Category Archives: Business

544. The Rick Thompson Report: No Deal Brexit

Talking to my dad about the current Brexit situation, including what could actually happen in the UK if we leave the EU with no deal. Expect language relating to politics, economics and the big issues of the day. Intro and outtro transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi everyone, how are you doing? Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report. Long-term listeners will be familiar with this type of episode. This is where I talk to my dad about the news, which is almost always about Brexit. We’ve been doing these ever since the referendum happened, tracking the UK government as they attempt to extract the country from the EU. We’ve heard all about the leave campaign and their claims, the impossible job of negotiating a deal with an entity that you’re also leaving – like marrying someone that you’re also divorcing.

The last time I did a RTR was in December last year and we talked about the state of the UK’s negotiation with the EU, with the shaky leader Theresa May attempting to put together a new deal which could somehow keep things as good as possible while also letting us leave. Both my dad and I are quite perplexed by the desperate need to leave the EU, when it looks like just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Sometimes I hear from people, or read things on social media that suggest that the UK as a whole wants to leave the EU. I might read comments about how Britain wants to leave, or Britain doesn’t want to be in the EU, and I feel a bit annoyed because there are plenty of British people who think Brexit is a bad idea. I’m one and so is my dad, we make no bones about that, but this isn’t for some ideological reason, or because we’ve picked sides. It’s because it doesn’t really make practical sense to close access to our biggest marketplace and a zone which also includes all sorts of environmental, scientific and security communities that we will also be leaving. Also the real prospect of leaving the EU with no deal could be catastrophic in many ways, and even the UK government is issuing advice about stockpiling food and other measures in the event of a no deal Brexit. The deadline is approaching fast and the UK still hasn’t found an agreement with the EU. What will happen next March when we leave officially? How will this affect life in the UK? Listen on to find out.

I do invive your comments of course, so if you feel like you have something to say, leave your comment in the comment section. I’m very curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking.

But now, without any further ado, let’s talk to my dad about the latest Brexit news.


Ending Transcript

So there you have it. There are my dad’s thoughts on Brexit. I certainly hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Rick Thompson Report, keeping you up to date on Britain’s tricky situation.

As I said earlier, please do leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’m curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking. I wonder how Brexit is reported and generally considered in your country? Is the leading narrative that Brexit is a good or bad thing, and why do you think that is? Do you think Brexit would help or harm your country in some way?

Thanks as ever for listening, leaving comments and generally being great audience members.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I’ll speak to you again soon.

Bye…

541. What British People Say vs What They Mean

Examining British communication style and debunking a few myths about how British people communicate. This episode is based on a famous infographic called “What British People Say vs What They Really Mean” or “The Anglo-EU Translation Guide”. It contains lots of thoughts about how direct and indirect cultures communicate with each other, and some samples of business English, with a few improvised scenarios too! Transcript available.

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Transcript (below)

In this episode I’m talking about an infographic which is often shared online called “What British People Say vs What They Mean”. In the infographic there are three columns. One with sentences typically spoken by English people. The next column has what, apparently, British people really mean, and then the third column shows us the perceived meanings of those sentences by foreigners. It is supposed to highlight the indirectness of British English speakers and the how people from direct cultures often misunderstand us.

 

I’m going to go through the graphic line by line, discussing the language, talking about the indirect communication style of British people and discussing to what extent this infographic is true and how much is a stereotype.

This relates to several conversations I’ve had in episodes in the past, namely the ones about cultural differences with Amber & Paul, British humour with Amber and the one about language & culture with Alex van Walsum.

This chart often pops up online. You might have seen it. It’s shared on Facebook or Twitter, and people send it to me by email. People send this to me all the time, often accompanied with the question “Is this true?” It’s probably the infographic that I’ve seen more than any other. A while ago I shared it on my Facebook page and it got a big response with thousands of people seeing it and loads of comments.

The chart is anonymously written. It may have first appeared in an article on the Economist’s website. Apparently some people say it originated in a Dutch company that had dealings with the UK, which is interesting because the Dutch are known for being very direct in their communication, so through their eyes the Brits might seem excessively indirect. The infographic is sometimes entitled “What British People Say vs What They Mean” or the “Anglo-EU translation guide”.

Basically the chart presents a list of utterances, which it presents as typical things the British say in business situations, and then two other columns which represent what British people really mean when they say those things, and then how other people actually understand them to mean something quite different.

I think it’s based on communication and cultural differences between the UK and European neighbours. The underlying cultural difference is that in the UK we have an indirect communication culture, particularly with regard to saying negative things, and tend to signal their disapproval, disappointment, disagreement or offence in other ways – either by minimising the negative part, or using euphemism, which may be hard to understand to the untrained ear.

In my experience as an English person living in France, I find that it is definitely true that we have slightly different communication styles as a result of our cultural differences. But they’re just slightly different really.

One example of a difference between France and the UK is that generally in the UK our first interaction with people – especially people in service positions, e.g. if you’re going to the post office to collect a package which you’ve been told is there even though last time you went they claimed it definitely wasn’t there. So you have to go back and kind of complain and make them look again. In the UK my normal way of doing it would be to approach the situation in a nice way, using friendliness as a social lubricant to help things go more smoothly. Like “Sorry to bother you again! I went to the other post office and they told me the package is definitely here. Could you have another look for me? Thanks!” You kind of talk to that person like you understand how you’re personally putting them out, but between the two of you there is a friendly understanding. You’re nice to the person, even though technically they’re wrong and you’re sort of making a complaint. That’s how it goes much of the time – not every time of course. Often when Brits are unhappy with a service they will complain about it very directly. But many times you’ll see or hear Brits being pretty friendly when dealing with people in impersonal situations.

Now, that might actually be perceived not as a nice, informal gesture – but as fake, and two faced because in fact you’re actually not happy with the situation and you don’t know them personally, so why are you being all chummy?

In Paris, your first interaction would typically be a bit more formal and also a bit less friendly. If you’re all nice and friendly and you smile, you might be perceived as weak. That’s not to say that French people don’t smile – of course they do, but in that kind of service situation where you are making a complaint you’re likely to be serious and with a straight face. You can be completely straight about it and bring your unhappiness to the table. It’s normal to dig your heels in and argue a little bit before things then turn into a more amicable arrangement. It usually ends well, but there’s a bit of conflict at the start, for example saying “no” or “it’s not possible” at the beginning, before deciding later to ‘make an exception’.

I refer you to the episode with Alex Van Walsum who sums this up really well.

teacherluke.libsyn.com/391-discussing-language-culture-comedy-with-alexander-van-walsum

Episode 391 – play the bit

If you’re nice and you compromise from the start they’ll walk all over you without even realising it. So there’s conflict at the beginning until the thing finally gets resolved, and later on a relationship of trust might develop from the problem being fixed, but it comes after. I’m not saying in the UK we’re never direct or angry in that situation, or that in France people are never nice at first, I’m just saying in my experience it pays to be more formal and tough at the beginning or you’ll be taken for granted. Whereas in the UK my approach would be a bit different.

