Category Archives: Art

734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

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Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…

731. Beatles Song Lyrics / Idioms & Expressions (with Antony Rotunno)

Learn English with The Beatles as we explore lyrics from Beatles songs and pick out some idioms, descriptive language and other vocabulary for you to learn. Featuring Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone,

In this episode you can learn English with The Beatles as we look at specific bits of English which appear in the lyrics of their songs.

I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion on John Lennon Podcast. Antony is also an English teacher and something of a John Lennon expert. He is also a musician, and a lot of the credit for this episode goes to him, because he did most of the preparation, going through lyrics of Beatles songs and picking out specific use of English, including certain phrases and idioms.

This is like a quiz actually. Can you name the songs when Antony plays them? 

Can you beat me?

Can you name the songs from the lyrics and from the music?

There are a few references to The Rutles and Neil Innes of course, but for us those songs are all part of The Beatles extended universe.

I’ll chat to you again at the end of the episode and will sum up some of the bits of language that come up, but now let’s get started.


Phrases / Vocabualry

  • Using lots of pronouns, me, you, us, I etc
  • Using more imagery in the lyrics
  • I’m going to love her until the cows come home
  • A chip on my shoulder
  • My heart went boom when I crossed that room
  • Buzz, hum, boom (Onomatopoeia)
  • It won’t be long ‘til I belong to you
  • I don’t know why she’s riding so high
  • To be on your high horse
  • I’ll make a point of taking her away from you
  • I sat on her rug biding my time, drinking her wine
  • This bird has flown
  • Please don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away, and after all, I’m only sleeping
  • If she’s gone I can’t go on, feeling two foot small
  • Feeling 10 foot tall
  • Ouch, you’re breaking my heart
  • To upset the applecart
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way
  • He was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • Or an iron hand in a velvet glove
  • Working like a dog
  • Sleeping like a log
  • Sleeping like a baby
  • If you need a shoulder to cry on
  • To give someone a shoulder to cry on
  • To open up the doors
  • My independence seems to vanish in the haze
  • It was another string to their bow

Colours

  • There is a place, where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue
  • To feel blue
  • Everybody’s green because I’m the one who won your love
  • Green = 1. Jealous 2. inexperienced 
  • Oh dear what can I do, baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue

Imagery

  • When the sun shines they slip into the shade, and sip their lemonade
  • With tangerine trees and marmalade skies, cellophane flowers of yellow and green
  • No-one I think is in my tree
  • Nobody is on my wavelength
  • Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
  • The clouds will be a daisy chain, so let me see you smile again
  • Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering, in the sun
  • My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth but I am of the universe and you know what it’s worth
  • Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
  • Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
  • Don’t need a gun to blow your mind
  • No longer riding on the merry go round, I just had to let it go
  • Mother, you had me, but I never had you

Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only

727. Describing John Lennon / Adjectives of Personality J-Z (with Antony Rotunno)

The second part of my conversation with Antony Rotunno (John Lennon podcaster, English teacher) in which we discuss adjectives of personality, with John Lennon as a case study. Vocabulary list available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Welcome to this brand new episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Here it is, another episode of my podcast, from me to you, in which I help you try to learn this wonderful language that we call English, and I am here to try to help you do it, in ways that I hope you will find interesting and motivating.

So, how are you doing out there in podcastland today? I hope things are pretty good all things considered.

You are now listening to the fourth in my Beatles mini-series and the second part of this double episode I’m doing about describing John Lennon using various adjectives of personality.

I’m assuming here that you have heard the first part of this. If you haven’t heard the first part of this double episode then you need to go and listen to that. It’s probably the previous episode to this one, ok?

I’m still talking to Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast. Antony is also an English teacher with plenty of experience. So I think he’s the perfect guest for this podcast series, and let’s continue going through this list of adjectives we compiled, and let’s see if we can use them to discuss John Lennon’s life, his psychology, his personality.

In the last episode we covered adjectives from A to I. It’s a sort of a rough A-Z, and we did A to I last time so let’s do the rest of the alphabet, more or less.

