Hello folks! Here is the last of this 3 part series I’ve been doing about quintessentially British things. I’m assuming now that you’ve heard the previous parts of this series and you know what this is all about.
If you haven’t heard those yet, may I gently suggest that you listen to them first? There’s one with my brother and then one with my dad too.
Now it’s my mum’s turn and since she is such a bookworm – she works in a bookshop, is a member of a book club and is a voracious reader, the three things she has chosen are all novels – books about British characters going through typically British experiences, mostly in the early part of the 20th century.
So if you’re looking for some interesting books to read in English, check out these ones which are some of my mum’s favourites.
Have a look at the page for this episode on the website where you will find the names of all the books we mention plus some other references and bits & pieces.
Remember you can sign up to my mailing list on my website to receive an email notification whenever I release a new episode, and that contains a link which will take you straight to the relevant page for that episode.
Now, without any further ado let me allow you to enjoy the nice tones of my mum’s voice as she talks to you about her quintessentially British things.
J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country”
R. F. Delderfield “To Serve Them All My Days“
R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September”
Withnail & I
Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff
The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff
The previous episode with my mum about books.
The Withnail & I episode
So that was my mum and her three books. Let me say the titles again. There was “A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr, “To Serve Them All My Days” by R. F. Delderfield and ““The Forgnight in September” by R.C. Sheriff.
It’s sort of a funny coincidence that all the writers of these books have initials at the start – J.L. Carr, R.F. Delderfield, R.C. Sheriff.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed listening to that and that you learnt a thing or two about the effects of the world wars on British people, and also that you might consider reading one of those novels yourself.
What do you think of my mum talking about books on this podcast? We did several episodes before together in which we talked a bit about books.
Both of which dealt with things like my mum’s favourite podcast, some favourite people and different books she’s been reading.
What would you think of a fairly regular podcast series with my mum in which she talks about books she’s read. It could be called Mum’s Book Club. If you like the sound of that, let me know. I might be able to make it a regular feature, a bit like The Rick Thompson Report (and yes I need to make new one of them).
So would you like to hear more episodes of Mum’s Book Club? If so, let me know.
But that’s it for this episode. What did you think, overall, of this series? Did you learn anything about the UK? Did you get some good recommendations? Did you enjoy listening to my family? Let me know in the comment section.
I’ll speak to you again soon. Don’t forget to download the LEP App from the app store to get loads of bonus episodes, and consider signing up to my premium service to get regular monthly grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Find out more at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
But for now, all that remains to be said is, good bye!
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. This is your regular opportunity to practise your listening and develop your knowledge of British English culture.
This is episode 637 and this is the first of a three part series about Quintessentially British Things(that you might not know about).
You might be wondering what quintessential means.
It’s a word that’s often used in front of places, nationalities or cultures.
A quintessentially English summer
He’s the quintessential New Yorker
5 signs that you’re quintessentially Canadian
Quintessentially British or English is a common one. There are lots of articles and quizzes online to work out if you are quintessentially British and they all contain typical examples of Britishness, like cups of tea, Mr Bean, social awkwardness, the weather and so on.
So quintessential means a typical example of something. A thing which seems to be a perfect, unique example of something specific. Like for example a food which is uniquely British and is a great example of Britishness, like, what fish and chips maybe?
As I said there are plenty of articles about quintessentially British things online, but they always deal with the same tired old stereotypes of Englishness or Britishness that we’ve heard a million times and don’t always just apply to the UK.
For example this one, from BT
Let’s go through it quickly just to get all the usual stereotypes and cliches out of the way first.
But in this series of episodes I wanted to scratch below the surface of British culture a bit, and talk about some perhaps less known things. We all know about the cliches, but what if we go a bit deeper and hear from some English people about their favourite aspects of their culture, be it modern pop stuff, history, literature or geography.
So I decided to ask my Mum, my Dad and my brother to think of some typically British things for us to talk about on the podcast. So that’s what you’re going to get. Hopefully some revealing conversation about a diverse range of British cultural items, but also some good recommendations of other stuff that you can check out in your own time, which could help with your English.
Let’s get started then with this episode with James, my brother. This is quite a long one but stick with it. I asked him to choose 5 quintessentially British things. The next two episodes are shorter as we deal with just 3 things each. But this time it’s 5 and this is what happened, and you should know there is sporadic swearing throughout this conversation, so bear that in mind depending on who you are listening to this with. Check out the page for this episode on the website to see loads of videos and links for the 5 things we talk about.
James’ 5 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about)
1. Alan Moore
Writing, publishing, creating, the business of creating and selling books and magazines. Magic, art, politics, religion and the ethical complexity of superheroes in the real world.
