Category Archives: Culture

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

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

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Introduction Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners, and welcome to the podcast. 

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

Hello Mum, how are you? 

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LengthIs it a long book?

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

It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.

Appropriacy for Learners of English

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

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

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

Audiobook version

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

Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?

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


Ending

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

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

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

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

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

We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!

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

I hope I didn’t talk too much.

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

Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.

One is a discussion about John Lennon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

716. Interview with a Pop Star from the 1960s – Megan Brady from The Applejacks

An interview with Megan Brady, who was the bass player in The Applejacks – a pop band from Birmingham in the 1960s who had a top 5 record, met The Beatles and performed on TV shows and at concerts in the UK.

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Introduction (After the main LEP Jingle)

Hello listeners. In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Megan Brady who was a pop star in the 1960s. Yes, a proper pop star. She was in a band which had a top 10 single, she was on the radio, she appeared on a lot of the music TV shows, she met loads of other pop stars of the moment including the Beatles – yes she met The Beatles, and in fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave her band a song which they recorded – their second single actually, the band were featured in the music magazines and no doubt many teenagers all over the country had her photo on their bedroom walls. Yeah, proper pop star stuff. So this is the story of Megan’s career in music in the 1960s.

You might be thinking – which band was Megan in? Well the band was called The Applejacks – you might not have heard of them. They’re not one of the big bands that we now think of when we look back at the 1960s, and they didn’t really reach fame on an international level but they were certainly part of the scene, and were well known at the time. My mum was a fan of The Applejacks, for example. 

Of course we know about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but there was a whole wave of other groups from all over the UK who were playing a new form of music and so many young people were really into it, and that includes The Applejacks who were from the Birmingham area. 

The 1960s was a really fruitful period in terms of modern British culture and I am proud of that part of our history. I find it fascinating, I like the music and I like the stories of the people involved, and I hope you do too.

My guest is Megan Brady (although she was known as Megan Davies in those days) Megan was the bass guitar player in the band, and at the time it was quite uncommon to have a female musician in a group. We’re talking about the early to mid 1960s. There were female singers, but you hardly ever saw girls actually playing instruments in bands, and so that was one of the unique things about The Applejacks. 

So, yes, you’re going to hear Megan talking about all of this, as well as other details like her other career as a clinical physiologist in neurophysiology in the National Health Service (that basically involves studying people’s brain waves) and just stuff about playing the bass guitar, how she’s still working on her technique and things like that.

I know Megan because I’m mates with one of her sons, Jake – or Jacob as she calls him. I met Jake at sixth form college and we played music together in bands over the years.

I was always really impressed by the fact that his parents were both professional musicians, or had been professional musicians at various times because I was so into music from the 60s and 70s including a lot of the artists that Jake’s Mum and Dad had worked with or brushed shoulders with over the years. 

For example, I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was 16 or 17 and I remember talking to Jake about Hendrix and he told me that they actually had Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at their home somewhere. A wah-wah pedal is a kind of guitar pedal. Jake wasn’t bragging really, he thought it was cool too, and he just wanted to share it with me and I believed him! “Hey, you like Jimi Hendrix – check this out, we’ve got Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at home! Come over I’ll show it to you!” Whaaat? Etc. 

Also, I went to Jake’s house one day and I was hanging out in his bedroom listening to some of his music, and his mum’s bass guitar was sitting there – a nice Fender Jazz bass – and I picked it up and played it a little bit, and Jake said to me “Oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix played that bass once!” I couldn’t believe it! Hendrix played the same bass that was actually in my hands. It turned out that Jake’s mum knew Hendrix a bit, back in the old days and he once had a little go on her bass guitar – the same one that was in Jake’s bedroom that time.

Eventually I learned more and my parents told me more about Megan and that she had played bass in The Applejacks in the 60s and they were one of the popular groups of the time. 

So that’s how I know Megan. I am friends with her son, and now I’ve finally taken the initiative to interview her on this podcast. Megan is lovely and she was happy to do this, which I really appreciate.

Vocabulary

Before we start, I need to just explain a few words that you’ll hear but you might now know. 