We might skip a few letters here and there but I’m sure that you’ll forgive us.

Just before we continue, let me read out the list of adjectives. Like last time, we don’t go into full detail about all of these, but have a listen and consider these things: whether you know these words, whether you don’t know them, whether you use them and whether you don’t and also what’s the word stress for these adjectives? How many syllables are there and which syllables are the stressed ones? It can also be useful to consider what the noun or verb forms of these adjectives are, if they have them, and sometimes you’ll hear us using the different forms of these words in these word families as well.

Adjectives of Personality J-Z

O o o <—- these symbols show the number of syllables and word stress in a word. For example, “podcast” = O o (two syllables, the first syllable is stressed)

  • Jealous O o, Jittery O o o (Also: to have the jitters, to be on edge, to be nervous, to be anxious)
  • Knackered O o, Kind-hearted o O o
  • Lovable O o o
  • Misunderstood o o o O, Multi-faceted o o O o o
  • Narcissistic o o O o, Nasty O o, Nervous O o, No-nonsense o O o
  • Open O o, Original o O o o
  • Paranoid O o o, Progressive o O o
  • Questioning O o o, Quick-witted O- O o (Also: to have the gift of the gab)
  • Reclusive o O o, Restless O o, Revered o O
  • Sensitive O o o, Sensible O o o, Sentimental o o O o, Superstitious o o O o
  • Talented O o o, Tragic O o, Traumatised O o o, Troubled O o
  • Uncompromising o O o o o, Unconventional o o O o o
  • Violent O o
  • Warm-hearted o O o, Well-read o O, Wise, Witty O o
  • (not) Xenophobic o o O o (this is the only adjective I could think of that begins with an X!) (xylophone and x-ray are other words beginning with x – but they’re not adjectives of personality)
  • Yellow O o / Yellow-bellied O o – O o (cowardly), Youthful O o
  • Zealous O o, Zen

Also: Childish O o / childlike O o

We also cover a few common false friends in this episode, so listen out for those.

False friends

  • Embarrassed o O o
  • Suburbs O o / slums
  • Sensitive O o o / sensible O o o

That entire list is available for you to see on the page for this episode on my website. The link is in the description.

Now, I read that list of adjectives pretty quickly. If you didn’t catch the word stress, or in fact if you feel you need to explore these words more slowly, you can always just check the word list on the website page … and copy+paste them into an online dictionary, where you’ll see phonemic transcriptions of the words (so you’ll know how they are pronounced, including word stress) you’ll be able to hear someone say the words, and you’ll get definitions and examples and so on.

OK, so – I always encourage you to check words that you discover in episodes of this podcast in your own time, and I refer you back to episode 720 for more information about how to do that.

OK, so without any further ado, let’s jump back into my conversation with Antony about John Lennon, and here we go.


Ending Transcript

Thank you again to Antony for his contribution to this episode.

Let me suggest again that you check out Antony’s podcast if you’d like to hear more in depth discussions about John Lennon. It’s called Glass Onion: On John Lennon and you can get it wherever you get your podcasts. I must say, it is an excellent listen.

Right, so that’s not quite it for Beatle-themed episodes. The last in the series is with Antony too, and that’s where we turn to look at the music (or should I say listen to the music?) In any case, the next part of this series is all about the music and lyrics, especially the lyrics and Antony is going to guide us through a little exploration of words and phrases in Beatles songs, looking at nice idioms, uses of metaphor and other features that you should find interesting from a language learning point of view. And Antony got his guitar out for that too, so we also get treated to little snippets of songs as we go.

So, you can look forward to the final episode in the series, coming soon.

I say final episode, there’s nothing stopping me from doing more episodes with Beatle themes in the future, and I do plan to do that actually. I’d like to do some specific song breakdowns in which I could explore the story behind a particular song, then play the song for you and analyse the lyrics. That could be great.