2. Viz Comics
3. The Harrington Jacket
4. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
5. The Fast Show
There you go, plenty of stuff to check out including interviews with Alan Moore, Viz comics which you can get from the local shop if you’re in the UK, The Fast Show with some videos online, books by Jake Arnott,
All that remains to be said is thanks to James for appearing in another episode. The next one is going to be with my dad and he has picked 3 quintessentially British things, then my Mum will be on the podcast with her three choices.
Thanks as ever for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon!
638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad
639. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Mum
A conversation with English comedian BJ Fox, who performs stand-up in Japan and has his own TV show on NHK. Our conversation includes the story of how BJ managed to pitch the show to Japanese producers, how he learnt Japanese to a proficient level, doing stand-up in a different culture and much more.
Hi everyone, welcome back to the podcast. It’s lovely to be talking to you again. I hope the feeling is mutual.
Let me tell you about this episode. So, this one is a conversation with an English stand-up comedian, living in Japan. He goes by the name of BJ Fox and he’s doing really well over there. He’s one of the top comedians on the English language comedy scene in Tokyo (which is a relatively big scene in fact) he also performs stand-up in Japanese, which is really cool because it means that his Japanese must be really good – he makes audiences of Japanese people laugh a lot in his shows. He has also performed stand-up in lots of other countries, especially across Asia but also in the UK and now he has his own sitcom on Japanese TV – on NHK, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of the BBC. So, he’s got his own TV show.
Now this is quite an extraordinary achievement – to get your own sitcom on Japanese telly. BJ writes the show himself and also plays the main character. So, how did he manage this? How did he get his own TV show? I mean, a lot of people move to other countries, manage to learn the language and live quite successfully there, but not everyone ends up with their own TV show. Also, how did he learn Japanese to such a high level? What’s it like doing stand up in Japan? What’s his TV sitcom all about?
BJ has also worked in the video games industry, including time spent at the Pokemon company and at Rockstar Games. I don’t know if you know Rockstar Games. They’re the ones who produce the Grand Theft Auto series and also the Red Dead Redemption series, and in fact BJ was one of the people responsible for bringing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to the Japanese market.
I spoke to BJ over Skype recently and asked him about all these things.
Before we listen, I just want to mention that I have published a premium episode covering specific vocabulary from this conversation. I went through the recording, picked out lots of vocabulary and in the premium episode I explain it, demonstrate it and also drill it for pronunciation. Those of you who are premium subscribers will have access to that in the app and on the website. It’s Premium episode 18 (parts 1 & 2) and I think you’ll find that listening to that episode (either before or after you listen to this converstion) will really help you understand everything much better, it’ll help you notice and pick up certain phrases and to practise saying them with all the correct, natural pronunciation, and all of that is a great way to maximise your learning potential with an episode like this. That’s what my premium episodes are all about.
So check out Premium series 18 – which accompanies this episode. It’s already available in the app and on the website. To sign up to LEP Premium just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and the best way to listen to premium content is by using the Luke’s English Podcast App. If you have any questions, just send me an email through my website or through the app.
Right then, let’s meet BJ Fox and find out about his stand-up, his career, how he learned Japanese and what it’s like having his own sitcom on Japanese TV.
The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast– Stuart Goldsmith interviews some of the best comedians in the world in great depth and finds out exactly how they do their comedy.
That was BJ Fox then. I’d like to say thanks again to him for coming on the podcast. It was really interesting to talk to him.
I suggest that you have a look on the page for this episode on the website where you will find a clip from Home Sweet Tokyo, links to BJ’s website and also a link to The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, which is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in exactly how comedians do what they do – which is, basically, to make people laugh really hard until their faces hurt. It’s like actual magic, it’s amazing.
And don’t forget that I recently published a two-part Premium episode covering language from this conversation. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to LEP Premium in order to listen to that and maximise your English learning from this podcast. The episode covers vocabulary and pronunciation, so you can expand your range of English and sound more like a native speaker. Sign up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium .
I’ve also recently uploaded more little premium videos with pronunciation drills. They’re short videos in which I drill some sentences, you can see me saying the sentences, I highlight some features of pronunciation like sentence stress, weak forms and connected speech, you can see my mouth moving as I say them, you can copy me and also the target sentences are written on the screen with some features highlighted like the stress and the weak forms. Premium LEPsters – there’s a heads up. Check out the latest content – it’s there in the premium category in your app, and also online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium . There should be more content coming this month.
A bit of a ramble
Basically, it’s been great to get some nice feedback from listeners. The 2 episodes with James (Oasis, Do you ever…?) have had great responses. People really enjoyed them. I am lucky to have a brother who I get on with most of the time, and we make each other laugh a lot. I’m glad if that comes across on the podcast and that you can join in the laughter too.
The Emina episode – I’m very happy that lots of you found it inspiring and also that you found lots in common with her. I think it’s always interesting to speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, and to try to work out how they did it.