  • The Scouts / The Scout Association / Cub Scouts / Girl Guides / Brownies – The Scouts is a worldwide movement for young people (it used to be just boys, but these days it’s for boys and girls I think), founded as the Boy Scouts in England in 1908 by Lord Baden-Powell with the aim of developing character and responsibility. My brother and I used to be Scouts and so did my dad. What kinds of things did we do?Megan was in the Scouts and so were most of the other members of The Applejacks. That’s how they met.
  • Gang show
  • Cub mistress
  • Scout hut
  • Skiffle
  • Skiffle numbers (songs)
  • The Shadows
  • A cruise / a cruise ship / Cunard Cruises
  • The Queen Mary and the QE2
  • Top of the Pops
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital – a famous hospital in London specialising in pediatric care (medical care for children) Where Megan has worked since the late 1990s.
  • Bass guitar stuff – Just a heads up – things will get a bit geeky and specific sometimes in this conversation as we talk about playing the bass guitar, different types of bass guitar and Megan’s bass playing technique. During lockdown she’s been practising with an online bass guitar teacher called Scott Divine from Scott’s Bass Lessons. I didn’t want to cut those parts out of the conversation because I personally find those things really interesting, Megan was enthusiastic about them and so who’s to say that you won’t find them interesting too?
  • Parts of a guitar – The head, the machine heads & tuning pegs, the neck, the body, the pickups, the scratchplate (or pickguard), the pick, the bridge.
  • Fender Jazz Bass vs Fender Precision Bass

Right, without any further ado then, let’s listen to Megan Brady talking about playing the bass guitar and her story of being a pop star in the 1960s. 

And to lead us into this I’m going to play a little sample of The Applejack’s first and most successful single which was called Tell Me When, released in 1964…


Ending

Ending song – Baby Jane by The Applejacks

Thanks again to Megan for taking the time to talk to us about all of that.

You might be wondering why I didn’t get Megan to play some bass for us, which would have been really nice of course.

I didn’t want to put her on the spot, plus for us to hear it properly she’d need to plug it into something like an amplifier and connecting an electric guitar to a computer and playing the sound during a call is a bit tricky too, so it wasn’t really possible at that particular moment.

But you can hear songs by The Applejacks on Spotify and YouTube.

I’ll be sharing some bits and pieces on the page for this episode, including a video filmed in 1964 I think, of Megan performing with The Applejacks, which is a great little sample of the time and you can see her playing I think her Hohner semi-acoustic bass.

The super-long introduction that I recorded but didn’t use – you’ll find it as bonus audio in the app. I go into more details about how I first met Megan’s son Jake and also some other ramblings about The Applejacks…

Tell Me When (Their biggest hit)

Like Dreamers Do (by Lennon/McCartney)

I Go To Sleep (by Ray Davies of The Kinks)

Baby Jane

The Applejacks on Spotify

714. Robin from Hamburg 🇩🇪 (WISBOLEP Runner-Up)

Talking to another runner-up from last year’s listener competition. Robin from Hamburg had a big setback in his learning of English, but worked hard to overcome it. We talk about his English learning trajectory, and ramble about German language & culture, his podcast for learners of German, podcasting microphones and then Robin teaches me some German words which are difficult to pronounce.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing alright today, wherever you are and whatever you are doing as you listen to this.

Here is a new episode, and we are returning to the WISBOLEP series with this one – talking to winners of the competition I did at the end of last year in which listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

LEPland – that’s Luke’s English Podcast land, you see, L E P land – LEPland. Not LAPland, no, that’s Lapland – a real place, somewhere in the north of Finland. But no, I’m not talking about Lapland. I say this because sometimes people write to me and they say “Another listener here from Lapland” really? Are you from Lapland? Or do you mean LEPland. Maybe you are from Lapland, I don’t know. There are people there. If you are in Lapland, then hello to you too. Maybe you are Santa Claus (because Santa comes from Lapland) Maybe Father Christmas listens to this podcast  during the year, just relaxing, taking a break. Anyway, if you are Father Chrismtas then welcome, “welcome” to everyone. But anyway, where was I? So… The competition, last year, Listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

This episode now is the 4th in that series and the spirit of this whole competition is to let some LEPsters talk on the podcast so we can learn some things from them including insights into how they learned English, perhaps some things about the countries they come from and whatever else they can talk to us about. 

This time it is the turn of Robin who comes from Hamburg in Germany.