Anyway, thank you for listening as usual! I hope this has been interesting and useful, and I will speak to you very soon in the next episode of this podcast. BUt for now it’s time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye.

726. Describing John Lennon / Adjectives of Personality A-I (with Antony Rotunno)

Learn useful adjectives for describing personality traits with John Lennon as a case study. Episode 3/5 in my Beatles series, with returning guest Antony Rotunno from the podcast “Glass Onion: On John Lennon”. 

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and welcome back to LEP.

Here is the next episode in my Beatles season, and this is where we look at some language too.

In this episode I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno who is a podcaster and English teacher from England. Antony’s main podcast is called Glass Onion: On John Lennon and as the title suggests it is all about John Lennon, particularly his psychology and his life story. Antony’s other podcasts are called Film Gold, a film review series and Life & Life Only which is about personal development and psychology, so Antony knows a thing or two about psychology and John Lennon, and of course as an English teacher he’s well experienced in helping learners to conquer this language of English.

In this one we’re going through a big list of adjectives which I prepared earlier. All the adjectives are words you could use to describe someone’s personality. We have loads of these adjectives, so Antony and I made a list of words which could be used to describe John Lennon. It’s an ABC in fact. Now we didn’t manage to talk about every single adjective in the list, but we certainly had a good go at them, and what you’re going to get in this episode is a sort of English lesson with John Lennon as a case study.

Here are the adjectives (I’m going to read them out)

  • Consider which ones you know
  • Which ones you use
  • Which ones you don’t know
  • Which ones you don’t use
  • Word stress

Adjectives of Personality

  • Abrasive, Aggressive, Ambitious, Anti-authoritarian, Anti-social, Articulate, Artistic
  • Bad-tempered, Brave
  • Charismatic, Charming, Contradictory, Creative, Cruel, Curious, Cutting, Cynical
  • Damaged, Disobedient, Disturbed
  • Egotistical, Experimental, Eccentric
  • Fearless, Fragile, Funny
  • Generous, Gentle, Gregarious (sometimes!)
  • Headstrong, Honest
  • Imaginative, Indulgent, Inquisitive, Intelligent, Inspiring, Irreverent

I’ll let you discover which ones we actually talk about in detail in this episode. The rest of the list will come up in the next part.

Also, I’ve collected a set of other expressions from this conversation, not using adjectives of personality, but just useful expressions and examples of language you could use, and I’m planning to use that set in an upcoming premium episode.

teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all the premium content unlocked.

Now, let’s consider John Lennon’s personality, things he did and said in his life and try to work out what kind of person he was, with a few useful adjectives in the process.

Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only

Ending Notes

Thank you again to Antony. 

We will be back in the next part of this series. I’m not sure when that’s going to arrive. 

It might be the next episode, or it might arrive in a short while.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Don’t be a ninja. 

If you were a ninja and then you left 1 comment, and went back to being a ninja, you’re 2nd level ninja now, ok?

1st level ninjas are the ones who never comment

2nd level ninjas are ones that commented and then disappeared

You don’t want to know what makes a 3rd level ninja.

I will speak to you soon but now it’s time to say goodbye…

722. Discussing John Lennon with Antony Rotunno

The second in a short series about The Beatles, this one focuses on the life of John Lennon, with an overview of his life story, some thoughts about his psychology and some rambling discussion questions about this iconic British musician, with podcaster, English teacher and musician Antony Rotunno.

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Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well today and that you are ready for this new episode of my podcast. You join me here in my pod-room as the rain falls down above my head. Conditions are perfect for learning British English. Let’s get started.

This is a continuation of this short series of episodes I’m doing about The Beatles and this one focuses mostly on John Lennon. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about this iconic British musician then this episode is for you. Also, if you’re already a Beatles fan or a John Lennon fan then I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear this conversation too.

My guest for this episode is Antony Rotunno from England and Antony is very knowledgeable about John Lennon and his life. In fact I feel like I couldn’t have found a better person to talk to about this subject.