Sometimes this difference gets the better of me. I might go to a restaurant and say “Do you have a table for two at 8?” and the guy says “It’s complicated” or “No, it’s not possible” and I smile and say “OK, that’s a pity, thanks for your help!” and then leave. But what I often don’t realise is that “No, it’s not possible” is just the starting point. What you should do then is wait and just not take no for an answer. Wait and say “Is there anything you can do?” and dig your heels in a bit. Often, after a bit of digging, you might get a result. But you have to push through a little barrier first in many cases.

The point is that the words we use and the messages we convey are often quite different, and messages are often subject to various cultural codes which allow the people involved to truly understand what is being said vs what is the intended meaning, or illocutionary force of something.

Or more simply, in indirect cultures we don’t always say exactly what we mean, and it depends on the other person to decode the intended meaning of our messages. This is more common in some cultures than others, and this kind of indirectness does have a social function. If you’re from a direct culture, you’re less likely to be able to decode the messages and that’s where the misunderstandings happen.

That brings us to this chart of what British people say vs what they mean.

This chart essentially targets this cultural and linguistic point quite specifically, and while there is truth in it, I think the chart is not completely accurate.

Nevertheless, let’s go through what Brits say vs what they mean and see what we can learn.

One of the most important problems with this chart is the lack of context and the fact that these are spoken phrases written down, so none of the intonation is included. Intonation and context are vital in the way these messages are delivered and understood.

Without the context and intonation, this chart makes Brits look incredibly devious and two-faced. It also makes other people seem pretty dumb and naive.

On balance, what do I think of this?

It’s exaggerated. Brits are not as stuffy, awkward or unable to say what we mean as this seems to suggest. It’s slightly old fashioned too.

Also it’s not really fair on foreigners who aren’t that stupid.

I think it originally came from the Netherlands (who we do most of our business with in the EU) and they’re known for being a very plain talking, direct culture. So, this is perhaps from the dutch point of view, which exaggerates things further.

There is a point being made too, which is that the English say the opposite of what they mean, which is not true. Direct cultures tend to view indirect ones as being two-faced, hypocritical and even duplicitous. We do speak indirectly, perhaps downplaying negative things and attempting to use tact and diplomacy but it doesn’t stretch to being deceitful. For the English it’s a way to keep things nice and to sugarcoat our formal relationships. It’s a respectful distance which has been in the culture for a long time. We might be a bit indirect by dutch standards, but we know what we’re talking about. We understand what each other means, because we know the codes. So it’s a functional communication system, and just another way to share ideas while getting on at the same time.

Another point is that you could argue that it’s specifically English, rather than British because there is a slight cultural difference between the English and the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and even Cornish people, who might be more direct. Anyway, I know plenty of English people who are perfectly capable of being direct and saying exactly what they mean.

Also, there may be a class issue here. I think this relates to certain kinds of middle class or upper class English people, who tend to communicate like this, especially in a formal situation. There are certainly plenty of English people who are very direct in their communication style.
The situation is also important. Most of these phrases are used at work where diplomacy is important. In social situations these same people might be extremely direct, for example with friends who you make fun of and speak to without any kind of filter.

The sentences are out of context, so it’s not obvious how the phrase is intonated or what other phrases are used around it. Written down like that it has no nuance and can make the Brits look like pretty awful. So, this graph is designed to make people laugh and illustrate a tendency for Brits to be a bit indirect, but it is by no means a flawless guide to British communication style.
It’s a bit black and white. In fact there are plenty of UK individuals who are more direct than this, and EU individuals who are indirect. It’s a bit “them and us”, a bit ‘black and white’ and therefore a bit unfair.

It’s not just Brits. There are plenty of other cultures or individuals who also communicate like this. Canadians, for example, are well-known for having a polite and indirect communication style.

While there is definitely an underlying point being demonstrated by the chart, taking it on face value makes British people seem insincere and sneaky – which is a common criticism of us by European people with direct communication styles. Whereas us Brits see our communication style as diplomatic and avoiding conflict and essentially all about being nice, other people think we are not being honest, straight or sincere. We just don’t want to be too negative or nasty, but we come across as being unsure of ourselves, weak or untrustworthy. Equally, from the other side, Brits think the French can be wilfully difficult, stubborn and problematic because of how direct they are with negative comments. We also find the Germans – who tend to state things exactly as they are, to be cold and humourless with their ultra-pragmatic approach which doesn’t involve much small talk or ‘window dressing’. It’s tricky isn’t it!

In English we like to sugarcoat things. Not every culture does that. Some do it more than us.
Of course it doesn’t always go like that and most of the time communication happens without problems and it’s all fine. For example I have had many many exchanges with people from many different cultures including those from direct cultures and they’ve been absolutely lovely, but then again I am quite culturally aware and able to minimise this sort of thing by recognising the importance of saying exactly what you mean. I imagine that when people from other countries do business with Brits who are not used to cross cultural communication that sometimes there is friction and it’s often related to these cultural differences.

Also, it could be related to writing style in emails where this kind of thing becomes so much more obvious. I can imagine foreign people receiving English emails and wondering what exactly the person means – like the example of my wife and the castle.

For example, apparently when the German company BMW took over the British car manufacturer Rover, it took ages for BMW to fully understand the extent of the problems at Rover because all the British staff minimised the problems or spoke in slightly vague euphemisms. The Germans were not able to decode the embedded negatives within the Brits’ responses.

E.g. “We’ve had a few slight issues on the production line. Staff have expressed some preference for a longer break during the afternoon shift.” How big are those problems on the production line exactly? It would probably be worth investigating them further rather than assuming they are just “a few slight issues”.

Overall, I think there is truth in this chart, which is why it’s such an enduring success online, but it’s not totally true. The truth is that Brits put a positive shine on things as a social lubricant (sugarcoating) and it works within indirect cultures, whereas direct cultures say things as they are which can make them seem unfriendly or cold hearted yet ultimately more sincere. Neither approach is better than the other, they’re just alternatives.

Really, it’s about context. With indirect cultures, the indirect style probably feels more natural, with direct cultures it’s the other way around. The problems arise when the two cultures get together and then misunderstand each other. For the chart, more perspective and context is required to really understand what’s going on, and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. I say knee-jerk reactions – these are sort of quick, instant responses that happen without thoughtful consideration (like when a doctor taps your knee and it jerks forward without you thinking about it). Those things might be to conclude that Germans have no sense of humour, French people are willfully difficult and don’t want to work, English people are hypocrites who don’t say what they mean.

Simple binary comparisons of language without context like this can foster unbalanced opinions which can lead to or reinforce resentment and things like that. The final point is that despite our communication style, we’re still just as fair-minded, honest, trustworthy, narrow minded, dishonest and untrustworthy as anybody else! Don’t jump to conclusions and never let cultural differences cause you to make fast judgements about people without seeing the whole picture!

“The British are too polite to be honest, whereas the Germans are too honest to be polite.”
Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13545386

458. The Rick Thompson Report: Post-Election 2017

Talking to my Dad about the results of the UK’s general election on 8 June 2017.

