Talking to Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast about learning Japanese, embarrassing moments in language learning, social awkwardness and some “very British problems”. Are you as socially awkward as a British person? Let’s see how you and Michael would respond to some quiz questions that will test your British awkwardness to the max. Video version available.
Today on the podcast I am talking to Michael Lavers who is an English teacher from Cornwall in the South West of England. Michael also has a podcast for learners of English. It’s called The Level Up English Podcast – you might want to check it out if you haven’t already done so. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.
As well as being an English teacher, Michael is also a language learner himself and in his podcast episodes he often talks with guests about experiences of learning other languages, including those embarrassing or awkward moments that happen when you feel shy or you make mistakes. Also, Michael has described himself as a socially awkward person who lacks a certain amount of confidence in himself. In fact, he says that one of the reasons he started his podcast was to try and gain some confidence by going out of his comfort zone.
So this is what I thought I would ask Michael about: his language learning experiences and those awkward and embarrassing moments, and then I’d like to chat about social awkwardness and whether this is a uniquely British thing. And we’re going to go into some specific examples of how this so-called British awkwardness manifests itself.
That’s the plan, so now, let’s meet Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast.
Awkward Situations – Very British Problems
Here are some questions based on some tweets by the popular Twitter account, Very British Problems. Each one describes a specific problem that British people typically experience in social situations. They seem to sum up the experience of being a British person. We’re socially awkward – I don’t know why.
Let’s see how you respond to these questions. And listeners, I want you to consider your answers to these questions too, then we’ll see what Michael says, and then we’ll see the original tweets and we can see if they match up.
Questions & Tweets
How do you feel when you walk through the “nothing to declare” gate at an airport?
You’re sitting with a group of people. It’s time for you to leave. What do you say as you kind of slap your hands on your knees and stand up?
If someone says something to you but you don’t hear it, how many times are you willing to ask them to repeat themselves?
What do you say to your taxi driver as they approach the point where you want to get out of the cab?
If you’re on a train, sitting in the window seat with a passenger next to you, and your stop is approaching, what do you do to signal to the passenger in the aisle seat that you will need to get up?
You’re standing at the exit door of the train as it is pulling into the station, slowly coming to a stop, and there is a crowd of other passengers right behind you, eager to get off the train. The “Open door” button isn’t yet illuminated. What do you do? Do you press the button?
How do you feel when the ticket inspector inspects your perfectly valid ticket?
What do you say, modestly, to guests arriving in your home, even though you spent some time before their arrival, tidying things up?
There’s one last roast potato on the table at Sunday lunch. You want to eat it. How do you achieve this?
Just take it and eat it
Ask if you can eat it
Offer it to everyone else first
Do you ever tell your housemates or family that you are “off to bed” but then just stare at your phone in bed for an hour?
Imagine you are walking through a hallway with lots of doors in it, like in a library or something and you’re walking just behind a stranger who keeps having to hold the doors for you. How many different ways of saying “thanks” can you think of?
How do you end an email? Is there a subtly less friendly difference between kind regards and just regards?
What do you do when you get an incoming call from an unknown number?
How good are you at overtaking someone on foot?
Do you feel it necessary to speed up at all, when walking over a zebra crossing?
If you pay for something with exactly the right change, and you know it’s exactly the right change, do you wait for the cashier to count the money?
I have had some entries already. If you’ve sent me something, then thank you. Please send your designs to firstname.lastname@example.org and my brother and I will review the entries we receive, talk about them on the podcast and pick at least one to be featured in the LEP Merch store.
Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi. Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.
In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.
Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.
So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.
It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.
“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.
Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.
Talking to English teacher Matt Halsdorff about a project to train native English speakers how to communicate better with non-natives. We talk about the reasons why native speakers are often bad at communicating with non-natives, what they should do to fix this and the wider issues relating to this project. Video version available.
Hello listeners and video viewers, how are you doing today?
In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Matt Halsdorff who is an English teacher with many years of teaching experience, and we’re going to be discussing the question of whether native English speakers are in fact the worst communicators in an international English environment.
Matt is currently working on a project with Christian Saunders from Canguro English. I think the project sounds really interesting and raises a few good questions about how native speakers of English and non-native speakers communicate with each other, what non-natives really struggle with in this language, and whether native speakers can do anything to help.
If you saw my latest video interview with Christian from Canguro English and you watched until the end you might remember us discussing this project briefly. If you remember, Christian mentioned a training course in communication in English – but the twist is that it’s for native speakers – more specifically it is for native English speakers who need to communicate internationally.
Because, It’s not just learners of English who need training in this language. Apparently – It’s native speakers too.
English is a global language, and everyone is using it for business and also for travel purposes. Everyone needs to use this language to communicate successfully so the world can continue spinning.
Everyone uses English, and everyone has to work on the way they use it, in the same way that we all have to work on our email writing and IT skills to make them as efficient and effective as possible.
As a non-native speaker of English, of course you’ve got to work on the entire system – you need vocabulary, you need correct grammar, you need clear pronunciation, fluency, confidence and so on – obviously, that’s what’s involved in trying to use another language.