One of the reasons for that is that Antony is also an English teacher. He’s been teaching English as a foreign language to adults for over 18 years, and for obvious reasons it’s always useful to have a guest who has experience of working with learners of English.

Antony is also a podcaster so he is used to talking to audiences over the internet from his home in England. Antony’s podcast is all about John Lennon.

And he probably knows all there is to know about John Lennon because he’s read everything out there on the subject and for his podcast he has interviewed lots of people connected to Lennon, including authors and people who actually knew John himself – people with first-hand accounts of meeting him.

So Antony really knows a lot about John Lennon.

And we had a really good, really long conversation for this podcast, covering various things like John Lennon’s life story. This is the first part of that conversation.

Let me just explain my reasons for doing this series of episodes about the Beatles. I probably don’t need to explain this, but allow me to give my reasons.

So, this is a 5 part series actually. I published the first part with my mum in episode 717, which was a review of a book about The Beatles, followed by a general Beatles ramble.

The rest of the series will be this conversation I had with Antony divided into 4 parts. But it’s not just going to be us rambling on about Lennon for all that time. I’ve also decided to employ some of Antony’s English teaching skills in order to cover some language too, specifically in parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series as we focus on descriptive adjectives for describing personality traits, and then some analysis of the lyrics from Beatles songs, with various nice phrases and idioms to learn. So there should be plenty of English learning opportunities to take from this whole series.

John Lennon is a hugely significant person in terms of modern history, and of course being English he is very much part of our culture, and as we move forwards in time it seems that the significance of the Beatles and everyone’s interest in them is not waning. If anything, they continue to grow in stature. 

And even if you’re not into the Beatles, hopefully this can be a chance to learn some new things about this band that is held in such high esteem by so many people.

I promise you – I’m willing to say I promise you here, that if you listen to this, you will know more about John Lennon than before you listened to it.

And if you’re wondering when we’re going to get to the music, part 5 will be all about Beatles lyrics and there will be some guitar playing as well.

First we will get to know Antony a bit and ask him about his podcasts, and then you’ll hear him talk about how he got into The Beatles and John Lennon in particular, then Antony is going to give a brief overview of John’s life and career and finally I’m going to ask Antony a few John Lennon discussion questions.

Let’s get started.

Ending Transcript

So that was episode 2 in this 5 part Beatles mini series, all about John Lennon.

Thanks again to Antony for his expertise. 

The other John Lennon episodes will follow over the next few weeks.

Do you feel that you know more about John Lennon than you did before you  listened to this?

I hope so.

I wonder what new things you learned from this. Feel free to leave your comments below.

I won’t say much more here, except that it’s been really interesting to talk to Antony and I look forward to the next few episodes in which we go into teacher mode and look at some descriptive adjectives and then song lyrics.

But that’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening. Be excellent to each other and I will speak to you soon.

717. Gill’s Book Club: “One Two Three Four – The Beatles In Time” by Craig Brown

Talking to my mum about a book which you could read as part of your English learning routine. The book tells the story of The Beatles and their impact on society. We review the book and then discuss many aspects of The Beatles story, especially the four Beatles themselves.

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Introduction Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners, and welcome to the podcast. 

This is a new episode of Gill’s Book club and I’m talking again to my mum, Gill Thompson about a specific book which you might want to read as part of your English learning routine. 

Hello Mum, how are you? 

Introduction

The book this time is all about The Beatles, which is a band from England that you *might* have heard of.

You could read this book, and if you did I’m sure you would learn plenty of things both in terms of language and general knowledge, but there’s no pressure to do so. If you like, you can just listen to this conversation with my mum and hopefully this will be interesting and useful enough on its own. 

But if you are looking for a good book to read in English, then this one could be a good choice, and hopefully this conversation will help you to understand the whole thing a bit more, which in turn should help you pick up more English from it. So, my advice is: listen to this conversation with my mum and if you’re inspired, get a copy of the book and read it, or if you prefer, just listen to us without feeling any pressure to read the book at all. Hopefully this will still be enjoyable and interesting even if you haven’t read the book and have no plans to do so.  