The Rick Thompson Report is always popular – people often say that this is how they get informed about Brexit. Even some of my friends who are native speakers of English listen to those episodes. The UK’s general election is due to happen on 12 December (Thursday) and I would like to record something about that after the results are in. My Dad will hopefully be up for it, but I can’t guarantee it. It depends if we find the right time to do it. December is shaping up to be an extremely busy month.
I haven’t finished the 3-part series about “88 Expressions that will confuse everyone” – the series about very British expressions and slang. I do plan to finish that. I promised you 88 expressions and so far I’ve given you 50. So I owe you another 28. Check out my maths!
Also, the episode about terrible jokes went down well, so I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. Basically, we’re going to keep on trucking here at LEPHQ. I say “we” – it’s mainly just me, isn’t it? With a little help from my friends and family of course, who join me as guests sometimes and of course the support I get from you my listeners in the form of donations (thank you thank you thank you if you’ve donated) and also just the fact that you are loyal listeners, that you recommend the podcast to your friends, leave glowing reviews on places like iTunes (LEP is simply sensational, there’s no other word for it). So thank you for the support.
Crazy strikes in France
Emmanuel Macron (the French president) is currently attempting to reform pension laws here. I don’t fully understand it, but because of this, a lot of workers across many sectors are protesting and going on strike at the moment and it looks like the strikes are going to continue throughout December, which could make life extremely difficult here. It already is, in fact. The main problem is transport, but this has some major knock on effects in other areas. Almost all the public transport is closed – The Metro, busses, train lines, trams, and in Paris that makes a huge difference because almost everyone relies on it to an extent. So this means that loads of other things are affected. Lots of people can’t get to work and it causes a lot of general chaos. For us the main problems are the creche and our travel plans at Christmas.
The daycare centre (creche) for our daughter could be closed for the next couple of weeks, so my wife and I will not be able to work like normal. We’ll have to stay at home with the little one. Now, I’m not complaining – it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with her and I can walk to school when I have lessons to teach. Also, I have some sympathy with the people who are on strike but this could seriously affect my podcast output this month because while I’m looking after my daughter I can’t really do anything else, including podcasting.
Update: Our daughter is being looked after for a few days by her grandparents, leaving us free to concentrate on work we need to do before Christmas. But it’s only for a few days – so I have to cram all my content creation into these next few days. So I will be locked in the Pod-Castle, making episodes as quickly as I can!
Luke – tell us what happened yesterday, as an example of the travel chaos gripping the city.
Also it could affect our travel plans to the UK for Christmas, so everything is up in the air at the moment. The main thing for you is that it might be difficult for me to prepare, record and upload all the content I’m planning for the next few weeks, and that includes the annual Christmas episode (which this year is going to be about Christmas jokes), perhaps one other free episode of the podcast which I haven’t worked out yet, maybe a Star Wars episode if I get to see Episode 9 when it is released here on 18 December, also I’m planning another premium audio series and more premium pronunciation videos. That’s quite a lot of content but I will be off on holiday during the Christmas period so I want to publish or prepare quite a lot of content before that, but I might not be able to do anything. We will see what happens and whether we can find childcare for the little one.
Anyway, let’s see how much I can get done in the time I have. It might just be that I have to do some late night or early morning podcasting, or perhaps no podcasting at all. We will see. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you get radio silence from LEP later this month.
But now it is time to wish you all a warm farewell until next time. Check out the LEP App if you don’t already have it, check out LEP Premium, sign up to the mailing list on the website, follow me on Twitter, have a look at the page for this episode for all your BJ Fox info and I will speak to you again soon I hope, but for now it’s just time to say GOODBYE!
My friend Emina Tuzovic has learned English to a proficient level as a non-native speaker of the language. She says it has been “a long journey”. Let’s find out all about that journey of English learning in this conversation, recorded in London just a couple of days ago.
Today on the podcast I am talking to my friend Emina Tuzovic, who is an English teacher.
For ages and ages I have been meaning to have Emina on this podcast for 3 main reasons:
1. Emina is absolutely lovely and it’s just nice to spend time talking with her, plus there’s plenty I’d like to find out from her that I’ve never really asked her before. That’s a benefit of the podcast, it gives me a chance to have in-depth conversations that often just don’t happen otherwise.
2. She is a non-native speaker of English who has learned the language to a proficient level – good enough to do a masters, a PhD, and to teach English at a very high level, to deliver workshops and seminars and just to live in the UK for a good length of time. So, she must have some valuable insights and experiences about learning English because she’s done it herself, but also about the cultural experience of moving to London and living there for what must be about 15 years at least I think.
3. She is a very well-qualified and experienced English teacher and so I am sure she has loads of insights into learning English from that point of view too, including certain areas of specialist knowledge as a result of her academic studies, including things like the challenges faced by native speakers of Arabic when they learn English. I’ve never talked about Arabic speakers of English on the podcast, so hello to all my Arabic speaking listeners (or should that be marhabaan.