You learn as you go and try to do your best and you almost certainly feel a great deal of responsibility, pressure, and challenge when communicating in English. You are probably keenly aware of your performance in English and sensitive about any kind of failure in communication and how that might be your fault.
But do native speakers share a similar sense of responsibility?
In fact here are a number of other questions which arise when thinking about this topic.
Do native English speakers do all they can in international situations to make sure they are understood clearly, just like everyone else does?
Are native speakers aware of what it is like to operate in a second language?
Might there be other reasons why native English speakers don’t adapt the way they speak in order to improve shared communication?
Who is responsible for the success of any act of communication? Just one side, or both?
Should native speakers adapt their English? Or is it up to the non-natives to do all the heavy lifting in this situation?
And if native speakers should adapt their English, how should they do it?
What kind of English should they avoid and what kind is likely to be the most successful?
And what about other considerations and questions, such as what happens to the English language when it is being adapted in this way?
Well, I am interviewing Matt today in order to discuss these things and find out about this project in general. First we’re just going to take a few minutes to get to know him, and then we’re going to dive into this training project for native speakers, which is called The Travel Adaptor by the way. We’re going to find out about the project, about what native speakers do and say which can be so confusing, how native speakers can facilitate communication with non-natives, and the wider issue of global English and successful international communication.
As well as getting into the specifics of this conversation, you can certainly learn about some of the major obstacles that non-native speakers have when understanding natives.
So there’s plenty to pick up from this. There is a YouTube version too just in case you need to see our faces as well as listen to us.
Well, that was Matt Halsdorff talking about The Travel Adapter – a training course for native-speakers of English, to help them communicate better globally.
So, what do you think? I’m very keen to read your comments and I am sure you had things popping into your head during this conversation. Why not express them in English here in the comment section?
Do you have experiences of communicating with native speakers in English? What was it like? Did they adapt their speech? What was difficult?
Do you think native speakers should adapt their speech when talking to non-natives, or not? Why?
But that’s it for now. Thank you for listening and I will speak to you again soon. I’ve got a little announcement coming in the next few weeks that’s pretty cool, plus the usual free episodes and premium episodes on their way as usual.
Speak to you soon, but for now – goodbye bye bye bye bye bye bye!
Talking to another runner-up from last year’s listener competition. Robin from Hamburg had a big setback in his learning of English, but worked hard to overcome it. We talk about his English learning trajectory, and ramble about German language & culture, his podcast for learners of German, podcasting microphones and then Robin teaches me some German words which are difficult to pronounce.
Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing alright today, wherever you are and whatever you are doing as you listen to this.
Here is a new episode, and we are returning to the WISBOLEP series with this one – talking to winners of the competition I did at the end of last year in which listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.
LEPland – that’s Luke’s English Podcast land, you see, L E P land – LEPland. Not LAPland, no, that’s Lapland – a real place, somewhere in the north of Finland. But no, I’m not talking about Lapland. I say this because sometimes people write to me and they say “Another listener here from Lapland” really? Are you from Lapland? Or do you mean LEPland. Maybe you are from Lapland, I don’t know. There are people there. If you are in Lapland, then hello to you too. Maybe you are Santa Claus (because Santa comes from Lapland) Maybe Father Christmas listens to this podcast during the year, just relaxing, taking a break. Anyway, if you are Father Chrismtas then welcome, “welcome” to everyone. But anyway, where was I? So… The competition, last year, Listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.
This episode now is the 4th in that series and the spirit of this whole competition is to let some LEPsters talk on the podcast so we can learn some things from them including insights into how they learned English, perhaps some things about the countries they come from and whatever else they can talk to us about.
This time it is the turn of Robin who comes from Hamburg in Germany.
Robin came joint 3rd in the competition with William from France. So William and Robin both received exactly the same number of votes and in fact their stories are not dissimilar (which is another way of saying that their stories are quite similar). Yes, their stories are not dissimilar in the sense that they both first learned English at school in their neighbouring countries, and then both chose to pursue English in higher education, both decided to become teachers of English and both spent time as teaching assistants in English schools in the South East of England, helping English schoolkids and students learn French or German in the case of Robin. So, funnily enough, Robin and William both have many things in common, including the fact that they both got exactly the same number of votes, so joint 3rd position, but anyway, this is Robin.
And yes, Robin is also an English teacher, just like the other WISBOLEP winners that we have had so far.
Now I would like to address something at this point and that is the fact that all the winners of this competition so far have been English teachers. Obviously they’ve been, let’s say, non-native speakers from different countries, but yes, the four people I’ve spoken to so far – they have all been English teachers, and I get the impression from reading one or two comments that some people might think it’s a bit unfair, for some reason, that the winners all seem to be English teachers, right?