Over 700 episodes and 12 years ago, in the 3rd episode of this podcast, I interviewed my mum about her memories of seeing The Beatles performing live on stage in the 1960s, which she did, twice. 

Now, we’re going to talk about the band again, this time focusing on a book which is all about the Beatles phenomenon and their place in history. The plan is to review the book as a text for learners of English, and then have a deeper discussion about The Beatles. 

You probably know that I’m a big fan of The Beatles and grew up with their music, as my parents were (and still are) fans too. For years I’ve been thinking about doing more episodes about The Beatles story, and mentally preparing myself for it, but I have never actually got round to recording anything, mainly because the topic is just too big and there’s too much to say! But finally I have actually recorded some episodes that might scratch the surface of this topic a bit, and hopefully will give you something insightful and interesting to listen to, whether you are a fan of this band or whether you know almost nothing about them at all. 

So this is going to be the first in a series of episodes in which I talk about Beatle-related things. There’s this one with my mum and then a few episodes with another guest who is an English teacher and something of an expert on The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular.

So, Beatle episodes are coming. I suppose, for some of you, episodes about The Beatles are like busses. You wait ages for one and then loads of them arrive at the same time. 

And by the way, I am certainly not forgetting the main focus of this podcast, which is all about helping you learn English. I think The Beatles can help you learn English, reading is very important in learning English, and so why not do some reading about The Beatles? 

Plus, later in this Beatles series there will be some language-focused episodes, using The Beatles as a context – focusing on some specific descriptive vocabulary and also some analysis of the Beatles’ song lyrics.

Maybe you’re not a fan of The Beatles. This is fine. I’m not going to try to convince you that you should like their music. That’s a matter of taste. But I do think that their story is something else entirely. I think it is hard to deny the fact that the story of these 4 individuals, the things that happened to them and the impact they had on the world – this is all simply fascinating. It’s an epic story. So, even if you don’t like the music, I hope you stay just for the story.

Now, let’s start this episode of Gill’s Book Club, talking about a recently published book about The Beatles.

LengthIs it a long book?

It’s long (642 pages) but the chapters are short, so it’s possible to read it in little chunks.

It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.

Appropriacy for Learners of English

The language is modern and plain in style. It’s quite literary of course, because it is a book and not a screenplay or something, but generally speaking it is clearly written and should be readable for learners with an Upper Intermediate level or above, although there will be some difficult words of course, but that’s good. I would say that overall the style is modern, neutral and definitely the kind of English that I would recommend as a good model of English for my listeners.

The short chapters make the whole thing quite easy to digest. It’s in bitesize chunks.

You can dip into it and you don’t necessarily have to read it in order. It’s almost like a collection of essays.

Audiobook version

The audiobook version on Audible is good – different voices and voice actors doing different accents, including pretty good impressions of the main people involved.

Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?

This is the first thing you hear on the first song on side 1 of The Beatles’ first album “Please Please Me”, released in early 1963 – You can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in at the start of the song by saying “1, 2 , 3 , 4”. Also, there were four Beatles, so…


Ending

So there you have it, after more than 700 episodes I finally returned to the topic of The Beatles with my mum and I think it’s fair to say that we went into quite a lot more depth than we did in episode 3 back in 2009, although episode 3 does include stuff we didn’t mention here, specifically my mum’s account of actually seeing The Beatles perform live, twice. So check out episode 3 if you haven’t done so.

Also you could check out that episode in which I asked my uncle Nic to tell us about the time he met Paul McCartney. He told the story in episode 414, and not only has he met Paul, he’s also played football with the members of Pink Floyd and hung out with The Who backstage at one of their concerts, and more. So check that one out too. Links for those episodes are on the page for this one on my website of course.

I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. I must admit that although I feel compelled to talk about this subject at length, part of me is concerned that this is all too much for my audience but I suppose those people who aren’t into this can just skip this stuff. It’s completely up to you. But do let me know what you think.