As I said, it’s been quite hard to pin Emina down and interview her – mainly because our timetables are different, I live in Paris, she lives in London and she goes to bed so early in the evening. Thankfully the universe has finally allowed it to happen, here at the London School of English in Holland Park, London. This is where I used to work and where Emina still does work.
So the aim here is to have a long(ish) and natural conversation with Emina, touching on topics like learning English, cultural differences in the UK, teaching English and her academic studies in linguistics.
Listen to my mum talk about a social history project focusing on the lives of everyday people in the UK. Includes discussion of things like protests, plastic, identity, sex education, loneliness, and milk!
Hello everyone, this is LEP episode 608 and it’s called The Mass Observation (with Mum).
What’s that all about? You might be thinking. This sounds like some kind of Big Brother thing – like maybe the government observing everyone in some kind of dystopian future, and somehow my mum is involved in it.
Well, I’m afraid it’s far less dramatic than that.
In fact, the mass observation in the title is a social history project that has been going on in the UK, probably for 70 years or more. It’s a project that my mum has fairly recently got involved in.
Basically, the mass observation (now administered by the University of Sussex) aims to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of volunteer observers who either keep diaries or reply to open-ended questionnaires (known as directives). My mum is one of those volunteers and since this project is all about collecting information on everyday life in the UK we thought it might be an interesting episode of Luke’s English Podcast.
So that’s what you’re going to get here. A conversation with my mum on a variety of topics which have come up in the quarterly questionnaires from the Mass Observation.
So, you can expect some rambling conversation between the two of us on things like this:
identity and gender identity
sex education in school
loneliness and belonging
There’s also some chat at the start about Prince Harry & Meghan Markle, following on from the last time my mum was on the podcast when we talked about the royal wedding.
So now you can enjoy about an hour’s worth of my mum’s nice voice and accent talking about a variety of issues relating to everyday life in the UK.
I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back to talk a bit more on the other side of the conversation.
In terms of language learning, your task as ever is to just keep on listening. At the very least, that’s all you have to do here. Just listen, follow the conversation, see what you can learn from it and try to notice any features of English or vocabulary along the way. But the main thing, just enjoy this chat between my mum and me.
I hope you enjoyed that. I’d like to say a big thank you again to my mum for being on the podcast again, and to all members of my family who make a huge contribution every time they’re on.
So what’s up? Nearly the end of the summer holidays. We’re approaching the end of August.
I hope you’ve had a good summer.
Remember in July I mentioned a couple of times the LEP meetup that was happening in London? Well, I went to it and met about 25-30 LEPsters, had some drinks and conversation with them for a few hours, and what a pleasant experience that was!
In fact we recorded some samples of audio during the meetup, with everyone talking for a minute or two. I think I’ll be putting an episode together with that.
I’m coming to the LEPster meetup on Sunday 28 July 2019. See you there?
Where?The Fitzroy Tavern near Oxford Street & Tottenham Court Road. Full address is 16 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2LY. Put the postcode into your google maps app (or equivalent) and it should direct you there. When – 2PM on Sunday 28 July (that’s this coming Sunday) The hostis Zdenek Lukas – you’ll recognise him in the pub because he will be the guy with the board games. If you’re coming please just send Zdenek an email to let him know you’ll be there so he has an idea of how many people to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello listeners, how are you? Here is the second of a pair of episodes that I recorded a couple of weeks ago while I was on holiday with my family in England. That’s the same holiday during which I got the two flat tyres that you heard all about in the last episode.
During the holiday, my wife, our daughter, my parents and my brother all travelled down to the south coast of England, where we spent some time at the beach in places like Lyme Regis, Seaton, West Bay and other parts of the Jurassic Coast as it is called. Yes, the Jurassic Coast. Not Jurassic Park – no because that’s not a real holiday resort is it? it’s just a film you see. No, we spent a week on the Jurassic Coast.
What’s the Jurassic Coast? I hear you ask. Are there dinosaurs there?
Here’s a quick extract from Wikipedia which should explain.
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of about 96 miles, and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in mid-December 2001.
The site spans 185 million years of geological history, coastal erosion having exposed an almost continuous sequence of rock formation covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
At different times, this area has been desert, shallow tropical sea and marsh, and the fossilised remains of the various creatures that lived here have been preserved in the rocks.
Basically, there are loads of fossils to be found there, including dinosaurs.
But anyway, I digress there into pre-history. But speaking of ancient creatures, more recently, my family had an English coastal holiday on the Jurassic Coast. Yes, the weather was fantastic. Blue sky, sunshine, not too hot. Just right. While we were there James and I decided that it might be a good idea for us to record a podcast all about the English seaside experience.
What is it really like at the beach in England? What kind of beaches can you find there? What are the typical things that happen at the beach? What sort of things can you see and do there? What is the culture and history of the English seaside?
That is what we attempted to achieve in this episode. I say attempted, because it was actually quite difficult, mainly due to the conditions in which we recorded the conversation.
