be an argument for spacing out your episodes a bit more to give them time to breathe and for the audience to catch up. But then again, you want to keep uploading regularly to keep the interest up. For me, I tend to just upload whatever I make, and I try to give enough time for people to notice and listen to all the episodes, and there are those times when I go away on holiday and everyone can catch up.

But I do have to consider which episode I will be leaving at the top of the list when I go on holiday. This will be the episode that everyone will notice for the next 2 or 3 weeks, and if that’s the new year period it is especially important because a lot of people choose to start listening to podcasts as a resolution, and so they’ll be looking and new people will be finding Luke’s English Podcast, so the first impression is important.

So, sometimes I was worrying a bit, because the last two episodes I uploaded (except for some premium ones) were about Star Wars episode 9 and that’s not really a fair representation of what I do on this podcast. Also, I was stressing because I think the last episode, number 633 is not that great because I couldn’t remember the plot of the film and I was umming and ahhing.

So I wasn’t completely pleased with that episode and also not too pleased it was the episode at the top of the list for all those new listeners.

But I still wasn’t done with Star Wars, because it has become something of a tradition that at Christmas time, James, Dad and I go to see the new Star Wars film and this is the 4th time it has happened. The Force Awakens in 2015, Rogue One in 2016, The Last Jedi in 2017 and then The Rise of Skywalker in 2019 and the tradition also includes a long rambling podcast to dissect the film afterwards, so James and I duly went off to Birmingham on the train to see the film, had a beer afterwards and chose to discuss it all on the podcast. The result I think is very funny and quite interesting, and I’m much more pleased with it than my previous spoiler review. Anyway, I thought “I can’t wait all that time and then upload yet another Star Wars episode, which is nearly 2 hours long!!”

So I’ve decided to record this episode first, which is why it has taken so long. I have already edited and prepared the James & Luke Star Wars Discussion which will go up quite soon after this episode appears. So, it will be there so all you Star Wars fans can check it out and then we will continue with podcasting as usual. More about that later.

Christmas / New Year Holiday? What did you do?

What have you been up to during the break then Luke?

My wife, my daughter and I travelled to the UK -first to London and then to the midlands where my parents live. We spent just over 2 weeks away.

On new year’s eve I was actually with my dad and we decided to do a podcast from 11pm until midnight when the year ended. I’ll mention that again later.

Travelling with a toddler – describe what it’s like taking a child on a plane journey

Years of helping drunk friends in nightclubs to get home has really prepared me for this.
Little kids or babies are a lot like drunk friends on a Friday night.
They fall over a lot and might hurt themselves.
They’re liable to suddenly run into the street.
They sing like hooligans.
They might break down and start crying, and could easily piss themselves, shit themselves and puke on themselves all at the same time.
And they’re quite rowdy, annoying and loud too, which makes them a liability in things like queues and the confines of a seat on a plane, surrounded by other passengers.

Describe taking a toddler on a flight with just one person. With two it’s better, even though you have more bags, but with one adult it’s tricky.

This is what I described to Paul recently, because he basically can’t imagine flying with his daughter because she cries all the time and thinks it would be a huge operation to travel somewhere with all the equipment and baggage that you need for a child, with the travel cot, the car seat, the pram, the bottles and devices, the cleaning stuff and nappies, spare clothes and then all your stuff too! Paul can’t imagine it, and he listened sort of wide eyed as I explained it to him, like this.

I take:
One large suitcase (really big) with all our clothes, bottles, powdered milk, powdered cereal, washbag, thermometer, doliprane (paracetamol), books, toys, pacifier, doodoo (teddy bear or comforter), sleeping bag, my computer, my podcast stuff, leads, microphones, recorders, the pram, the waterproof cover for the pram (we’re going to England), A bag with food, drink, snacks, a bag with nappies, wipes and a towel, a change of clothes, some cartoons downloaded on netflix as a last line of defence, colouring books, pencil, sticker book, story book, maybe a farm animal, a book for me which I will never read, passports and my daughter.

So a pram (foldable) a huge suitcase, a backpack and my daughter and me.

Taxi to the airport. It’s expensive, but it’s just a much much smoother and efficient way to get this show on the road and get to the airport. Otherwise it’s taking a metro, walking a lot, then onto the RER, many many lifts and corridors and horrible air. The taxi option is amazing as they drop you right at arrivals.

Cruise through the terminal like a sort of huge articulated lorry, with the pram in front, my daughter probably sitting forwards and taking it all in, then me with my backpack and my other arm dragging the huge suitcase behind on its little wheels. A huge articulated truck moving through the airport.

Straight to the display, then probably to area C to queue up and check in the massive suitcase which could easily be overweight.

At this point JNR (my daughter) is sitting in the pram and probably demanding to be given the passports to be held. This could be her outstretching her hand, pointing at your pocket and saying “hand hand!” or even some mangled version of “passport”.

She’s being very insistent and we’re surrounded by silent queueing zombies so I give her the passports and just hope that she doesn’t drop them. She’s normally pretty good at holding onto them because she knows they’re important, which is why she wants to hold them.

But she has dropped things in airports before. Maybe the last time we were going through the airport and she was holding her doodoo (a teddy bear) . After walking for a while I noticed that bear was not with us any more and I went to JNR, where’s bear? And she looked around herself and then just went “huh!?” like, “Oh my god, where’s bear!?” This is like, worse than losing your phone for her.

So we wheel backwards and retrace our steps, both of us scanning the floor for bear, and I see him on the floor in the distance, lying next to a wall, slumped, and a woman is picking him up and having a look, she’s a member of staff and other people are gathering around. I just get there in time and explain that the bear belongs to my daughter and they are reunited and all’s well that ends well. Everyone sort of laughs and maybe waves at JNR and she says “bye bye “ and maybe “Aassiii” which is a combination of “thank you” and “merci”.