Here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell, and actually I should also say, the vast majority of comments on these episodes so far have been really positive. People have loved listening to the guests that we’ve had so far and I think people have found them to be interesting and inspiring and thought-provoking and so on. But anyway, I do get the sense that there is maybe this feeling of “All the winners are English teachers. What’s going on?” and so here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell. Something like this…
“Hmm, so you can only win this competition if you’re an English teacher. What about the rest of us who don’t have that advantage?”
This sort of comment seems to suggest that non-native speakers of English who are English teachers have improved their level of English as a result of being teachers, that their English improved because they became teachers or as a consequence of being English teachers, and so being an English teacher gave them an unfair advantage in this competition.
But I think it’s probably the other way round, isn’t it? Surely they reached a proficient level of English before they became teachers, and then became teachers as a consequence of having a good enough level of English. You can’t qualify as a teacher without having a fairly decent level of English first, can you?
So, I think their progress and achievements in English proficiency are still thanks to their own merit just like anyone else who has got good at English, and so I think this still counts.
Sure, perhaps their teaching work has meant that they’ve had to do more language study than most people, and that they get to use English in their work on a fairly regular basis. That’s true. So the job has probably tweaked their English that bit further than many other people, but again, I’m sure the majority of their English progress was made before becoming English teachers.
So, I just wanted to point that out in case some people listening felt there was something amiss about the results of the competition. Personally, I think it’s fine and you probably think so too, right?
But bear with me as I say just one or two other things about this.
Of course there are loads of people who achieve great things in English and who don’t choose to become teachers, and that’s great too. I really don’t mind what people do, as long as they have something to offer to my audience, and I suppose ultimately this is why listeners voted for these people in this competition, because they felt that they would have interesting things to say on the podcast, and probably some insights into improving your English, and I think those things are definitely true. I feel that the 3 interviews we’ve had so far have been very insightful and interesting, and I think that this also applies to the other interviews that you haven’t heard yet. There are three more interviews to listen to. There’s Robin, Michal and Bahar as well.
And I’m sure that even now some people are going “This is unnecessary Luke. You don’t need to justify yourself”. Ok I won’t (as I whack the microphone).
Anyway, so, after this one with Robin, the next one will be Michal from Poland and he has achieved a decent level of English and he’s not an English teacher. Not yet anyway! I don’t know what he will choose to do in the future, but so far he has not qualified as a teacher.
Anyway, I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, even though I have just devoted a number of minutes to talking about it. I think ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Essentially we are listening to LEPsters who other LEPsters wanted to hear on this podcast and you know what – I am really enjoying these episodes, I think that the LEPsters who voted in the competition made some really good choices, and this series has been very well-received overall, which is great.
And this brings us to our 4th WISBOLEP guest – Robin from Hamburg in Germany (just in case you weren’t sure where Hamburg was. That’s right, it’s in Germany) so here we go.
So I spoke to a few weeks ago. Robin is someone who learned English at school like most people, and liked it, and then chose to pursue his English studies and broaden his English skills while still living in Germany. There were challenges and setbacks, as you will hear, but ultimately he managed to immerse himself in the language and get his English to a good enough level to be able to train to become a teacher of the language in Germany. Later on he went to England to get some work experience as a teaching assistant in German classes at a posh school in the South East.
Along the way Robin also chose to start a podcast for learners of German. So Robin is a podcaster too, just like me. Robin’s podcast is called Auf Deutsch Gesagt, which I hope I’m pronouncing correctly. Speakers of German, indeed Robin, in fact, you could get in the comments section and tell me if I’ve pronounced that correctly. Auf Deutsch Gesagt!
So if you are learning German and you want a podcast that is similar to mine but in German, you could listen to Robin’s podcast Auf Deutsch Gesagt! Which translates as “In plain German” or “In plain language” which I guess means that the German that you can hear in his episodes is the sort of natural German that people use on a daily basis. As Robin has said, he was quite inspired by my approach to LEP, and so I guess Auf Deutsch Gesagt is along similar lines. So that’s Robin’s podcast for people learning German. It’s on Spotify and is available where you normally get your podcasts.
There are links for his podcast on the page for this episode too.
So this conversation ended up being a bit longer than some of the other interviews with WISBOLEP winners, but that’s partly because we found that there were quite a lot of things for us to talk about including Robin’s learning of English after being told by one of his university teachers that he should just give up because he wasn’t good enough, his experience as a teaching assistant at a school in England, some comparisons between English and German language and culture, some slightly geeky stuff about the recording setups and microphones that we use for our podcasts, and then finally we thought it could be fun for Robin to try and teach me a bit of German, so you will hear me struggling to pronounce a few words in German near the end of the conversation, which should give you a bit of a laugh.
So that’s it then for this introduction. I will chat to you again briefly on the other side of this conversation but let’s now meet WISBOLEP runner up Robin from Hamburg, and here we go.
So that was Robin from Hamburg, teaching me a bit of German there, which was a bit of fun wasn’t it? I think it was. I hope you enjoyed it, listening to me struggle with another language for a change.