I recorded this in my parents’ living room, quite late at night after everyone else had gone to bed. We’d eaten a fairly heavy meal (my Mum is a great cook and so we always completely stuff our faces while staying with my parents). Also the holiday had been quite active with lots of sun and fresh air, and of course we had spent a long and tiring day on our unexpected road trip the day before.
As a result the “vibe” of the episode is quite sleepy and generally quite low energy.
In fact, James, who was sitting on the sofa, became steadily more horizontal as the recording went on. At one point he even lies down to continue podcasting in the foetal position with his eyes closed.
I can get quite frustrated and irritable sometimes while recording with James because I’m trying to produce nothing less than top top quality English podcast content for my international audience of listeners and I sometimes fear that his general sleepiness will be interpreted, by you, as a lack of enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t want that on the podcast would I?
So, at certain moments you’ll hear me getting quite angry and actually I very nearly gave up the recording at one point, but James assured me that he wasn’t about to fall asleep and that he would, at the very least, keep his eyes open in an effort to stay conscious while podcasting.
There is some strong language – that means swearing, and just other moments when I start having a go at James a bit, showing my irritation and trying to keep the energy up.
I could have edited those bits out, but I’ve chosen to keep them in because, having listened back to this recording, I actually think they’re quite funny and entertaining. After all, I want my podcast to be authentic and what’s more authentic than the sounds of genuine bickering between two brothers?
In any case, there are only a few moments of mild arguing and swearing, which is quite normal between James and me, but you know, we love each other really and as I said before I now only really want to express my gratitude to James for agreeing to be a guest on the podcast again, when he probably just wanted to go to bed.
So, anyway let’s begin. So come with us now as we enter my parents comfortable living room, late on a warm evening in July as James and I raid our dad’s drinks cabinet, share a glass of scotch whiskey together and attempt to explain the sights, sounds and perhaps smells of the English seaside, in all its glory…
Upmarket beach towns
Working class seaside resorts
Sticks of rock
Cockles and mussels
Fish and chips
Rude (and often very sexist) old English seaside postcards
A Punch & Judy Show (a modern version, with less violence! Yes, it’s pretty weird.)
Lyme Regis Picture GRAHAM HUNT HG12106
Waves in the sand, Norfolk
If we missed anything – let us know in the comment section.
So there you have it – we managed to talk about the English seaside while maintaining consciousness throughout!
I’d like to thank James again for his participation and for not falling asleep at any point.
Listening back to that, I didn’t sound like I was frustrated at all, right? I thought I’d got more angry and irritated than that, but all-in-all it was a nice one, wasn’t it?
I hope you liked it and that it gave you a flavour of what it’s like to visit the beach in England.
Have a look at the page for this episode on the website. You’ll find some visuals there and also a transcript for the intro and this ending bit.
Just a reminder before we go – there is a LEPster meetup happening in London this coming Sunday (28th July 2019) from 2PM at the Fitzroy Tavern near Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road – the postcode for your google maps app (or equivalent) is W1T 2LY
Full Address: 16 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY
And yes, I can confirm that I will be coming too, probably with James himself and a couple of friends of ours.
If you’re coming, let the meetup host know. That’s Zdenek. You can email him at email@example.com just to let him know. If you’re wondering which one he is – he’ll be the guy with the board games.
Hope to see you there. I might only be able to stay for a little bit – perhaps an hour or so, but it would be good to meet you and we can chat in English a bit, perhaps have a drink, maybe play a board game… we will see.
Also, Premium subscribers – I am working on some material for you which will arrive soon. That’s going to contain the usual language teaching to help you improve your vocab, grammar and pronunciation.
If you’re interested in becoming a Premium subscriber go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium and you can sign up there, then use your login details to sign into the LEP app to listen to the premium episodes. You can also check your subscription details by logging into your account from a computer – just go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium, click the three lines in the top left corner and then log in. Also, any technical support issues that you have – email firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you mention that you are a subscriber to teacherluke’s premium content. Teacherluke is the name you’ll need to use to make sure they know which service it is.
OK then, so, until next time I shall bid ye farewell in the usual way by saying “Goodbye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye!”
Hello, you’re listening to episode 591, which is called London Native Speaker Interviews Revisited Part 1.
The plan in this episode is to revisit some videos I recorded 10 years ago…
We’re going to listen to the audio from one of those videos and break it all down in order to help you understand everything word for word, teaching you some lovely, descriptive and idiomatic vocabulary in the process.
This episode is a bit of a flashback to 10 years ago when I first started doing the podcast.
What happened 10 years ago Luke, in 2009?
Ooh, all sorts of things happened, but one of them was that I went into central London armed with my video camera, an Oyster card and a question to ask some members of the public: What is London really like?
What is London like? = tell me about London, describe London
I interviewed people in the street and edited the footage into a series of 5 videos which I published on YouTube, and the videos actually did very well! Part 1 now has 1.6 million views. Part 2 has 1 million.
