Category Archives: Culture

670. Language Learning with James Harris

Talking to writer and comedian James Harris about life as a writer, going to Oxford Uni, being an international Brit and learning German, French and Chinese as an adult.

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Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing fine on this particular day. This episode features a conversation, recorded a couple of weeks ago now, with a comedian and writer from the UK about various things, as you’ll see. Your task is to follow along and see what you can pick up and what bits of language learning wisdom you can glean from this conversation.

I don’t really know James that well. I’ve only actually met him once in fact.

He’s a comedian and a writer, he speaks several languages and his twitter feed is good value. He tweets about politics, learning languages, the issues of the day, comedy and various other things. We share a mutual friend – that’s Dharmander Singh from Birmingham, who I used to be in a band with and who is now a stand up comedian in Berlin. The time I met James was in Berlin when I was there on holiday, and I did some stand up on the same show as him.

So why have I invited him on the podcast? Well, it’s mainly because of Twitter. As I said his Twitter feed is interesting. He takes a moderate and balanced view of things, and his interests are pretty wide-ranging, including the fact that he’s very international. He’s married to a Chinese girl, he’s lived abroad, he used to work as a tour guide in several countries, he used to be an English teacher like me, he speaks very good German and French, he’s working on his Chinese, he works as a translator and he’s generally an articulate and interesting guy and so I just thought that he could be worth talking on the podcast.

The language learning thing is obviously very appropriate and I’m always interested in finding out as much as possible about how someone has learned a second language to a very decent level in adulthood, and that is something that we talk about for at least 50% of this conversation. The first half of our chat is basically me getting to know James properly, talking about his work, his studies, his experiences of going to Oxford University, why he chose to move to Germany, being married to a Chinese girl. Then we get into the details of how he learned German mainly, but also French and now how he’s working on his Chinese.

No need to say much more except that I hope you manage to follow the conversation clearly all the way through. Let me know how it was for you and I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation, probably with some background music going over the top.



Thank you to James for being on the podcast today. Look him up online to read some of his stuff, follow him on social media and help him out by keeping him fuelled up on coffee.

Follow James on Twitter @JamesHarrisNow
Writing, Mini Screenplays shoeleatherexpress.org/
BUY A COFFEE FOR JAMES HARRIS t.co/8AAQ6P33wJ?amp=1

So, how are you listeners?

Did you pick up any useful nuggets from that conversation? I think there was some pretty good advice there especially the stuff about reading and noting down certain words, being a bit rigorous about your studying and believing that you can do it, really helps.

666. [Part 3] Favourite Scary Films (with James)

James and Luke talk about some of their favourite scary films, and more. This is the 3rd and final part of episode 666.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back to Episode 666 of LEP in which my brother James and I are talking about scary and evil things. In the first two parts we talked about the number 666, the devil in music, Black Sabbath, and then in part 2 we described some genuinely frightening experiences that we’ve had in our lives. I’m glad to say that more comments have arrived. It’s good to see that people have been enjoying this series.

In this third and final part the plan is to talk about scary films, including the first scary films we ever saw, why people enjoy watching scary films, and then some descriptions of our favourite scary films. I’m sure that not all of you are into films like this, but I hope you can still enjoy listening to us describing them and talking about the effect they had on us when we saw them.

I’ve been thinking. Will you be able to identify the films that we are talking about? I expect that some of these films have different titles in your language. It’s quite important that you know which films they are, even if you haven’t seen them.

You might want to check them out quickly before you listen in order to identify them. You don’t have to watch them all. I just want to be sure that you know which ones we’re actually talking about.

In fact, I’ll give you the English titles now and very brief one-line descriptions (and you’ll see all these titles listed on the page if you want to know the spelling or whatever) so you can hopefully work out which films these are, or you can google them yourself,  see if you recognise them and see what they are called in your country.

So here are the films which we mention during this conversation. 

Do you know which ones they are? Do they have different titles in your language?

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
One of the original horror/slasher films from 1974 about a group of hippies who go on a road trip that ends badly when they get attacked by a weird family of cannibals in Texas, one of whom wields a chainsaw.

Children of the Corn
(1984) Not a very widely known film, to be honest. Adapted from a Stephen King short story of the same name. The plot of the film is described by IMDB as “A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believes that everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.” It stars Linda Hamilton who plays Sarah Connor in The Terminator films.

Jaws
The 1975 Stephen Spielberg film about a shark. It’s an absolute classic and the most famous film about a shark, ever.

The Thing
1982, John Carpenter director, Kurt Russel star. IMDB: A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. It was pointlessly remade a few years ago. The 1982 version is definitely the best one. Amazing and disturbing visual effects.

Alien
1979, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Sigourney Weaver. The one with the xenomorphs, face huggers and stuff. It spawned a whole franchise with sequels including the more recent ones Prometheus and Alien: Something. (I did a whole podcast episode about that actually) Alien: Covenant (Alien: Covent Garden would have been a much better film).

Evil Dead 2
1987, directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell. IMBD: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits hides in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.

Ghostbusters
1984 Dir: Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray – Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

Those are the main films we talk about then. I hope you know which ones we mean.

As well as the talk of films, there are a couple of other topics in this episode, including a story that James felt compelled to share with us, from the business world of skateboarding about a skateboard with a famously controversial illustration on it – a picture of satan in hell, being evil. A skateboard with a dangerous design, basically. The story is about the power of superstition, I think.

We also have a go at some armchair philosophy at the end as we consider the idea of whether humans have free will or not, and how this might affect the existence of evil in the world, and whether the existence of the devil can somehow confirm one’s faith in the existence of god. If humans do bad things, is that because they are evil, or is there a more rational explanation for why people do bad things? Big questions which we’re not really qualified to answer, but we have a stab at it.

Also there’s the legendary story of blues guitarist Robert Johnson from the 1930s who, legend has it, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in return for amazing guitar playing technique and a mastery of the blues. The question is: for what price would you sell your soul to the devil?

That’s an overview of what’s coming up. 

I gave a warning at the start of part 1 of this that you would hear some weird and frightening sounds at some moments during the episode. 

I’d like to say that again now “You will hear some weird and frightening sounds at some moments in this episode”, because we play some audio from some of those horror films, and of course they contain some frightening noises. So be ready to hear some banging or crashing sounds, some scratching and scraping sounds, ominous voices, the sound of a chainsaw, some screaming, and other disturbing noises. OK? 

Apologies again for James’ microphone cutting out a bit during this episode. I hope it’s not too distracting for you.

So, if you are ready and prepared – mentally, physically and spiritually, and not feeling too sensitive, let’s continue with the final part of episode 666. 

And here we go…


Ending

So there you are that is the end of part 3, the last part of this series. I hope you’re not too traumatised by all this!

There is also some bonus audio for this episode in the app. Open the app, find this episode, tap the episode in the list and then tap the little gift icon to access the bonus audio. You’ll hear me describing and reacting to a creepy scene from an old black and white film called The Innocents. James wanted to show me this scene and wanted me to react to it, describing what I was seeing. So if you like you can listen and hear my descriptions, and you can watch the scene for yourself too. I’ll put the video of that scene on the website, and I think I’ll also make that bonus audio available on the website too. 

So, that’s the bonus audio in the app and also on the website.

Check out the page for this episode to see a few select film clips and other bits and pieces.

As ever, we look forward to reading your comments on the episode page. Perhaps you could tell us what you thought of this series. Are there any scary films you’d like to mention? What’s the first scary film you remember seeing? Why do people choose to watch scary films?

This really is the end now. Thank you for listening. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy and be excellent to each other.

Bye bye bye bye bye…


Video Clips

Quint describes the USS Indianapolis shark incident (Jaws)

Quint gets eaten by the shark (Jaws)

BONUS AUDIO

Luke sees a scene from The Innocents (1961) for the first time, and describes it.
You can watch the scene below.

660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English

Lots of practical advice and comments about how you can use films and TV series to work on your English. This episode is a recap of some advice in episode 523 with Cara Leopold. Transcript available below.

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Transcript starts here (95% complete)

Have you heard the last episode of this podcast (#659)? I spoke to Cara Leopold about being stuck indoors during the lockdown. Cara is an English teacher who likes to help her students to improve their English with TV series and films and we know that because of the lockdown, loads of people at the moment are watching more TV and films on platforms like Netflix and are probably thinking about how to use those things to learn English. 

Cara and I talked about that a bit near the end of the last episode, and we also did a whole episode about it a couple of years ago. That was episode 523, called Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows.

I mentioned before that I would sum up the main bits of advice that Cara and I gave in that episode. 

So here we are, that’s what I’m going to do now – I’m going to consolidate some advice for learning English with TV series and films. 

Then, when I’ve done that I’ll give you some personal recommendations for British TV shows and films that you can watch on Netflix. 

Learning English with Films & TV – Summary of Advice Given in Ep.523 + more comments

Time and time again we have heard this advice – “Want to improve your English? Just watch TV series and films in English with English subtitles!” 

It seems that people assume that you should just watch TV series in English with English subtitles and you’ll learn English magically as a consequence. People say it all the time, and I do think there is some truth in this. Watching lots of content in English is definitely a good idea, although of course that might not be enough on its own. There are plenty of other things you need to do, including regular speaking practice, writing, plenty of reading, using a systematic approach to learning vocabulary, taking time to understand how grammar works.

I suppose the thing is, there are two approaches that seem to be important in learning a language. One approach involves absorbing loads of English just through reading and listening. This is exposure, or immersion or comprehensible input – whatever you want to call it. You have to see and hear the language a lot if you want to be able to use it properly. 