By the way, her languages are coming along quite well. She spends most of her time in French during the day at creche, but at home it’s mostly English. Her French has come on quicker than her English as she has certain standard phrases like “encore” and “oui” and “Cel-la” but the last two weeks she was in the UK really boosted her English.

First we spent some time with my cousin Oli and his family. He’s got three kids, one of whom is a couple of years older than my daughter, and another is the same age as her and they speak English so it was a real boost for her there.

Then with my parents and my brother it was all English for quite a long time, and her English really improved. She was saying things like “and that?” , which is quite a big step I think, and “please” “thank you” “bread” “Nice!” “Happy” “bird” “TV” “Farm” and “Beatles!”

Also a few other sentences that I can’t really remember now. She also babbles a great deal in a weird alien language and makes up songs with nonsense words and sometimes sings like a hooligan while standing on a chair.

Anyway, I give my daughter the passports and she can give them to the woman behind the counter, which is quite cute and a good way to ingratiate myself with the Air France woman, so I can try to get a better seat, maybe with nobody next to us.

She does her best and finds one for me.
Air France are pretty awesome.
Also, my bag is 26kg and the limit is 23kg but she says she can see it’s for both of us so she lets me off too. Nice.

Then it’s “Operation Get to the Gate” and also “Operation Energy Cancel”.

Operation Get to the Gate basically means getting through all the stuff like passport control, security and duty free and then being able to set up a base from which you can send out the child on exploratory missions to research and discover everything in the general area. That can be difficult because you have to deal with another queue, and then go through x-ray security, which means taking everything out of my backpack, separating all the baby food and water for the milk, take JNR out of the pram, fold it up and put it through as well, then coax my daughter to walk through and pretty much command her to stand in one spot while you get everything off the trays and your belt on and keys in your pocket and everything.

Then there’s a fight because I want her to get back in the pram but she’s not having it. I eventually decide that sometimes there’s no point struggling with a kid who doesn’t want to do something so we agree to walk, I push the pram and she sort of follows along and I have to constantly give her pointers like “this way” and “come on” “we’ve got to get to the gate” and she goes “GATE” and I say “Yes”. And there’s plenty of “no” “stop” Don’t do that, don’t touch. No hands. No, No No. Etc.

I try not to say no too much and to always explain to her what we’re doing and involve her somehow too.

So we keep going and I get her to push the pram, but it gets a bit tricky when we get to the big hall with all the gates because there are loads of distractions and also large open spaces. There are the arcade games and she always wanders in among the games of street fighter, fifa and pac man. I have to go and grab her, pick her up even though she doesn’t want to go and carry her, explaining that we have to get to the gate, then find some water for her and sandwiches for me.

So we get in the queue at Pret a Manger, leaving the pram over there, keeping one eye on it, while my daughter is wandering along the sandwich fridge, picking up salads and I’m telling her to put them back and come here. She wanders around but generally is quite cute and nice so people don’t get too annoyed. She wants to use the card machine and hold my credit card, anything that means she’s involved in what’s happening.

Normally it’s pretty good but sometimes it can be quite difficult following her around and picking her up as she kicks and screams if she doesn’t want to go, but usually it’s fine because I’ve explained exactly what’s happening and she likes that. I explain a day or so before that we’re going to the airport (she has an airport book) and do the motion of a plane in the sky and she knows what that is and she does it too and she goes “fly , fly” and maybe “plane!” or “avion!”. So she knows what’s going on and I’ve tried to explain that she needs her seatbelt, so the seatbelt is always in the story. Now she’s ok with seatbelts and says “seatbelt”.

Then there’s some running around after we’ve found our base of operations at one of the chairs next to our gate, and it’s “Operation Energy Cancel” or energy drain or something. The main aim here is to burn off as much of her energy as possible, and usually this involves running along side her going “run run run run run run run” and she gets really excited and giggly and runs along with you, looking like super mario. Run run run run run run. We do that up and down until she’s pretty tired or we have to queue up for the plane.

This bit might also involve lunch depending on how much time you have, and sometimes lunch is done on the plane. In any case lunch is always more like a drug that you give to your child than an actual meal! You know that when you’ve given them lunch, they’ll probably fall asleep about an hour later, so lunch is more like a sleep drug that you apply to your child so you can have a break. In fact all meals, milk, food are more like drugs that you give to your children.

The aim is to make her tired on the plane. At this point it is difficult to keep everything under control because I have a heavy backpack on my back full of podcasting equipment and kid stuff, a folded pram over my shoulder and my slightly hyper daughter investigating everything and kind of giggling or pointing at things.

When people start queuing for the plane I like to hang back until almost everyone is on board. Why would you want to get on board early and spend even more time sitting in that cramped little seat. I prefer to wait until all the stressed out people have struggled with their bags before sliding in at the end while everyone else watches you get on board and my daughter walks along the aisle looking at everyone. I have a huge backpack and a pram over my shoulder so I’m probably bumping people in the arm or in the head if I turn quickly. I have to shove some bags out of the way to push the folded pram in the overhead locker.

Then it’s operation distraction, subtitled “I hope she goes to sleep”.

There are basically six levels of “kid on a plane”

Level 1

Distracted by something quite wholesome, like drawing, stickers, reading a book. She’s quite happy to sit on your lap and try to pick up stickers and put them in places. I also don’t care at all if she puts stickers all over the seat or the magazine. Not a problem, if my daughter isn’t making a fuss, it’s all good. I might have to try and ingratiate myself with the person next to us, like a smile or just by talking to my daughter and hoping she does something cute, which usually works. So level 1 is – doing an activity.

Level 2

Walking up and down. This one is vital for when level 1 just doesn’t work and your child has some pent up energy. I walk her up and down the plane and also let her hang around at the end near the weird little shelves and kitchen area at the end of the plane. That tends to use up some energy and stop her kicking the chair in front or complaining or making a police siren noise.