Robin came joint 3rd in the competition with William from France. So William and Robin both received exactly the same number of votes and in fact their stories are not dissimilar (which is another way of saying that their stories are quite similar). Yes, their stories are not dissimilar in the sense that they both first learned English at school in their neighbouring countries, and then both chose to pursue English in higher education, both decided to become teachers of English and both spent time as teaching assistants in English schools in the South East of England, helping English schoolkids and students learn French or German in the case of Robin. So, funnily enough, Robin and William both have many things in common, including the fact that they both got exactly the same number of votes, so joint 3rd position, but anyway, this is Robin.

And yes, Robin is also an English teacher, just like the other WISBOLEP winners that we have had so far.

Now I would like to address something at this point and that is the fact that all the winners of this competition so far have been English teachers. Obviously they’ve been, let’s say, non-native speakers from different countries, but yes, the four people I’ve spoken to so far – they have all been English teachers, and I get the impression from reading one or two comments that some people might think it’s a bit unfair, for some reason, that the winners all seem to be English teachers, right? 

Here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell, and actually I should also say, the vast majority of comments on these episodes so far have been really positive. People have loved listening to the guests that we’ve had so far and I think people have found them to be interesting and inspiring and thought-provoking and so on. But anyway, I do get the sense that there is maybe this feeling of “All the winners are English teachers. What’s going on?” and so here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell. Something like this…

“Hmm, so you can only win this competition if you’re an English teacher. What about the rest of us who don’t have that advantage?”

This sort of comment seems to suggest that non-native speakers of English who are English teachers have improved their level of English as a result of being teachers, that their English improved because they became teachers or as a consequence of being English teachers, and so being an English teacher gave them an unfair advantage in this competition. 

But I think it’s probably the other way round, isn’t it? Surely they reached a proficient level of English before they became teachers, and then became teachers as a consequence of having a good enough level of English. You can’t qualify as a teacher without having a fairly decent level of English first, can you? 

So, I think their progress and achievements in English proficiency are still thanks to their own merit just like anyone else who has got good at English, and so I think this still counts. 

Sure, perhaps their teaching work has meant that they’ve had to do more language study than most people, and that they get to use English in their work on a fairly regular basis. That’s true. So the job has probably tweaked their English that bit further than many other people, but again, I’m sure the majority of their English progress was made before becoming English teachers.

So, I just wanted to point that out in case some people listening felt there was something amiss about the results of the competition. Personally, I think it’s fine and you probably think so too, right? 

But bear with me as I say just one or two other things about this.

Of course there are loads of people who achieve great things in English and who don’t choose to become teachers, and that’s great too. I really don’t mind what people do, as long as they have something to offer to my audience, and I suppose ultimately this is why listeners voted for these people in this competition, because they felt that they would have interesting things to say on the podcast, and probably some insights into improving your English, and I think those things are definitely true. I feel that the 3 interviews we’ve had so far have been very insightful and interesting, and I think that this also applies to the other interviews that you haven’t heard yet. There are three more interviews to listen to. There’s Robin, Michal and Bahar as well.

And I’m sure that even now some people are going “This is unnecessary Luke. You don’t need to justify yourself”. Ok I won’t (as I whack the microphone). 

Anyway, so, after this one with Robin, the next one will be Michal from Poland and he has achieved a decent level of English and he’s not an English teacher. Not yet anyway! I don’t know what he will choose to do in the future, but so far he has not qualified as a teacher. 

Anyway, I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, even though I have just devoted a number of minutes to talking about it. I think ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Essentially we are listening to LEPsters who other LEPsters wanted to hear on this podcast and you know what – I am really enjoying these episodes, I think that the LEPsters who voted in the competition made some really good choices, and this series has been very well-received overall, which is great.

And this brings us to our 4th WISBOLEP guest – Robin from Hamburg in Germany (just in case you weren’t sure where Hamburg was. That’s right, it’s in Germany) so here we go. 

So I spoke to a few weeks ago. Robin is someone who learned English at school like most people, and liked it, and then chose to pursue his English studies and broaden his English skills while still living in Germany. There were challenges and setbacks, as you will hear, but ultimately he managed to immerse himself in the language and get his English to a good enough level to be able to train to become a teacher of the language in Germany. Later on he went to England to get some work experience as a teaching assistant in German classes at a posh school in the South East.