You might be thinking – are you rich because of those videos? Nope. Not at all. I didn’t monetise them until after they’d got most of their views, or I couldn’t monetise them because of some background music. Anyway, that’s another story for another time – how YouTubers make or don’t make money from their videos.
I also published the videos and their audio tracks as episodes of this podcast in 2009. Some of you will have heard them and seen those videos.
I thought that this time it would be interesting to revisit those videos on the podcast because there’s loads of English to learn from them. When I published them on the podcast in 2009 I just published them with no commentary from me. It was just the video/audio with transcripts on the website.
But this time I’m not just going to play them again. Instead I’m going to go through the audio from the first video and kind of break it down bit by bit, explaining bits of vocabulary and generally commenting on things as we go. This is going to be a bit like one of those director’s commentary tracks that you get on DVDs, but the focus is mainly going to be on highlighting certain items of vocabulary and bits of pronunciation/accent that come up in the videos.
*Luke mentions his Avengers Endgame Spoiler Review, which you can listen to in the LEP App (in the App-only episodes category).*
If you want to watch the original video that I’m talking about here, you’ll find it embedded on the page for this episode on my website (A script is also available), it’s also in the LEP App (with a script in the notes) which you can download free from the app store on your phone – just search for Luke’s English Podcast App and you can just find it on my YouTube channel, which is Luke’s English Podcast on YouTube. The video is called London Native Speaker Interviews Part 1, or maybe London Video Interviews Part 1 (website), London Interviews Part 1 in the app.
So, let’s now travel back in time to 2009 and revisit Native English Speaker Interviews Part 1.
The theme of the videos is London – what’s it really like to live there? What are the good and bad things about living there?
So there’s a lot of descriptive vocabulary for describing cities and life in cities.
What’s London really like?
This question: “What is it like?” means “tell me about it” or “how is it?”. It does not mean: “What do you like about London?”
e.g. What is London like? – it’s busy
What do you like about it? – I like the theatres
It’s gone to the dogs = everything is much worse now than it was before
grimy = dirty
to recharge your batteries = to give yourself some energy, by doing something pleasant and stimulating
to shout someone down = to disagree with someone loudly in order to stop them talking
to take advantage of something = to use something good which is available to you
commuting = travelling from home to work every day
In the last episode you heard me talking to Amber and Paul. I hope you enjoyed that. It was lots of fun. I recorded it last week and after doing that mammoth episode about poshness Amber had to go but Paul stayed and so I thought we would return to the topic of the British citizenship test. We talked about this last time in episode 527 when Paul took the test on the podcast and failed.
I still had some other bits and pieces that I wanted to cover in the episode, including a stand up routine about the citizenship test and also an article in The Telegraph. Both of those things include their own citizenship tests, so let’s see if Paul can pass them. Be prepared to be either shocked or amazed by Paul’s knowledge about British things in general. Also we end up taking a citizenship test for the USA and to see if we pass or not, just keep listening.
So this episode is a chance for you to listen to Paul and me in conversation, but there’s also loads of stuff to learn in terms of British culture and certain words which are often pronounced wrong by native speakers of British English.
Check the page for this episode, where you will find links to the various tests and videos we’re talking about.
Let’s now join Paul and me after we’d just finished a cup of tea, ready to talk more on the podcast and let’s see how much he and you know about British life, culture and language.
Videos & Links
Imran Yusuf’s British Citizenship Test
The Daily Telegraph’s British Citizenship Test for Meghan Markle
Amber & Paul join me to talk again about poshness, posh accents and posh celebrities. This episode is full of different British accents – posh, RP and regional differences. It’s also full of comedy and I found myself laughing out loud while editing this, especially the interview with the football player that Paul tells us about. I hope you enjoy it.
Luke rambles about folding seats on public transport, the spring equinox, saying goodbye to winter and the recent posh or not posh episodes.
Here’s another British comedy episode.
We’re going to listen to a comedy sketch by Monty Python.
This time we’re looking at British manners, politeness, communication style and just some madcap comedy too.
Similar episodes in the past have been things like my episode about British communication style (What Brits Say vs What They Mean), What is this British comedy? How to learn English with comedy TV series, and the episodes I’ve done about Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
We’re going to listen to a clip from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and also consider the cultural values behind the sketch, and how that relates to things like making complaints, saying sorry and making requests.
There’s quite a well-known series of postcards called the How to be British Collection. You might have seen them. They contain little cartoons illustrating life in England from the point of view of learners of English. There are some classic sketches in that collection.
One of them is called “Lesson 16 – How to complain”.
It shows a couple in a restaurant, in England we imagine. They don’t look happy with the food. The man says “This meat is as tough as old boots” and the woman says “It tastes off. And these vegetables are cold.” (some nice vocab in there already)
In the next frame the man says “this wine is awful – I asked for dry and they’ve given us sweet.” and she says “and look, there’s a worm in my side salad…”
Ah, a typical English restaurant.