Again, if you’re learning German and you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, why not check out Auf Deutsch gesagt! (Spell it) So, again, you can just check the page for this episode on my website and you’ll see all of this stuff written. My introduction and this ending part here. It’s all written and you’ll find links to Auf Deutsch gesagt! If you want to listen to it.
It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you will find links on the website to help you find it. (I’ve just said that!)
As you heard Robin say there, his approach is pretty similar to mine so it might be what you are looking for if you are learning German.
Also, I think it was very interesting to note the trajectory of Robin’s English learning.
Ooh “Trajectory” – there’s a nice word. (spell it)
Let me just talk about it a little bit. Firstly, it refers to the path that an object takes as it flies through the air. Now we’re talking about the trajectory of Robin’s English journey, but I think the first use or meaning of the word trajectory normally refers to objects flying through the air, and the path that they take as they fly through the air.
For example the trajectory of a plane from take off to landing. Imagine a line going up from the ground soaring into the air, over distance, then going back down to the ground. Trajectory – it doesn’t always mean it goes down, up and then back down again. It could just be from down to up.
Also you’ve got the trajectory of a rocket, or the trajectory of a golf ball flying from the ground, up into the air, over the grass and maybe landing on the green, hopefully, if you’re a golfer. The path that an object takes as it moves through the air. That’s the trajectory.
The second use of the word is metaphorical or idiomatic and it’s used to describe the movement or path of other things, like for example someone’s career trajectory, or the growth trajectory of a company, upward trajectory or downward trajectory. Imagine a line showing the movement of something making a curved line going up and over. It could be a line on a graph.
So, it is interesting to follow the trajectory of Robin’s English learning, especially that moment when he was told he wasn’t good enough to pursue his studies, and then he kind of doubled down on his English, and the results kind of spoke for themselves.
Arguably, being told “Oh you’re not good enough, I think you should give up” that is a very damaging thing to say to a learner of English, you would have thought, although not in the case of Robin, because this is the sort of kick up the bum that he needed. This is the kick up the arse that Robin needed apparently. I don’t know, I guess it could go either way. For some people, being told that would just destroy your confidence and you’d never achieve anything as a language learner after being told that. Or it might give you a wake up call and if you’re determined, well, this is the slap in the face that I needed – metaphorical slap in the face that I needed to kind of actually get me going.
Anyway, in the case of Robin it was the thing that kind of made him grasp the challenge.
So, thankfully Robin took it as a challenge and seriously started to immerse himself in English all the time, and probably did self study from grammar books and other things but basically he just put a lot of time and effort into his English and it paid off, and just listen to him now.
It seemed to make a lot of difference, right? Then he was able to qualify as a teacher and help other people with their English learning trajectory too, but the key thing is that he took the bull by the horns and took control of his learning himself [There’s a nice phrase! + some rambling about how you shouldn’t actually take a real bull by the horns because you’ll probably get gored in the stomach…]
The thing is that Robin took the bull by the horns, metaphorically speaking, and took control of his learning himself, realising it was all down to him and he did it in his own way.
Again, I hope you agree that this has been quite inspiring – basically as a way to say, you can do it too if you put your mind to it and you put the time in.
Again, I will echo my statements from the last of these episodes – I often tell you about the importance of motivation and the importance of doing certain types of practice, but also I just want to say, equally don’t worry about doing anything really. Don’t worry about it too much. Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things I often say. At the very least, just listen, enjoy listening, be happy, stay positive and enjoy spending time with English in any way that you like. This is probably the most important thing, that you have to maintain a good and positive feel-good relationship with the language, and when the time is right, you can take more control and really apply yourself by doing different kinds of practice, but don’t worry if you just like listening to English and that’s all you do. That’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good in the hood.
But if you’re always looking for specific tips on ways to improve your English, if you want to take the bull by the horns and you want to improve your English in more applied ways including your pronunciation and your accent then pay attention to some things that Michal from Poland is going to say in the next WISBOLEP episode, which will arrive in a few weeks. Little sneak preview there of the episode with Michal from Poland.
And of course there’s the ongoing LEP Premium project which is designed to be a service that can help you make sure your English is on the right trajectory. Parts 3 & 4 of P29 are coming very soon – and they are going to cover more solid vocabulary, collocations, synonyms and phrases based on things my dad said in episode 704 of the podcast, with listen & repeat pronunciation exercises in part 2 as well. So if you want to hear that, access the PDFs for it and all the other premium content visit www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
But in any case, I hope you enjoyed this episode and thanks again to Robin for his contribution. It was great to talk to him. It was really nice to listen to him and just hear about his story and so on. I apologise if I spoke too much during the conversation, but it was a conversation after all, and that’s fine isn’t it?
As ever, let us know your thoughts in response to this episode in the comments section for this episode, right?
If you’re looking for the episode page where you can write your comments and also read transcripts for the introduction and ending of episodes like this, you will find the link in the description for this, wherever you are listening. [Luke rambles a bit about the Apple podcasts app] or just go to teacherluke.co.uk and then click EPISODES in the menu.
Well, it’s time to finish, isn’t it? It’s time to end.