Along the way Robin also chose to start a podcast for learners of German. So Robin is a podcaster too, just like me. Robin’s podcast is called Auf Deutsch Gesagt, which I hope I’m pronouncing correctly. Speakers of German, indeed Robin, in fact, you could get in the comments section and tell me if I’ve pronounced that correctly. Auf Deutsch Gesagt!

So if you are learning German and you want a podcast that is similar to mine but in German, you could listen to Robin’s podcast Auf Deutsch Gesagt! Which translates as “In plain German” or “In plain language” which I guess means that the German that you can hear in his episodes is the sort of natural German that people use on a daily basis. As Robin has said, he was quite inspired by my approach to LEP, and so I guess Auf Deutsch Gesagt is along similar lines. So that’s Robin’s podcast for people learning German. It’s on Spotify and is available where you normally get your podcasts. 

There are links for his podcast on the page for this episode too. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

So this conversation ended up being a bit longer than some of the other interviews with WISBOLEP winners, but that’s partly because we found that there were quite a lot of things for us to talk about including Robin’s learning of English after being told by one of his university teachers that he should just give up because he wasn’t good enough, his experience as a teaching assistant at a school in England, some comparisons between English and German language and culture, some slightly geeky stuff about the recording setups and microphones that we use for our podcasts, and then finally we thought it could be fun for Robin to try and teach me a bit of German, so you will hear me struggling to pronounce a few words in German near the end of the conversation, which should give you a bit of a laugh.

So that’s it then for this introduction. I will chat to you again briefly on the other side of this conversation but let’s now meet WISBOLEP runner up Robin from Hamburg, and here we go.


Ending Transcript

So that was Robin from Hamburg, teaching me a bit of German there, which was a bit of fun wasn’t it? I think it was. I hope you enjoyed it, listening to me struggle with another language for a change. 

Again, if you’re learning German and you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, why not check out Auf Deutsch gesagt! (Spell it) So, again, you can just check the page for this episode on my website and you’ll see all of this stuff written. My introduction and this ending part here. It’s all written and you’ll find links to Auf Deutsch gesagt! If you want to listen to it. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you will find links on the website to help you find it. (I’ve just said that!) 

As you heard Robin say there, his approach is pretty similar to mine so it might be what you are looking for if you are learning German.

Also, I think it was very interesting to note the trajectory of Robin’s English learning. 

Ooh “Trajectory” – there’s a nice word. (spell it)

Trajectory

Let me just talk about it a little bit. Firstly, it refers to the path that an object takes as it flies through the air. Now we’re talking about the trajectory of Robin’s English journey, but I think the first use or meaning of the word trajectory normally refers to objects flying through the air, and the path that they take as they fly through the air. 

For example the trajectory of a plane from take off to landing. Imagine a line going up from the ground soaring into the air, over distance, then going back down to the ground. Trajectory – it doesn’t always mean it goes down, up and then back down again. It could just be from down to up.  

Also you’ve got the trajectory of a rocket, or the trajectory of a golf ball flying from the ground, up into the air, over the grass and maybe landing on the green, hopefully, if you’re a golfer. The path that an object takes as it moves through the air. That’s the trajectory. 

The second use of the word is metaphorical or idiomatic and it’s used to describe the movement or path of other things, like for example someone’s career trajectory, or the growth trajectory of a company, upward trajectory or downward trajectory. Imagine a line showing the movement of something making a curved line going up and over. It could be a line on a graph. 

So, it is interesting to follow the trajectory of Robin’s English learning, especially that moment when he was told he wasn’t good enough to pursue his studies, and then he kind of doubled down on his English, and the results kind of spoke for themselves. 

Arguably, being told “Oh you’re not good enough, I think you should give up” that is a very damaging thing to say to a learner of English, you would have thought, although not in the case of Robin, because this is the sort of kick up the bum that he needed. This is the kick up the arse that Robin needed apparently. I don’t know, I guess it could go either way. For some people, being told that would just destroy your confidence and you’d never achieve anything as a language learner after being told that. Or it might give you a wake up call and if you’re determined, well, this is the slap in the face that I needed – metaphorical slap in the face that I needed to kind of actually get me going.

Anyway, in the case of Robin it was the thing that kind of made him grasp the challenge. 