Level 3

Changing the nappy. This can be quite a big operation depending on whether it is a #1 or a #2 and if there has been some kind of “leak”.

Obviously the worst possible one is a leaked #2 which can be a sort of Armageddon in the underpants, and can be really tricky to deal with in a plane toilet. You hope to hell that there’s a baby changing table, and if there is my daughter hardly even fits on it. She’s tall for her age. Anyway, I put her on the table and she’s a bit freaked out but very curious about everything in this grotty plane toilet. Then you change the nappy making sure she doesn’t touch it and you use loads of wipes to clean everything up, meanwhile your arse is pressed against the unit behind you, your left shin is pressed against the edge of the toilet and your head might be pressed against the curved ceiling on some planes. It might also be necessary to change her clothes, which is why it is vital to bring the other outfit. So that’s level 3.

Level 4

Watching a video on your phone. This is a sort of fallback position which might help you to get to Level 5. It’s not ideal because you don’t really want your child to be watching a phone for any length of time, and sometimes she tries to play with the phone and ends up going into your emails or photos or something. But it can be a great way to pacify a child who is being boisterous.

We tend to show her Babar The Elephant, which is basically like Downton Abbey for kids. They’re exactly the same thing. In fact it’s the other way round, Downton Abbey is like Babar The Elephant for grown ups.

It’s very cute and they have adorable Canadian accents.

Level 5

Sleep.

Blissful sleep when you can just take a break and even have a nap yourself which is the thing you’ve been craving all this time, ever since you were woken up at 6AM by her crying, then you take her in bed with you and she sort of kicks you and falls asleep until 7AM when she starts wailing for milk like a heroin addict and then after she downs it in about 2 minutes, she spends the next half an hour sort of rolling around and kicking in a half asleep trance, maybe in a bad mood, before sort of waking up and immediately giggling and playing around. So, getting the chance for a nap is just sensational.

Level 6

…is meltdown. There are different stages of meltdown of course, but this is what you are trying to prevent at all times.
Wrestling in your arms
Refusing to cooperate
Pushing your hands away so you end up doing some weird Chinese gung fu together
Wailing and crying loudly
Police sirens
Car alarms
Going red, tears
Sometimes this develops into a full on raging demonic possession but that has only ever happened once on the Eurostar in the evening when she was really tired but didn’t want to sleep or go in the pram, and it was like The Exorcist or something.

Anyway, normally it is a mix of levels 1-4 which is basically ok. Then there are more queues, more giving her passports and then fighting with her to get her in the pram and possibly failing, waiting for the huge bag and then going to meet my dad, get her in the back of the car and drive, and she always falls asleep within the first 2 minutes of the ride.

I’ll talk a bit more about my daughter later, including some details about her English and her bilingualism.

I don’t normally talk about her this much but I did spend loads of time with her this holiday so it’s pretty fresh in my mind.


That’s it for part 1. Part 2 will be available soon!

627. Emina’s Long Journey to English Proficiency

My friend Emina Tuzovic has learned English to a proficient level as a non-native speaker of the language. She says it has been “a long journey”. Let’s find out all about that journey of English learning in this conversation, recorded in London just a couple of days ago.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

Today on the podcast I am talking to my friend Emina Tuzovic, who is an English teacher.

For ages and ages I have been meaning to have Emina on this podcast for 3 main reasons:

1. Emina is absolutely lovely and it’s just nice to spend time talking with her, plus there’s plenty I’d like to find out from her that I’ve never really asked her before. That’s a benefit of the podcast, it gives me a chance to have in-depth conversations that often just don’t happen otherwise.

2. She is a non-native speaker of English who has learned the language to a proficient level – good enough to do a masters, a PhD, and to teach English at a very high level, to deliver workshops and seminars and just to live in the UK for a good length of time. So, she must have some valuable insights and experiences about learning English because she’s done it herself, but also about the cultural experience of moving to London and living there for what must be about 15 years at least I think.

3. She is a very well-qualified and experienced English teacher and so I am sure she has loads of insights into learning English from that point of view too, including certain areas of specialist knowledge as a result of her academic studies, including things like the challenges faced by native speakers of Arabic when they learn English. I’ve never talked about Arabic speakers of English on the podcast, so hello to all my Arabic speaking listeners (or should that be marhabaan.

As I said, it’s been quite hard to pin Emina down and interview her – mainly because our timetables are different, I live in Paris, she lives in London and she goes to bed so early in the evening. Thankfully the universe has finally allowed it to happen, here at the London School of English in Holland Park, London. This is where I used to work and where Emina still does work.

So the aim here is to have a long(ish) and natural conversation with Emina, touching on topics like learning English, cultural differences in the UK, teaching English and her academic studies in linguistics.

623. 13 Terrible Jokes, Explained

Actually, it’s 17 jokes, including some simple one-liners and a few longer story-based jokes for you to remember and practise telling yourself. Listen to Luke read out and explain some pretty awful but enjoyable word puns and shaggy dog stories, and learn some English in the process.

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13 Short Jokes

  1. I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant but then I changed my mind.

  2. Did you hear about the guy who cut his whole left side off? Luckily he is all right now.

  3. I’d tell you a chemistry joke but it probably wouldn’t get a reaction.

  4. I tried eating a clock. It turns out that it’s very time-consuming.

  5. I am reading a book about anti gravity. It’s impossible to put down.

  6. I accidentally swallowed some food colouring. I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside.

  7. Did you hear about the guy who got cooled to absolute zero? He is OK now.

  8. Asked my dad if we could turn him into a salad ingredient, but he wouldn’t lettuce.

  9. Last night I was dreaming that I had written Lord of the Rings. My bro said I was Tolkien in my sleep.

  10. South Korea is so much more inviting than North Korea.

    North Korea is a Seoulless place.