Then the waiter comes over and says “How is your meal? Is everything all right?”
Now, what would you say in that situation? How would you respond? Would you complain? How would you do it?
Well, in the sketch, after the waiter says “Is everything all right?” the man says “Oh yes. It’s all lovely!” and the woman says “Excellent, thank you!”
The point here is that British or English people avoid saying the bad thing, making the complaint, because they’re too polite and don’t like to cause a problem, so they say it’s all fine.
Is this a stereotype of English communication style? Partly. As we’ve seen before.
What would I say?
I would say that the food was no good, especially the part about the worm. Obviously those extreme details are added for comic effect, like a worm in the salad. But if my food was just not up to scratch, would I complain? I probably wouldn’t complain if it was something minor, but a big thing would be an issue, but what’s definitely true is that I don’t like getting into a situation of conflict or confrontation and so I would probably be very reasonable about my complaint. My wife is more direct about these things. She’s French. We often notice a big difference in the way we deal with things like this. She’s much more direct about making a complaint and getting what she feels she is entitled to. For some reason it’s more difficult for me. I don’t like getting into those confrontations. Is this just me, or is this British people in general? I think it’s a bit of both. I’m perhaps not the confrontational kind, but also Brits are like that too, more than other nations, as far as I can tell.
Of course there are plenty of British people who complain vociferously if there’s a problem, a lot of Brits (certainly English people) will avoid an awkward situation if they feel that nothing can be done about it.
Why do people want to avoid confrontation? What’s the worst that could happen?
Let’s find out in this sketch.
The Dirty Fork Sketch
Listen to the sketch – just try to understand what’s going on. It’ll help if you watch the video because there are a couple of visual elements, but if you don’t watch it – just try to work out the details. Essentially, you’ll hear a couple in a French restaurant. They have a problem, and then they are visited at the table by various members of the restaurant staff including the waiter, the head waiter, the manager and finally the chef from the kitchen.
Let’s listen to it and see if you can work out what’s going on. Then I’ll break it down for you so you understand it just like a native speaker.
Bonus: Watch out for the punchline at the end.
Summary A man and woman are in a fancy restaurant. The French waiter is very keen to make their stay satisfying. The man asks for another fork because his is a little bit dirty. The reaction of the waiter is extreme. he apologises profusely. He fetches the head waiter who comes to apologise. He makes over the top apologies. The restaurant manager comes out and his apology is serious and dramatic. Finally the chef comes out. He’s a huge angry man with a meat cleaver. He’s furious with the customers because they made a complaint which has caused so much sorrow to the staff of the restaurant. He shouts revenge as he tries to kill them.
“Lucky I didn’t tell them about the dirty knife!”
The main point is I think this sketch is making fun of people who keep quiet about little complaints or use language to minimise problems, because they’re scared about making a fuss. This seems to be what they imagine could happen if they point out a problem. This is the worst nightmare of every British person who awkwardly makes a complaint. They’re terrified of making a fuss or causing a scene.
It’s not “I’ve got a dirty fork”, it’s “I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork”.
It’s ridiculous really – either you’ve got a fork or not. You can’t have a bit of a fork. Your fork can be a bit dirty, but it’s a bit silly to say “I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork”. However, this kind of minimising language is very common when people want to make something sound less serious than it is.
E.g. 1 “We’ve got a bit of a dirty table. Could you give it a bit of a wipe for us please?”
E.g. 2 Imagine someone announcing to someone that there’s been an accident, but they’re trying to minimise the seriousness of it because for some reason they’re embarrassed about it or they want to reduce the shock.
“Can I have a bit of a chat with you. Just a bit of a chat. It’s no big deal, it’ll just take a second.
It’s just that we might have had a little bit of a problem downstairs. There’s justsort of been a little bit of an explosion in the kitchen. Just tinylittle bang really – more of a pop really, just a tiny little pop – you’d hardly notice it really. I heard it though and thought “Did I imagine that? Did someone just pop a balloon, or fart or something?” and then I picked myself off the ground and had a look downstairs and, yeah, the restaurant is a bit err, it’s a bit scratched and there’s a slight hole in the wall, and in the ceiling and a few puffs of smoke. At first I thought – “oh is that the chef having a cigarette out the back? I thought he’d given up!” But no it wasn’t him – I guess he won’t be smoking again in a hurry! Can you speak to him? Well, he’s a bit tied up at the moment, no he can’t come to the phone he’s… just resting. I think he fainted or just fell over after the thing, the thing that happened in the kitchen, and his head might have fallen off slightly and he might have lost a couple of other limbs in the confusion but anyway, no need to worry too much, it’s basically under control more or less, I just thought you might , want to pop down to the kitchen to have a look and maybe call an ambulance. Yeah, I would but I’ve lost my legs and I’m feeling a bit sleepy so I’m going to have a bit of a lie down, but I thought you might like to know… OK?