So, thankfully Robin took it as a challenge and seriously started to immerse himself in English all the time, and probably did self study from grammar books and other things but basically he just put a lot of time and effort into his English and it paid off, and just listen to him now. 

It seemed to make a lot of difference, right? Then he was able to qualify as a teacher and help other people with their English learning trajectory too, but the key thing is that he took the bull by the horns and took control of his learning himself [There’s a nice phrase! + some rambling about how you shouldn’t actually take a real bull by the horns because you’ll probably get gored in the stomach…] 

The thing is that Robin took the bull by the horns, metaphorically speaking, and took control of his learning himself, realising it was all down to him and he did it in his own way.

Again, I hope you agree that this has been quite inspiring – basically as a way to say, you can do it too if you put your mind to it and you put the time in. 

Again, I will echo my statements from the last of these episodes – I often tell you about the importance of motivation and the importance of doing certain types of practice, but also I just want to say, equally don’t worry about doing anything really. Don’t worry about it too much. Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things I often say. At the very least, just listen, enjoy listening, be happy, stay positive and enjoy spending time with English in any way that you like. This is probably the most important thing, that you have to maintain a good and positive feel-good relationship with the language, and when the time is right, you can take more control and really apply yourself by doing different kinds of practice, but don’t worry if you just like listening to English and that’s all you do. That’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good in the hood.

But if you’re always looking for specific tips on ways to improve your English, if you want to take the bull by the horns and you want to improve your English in more applied ways including your pronunciation and your accent then pay attention to some things that Michal from Poland is going to say in the next WISBOLEP episode, which will arrive in a few weeks. Little sneak preview there of the episode with Michal from Poland.

And of course there’s the ongoing LEP Premium project which is designed to be a service that can help you make sure your English is on the right trajectory. Parts 3 & 4 of P29 are coming very soon – and they are going to cover more solid vocabulary, collocations, synonyms and phrases based on things my dad said in episode 704 of the podcast, with listen & repeat pronunciation exercises in part 2 as well. So if you want to hear that, access the PDFs for it and all the other premium content visit www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

But in any case, I hope you enjoyed this episode and thanks again to Robin for his contribution. It was great to talk to him. It was really nice to listen to him and just hear about his story and so on. I apologise if I spoke too much during the conversation, but it was a conversation after all, and that’s fine isn’t it?

As ever, let us know your thoughts in response to this episode in the comments section for this episode, right? 

If you’re looking for the episode page where you can write your comments and also read transcripts for the introduction and ending of episodes like this, you will find the link in the description for this, wherever you are listening. [Luke rambles a bit about the Apple podcasts app] or just go to teacherluke.co.uk and then click EPISODES in the menu.

Well, it’s time to finish, isn’t it? It’s time to end.

Thank you for listening to my podcast again. Good luck with your English and I will speak to you soon, but now it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.

711. William from France 🇫🇷 (WISBOLEP Runner-UP)

William started learning English at 12 years old and continued at university and beyond, spending a couple of years in England as a teaching assistant and then returning to France to work as a school teacher, in some pretty tough classrooms and less-than-perfect teaching conditions. William talks about how he continues to maintain his English, the importance of finding good language exchange partners, and more.

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Notes for the Introduction and Ending Monologues (not a 100% complete transcript)

Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well. In this episode you’re going to listen to a conversation with another LEPster picked by other LEPsters for an appearance on this podcast. This time it’s the turn of William from France who came joint 3rd in the competition – it was a tie between William and Robin from Hamburg, and Robin will be on the podcast soon as well.

Right so this episode is the latest in the WISBOLEP series and WISBOLEP means Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and it was a competition I launched last year in which listeners sent in short recordings to persuade members of the audience to vote for them to be chosen for an interview on my podcast. So far I have spoken to the winner – Walaa from Syria and the 2nd place contender Tasha from China. Let’s now return to Europe and talk to William who lives in France. Shout out to all the French LEPsters. Salut les francais, et les francophone, ca va? 

I think these WISBOLEP interviews are really interesting and there is a lot to gain from listening to them.

Sure, there will be some people who will decide that they just can’t listen to another learner of English and only native speakers of English are worth listening to. I can understand that to an extent, but I do think that completely dismissing non-native speakers of English like that is a mistake. 