Thank you for listening to my podcast again. Good luck with your English and I will speak to you soon, but now it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.
Chatting with Charlie from The British English Podcast and Real English with Real Teachers on YouTube. We talk about the north/south divide in England, Charlie’s background in psychology & NLP, his decision to become an online English teacher and his travelling experiences in Chile, Germany and Australia. Video version available.
Some of these sound a bit negative, but they’re quite normal.
Not too bad.
Could be worse.
Not so bad, thanks for asking.
Of course you can say:
I’m fine thanks
I’m very well thanks
Or (more positively)
I’mradiant (a nice word meaning “glowing with happiness” but nobody really uses it)
My guest on the podcast in this episode is Charlie Baxter. Charlie is an online English teacher, a YouTuber and a podcaster too and you might well know him from his YouTube channel, which is called Real English with Real Teachers (which he does with his friend Harry) and you might also know him from his newish podcast which is called The British English Podcast
I’ll see you at 12-ish.
Dave’s car is a kind of greyish-blue colour.
Charlie’s podcast is newish. He started it about 6 months ago.
Here’s that photo of David Crystal presenting an award to Andy Johnson and me.
And here’s that tweet from The British Podcast Awards – as proof that I genuinely came 3rd in the competition!
William started learning English at 12 years old and continued at university and beyond, spending a couple of years in England as a teaching assistant and then returning to France to work as a school teacher, in some pretty tough classrooms and less-than-perfect teaching conditions. William talks about how he continues to maintain his English, the importance of finding good language exchange partners, and more.
Notes for the Introduction and Ending Monologues (not a 100% complete transcript)
Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well. In this episode you’re going to listen to a conversation with another LEPster picked by other LEPsters for an appearance on this podcast. This time it’s the turn of William from France who came joint 3rd in the competition – it was a tie between William and Robin from Hamburg, and Robin will be on the podcast soon as well.
Right so this episode is the latest in the WISBOLEP series and WISBOLEP means Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and it was a competition I launched last year in which listeners sent in short recordings to persuade members of the audience to vote for them to be chosen for an interview on my podcast. So far I have spoken to the winner – Walaa from Syria and the 2nd place contender Tasha from China. Let’s now return to Europe and talk to William who lives in France. Shout out to all the French LEPsters. Salut les francais, et les francophone, ca va?
I think these WISBOLEP interviews are really interesting and there is a lot to gain from listening to them.
Sure, there will be some people who will decide that they just can’t listen to another learner of English and only native speakers of English are worth listening to. I can understand that to an extent, but I do think that completely dismissing non-native speakers of English like that is a mistake.
Learning English is a complex and personal process and I think there is a great deal to be gained from listening to other learners describe their experiences and methods of learning English. This can give you inspiration in terms of specific things you can do to improve your learning, and generally it can give you a lot of perspective about what it really means to be a learner of English or a speaker of English as a second language, what proficiency really is, what fluency really means, how important perfection is compared to having the initiative to just go out there and start using English. Also it can give you a sense of camaraderie with other fellow learners, and it’s very healthy to know that you are part of a community of similar language learners around the world, all of whom are trying to work on their English level in various ways. Some people are better than others, but everyone is going through a similar process.
We are all learners of English in a way, including me, and it’s wrong to think that learning English has a specific end point or conclusion to it. It’s a never ending process and there are always things to learn and ways to improve in terms of how we use this tool to communicate with people more effectively.
Perfection is not necessarily the thing to expect from yourself or others. It’s a high ideal to strive towards but if you only accept perfect English, then prepare to be disappointed, both by yourself and by others. Setting perfection as your ultimate goal is quite unrealistic and doesn’t really reflect the nature of English as a pragmatic language. When you’re using English in the real world, it’s not necessarily about having flawless English but about the results that you achieve with your English. It’s “connection not perfection” as the girls from AEE always say.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious or that you shouldn’t try to do your very best in English. It’s important to try to be better at English of course. But little mistakes are inevitable, holes in your knowledge of English are inevitable and you should not let these things stop you on your journey with this language. We have to try to accept that we will make mistakes and we have to learn from them. You have to be philosophical about it.
Another idea that strikes me as I listen to these WISBOLEP episodes is that curiosity and a willingness to take a few risks are really important. It seems to help your progress in English if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a bit and throw yourself into situations that will ultimately help your English to develop. Be curious all the time and keep moving forwards in your quest to know more, learn more and get more control over the language, even if you never really get to the end – in fact there isn’t really an end point. Be patient and don’t let little obstacles get in your way.
I could bang on about this kind of stuff all day, but I will conclude by saying that it’s up to you to find your own motivation to keep going with English. There is no “one perfect way”. Everyone has to find their own path, and I think it’s a long-term thing. At the very least, certainly for the next hour or so I hope you simply enjoy listening to William and me talking about his experiences, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and don’t underestimate the value of listening to fellow learners of English.
I would say, try not to compare yourself to others too much, and equally, don’t judge others too harshly. Just try to take inspiration from other people’s stories and examples.