This is input. It is really important to get loads of English into your everyday life. You must regularly connect with English, get exposure to English and immerse yourself in English and binging on TV series is probably a pretty good and usually fun way to do that. 

Personally I would say that podcasts are the best way, but whatever floats your boat. Ultimately it’s about finding the thing you really want to do. Obviously if you are a regular listener to my podcast then you might agree with me. But if TV shows and films are your thing then go for it. 

The point there is you can get loads of English input from TV series and films in English and there are so many amazing shows and films available to us now. It’s amazing. We are spoiled for choice. Anyway – input is important.

Added to that is the importance of using the language regularly in order to communicate. This is output. So this means doing loads of speaking practice and writing practice in order to develop your ability to express yourself, find your voice, develop genuine fluency without just translating everything in your head. So, plenty of input and output. 

I’m being quite general here but anyway, the point is → you’ve got to spend lots of time with the language in both receptive and productive ways.

Then the other approach is to be more systematic and disciplined – examining the language in some way, understanding how the English language is structured both in terms of grammar but also in terms of pronunciation so that you know how English is not only written but also produced orally, how it sounds when people actually speak it which helps you understand native speakers and also how to speak fluently yourself. It also involves using monolingual dictionaries to expand your vocab and investigate words, doing controlled practice for grammar and pronunciation and finding ways to remember vocabulary.

And throughout all of that you need to maintain your motivation, because enjoying the whole process is vital. If you’re motivated, you’re likely to do more, spend more time on the language, remember more things and generally get into a more positive and confident frame of mind about your relationship with English.

Using TV and films seems to fulfil the first category to some extent (input) because it allows you to immerse yourself in English, spend lots of time absorbing the language and it should be motivating because watching TV and films should be enjoyable. 

It’s also worth stating that learning English doesn’t have to be a chore. It doesn’t have to be a boring thing that you’re forced to do by other people, like teachers or parents. I suppose people often say “Just watch Netflix in English with English subtitles” and this feels like good news because it means “this doesn’t have to be boring homework! It can be enjoyable if you give it a chance”. So, getting addicted to a TV show in English is a good thing for your English. 

But is it just a case of just sitting back and watching all the episodes of Peaky Blinders or any other show that you’re into? What about the other things I just mentioned like speaking practice, writing, pronunciation, studying grammar and vocabulary? Well, it is possible to use TV and films in a more active way in order to achieve some of those things too if you’re willing to do more than just sit back and watch.

So here are some bits of advice which did come up in my conversation with Cara in episode 529 but given again and with a few other comments from me. 

  • Watching to learn English and watching just for pleasure are two different things. Watching in order to learn English might involve thinking outside the box and doing things a bit differently.
  • Using TV and films for learning English is not just a simple or easy way to learn, despite what people say “Just watch stuff in English and bingo you’ll be a native speaker!” It’s not that simple. 
  • In your first language you might just switch on a film or show and then kind of veg out while watching it – without really concentrating. This probably won’t work in English. Be prepared to focus and perhaps be more active while watching, often that mainly involves using the English subtitles, which are a real advantage.
  • I do recommend choosing content that gives you the option to have English subtitles. Watching with subtitles in your language can be useful because you can see how things are being translated and you can compare your language with the English you’re hearing, but generally speaking it’s best to operate only in English so I’d recommend that you forget about subtitles in your language, or watching something in your language with English subtitles. Do everything in English. So, put the audio in English and the subtitles in English too.
  • “So, should I always watch with the English subtitles on?” There are no hard and fast rules about using subtitles. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
  • Using English subtitles can help you understand what you’re hearing, especially when you realise that spoken English and written English can be very different. Subtitles can help bridge the gap between how words and sentences sound, and how they are written. You might hear something and then read the subtitles and kind of go “Ooooh that’s what she said! Ahhhh! That’s it then!” which is a great moment in language learning → that kind of “Oh it’s THAT?” moment when you realise something. But watch out because sometimes the subtitles are slightly different to the speech you’re hearing, because they might have to use fewer words than were spoken in order to actually fit them on the screen. But that only happens occasionally. So, an advantage of subtitles is that they help you bridge the gap between what language sounds like and what it looks like. When you listen without subtitles, you will no-doubt miss a lot of what is being said, without realising you’re missing it. 
  • But be aware that if you only ever watch with subtitles you might not develop real listening skills, because you’re basically just reading while you watch and as we know, in the real world, you don’t get subtitles appearing in the air when people speak, unfortunately (well, yet. I expect eventually you’ll be able to get augmented reality glasses or perhaps some kind of biotech which lets you see simultaneous automatic subtitles when people talk, but not yet… that does sound like something out of an episode of Black Mirror…) Anyway, the point is, there are pros and cons of subtitles and no subtitles so you should have both. Experiment with switching the subtitles on and off while you are watching in order to try to get the best of both worlds.
  • Watch stuff more than once. You can watch a film or show several times, especially if you enjoy it or already know it. Some films improve with multiple viewings. So, try watching certain films several times, perhaps first with subtitles in your language, then subtitles in English and then in English with no subtitles at all. You will be surprised at how much more you notice, understand and remember after watching things numerous times. You will probably appreciate the show or film on a new level too, if you do this. There’s nothing wrong or weird about watching more than once. Like I said – think outside the box a bit. 
  • If you’re watching a TV show you can alternate between watching episodes with and without subtitles. Perhaps do one episode with subtitles, then the next one without. If you just can’t understand episodes without subtitles, try watching the episode with subtitles first then watch again without subtitles. Again, don’t worry, that’s not a weird thing to do, it’s fine – because I say so. And anyway, like I said before if it is a genuinely good show, you might appreciate it even more the second time you watch it and this can actually raise the quality of your listening practice. There are no rules here. Watching episodes several times is normal and useful.
  • So, we’ve talked about watching films several times, watching episodes several times, but you don’t have to watch the entire thing again from the start. You could just do it with certain scenes. Watch certain scenes several times, with and without the subtitles.
  • Test yourself on what you heard and check with the subtitles. You could try watching a scene, then trying to explain what just happened, and what people said. Then watch again with the subtitles in order to check. When you explain what you saw, you can do it out loud, with a friend, or just in writing. 
  • You could keep a sort of viewing diary for films or series. Write down little summaries of scenes, episodes or perhaps whole films (although it’s probably best to do it in smaller chunks) then review the scene you’ve written about by checking with subtitles, and re-write your summary if necessary. This is a good way to flip listening practise into productive practise. Remember, it is worth writing in English even if nobody else reads it. It’s just a good idea to practise producing English regularly. Of course it would be better if you had a language partner, coach or teacher who could check your writing and correct errors. Consider finding one on italki – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk – but doing it on your own is still a good idea.
  • Search for certain new bits of vocabulary when they come up – using monolingual dictionaries. I recommend using online dictionaries like collinsdictionary.com macmillandicionary.com dictionary.cambridge.org Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online www.ldoceonline.com/ or www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ They’re all decent dictionaries and you can check words and phrases, see examples and crucially hear how the words are pronounced. It’s worth taking a bit of time to get familiar with how these online dictionaries present information to you. It can pay off massively in your learning. Please resist the temptation to just use google translate to get quick translations into your language. It might be a super-fast solution, but it’s not a healthy thing to do for your English long term. Monolingual dictionaries are amazing and can really help you. So use them.
  • Don’t worry too much about certain specific cultural details. Sometimes characters will talk about stuff that you just don’t know about. For example when I watch some American shows they refer to places, people, sports or events which I don’t know about and it does mean I get a bit lost sometimes. It’s normal. You could google those things of course if you really need to and learn as you go, or just don’t worry about them too much. It’s worth remembering that it might not be your listening skills that prevent you from understanding. It could be your general knowledge too. 
  • Try transcribing certain scenes – especially if you thought it contained really cool dialogue. Then watch again with the subtitles to check your transcription. (I made that suggestion earlier, but there it is again)
  • It’s not just a case of what you’re doing while you’re watching. Think about doing things both before and after you watch too. In fact, doing some preparation before you start watching can really help you.
  • Before you watch a film or TV show, check online reviews or summaries to help prepare yourself. Being prepared can help. If you know the general storyline or tone of the thing you’re watching, it can help to prevent you getting lost. Watch out for spoilers though. Maybe you can search for a spoiler-free review of the thing you’re going to see, this can really help put you in the right place before you actually click PLAY. 
  • Similarly, after you’ve watched you can read online reviews of what you’ve watched. That way you can add some extra reading practice to your listening, and you will be a lot more engaged and invested in what you’re reading. Personally I like to read reviews or re-caps of episodes of shows I’ve watched. It helps me understand what I’ve seen and also I like to read other people’s opinions on episodes. Websites like Den of Geek, Vulture, The Independent or The Guardian often do episode recaps of the big TV shows. Read them! It can also help you to appreciate subtle details that you’ve missed and you’ll pick up bits of English from the articles you’ll read. Go the extra mile. It will pay off for your English later. If you find those online newspaper reviews to be a bit “wordy” and opinionated then consider reading IMDB or Wikipedia plot summaries instead as they are often written in slightly more plain English.
  • I’d also recommend finding YouTube reviews of the films or series you’ve watched. Just go to YouTube and search for the title of the episode or film you’ve seen plus the word review and see what you get. You’ll find this is a great way to get more effective listening input because you’ll be fully engaged in what you’re listening to. You’ll be on the same page as the person speaking because you will understand all their reference points and you’ll be interacting with their opinions and thoughts a lot more. This is an important part of turning listening input into intake → language that is more likely to stick with you.
  • Be a little selective in your viewing choices – pick stuff that you’d normally enjoy, and remember that films and TV shows can contain very “mumbly” dialogue, and even just “grunting” during long fight scenes. Try to pick films that are pretty simple and perhaps comedies that focus on the dialogue. Also, as Cara mentioned before, some content is in a certain kind of register that might not be applicable to the English you need to use. Documentaries, for example, feature a different style of English than conversational English that you might hear in content with natural dialogue between people.
  • Pronunciation & Speaking → There’s the concept of shadowing, which works for a lot of people. This involves basically repeating what you hear. It can be a good way to essentially transcribe orally. I mean, you’re attempting to identify word for word what is being said and to replicate speech patterns. You should also check those useful subtitles to help you identify what you’re getting right and wrong. When you come across words and phrases you don’t know, those are opportunities to expand your vocabulary.
  • It’s hard to practise your speaking on your own. You can essentially do what you’re doing with writing (like keep a diary, summarise things you’ve seen, give your opinions about what you’ve seen and so on) but just do it with your mouth rather than with your fingers, but speaking works best when you’re speaking to another person. So, you could talk to the person you’re living with if they’re up for it. Otherwise, consider italki again.
  • I want to mention motivation again, and the importance of enjoying what you’re watching or listening to. If you’re not enjoying something you’re watching you definitely have permission to stop and choose something else instead. It might take a little while to find the right show for you. But don’t force yourself to watch something you don’t like.
  • Also, I’ve mentioned various things in this episode, like watching scenes or episodes several times, writing things down and then comparing with subtitles, shadowing, writing reviews,  and all that stuff. I do think it will help, but I know from experience that most people out there probably won’t bother to do it. That’s up to you. If you don’t take initiative and do some of those things, or at least try them a bit, I suppose you’ll never know how they can help you. If you don’t do anything more than just watch, then fine. Don’t feel bad about it.
  • Understanding films and TV can be really hard! Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand 100%. Even in our first languages we don’t always understand what’s going on in films. So, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to understand it all.
  • Of course you can always listen to LEP or whatever other listening resource you have that you can mostly understand, but it’s worth pushing yourself sometimes. Hopefully you get that from my episodes because they feature a mix of me speaking on my own which is probably easier to understand, with me speaking to guests which is harder. But hopefully you’ll find that you understand my content enough for language acquisition to happen. What’s my point here? I suppose it’s that you’ve always got episodes of my podcast to listen to, but you should also explore films and TV shows too, and try to do more than just sit back on the sofa in comfort while doing it. Try to be a bit more active if you can.

