Category Archives: American & British English

826. Yiddish Words used in English (with Sebastian Marx)

Comedian Sebastian Marx returns to the podcast in order to talk about Yiddish words which have found their way into the English language, including common words like bagel, glitch and schmooze and plenty more.

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👆The audio contains extra content, including an introduction and a short ramble at the end 😉

Visit Sebastian’s website for more information about his live comedy dates (in French) 👇

Word list for this episode 📖

These are the Yiddish words we discussed. Words marked with an X are the ones I couldn’t find in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

  • Bagel
  • Chutzpah 
  • Glitch
  • Goy
  • Klutz
  • Kosher
  • Kvech
  • Lox
  • Mensch
  • Meshuggeneh x
  • Oy or Oy vey
  • Putz
  • Schlemiel x
  • Schnook
  • Schmuck: (vulgar) A contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; (שמאָק, shmok, ‘penis’, probably from Old Polish smok, ‘grass snake, dragon’; MW, EO)
  • Schlep
  • Schlock
  • Schmooze
  • Schmutz x
  • Schlong: (vulgar) A penis (שלאַנג, shlang, ‘snake’; cf. German: Schlange; OED)
  • Shtick: Comic theme; a defining habit or distinguishing feature or business (שטיק, shtik, ‘piece’; cf. German: Stück, ‘piece’; AHD)
  • Schmaltz: Melted chicken fat; excessive sentimentality (שמאַלץ, shmalts or German: Schmalz; OED, MW)
  • Schmooze: To converse informally, make small talk or chat (שמועסן, shmuesn, ‘converse’, from Hebrew: שמועות, shəmūʿōth, ‘reports/gossip’; OED, MW). To persuade in insincere or oily fashion; to “lay it on thick”. Noun: schmoozer, abbr. schmooze.
  • Schnoz or Schnozz also Schnozzle: A nose, especially a large nose (perhaps from שנויץ, shnoyts, ‘snout’; cf. German: Schnauze; OED, MW)
  • (keep) Shtum: Quiet, silent (שטום, shtum, ‘mute’; cf. German: stumm); OED)
  • Shul x
  • Shvitz x
  • Spiel
  • Tuchus x
  • Tush
  • Verklempt x
  • Yenta x
  • Shm-reduplication can be used with most any word; e.g. baby-shmaby, cancer-shmancer and fancy-shmancy. This process is a feature of American English from Yiddish, starting among the American Jews of New York City, then the New York dialect and then the whole country.

I found 25/33 of the words in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (English).

Previous episodes with Sebastian on LEP 👇

823. ChatGPT & Learning English PART 3

In this final part of the series I’m going to evaluate ChatGPT’s ability to work as a dictionary with definitions, example sentences, synonyms, phonetic transcriptions, etc. I test its ability to convert texts into British English or other varieties, see if it can help with sentence stress and word stress, and check its ability to create grammar and vocabulary quizzes and other useful exercises.

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DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT FOR 823. ChatGPT & Learning English PART 3

Episode Transcript

Hello listeners,

This is the 3rd and final part of this little series of episodes I’ve done about using ChatGPT to learn English.

I’m experimenting with lots of different prompts to see if it can do things like:

  • Create study plans for you
  • Simulate natural conversations
  • Correct your errors
  • Provide role play practice for specific situations like job interviews
  • Help you with Cambridge exam tasks and practice

In this part I’m going to try to answer these questions:

  • Can you use ChatGPT like a dictionary?
  • Can it give us correct definitions, information about parts of speech, pronunciation, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, collocations?
  • Can it provide information about the etymology of words and phrase?
  • Can it transcribe things into phonemic script? 
  • Does it accurately transcribe things into British English pronunciation?
  • Can it convert between different dialects of English, e.g. will it convert American English into British English, or into specific dialects of British English?
  • Is it able to help us to practise reading texts or presentation scripts with the right sentence stress, word stress, pausing and intonation?
  • Can it help us practise grammar by creating quizzes or tests? Are those tests reliable?
  • Can it help you to remember vocabulary with tests?
  • Can it help you remember words and spelling with mnemonic memory devices?
  • Can it create text adventure games?
  • Can it adapt its English to different levels?
  • What are my overall thoughts and conclusions about ChatGPT?

You can get a PDF of the script for this episode which includes all the prompts I am using to get ChatGPT to do specific things.

Check the episode description and you will find a link to my website page where you can get the PDF scripts for parts 1,2 and 3 of this series.

If you are watching on YouTube I recommend using full screen mode so you can read the on-screen text more easily.

OK, so without further ado, let’s play around with ChatGPT a bit more and see how it can help you learn English.

Ask it to define words
What does “rambling” mean?

It gave pretty good definitions I have to say.

Arguably it’s not as good as a proper dictionary. 

Just type the words into a dictionary and you’ll get way more info, including parts of speech, pronunciation, example sentences, related phrasal verbs etc.

But having said that you can ask ChatGPT for more specific details about words, including:

  • Can you give me some example sentences with the verb “ramble” in different tenses?
  • What are common collocations with the word ramble?
  • What are some synonyms of the word “ramble”? (I had to specify for ways of talking)
  • Can you transcribe the word “ramble” in phonemic script?

Etymology

What is the origin of the expression “break a leg?”

Create mnemonics to help you remember vocabulary

Can you create some mnemonics to help me remember these words and phrases?

ramble, waffle, meander, go off on a tangent, get sidetracked

It did it, and I must say this is pretty impressive. 

You still need to use your imagination a bit, but these mnemonics are certainly a good starting point. 

Ask it to transcribe things into phonemic script

But only in standard American?

Is it good at transcribing things in British English?

Can you transcribe this sentence into phonemic script?
I’d like a hot dog with lots of tomato sauce.

Different versions of the language

Can you convert this story into (insert dialect here)?

This is a paragraph I came up with which contains loads of words that are different between US and UK English. 

Let’s see if it can convert this UK version into US English. 

First I’ll read it out. See if you can identify the words which will probably be different between US and UK English.

I just popped out of my flat to get some post from the postman when I realised I had locked myself out. 
I was stuck outside with only a pair of slippers on and it was the middle of autumn. To make matters worse I really needed the toilet. 
My car was there but of course I’d left the car keys in the house as well, although I couldn’t see where they were because my curtains were closed. 
Then I noticed that some bloody yob had put a big scratch across the bonnet of my car. That made me really angry I can tell you. “You’ll be hearing from my solicitor” I said to myself. 
Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse the TV aerial on the roof of my house fell off and crashed into the windscreen of my car, smashing it to pieces. 
I thought “I’ll need to make a trip to the chemist for some medicine to help me recover from this!” I walked along the main road and on the way I stopped to get some chips from the fish & chip shop at the main crossroads near my house. 
When I had finished, I put the paper bag in the rubbish bin and walked under the flyover to the chemist’s. 
I got my medicine and headed home. 
Of course, I was still locked out so in the end I had to jump over the fence into my back garden and climbed into a window which I had left open. 
Luckily I lived on the ground floor so I didn’t actually need to climb up the wall or anything, but unfortunately I broke a mug which was on the window sill. I used my hoover to clean up the broken pieces. 
Suddenly I heard a siren and someone knocked at the door. 
“Oh no, it’s the old bill!” I thought. “They think I’m burgling my own house!” 
I went to answer the door, but I didn’t realise that I’d ripped my trousers climbing in the window. I opened the door and stood there with my trousers hanging open. They could see my pants and everything! How embarrassing!