Remember, any time you have any thoughts about what you are hearing on this podcast, if you have responses or comments in your head as you listen, you can express them in English and I will read those comments, and so will many other LEPsters. The best place to leave your comments is on the page for the relevant episode on my website. Go to EPISODES in the menu and find the relevant episode page, scroll to the bottom and that’s where you will find the comment section. I am curious to see what you think. Any Beatle fans, get in touch. Non Beatle fans, I want to know what you’re thinking. Remember, sometimes doing this podcast is a bit like talking into the void and not quite knowing what people are thinking while I’m doing it.

I won’t talk much more at the end here, except that of course there are millions of things I wish I could have mentioned or talked about in this conversation.

We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!

There are also loads of other people and events that I wanted to mention.

I hope I didn’t talk too much.

Just in case this wasn’t quite enough rambling about The Beatles on this podcast, remember there are four (count them) four more episodes on The Beatles to come, but hopefully those episodes will be different enough to justify this series. 

Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.

One is a discussion about John Lennon.

Another two are language focused and we’ll be talking about adjectives for describing personality traits.

And the last one is about Beatles song lyrics and little phrases and idioms that you can learn from them.

So it’s not just rambling about The Beatles, although that will be part of it too.

Thanks again to mum for her great contribution to this episode, and yes I am lucky to have a mum who is this cool. I appreciate that and I’m really glad to get her voice on the podcast along with my other guests.

And thank you as ever for listening all the way to the end, you are the best.

Take care, look after yourselves and each other and I will speak to you again soon. I think the next episode will be Michael from Poland.  But until then it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)

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Text Video Version

My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

We’ve Got Johnny Wells by Booker T & The MGs

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

Full Spotify Playlist including loads of music I couldn’t choose as part of my 8 pieces

666. [Part 1] The Number of the Beast / Scary Music / Black Sabbath (with James)

Talking to my brother James about the significance of the number 666, and then some scary music including ‘The Devil’s Interval’, Black Sabbath and more…

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Introduction

This is episode 666 and the plan is to talk about all things evil, satanic, demonic, wicked, unholy, malevolent, hellish and scary, focusing on pop culture – music and films and a few anecdotes and rambles.

This is part 1 and this one deals mainly with the musical side of things after we talk about the significance of the number 666.

Just in case you don’t know, the number 666 is associated with the devil, satan, lucifer and generally frightening things like that.

A DISCLAIMER: We’re not trying to offend or upset anyone!

Before we begin, here is a disclaimer of sorts.

I know people are very superstitious out there.

Just talking about this subject will probably make some people a bit uneasy or uncomfortable. Some people take this sort of thing quite seriously.

But, don’t worry, we don’t believe in numerology, the occult or satanism.

It is interesting but we don’t really believe in it.

Also some of you might suffer from hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia

…which is the fear of the number 666.

Yes, there is a phobia of this number. In the same way that some people have claustrophobia, arachnophobia or glossophobia, there are people out there who have hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia.

So, if you are one of those people, if you are very superstitious about this stuff, or if you are of a particularly sensitive nature then this might not be for you.

Also, you should know that during this episode we will be playing some extracts of fairly loud and scary music, and also you will hear some clips from scary horror films – including weird and creepy background noises, maybe some screaming, maybe the sound of a chainsaw… you know, stuff like that.

So if you’re listening on headphones or something and you hear some scary noises, those scary noises will probably be coming from the podcast, rather from the world around you…

But just bear in mind that there will be scary noises and some heavy-ish music during the episode, I hope it doesn’t give you a shock or freak you out too much.

OK, I feel I should say that stuff before we start just to give some of you a little warning.

My companion in this episode is my brother James, naturally. He is the scariest person I could think of to invite onto episode 666. (just joking, he’s lovely)

Actually, ages ago James claimed episode 666. He bagsied it.

Also, listeners have been asking me about this since they realised that I’d make it to 666 episodes. Typically comments are like this: Luke, Episode 666 is coming up. I hope you are planning something special for it, like maybe an episode on heavy metal or horror films or something.