There is probably a lot of other advice that could be given. If you have other things to add, why not share them in the comment section.

Some Netflix Recommendations for British English

There are loads of great shows in American English of course, but I’m trying to narrow my focus to British English stuff here.

Here are some shows and films in British English which are on Netflix, which I have seen and can recommend.

I’ll mention the title, then talk about the show/film a little bit.

These things are all available on Netflix where I am (France) at the time of recording this (April 2020). You can probably find a lot of them elsewhere too, including on DVD.

Some of these shows you will have seen before, others will be new to you.

I’ll try to mention what kind of English you can hear in these shows, including accents.

TV Series

  • Black Mirror
  • Sherlock
  • The Crown
  • After Life
  • Bodyguard

Films

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
  • Snatch
  • Remains of the Day
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” 
  • Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Stand up Comedy

  • James Acaster – Repertoire
  • Greg Davies – You Magnificent Beast
  • Jimmy Carr – The Best of Ultimate Gold Greatest Hits

Plus plenty of others – just use the search bar.

OpenCulture.com –> Lots of free TV, films and documentaries

Also, check out www.OpenCulture.com and spend some time looking through the long list of free documentaries, TV shows and films there. For example, I found a documentary about Pink Floyd which was really fascinating.

Song

Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Suede – Lyrics and chords here tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/blue-swede/hooked-on-a-feeling-chords-753575

658. [2/2] Why do Brits sing with American accents?

This is part 2 of a double episode exploring the question of why British people often change their accent when they sing. This episode contains more examples, including some (dodgy) singing from me in order to hear how it sounds when different songs are sung in different accents. Notes, lyrics and transcriptions available on the page below.

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Notes & Transcriptions

Introduction

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re doing ok out there in podcastland during this difficult period.

It’s necessary to say that isn’t it these days. You have to acknowledge the fact that everyone’s struggling, or you have to explain that things are perhaps not happening normally because of the coronavirus and there are various ways of saying it – both informal and formal, perhaps in a work email or something. I saw something on Twitter which made me laugh and I retweeted it. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen that. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast by the way. So the thing I saw on Twitter was just a little meme about how in normal English we say “because of the coronavirus” but in  formal writing (like in a work email) we have to dress that up in more fancy language, like “due to the ongoing situation regarding covid-19”.

So I hope that you are not having too much of a bad time because of the coronavirus, or perhaps I should say “I trust that you are managing to maintain your working routines effectively in the context of the current situation regarding covid-19.” 

This is episode 658 and it’s part 2 of a double episode. This is part 2. Don’t listen to this, until you’ve heard part 1. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but I just want to make it clear. Part 1 contains loads of context and details which I think you should hear before listening to this.

In part 1 I started answering a question from a listener, and the question is “Why do British people sound American when they sing?” It’s actually a bit complicated. It’s all about the conventions of modern pop music which has its roots in the USA. But there are also plenty of examples of British singers singing in British accents. It’s a mix of language, identity, music and phonology. In part 1 I answer the question in some detail and also point out some features of what I’m calling the American Singing Accent, including things like the way certain words which I pronounce with diphthongs (that’s double vowel sounds) become ‘flattened’ to single long vowel sounds, like in the words I, find, time, mine in the line “I need to find my time to get what’s mine”.

So let’s continue and in this part, which is part 2 I’m going to continue to explore this whole area by singing some songs in different accents and by listening to some samples of music. I hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section or perhaps links to YouTube videos with other examples that you can think of – examples of British artists singing with American accents, or perhaps British artists singing with British accents, or artists from anywhere else for that matter, singing in any other accent. It’s not just British and American of course, there are so many other accents that you might hear in English language songs. Reggae music from Jamaica for example is usually sung with a Jamaican accent of course.

Anyway, let’s carry on with part 2 and here we go…


Singing songs in different accents

I want to experiment with this by singing some well-known songs in either an American accent (The American Singing Accent as defined above) or a British accent (again, which one? Probably my own standard British RP but also I might try some cockney or maybe Liverpool or something).

Brits singing with American accents

What happens when you sing certain American songs in a British accent (let’s be more specific, let’s say my British RP)

If you sing some songs in a British accent they usually sound weird and wrong. You might disagree, because you might have a soft spot for British accents (and in fact more recently there have been some very successful artists who seem to sing in British RP as a stylistic choice) but I think overall, most people would think it sounded wrong, like my previous example with “Shallow”.

My Girl by The Temptations

Tell the story (briefly) of someone who sang “My girl” at a party once. It was ridiculous.

I’m now going to sing the songs in their normal American voice, then in a British accent.

“My Girl, talking about, my girl!”

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-temptations/my-girl-chords-86366

Take it Easy by Eagles

Eagles’ “Take it Easy” in a British accent (especially the 2nd verse)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/eagles/take-it-easy-chords-14322

Hit me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/britney-spears/baby-one-more-time-chords-279810

Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/red-hot-chili-peppers/under-the-bridge-chords-44981

Songs by British artists sung in an American accent

I could pick almost any song by a British pop artist and the chances are that it’ll be sung in an American singing accent.

Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

We Are the Champions by Queen

Weirdly, Freddie seems to drift from an English sounding voice in the verse to an American one in the chorus. Listen to how he sings “time” (Time after time) in the verse and then “time” in the chorus (No time for losers).

This is so tricky! The accents seem to drift around while people sing.

Ultimately, I think this shows that when people sing they change their voice to suit the music. Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a rock singer, he was also quite operatic and theatrical and I think he probably chose to sing in different ways depending on the feeling he was choosing, including some bits where he sings with a more English sounding voice and some bits where he’s in full-on rock mode and sounds American.

British bands/singers singing with British accents

Let’s consider some songs which are clearly sung in British accents, or moments where British accents are more obvious. 

There will be billions of examples of great British bands who sing in British accents. Here are some ones which I can think of right now.

The Beatles

They’re a difficult case because it’s quite hard to tell when they’re singing with American accents, when they’re singing with Liverpool accents but there are definitely times when their Liverpool accents came through.

It seems to me that their accents became a bit more English as they went on because in the early days they were (to an extent) imitating American artists they loved like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry & so on (especially when doing cover versions like “Long Tall Sally” (“Oh baby, some fun tonight”) and “Twist & Shout” (“And let me know that you’re mine”).

But later as they wrote more of their own music and became more original, their own accents came in. They also used to make a point of singing in a Liverpool accent sometimes.

Penny Lane by The Beatles

“In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer” 2:00

Lennon singing Polythene Pam (intentionally putting on a strong Scouse accent)

John Lennon – Norwegian Wood “I once had a girl” – the “I” is rounded like Lennon would say it.

Paul McCartney – I’m Looking Through You

Paul McCartney’s English accent is quite recognisable in “I’m Looking Through You”
“I thought I knew you… what did I know?”
“Why tell me why did you not treat me right?”

Although some bits still sound a bit American – “You’re naaat the same”

Steve Earle – I’m Looking Through You

But when US country singer Steve Earle did a cover version of it, he did it in a Southern sounding American accent.