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Introduction Transcript

The story of British politics continues in this episode as I talk to my Dad about the most recent developments, specifically the results of the snap general election which took place on 8 June.

A general election is when all the MPs in the UK’s House of Commons are chosen by voters across the country. The party with the highest number of MPs wins the right to form a government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister, the leader of the country.

At the moment our PM is Theresa May of the Conservative party and she called this election just 5 or 6 weeks in advance. I talked about it to my Dad last month. Her reason for doing it was to make sure she had a proper mandate from the people before beginning the brexit negotiations.

Everyone expected the Tories to win a bigger majority and for Labour to lose miserably.

But the results were quite surprising.

Here’s a very quick summary. www.bbc.com/news/election/2017/results

It’s a hung parliament. No party won enough seats to gain an overall majority.
The main parties are Conservatives and Labour.
Conservatives lost 13 seats. They now have 318.
Labour gained 30. They now have 262
This is a huge failure for the Conservatives.
SNP lost 21 seats. This is significant because they won so many in the last election and the SNP are all about gaining Scottish independence.
UKIP are out completely – they lost their single seat. They were the party campaigning for the UK to leave the EU and the immigrants to leave the UK.

Since the Tories are the incumbent party they get the first opportunity to try and form a government by making a deal with one of the other parties.

That’s the position at this moment. We’ll expand on it during our conversation but the words turmoil and disarray are again being used to describe the messy and complicated condition of politics in the UK today.

So let’s talk to my Dad – the professor of broadcast journalism and former BBC news man, for some much needed clarity on this whole subject in order to find out what happened, what it all means, how Northern Ireland and Scotland are involved and how this all relates to the ongoing story of Brexit.

As ever, watch out for all the key language as it appears. There is a lot of political language in this episode, which applies mainly to political systems in the UK but also could be used to talk about politics and international relations in other countries. Also, there are the usual fixed expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs that you normally find in any natural conversation.

Remember that in episode 352 of this podcast (nearly 100 episodes ago) I explained some key concepts and vocabulary related to this whole subject. So if you need some clarification and you want a reminder of some of the important words and terms relating to all of this, check out episode 352 in the archive.

352. BREXIT: Key Vocabulary and Concepts

82. Voting / Elections / Politics / Government

But now, let’s hear from my Dad, Rick Thompson about the current state of politics in the UK, just after last week’s snap general election.


Outtro Transcript

So there you are. I hope it’s all a little bit clearer now, but equally it might even be more complicated!

It is a complicated situation but I hope you agree that we’re quite lucky to be able to listen to my Dad talking about it in his typically lucid and articulate way.

Don’t forget that you can listen to previous episodes of this podcast in which I have gone into detail about the language of politics in the UK.

Episode 352 goes into detail about the vocabulary of Brexit and you can listen to that one again in order to learn some of the key language of this subject.

Also you can listen to episode 82 from way back in January 2012 when I did an episode about voting, elections, politics and government in the UK, in which I explain and teach all the essential language you need to talk about the political process and also you can listen to a funny sketch about a general election.

That’s it for now. As ever, I remind you to join the mailing list which will mean you get an email in your inbox whenever I post new content here.

That’s new episodes of the podcast but also I sometimes post something when I’ve been featured on someone else’s podcast and recently I was invited to talk on the English Across the Pond podcast, The Earful Tower podcast and the Rock n Roll English podcast. If you’re signed up to the mailing list you will get notified of those things and will easily be able to listen to those fun conversations I’ve had and find out about some other people’s podcasts that you might not know about.

I’m going to end this episode after the jingle by playing you parts of the speeches by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in the first session of Parliament since the election results came out.

Listen carefully to the voices of the PM and opposition leader as they make statements about the results and about the democratic process in Parliament over the coming months.

The cheering and jeering sounds you hear in the background are all the other MPs sitting in the House of Commons. It’s quite normal to hear them all shouting and cheering in agreement, or heckling and laughing at people they don’t agree with. I wonder if the parliament in your country is as loud and boisterous as it is in the UK.

So thanks for listening, and keep on listening after the jingle if you’d like to hear the words of Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. (Image below, BBC.com)

Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 12.31.30

454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

Talking about language with one of the world’s top linguists, Professor David Crystal.

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Introduction

Hello everyone, thank you for choosing to listen to this episode of my podcast. I am particularly pleased to be able to present this episode to you. It is, in fact, a privilege for me to say that today on the podcast I am talking to Professor David Crystal.

I’m now going to give a quick introduction just to make sure that you are all fully aware of the calibre of this guest and to emphasise to you just how lucky we are to have him on the podcast today.

According to The Guardian newspaper, David Crystal is the world’s foremost writer and lecturer on the English language.

He isn’t an English teacher, but he is an expert on linguistics. That’s the study of language and all the issues relating to it.

David Crystal

David Crystal has a worldwide reputation and has published something in the region of 120 books including numerous academic reference works and encyclopedias of language, and books for the general reader covering topics such as English grammar, spelling, punctuation, accents, connections to Shakespeare, the influence of technology and the development of language throughout history.

He is currently patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL), president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the UK National Literacy Association, and honorary vice-president of both the Institute of Linguists and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

He is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales and in 1995 he was on the Queen’s honours list when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (the OBE) for services to the English language. The OBE is the second highest honour which you can receive from The Queen – the highest being the knighthood or damehood.

So he’s Britain’s favourite language expert and he regularly makes appearances at literary festivals and teaching conferences, appears on British radio and television, writes articles for newspapers and magazines and researches all kinds of language-related topics.

But the main thing he does is to write books…

David’s Books

Some of his most popular books include:

  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
  • The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
  • The Story of English in 100 Words
  • You Say Potato: The Story of English Accents (written with his son Ben)
  • Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain (Written with his wife Hilary)
  • Txting: The Gr8 Db8
  • Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment – a fascinating project investigating how English was pronounced by the original actors in the Globe Theatre when Shakespeare was alive
  • Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling
  • Just A Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language (which is both his autobiography and a highly accessible introduction to the field of linguistics)
  • And from this year “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar”

Many of those titles can be purchased as ebooks from David Crystal’s website – www.davidcrystal.com or from any good bookseller. There are also audiobook versions which are read out by the man himself.

David Crystal’s writing is clear, entertaining, informative and simply a pleasure to experience. The same can be said about his public speaking. I’m always impressed by his ability to take a complex academic subject like linguistics and turn it into the sort of thing that anyone can understand and enjoy.

I met David once at a teaching conference where he presented Andy Johnson and me with an award for a presentation we did. I had a chat with him afterwards and was delighted to discover how down-to-earth and friendly he is and I’ve always wanted to interview him for this podcast, but it’s only recently that I actually plucked up the courage to ask him. Thankfully he agreed.

David Crystal is a nothing short of a national treasure and I can’t believe I’m talking to him on my podcast.

Right – I think you get the idea now – he’s kind of a big deal for anyone interested in language and language teaching and so without further introduction, here is my conversation about language with Professor David Crystal.


Questions for David Crystal

Grammar

Your recent book from this year is called Making sense: the glamorous story of English grammar.