Well, that is the plan.


Kate Arnold’s Music 
(download her album here)

katearnolduk.bandcamp.com/


VIDEOS & IMAGES

Maths experts show us how 666 refers to Emperor Nero, and how 666 is not such a remarkable number.

Bill Bailey’s Psychological Doorbell

Kate Arnold

Black Sabbath – War Pigs live in Paris 1970

Black Sabbath Greatest Hits – scary album art

The Triumph of Death by Breugel (don’t look too closely unless you want to see all the disturbing details) More info and a high-res image here mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/the-triumph-of-death/

Tony Iommi and the Black Sabbath sound

Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)

END OF PART 1 – Parts 2 & 3 coming soon…

Hello everyone, this is actually the end of part 1, we will continue the theme in part 2 and as you heard just at the end there we are going to tell some true stories about frightening things we’ve really experienced in our lives.

So, some anecdotes are coming in part 2.

I hope you have enjoyed part 1 and that you’re not feeling too disturbed or anything. 

Just to recap, we talked about the origin of the idea that 666 is the number of the devil, and how it turns out that it’s not quite as satanic as people often think. Then we talked about the devil’s interval in music – the augmented 4th or diminished 5th depending on your outlook on life (augmented means raised – to augment means to increase the value of something or to go up, and diminished is the opposite – to diminish means to make something less – so when you go up one semitone from a fourth you get the augmented 4th, and when you go down from a 5th you get the diminished 5th, but they’re actually the same exact note – just two ways of describing it). We talked about that, which is a feature of so-called unholy music, and then we had a good old ramble about Black Sabbath, heavy metal and other scary forms of music.

Still to come we have our scary stories and then in part 3 we turn to the topic of scary films.

Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy getting involved.

Thanks again to Kate Arnold for her input in this episode. 

App users – you will find a bit of bonus audio for this episode. It’s Kate talking more about The Wheel of Fortune, which is the name of her album, but it’s also an image which appeared in a lot of medieval art and culture. So if you’d like to hear Kate talking for a couple of minutes about the wheel of fortune, then tap the gift icon for this episode in the LEP App. The icon can be found when you’re playing this episode, it’s next to the share, favourite and download icons in the app. If you don’t have the app, you can get it free from the app store on your phone, just search for Luke’s English Podcast App.

If you’d like to hear Kate’s music properly, without it being faded out by me, then check out the page for this episode on the website where you will find links to her album on Bandcamp and also some YouTube videos of her stuff.

Also on the page for this episode on the website you’ll see a video from Numberphile, explaining in more detail how the number 666 is a code which refers to Emperor Nero rather than the devil, plus some footage of Black Sabbath and the Heavy Metal Britannia documentary which is well worth a watch.

That’s it for this part then and we will speak to you again in part 2, but for now… good bye!

639. 3 Quintessentially British Books (that you might not know about) with Mum

Talking to my mum about some examples of quintessentially British things, in this case it’s 3 British books that she particularly likes.

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Introduction

Hello folks! Here is the last of this 3 part series I’ve been doing about quintessentially British things. I’m assuming now that you’ve heard the previous parts of this series and you know what this is all about.

If you haven’t heard those yet, may I gently suggest that you listen to them first? There’s one with my brother and then one with my dad too.

Now it’s my mum’s turn and since she is such a bookworm – she works in a bookshop, is a member of a book club and is a voracious reader, the three things she has chosen are all novels – books about British characters going through typically British experiences, mostly in the early part of the 20th century.

So if you’re looking for some interesting books to read in English, check out these ones which are some of my mum’s favourites.

Have a look at the page for this episode on the website where you will find the names of all the books we mention plus some other references and bits & pieces.

Remember you can sign up to my mailing list on my website to receive an email notification whenever I release a new episode, and that contains a link which will take you straight to the relevant page for that episode.