“Aaah thought aaah knew yewwww whut did aaaaah know?”
“Yurrr voice eis soootheuyin , but the wrrrrrds arrrrnt clearrrr”
“Whaaaaa tell me whaaa did you naaat treat me right?”

The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

“Why do I give valuable time” –all with rounded diphthongs

The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin

The Undertones were from Northern Ireland and you could hear it in some of their songs, like this one.

“He’s sure to go to heaven”
“He thinks that I’m a cabbage because I hate university challenge”

A lot of Britpop bands sang with British accents, because it was Britpop. BRITpop, you see.

Blur – Parklife (they were making a point of singing in a British accent)

There are billions of other examples, I’m sure.

But it’s weird and not black and white.

It’s not like all punk bands or all Britpop bands sang with their local accents. Sometimes they did, sometimes it was definitely American.

There’s no escaping that rock & roll is basically American.

Singing in an American accent when it should be British, and people get annoyed

Alesha Dixon sings the national anthem in a “soul” voice. Basically, she sang the word “god” in an American accent, which pissed off the Daily Mail readers.

She got quite harshly criticised for this. She said she did it on purpose because it was a “soul” version of the anthem. Naturally a lot of Brits were triggered by this.

What’s the conclusion?

  • Singing is different to speaking.
  • Accents change to suit the music and the social rules are a bit different when people sing.
  • Singing is a more open and free form of expression than speaking. Our accent when we speak is completely tied to our identity. But when we sing it’s more tied to the feeling we are trying to create or express.
  • Some types of music or some songs just have to be sung in an American accent and it’s usually not a big deal.
  • Some artists sing with British accents because they are expressing something uniquely British, like a folk singer such as Billy Bragg or a rapper like Stormzy.
  • It’s also interesting to note that a lot of non-native speakers of English can sing in a native-like accent, but when they speak English it’s not the same story.

    For example: Paul Taylor’s bit about his wife saying “Hello how are you?” –> His wife can sing “Hello” when she’s singing along with Adele’s song but when she has to say it, she says “‘ello ‘ow ‘are you?”

Leave your comments, thoughts and video suggestions below

657. [1/2] Why do Brits sing with American accents?

Have you ever wondered why British people sometimes change their accent when they sing? This episode explores the question of why this happens, with various examples and some (dodgy) singing by me. Notes, videos and transcripts available on the page below.

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Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners,

This is episode 657 and it’s called “Why do Brits sing with American accents?”

Essentially this episode is about accents in English, and how our accents sometimes change when we sing.

This is all based on an email I got from a listener recently. Here is that email.
I’m curious to see if you have ever wondered the same thing.

An email from a listener, with a question about accents

Name: János Bernhardt /jænɒʃ bɜːnhɑːt//

Janos gave me the OK to read this out, and I’ll make some corrections as we go.

Message:

Dear Luke,

I have just watched this video (attached) and one question came to my mind about the british english accent.

A couple of corrections from Luke

“British English” should have a capital B and a capital E (British English) because we capitalise the first letters of nationality adjectives and the names of languages in English. Also, I’d avoid saying “The British accent” or “The British English accent” because there are lots of British accents, and this often annoys British people, who often get a bit offended by other people writing “the British accent” and they say “There’s no such thing as The British Accent!”. So, I suggest that instead you should say “British accents”, just “British English” or maybe “a British accent”.

Let’s rephrase Janos’s sentence like this:

I’ve just watched this video and one question came to my mind about British accents…

The video in question is of a British singer called Charlotte Awbery who became a sensation (in February) due to a viral Instagram and YouTube video in which she was randomly asked to sing in a Tube station in London.

In the video sent by Janos, we see that she sings Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” from the film A Star Is Born really well, just like Lady Gaga, but when she speaks she does so in a completely different accent to the one she was singing in.

We’ll listen to the video in a moment, but let’s continue Janos’ email.

In the video Charlotte clearly loses her accent when she sings, but when she speaks I can hear her beautiful british accent. Is this a normal thing or she has to pay close attention to this during singing? Does she have to…

Sorry for disturbing you if it is a stupid question and also sorry for my bad english.

By the way I love your podcast. I just discovered it recently but I really try to relisten as much episodes as I can.

I am really trying to relisten to as many episodes as I can.

Thanks a lot Luke!
Kind Regards,
János Bernhardt

This is an example of an email from a listener which immediately sent me down a huge rabbit hole (a complicated journey in which you get lost looking for an answer).

That doesn’t always happen when listeners send me questions, but it did with this one. To be honest, I should have been working on other things but when I received this email it caught my attention and then I got sucked in! I thought it would make a perfect episode of the podcast because it’s about accents in English, it’s about American and British English, it’s about music, it’s about culture, it’s about identity and I am certain this is a question that a lot of you have thought of → Why is it that British singers often sing with American accents?

Brits don’t always sing with American accents (there are plenty of cases when this doesn’t happen, as we will see later in the episode), but they often do.

This is the stuff I’m interested in. Also it gives me a chance to play a bit of guitar and do some singing on the podcast too, which I will probably do a bit later when we get stuck into this properly.

God knows how long this episode will be, because there’s a lot to unpack here. It might be a double episode. We’ll see.

Before we go any further, we should check out that clip that Janos sent to me, so we know what he was talking about.

Let’s listen to the video that he mentioned.

Charlotte Awbrey on The Ellen Show

This is a clip from the Ellen show (an American chat show), and you’ll hear various people speaking including chat show host Ellen Degeneres, and also some other people. I won’t explain any more. Let’s just listen to the clip and your job is to work out what is going on, who is speaking and where they are from.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What’s happening?
  2. Who is talking?
  3. Where are they from?
  4. What accent does Charlotte have?
    Don’t just say “British”. Can you be more specific?

In summary…

Charlotte Awbery: 5 Things To Know About The Subway Singer Who Nailed Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ 

Charlotte Awbery is an internet sensation after a video of her showcasing her incredible singing voice went viral on February 20. Just four days prior, a content creator named Kevin Freshwater shared a video of a segment he hosted called, “Finish the Lyrics.” In the video, Freshwater can be seen traveling through the streets and subways, asking random people to finish the lyrics of popular songs. And, that’s where he came across Charlotte, who was making her way to a train in the subway. [The Underground!]

Freshwater approached Charlotte who was visibly caught off guard, and began singing the lyrics to “Shallow” — Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper‘s Oscar-winning hit from the film, A Star Is Born. Charlotte began singing the lyrics quietly, but just enough for Freshwater to recognize how talented she is. When he kept asking her to sing more, Charlotte went all out and it took the internet by storm.“

Then she was invited onto the Ellen show with Ellen Degeneres, to sing the song and then be interviewed.

The thing is, she sang with an American accent but then spoke with a really broad Estuary English accent (some call it cockney, some call it Essex – basically it’s a strong local accent from the area to the east of London.)

So, going back to Janos’ original question then:

Why did Charlotte Awbery switch from an American accent when singing, to a British accent when talking?

Is this normal?
Do British people normally do that when they sing?
Do they/we have to make special effort to do it?
What’s going on?

Is this normal? Do Brits normally do this when they sing?
Yes, lots of Brits suddenly change their accent and sound American when they sing. (Why? We’ll see). I’m talking about singing pop music, which sort of covers various forms of modern music that largely originate in the USA, like jazz, blues, soul, country, rock & roll, rock, gospel –> all the main ingredients of modern pop music.

It’s not just Brits. Irish people, Australian people, people from New Zealand, people from South Africa, any English speaker, including non-native speakers of English in France, Germany, Japan, wherever! Everyone does this.

I’m sticking with Brits though because that’s what I am and that’s what I know.

Yes it is very normal and very common. There are various degrees of it – sometimes it’s just a slight American accent, sometimes it’s really strong. We’ll be looking at some examples later.

But it doesn’t happen every time. There are plenty of examples of British singers singing in their own accent too (again, more on this later).

Do British people have to make a special effort to sing in an American accent?
I would say “no”, it normally happens completely effortlessly but it does depend on the song, or the style of the song. In fact, in many cases it would take a lot of effort to sing some songs in a British accent even if that is your native accent. I’ll hopefully demonstrate this later when I try to sing some songs myself.

What’s going on?
Various things! This is a complex question to answer and that’s what the rest of this episode is about. I’m going to explore the answer to the question, although I’m not a linguist or a sociologist or anything so I’m kind of working it out myself. One thing that can help is to listen to some samples of music and also it might help if I try and sing in different accents myself and we can see what happens.

Basically, singing and speaking are different. Let’s talk about why.

Social, linguistic and musical conventions 

American accents are conventional in music which has its roots in the USA.

Certain genres of music were born in the USA, including most pop music, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, funk, hip hop → this goes back to the roots of modern pop music, American blues, gospel and country music.

Therefore, when singing pop songs an American accent is the standard and is therefore easier, more normal and more natural.

Singing those songs with an obvious RP accent (or other) just ends up being weird, unnatural and wrong sounding, mainly because it would be unconventional. It just doesn’t sound right to sing certain songs with a British accent like mine.

But there are plenty of exceptions to this too, and that’s songs, genres or bands that have something authentically British about them.

In the case of this song (Shallow) Charlotte is singing a Lady Gaga song, and Lady Gaga sings it with an American accent because she is American. It’s a cover version and it would be a bit weird if she made it sound different to the original. Also the song is in a country-rock style, and in country music it’s normal to sing with a really pronounced accent – probably a southern or mid-western drawl. “Shallow” is a song from the film “A Star is Born” which is about a country singer.

Singing “Shallow” in a British accent

Let’s play “Shallow” on the guitar and first sing it in an American accent and then in a British accent.