Is grammar really ‘glamourous’?

In my experience, a lot of learners of English feel a bit bored or intimidated by grammar, leading some teachers out there to say that you can learn English without grammar – learn English without thinking, etc.

Do you think it’s possible to learn English as a second language without studying grammar?
I know you’re not actually an English teacher, but do you have any tips for learners of English who want to improve their grammar?

You recently wrote a political history of grammar in the UK as a supplement to your book “Making Sense”.

What relationship does the average Brit have with grammar today, in your experience?
Has this attitude changed over the years? How has it changed?

Language Decline

I was recently having a conversation about language with a couple of friends on this podcast and we arrived at several questions that we couldn’t really answer. I thought you might be able to help.

People often complain about the so-called decline of the English language – citing things like poor grammar, punctuation, spelling, acronyms or text-speak as evidence that standards of English are slipping. Do you agree with that? Are standards of English declining? How do we even measure that?

People seem to be afraid that what they see as falling standards will result in “the death of the English language”. Has a language ever completely “died out” due to declining standards? What causes languages to die?

Are we better or worse at communicating than we used to be? (answered later)

‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’

Are you bothered by those so-called ‘errors’ in English that make some people angry?

Non-native speakers influence on English

My mate Paul says (as a bit of a joke) that because there are more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers, we’re actually the ones who are using the language incorrectly. E.g. because more Chinese people pronounce some English words in a certain way, it’s the native speakers who are pronouncing those words wrong.
Does he have a point or is he talking nonsense like he usually does?

French Pronunciation example

My French students often feel bad about their pronunciation because it’s so ‘French’. We understand everything that they say, but they’re really hung up on the fact that they sound so French – e.g. they can’t pronounce TH sounds in words like strengths, clothes, thirty three etc and it seems to be impossible to fix it.
Do they need to feel so bad about it?

How should my listeners feel about their relationship with English, and the version of English that they speak?


End of part 1

That’s the end of part 1. The conversation will continue in part 2 where you’ll hear me asking some questions sent in by listeners, and there were some really great questions including predictions about English in the future, the role of AI in language learning, the impact of Brexit on English in the world, and the way Donald Trump and Barack Obama use English.

I hope you’re enjoying listening to this, and that you’re able to follow some of the slightly complex points being made.

David gave so many really interesting answers and made some very important and useful points, and he continues to do that in part 2.

I think David speaks very clearly, with that slightly Welsh or Scouse twang in his voice. He lives in Hollyhead, in Northern Wales, not far from Liverpool, and he lived in Liverpool for a while as a child, which accounts for the slight accent that he has, if you noticed that.

As he said, his accent is a mix of different things, caused by the time he has spent living in different places and interacting with different people – RP speakers in the south east, locals in Wales and Liverpool and so on. It all contributes to the way he speaks. He also happens to be very articulate and I really admire the way he expresses his thoughts so clearly.

I hope you agree that we really are rather lucky to have David Crystal on the podcast and I think it’s worth listening to this episode several times so you can really absorb everything he’s saying because he really does know what he’s talking about and there’s a lot of knowlege there.

I think I should do a follow-up episode to this in which I just restate the main points that he made, just to consolidate it all, and I plan to do that. I could also talk about some of the questions which I didn’t have a chance to ask David.

I also hope you noticed that David Crystal helped to clear up some of the things I was discussing with Amber and Paul in episode 452. I should go over those things again if I do a follow-up episode, just to make it “crystal clear” – pun intended. I totally intended to make that joke and I think you should know it’s a brilliant joke which nobody has ever made before and this is sarcasm but it also isn’t.

Don’t forget to check out www.davidcrystal.com for all his work, his blog, videos of him speaking publicly and more information, including the opportunity to send him a message if you want to.

I strongly recommend getting some of his books, which should be available from any good bookseller. You could try “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar” for example.

Also, don’t forget that you can get audiobook versions of his work.

For example, I listened to You Say Potato – the one about accents in the UK and I think the audiobook is better than the printed book because you can actually hear his son Ben doing all the accents. You could get that as part of a trial with Audible – and remember I have that deal with them – you can get a free audiobook if you go to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke or click an audible logo on my site. They’ve got a lot of DC’s work there. Start a trial, download your audiobook, listen to it using the Audible app on your phone and you can cancel the membership and not pay anything, or continue your membership for about $15 dollars per month and get another free book next month and so on…

So, that’s the end of part 1. Part 2 should be available for you very soon and you can hear David answering questions from listeners, and that’s brilliant because the questions were very diverse and David Crystal answers them – what more do I need to say? I still can’t believe I spoke to him on the podcast. I need to contact other awesome people for interviews now I think.

Thank you very much for listening to this. Don’t forget to join the mailing list to keep up with every new episode and to get convenient access to the page for each one where you’ll find various bits of supporting information, transcriptions, links, videos and the comment section. Just visit teacherluke.co.uk and pop your email address in the subscription form and Bob’s your uncle.

I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.

Reminders

LEPsters are still getting together and spending time socialising in English.
In Moscow there is a group that hangs out every Sunday. Their FB group is called “Conversational English for Free – Moscow LEP Club”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/

Also in St Petersburg there is a similar group which gets together on Sundays. You can find them on FB by searching for “SPB LEPsters Conversational Club” – I understand they have get togethers on Sundays. Kristina from Russia who won the LEP Anecdote Competition last year often takes part – friendly people, speaking English, playing games, hanging out. https://www.facebook.com/spbenglishLEPclub/

LEPsters in Tokyo have got together a number of times, and I attended one in April to do some stand up – you can hear all about that in my Trip to Japan episodes (part 2).

Also, recently a group got together in Prague in the Czech Republic – in fact you can hear their conversation because it was recorded and published on Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Again I’m flattered because they talked mainly about LEP – including, shock horror, their least favourite or “worst” episodes of the podcast.

Listen to both episodes below.

Also, if you’re in Spain I have heard rumour that there will be at least one meetup group getting together there, somewhere, sometime soon.

If you’re thinking of setting up something similar, let me know because I can publicise it on the podcast and get the word out.

Speak to you in the next episode!

Luke

433. British TV: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Part 2) [Video]

Learn more authentic English directly from the mouths of these native speakers in an episode of the popular British TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” with famous chef Gordon Ramsay. Videos and vocabulary lists available below. 