Now, without any further ado let me allow you to enjoy the nice tones of my mum’s voice as she talks to you about her quintessentially British things.


Book 1

J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country

Book 2

R. F. Delderfield “To Serve Them All My Days

Book 3

R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September

Also mentioned

  • Withnail & I
  • Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff
  • The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff

The previous episode with my mum about books.

The Withnail & I episode


Ending

So that was my mum and her three books. Let me say the titles again. There was “A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr, “To Serve Them All My Days” by R. F. Delderfield and ““The Forgnight in September” by R.C. Sheriff.

It’s sort of a funny coincidence that all the writers of these books have initials at the start – J.L. Carr, R.F. Delderfield, R.C. Sheriff.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed listening to that and that you learnt a thing or two about the effects of the world wars on British people, and also that you might consider reading one of those novels yourself.

What do you think of my mum talking about books on this podcast? We did several episodes before together in which we talked a bit about books.

There was episode 488 teacherluke.co.uk/2017/10/26/488-a-rambling-conversation-with-mum-part-1-vocabulary/

And 489 teacherluke.co.uk/2017/10/30/489-a-rambling-conversation-with-mum-part-2-vocabulary/

Both of which dealt with things like my mum’s favourite podcast, some favourite people and different books she’s been reading.

What would you think of a fairly regular podcast series with my mum in which she talks about books she’s read. It could be called Mum’s Book Club. If you like the sound of that, let me know. I might be able to make it a regular feature, a bit like The Rick Thompson Report (and yes I need to make new one of them).

So would you like to hear more episodes of Mum’s Book Club? If so, let me know.

But that’s it for this episode. What did you think, overall, of this series? Did you learn anything about the UK? Did you get some good recommendations? Did you enjoy listening to my family? Let me know in the comment section.

I’ll speak to you again soon. Don’t forget to download the LEP App from the app store to get loads of bonus episodes, and consider signing up to my premium service to get regular monthly grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Find out more at teacherluke.co.uk/premium

But for now, all that remains to be said is, good bye!

638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad

Dad picks his 3 British things to talk about in this episode which covers things like ancient history, British northern landscapes and the canal system which built the industrial revolution and changed Britain forever.

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Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome all of you this new episode. You’re listening to number 638 and this is the second part in the series I’ve decided to call Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) in which I talk to members of my family about things that they think are significant or typical examples of Britishness in their eyes. 

I’m assuming that you’ve heard the previous episode in which James told us about 5 interesting English things, now it’s my dad’s turn and we decided to just go for 3 things this time instead of 5 to make sure the episode didn’t go on too long.

So you’re going to hear my dad describing certain aspects of Britain that include things like ancient history, the geographical and geological nature of these islands and how the industrial revolution changed the country.

There’s plenty of very descriptive language from my dad, plus quite a lot to learn in terms of history and geography.

You’ll notice that it sounds a bit like the Rick Thompson report at the beginning as we discuss what it really means to be British as opposed to English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh and there’s talk of the Scottish independence movement but my Dad assures me that his 3 things can be considered British.

We recorded this together in the living room at my parents’ place on New Years Eve and in fact we were still recording at the stroke of midnight, so you can hear Dad and me wishing each other a happy new year, enjoying some fireworks on TV and seeing in the beginning of the new decade together.

I think you know the concept of the episode now, so I will just let you enjoy listening to my dad talking about some British things that he likes in particular.


Standing stones in Orkney, Scotland
Norman Akroyd
Lindisfarne Castle
Hatton Locks

Ending

So that was my dad with his 3 quintessentially British things.

As ever I invite you to write your comments in the comment section if you have any, and don’t be a ninja hiding in the shadows like the vast majority of my listeners!

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to download the LEP app from the app store to get the entire episode archive plus loads of bonus extras, and also to sign up to LEP Premium where I teach you grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation using target language which has occurred naturally in normal episodes of the podcast. To get started with that, go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Right then! Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again in the next one, which is going to be 3 Quintessentially British Things, with Mum.

Bye!