Make a funny dialogue between two friends in a pub in London speaking British English. Include a joke at the end of the dialogue.

Generate the same response but the two friends are from Belfast, in Northern Ireland.

Sentence stress, pausing and intonation

Ask it to help you read out a text with the right pausing, stress and intonation.

Can you help me to read out this paragraph, showing where the pauses, stress and intonation should be?

Chat GPT or chat-based generative pre-trained transformer models, is a type of artificial intelligence that allows users to interact with a virtual assistant using natural language. This technology is based on the principles of GPT-3, the third generation of the popular generative pre-trained transformer model.

One of the key features of chat GPT is its ability to generate responses in real-time, based on the user’s input.

That is from an article about ChatGPT which I found on medium.com 👇

All you need to know about ChatGPT & Why its a threat to Google | by Deladem Kumordzie | Medium

It’s good at showing where the pauses should be, 

but it’s bad at showing word stress or sentence stress.

☝️bad bad bad bad bad! ☝️

Grammar or vocab quizzes or tests

Let’s ask it to create a grammar review test for upper-intermediate level. 

Create a 10-question grammar test to help me practise English at an upper-intermediate level.

10 questions isn’t really enough to cover all areas of grammar but you would expect it to cover at least 10 different grammar points. Did it?

What happens if I ask it to make a 20-question grammar test for B2 level? Does it use a wide variety of forms? Does it require the test taker do demonstrate control over the language or is it just multiple choice?

The results are not as rigorous, complete, reliable or detailed as similar tests in published materials such as the diagnostic test at the back of English Grammar in Use by Murphy. 

It’s also not focused on language that you have been studying in your course.

It always uses multiple choice.

Basically – it doesn’t produce a very reliable test.

Vocabulary review tests, to help you remember words and phrases

Create a vocabulary test to help me remember and use these words and phrases.

ramble, waffle, meander, go off on a tangent, crack on, Get away with, get by, get on with, get off on, get through to, get around to

The test it created was multiple choice and only contained definitions. 

Definitions are good but not the best way to help you remember vocabulary. You need example sentences and it’s best if you have to use the words in a meaningful and contextualised way. At least give us example sentences with the words and phrases removed and ask us to put the correct words in the correct place, perhaps in the correct form.

But it’s better than nothing, and I think this could be useful if you have a list of words or phrases that you’re trying to remember. 

Text adventure games to practise grammar

I’ve always wanted to create one of these but have never got round to it. One of the reasons is because it’s quite a time consuming task and requires a lot of patience to make sure I’m using plenty of good grammar questions and combining that with an interesting story with engaging choices. Maybe ChatGPT can cut out a lot of the work. 

Create a 5 minute text adventure game to help me practise English grammar 

Nice idea but it did a bad job. It ended up creating a game with virtually no grammar questions and then it played the game itself.

I’m sure there are other language practice exercises or activities which ChatGPT could do. 

If you can think of some other things, put them in the comment section.

Ask it to adapt its English level to yours 

You can write things like “please adapt your English to B1 level” or something similar. 

Actually I just tested this with this prompt:

Give me some advice on how to set up a podcast studio. Please use A2 level English

Also, this:

Can you adapt this passage from Hamlet by Shakespeare into elementary level (A2) English?

So you can ask it to use simple English at your level.

You can also prompt it in your first language of course, but you have to request that it responds in English.

Overview / Comments / Conclusions

It’s definitely way better than any chatbots I’ve ever seen before. 

There’s no denying how impressive it is in many ways. I only scratched the surface here. It can do lots of other things including creating legal contracts, writing song lyrics, writing short stories, movie plots, essay plans, essays etc. 

But I think we still need to be a bit sceptical or critical about it at this stage. It’s impressive at first, but working closely with it shows us its limitations.

Don’t assume that it is answering your questions correctly or reliably. It seems to miss things, and contradict itself sometime and also it lacks the overall vision and emotional intelligence that a good teacher can have. 

There are also questions about things like how it could encourage cheating, and also other criticisms (I’ll explore some more in a few minutes). 

They’ve done wonders with the marketing – allowing us all to use it freely, which has caused us all to talk about it and as a result it’s gone viral with everyone talking about it. This is helping them to make money now (by selling it as a service which people can incorporate into their websites etc, and charging people for the PRO version of it) and also it’s allowed them to get a lot more data (as millions of people have been using it) which is allowing them to develop it further. In fact it is improving and changing all the time, becoming more and more accurate and sophisticated. 

For learning English, there are definitely ways it can help, including taking out some of the time-consuming things like creating little memory tests, creating sample texts and dialogues which you can use, having some limited conversation practise. 

One of its main strengths is error correction. It can quickly correct errors in your writing and even explain the reasons, although the explaining is a bit limited.

It can correct your English, but don’t rely on it too much. Try to use this as a tool to help you improve your English, not just something that you rely on at the expense of making progress on your own. Learn from it, but don’t let it do all the work. 

You need to have a pretty good level of English to prompt ChatGPT properly. Sometimes you need to find “clever” ways to get it to do exactly what you want and I think this requires a lot of control over your language.

As I mentioned before you often need to find different ways to ask your question or to give your prompt before you get what you’re looking for. 

Remember you can tell it *exactly* what to do. So keep getting specific. 

It’s still a bit early for us to completely rely on it as a personal language teacher or a conversation partner, but it can be a convenient tool for certain basic tasks that can be time consuming.

Chat GPT has no emotional intelligence. It isn’t great at working out what you really want it to do, which is something I have to do as a teacher all the time. I’m always interpreting my students intentions and what they want to say, and then helping them find the right words or sentences to do that, and then helping them produce that again and again, adapting and reacting all the time and also managing the students feelings and emotional responses. It’s a special kind of dance that you have to do with the student and this is extremely complicated and requires a lot of sensitivity and also plenty of teaching experience to allow you to pinpoint exactly what is needed of you as a teacher.

ChatGPT has a long way to go before it can do that. 

For the time being it is no replacement for the interaction you can have with a real human and this is still one of the best ways to practise and develop proper communication skills in English. It is definitely better to practise interacting in English with a real human, preferably one who is able to help you with your English learning because they have skills and experience in this area.

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of those emotional aspects of communication with people. ChatGPT is no replacement for that, at the moment. 

Maybe one day it will be so good that talking to it will be indistinguishable from talking to a real person, which is quite an unnerving prospect somehow.

But anyway, it’s important to continue practising your English by interacting with real people in social scenarios.

Talking to people can be a bit intimidating if you are shy or introverted, but it is essential to practise doing it because interpersonal skills are vital in communication.

ChatGPT doesn’t speak or listen yet, so no listening or speaking practice is possible, but no doubt that’ll come eventually.

What does ChatGPT say about its limitations as a language learning tool?

What are some possible problems with using ChatGPT for learning English?

Other issues

I wonder if it will be free forever. They’ve made it free now to get our attention but eventually we’ll probably have to pay to use it fully. In fact, already the free version is quite limited. It’s slow and stops performing after about 1 hour of interaction. 

I wonder if later this year ChatGPT will still be as accessible as it is now. I expect they let us all use it for a while in order to get our attention and now they’re monetising the product and limiting free access to it. 

I wonder how ChatGPT will develop. It will certainly get better and better.

Perhaps one day (soon) it will flawlessly do all the things we want it to do. 

There are also some frightening aspects to this when we imagine the impact this might have on the world. 

Despite what I said about it being no replacement for human interaction, it is remarkably advanced and sophisticated and that is only the current version of the software. 