How does it sound in my accent?

What’s your accent Luke?
Just a reminder (and because people often ask me questions about this) My accent is basically standard RP, which is said to be not specific to any region of the UK, but to be honest it’s usually associated with educated, middle-class people, probably from the South East of England. I’m not trying to say I’m educated (and of course you can be highly-educated and everything and have a regional accent), but I’m definitely middle class and from the south east of England, but I also spent time growing up in the midlands as well as west London, so you might hear a bit of west-midlands Brummie in my voice or a bit of a London accent – if you’re listening very carefully. But basically, I speak with standard British RP from the south east of England but I’m not posh.

“Shallow” Lyrics (written by Lady Gaga with Andrew WyattAnthony Rossomando and Mark Ronson)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/misc-soundtrack/a-star-is-born-shallow-chords-2488086

Shallow doesn’t really sound right in my accent.

I don’t know what you think. There’s bound to be some people who prefer my British version. It’s a question of taste, but I think overall my British RP version wouldn’t really be accepted by most audiences. It would be weird, different, unconventional. Most people in the USA would think it was weird and wrong, I reckon.

But some songs and genres are definitely British and British voices are more obvious → things like folk music, UK hip hop (does Rapping count? It’s basically talking), Britpop, merseybeat, punk – in fact any music which is uniquely or authentically British in some way, or in which the local identity is being emphasised.

Brits sing in a British accent when they’re really being themselves, when it’s traditional British folk music, or when they’re pushing the British identity in the music.

Some British musicians make an effort not to sound American. You can hear that in some of the Beatles’ output (although sometimes they’re a bit American sounding too) and definitely in punk bands, new wave bands, britpop bands and so on → any musical movements in which a British identity gets pushed to the forefront.

Some examples of British music sung in a British accent

Madness – My Girl

Original version

Me singing it with an American accent (sounds wrong!)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/madness/my-girl-chords-202328

So, in summary, I’d say that although this seems a bit weird, it’s common for Brits to sing with American accents because of the conventions of pop music which has its roots in the USA, but there are also examples of Brits singing in their own accents.


There’s a lot more to talk about and to investigate here, so let’s go into a bit more detail.

This article from thrillist.com has some more comments (read some extracts) 

I might be re-emphasising what I just said, but I think it’s worth reading these extracts from an article I found on a website called Thrillist.com

www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/why-do-british-singers-sound-american

One of the most prominent academics on this case is Peter Trudgill. In 1983, the man published an oft-cited study that examined the disconnect between how so many British pop singers talk in real life and how they perform. He concluded that acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones incorporated American phonetics because they were so influenced by Yankee musicians — particularly blues acts. (Remember, the Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters track.) It was an attempt to ape their idols and break into the U.S. market.

Rolling Stones singing “Not Fade Away”

Trudgill noted the American-ness got less aggressive as time wore on, and the British Invasion acts became more comfortable with their native speaking voices. By the time the ’70s arrived, punk bands like The Clash were turning away from American affectations.

So, basically –> In the beginning, UK singers were copying their American idols, but later this influence lessened.

Here are a couple of examples of UK punk bands singing in obvious British accents, to illustrate what Peter Tudgill said.

Sham 69 – Hurry Up Harry

Peter & The Test Tube Babies – Banned from the Pubs

That’s one explanation, but seeing as we still have modern fakers like Adele, it’s incomplete.

Adele speaks with a cockney accent like Charlotte Awbrey but sings in an American accent.

Some people argue that the phenomenon is more a matter of technique. Billy Bragg, who’s normally pretty cool with singing like a Brit, once said, “You can’t sing something like ‘Tracks of My Tears’ in a London accent… the cadences are all wrong.”

Billy Bragg singing normally

Billy Bragg singing Tracks of My Tears by Smokey and the Miracles.

So the point here is that it is just easier to sing in an American accent and sometimes an American accent is just appropriate for the song.

A recent study by Andy Gibson, a sociologist in New Zealand, would appear to back Bragg up. Gibson found that Kiwis defaulted to an American singing voice across the board, and it wasn’t a conscious choice. He surmised it was just easier to sing in that accent. That’s partially because of the way we round off certain words when we sing, and partially because the world is so used to hearing American accents in pop songs, it requires more effort and concentration to sing in a different accent. Even if that “different accent” is your default speaking voice.

Clearly, researchers are still working on a definitive answer. But people do “lose” their accents through song, and it’s not some weird conspiracy. It’s just linguistics! Or Mick Jagger’s fault. You decide.

What are the phonetic features of this “American Singing Accent”?

Let’s break down “the American singing accent” vs my British accent

I’ve decided called it “the American singing accent” because it might not match perfectly with General American or with all American accents.

America is a diverse place and there are many diverse accents there. But it seems that there is a certain kind of American accent that we can hear in a lot of music.

I get the feeling that this accent comes from the people who sang the blues and gospel (basically that means black communities in southern states) and from people who sang country (mostly white singers from southern or midwestern states) but I’m not a musicologist.

Features of The American Singing Accent (my own made-up term)

  • Diphthongs are flattened to long single vowel sounds. This can help in singing, because it allows you to hold one note for a long time.
  • Common examples:
    I (often) sounds like aaaa
    My (often) sounds like maaa
    Try sounds like traaaaa
    Life sounds like Laaaaaaaf
    Time 
    “Out” sounds like “aaaat”
    “Sight” sounds like “saaaaat”
  • /r/ sounds are often more rounded “Now you’re out of sight here” “Now yurrrraaaaatu saaaaat heRe”
  • It’s generally a bit more nasal “Tell me something girl. Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more?” “Tell me something boy. Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?”
  • “Baby” sounds like “Baybeeee”

I’m sure there are other features. Let me know in the comment section if you can think of others.

To be honest, the best way I can demonstrate this is to try and sing some more songs in different accents and see what happens.


Ending

That’s where we’re going to pause. This is the end of part 1, and we will continue in part 2, which will be available soon, possibly already.

In part 2 the plan is to explore this question further by doing some more singing. I’m going to take some songs which are normally sung in that American singing voice, sing them normally and then sing them in my accent and we’ll see how it sounds. 

We’ll also hear some more examples of British singers singing in American accents, and also British singers singing in British accents. 

So, a lot more examples in part 2 to illustrate what I’ve been talking about in this episode.

As ever, I’m interested in your comments. Perhaps you have examples of British singers singing in American accents, or British singers singing in British accents.

Or maybe there’s a song which you like, but you don’t really know what the accent is?

In any case, you can share your thoughts and YouTube videos in the comment section.

I hope you’re keeping well, that you’re not climbing the walls or going stir crazy if you are currently in self-isolation at home. If you’re cooped up with members of your family I hope you’re managing to make it work and that you’re not at each other’s throats. Maybe you’re a lovely lovely time, in which case I am happy for you. If you’re struggling then hang in there, this won’t last forever. And if you or anyone else you know is currently unwell, then I wish you a speedy recovery and what else can I say –> may the force be with you? Actually, that’s when the lockdown is supposed to be lifted here. May the 4th (although I suspect it will be extended) but anyway, “May the 4th be with you”.

Alright, that’s enough. I hope you have found this interesting and part 2 should be available now or very soon, so you can get stuck into that. 

So, speak to you again in part 2 but for now –> bye bye bye!

Click here for part 2

656. British Comedy: Karl Pilkington’s Monkey News / The Ricky Gervais Show

Listen to a funny story told in a Manchester accent, and learn various bits of English in the process including vocabulary and pronunciation. Improve your understanding of regional British accents. Story transcript & vocabulary notes available.

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Episode aims

To understand a funny story in English to the same level as a native English speaker
To become more familiar with a Manchester accent (mancunian) and to practise listening to colloquial speech in English
To learn vocabulary relating to working on a building site, and more

Listen to the story – Monkey News / Builder

What are the main events in the story?
What’s going on?
What does the builder do?
What does he see?

A quick summary of the story

A man gets a new job on a building site. He’s just told to get to work and to not ask any questions. He sees another guy working at the top of the building who seems to work really well. He’s efficient, he doesn’t take breaks, he seems to take risks and be a hard worker. He asks the other builders and they say not to worry about it. Never mind. Don’t ask questions. He notices this guy at the top doesn’t have lunch, except for a bucket of nuts which is sent up to him. Peanuts. He gets v suspicious and asks the boss what’s going on. The boss just tells him to get back to work and not ask questions. Ultimately the guy clocks what’s going on and works out that it’s a chimpanzee working on the building and he complains, but the boss gives him the sack. So it turns out that a chimp was working on a building site and he was actually a more valuable worker than this experienced builder. Well, fancy that.

Vocabulary

Go through it quickly, just giving quick definitions and pronunciation pointers.

A bloke
A builder (person)
A building (noun)
To build / building (verb / -ing form of verb)
To get going on it = start doing something
To get on with it = hurry up, continue doing something
Bricks
Cement
Girders
The spire = the pointed top part of a building
The foundations
A fella
To take someone on
The work rate
Scared of heights (scared of the heights which are up there)
Riveting (verb)
Riveting (adjective) “This is really riveting stuff, Luke”
Nuts (that you eat)
Nuts and bolts
To hook something (on)
To check someone out
To stare
A tyre
To be wise to what’s going on
To clock something
It’s not on
Don’t get involved
Don’t interfere
You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
A good grafter
To graft (verb)
Graft (noun)
To let someone go
To be made redundant
To be laid off
A chip off the old block

Monkey News – Transcript

Ricky: Ooh, chimpanzee that! Monkey news, you fff…

Karl: There was this bloke who was a builder, right?