  11. Have you heard about the difference between a hippo and a zippo?

    One is REALLY heavy, and one is a little lighter.

  12. I used to have a soap addiction,

    But I’m clean now...

  13. Next time you’re cold, go stand in the corner it’s always 90 degrees there.

Longer Jokes

To Absent Brothers

An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn.

When he finishes all three, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.
The bartender says to him, ‘You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.’

The Irishman replies, ‘Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days we all drank together.

The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.

The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar and always drinks the same way: he orders three pints and drinks the three pints by taking drinks from each of them in turn.

One day, he comes in and orders two pints. All the other regulars in the bar notice and fall silent.

When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, ‘I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.’
The Irishman looks confused for a moment, then a light dawns in his eye and he laughs. ‘Oh, no, ‘ he says, ‘Everyone is fine. I’ve just quit drinking!

Some Things You Just Can’t Explain

A farmer was sitting in the neighbourhood bar getting drunk.

A man came in and asked the farmer, “Hey, why are you sitting here on this beautiful day, getting drunk?”

The farmer shook his head and replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.”

“So what happened that’s so horrible?” the man asked as he sat down next to the farmer.

“Well,” the farmer said, “today I was sitting by my cow, milking her. Just as I got the bucket full, she lifted her left leg and kicked over the bucket.”

“Okay,” said the man, “but that’s not so bad.” “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer replied. “So what happened then?” the man asked. The farmer said, “I took her left leg and tied it to the post on the left.”

“And then?”

“Well, I sat back down and continued to milk her. Just as I got the bucket full, she took her right leg and kicked over the bucket.”

The man laughed and said, “Again?” The farmer replied, “Some things you just can’t explain.” “So, what did you do then?” the man asked.

“I took her right leg this time and tied it to the post on the right.”

“And then?”

“Well, I sat back down and began milking her again. Just as I got the bucket full, the stupid cow knocked over the bucket with her tail.”

“Hmmm,” the man said and nodded his head. “Some things you just can’t explain,” the farmer said.

“So, what did you do?” the man asked.

“Well,” the farmer said, “I didn’t have anymore rope, so I took off my belt and tied her tail to the rafter. In that moment, my pants fell down and my wife walked in … Some things you just can’t explain.

The British Abroad

Roland, an Englishman went to Spain on a fishing trip.

While there, Roland hired a Spanish guide to help him find the best fishing spots. Since Roland was learning Spanish, he asked the guide to speak to him in Spanish and to correct any mistakes of usage.

Together they were hiking on a mountain trail when a very large, purple and blue fly crossed their path. The Englishmen pointed at the insect with his fishing rod, and announced, ‘Mira el mosca.’

The guide, sensing a teaching opportunity to teach Roland, replied, ‘No, senor, “la mosca”… es feminina.’

Roland looked at him in amazement, then back at the fly, and then said, ‘Good heavens….. you must have incredibly good eyesight.’

Twins

During Desert Storm, an American Air Force officer met a Saudi Air Force officer. Their love of flying bonded them together and soon they became friends. One day, while making small talk, the discussion turned to family. Each expressed how much they missed their wives and children. The Saudi officer decided to pull out his wallet and show pictures of his family to the American.

When the American saw the picture of the Saudi’s family, he was shocked. “Hey, that looks like my son,” he said, referring to one of the Saudi officer’s children. “That looks just like my Juan!”
The Saudi officer explained. “About 15 years ago, I went to Mexico to drill for oil. While I was there, my wife and I decided to adopt a young boy. We named him Amal and he has grown up with us.”

The American said, “Well, about 15 years ago, my wife and I were stationed at the American embassy in Mexico City. We adopted Juan and now he is in high school. I wonder if your boy and mine are twins!”

Excitedly, both officers compared the boys’ birthdays, and sure enough, the boys shared the same day. They agreed that the two boys must be twins. Immediately, they vowed that after the war ended they would meet in Los Angeles and have a big reunion to unite the two long-lost brothers.

When the news media received word of this, they created media frenzy as they eagerly promoted the day when the boys would meet. Eventually, the big day arrived and local, national and international news outlets, as well as several hundred onlookers descended on LAX airport.

There was a festive mood in the air, and representatives from the Mexican, U.S., and Saudi Arabian governments attended.

However, to the disappointment of the assembled crowd, a representative from Saudi Arabian Airlines announced that the plane had been delayed and would be over six hours late.

Juan’s mother took the podium and addressed the crowd saying, “You might as well go home. There’s no point in waiting here.”

“Why would we want to do that?” asked a reporter.
“Well,” she replied, “they’re identical twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”

Practise telling the jokes until you can do it comfortably without a script!

621. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 3) Discord in the Den

One more episode about this TV series involving entrepreneurs getting investment for their business startups. In this one there’s plenty of disagreement and some strong feedback from the Dragons.

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A bit of language

  • They’ve applied in their droves, eager to get an investment.
  • It’s the Dragons’ own money on the line.
  • The rest will leave empty-handed.
  • Going on DD must be very nerve-wracking.
  • They’re giving him a healthy dose of reality, but also it’s pretty brutal feedback.
  • They’re going to go to town on him.
    5.20
  • Peter Jones just looks bewildered.
  • His steadfast belief in his product may be admirable but that’s not enough for Peter Jones.
  • I am pleading with you not to do it.

Pitch 1 starts at 01:53 // Pitch 2 starts at 13:35

Leave me your comment – don’t be a ninja!

618. The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts (with Cara Leopold)

A conversation with Cara Leopold about the climate crisis including descriptions of key charts, graphs and data. Notes and transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast.

It’s International Podcast Day today, which is nice! Monday 30 September 2019.