This brings us to William from France, and in fact this conversation demonstrates a lot of those ideas that I just mentioned.
Just a little bit of background info on William before we start, just to give you a sense of the context from which he learned English.
William is from a town just outside Paris, called Combs de Ville. His parents are from the French West Indies and more specifically from an island called Guadeloupe, which is a French overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. So his parents were from there originally and they moved to France in their twenties. William was born in France. He grew up learning French as his first language, but his parents did still speak Creole (the local language from Guadeloupe – but no English. In his own words “Creole and French were the main languages used at home but my parents didn’t want me to use Creole. We were in France so French was the only language I was allowed to use. So it was a bit strange to be able to understand a language without being able to use it.”
As you’ll hear, English didn’t come into William’s life until he started learning it at school like everyone else in France at the time, at about the age of 12. But he took to it and liked it. I wonder if having several languages in the household growing up had anything to do with that. It’s possible. But in any case, William didn’t get a head start on his peers in terms of English.
I’m not going to explain in advance all the main points in our conversation. Instead, I will let you discover it as you go. What I will say is that I really enjoyed this chat, and you will find that it gets more focused, more specific and more insightful as it goes on.
That’s it from me now. I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation with a few reflections and thoughts, but now, let’s hear from William from France, who came joint 3rd in the WISBOLEP competition.
Oh one other thing, before I forget. William wanted me to add something at the start of this episode – and that is to say a big thank you to all the people who voted for him in the competition, giving him the chance to be featured in an episode of the podcast. So, thanks from William.
So that was William from France. I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s a lovely guy and here are some of the things I took away from this. Here are some thoughts and reflections.
English is a journey not a destination.
There’s no end point in terms of learning English. It’s like being a musician or a sports player. There’s always training to be done and room to improve in terms of technique, general fitness and fluency and so on. You have to practise all the time and there are always ways in which you can gain more control and more efficiency in how you use English to express ideas. This is true for native speakers of the language as well, including me. I see myself as a work in progress too, in terms of how effective I am as a speaker or writer of English.
Finding language partners for language exchanges can be a great way to get regular practice into your life, but you have to find the right person, and this can take a long time, but don’t let that stop you – keep searching, keep talking to different people until you find someone who is right for you. This could be true of one to one teachers as well. Sometimes you need to shop around a bit. Remember, like William you can find language exchange partners, conversation partners and English teachers on italki. Italki is both a sort of marketplace for online teachers, but also a social network which you can use to find other language learners, and that could include fluent English speakers who want to learn your language, and like William you could just informally set up conversations with these people and spend some time speaking English and some time speaking in your language, and if you get the right person that can be an invaluable source of practice for you. To sign up for italki you can still use my link, which is www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and if you access italki that way and then buy some lessons with a teacher, italki will send you a discount voucher worth 10 dollars which you can use next time.
BUt the point there is → be patient, be dedicated, keep searching, don’t give up and you could find someone who you can practise your English with on a regular basis in a mutually beneficial way. It could be a way to make new friends as well.
Finally – stay curious, about English – especially in terms of learning about how the language works in order to work on your grammar in a sort of organic way – just trying to work out how the language works, referring to grammar books (a tip could be Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – a good reference book for English grammar and usage) and also stay curious about other people, because this is really important in developing good communication skills. It’s not just about how well you can speak and express yourself, it’s about how well you interact with other people and listening to others is a big part of that. So, be curious about the language, but just be curious about people you meet and be interested in other people when you talk to them and you’ll find that your communication skills will thrive as a result of that. I feel that that’s something William does – he is interested in other people and that’s a strength of his. It’s one reason why he communicates well.
OK, just some thoughts that occurred to me at the end of this episode here.
Feel free to share your thoughts too in the comment section.
I would also like to say that talking to William gave me a little boost. He said some nice and sincere things about this podcast, about how it has helped him and how I might be helping other people and I appreciated it. So good luck to you William and all the listeners who are still listening all the way up to this point in the episode.
That’s it from me,
I will speak to you in the next episode. Again – a reminder that I am also working on Premium series 29 – What did Rick Say? And so premium subscribers – look out for new episodes in that series arriving very soon. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more details and to sign up.
Have a lovely day, morning, evening, night! Stay safe! Stay positive! Stay curious!
This conversation with competition runner-up Tasha Liu is a way to get to know Chinese culture in a more personal way including the story of how Tasha’s father gave up drinking alcohol, and other interesting details about real life in the world’s most populated country.
How are you doing? Thanks for choosing to listen to my podcast today. I hope you enjoy it.
In this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with Tasha Liu from China, the listener of this podcast who came 2nd in the WISBOLEP competition.
Let me explain quickly what the WISBOLEP competition is, for that one person who doesn’t know.
If that’s you, and you don’t know what WISBOLEP is → Hello! I’m now going to explain it to you in one single sentence. You’re welcome.
Here it is. The competition, summarised in one single sentence.