Steve: Oh yeah

K: And, er, you know what builders are like. They sort of move about, don’t they, from, from sort of building to building just building.

R: Well yeah. Once they’ve built it, the building’s done and they move on to build some more.

K: So he goes to his next job and that, right?

S: Who does, the builder?

K: The builder

S: Yep. The new building.

K: He goes to, like, the boss of this building who’s building it.

S: OK, yeah.

K: And he says what unto him?

K: Do you need anything building?

S: OK, yeah

K: So anyway, so he says, err, he says “Yeah yeah there’s plenty of work and that going about”. He says “We’re working on this one here”. He said, err, “Get going on it, like. There’s your bricks and cement and stuff. Get on with it.”

R: Any plans? Nah, JUST BUILD.

S: Just start building.

R: GO UP

K: They’re getting on with it and stuff. It’s all going well. But he notices that there’s someone working high up, on the top bit.

S: Sure

K: Because you know how, like, there’s girders and stuff on these big buildings

R: And he’s still building the bottom bit, which is weird.

K: And he’s still… Yeah well that’s, that’s the way they do it there apparently, just to sort of speed it up. Work from top to middle, from top to bottom

S: Sure. And that’s where? That’s in imaginary land.

R: We put the spire on and then we’d better do the foundations, and then put some stuff in the middle to keep it up there.

K: So anyway, he’s saying to, like, the other workers, he’s going “What’s… Who’s that up there? …

S: Who’s that up there?

K: … He’s working on his own.

R: What? Little fella was he?

S: Little hairy fella up there.

R: The little hairy fella up there with the hard hat

K: The other fellas are going “Look, you know, don’t ask questions, you know. The boss decides who he takes on. We’re happy to be getting paid here.”

R: [Laughing] DON’T ASK QUESTIONS?? Well I’ll see him when he comes down.

K: So he said, “Well he’s pretty impressive, you know. The work rate is pretty impressive, the work that he’s doing, the way he’s getting from one girder to the other “

S: Haha, he’s swinging is he?

K: “He doesn’t seem to be scared of the heights of anything.” He said “no, we just let him get on with it, you know. We work well as a team.” Lunch time comes. They’re all sat there. Sat on a little wall having their sandwiches. He’s just thinking that he’ll come down in a bit. [But] He’s just carrying on.

S: Is he? He’s just still going.

K: He’s still going and that, right? So, the fella says to the boss man, he says “Isn’t that fella up there going to come down and join us for lunch?” He said, “Err, like I said mate, don’t worry about him, right?” So he said “Oh, anyway, you’ve reminded me that he’s up there. He’s doing a lot of riveting and stuff up there. He probably needs some more nuts, to err…

S: Right, sure, and what kind of nuts is that? Is that nuts the food, or…?

K: So he said “What? Nuts?” He says “Yeah, just… There’s a bag full of them there, just just put them on the hook. Send them up and he can get on with his job.” So, anyway, he picks these nuts up

S: Nuts, yep.

K: Just hooks them on and thinks “They’re not that heavy, considering, you know, they’re normally pretty heavy aren’t they like nuts and bolts and stuff.

S: A big bag of nuts, yeah.

K: Anyway, he has a little glance in

S: Ah no, what’s in there?

K: Nuts

S: What, you mean nuts you can eat?

K: Nuts that you can eat.

S: Ah

K: So they send the bag up and he’s thinking “What’s all that about?” He checks him out. Starts to stare. Worked it out. He can see that… It’s a little chimp running about. So he goes, “I’m not happy with this.”

R: Why isn’t he? Is the boss sitting in a tyre?

K: He said “All them lot out there might not be wise to what’s going on here, but I’ve clocked it, and you’re sending nuts up to it. It’s a monkey, it’s not on.” So he goes, “Look, you know, we’re all just trying to earn a living here.” He said, err “Don’t get involved in it. I’m happy to pay you, but I’m paying him. Don’t interfere.”

R: He’s paying him?

K: He’s saying “Look, I’m just not happy with this. It’s not allowed.” So the boss was saying…

R: We pay peanuts, we get monkeys.

K: He said “To be honest mate, you know, err, he’s a great worker. He’s known for doing what he does. He’s a good grafter. If one of you is going to go, right, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go because he’s been here longer and that.

S: Blimey. He was made redundant.

R: None of that happened.

K: He was laid off

R: None of that happened.

K: He’s laid off and that. And that’s where that saying, about, err, you know how there’s a lot of tower blocks and that in America, it’s not like, err… ‘a chimp off the old block’, is where…

R: [Laughs hysterically]

K: And that’s monkey news.

Can I still listen to the Ricky Gervais Podcast?

Yes, you can.

Some episodes are still available on
The Ricky Gervais Podcast (find it on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts, and just scroll back through the archive to find some “best of” stuff)
The Ricky Gervais Show website www.therickygervaisshow.com/podcasts
YouTube (Search or Monkey News and you’ll find full compilations of them)

Another Monkey News – Chimp Goes Into Space

Links & More

A full page listing all instances of Monkey News, with summaries, and time codes for where they appear in episodes of the Ricky Gervais Podcast.

pilkipedia.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Monkey_News

A compilation of almost all the Monkey News segments from the RGP. Over 3 hours of Monkey News!

650. British Music: Jungle (with James)

An in-depth episode all about an innovative British form of dance music from the 90s: Jungle (aka Drum & Bass). Includes discussion with James about the origins of the music, how it sounds, its position in UK culture and a few anecdotes too. Notes & music playlists available on the website.

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Hello dear listeners, how are you today? I hope you are well. Here is another episode about British Music with James. This one is about jungle – a form of dance music. 

We did this one in response to a request from a listener who wrote a comment on the website. While recording the episode we couldn’t remember the name of that listener but I have checked and found his name and his message and it goes like this.

Kirill Hannolainen • 2 months ago (January 2020)
Dear Luke,
I have already told you how amazing your podcast is in general and how particularly moving those episodes are in which you speak to James about music. They are just brilliant. That’s when the magic happens.

Is there any chance I could suggest a new topic for discussion with James – Electronic music developed in England. I mean your country brought the world irreplaceable genres of music, such as jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, big beat, ambient and stuff like that, and I think these ones are just a few examples.
I grew up in the nineties in Saint Petersburg listening to jungle music made by DJ Aphrodite and drum ‘n’ bass provided by Goldie. We had some good times.

Now I’m really into ambient music from the early 1990s – artists such as the Orb, Aphex Twin and the KLF.

I would be over the moon if you could make an episode on this subject. I’m more than sure James and you know a thing or two to tell us about.
Thank you in advance.

I’d also like to wish you and your beautiful family Happy New Year! Best wishes for peace and prosperity in 2020.

Thanks Kirill!

We’d been meaning to make an episode about jungle music for a while, even before we got this comment, and James has lots of the old tunes on vinyl. So here it is. This is our attempt to explain this music, where it comes from, what influenced it and more. You’ll also hear little bits of music during this episode, not just jungle music but also other types of music that have inspired it.

You’ll see that this episode is long, but it’s as long as it needed to be for us to cover the subject properly.

The music won’t be for everyone. It’s not to everybody’s taste. I know this is quite a specific topic, but hopefully you can learn things from it and even if you don’t like the music, I hope you can still enjoy listening to the two of us explaining and describing this subject.

This episode is accompanied by detailed notes, links and music on the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk, including YouTube videos for almost all the tunes that we talk about, a Spotify playlist and a special jungle mix done by James, especially for you, on his decks using vinyl records in his collection.

We hope you enjoy it. Here we go.


James & Luke start talking together (about 4m30seconds into the episode)

Episode notes used while recording this conversation

THE INTRODUCTION

Hello, we’re going to talk about a British genre of music called Jungle.

What follows is a music documentary of sorts. We will be dipping into James’ vinyl collection as we go through this in order to play you little samples of the music we’re talking about as we continue.

So this is a history of a certain musical genre from England in the 90s: Jungle. Both James and I were really into jungle at that time and it’s also a good example of a uniquely form of British music that doesn’t get talked about much.

The period of time we’re talking about is from around the mid to late eighties to the mid to late nineties, so while the Berlin wall was coming down and so many other changes were going on in the world, this is one of the things that was happening in the UK at the time.

It won’t be for everyone! But I have had requests for this I promise! UK jungle or drum & bass, like UK EDM is pretty big around the world. We usually talk about guitar music on this podcast but this is uniquely British music from a different genre and background.

What is jungle music?

Jungle is a form of dance music that evolved out of the rave scene in the UK (more in a bit) which is personified by fast, intense, looped breakbeats over the top of deep reggae style bass lines with atmospheric sound effects, some vocals (often sampled) and maybe MCing over the top.

Complex drum patterns, and sub bass.

It evolved in the UK in the early to mid 1990s.

It was a really interesting and original new kind of music that was exciting because it kept changing and became really sophisticated and original quite quickly, and went from being a form of music that was considered the lowest of the low to being much more critically accepted by the mainstream.

The music is really intense. We’ll play you some. Listen to this, it’ll blow your socks off.

An example of a jungle track from James’ collection

River Niger – Nookie 

When did you get this record?
How did it get that scratch?
Why have we chosen this one?
– Atmosphere
– Nice stuff
– Heavy stuff
– Not an obvious anthem

Why do you want to talk about this on LEP?
– Personal connection to it (LEP has always been personal)
– Uniquely British (we always talk about British stuff)

It’s not the kind of thing that usually gets talked about and analysed – when you talk about British music from the 90s it’s always Britpop, Blur and Oasis but we weren’t really listening to that. Jungle gets overlooked.