Luke rambles about International Podcast Day for a couple of minutes… www.internationalpodcastday.com

The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts

So, what about this episode of the podcast which is called “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts”?

In this one I am joined by English teacher Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com to talk about what must now be the number 1 issue facing the world, and that is the climate crisis. It’s bigger than Brexit, bigger than the latest scandal involving Trump or other leaders, it’s bigger than the fact that you’ve just made a cup of tea but there’s no milk in the fridge. This is bigger than all those things.

The title “The Climate Crisis Explained in 10 Charts” is actually the title of an article on The Guardian’s website which is all about certain key facts and figures explaining the climate crisis.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/20/the-climate-crisis-explained-in-10-charts

In order to get a bit more specific and look at some data on the subject Cara and I decided to go through this article which contains various graphs and charts illustrating the way climate change is happening and what the likely knock-on effects are. There are also charts about the growth of green energy and other possible solutions.

In terms of learning English, there is language here to look out for. Obviously there’s the language we use to talk about the climate, changing weather systems and the other aspects of this issue. But also you’re going to hear us using language to describe data, charts and graphs, which is very useful language if you have to write reports in English or when you write the Writing Part 1 task in the academic version of IELTS.

So listen out for descriptive verbs and other terms for describing changes and trends.

My guest for this episode is Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com

Here’s some info about Cara

Cara helps intrepid travellers and adventurous expats improve their English listening skills through movies and TV shows so they can understand native speakers, even when they talk fast. Her website is Leo-listening.com. She has been on this podcast before, talking about learning English from TV and films in episode 523.

523. Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows (with Cara Leopold)

In this episode, first Cara and I talk about our personal experiences of recent changes in the weather and our concerns for the future and then we get stuck into the article. You’ll find a link to that article on the page for this episode on the website. You can hear us describing the charts, and discussing the significance of the data.

So, let’s get started. All you have to do is keep up with the conversation and spot the useful bits of vocab.

I’ll speak to you again on the other end of this conversation. But now, here we go…

Notes & Links from Cara

The Drilled podcast is all about climate denial and the fossil fuel industry. 

This is the theory (and I guess this as well) I mentioned about why we haven’t come into contact with aliens. I first heard about it on the Sam Harris podcast. 

This article by George Monbiot explains the environmental impact of meat and dairy really well. 

This explains the CO2 impact of flying really well.

Ending

So there you have it. Just a conversation about the climate crisis.

I’m not sure what else to add here so I would like to throw it over to you and to invite you to make comments in the comment section for this episode.

What do you think?

Have you noticed changes in the climate where you are living? How are these changes having an impact on people’s lives?

Have there been any climate crisis marches, strikes or other events where you are?

What is the political climate regarding climate change where you are?

Are there any things that you’re doing these days in an effort to play your part in the fight to reverse climate change?

And generally, what are your thoughts? I would very much like to know.

Leave your comments below. Share your thoughts on this subject.

588. Punctuation Rules / Book Review (Part 2) Apostrophe, Full Stop, Comma

Part 2 of my episode about punctuation. This one covers punctuation rules for apostrophe, full stop and comma. Also you can hear the rest of my book review of Punctuation..?  by User Design. Transcript available below.

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Introduction

Hello there, you are listening to part 2 of this episode about punctuation. In the last one I talked generally about the importance of punctuation in various types of writing, described a book about pronunciation which has been sent to me for review by a publishing company and also I went through a list of punctuation symbols and described them so you know the names for a lot of the different punctuation marks available to you.

In this episode I’m going to actually teach you various punctuation rules relating to 3 big punctuation symbols.

So, I’m going to talk about how we use apostrophes and how to avoid certain common errors that actually make people’s blood boil, then I’ll give you some tips about full stops and commas. I’m also going to finish reviewing that book which I received in the post recently. It’s a punctuation guide and I’ll be giving my review of it.

Just before recording this I realised that there were some punctuation symbols which I didn’t mention in the last episode and I just want to say them now because you might not know the names we use in English for these symbols. These are ones we see on our computer keyboards and use quite a lot for various things like email addresses and stuff like that.

_ underscore

@ at mark 

& ampersand

# hash

* asterisk or star

Alright, now I’ve mentioned those, let’s carry on with this episode with my comments about apostrophes, full stops and commas and then the rest of my review of the book Punctuation..? by User Design.

Just a reminder – you can find a transcript on the page for this episode on my website so you can read along with me or skim the script later in order to check for any new words. There are also links for the book and some pictures too. Right, let’s carry on.


Some punctuation rules

I don’t have time to go through every single punctuation symbol and explain their rules so I’m just going to focus on a few thing. To get the rest you’ll need to get a copy of this book or one of the others on the market. Other books are available of course.

Also I should say that usually, these days I do this kind of language teaching in my premium episodes. This time I’ve chosen to include this in a free episode, but if you want more of this kind of thing – episodes where I focus specifically on teaching you language then check out my premium episodes and become a premium member at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

I’m going to deal with

  • The apostrophe (various uses)
  • Full stop vs dot vs point
  • Comma

I’ve chosen those because they’re really common and people, surprisingly, get them wrong quite a lot. Usually it’s learners of English who get full stops and commas wrong, and errors with apostrophes are common among native speakers. In fact errors with apostrophes make some people really angry. I’ll say more about that in a minute.

One thing to say here is that there is a certain amount of disagreement when it comes to punctuation rules. There isn’t a single agreed set of rules that everyone follows. Some things, yes, everyone agrees on, more or less. I think this includes certain basics like the rules of full stops and apostrophes. But for many other areas of punctuation there are always little points of disagreement, like for example some uses of the comma (The Oxford Comma debate comes to mind. I can’t go into that now though, because we’d be here all day! Just google it to get the full story, perhaps on a website like Grammarly).

www.grammarly.com/blog/what-is-the-oxford-comma-and-why-do-people-care-so-much-about-it/

So, be aware that there are some differences of opinion when it comes to style and the application of punctuation. The following information is correct as far as I’m concerned.