**This episode includes swearing and some rude content** 

Audio


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Video

Video clips and vocabulary lists

Video 2 – The orange sauce looks like “sci-fi sperm”

Vocabulary

Let’s watch the family in action
Is there any chance you could talk to her
If you open up and ask…
You don’t remember after 5 minutes
Like fuck do I!
You try to make me look small
It’s like a one man band in there
It’s totally upside down
A backlog of orders
Mick starts to crumble
I don’t want no (*any) more food sent down
He can’t handle it
I’ll get my head bitten off / to bite someone’s head off
I’d rather you didn’t take it out on me

Video 3 – The family at war

Vocabulary

Michelle’s impressive
She’s left to face the fallout of Mick’s incompetence
The meals are now being sent back
He can’t handle it / can’t cope / can’t take it / can’t deal with it
I’ll go and sort it out
My husband’s big fucking dream is a complete farce
I’m not having a heart attack over this
My heart’s booming
He speaks to me like shit
I try and take all the knocks
Even I have a breaking point

Video 4 – Catching up with the Martin family at the end

The entire episode (with Korean subtitles)

407. Reflections on Language Learning & Working as a Translator: Interview with Kristina from Russia, Winner of the LEP Anecdote Competition 2016

In this episode you’ll hear me talking to Kristina from Russia, the winner of the LEP anecdote competition this year. We talk about her work as a translator and interpreter, her reflections on language learning, how she learned English to a good level and some other bits and pieces.

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Introduction transcript

Hello! Welcome back to the podcast. In this episode I am talking to Kristina from Russia. If you’ve heard episode 403 of this podcast you’ll know that she is a listener who won my anecdote competition this year. Her anecdote was about how she ended up having to interpret for Emir Kusturica – the famous Serbian film director, on stage at a film festival in front of an audience of movie industry people with absolutely no preparation.

It sounded stressful and it’s also impressive that she managed to get through the whole thing successfully, without running screaming from the building.

Kristina’s story was the clear winner in the final round of the competition. It was interesting to hear about how she described that stressful and exciting experience and how her language skills were involved. The prize for winning, as suggested by one of my podcast listeners, was to have a one-to-one Skype conversation with yours truly (that’s me).

We did that the other day. We chatted on Skype for nearly an hour, with her in Saint Petersburg and me in Paris, and I thought it might be interesting to record part of the conversation for an episode of this podcast. Kristina agreed and so, in this episode you can hear the result.

So in this episode you are going to hear Kristina talking about

  • How she became a translator and interpreter
  • The differences and challenges of those two types of work
  • How she has learned English to her current level, and some general reflections on language learning (by the way she speaks several other languages including Norwegian and German)
  • The way she maintains her level of English and how listening is an important part of that process

I think Kristina is an example of someone who has not only managed to learn English to a proficient level but has also built a career around her language abilities. It was lovely to speak to her and I hope you enjoy listening our conversation.

So, without any further ado, here is Kristina from Russia, the winner of the LEP anecdote competition 2016.

* CONVERSATION *

Announcement: LEP Meeting for Conversation in Moscow

Here’s a message from a listener in Moscow called Dmitry:

Is here anybody from MOSCOW?!
A friend of mine is organizing the first MEETING of The Moscow LEPsters Conversation Club – a club for those who study English, like Luke’s podcast and want to develop speaking skills as well! Everybody is welcome on Sunday, December 11th at 4pm in the Wooden Door anti-cafe. We intend to discuss Luke’s podcast, your favorite episodes, drink tea/coffee, eat cookies, SPEAK and have fun! The meeting itself is absolutely free BUT the anticafe charges everybody 2 roubles per minute. Coffee and cookies included in this standard price. [Luke: About 1.7E per hour for free cookies and coffee? Not bad!] REGISTRATION: just send your name and several words about you (if you wish) to smartnb@mail.ru or click “I will participate” on the Facebook page
Link here: www.facebook.com/events/275649646170689/
It will be great to share emotions and ideas! See you on Sunday at 4pm!

Let me know if you’re planning an LEP Get Together in your area

If you’re planning an LEP Meeting in your area, let me know and I can spread the word!
Getting together with like-minded people and having some fun speaking English is a great idea! It can be a great way to practise speaking and you can make some friends too.

Music

Background music (introduction): Jukedeck – create your own at http://jukedeck.com

Other background music: Jim Thompson soundcloud.com/jt-2000 and here jt2000.bandcamp.com

391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Here is a new episode featuring a conversation with a friend of mine who originally comes from the Netherlands but he has lived all over the world. You’re going to hear us talking about cultural differences, Dutch stereotypes, doing business in France, the UK and the USA, the different communication styles in those places, doing stand up comedy and getting Darth Vader’s signature. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris

You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here https://www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris
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390. The Rick Thompson Report: Hard Brexit / U.S. Election

This is a conversation with my dad about recent news, including a Brexit update, the US presidential election, Obama’s plans to send people to Mars and back and more…

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A reminder about the anecdote competition: Listen & vote here teacherluke.co.uk/2016/10/07/387-lep-anecdote-competition-entries-please-listen-vote/

I know this isn’t for everyone, but check out the anecdotes which have been sent to me. You might be pleasantly surprised. There are some great little stories in there and a lot of people are really showing off their good English. I’m very proud of everyone who got involved.

You can get all the competition entries on your phone like a podcast with this RSS feed: audioboom.com/users/1917559/boos.rss

Just enter that link into the search function in your podcast app and you’ll find it (including the iTunes store)

Then listen to the entries when you’re out and about. You could mark the entries you like by favouriting them (most podcast apps allow you to add a star to the episodes you like) then vote later.

I want to say a massive thank you to all the LEPsters in the comment section of my website recently, particularly all the amazing feedback they’ve been writing in response to the competition entries. I’m really impressed. Some LEPsters, particularly Olga, have written individual feedback for every single competition entry there. Generally the response has been absolutely brilliant and I urge you to get involved too.

I know it’s difficult to listen to all the entries because there are so many, but check them out and you’ll see that there are some really entertaining stories there. The other night I walked home from a restaurant for about an hour, just listening to the competition entries. I was going to take the metro but I decided to walk all the way because I wanted to keep listening. I’m really pleased that so many people got involved and told their stories, even if it was difficult.

Give yourself a big pat on the back if you sent me an entry, or if you have voted or left feedback. Some of you are feeling a bit embarrassed because you don’t like the sound of your own voices or you’re comparing yourselves to people you think are better, but never mind all that – everyone did really well so congratulations.

The voting in round 1 ends on 21 October, so you have another week left.

The Rick Thompson Report

Now, let’s move onto this episode, which is called The Rick Thompson Report. Yesterday I spoke to my dad on FaceTime and asked him to give us a report on some recent news. We ended up talking about a few things, including a Brexit update, some stuff about Barack Obama’s plans to send a manned mission to Mars and my dad’s thoughts on the US Presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I know some of you have been keen to find out what my dad has to say on that particular subject after I talked about it in the last two episodes of this podcast.

Because we’re talking about politics in this episode, I am sure that some of you will disagree with what you’re going to hear, which is fine, but if you’re planning on writing comments expressing your disagreement then I just encourage you to try to articulate those thoughts properly, explaining your reasons and developing your points, rather than just writing some angry knee-jerk reaction.

That’s if you disagree. If you agree with us, then of course you can write about that too.

Generally, I hope you respond in some way. You’ll hear us comment on some global events, and it’s quite interesting to me how we all seem to have different versions of those events depending on which media outlet we are exposed to. For example, the narrative about global events in the UK media is probably quite different to the narrative in the Russian media or the Chinese media. We are all subject to media bias, but let’s try to focus on the simple truths and facts at the heart of any story. That’s easier said than done, but I guess a starting point is to realise that things aren’t always the way they are portrayed in the media in any country. There’s always a certain amount of bias.

Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction. Now, I’ll let you listen to the Rick Thompson Report, with Rick Thompson.

*Conversation*

So that’s our conversation, I hope you found it interesting. As I said before, I look forward to reading your comments if you have any.

Don’t forget to get listen and vote in round 1 of the anecdote competition.

I got a message about why I don’t get many comments from Chinese listeners – apparently it’s because so many web services are blocked in China, and that included Disqus – my comments system, but my website is visible. So the Chinese listeners can listen to the podcast but can’t comment on the website unless they’re using proxy servers or something. So, China I just want to say hello and I wonder what you’re thinking. I’m assuming that you like the podcast because you’re my #1 country. Anyway, hello China, and hello everyone else too.

Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon. Bye!
rick-thompson-report

381. Discussing Cultural Differences (with Amber & Paul)

In this episode I’m talking to my friends Amber and Paul about cultural differences, particularly in the ways we communicate with each other in different countries.

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You should know that there is a bit of swearing in this one as well as a few dodgy jokes and references to previous episodes of the podcast, which you should probably listen to before you listen to this one in order to understand a couple of references and in-jokes. The previous episode is number 380. As for the swearing, I see it as just evidence of the fact we are all talking in a totally relaxed, genuine and natural manner, like we normally do in this social situation.

I just want to say that our aim in this conversation was to compare different cultures and not to criticise other cultures. We’re just expressing our own personal experiences from our point of view. Since we all live in France and we’re from England, there are quite a lot of comments about differences between French and English culture. If you’re French I’d love to read your points of view on many of the things we’re talking about and I am sure that you could make loads of similar comments about life in England – like, why the hell do we have separate taps in the bathroom? Or, why do girls go out on a Friday night with hardly any clothes on? Don’t they get freezing cold? And why do Brits drink so much? These are all things that might seem strange to visitors to the UK. So, I’m well aware that all cultures and behaviours can seem strange from the outside and it’s all just a matter of context.

In fact, I have already done several podcast episodes all about culture shock experiences of people moving to the UK (specifically London) from foreign countries. Check out the links to listen to those episodes.

192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.1)

193. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.2)

I am sure you have points of view on this that you would like to express, so feel free to leave comments on the page for this episode. Don’t forget to join the mailing list on the website to get easy access to the page for every new episode when it is uploaded.

So without any further ado, here’s a podcast about cultural differences with Amber and Paul.

Discussing Cultural Differences

Luke’s Intro

Although we are all the same, we’re also different.

Ways we’re the same:

We all fall in love, go to the loo, get hungry, get tired, like laughing, listen to LEP.

But we’re all different – individually we are all unique, but we are also different as groups, tribes, nationalities or cultures.

Although it’s bad to generalise, it seems that cultures – like ethnicities or nationalities, tend to have certain shared behaviours and customs that mark them out as different to others. For example, although the English and French share a lot of things in common there are certain things which mark us out as different. Not just the language we speak, but the way we behave and the things we think are important. Like the way we queue.

 

So anyway, that’s just an example of culture shock I suppose. But it shows that there are cultural differences. Of course there are! Everyone knows it.

If you’ve ever been abroad or had contact with other cultures you’ll know that sometimes it’s incredibly obvious that our cultures are different. Sometimes it’s shockingly obvious, sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s just weird, but we have to remember that they’re just differences and while they can be confusing, frustrating and also funny, ultimately we need to find ways to look beyond these differences and not let them become a barrier to things like communication, understanding, business, diplomacy and relationships.

In this episode I’d like to have a discussion about cultural differences that we’ve noticed around the world. These could be different types of behaviour, like certain customs and habits, or just different values – like, what people seem to think is important, and how those values reveal themselves in the way things are done.

Amber & Paul

What are your credentials in terms of your cross cultural experiences?

  • How long have you lived in France?
  • Have you visited many other places? Which other places have you been to?
  • Have you had cross cultural experiences?
  • Have you been in a relationship with someone from another culture?
  • Have you done business with people from other cultures?

I have a list of different behaviours and values. Just stuff I’ve noticed or heard about. Well go through the list.

We can answer these questions:

  • Where do they do this?
  • Do we do this in the UK?
  • Do we consider this to be weird behaviour or not? Is there a reason for this behaviour?
  • Do you have any experiences of this? Would you like it if we introduced this into our culture?

The list: (please note that we are not talking about ‘two-taps in the bathroom’)

  • Kissing or hugging someone when you meet them (Paul did a successful video about this)
  • Looking people in the eye
  • Indirectness/diplomacy/politeness (or hypocrisy) vs directness/straightness/clarity (or rudeness) – e.g. certain cultures tend to be indirect when giving negative feedback, other cultures favour direct negative feedback
  • conflict vs non-conflict
  • Smiling in public

earth-1639775_1280

 

For discussion in future episodes… PLEASE ADD MORE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN THE COMMENT SECTION SO WE CAN DISCUSS THEM IN THE FUTURE :) 

  • Eating early vs eating late in the evening
  • Having milk in tea
  • Eating scorpions / spiders / toads / frogs
  • Eating with your hands / chopsticks / a knife and fork / not your left hand
  • Burping or farting after eating
  • Girls wearing miniskirts in the middle of winter
  • Hawking / spitting in the street
  • Saying “good morning” or “good afternoon” in shops/post offices before you can get anything done
  • Kissing in public
  • Begging
  • Crossing the road – waiting for cars to stop vs just walking into the street vs using pedestrian crossings
  • Driving on the left
  • Queuing in an organised and patient way vs Not queuing – “every man for himself” (or something in between)
  • Public transport – following the rules vs no rules (e.g. queueing, letting people off before getting on, etc)
  • Falling asleep on public transport
  • Talking to strangers on public transport
  • Having a strict attitude towards health and safety (e.g. wearing safety belts in cars) vs Having a relaxed attitude towards health and safety (e.g. not wearing safety belts, overtaking on corners)
  • Bribing police or other people
  • Having more than one wife, or having affairs
  • Saying “yes” in order to save face
  • Having carpet in the bathroom
  • Wearing shoes indoors
  • Sitting down to go to the toilet vs Squatting on the floor when you go to the toilet (or any other toilet related comments)
  • Putting The UK at the centre of the map

Is there anything else you’ve found to be weird or different?

369. Pokémon GO – It’s just a game, OR IS IT?

Today I’m talking about Pokemon Go. It’s a global phenomenon and there are lots of things to say about it. It’s not just a stupid game, there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this episode I’m going to describe Pokemon the game, then talk about Pokemon GO, including what it is, how it works, what people are saying about it, why it’s so significant, what some of the good points and bad points are, and what this might mean for the future.

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Introduction

It’s the craze that’s sweeping the world. Pokemon Go was released as a downloadable app for iPhone and Android about 3 weeks ago and suddenly millions of people around the world are playing it, everyone’s talking about it and the app is currently the #1 download on the iOS and Google Play app stores. It’s threatening even Twitter in terms of its number of active users. Just a few days after the release of the game, which can be downloaded onto your smartphone free, Nintendo’s stock market value soared, rising by a massive $11 billion. The number of downloads of the Pokemon Go app is estimated at over 100 million.