Not understood by the music press originally, which was into guitar music.

They didn’t know how to review it.

Do all British people listen to jungle music?
– No

Underground music
Criminal music
Black music (to an extent)

How did you first get into it? Can you tell the story?

Mystery track (1993/4)

Luke:
I heard jungle or rave stuff and always thought it was not for me. It was overheard from cars driven by very dodgy geezers. The compilations were on sale in record shops. It was associated with the slightly scary underground rave scene.

But I was into electronic music like ambient and stuff.

We listened to guitar music and funk from the 70s and Stone Roses and some hip hop.

Matt and Eggy – our friends who were into heavy metal and stuff like that. They were in a car and listened to this tape for a laugh and decided it was amazing and played it to us.

How did we used to get jungle music? How did we have access to it?

Tapes found in small record shops or handed round and copied.

It was mysterious – it was word of mouth, or by discovering them on tapes. You didn’t know what they were called. They were anonymous. It wasn’t like in pop music where there was an image and press, there was really no information about it beyond maybe a weird name.

When/how do you listen to jungle music?
– Clubs (although we never really went to the proper jungle and hardcore raves in the early to mid nineties)
– Walkman
– Travelling
– Listening in different contexts (You’re listening to a big rave and you’re on the bus in the countryside, listening in a car with big bass speakers)
– DJing
– Mixing at home
(You need speakers with good bass)

What is the origin of this music?

THE INGREDIENTS 

American stuff – techno and hip hop (1980s)

Chicago and Detroit techno, based on Kraftwerk and other influences.

Can you feel it? – Mr Fingers (aka Larry Heard) – Chicago (86)

Rhythim is Rhythim (the dance) – Derrick May – Detroit – 1987

NYC hip hop (samples)
Run DMC 1990
House
Euro techno

DJs in the UK were mixing up everything – techno, hip hop, breakbeats, other obscure stuff, diverse influences

UK hip hop / breaks

20 Seconds to Comply – Silver Bullet (1990) ~including samples from Robocop

Bring Forth The Guillotine – Silver Bullet (B side)

Breakbeats (what are they?) – Luke’s Breakbeat Lecture

A break in the music where the drummer plays alone for a bit – maybe does a solo but probably just keeps the music going. James Brown used them, lots of others too.

Also, musically they are dance beats played with some syncopation.

The drummer uses ghost notes to add extra little beats to help it skip along in a way that you can dance to. I suppose the origins of that skipping breakbeat in funk music goes back to things like jazz, latin influences, R&B and the general shift towards syncopated dance beats that have a pattern which starts and concludes on the first beat of the bar.

Apache – Incredible Bongo Band

Think About It – Lynn Collins

Amen Brother – The Winstons

Hip Hop DJs sampled these drum breaks, often looping them in crude ways with tape machines, or mixing them on decks.

Jungle DJs also created their own breakbeats by chopping them up, and often creating amazingly complex beats that sometimes sound like a jazz drummer chopping it up.

This was the great change that happened in hip hop – where anything and everything became fair game, as long as it had the kind of break that you could rap and dance to, it was ok, with weird stuff being sampled that you wouldn’t expect.

But new music was being made directly using old music. A weird post-modern form of inward cultural appropriation.

Over in the UK – Acid, rave, hardcore

Break beats, techno, pianos = acid / rave / hardcore

A typical mix of UK hardcore from 1992

V cheap, naive, basic, simple, unsophisticated! (but also great in its own way)

Using samples, early computers like Ataris and Amigas, some hardware like bassline generators or drum machines.

Considered the nasties, lowest, crappiest, low class music listened to by criminals and low level scumbags in cars.

The breakbeat samples get all mixed up – several generations of people sampling and then being sampled.

The sound becomes more and more compressed, The texture changes from speeding it up and adding other drum samples on the top. This was heard in a lot of hip hop and dance music at the time. The same samples being used by everyone and often several samples at the same time.

So in the UK also had a sort of hip hop dance craze that involved sampling breakbeats.

There was also this very nasty music called acid house, rave or hardcore which was very electronic, fast, had some nasty synth sounds and bleepy squidgy noises and stuff. It had an awful reputation. More on that later.

Reggae influence

Also in the UK because of the carribean communities particularly around London and the West Midlands.

Reggae / Dub – deep sub bass, atmospheric sound effects, echo, delay, reverb.

King Tubby – Good Time Dub

White Rum – Sly & The Revolutionaries

Scientist mix (1980)

Reggae sound systems, toasting, MCing, ragga

This was actually hip hop before hip hop.
– Big sound systems
– Sub bass
– MCs toasting over the top of music
– People dancing

2nd gen black/carribean kids

Not American – a uniquely UK thing (a multicultural mix)

Eclectic rather than purist

Led by DJs trying to get the right reaction on the dancefloor

Acid / Rave / Hardcore

Jungle came out of a scene called hardcore, which came from rave, which came from acid.

What were raves?
Warehouse raves
Moral panic
Drugs

Generally it was seen as a lawless threat and a disturbance to public peace, and maybe they had a point to an extent.

Before it gained any acceptability it was on the fringes and underground.

Later the raves became legal and took place in clubs and this was all part of how the music became more accepted, ultimately.

1993/1994 – Jungle

Inner City Life – Goldie

This is when jungle started appearing in the mainstream and fully established itself as a genre of music in its own right.

Also there were other forms of music coming from the same origins. It wasn’t a single narrative. (Techno continued, happy hardcore, big beat, “trip hop”, ambient, etc)

Musical differences & features compared to acid, rave, hardcore…

DA FLAVA

What does jungle actually sound like?

What are the distinguishing features, musically?

– 150-170 BPM (James says 168BPM specifically!)
– No 4×4 bass drum
– Sampled drums from funk records looped and sped up, sometimes re-sequenced and chopped up
– Multiple break beats from different samples layered over the top
– Gives a sort of jungle feel because
– Everything is v compressed, sped up which raises the tone of the drum track – this emphasises the higher frequencies and leaves the mid range quite open and empty and then there are deep sub basslines a bit like reggae basslines
– This feeling of space and echo with a deep soft layer at the bottom and a canopy of sound at the top creates this feeling of being in a tropical jungle – quiet a deep and heated atmosphere – like in a rainforest. Sometimes there are the sounds of tropical birds or a drop of water.
– Then spacey sounds like synth pads, possibly piano lines, some soulful vocals but plenty of space and sparseness – a bit like in dub reggae
– Fast but slow
– Fast upper rhythm in double time to a reggae bassline played at half speed
– Things come in more slowly with slower patterns
– Losing the beat
– It can sound like a drum kit falling down the stairs
– It might sound like total chaos

What would our Mum think if she listened to it?

Dead Dred – Dred Bass (1994)

Babylon – Splash (1994)

The Spectrum – Wax Doctor (1995)

The Lighter – Sound of the Future

LTJ BUKEM & MC CONRAD “Chrome” Live in Leamington Spa 1995 (this is the tape I used to listen to all the time)

Different types of Jungle

A lot of people disagree about the names etc

Luke: two types → Harder, darker stuff and then the lighter more atmospheric stuff.

– Progressive jungle
– Intelligent jungle (or whatever it’s called)
– Drum & Bass
– Liquid Drum & Bass
– Jump-up jungle
– Two-step
– Ragga Jungle

It went mainstream and then moved on

Started appearing in adverts and other people’s music

Roni Size win the Mercury Music Prize in 1997 (but it should have been won by Goldie who wasn’t even nominated in 1994)

Heroes – Roni Size (1997)

Little Wonder – David Bowie (1997)

Big DJs and names

– Dillinga
– Goldie (didn’t win the Mercury prize in 94)
– Grooverider
– LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad
– Fabio
– DJ Rap
– Jumping Jack Frost
– DJ Hype
– DJ Randall
– DJ SS
– Kenny Ken
– Aphrodite
Tons of others

Source Direct interview


Ending

I won’t add anything else here really. I don’t want this to be ridiculously long.

All I’ll say is that I sincerely hope you enjoyed this episode. James and I put our heart and soul into this episode so I hope it comes across. It’s a bit ambitious because this music is never going to appeal to everyone, but I hope you’ve got something from this in any case.

If you like some of the things you’ve heard and you’d like to hear more, or if you’d just like to listen again to any of the stuff we’ve been talking about then you should head over to the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk where you will find a plethora of music for your ears, including…

  • YouTube videos or Soundcloud links for almost all the music in this episode – all the tracks, and even some full length mixes 
  • A jungle mix by James, with actual vinyl records (scratches and all) made especially for listeners of this episode (includes some pirate radio MCing by James) uploaded to my Mixcloud page 
  • A Spotify playlist that I’ve made featuring some of the tunes in this episode (it’s called LEP Jungle if you want to find it on Spotify on your phone)
  • All the notes we used while recording (so you can check some words that you might want to spell)

Thank you for listening, and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.


Spotify playlist for this episode

James’ LEP Jungle mix

For more music mixes (various genres), check out James’ Mixcloud page here

…and my Mixcloud page here

648. Ian Moore Returns

Talking again to comedian Ian Moore about favourite films, a trip to New York, British & American audiences, how to iron a shirt, and funny stories about taking the language test to qualify for French citizenship.

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Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English and here is your regular dose of English conversation presented here to help you develop your listening skills and pick up grammar and vocabulary along the way.

In this episode of the podcast you can listen to me in conversation with Ian Moore who is back on the podcast after a 3 and a half year absence.

He first appeared in episodes 382 and 383 when we got to know him and talked about mod culture in the UK.