WISBOLEP stands for Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and is a competition I ran at the end of last year in which the prize was to be interviewed by me in an episode, the winner of the competition being the one who received the most votes from listeners after I played all of the 2-minute recordings sent in by the competitors in episode 692 of this podcast.
There you go.
Walaa Mouma from Syria was the overall winner. You may have heard her episode. It was published last month. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you do so! It’s episode 703 and Walaa explained in some detail how she improved her English to a good level, despite the hardships that she faced in her life. It was an inspiring episode, to say the least. We focused on Walaa’s approach to learning English – both her attitude and specific things she has done and continues to do to improve her skills. So the focus was definitely on learning English.
The conversation in this episode though, focuses mostly on cross cultural understanding.
Walaa is quite a hard act to follow, but we’re not comparing here. It’s not a competition you know! Wait, it is a competition, isn’t it? It totally is competition, isn’t it. It was a competition anyway. But for me, the competition part is done, and now it’s just a case of listening to LEPsters who were chosen by the people who voted in this competition.
And the spirit of this competition was always about this: Finding some interesting guests to talk to on the podcast and letting some LEPsters speak a bit and share their experiences. Let’s see what insights we can learn from other learners of English around the world. And let’s celebrate the citizens of LEPland! Everyone has a story to tell. We can all learn things from each other. All we have to do is just listen.
So, now that I have said that, here’s a brief overview of the content of this chat.
There’s a bit of “getting to know you”, as this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to Tasha, so we talk a bit about her studies, where she lives and so on.
Then we move onto the things she hinted at during her competition recording – and overall these things are ways to get to know China and Chinese culture a little bit more, in a personal way. So this is a cross-cultural exchange here and a chance to get beyond the stereotypes and cliches and find out some real things about life in the most populated country in the world.
There’s the story of how her father managed to stop drinking, which might tell us some things about family life in China.
Then we talk about some of the commonly-held beliefs about China (particularly beliefs held in the west) such as the way Chinese people eat (do they, as the saying goes, “eat anything with 4 legs except the table, and everything that flies except planes”? (and helicopters I suppose), or are they more discerning in their eating habits than that? Another assumption that people might have is that China is quite undeveloped in certain ways compared to the west, or how it could be ahead of the west in various ways too, like the way technology is used – payment systems for example, and the idea of the cashless society.
And there’s more detail about what it’s really like living in China today.
Just a heads up: There were some technical difficulties during the recording, due to a slightly poor internet connection between the two of us. This meant that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other properly or the connection just failed. I think I’ve saved it in the edit, but there may be a few moments where the bad connection affects our conversation. It shouldn’t be too bad, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
OK, now I’ve done my introduction, let’s get started properly, and here we go!
So that was Tasha Liu from China. It was really interesting to talk to her and I got that amazing feeling that you get when you actually talk to someone who lives in a completely different part of the world and in a different culture but you just connect as human beings.
That’s always special – talking to people from other places and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives and the fact that although we’re different in many ways, we’re also really similar in the fact that we’re still having human experiences ultimately.
It’s easy to forget but I feel like as humans we have many more things in common than differences. We’re all humans living on earth (as far as I know – you might be an alien on another planet as far as I know) but we’re all having a human experience ultimately, and so there are many more things that unite us than divide us, aren’t there?
I’m sounding a bit pretentious there, possibly, but hopefully you know what I mean.
Here are some reflections – just things that I thought about after having that conversation.
These are reflections about cross cultural understanding.
When we think about other cultures or experience them, there is a tendency to not fully understand those other cultures, and as a result we jump to conclusions about them, probably based on the fact that we’ve never had proper experiences of those cultures, never met or talked to those people properly and never observed things from their point of view. This is normal I suppose because we can’t always be everywhere and see everything.
We end up with limited views of other cultures, which might also be informed by other people’s attitudes, like “these people are just unsophisticated” or “it’s such a backward society” and this could be in any direction. It could be, in a broad sense – the west looking at the east, or the east looking at the west, and not just east and west, any culture thinking about another culture – we often don’t see the whole picture. We are all humans, but there are all sorts of complicated reasons why we behave or live slightly differently.
We are all the same, but our contexts are different.
That’s it really. I could ramble on more, but I think I’ve said enough.
I wonder what your thoughts are, now that you’ve listened to this conversation. What reflections do you have?
I found it really interesting to talk to Tasha, and I just want to thank her again for telling us her stories, and for being willing to share her comments about her country. Also, congratulations to her! 2nd place is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
Right then. More competition runners up will appear on the podcast in due course.
Next up in the WISBOLEP series will be William from France. That will probably arrive in a couple of episodes’ time. I had a really nice conversation with him, which I think was just as insightful as the other WISBOLEP conversations we’ve had so far. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Tasha and the one with Walaa, then I think you’ll like hearing William’s story as well.
That’s coming up on the podcast soon.
I’m working on new content all the time, including new Premium episodes which will arrive in the LEP app before too long.
I’m curious to read your comments and responses to this conversation in light of the things I said in the introduction.