I expect this current iteration of ChatGPT is just the tip of the iceberg and eventually it will be almost impossible to differentiate between the chatbot and a real human. 

And when this is combined with life-like speech generation and real life visuals (deepfakes) as well – a video version talking and responding naturally with a lifelike face and voice, in fact so lifelike that we won’t be able to work out if we’re dealing with a human or not, that will be quite frightening because suddenly then we’re living in the film Bladerunner, ExMachina or A.I. with all the ethical and social ramifications explored by those films. 

By the way, those films seem to explore questions of whether it is ethical for us to create highly intellilgent AI capable of human-like emotions, and whether it is ethical for us to treat them like slaves or as sub-human. They are like us, even better than us in many ways, but they don’t have the same rights as us. 

Other films have explored the threat to humankind of artificial intelligence. This includes things like The Terminator series and The Matrix which show a world in which AI becomes self-aware and decides to fight against humans or to enslave us.

A more immediate and realistic problem with something like ChatGPT is how it can affect the job market and whether it will make lots of people redundant.

What will we do when so much of our work can be done by AI that doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or take breaks? What will happen to us? Will people still be employable? What happens when the human population continues to rise, but the number of jobs we can do in order to earn money, decreases?

I have no idea. 

And will AI eventually make it completely unnecessary to even learn another language? Will we simply have simultaneous automatic translations? Will AI augment our reality completely? Will we somehow be connected in the most intimate and integral way with technology, which will mean we won’t need to learn languages any more?

I’m not sure to be honest. What people usually say in response to that question is that we will always want to learn languages because there can be no replacement for the experience of communicating with people naturally using language and no technology can replace or replicate this experience sufficiently. 

Let’s ask ChatGPT some more questions about itself, relating to things like people’s fears about it and if it will cause more cheating

What are people’s fears about how ChatGPT will change the world for the worse?

How might AI become a threat to humans?

Will ChatGPT help people to cheat?

Yes, probably. I can’t see how this won’t be a problem. I mean, this will almost certainly be a problem. Surely, students will just take the easy route and get ChatGPT to write essays for them, or other assignments. That’s obviously bad, because these students will not actually learn the skills and knowledge they’re supposed to learn during their studies and also it could compromise the effectiveness of education in general.

I don’t know how this problem is going to be solved. I don’t know how OpenAI have responded to this. 

Let’s see what ChatGPT says about people using it to cheat in their homework. 

Will ChatGPT help people to cheat in homework and academic essay tasks?

Will there be more cheating as a result of ChatGPT?

So it encourages people to cheat and it doesn’t know how people will use its services, but let’s be honest – it’s definitely going to result in more cheating. 

It will be very interesting to see how ChatGPT and other software  (because it’s not just OpenAI – there are loads of other competing companies also developing similar systems all over the world) It’ll be very interesting to see how this changes the world and of course we all hope that it changes things for the better and that it ultimately improves the human experience, making our lives better, allowing us to thrive.

That’s it – thanks for listening!

Leave your comments in the comment section.

I’m probably going to do another episode about ChatGPT just because it is fun to mess around with it and really see what it can do, including asking it to plan a podcast episode for me, write an introduction to an episode, have funny conversations, write jokes and short stories and lots of other things. 

🙏

814. The Language of Children & Parenting (with Anna Tyrie / English Like a Native)

A conversation with Anna Tyrie from English Like a Native (YouTube, Podcast) about children, the way we talk to children, and vocabulary relating to children and childcare, and some special news from the Thompson family…!

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👉 Anna interviews Luke on her podcast https://www.buzzsprout.com/2038858/12353084


Introduction Transcript

Hello, welcome back to LEP.

Here is another episode with more English listening practice for you to get stuck into, and I have another guest on the show today.

This time it is Anna Tyrie from English Like a Native, the channel on YouTube. You might also know her from Instagram and TikTok.

Anna has recently set up a podcast too, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts. It’s called the English Like a Native Podcast.

In fact, on the same day we recorded the conversation for this episode of my show, Anna also interviewed me for her podcast and we had a good long conversation about all sorts of things. It was very nice to be interviewed by her. You should be able to find that episode on her show now. So if you enjoy this one, go ahead and listen to the one on Anna’s podcast too. You will find a link in the description 👆.

In this conversation: Get to know Anna a bit and talk a bit about her podcast and youtube channel and what the name really means.

The main subject – talking about children. We decided that we could talk about a particular topic for this episode and that topic ended up being children. I’ve had requests from listeners in the past for more on the subject of children and the English language, including the way we talk to children, the way we talk about children and the specific words for lots of things related to children.

We talk about our own kids, and specifically about how we communicate with them, typical things we say to them (in English of course), how we should be careful about the things we say to our kids, the ways adults adapt their English when talking to little children, including examples of so-called “baby talk” or “parentese” and then there is a sort of quiz at the end with questions about specific English words for lots of the different objects, toys and bits of useful equipment that we use with babies and little kids.

As you know I have a daughter and she is 5 so a lot of that baby stuff almost seems like a distant memory now, but, well, it’s high time I remembered all of that vocab again now because – drum roll… yes, my wife is pregnant again and we going to have another baby! 

Yes we are delighted.

Thank you – because at this moment of course you are now saying… 

“Wow, that’s fantastic! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” and then all the typical questions will come to mind, including:

  • Can I ask when the baby is due?
  • Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl? Would you like to know?
  • Are you ready?
  • Do you have any ideas for names?
  • How’s your wife doing, is she ok?
  • How does your little daughter feel about it? Is she excited?

Etc.

I’m sure I’ll talk about it again in another podcast, but I thought I would let you know now.

Of course the child hasn’t even been born yet, so there’s a long way to go.

But all being well, in July there will be a new Thompson arriving 😊

I don’t know how that will affect the podcast.

Of course it’s probably going to disrupt things to some extent as I will be busy at home, with my wife, looking after the baby, helping my wife with anything if she needs it, taking care of our daughter, trying to keep things ship shape and under control and generally just being at home focusing on the family. 

So I won’t be able to do much podcasting around the time of the birth and in the weeks after. Who knows, maybe I’ll disappear completely for July and August, or maybe I’ll find a way to keep podcasting.

Maybe, if I’m organised and industrious enough, by the time the baby arrives I will have recorded lots of episodes beforehand, which I will be able to publish over the summer, or maybe I’ll dig into my archives for some unpublished or lesser-known material, which a lot of people haven’t heard – like app-only episodes from the LEP App (which is now defunct by the way).

In any case, there might be some kind of disruption to the show. Thank you for your understanding and your patience and your lovely messages of congratulations and support, which you are welcome to write to me. 

Obviously, I’ve just said thank you for a thing you haven’t even done yet, which is kind of against the rules, but anyway. There it is. We’re very happy. We’re hoping everything goes well. I’ll probably talk about it a bit more in another episode later on.

So, now let’s get back down to earth here because this is a conversation with Anna from English Like a Native, getting to know Anna a bit and then talking about the English which we use with kids, about kids and for all the bits and pieces involved in looking after kids. 

By the way, this conversation was recorded in January, which is why I say “It’s January” at the start. I probably didn’t need to say this, did I? You probably have the deductive skills to work out that when I say to Anna “it’s January” it’s because we recorded that in January. But just in case you were worried that I don’t know what month it is, don’t worry, I do know what month it is, what year it is and generally where I am and what’s going on. OK, fine.

I will speak to you a bit again at the end, but now let’s get started with the interview right now.