If you haven’t heard those episodes, or if you have heard them and you need me to jog your memory, here is some background info about Ian, just to bring you up to speed.

Ian Moore is a professional stand-up comedian from England. He moved around during his upbringing and is from a combination of places including the north, East Anglia and the London area as you will hear during the conversation.

He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the country’s top comedians” and he regularly performs in the best stand up comedy venues all around the UK, notably at London’s top stand up comedy club “The Comedy Store” which just off Leicester Square, where he is a frequent host.

He’s a mod – Mod is a British fashion subculture from the 1960s which involves a very particular style featuring certain clothing (like slim Italian suits, green parka coats – and a lot more besides), riding scooters and listening to American R&B music. Ian is definitely the best-dressed guest I have ever had on this podcast and came dressed in a 3-piece 60s Italian suit, gold watch chain, handkerchief in the pocket with a pin and everything.

Ian now lives in rural France on a farm, and has been living there for nearly 15 years, which is at odds with his mod style.

So he has been living a kind of double life – living on the farm in the French countryside, looking after various animals (his wife keeps introducing new animals into the family), making chutney, and commuting to the UK and other cities in Europe to perform stand up comedy.

He has written several books about his double life, which are available from all good book shops including Amazon.

A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France
C’est Modnifique!: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France

As well as writing these funny autobiographical stories, Ian has also branched out into writing fiction, and his first novel, called “Playing the Martyr” was published a couple of years ago. It’s a crime thriller about an English man who gets murdered in the Loire valley – I don’t know if this is based on Ian’s life at all. I have no idea if there have been attempts on his life for some reason. But anyway, the book is well-reviewed on Amazon and is available in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Ian is also a language learner – French in this instance. He actively works on his French and passed the language test to gain citizenship in France.

There are plenty of things to talk about – all that is just background context, and if you’d like to know more – listen to episodes 382 and 383 (both of which have transcripts written by the Orion Transcription team available in google documents. Just check the transcripts section of my website).

In those episodes you can hear:
A full explanation of the mod subculture including the clothing, the music and all the rest of it – and mod is very much a part of British youth culture today – especially the clothing, which influences many high-street British clothing brands.
Various stories of Ian’s rural French lifestyle including how his children were once threatened (rather shockingly) by a French hunter armed with a shotgun, some anecdotes about his experiences of performing comedy to audiences in cities all over the UK, accounts of his comedy triumphs and one or two comedy disasters and more ramblings of that nature.

So that’s all background context that you can hear more of in episode 382 and 383 –

This time, I decided to just see where the conversation takes us and the result was an extremely tangential and rambling conversation that takes in such things as

  • Ian’s favourite films
  • Ian’s recent trip to New York where he did comedy and spent time as a tourist
  • The complications of Woody Allen’s current public image
  • Differences between British and American audiences
  • Differences between Burlesque and stripping
  • Ian’s different accents as a child moving from Blackburn to Norfolk to London.
  • Details of Ian’s clothing
  • How to iron a shirt properly
  • Ian’s various health issues and physical complaints and what might be causing them
  • Comedy shows you can see at The Comedy Store in London
  • Ian’s stories about learning French and attempting to pass the language test for French citizenship

Watch out for various little jokes and funny stories along the way and try to keep up as the topic of the conversation veers from one thing to another.

But now, let’s listen to my conversation with Ian Moore and here we go…

Ian Moore Photo: Richard Wood @comictog twitter.com/comictog


Ending

I won’t talk a lot more here at the end because I don’t want the episode to be too long, but I would like to say thanks again to Ian for being on the podcast.

You can find out more about Ian on his website at ianmoore.info/

Well done for managing to follow this entire conversation. I wonder how much you understood, how many little jokes and funny moments you picked up on. It might be worth listening again and I wouldn’t be surprised if the transcription team chose to transcribe this episode like they did with episodes 382 and 383. You can find those transcriptions in the google documents by clicking transcripts in the menu on my website.

That’s it for now then, have a fantastic day, morning, lunch, afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid evening, late evening and night and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.

But for now,

Bye!

643. The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming

Talking to Sherwood Fleming, author of “Dance of Opinions” about intercultural communication, including common problems and the solutions to help us learn to communicate more effectively across cultures.

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Introduction

Hello you and you and you, welcome back to the podcast. I’m recording this on a very windy Tuesday morning. A storm passed by over the last few days, wreaking havoc across the UK and also here in France we’ve had some pretty strong winds and it’s still very blustery out there.

But here I am in the cosy confines of the Podcastle at LEP headquarters. A pre-lunch recording of this introduction today. I hope you are comfortable. Let’s get started.

Recently I was contacted by a listener called Inna with a suggestion for the podcast.

The message went like this:

Hi Luke,

I’m Inna, one of your regular listeners, as well as a Premium subscriber.

I would like to thank you for your podcast, which is always helpful and always interesting.

I would like to talk to you about my teacher Sherwood Fleming, her blog: sherwoodfleming.com/.

She is teaching me how to communicate better in English as a foreign language.  

Her lessons changed my vision of what communication is and helped me to understand how to communicate better not only with my foreign colleges but how to communicate better “tout court”. [full stop, period]

Some of my colleagues had the chance to work with her, and it was kind of “a revelation” for all of them every single time.

I strongly believe that this topic would be very useful to all your listeners.

So I got in touch with Sherwood and arranged a call for an interview and that is what you’re going to hear on the podcast today.

Sherwood Fleming

Here’s some intel on Sherwood, from her website.

Sherwood’s expertise is in improving the written and spoken communications of those who use English as a second language and work within intercultural business contexts. She has designed and led seminars for more than 25 years in both Canada and France, helping thousands of participants to communicate more effectively.

Sherwood is the creator of the five-step CLEAR method, which has established a new standard for expressing opinions interculturally. It forms the heart of her recent book, Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language, an easy to learn and apply method for intermediate and advanced ESL business people, designed to improve how they express their opinions. Her motto? “We build our futures together, in the words we exchange today.”

OK so this conversation is all about intercultural communication. What are the issues and obstacles that we face when communicating with people from different cultures? How do our different approaches to communication influence the relationships that we build with people? What are the solutions to some of the problems that can arise when communicating across cultures?

Sherwood talks about finding strategies to help you learn to dance to the same tune as the people you’re talking to, and this involves things like the pragmatics of looking beyond the words which are being used and towards the real intentions of communicative acts.

There are some examples of people in business contexts and also how I sometimes struggle with intercultural communication in my everyday life in France.

Our aim for this episode is to help you, the listeners, attain clarity about these issues that you may not even be fully aware of, and once you can see more clearly what these issues are then you’ll be ready to apply the proven solutions, which Sherwood shares during this episode and in her other work, including her book “Dance of Opinion” available on Amazon.

So let’s now listen to Sherwood Fleming and you can consider these questions

  • What are the typical problems people experience when communicating across cultures?
  • Can you find some examples?
  • What are some of the reasons behind those problems?
  • What are some solutions that we can apply to those problematic situations?

I’ll chat to you again briefly at the end, but now, let’s get started

sherwoodfleming.com

Ending

Thanks again to Sherwood Fleming for being on the podcast today. That was a very interesting conversation about the way we all communicate with each other in different ways.

Conclusions?

It sort of boils down to this I think.

Keep it simple!

Make it explicit what you want and what you’re offering. Dumb down your English in intercultural contexts.

Focus on the main message (the speech act) rather than the form of the message. Some cultures don’t emphasise things that other cultures expect, but the main thing is to focus on specifically what the other person wants, rather than how they are saying or writing it.

Thanks for all your recent comments and emails and stuff it’s great to hear from you, including some choice comments from the last few episodes.

Tatiana • 18 hours ago

Luke, I have just binged all three episodes with Quintessentially British things and I must say theyre brilliant! You are so blessed to have such an interesting and intellectual family of yours, all the three episodes are completely different and amazing to listen. it’s like I’ve looked at the Britain I’ve never known before.
Hats off to you and your beautiful kin!

By the way everyone, it’s mum not mom in British English.

There have been numerous requests for episodes of Gill’s Book Club as it might be called, or Gill’s Culture Club or something. So we’re looking at doing episodes of that sometimes.

There’s also a Rick Thompson report on the way soon.

I’ve had messages thanking me for the recent episode about IELTS with Keith O’Hare and have asked for more so I might do something in the near future.

Uswah • 4 hours ago

Hi Luke, I am Uswah from Indonesia.
I’ve been thinking about giving comment in each episode particularly everytime Amber and Paul are on the Podcast. However I always feel not sure untill today I heard the fact that there are fewer comments and responses from your listeners.

So here I’m now, I want you to know that I am a faithful listener, I get every joke you make (including Russian jokes and Lion king, LOL), I laugh out loud when three of you are laughing. I am an English teacher basically, but I spend most of my time for sewing, hahaha so I’m a tailor (not Taylor, LOL) at the same time. So I’ve been always listening your podcast when I’m sewing. It’s just sooo fun. So I feel my sewing project is much more fun since that’s the time I listen to your podcast.

Keep the good work Luke.

Looking forward to having Amber and Paul again .

Enrico Furlan • 21 hours ago

So, let me recap: last May, Luke published an episode titled “SLEEP with Amber and Paul”.
Now, eight months later, Amber is heavily pregnant.
These guys are bringing the concept of modern family to a whole new level…

That’s it for this episode.

I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.

Take care out there. Until next time. Bye!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book 1

J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country

Book 2

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

Book 3

R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September

Also mentioned

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

The previous episode with my mum about books.

The Withnail & I episode


Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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