So, it’s always “A slight problem” or “A bit of a problem”.
Go through the paragraph again and highlight the minimising language.
Back to the comedy sketch…
This sketch is making fun of our culture I think – the way we are afraid of causing a fuss. Also it makes fun of the over-the-top way that fancy restaurants might apologise for small problems. They’re so keen to welcome and satisfy their customers. The sketch also gets completely carried away, especially when John Cleese’s “Mungo” comes out.
To an extent it’s a little bit pointless analysing Monty Python’s comedy because they make fun of absolutely everything, but I feel that they’re definitely poking fun at stuffy, polite culture.
Why do people minimise negative things? They want it to sound less serious. They don’t want to make someone feel they’re complaining. They want to show that it’s no problem – but why would it be a problem?
If you had a dirty fork you’d just say – “Excuse me, can I have another fork please? This one’s a bit dirty” the waiter is not going to be mortified. He’ll just get you another fork. This sketch represent’s the customer’s worst fear – that there will be a problem or a fuss.
“We don’t want to cause a fuss! Don’t make a scene!”
Now let’s go through the sketch again and understand it in detail.
RESTAURANT SKETCH: COMPLETE SCRIPT
It’s nice here, isn’t it?
Oh, (It’s a) very good restaurant, three stars you know.
Good evening, sir! Good evening, madam! And may I say what a pleasure it is to see you here again, sir!
Oh thank you. Well there you are dear. Have a look there, anything you like. The boeuf en croute is fantastic.
Oh if I may suggest, sir … the pheasant à la reine, the sauce is one of the chef’s most famous creations.
Em… that sounds good. Anyway just have a look… take your time. Oh, er by the way – I’ve got a bit of a dirty fork, could you … er.. get me another one?
I beg your pardon.
Oh it’s nothing … er, I’ve got a fork, (it’s) a little bit dirty. Could you get me another one? Thank you.
Oh … sir, I do apologize.
Oh, no need to apologize, it doesn’t worry me.
Oh no, no, no, I do apologize. I will fetch the head waiter immediatement. (immediately – in French)
Oh, there’s no need to do that!
Oh, no no… I’m sure the head waiter, he will want to apologize to you himself. I will fetch him at once.
Well, you certainly get good service here.
They really look after you… yes.
Excuse me monsieur and madame. (examines the fork) It’s filthy, Gaston … find out who washed this up, and give them their cards immediately.
Oh, no, no.
Better still, we can’t afford to take any chances, sack the entire washing-up staff.
No, look I don’t want to make any trouble.
Oh, no please, no trouble. It’s quite right that you should point these kind of things out. Gaston, tell the manager what has happened immediately! (The Waiter runs off)
Oh, no I don’t want to cause any fuss.
Please, it’s no fuss. I quite simply wish to ensure that nothing interferes with your complete enjoyment of the meal.
Oh I’m sure it won’t, it was only a dirty fork.
I know. And I’m sorry, bitterly sorry, but I know that… no apology I can make can alter the fact that in our restaurant you have been given a dirty, filthy, smelly piece of cutlery…
It wasn’t smelly.
It was smelly, and obscene and disgusting and I hate it, I hate it ,.. nasty, grubby, dirty, mangy, scrubby little fork. Oh … oh . . . oh . . . (runs off in a passion as the manager comes to the table)
Good evening, sir, good evening, madam. I am the manager. I’ve only just heard . .. may I sit down?
Yes, of course.
I want to apologize, humbly, deeply, and sincerely about the fork.
Oh please, it’s only a tiny bit… I couldn’t see it.
Ah you’re good kind fine people, for saying that, but I can see it.., to me it’s like a mountain, a vast bowl of pus.
It’s not as bad as that.
It gets me here. I can’t give you any excuses for it – there are no excuses. I’ve been meaning to spend more time in the restaurant recently, but I haven’t been too well… (emotionally) things aren’t going very well back there. The poor cook’s son has been put away again, and poor old Mrs Dalrymple who does the washing up can hardly move her poor fingers, and then there’s Gilberto’s war wound – but they’re good people, and they’re kind people, and together we were beginning to get over this dark patch … there was light at the end of the tunnel . .. now this . .. now this…
Can I get you some water?
(in tears) It’s the end of the road!!
The cook comes in; he is very big and has a meat cleaver.
(shouting) You bastards! You vicious, heartless bastards! Look what you’ve done to him! He’s worked his fingers to the bone to make this place what it is, and you come in with your petty feeble quibbling and you grind him into the dirt, this fine, honourable man, whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Oh… it makes me mad… mad! (slams cleaver into the table)
The head waiter comes in and tries to restrain him.
Easy, Mungo, easy… Mungo… (clutches his head in agony) the war wound!… the wound… the wound…
This is the end! The end! Aaargh!! (stabs himself with the fork)