Ending Transcript / Notes

Thanks again to Anna.

You can find a vocabulary list and notes on the page for this episode on my website if you want to check specific words.

A reminder – after recording this, Anna interviewed me on her podcast and as I said earlier we had a good long conversation about lots of things, with little stories and jokes and stuff. A long conversation. I think it was even longer than the one you just listened to. I’m wondering how Anna is going to deal with that, but you can find out for yourself by listening to that episode on Anna’s podcast- English Like a Native, which is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for listening everyone.

Have a lovely day, morning, evening or night etc. Goodbye!


Vocabulary Lists

Baby-talk in English

Examples of baby talk in English

  • Cutie-pie
  • Sweetie-pie
  • Munchkin
  • Cheeky-monkey
  • Wee / Wee-wee / pee / pee-pee
  • Poo / poo-poo
  • Potty
  • Dog / doggy
  • Cat / kitty
  • Jim-jams
  • Beddy-byes
  • Nighty-night
  • Sleepy-time
  • Nap-time (do-do)
  • Blankie 
  • Din-dins
  • Ickle (little)
  • Icky – disgusting
  • Bedtime stories / Story time
  • Tummy / Belly
  • Oopsy-daisy
  • Mama
  • Mummy / Daddy
  • Uncle Jamie
  • Grannie / Grandad
  • Yuk / yukky

Common words and phrases relating to babies/children/childcare

This list includes words and phrases which came up in the quiz.

  • Activity arch / baby arch / arch toy
  • Baby bouncer (like a small deck chair)
  • Baby carrier / sling
  • Baby jumper
  • Baby fence / play-pen / baby-gate
  • Baby monitor
  • Baby-grow (a one-piece outfit that babies wear)
  • Bib (to catch or protect against food that falls while they eat)
  • Blanket (a lot of children have a special blanket that they use as a comforter)
  • Bottle (for milk)
  • Breast pump (a device which allows the mother to pump her milk into a bottle)
  • Changing mat (where you change the baby’s nappy)
  • Cot (where the baby sleeps – a bed with high sides so the baby doesn’t crawl out of bed)
  • Drool bib (to absorb drool which comes out of the baby’s mouth when teething)
  • Dummy / pacifier (what the baby sucks while sleeping)
  • Flannel (an absorbant cloth)
  • High-chair (what the baby sits in while eating)
  • Mobile (the thing that hangs above the bed and gives the baby something to look at)
  • Nappy (US English: diaper)
  • Powdered milk
  • Pram / pushchair (UK) buggy / stroller (US)
  • Pyjamas
  • Rattle (a toy that the baby can shake to make a rattling noise)
  • Talcum powder / talc (powder which can be put on the baby’s bum to keep it dry)
  • Teddy bear / stuffed toy
  • Teether / Teething toy(for teething babies) (something the baby can chew while the teeth come through)
  • Thermometer (to check the baby’s temperature)
  • Wipes (to wipe up the… mess)

785. Crossword Puzzles & Word Origins (with Fred Eyangoh)

Fred Eyangoh returns to the podcast to bring some entertaining and useful word puzzles, quizzes and insights into English etymology & history.

Audio Version (Including 30min+ extra vocabulary summary and intro)

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Video Version (just the conversation with Fred)

Intro Transcript & Vocabulary Notes

Hello dear listeners,

Welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are doing well. Here are just a few words before we get stuck into this episode properly.

I am currently sitting here in my pod room. I got back from my holiday last week. Here we are. Back to normal life, whatever that means these days.

It was a very nice holiday, thanks for asking. I might do a post-holiday ramble episode and talk about it a little bit – although actually there isn’t that much to tell. Just standard holiday things – sunshine, a bit of time at the beach, a bit of swimming pool, a bit of cycling, eating seafood, plenty of relaxing, reading, playing with my daughter, spending time with the family – no big adventures really, no encounters with bears or volcano climbing this time. 

Anyway I might do the traditional post-holiday ramble over the next week or so, we will see. 

The thing is, I actually have a bit of a backlog of episodes to publish. I recorded 3 things during the holiday. So I just want to crack on get them published really, so I might forgo the post-holiday ramble this time. We will see. In any case, freshly recorded episodes are coming, including premium content where we get into the language side of things. 

It’s nice to be back in podcastland, if a little strange. You know when you’ve been away on holiday, there’s a slightly odd feeling of melancholy when you return. That September feeling. That’s how it is for me – a kind of end-of-the-holidays, Sunday evening, going back to school sort of slightly sad feeling that I always used to get as a child and I still get these days as an adult. Maybe it’s a northern hemisphere thing, at this time of year. 

As September arrives there’s that little hint in the air that autumn is here and winter is just around the corner. The kids all go back to school and we start thinking about work and studies again, and the things we’re trying to achieve, maybe learning English in your case, and after all, that is why we are here. 

That’s why I am here right now, talking to you on this podcast – to help you improve your English and to enjoy the whole process, which is so important. Learning English can be enjoyable and should be enjoyable because it’s probably more effective if it is enjoyable. So there. I invite you to enjoy listening to my podcast and to let the magic happen.

Now, I need to introduce this episode and I am going to do my best to keep this little introduction as brief as possible. You’ll see that the episode is long. There’s plenty of good stuff here, from beginning to end. I hope you listen to the whole thing, in several stages if you prefer.

All I want to say is that this episode is packed with English language learning potential. 

There is a veritable Smörgåsbord of vocabulary here for you to notice and pick up, a few more differences between American and British English and also some general inspiration for your learning of English. 

The overall message being – there are many ways to get new vocabulary into your life, but the main thing is that you need to maintain a certain level of curiosity, an open minded willingness to challenge yourself a bit, a certain readiness to be entertained while you listen and study and a focused yet relaxed approach to the acquisition of English through all manner of different avenues.

My guest, Fred, technically doesn’t have English as a first language but he has a really broad range of English vocabulary in his head. He likes to do word games and he reads a lot, and checks new words in various online dictionaries, and explores those words and phrases until they become memorable for him, and he notices them again and again, and he tests himself with word games, and learns new things from the questions he can’t answer, and has fun doing it all. I think it’s a really good attitude. Let’s explore that and do some word games.

This conversation is actually a continuation of the theme of a couple of episodes I did with Fred last year in which we looked at the New York Times Spelling Bee, and also some word quizzes on the Collins Dictionary website (episodes 720 and 721). 

This time Fred came back on the podcast to talk about crossword puzzles in which you have to use clues to find missing words in a grid. Sometimes the clues are quite cryptic and contain clever little riddles which you have to work out. Fred presents a few of these crossword puzzles to me during the episode and I invite you to listen carefully to the clues and try to guess the words with me. There are about 25 different questions overall, but plenty of other words and phrases which come up along the way.

We also talk about the history of English and the etymology of English words which have their origins in other languages and which reveal things about England’s ancient history and colonial past. 

So there’s lots of word quizzes and vocab games, and then at the end a bit about etymology, English history and colonialism.

If you find it hard to keep track of all the vocab during this chat, then don’t worry because I’ll give a quick summary of it all at the end of the episode, and I mean quick. Just to consolidate some of the things you heard I will list the vocabulary at the end. It won’t be the full LEP Premium treatment. It’ll just be a quick a reminder, to recap.

Check the episode page on my website for all the vocabulary notes. There’s a video version too which you might want to check out on YouTube, but it doesn’t contain this lovely introduction or the incredibly useful and generous vocab re-cap which I will do at the end of this wonderful audio version. 