Learning English is a complex and personal process and I think there is a great deal to be gained from listening to other learners describe their experiences and methods of learning English. This can give you inspiration in terms of specific things you can do to improve your learning, and generally it can give you a lot of perspective about what it really means to be a learner of English or a speaker of English as a second language, what proficiency really is, what fluency really means, how important perfection is compared to having the initiative to just go out there and start using English. Also it can give you a sense of camaraderie with other fellow learners, and it’s very healthy to know that you are part of a community of similar language learners around the world, all of whom are trying to work on their English level in various ways. Some people are better than others, but everyone is going through a similar process.

We are all learners of English in a way, including me, and it’s wrong to think that learning English has a specific end point or conclusion to it. It’s a never ending process and there are always things to learn and ways to improve in terms of how we use this tool to communicate with people more effectively.

Perfection is not necessarily the thing to expect from yourself or others. It’s a high ideal to strive towards but if you only accept perfect English, then prepare to be disappointed, both by yourself and by others. Setting perfection as your ultimate goal is quite unrealistic and doesn’t really reflect the nature of English as a pragmatic language. When you’re using English in the real world, it’s not necessarily about having flawless English but about the results that you achieve with your English. It’s “connection not perfection” as the girls from AEE always say. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious or that you shouldn’t try to do your very best in English. It’s important to try to be better at English of course. But little mistakes are inevitable, holes in your knowledge of English are inevitable and you should not let these things stop you on your journey with this language. We have to try to accept that we will make mistakes and we have to learn from them. You have to be philosophical about it. 

Another idea that strikes me as I listen to these WISBOLEP episodes is that curiosity and a willingness to take a few risks are really important. It seems to help your progress in English if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a bit and throw yourself into situations that will ultimately help your English to develop. Be curious all the time and keep moving forwards in your quest to know more, learn more and get more control over the language, even if you never really get to the end – in fact there isn’t really an end point. Be patient and don’t let little obstacles get in your way.

I could bang on about this kind of stuff all day, but I will conclude by saying that it’s up to you to find your own motivation to keep going with English. There is no “one perfect way”. Everyone has to find their own path, and I think it’s a long-term thing. At the very least, certainly for the next hour or so I hope you simply enjoy listening to William and me talking about his experiences, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and don’t underestimate the value of listening to fellow learners of English. 

I would say, try not to compare yourself to others too much, and equally, don’t judge others too harshly. Just try to take inspiration from other people’s stories and examples.

This brings us to William from France, and in fact this conversation demonstrates a lot of those ideas that I just mentioned. 

Just a little bit of background info on William before we start, just to give you a sense of the context from which he learned English.

William is from a town just outside Paris, called Combs de Ville. His parents are from the French West Indies and more specifically from an island called Guadeloupe, which is a French overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. So his parents were from there originally and they moved to France in their twenties. William was born in France. He grew up learning French as his first language, but his parents did still speak Creole (the local language from Guadeloupe – but no English. In his own words “Creole and French were the main languages used at home but my parents didn’t want me to use Creole. We were in France so French was the only language I was allowed to use. So it was a bit strange to be able to understand a language without being able to use it.” 

As you’ll hear, English didn’t come into William’s life until he started learning it at school like everyone else in France at the time, at about the age of 12. But he took to it and liked it. I wonder if having several languages in the household growing up had anything to do with that. It’s possible. But in any case, William didn’t get a head start on his peers in terms of English.

I’m not going to explain in advance all the main points in our conversation. Instead, I will let you discover it as you go. What I will say is that I really enjoyed this chat, and you will find that it gets more focused, more specific and more insightful as it goes on. 

That’s it from me now. I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation with a few reflections and thoughts, but now, let’s hear from William from France, who came joint 3rd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Oh one other thing, before I forget. William wanted me to add something at the start of this episode – and that is to say a big thank you to all the people who voted for him in the competition, giving him the chance to be featured in an episode of the podcast. So, thanks from William.

——-

Ending

So that was William from France. I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s a lovely guy and here are some of the things I took away from this. Here are some thoughts and reflections.