I would like to say again – if you have ANY questions about behaviour, customs or culture in the UK which you don’t understand or find frustrating – please write them in the comment section. I would be glad to try and answer your questions both in the comment section and potentially in a whole podcast episode.
Actually, I have done episodes about culture shock in the UK before, because I think, to be honest, I’ve probably heard all the comments, complaints, grumbles, gripes, questions and criticisms before – and so I have dealt with a lot of that stuff in previous episodes, but nevertheless I am very curious to see if I have any listeners who have experienced British culture shock. Ask me your questions and I will try my best to explain my country and my culture. This is my job, to an extent! So go ahead.
By the way, the specific episodes I did in the past about culture shock in England are episodes 192 and 193 – entitled “Culture Shock London” (focusing mainly on life in the capital city actually) and to give you an idea of the things I talked about in those episodes, here’s a little list. This is a list of some of the most common questions and complaints I have heard from foreign visitors in my country.
Questions / Complaints I have heard about London/The UK
Why do you have two separate taps in the bathroom rather than one single mixer tap? (This question has haunted me for many years actually)
Why don’t you have electrical sockets in the bathroom? I want to dry my hair with my hair dryer or use my hair straighteners but there’s no plug in the bathroom. How do British people manage this? How do you live like this??
Why is your food so plain and unhealthy?
Why is your weather quite miserable?
Why do you drive on the left? It’s like you do everything differently here.
Your trains are often late, delayed, overcrowded and too expensive. Why is this?
Why are there so many foreigners in London? I haven’t met a “real English person” yet.
Why are the houses and flats in London so old and draughty, with windows that don’t keep out the cold and yet the rent is so expensive?
Why don’t people talk to each other on the Underground, it’s like everyone’s ashamed or something, and it’s really hard to make friends with people. English people are so reserved. It’s like they’re impossible to make friends with.
Why don’t people carry umbrellas all the time, even when it’s raining?
The internet is too slow here.
You just don’t make any effort to speak other languages here. It’s just ENGLISH, and that’s it. Also, people don’t make any effort to help me when I’m trying my best to talk to them in their language.
Why oh why do the pubs close at 11PM!?? I’m just getting ready to go out at 11!
Why do you eat dinner so early?
Why do English people go to the pub after work and just drink and drink and drink, standing up, without eating. It’s not very civilised.
Cigarettes are ridiculously expensive.
When English people do the washing up (the dishes), they use too much soap and then don’t rinse the soap off when they’ve finished. That’s like leaving chemicals all over your plates.
Why do you have carpet everywhere – even in the toilet sometimes, that seems unhygienic.
Why don’t you take your shoes off when you enter a house? That’s like bringing the dirt from the street into your home!
The British have a weird sense of humour. “What is this? British humour?”
If those are some of the complaints or questions in your head, then you might want to listen to episodes 192 and 193 to hear my full responses.
But also, feel free to write new questions or indeed any responses you have in the comment section.
That’s pretty much it for this episode.
Cara’s chat with a Spanish friend attempting to adapt to life in the USA
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A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!
This podcast is made possible thanks to donations from lovely listeners (click a yellow PayPal button on the website if you’re feeling generous) and also the premium subscription, which costs, per month, slightly less than a pack of 80 Yorkshire Gold Teabags from Sainsbury’s. So if you would like to make sure I never run out of tea, then consider signing up.
There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.
Shall we start the episode? OK.
Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)
I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.
The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.
This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.
Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.
Explaining this episode’s title
The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.
The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!
It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.
What is “a tangent”? Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.
In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.
It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.
“To go off on a tangent”
There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.
I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.
Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.
My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.
What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.
So you’ll have to focus.
Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.
So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.
The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)
We talk about
Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state”
If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.
Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.
Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.
Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.
Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)
Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).
How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.
I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?
I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).
I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many. Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).
Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?
I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.
In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.
I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.
Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.
I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…
Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.
Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.
Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)
OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.
I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.
Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…
Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more.
Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵
LEP Premium Promo
Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.
Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681.
But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…
Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again!
This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English.
Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly”
Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good.
Feelgood stories of flirtingFlirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious.
Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly
And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.
Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex.
Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it.
Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris.
Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination.
For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit.
Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about:
As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers.
I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know.
Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea)
….I’m now pausing for laughter…
Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs.
You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris.
At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share.
Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more?
It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes.
The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?”
— I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you —
The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered.
She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men.
What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man?
Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.
Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note.
I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional.
I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen.
*There is some swearing*
To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
White vs Pale (to describe a person)
A sand castle
To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation.
But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat.
Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…
Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you.
Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions).
The One-Woman Comedy Show
“Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy.
www.facebook.com/marieconnollycomedy/Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”
Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)
Explaining the Vocabulary
Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode.
Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean?
Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version.
The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️
Still not sure about the meanings? Try using www.oxforddictionaries.com to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode.
What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters.
As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free].
Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP!
Right, I will let you go now.
Thank you for listening.
Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces.
I look forward to reading your comments on the website.
Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active.
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Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.