Now, without any further ado, let’s chat to Fred again, and here we go…

Ending

So there you are that was Fred Eyangoh, being very useful there and sharing lots of fun vocab quiz questions and also insights about how crossword puzzles work and also words which have their roots in other languages.

I’ll invite Fred back onto this podcast to play “Plant, dish or animal”, which sounds like a fun game.

My prediction for the episode length

I said 1h36min

For the video version I was very close. It’s 1h34min22sec.

This audio version though is clearly much longer.

Vocabulary Summary

Mini Crossword Clues and Answers

  • Helpful reference for tourists – MAP
  • Dressy short sleeved shirt – POLO (Dressy means smart)
  • They have meters and motors – TAXIS (A meter is what counts the distance and price of the taxi journey)
  • D on a gearshift – DRIVE (In US English a “gearshift” is thing you use to change gears in a car – either an automatic or manual car, in UK English it’s more likely to be called a gear stick)
  • Fighting spirit – MOXIE (Moxie means “courage” or “nerve”, “guts” in US and Canadian slang)
  • Look _____ out there – LOOK ALIVE OUT THERE! (This is something that people shout at baseball players to encourage them. People also say “Attaboy” – “At her boy!”)
  • Football scores, for short – TDS (this is an abbreviation for “touchdowns”, which is of course American English because touchdowns are part of what we call American Football or Gridiron Football, but in the USA they just call it football, and they’re wrong of course, it’s not football it’s hand egg – just joking, they can call it football if they want, because, they have guns)
  • ____-ball – SKEE (Skee ball is a game that you might find in amusement arcades in the USA. To me it’s the kind of word that you hear sometimes in American movies or TV shows)

Fred’s Crossword Quiz Questions for Luke

  • Campaigned for office – RAN (to run for president, for example)
  • Urban air pollution – SMOG (A portmanteau word between smoke and fog)
  • Rowing tool – OAR (also “to stick your oar in” – meaning to get involved in a situation which you shouldn’t be involved in. E.g. when two people are arguing and you interrupt and give your opinion too, but it just makes the argument worse, “Sticking your oar in doesn’t help! Just mind your own business)
  • Kisses and caresses in British lingo – SNOGS
  • It may pop before a toast – CORK
  • Doe’s mate (the mate of a doe) – STAG
    Other related words: 
    buck (also a male deer) to buck (when a horse kicks its legs to get someone off its back) 
    to buck the trend (to do something different than the trend – e.g. to focus on long form audio content, rather than short form video content)
    a fawn (a young deer – pronounced /fɔ:n/ by me and /fɑ:n/ by Fred with his American accent.
  • Angers – IRES (to ire someone means to make someone angry or frustrated, but I never use this word. Still it’s useful to know it and it’s the kind of thing that might come up in a book or something – also useful for crosswords and scrabble)
  • Fuss, kerfuffle, trouble, tizzy, hubbub, brouhaha, ballyhoo – ADO
  • Blocked, as a river – DAMMED (We also have “Damned” as a kind of swear word, which for me sounds the same as dammed)
  • “Hold your horses” – WAIT 
  • Shush – ZIP IT! 
  • Current events? – TIDES (current has several meanings – a current in the water, an electrical current, and also the adjective current which means at the moment *not actual* as in some languages. Also there’s the homophone word currant which is a small dried grape, like a raisin)
  • Drop a line? – FISH (“drop me a line” means “call me on the phone” but you also drop a line when you go fishing)
  • Mini freezer – BRAKE (the brake is what stops a car, and a Mini is a kind of car. To freeze means to stop, so a mini freezer is a brake)
  • Good or bad vacuum review – SUCKS (this vacuum sucks! Good, that’s what it’s supposed to do!)
  • Locale for drawers in the study – ART SCHOOL (tricky – but it’s where you find artists involved in studying) 
    Draw a picture with a pencil
    A drawer where you keep your knives and forks
    He speaks with a southern drawl

That’s all folks!

Leave your comments in the comment section.

Leave a positive review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen.

Sign up to LEP Premium for all those bonus episodes where I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, and the storytime series.

All the very best to you and your English. 

Have a lovely morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again soon.

783. British or American? With Sarah Donnelly

Comparing British and American English vocabulary with a fun online quiz. My guest today is American comedian Sarah Donnelly. Video version (of the conversation) available.

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Video Version (images and text on scree, but no intro or ending comments & summary)

Introduction Transcript

Hello dear listeners,

Hello to all LEPsters in LEPland,

How’s your summer going? OK? I’m on holiday at the moment, but I recorded this earlier and I’ve managed to publish it now. That’s clever, isn’t it? Anyway, I hope your summer is going well and if it’s not summer where you are, I hope that your not-summer is also going well.

Welcome back to LEP.

In this episode, Sarah Donnelly is back on the podcast again.

You might remember Sarah from the other times she’s been on the show, if you are a long-term listener. 

Sarah Donnelly is from the circle of friends I have here in Paris who all met each other doing stand up comedy, and that includes Amber and Paul, Sebastian Marx, Fred Eyangoh, Molly Martinez, Sarah Toporoff the Paris Quiz Mistress and plenty of others, many of whom have made appearances on this podcast over the years. 

Sarah is originally from North Carolina in the USA. She’s been living in Paris exactly the same length of time as me. We both moved here in September 2012 – by coincidence I mean – we didn’t move here together. But when we did meet, we realised we had both moved here at exactly the same time, which is something we have in common. 

The return of Sarah on this podcast is long overdue. As a theme for this episode I thought we could explore the topic of American and British English and so you’ll hear us discussing some of the vocabulary differences while doing a fun online quiz. 

We start our conversation by referring to the fact that in my podcastle (the building here where I have my pod-room) there are lots of stairs, because I am on the top floor and also there is a shared toilet in the corridor, which is an old fashioned toilet, meaning it is basically a hole in the ground, rather than a thing you sit on. It’s not a sit down toilet, it’s more of a squatting toilet. That’s probably too much information for you, but there it is. I don’t know if it helps for you to know what kind of toilet we have here at the podcastle. Does that help, to know that? Does that help with your English? I’m telling you that to give you context at the start, so you don’t feel lost.

Anyway, it’s fine. The toilet, I mean. It works. It’s ok. But Sarah calls it a Turkish toilet for some reason (maybe that’s an American thing) whereas in the UK we’re more likely to call that kind of toilet a “French campsite toilet”. Anyway, I thought I’d just clarify that before you listen and wonder what’s going on.

After a bit of rambling about toilets, recording podcasts while sitting on the toilet, different types of toilet, old fashioned toilets and so on. After that toilet talk, Sarah and I get into that online quiz about British and American English. 

So the main thing here is to compare some vocabulary differences between British and American English. You can learn some different vocab, and also just listen and compare these two varieties of English. 

Listen carefully to hear our specific comments and to learn the subtleties of these differences. You’ll know some of them already, because some of these differences are very well known, but I bet there will also be some new things for you to pick up too. 

I’ll sum up at the end of the conversation by the way – I’ll quickly summarise the vocab and the differences, and I will also give some comments about whether you should learn British or American English (which variety to choose). You will find notes and a transcript for the intro part and parts of the ending on the page for this episode on my website. You’re welcome.

I don’t need to say much more here, except that there is a video version of this on YouTube with the quiz questions shown on the screen. You could watch that too, but of course on YouTube you don’t get this wonderful introduction that you’re hearing now, or the bit where I ramble at the end. So there. That’s the advantage of being an audio LEPster in audioland (which is the most populated region of LEPland by the way). You get more. 