I wonder if it has arrived in your country yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve either heard about it, seen stories about it online, seen people playing it in your area, or have actually downloaded and played the game yourself. Some people are addicted to it and can’t stop playing it. Other people just can’t stand it and think it’s a load of complete nonsense.

Just the other day I went out for a drink with my wife and we counted 11 people playing Pokemon Go just in the streets near our house. On my lunch break from work the other day I looked around the little garden area where I sat with my sandwich and noticed about 3 people who were obviously playing it. Even some of my students in class were playing Pokemon Go during lessons. Apparently, the British Council is a Pokemon Gym, where other Pokemon players can get together to challenge each other to Pokemon battles. Next time you’re out and about, look for small groups of people wandering around staring at their phones. That happens a lot anyway, but it’s an even more common sight to see at the moment. If you get the chance to glance at their screens, you might see them attempting to throw little red and white balls at wild little creatures that they can see. They’re probably playing Pokemon.

If you don’t really understand what I’m talking about here, don’t worry because I’m going to explain it all as clearly as possible in this episode, while also discussing some of the positive and negative aspects of this game.

Wherever you stand on this new phenomenon – maybe you think it’s brilliant, you might think it’s the end of the world, or maybe you have no opinion about it at all. In any case I think there’s no arguing that this game represents something significant about global culture. It’s being played everywhere – I’ve even seen photos of it being played in war-torn parts of Syria. Apparently the whole world is captivated by the desire to capture Pokemon. It has arrived with some controversy, as we will see.

The game itself might be a flash in the pan – just a brief craze that will last for a summer and then disappear – in fact I’ve come to the subject a little bit late because the general media buzz around the game has probably peaked now, but it does represent an interesting development in global culture – in gaming, technology, lifestyle, how we interact with public spaces and also ways in which huge companies are collecting and using our data. It’s definitely worth talking about.

Is this just a fun, social game or is it part of some sinister plot by corporations intent on gaining access to yet more of our personal data?

That’s what I’d like to talk about in this episode. If you’re a vocabulary hunter – listen carefully to hear the right words and expressions we use when talking about Pokemon and the issues surrounding it.

I should state right now that this story is developing pretty quickly and by the time you listen to it the world of Pokemon might have changed a bit, with possible updates to the app and other peripheral products that might come onto the market. Also, I am not the world’s Pokemon expert or anything, but I think I know enough about it to be able to talk on the subject in this episode. You might be more familiar with the ins and outs of Pokemon than me. If you’re an advanced Pokemon player then feel free to get into the comment section to give your opinion or add any details I might have missed. Also, if you’re new to Pokemon I want to know what you think as well.

Let’s get started

1. What is Pokemon?

– We know from my conversation with Alex Love that Pokemon is a portmanteau word from Japan which means “pocket monster”.
– It’s a franchise owned by The Pokemon Company (a sort of consortium of three companies Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures.) The first version of the franchise was a Game Boy game created in Japan in 1995. Pokemon Red and Yellow, then Blue and then Silver I think. Then there were TV shows, movies, trading cards and a Monopoly game. It has massive levels of appeal and a generation of kids grew up playing it. I was a bit old for it because by that time I’d moved on to more grown-up stuff like GoldenEye and Tekken and stuff like that (yes, I was still playing computer games).
– First time I heard about it.
– Playing cards in Liverpool HMV. “Have you got any Pokémon cards??”
– The principle of the game, as far as I understand it.

2. What is Pokemon Go?

– How the app version of the game works
– Pokestations – I think these are points of interest from Google Maps – interesting spots that I guess a lot of people have taken photos of or something – some point of interest. These have been converted into Pokestations in the game. If you go there you can collect more Pokeballs. For example, there’s a fountain outside my building and that’s a pokestop, then there’s a sandwich bar on the street, that’s a pokestop. At the top of the street there is a kid’s merry-go-round and that’s a pokestop too. ON the map you see different pokestops and it encourages you to go and visit them. When you get there you click on the pokestop in your phone and it shows you a photo of the thing. It could be another landmark, like a plaque on a wall with a bit of local information on it – for example a plaque that shows you that Picasso used to live in the building. There’s one of them near me too. That’s quite cool because you might not have discovered it otherwise, but to be honest I don’t think Pokemon can really be credited with teaching people about their local area. Honestly, if you find local points of interest through Pokemon you’re probably not that interested in the point of interest. Realistically, how long will a Pokemon player stop to read a plaque about Picasso when they have other Pokemon in the area to catch. In fact, it could be considered disrespectful to the landmark to create a pokestop there because what happens is that you just get these groups of people turning up, not looking at the landmark, just standing around like PokeZombies with their heads in their phones.
– Controversy – there have been a few incidents in which people have got very angry with Pokemon players playing at certain locations. For example, at war memorials where you should be very respectful. Standing around catching Pokémon at a World War 2 memorial is not really appropriate I think, especially if players are wandering across the monument, or standing on burial sites. Apparently Pokémon has been banned at The Auschwitz museum in Southern Poland, which is the site of one of the biggest WW2 Nazi death camps has asked Niantic Labs to block Pokemon users from playing there, after there were complaints from people who saw a lot of people playing the game while visiting. That’s totally fair I think – it’s really disrespectful to be playing Pokemon at a place like that.

– Then there are Pokemon Gyms where you can battle with other Pokemon trainers and develop your Pokemon. As I said, the BC is a Pokemon gym apparently. If you beat all the other Pokemon trainers there you’ll be the owner of the gym and your winning Pokemon is like the master of the gym, and I think your Pokemon is then displayed on the roof of the gym when you check the map in the app. So, if you look around you can see some gyms in the distance, with huge monsters guarding them.
– Other content too – there may be other interesting features within the game – other locations and interactive elements at various locations.
– In-app purchases.
– Venues might use it as a way of attracting people. “Lure modules” can be dropped at certain locations to attract higher numbers of pokemon (and then users who want to catch them)

What’s the appeal?

I think we are wired for collecting things – it’s the impulse to be hunter/gatherers. That’s a basic human instinct – to go out and find things, search the area, look for treasure, look for food or resources, keep a collection, build strength, even breed and rear animals which you can use as assets in your life, compete with other people. I suppose this comes from the many hundreds of years that humans evolved as hunter-gatherers or something, except now those instincts are what drives our interest in these games, which we play for their own sake. I don’t think we can gain anything material from these things. I guess only business owners can benefit if people are being lured to your businesses because of it. Then there’s the game makers who obviously are making money from in-game purchases, the general brand value, share-price value and the sharing of data collected from the game. There are lots of revenue streams.

Also there’s the novelty of the augmented reality. It’s pretty engrossing and captivating.

The future?