Apostrophe

This is not just a brilliant album by Frank Zappa, it’s also one of the most commonly used bits of punctuation, and this is a big one because people get it wrong all the time and it has a few different uses.

I’m paraphrasing from the Punctuation…? book here by the way.

Paraphrasing means taking information that you find in someone else’s work and then putting it into your own words, not copying it word for word, I mean changing the wording so that it’s not the same as before. In fact, paraphrasing really means reading someone’s words, understanding them and then writing the same concepts but using different wording.

Anyone writing essays at university should be well aware of the importance of paraphrasing so you don’t commit copyright infringement. This is a major issue these days because the internet allows people to copy & paste other people’s text so easily, but we shouldn’t do it. We shouldn’t pass off other people’s work as our own. I know that there are plenty of universities that are working on ways to seriously crack down on their students just ‘copy & pasting’ other people’s work into their own essays.

Having worked at a university here in Paris I have seen it done lots of times and I must say it really annoys me. It’s always blatantly obvious and, well, I just can’t stand it. For me the main examples were when I gave my university students presentation tasks to do and they literally just memorised a page from Wikipedia and then recited it to the class with absolutely no effort to even care about or think about what they were saying.

It just looks so terrible when people do that. It’s ok to take information from somewhere, just try to absorb it and then put it in your own words, and please, if you ever do a presentation at university or anywhere for that matter, just try to put some enthusiasm into your work, even if you’re worried about making errors in English. Sorry, I touched a nerve there in myself. Bad memories of some moments when I felt frustrated during my days of being an English teacher at university.

Anyway, for the record, I am paraphrasing the main points that are made by the Punctuation…? book here, with some other ideas of my own thrown in.

What’s the apostrophe?

Think about the title of my podcast – Luke’s English Podcast. There’s an apostrophe in it. L U K E apostrophe S. That one shows a possessive. It’s my podcast. Luke’s podcast.

What does it look like, Luke? (can you repeat that question? haha)

It’s like a little dot with a tail that hangs in the air just to the right of a letter. In the case of possessives, that’s just before the letter S at the end.

It’s for possessives, but also other things. Here’s a list of situations when we use apostrophes.

Possessives

We use apostrophes with singular and plural nouns to show that one thing possesses another thing.

Here are some examples of possessives with singular nouns, in this case Dave is the singular noun.

“That is Dave and that is his car, just over there. Yes, that car belongs to Dave. That is Dave’s car. This is not Dave’s car. This is my car. My car is small, but Dave’s car is really big, unnecessarily big, some might say. I don’t know why he’s been driving such a massive car around the city. Now, as you can see, Dave’s car has crashed into my car. My car is now completely smashed up and will have to be thrown away at the junk yard. Dave’s car on the other hand, is relatively undamaged. So, Dave’s car is fine, but mine is completely smashed up. These are my hands. And this is Dave’s throat. Yes. I am strangling Dave. In my mind.”

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there! Don’t worry folks. It’s just an example. I don’t have a car and none of that ever happened, and anyway Dave’s dead now so it’s fine.

Just kidding.

Anyway, you saw lots of examples of the possessive apostrophe being used there.

You know this already, right? You should do.

We use an apostrophe to show possession when we’re dealing with singular nouns, like Dave. Dave is a singular noun (he’s also a single man, girls, if you’re interested in men called Dave who have large cars but can’t drive them).

It also works for things too, not just people. For example, the word car. “That car’s windscreen is completely smashed, whereas this car’s windscreen is somehow undamaged.”

That’s singular nouns. What about plural nouns, Luke?

What if both cars had their windscreens smashed in the accident?

As you know, plural nouns in English have S at the end. One car, two cars.

So what if you’re talking about the windscreens of two cars?

So, to add possessive S to a plural word which already has an S at the end (like CARS), what do you do? Do you add ‘apostrophe + S’ like with singular nouns? So C A R S ‘ S?

Nope, you can just add the apostrophe to the end, without the final S.

So it’s C A R S ‘

These cars’ windscreens are both smashed.

To be honest, if we’re not talking about a person I’d probably find another way of putting it. I’d probably say

The windscreens on these two cars are smashed.

What about plural names? For example if you have more than one bloke called Dave. Two Daves.

Actually, it’s rare that you have possessive forms of plural names.

It’s just weird to say something like “Daves’ cars crashed into each other” meaning “Dave and Dave’s cars crashed into each other”.

The point is – for plural nouns, whatever they are – people or things, with possessives you can just add an apostrophe.

This is also true for names that end in S, like James, my brother’s name.

You can write James’ Room. That’s J A M E S ‘ R O O M.

I remember that one because when I was a child, my brother and I had separate rooms and we had little signs on our doors. Mine said “Luke’s Room” with an apostrophe after my name and then an S. James’ sign said “James’ Room” with an apostrophe and then no S. I sometimes wondered why they were different. It’s just because James’ name ends in an S.

Fascinating stuff this, isn’t it?

For names ending in S like this you can also just write James’s Room. J A M E S ‘S R O O M.

How do you say that? James’ / James’s —-> /jeimziz/

So actually, for names it can be S’ or S’S.

So that’s possessives for singular nouns, plural nouns with S and names ending in S.

But what about irregular nouns? I mean, nouns where the plural form isn’t made with an S, like “children”.

One child
Two children

Well, we just do the same thing as we do with a singular noun.

So, “The children’s toys are in the bedroom”.

Other examples are things like “Women’s rights”, “The people’s champion” or “The Men’s changing room”.

A common error with apostrophes (Using apostrophes for plurals – don’t do it folks!)

This is a mistake that makes some native speakers get really annoyed.