Now, I will let you listen to my conversation with Sarah Donnelly, let you compare some American and British English and I will talk to you again a bit on the other side of this conversation, with a summary and some more comments.

But now, let’s get started…


The BuzzFeed quiz we did in this episode, focusing on British and American English

“I’m 99% Positive We Can Guess If You’re American Or British Based On This Word Test”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/sarahaspler/american-or-british-vocabulary-quiz


Ending

Thank you to Sarah. Will it be 4 years until she’s back on the podcast again? No, I must invite her back sooner than that.

By the way, you can follow Sarah on Instagram where she posts various comedy video clips there and she is very funny. She’s a great improviser.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sarah Donnelly (@sarahdcomedy)

Summary of the Vocabulary Differences

UK: Biscuit

USA: Cookie

But I think a cookie and a biscuit are slightly different. A cookie is bigger and often has chocolate chips in it. Typically American. A biscuit is often smaller and a bit harder or with more crunch to it, and they are usually sold in a tube. Biscuits like that are very popular in the UK and we like to eat them as a snack with a cup of tea or coffee. Popular biscuits are things like the digestive biscuit or rich tea biscuit. In some parts of the USA a biscuit is something else entirely, and is larger and more like a scone (or scone) and is a savoury food eaten with gravy. We don’t have those kinds of biscuit in the UK.

Basically – a cookie is larger and a bit softer and very common in the USA. We have cookies in the UK too, but biscuits are more common.

UK: Petrol

USA: Gas / gasoline

The fuel that we put in our cars. In the UK we call it petrol. In the USA they commonly call it gas or gasoline. They’re wrong. Haha.

UK: Crisps

USA: (Potato) chips

Those snacks made from thin slices of potato which have been roasted and are sold in bags. Those are crisps in the UK and chips in the USA.

But, confusingly, chips in the UK are more like American french fries, but not the same because chips (like with fish and chips) are thicker and chunkier. We have fries in the UK too, but they are thin and the sort of thing you get with a burger at a McDonald’s or something. 

Fun fact, french fries originally came from Belgium, so really we should all call them Belgian fries. As far as I know, that is true, but for some reason my spider sense is telling me that right at this moment Jean-Pierre is blowing the dust off his fingers in order to correct me. French people, if I’m wrong about that, feel free to correct me. I’m pretty sure it’s right though.

UK: Flat

USA: Apartment

Generally speaking in the UK we do refer to a home which is part of a larger building, as a flat, although we often use the word apartment too.

The building itself might be a block of flats (especially if it is more modern and contains lots of flats) or a tenement (I think more common in American English and perhaps associated with poorer communities) a condominium is a fairly common word in American English and refers to a block of flats but probably a more expensive one. We also might just say an apartment building.

Of course a house is one single property which has one owner or tenant. A house in the UK can be detached (on its own) semi-detached (with another house attached to it) or terraced (part of a terrace of attached houses in one long row, sometimes the whole street).

The word “home” is just used to refer to a place where someone lives. Anything can be your home – an apartment, a house, a cave, a hole in the ground, a boat, etc…

UK: Sweets

USA: Candy

One thing to note here is that the word “sweets” is plural and countable. So you can have a sweet or some sweets, or “how many sweets?” whereas candy is both countable and uncountable. So you can say “How much candy do you want?” and also “I want some candy” and “Do you want a candy?”.

UK: “The city centre”, the “town centre” or “the centre of town”

USA: Downtown

Downtown can be an adjective “A downtown address” or “in downtown Los Angeles” or an adverb (so you can do something downtown) “I’m going downtown” “An incident happened downtown yesterday”.

Also, that TV show about posh people living in a big house in England with their servants 100 years ago – that’s Downton Abbey and not Downtown Abbey.

UK: The greengrocers / the shop / the local shop 

USA: The grocery store

The greengrocers in the UK is a small shop that just sells fruit and vegetables.

For a generic shop that sells lots of things including some fruit and veg maybe, but certainly drinks, snacks, milk, beer, bread etc, a kind of convenience store, we might just call it “the shop” or “the corner shop” or “a convenience store” or a “newsagent” (although that mainly sells newspapers and magazines) or “the local shop”.

A supermarket is a place that sells all kinds of food, including fruit and veg. 

UK: Swimming costume

USA: Swimsuit

The clothes you wear when you go swimming. I think British people might also say swimsuit.

Those things that float in the water, probably attached to a rope or cable under the water – perhaps a large plastic ball – that’s a buoy, pronounced “boy” in British English and just pronounced all wrong and weird in American English like “boooeeee”, like David Booooeeee or something. 

Bed sheets and stuff

It seems we use more or less the same words for this.

From floor to the top, here are the things on a bed:

  • The bed frame
  • The mattress
  • A fitted sheet which goes over the mattress
  • You
  • The top sheet which goes between you and 
  • The duvet, which has a duvet cover on it
  • Also: a pillow and a pillow case

A blanket might be made of thick wool and could be added on the top to give an extra layer of warmth in the winter or something.

According to Sarah, a comforter in the USA is a kind of duvet that doesn’t have a cover on it.

That’s all I’ll say for that.

UK: a fringe

USA: bangs

In the UK the word fringe is singular. “I was thinking about getting a fringe. Shall I get a fringe? I think I’ll get a fringe.” In the USA “bangs” is a plural word. “I was thinking about getting bangs. Shall I get bangs? I think I’ll get bangs”.

UK: Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)

USA: Bell peppers

Other vegetable names which are different:

UK: Courgette

USA: Zucchini

UK: Aubergine

USA: Egg plant (again they’re completely wrong on this. Eggs don’t have plants. What are they thinking? Egg plant. Eggs don’t grow on plants, they come out of chickens’ bums.)

UK: Trousers

USA: Pants

This is a well-known one, and I’ve talked about it plenty of times before.

It’s hilarious, isn’t it, because in the UK pants are our underwear. So funny. 😐

UK: The pavement

USA: The sidewalk

This is the place next to the road where pedestrians walk, and where those people on electric scooters endanger everyone’s lives.


Which version of English should I choose? British or American?

To be honest British and American English are not massively different. It’s mainly just little differences that might seem big when you get into very specific situations – especially if you are a British English speaker who goes to live in the USA or vice versa. So, first of all, don’t worry about it too much because the two versions of the language are mostly the same.

But there are differences – certain vocabulary (hopefully episodes like this can help), but also some spelling and grammar differences. There’s another episode for another time – although I did cover some of the pronunciation differences in an early episode 14. English Mania / British and American English

Also, pronunciation. The accents are fairly different and also certain words can be quite different (like buoy, aluminium, and so on).

The more you listen to spoken English from different places, the more you get a sense of the different sounds.

Feel free to choose whichever one that you like. 

If you’re going to live in the USA, learning American English would make sense.

If you’re going to most other places where English is spoken including Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, India and other places – British English spelling and grammar standards are used.

But, American English is probably more widespread than British English because there are just more American people in the world (300,000,000 of them) and because the popular culture is everywhere too – films, TV series, music etc. 

So, I suppose it’s up to you.

But at the end of the day – the answer is. Learn British English, it’s just better. 

I mean, who says “Booooeeeee” – it’s a buoy.

That’s it! Leave your comments below :)

774. Learn English with a Scary Story (Camp Stabbiwaka by Peter Carlson)

Listen to Luke reading a text adventure story set in a summer camp. You can read the story at the same time as you listen, or just relax and have fun following this action packed horror story, and read do text adventure later. Includes some vocabulary explanations, differences between British & American English and some very dodgy jokes. Video version available.