This is the first really big augmented reality game. I expect we will see more and more games that will use augmented reality, which essentially means that the real world will be the playing field in which the game is played, instead of going around in a virtual world, the game world is somehow mapped onto the real world. Now if we run with this idea, this could mean that in the future more people will be going around in the street playing a game. They might be interacting with the physical world around them, but in ways that you can’t see if you’re not playing the game. If you add different technology into that, it could be a huge step. Imagine using Oculous Rift or some kind of 3D headset but you’re not walking around the game world, you’re walking around the real world but with augmented reality. So, potentially we might be able to walk around with a headset, interacting with the real world, but seeing it in a completely different way. From the inside you might be battling with aliens in your street, or collecting treasure in the park, or possibly just touching objects in the real world in order to achieve things. In the game it would be amazing because there would be actual physical feedback from playing the game. But from the outside, you’d look like you’re on acid I expect. You’d look like you were on magic mushrooms – wandering around reacting to things that aren’t there. There are also the obvious safety issues with that. Also, perhaps it might be possible to play the game in the real world – using the real world map, while sitting at home on your sofa. That might mean that you’re controlling a drone which is flying around, or travelling around on wheels in the real world, while you are either watching a screen at home, or sitting at home wearing a 3D headset which essentially allows you to see from the perspective of your drone as it travels around outside your house or somewhere else in the world, interacting with real things and people. The mind boggles!

It could also be used not for gaming, but for general life – e.g. sending your drone robot to the supermarket to collect your shopping or to pick up your kids or something. We’re really not that far away from that sort of thing, but there are of course loads of legal issues that go along with that – relating to the safety of it, and who is responsible for what these drones do, or what people do when they’re playing an augmented reality game, and the implications of letting drones operate in public spaces – that’s related to privacy and health hazards and so on.

It’s certainly pretty crazy – and Pokemon Go is just the first step in this direction. We might not see it in the next 2-5 years, but in 10-15 years we might see this sort of thing. God knows what the world will be like then. I will probably have kids, possibly teenage kids at that time. I can’t imagine what kind of world they’ll be living in. They’ll probably be robo-kids, let’s face it. Will that be good or bad? Who knows.

3. Arguments for

– exercise (my student walked 20k in 2 days)
– a way to explore areas. Imagine combining it with tourism. You can discover interesting landmarks in your area.
– it’s harmless fun. It’s just fun! What’s wrong with that.
…or is it?

4. Arguments against

– safety (not looking where you’re going, playing while driving, going into areas that are not safe, muggings – slightly paranoid maybe?)
– bizarre social patterns and human behaviour – e.g. large groups of people all stampeding across a field to catch a pokemon, not looking where they’re going.
– trespassing, or nuisance
– personal data – it’s connected to your google account – Pokemon Go had full access to your Google account. This made it pretty exposed to a hack – anyone with access to the game’s servers would be able to access everything in your google account and yep, that means your email, photos, navigation history and so on. They’d be able to know where you live and what you look like and possibly stuff like your bank details and other sensitive info that you have put into emails. However, Niantic (the game developer) has released a statement that they’ve changed the app so that it just requires basic info and not your full account. Google also say they’re working on limiting permissions to basic profile data. Still, it seems pretty dodgy right? And this is the same story we’ve seen from other apps and I think it is a major part of modern life. Personal data – it’s a hugely desirable thing for companies and has become a precious commodity in business. Here’s the pattern: Social networks or other lifestyle apps offer us addictive and immersive experiences and services. We become hooked on them and engrossed by the speed at which we can do things, like play fun games, discover information, publish our photos or whatever. But while we’re distracted but that, the app collecting our personal data, claiming rights over the information we publish or allow access to and is then using all of that data as an asset which they can sell – to god knows who! People want our data though, presumably to be able to create fine-tuned marketing campaigns to get us to buy things or do things. Now, this is still a bit unsophisticated – you’ve heard me talk about how I find Google Ads to be stupid because they try to sell me shoes I’ve already bought. But in the future, who knows how sophisticated they will get when it comes to marketing to us, or using our own preferences. One day as our reality is more and more augmented by technology and the internet, we might find that our augmented version of reality are being shaped by the data that is collected about us. What I mean is that our reality could become mediated significantly by third parties that we don’t know, and who want to take advantage of us for their own profit. This is when the future sounds like some kind of science fiction nightmare in which even our sense of reality is manipulated so that we can be exploited by corporations. Perhaps that’s a bit paranoid, but the question is: Are we being too careless with our personal data? Are these apps just harmless games or are they more sinister than that? In Pokemon we are trying to “catch ’em all” but maybe for the companies that make these games it’s a case of “gotta catch all your personal data”.

– Google is mapping the world. At the moment, all public spaces are being mapped by Google. You can use Google maps and google street view to see an almost 3D version of the world. Since Pokemon Go is connected to Google, are they using our cameras to scan everything as we play the game? The app gives the game and Google access to your camera. Maybe they’re using the images to create scans of everywhere that we play the game, particularly the interiors of buildings, private spaces – including our homes. Maybe Google is using Pokemon to scan the interiors of our homes. It’s possible. This sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but it’s possible.

In the end, it’s about trust I think. Do you trust these companies? You might think – you’re crazy – Google wouldn’t use that data in ways that would harm us. But why do we automatically trust these companies? Who are they giving this data to? If it’s private companies, those transactions probably happen behind closed doors, not in a way that can be scrutinised by the public.

It’s not too crazy to imagine that our personal data, our images, even scans of the interior of our homes – all of these things could be being given to shady people that we don’t know and who don’t really care about us. In 50 years, who knows what the state of the world will be and who will be in power. I don’t like the idea that they might have all my info at their fingertips.

Technology is amazing. It could allow us to do so many incredible things. It has opened up the whole world to us, with the internet and everything. But it also could bring about massive levels of manipulation and limitations to people’s basic liberties. It would be ironic if the internet, which started out as this huge libertarian, open-sourced project, could ultimately be used as a way to keep everyone under control. I realise I now sound like a conspiracy theorist, because I’m just speculating, but it’s interesting isn’t it? It makes you think. It makes me a bit scared and I’m not sure where I stand on it.

A note on conspiracy theories – a lot of that is based on speculation, false logic, supposition and confirmation bias. Once you get the idea in your head that the world is controlled by shadowy, unknown powerful groups then it’s possible to interpret absolutely any phenomenon in the world as an extension of that. In reality, the world is probably a lot more chaotic and less sinister than we think. Pokemon Go is probably a little bit sinister – and that’s exaggerated by the fact that it appears to be a cute and innocent game, but I imagine that it’s no worse than just a little bit sinister. They want to get our data to sell it to marketing companies who are all desperately struggling to find ways of using it correctly. In the end, perhaps it will not be that bad and it’ll just be easier to buy shoes that you like. Either that, or we’ll all be enslaved by evil spider robots which steal all of our electromyography – they’ll steal all our body’s electrical impulses, so they can keep themselves alive in order to play Robo-Pokemon and feed batteries to their robot-children, like in The Matrix. Worst-case scenario.

5. Let’s play Pokemon Go! *Maybe in an episode soon – would you like that? Let me know*

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Leave your comments below :)

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