Sometimes in the UK you will see people use apostrophes just for normal plurals.

For example you might walk through a market and see a sign saying “Orange’s” or “Burger’s” or even “Fish & Chip’s”. Needless to say, there definitely shouldn’t be an apostrophe in those words. They’re just plurals of countable nouns. They’re not possessives and they’re not contractions of verbs.

Those kinds of errors are likely to make people’s blood boil!

If they know you’re a non-native speaker of English, that will make it a bit better, but still – don’t make the sort of mistakes that native speakers make, even if native-level English is what you’re looking for.

We’ll look at a couple of other common errors in a minute.

Apostrophes in contractions to indicate missing letters

Apostrophes are also used to let us know that some letters have been removed to make contracted forms.

Luke’s terrible improvised “joke” (?)
Just let us know when the letters have been moved from the lettuce.
(The words “let us” “letters” and “lettuce” sound really similar, that’s it. Terrible. Not even a joke.)

Apostrophes in contracted forms

Don’t → Do not
Doesn’t → Does not
I’ll → I will
Isn’t → Is not
Let’s → Let us
There’s → There is
You’re → You are

The book says that contracted forms are used for writing out speech, which is a good way of putting it. I’d add that these days we just use contracted forms in any kind of informal and neutral writing, but not in formal writing.

This use of apostrophes isn’t very complicated, is it? But it does cause one particular problem, which is it’s vs its

That’s the difference between the contracted form of it is and the possessive form of the pronoun it.

More common errors: It’s vs its

This is another thing that native speakers get wrong quite a lot.

Think of these two examples. Which ones should contain an apostrophe and which shouldn’t?

Obviously if you’re reading the script for this episode then you’ll be able to see the apostrophe with your eyes because it’s right there. But for those of you who are listening, in which sentence would you add an apostrophe after “it”?

  • It’s a lovely day today!
  • My phone has a crack on its screen.

I feel like I should join those sentences together to make one slightly sad sentence.

It’s a lovely day today, but my phone has a crack on its screen. :(

So, with an apostrophe “it’s” means “it is” or “it has” (like in present perfect).

Without an apostrophe it’s a possessive pronoun, just like my, your, our, their, his, her. My phone, your phone, our phones, their phones, his phone, her phone. None of them have apostrophes either.

We saw a lion and its paw was injured. (possessive pronoun)
Oh no, it’s (it has) injured its (possessive pronoun) paw!

Full stop (also called the ‘period’ in US English)

This one is really simple but it needs to be said because I’m surprised at how often I see missing full stops in students’ writing and also people using commas instead of full stops, incorrectly.

So I’m just going to say – put a full stop at the end of your sentence and a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence!

You don’t need a full stop if you have an exclamation mark or question mark.

How do you know when it’s a full stop and not a comma?
Well, if you’re using a new subject in a new clause without a conjunction (a joining word) to connect them, you need a full stop.

For example

I love cheese, but I can’t eat too much of it.
I love cheese. I can’t eat too much of it.

A basic example there, but there it is.

“Full stop” is a phrase that we use in spoken English to mean “And that’s the end of it! I am not discussing it any more” For example, “I don’t want to see any more smoking in front of the building, full stop!”

In US English they say “Period”.

“God damn it John. You’re a god damn maverick! I want your badge and your gun. You’re off this case. Period!”

“Full stop” is the phrase we use for the dot at the end of the sentence.

We also have other little dots in things like numbers and web addresses. What do we call them?

Dot

Use this in email addresses and websites. Teacherluke.co.uk

Also use it just to describe the shape – a small round mark is a dot, like on a pattered dress.

For example you might have a blue dress with white dots on it.

Also we use the word “dot” for the top part of the letter i or j and also to describe exclamation marks or question marks. It’s just the word we use for a tiny round mark.

Point

This is for numbers, meaning “decimal point”.

For example 3.14159 (Pie) Three point one four…
BBC headline: Women have 1.9 children on average, a record low – BBC News
One point nine children…

Comma

This is the most common punctuation mark in English. Basically, it’s used to make your writing clearer and to indicate some sort of pause in the rhythm of the sentence. We use them to separate items in a list.

For example, “Give me your clothes, your boots, your cigarettes, your Pokemon cards and your motorcycle”.

It’s also used when there is a change in the subject in your sentence. That’s something the Pronunciation…? book said and I think it’s really good.

For example

“I wanted to watch the new Avengers film, but Dave crashed into my car, so I couldn’t.”

There are more little uses of the comma, like the way they’re used in non-defining relative clauses or conditional sentences but to be honest I can’t go into all of those things now!

You’ll have to get a punctuation guide to get all the details.

Alright. This stuff can be hard to keep in your head, even when you already know it! That’s why you need a reference book to keep going back to. Explaining punctuation is not that easy, especially in an audio podcast, so why not use a book like this to save you the effort of working it all out for yourself, or doing loads of google searches and attempting to find consistent answers from different sources.

One thing I will say again is that there is some disagreement about the rules of punctuation and to an extent some of the application of punctuation symbols in your writing is a question of personal style and personal choice but some things are definitely right or wrong so the more you know the more control you’ll have and ultimately the better it will be for your English.

Book Review – Punctuation…? by User Design (continuing my review)

Punctuation..? by User Design (front and back covers)

There are a few books that explain punctuation that already exist on the market, but not that many that only deal with punctuation on its own.

Most of the time you’ll find punctuation guides inside other reference books like dictionaries (for example The Oxford English Dictionary) or grammar guides (like The Oxford A to Z of Grammar and Punctuation). As far as I can tell, the main book people buy when searching for a punctuation guide is The Penguin Guide to Punctuation. So, those things are the mainstream, well-known guides.

This book, “Punctuation…?” should be considered as an alternative.

So, let’s think about this book again. Remember how I described it to you earlier? Let’s go a bit deeper and I’ll give you my thoughts – both the negatives and positives.