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Video Version (read the text on the screen – automatic subtitles are also available)

📖 👀 Click here to open the story in your browser 📖 👀

Where’s the text? Where’s the transcript? It’s up there, look! 👆👆

769. Film Club: This Is Spinal Tap (with James)

A return to Luke’s Film Club with the classic comedy This Is Spinal Tap, a “mockumentary” about a fictitious rock band from the 1980s. This time I am joined by my brother James and we discuss what was once voted “Funniest comedy film of all time”. Learn some famous quotes from the film, listen to some scenes and understand the comedy with help from James and me.

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VIDEO VERSION with images on-screen

758. Pub Quiz Trivia with Sarah The Paris Quiz Mistress

Chatting to pub quiz host Sarah Toporoff about her love of trivia, and asking each other quiz questions about history, geography, literature, language & pop culture. Can you answer the questions and follow the conversation?

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Links

Introduction Transcript & Notes

Hello listeners! I hope you’re well. Welcome back to my podcast for learners of English around the world. That’s you, I assume. You are a learner of English and you are around the world. 

Welcome to another episode of my podcast. This is where you can get English into your life in the form of some regular listening practise. This time you’re going to hear me in conversation with a guest and the guest in this episode is my friend Sarah Toporoff who also goes by the name The Paris Quiz Mistress.

This is the first time she’s been on the show and that means this one will probably be a little more difficult for you to follow, but that’s alright – it’s all good practice. 

Sarah is originally from the USA (so you will be hearing an American accent from her, and a British accent from me in the same conversation – and yes, we actually understand each other of course) Anyway, Sarah is from the states, but these days she lives in Paris like me and basically – Sarah loves pub quizzes. In fact, she loves them so much that she decided to run her own pub quiz nights here in Paris, in English, which she does every Sunday evening. 

She writes questions and reads them out in a local pub for teams of people to answer in competition with each other. Sarah also has her own podcast in which she quizzes her friends on various bits of trivia relating to their interests. Her podcast is called The Paris Quiz Mistress Podcast.

So, in this episode I thought I would chat to Sarah about her love of quizzes, and then we could quiz each other with some fun questions, and you can see if you know the answers and generally try to keep up with the conversation and develop your English in the process.

So that’s what you’re going to get – and this is a swapcast, which means that both Sarah and I are publishing this on our respective podcasts. 

Before we continue I think I should give you a little bit of support before I throw you into the deep end and make you listen to this fairly fast conversation between two native speakers. 

So, let me just clarify a couple of bits of vocabulary and some culture which are key concepts for this episode, and I also have a few questions for you to consider, in order to help you prepare to understand this episode more easily.

Some words and concepts

A quiz

(Forgive me if I am stating the obvious here) A quiz is a fun game or competition in which someone tests your knowledge by asking you questions and you compete with others to answer those questions. Quizzes are usually done just for fun, unlike tests or exams for example, which are done not for fun. They usually involve questions relating to trivia…

Trivia (noun) / Trivial (adjective)

…and trivia basically means trivial information or facts which are interesting or amusing but not really presented for a specific purpose. “Oh, that’s quite interesting isn’t it?” ← that’s usually as deep as it gets. That’s trivia.

It’s just random bits of general knowledge, just for fun – facts and figures, names, dates, places, moments in history, pop culture and so on.

A pub quiz 

As the name suggests, a pub quiz is a quiz done in a pub. Big surprise there. But pub quizzes are a very common feature of normal life in the UK where any good pub will have a quiz night. If you’ve ever spent time living in the UK you might have noticed this. Perhaps on a weekday evening in the local pub you might see teams of people sitting at tables competing against each other to answer questions which are read out by a host who might be speaking into a microphone. It’s sort of an excuse to just be in the pub and have a few drinks, but it’s also a really fun way to spend an evening with other people.

A good host will prepare some tricky but achievable questions that make you think and that could spark some conversation later in the evening, and the host might throw in some funny comments here and there just to keep things light. The questions are often quite convoluted and might sound more difficult than they actually are. At the end, the answer sheets from each team are marked and the winning team wins a prize, typically a bottle of wine or something like that. Pub quizzes are also known as trivia nights in some places. 

Does that sound familiar? This is the world of the pub quiz. Are they a common feature in your country? Do they happen in pubs? Do you have pubs? Do you have questions? Do you have facts where you live? Are there other people? I don’t know where you are. 

Fun quizzes like this also take place in other situations – and I’m talking about the UK and other English speaking places too and often things are similar in our cultures. I’m sure it’s the same for you, but is it? I don’t know. Anyway, where I’m from quizzing is sort of part of our DNA. Any excuse for a quiz – in pubs but also at family get togethers, at school or even at work Christmas parties and things like that. 

Sorry for rambling here but seriously – thinking about this stuff might help you to focus your attention on the topic of this conversation  bit more closely and follow things more easily, and therefore learn more English from this and as a result get a feeling of accomplishment which you carry with you in your life, bringing extra positivity and confidence which ultimately helps to make you a more successful and fulfilled person in your life, which then impacts on other people in similar ways and the benefits spread out from you in concentric circles improving the lives of other people around you and they start smiling a bit more and ultimately the world becomes that bit better which makes all the difference to the global balance of everything and basically I save the world with my podcast. That’s all I’m trying to do, so don’t stand in my way, ok? The fate of the world depends on this, alright?

Now, just in case this introduction wasn’t long enough, I am now going to quickly read out the questions that Sarah and I are going to ask each other in this episode, just to give you a chance to understand them in advance so you don’t get lost in the conversation.

You see, I am COMMITTED to helping you learn English and that means I am willing to make these episode introductions at least 3 minutes longer than they should be in order to give you a helping hand in understanding fast-paced and naturalistic dialogues between native speakers of English. That is how much I care. 

Quiz Questions in this Episode

So listen to these questions, understand them, can you answer them? You’ll be more prepared. Listen to the episode to get the answers.

  • How many countries make up the UK and can you name those countries?
  • Which Eastern European country shares zero of the same borders with countries that it shared borders with in 1989 although its physical borders have not moved? (note: I hope you don’t mind the term “Eastern European country”)

Sarah’s Questions for me

These might seem a bit random, but Sarah is a great quiz mistress and there is a link between all the answers to these questions, and it’s a link that is tailored to me somehow. 

  1. For which film did the MPAA refuse to allow use of Ben Stiller’s character’s last name in the title, unless filmmakers could find an actual person with that last name?
  2. What 2nd novel by English author Charles Dickens is alternately titled “The Parish Boy’s Progress?”
  3. What film series began in 1988 and stars Bruce Willis as John McClane?
  4. In British English it means “eraser”, in American it means “condom”. What is it?
  5. What is the type of gun that features as a weapon in the board game “Cluedo”?
  6. “Scar Tissue” is the name of Anthony Keidis’ autobiography as well as one of his hits, with which band?
  7. PD James, Edgar Allan Poe and Gaston Leroux are all writers specialising in what genre? 
  8. The flags of Romania, Colombia and Moldova all primarily feature which 3 colours?
  9. The first episode of what television drama opens with the news that that RMS Titanic has sunk?

Luke’s Questions for Sarah

My questions are really quite stupid and in fact I am not listing them here because they are too silly and I will let you discover them in all their glory as you listen to the episode. So just listen on if you want to hear my questions for Sarah – but to give you a heads up they focus on music, movies (well, one movie) and British English slang, so there is definitely some vocabulary to learn here!

MMMBop by Hanson

Mmm Bop – Lyrics

Can you tell me any of the lyrics from the first verse?

Answers:

You have so many relationships in this life

Only one or two will last

You go through all the pain and strife

Then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast

Oh yeah (so much wisdom from someone so young)

And they’re gone so fast, yeah

Oh, so hold on the ones who really care

In the end they’ll be the only ones there

And when you get old and start losing your hair

Can you tell me who will still care (Hair was important to them)

Can you tell me who will still care? (interesting discussion point)

Oh care

Mmmbop, ba duba dop

Ba du bop, ba duba dop

Ba du bop, ba duba dop

Ba du, oh yeah

Mmmbop, ba duba dop

Ba du bop, ba du dop

Ba du bop, ba du dop

Ba du, yeah

Said oh yeah

In an mmmbop they’re gone

Yeah yeah

Yeah yeah

Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose

You can plant any one of those

Keep planting to find out which one grows

It’s a secret no one knows

It’s a secret no one knows (Is it really a secret?)

Oh, no one knows

MMMM MMMM MMMM MMMM by Crash Test Dummies

Anaconda – 1997 (Trailer)

Luke’s British Slang Questions

  • If you describe something as pants, how do you feel about it?

“That film was pants. Total pants.”

Answer: bad

  • How would you feel if you’d run out of bog roll?

You’d feel gutted of course.

Answer: Bog roll means toilet paper

  • Can you give me a reason why you might feel “chuffed”?

Answer: chuffed means pleased, delighted, happy

  • What would a British person probably say if they wanted to claim something, like perhaps a chocolate biscuit or a comfortable chair?

Answer: Bagsee!

  • If someone needed to get some kip, how would they probably feel?

Answer: You’d feel sleepy or tired, because kip means sleep (noun)

  • What F word is used to say that someone is physically attractive? (It’s like saying “hot”)

Answer: fit

  • What L word is a generic sickness – like the flu or a bad cold? (a pre-covid expression)

Answer: The lurgy

  • Where do you put suitcases in a car in the UK?

Answer: in the boot

  • What about the engine?

Under the bonnet

In any case, whether you can answer these questions or not, I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation about trivia and that you manage to keep up with it all and pick up some English. I will chat to you again very very briefly at the end, but it’s now time to get started properly and here we go…

Listen to the episode to get all the answers to the questions!

In other news…

My pod-room still isn’t ready but it should be connected to electricity and internet in a couple of weeks.

I’m still waiting to get a WIFI internet connection at home.

My shelves haven’t fallen down yet :)

I am working on LEP Premium series 33 parts 3 and 4 and they should be uploaded soon.

Video versions of episodes will return when I have a decent internet connection (and a new computer which is coming too…)

743. Give me Tea, Please – Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language (with Natasha V Broodie) + ramble / song

Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.

Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.

So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.

It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.

“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.

Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.


Give Me Tea, Please on Amazon


Ending

So that was Natasha V Broodie, talking about her book Give me tea, please – available from all good bookstores. Go ahead and pick up a copy and if you like it, leave a review on Amazon.

Thanks again to Natasha for her contribution in this episode.

A Short Ramble

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Design comp – link here for details https://teacherluke.co.uk/2021/09/22/742-new-lep-t-shirts-merch-lep-design-competition-2021-with-james/
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Sneezing caused me to take a trip to tangent town…

Song – “Trouble” by Coldplay

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/coldplay/trouble-chords-16491

740. Are native English speakers bad communicators? (The Travel Adapter with Matt Halsdorff)

Talking to English teacher Matt Halsdorff about a project to train native English speakers how to communicate better with non-natives. We talk about the reasons why native speakers are often bad at communicating with non-natives, what they should do to fix this and the wider issues relating to this project. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Episode Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and video viewers, how are you doing today?

In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Matt Halsdorff who is an English teacher with many years of teaching experience, and we’re going to be discussing the question of whether native English speakers are in fact the worst communicators in an international English environment.

Matt is currently working on a project with Christian Saunders from Canguro English. I think the project sounds really interesting and raises a few good questions about how native speakers of English and non-native speakers communicate with each other, what non-natives really struggle with in this language, and whether native speakers can do anything to help.

If you saw my latest video interview with Christian from Canguro English and you watched until the end you might remember us discussing this project briefly. If you remember, Christian mentioned a training course in communication in English – but the twist is that it’s for native speakers – more specifically it is for native English speakers who need to communicate internationally.

Because, It’s not just learners of English who need training in this language. Apparently – It’s native speakers too.

English is a global language, and everyone is using it for business and also for travel purposes. Everyone needs to use this language to communicate successfully so the world can continue spinning.

Everyone uses English, and everyone has to work on the way they use it, in the same way that we all have to work on our email writing and IT skills to make them as efficient and effective as possible.

As a non-native speaker of English, of course you’ve got to work on the entire system – you need vocabulary, you need correct grammar, you need clear pronunciation, fluency, confidence and so on – obviously, that’s what’s involved in trying to use another language.

You learn as you go and try to do your best and you almost certainly feel a great deal of responsibility, pressure, and challenge when communicating in English. You are probably keenly aware of your performance in English and sensitive about any kind of failure in communication and how that might be your fault.

But do native speakers share a similar sense of responsibility?

In fact here are a number of other questions which arise when thinking about this topic.

  • Do native English speakers do all they can in international situations to make sure they are understood clearly, just like everyone else does?
  • Are native speakers aware of what it is like to operate in a second language?
  • Might there be other reasons why native English speakers don’t adapt the way they speak in order to improve shared communication?
  • Who is responsible for the success of any act of communication? Just one side, or both?
  • Should native speakers adapt their English? Or is it up to the non-natives to do all the heavy lifting in this situation?
  • And if native speakers should adapt their English, how should they do it?
  • What kind of English should they avoid and what kind is likely to be the most successful?
  • And what about other considerations and questions, such as what happens to the English language when it is being adapted in this way?

Well, I am interviewing Matt today in order to discuss these things and find out about this project in general. First we’re just going to take a few minutes to get to know him, and then we’re going to dive into this training project for native speakers, which is called The Travel Adaptor by the way. We’re going to find out about the project, about what native speakers do and say which can be so confusing, how native speakers can facilitate communication with non-natives, and the wider issue of global English and successful international communication.

As well as getting into the specifics of this conversation, you can certainly learn about some of the major obstacles that non-native speakers have when understanding natives.

So there’s plenty to pick up from this. There is a YouTube version too just in case you need to see our faces as well as listen to us.

Let’s get started!

Links

Download the PDF about The Travel Adapter

www.canguroenglish.com

www.coyoteenglish.com

*This is a conversation about language*

Ending

Well, that was Matt Halsdorff talking about The Travel Adapter – a training course for native-speakers of English, to help them communicate better globally.

So, what do you think? I’m very keen to read your comments and I am sure you had things popping into your head during this conversation. Why not express them in English here in the comment section?

  • Do you have experiences of communicating with native speakers in English? What was it like? Did they adapt their speech? What was difficult?
  • Do you think native speakers should adapt their speech when talking to non-natives, or not? Why?

But that’s it for now. Thank you for listening and I will speak to you again soon. I’ve got a little announcement coming in the next few weeks that’s pretty cool, plus the usual free episodes and premium episodes on their way as usual.

Speak to you soon, but for now – goodbye bye bye bye bye bye bye!