I definitely like this book but I think it’s not 100% perfect. Let’s start with the negatives first. This is where I do some nit picking. Nit picking means making small criticisms or critical observations about something. Small criticisms that aren’t really all that important.
Well, perhaps some of these criticisms are important. We’ll see.

Negatives

The design aesthetic of this book is minimal, but it’s a bit too minimal in places, maybe. It doesn’t always give full reasons for some punctuation points and it feels like some things are lacking. For example, the page about colons. I had other questions which weren’t answered, like “Shouldn’t we put a capital letter after a colon? When do we use a capital letter after a colon and when do we not?” Those are questions which might be answered by more thorough and detailed punctuation guides or just by googling it. I sometimes feel there’s more to add, and I expect that in later editions of the book, if they publish them, there will be more details added, or at least I think there probably should be, without spoiling the minimal style of the whole book anyway.

So, yes, the book feels a little bit insubstantial, as if it needs more. For example, it could do with some pages of commentary, generally, about punctuation in general. The book covers each punctuation point succinctly and then it just ends. I would like some comments perhaps from the authors just explaining their process or perhaps giving some opinions about punctuation and style or something like that.

At first I thought that this feeling of “there’s something missing” was because of the minimal design with plenty of white space on the page and the cartoons which look quite sketchy, even if they are good fun. I thought it was just the effect of the design.

But in all honesty, it’s not just the way it looks, it’s also the content. Don’t get me wrong, the pages which are there are great and will definitely teach you good information about punctuation but it’s not really a full book. It’s more like a pamphlet, which is how it is described on Amazon.

The recommended retail price on the back of the book is £10, which is higher than other, more substantial books on punctuation which are available. I think that might be a bit of a sticking point for some customers. You’d expect the price to be a bit lower for the amount of content you’re getting.

Also, some of the examples are a bit weird, which can make them slightly confusing (“The snakes’ hisses”?)

Also, sometimes it’s not completely obvious to me what the connection is between the illustration and the punctuation point being explained. This makes it feel a bit like the pictures aren’t all that helpful beyond just creating a fun atmosphere – but is that what people want when using a punctuation reference guide? By all means, use humour and fun. Of course I believe in that strongly. I think it’s really important to help people to enjoy learning stuff like this but I also think that the fun stuff should be performing a function too and in this case some of the pictures don’t seem to make things clearer, some of them just seem a bit odd.

They’re idiosyncratic which is cool, but not always that helpful, and they might just make the guide somehow less serious, which I think is something people look for in a guide like this. Am I repeating myself? Probably.

This book is after my own heart. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/after-your-own-heart

In summary, it might lack the seriousness and full commentary that some people expect from this kind of book at this kind of price, even though I like it.

Positives

One of the good things about this book is that it’s just a nice product to own. The paper it’s printed on is nice and thick and feels pleasant to touch. It has a pleasant-looking minimal design. The illustrations are quite fun and give the book more personality than your average dictionary or style guide. Also it would be more appropriate for young people I guess, or people who just want a bit more fun. It’s quite a good coffee table book, which makes it sound frivolous, but it is the sort of book you can enjoy flicking through, picking up some tidbits about punctuation that you might have always wondered about.

The explanations are short enough for you to digest quite easily. For example, there’s pretty much one rule or point per page. Punctuation rules can get pretty complicated but this book does a good job of reducing superfluous information. It gets straight to the point and as a result is very useful.

I said before that the book could do with some more commentary, like perhaps an introduction or conclusion, but on the other hand this book’s minimal approach makes it very accessible.

You will definitely learn things about punctuation by reading this book. Sometimes, very detailed language reference books become impenetrable because there’s so much information to sift through. Not with this book. They keep it short and simple.

Because it’s quite fun and a bit different while also being useful, I think it would be a good gift. You might not choose it in the bookshop if you want a no-nonsense language reference book, but you’d probably be happy to receive it as a present. I actually really like the book and I’m glad I have a copy. I learned a thing or two from reading it and it’s good to see some originality in this kind of reference work.

But it depends on the person I think. Some people might like this book because they will think it is a case of “Less is more”. I mean, some people will like the minimal style, will find the illustrations fun and will appreciate a more light-hearted feel but there are bound to be others who would just like more information, presented more seriously, please.

On the whole, I like the book. It’s original and quirky while also being useful and clear. It might not be the serious reference book that some people are looking for, but the information inside can definitely help you understand and improve your use of punctuation and ultimately that’s the main thing.

What did my wife think?

This morning I was having breakfast with my wife and the book was lying on the table. I pushed the book towards my wife and said, “what do you think of this book? Just give me your first impressions.” She said “I really like the pictures. I love this sort of thing. It looks really useful.” We agreed that it was actually a really cool book.

So if you’re looking for an alternative book about punctuation which has a more fun approach, get this book – either for you or as a gift. I think it’s particularly good as a gift for someone with a bit of a sense of humour, who is curious about punctuation and who also wants to be able to write more clearly.

The book seems to be available from all good bookshops including the main online retailers, certainly the ones which are well-known in the UK.

LINKS

User Design Website https://www.userdesignillustrationandtypesetting.com

Their books www.userdesignillustrationandtypesetting.com/books

The page for Punctuation…? Includes all the relevant information, including how to get the book www.userdesignillustrationandtypesetting.com/books/punctuation/index.html

Ending

I’d like to say thanks to User Design for sending me the book, and thanks to everyone out there for listening to this!

Owning a book on punctuation is a great idea. If you actually use it, you will see a definite improvement in your awareness of punctuation, which feeds into an overall sense of how you need to be clear when communicating, particularly in your writing.

So, I do recommend getting a punctuation reference book. Either this one, for the reasons I’ve given, or another one if this book isn’t your cup of tea.