  • English is a journey not a destination.
  • There’s no end point in terms of learning English. It’s like being a musician or a sports player. There’s always training to be done and room to improve in terms of technique, general fitness and fluency and so on. You have to practise all the time and there are always ways in which you can gain more control and more efficiency in how you use English to express ideas. This is true for native speakers of the language as well, including me. I see myself as a work in progress too, in terms of how effective I am as a speaker or writer of English.
  • Finding language partners for language exchanges can be a great way to get regular practice into your life, but you have to find the right person, and this can take a long time, but don’t let that stop you – keep searching, keep talking to different people until you find someone who is right for you. This could be true of one to one teachers as well. Sometimes you need to shop around a bit. Remember, like William you can find language exchange partners, conversation partners and English teachers on italki. Italki is both a sort of marketplace for online teachers, but also a social network which you can use to find other language learners, and that could include fluent English speakers who want to learn your language, and like William you could just informally set up conversations with these people and spend some time speaking English and some time speaking in your language, and if you get the right person that can be an invaluable source of practice for you. To sign up for italki you can still use my link, which is www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and if you access italki that way and then buy some lessons with a teacher, italki will send you a discount voucher worth 10 dollars which you can use next time.
  • BUt the point there is → be patient, be dedicated, keep searching, don’t give up and you could find someone who you can practise your English with on a regular basis in a mutually beneficial way. It could be a way to make new friends as well.
  • Finally – stay curious, about English – especially in terms of learning about how the language works in order to work on your grammar in a sort of organic way – just trying to work out how the language works, referring to grammar books (a tip could be Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – a good reference book for English grammar and usage) and also stay curious about other people, because this is really important in developing good communication skills. It’s not just about how well you can speak and express yourself, it’s about how well you interact with other people and listening to others is a big part of that. So, be curious about the language, but just be curious about people you meet and be interested in other people when you talk to them and you’ll find that your communication skills will thrive as a result of that. I feel that that’s something William does – he is interested in other people and that’s a strength of his. It’s one reason why he communicates well. 

OK, just some thoughts that occurred to me at the end of this episode here.

Feel free to share your thoughts too in the comment section.

I would also like to say that talking to William gave me a little boost. He said some nice and sincere things about this podcast, about how it has helped him and how I might be helping other people and I appreciated it. So good luck to you William and all the listeners who are still listening all the way up to this point in the episode. 

That’s it from me,

I will speak to you in the next episode. Again – a reminder that I am also working on Premium series 29 – What did Rick Say? And so premium subscribers – look out for new episodes in that series arriving very soon. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more details and to sign up.

Have a lovely day, morning, evening, night! Stay safe! Stay positive! Stay curious!

Speak to you soon.

Bye bye bye bye bye.

Song: Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles

Lyrics here www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/dontletmedown.html

Podcast Image: Cork Map by “Miss Woods” in Barcelona misswood.eu/fr/collections/mapas-de-corcho

P.S. I think I found my meme 👇

705. Kate Billington Returns (and she brought cake)

Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.

You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to. 

But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes. 

You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available). 

The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.

In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do. 

Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.

So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress. 

Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.

Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.

Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.

OK? Alright. 

So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.


JINGLE

You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast. For more information, visit teacherluke.co.uk


Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington. 

Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.

There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today. 

The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment. 

After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.

Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself. 

Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.  

Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation

I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.

Tinnitus

  • What is tinnitus?
  • Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
  • Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?

Maelstrom

  • My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes. 
  • What is a maelstrom?

Violent

  • We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
  • I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way) 

Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)

  • Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older? 
  • Why would this be the case?

Cake & Eating Cake

  • What kind of cake did Kate bring this time? 
  • What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.

Grooming

  • What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
  • Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word? 
  • Why did I use it? 
  • Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.

Derren Brown (hypnotist)

How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?

That’s it for the questions.

As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.

Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington. 

OK, here we go! 


Links & Comments

Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show

Some Listener Comments from Episode 689

Tang Qiongyu

Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.

However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财(gōng xǐ fā cái)means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”(xīn nián kuài lè).

By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋

IcyFlame 

Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.

Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!

Reda Zaouiri

If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)

There you go luke !

Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)

Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”

Ps 2 : Hooray for becoming a Chef !

All the best !

Alexandr Suvorov (Friend of the podcast)

Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere. 

Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.


Ending

Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.

Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆

Some other vocabulary to clarify

To flatter someone / flattery

This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.

“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.

Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)

But

Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:

“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”

Or
“Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.

Savour / savoury

To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.

Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)

I think that will probably do for now!

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

More episodes coming soon, including some conversations with WISBOLEP runners-up, and other things in the pipeline.

Thank you for listening!

Leave your comments in the comment section below 👇

702. Emergency Questions (with James)

Listen to Luke and James talking about various topics as we answer questions from the book “Emergency Questions” by comedian Richard Herring. Text video and full transcript available.

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Text Video Version

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Song – The Urban Spaceman by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858579321/

700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

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

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Text Video Version

My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

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

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

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

698. Paul is on the Podcast / Random Questions with Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor joins me for some random questions and challenges, including various little discussion points, accents, citizenship test questions, idioms, jokes and more.

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Links, Notes, etc

Happy Hour Live with Paul Taylor (with Luke Thompson)

UK Swearing / Road Rage compilation

697. 11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020, Explained

Going through 11 topical Christmas jokes for 2020, then a ramble about podcast statistics for 2020 and more… Merry Christmas everyone!

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Introduction Transcript & Jokes

Hello listeners, 

How are you doing today? I hope you are feeling fine. Are you feeling festive? Is it even possible to feel festive this year? Hopefully you’re finding a way to keep your spirits up as we speed towards Christmas.

I’m attempting to get the conditions just right here. I’m wearing a warm sweater, a nice thick pair of socks and I’ve got a log fire going on here (I haven’t really – it’s just a video loop of a log fire – I couldn’t have a real fire going,  it’s far too warm for that, I’ve got the windows open! But let’s imagine I’m in front of a lovely cosy warm log fire and that it’s all snowy and freezing outside and I’ve just taken some time out from wrapping presents and drinking brandy to do this recording for you.)

I’m in Paris at the moment. I’m not making the usual trip with my wife and daughter back to England to see my parents and brother this year, because of obvious reasons. It’s a Parisian Christmas this year, which is also very nice. “Christmas in Paris is such a wonderful thing, red wine and roses, are perfect for staying in” – you could imagine some crooner singing that.

2020 is nearly at an end. It’s been a weird year hasn’t it!?

In this Christmas episode I’m going to go through 11 Christmas themed jokes that might put a smile on your face. These jokes make fun of the year that we’ve just had to deal with – 2020.

I’m going to tell you 11 jokes, then explain them of course one by one, and then I’ll have a bit of a ramble about podcast statistics, upcoming episodes and my best wishes for Christmas.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

What is a Christmas cracker? What is a Christmas cracker joke?

I probably explain this every Christmas time, but let me cover it again briefly. The Christmas cracker joke is a hallmark of a normal Christmas at home with the family. Everyone’s gathered around the table for a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings and of course there are Christmas crackers decorating the table, one placed in front of each chair.

A cracker is like a tube which is pinched at both ends, and inside the tube there’s a paper party hat, a toy or puzzle or tool and a joke. The jokes are usually pretty awful things like “What does Santa have for breakfast? Snowflakes”. That kind of thing.

I did an episode last year about Christmas cracker jokes, it’s episode 631. teacherluke.co.uk/2019/12/16/631-29-awful-christmas-jokes-explained/

But this year I have trawled the internet for some alternative jokes that have some topical elements focusing on things like the British government, the coronavirus and things like that.

These jokes are being shared all over the internet on a lot of newspaper websites at the moment. They’re trending at the moment, especially the one about Dominic Cummings. 

It would be good if Christmas crackers contained more topical jokes like these each year, instead of things like “How does Santa keep track of all the fireplaces he’s visited? He keeps a logbook.”

So I’ll read through the jokes, then I’ll explain them one by one. Let’s see how many of these you can get. It might also be a way to review some of the themes which have dominated our lives this year, certainly in the UK.

After I’ve been through the jokes I’m going to have a bit of a ramble again, and will do a little review of the year in podcasting, and wish you all a merry Christmas again.

By the way, this is the official Christmas episode. Happy Christmas everyone! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I’ll say simply “Seasons greetings to one and all!” Also, happy new year and good riddance to 2020.

There will be one other episode arriving after this one – that’s an episode with Paul and a hint of Amber too. I’ll release that during the holidays. Then I might take a bit of a break during the holiday, but I’ll be working on premium stuff to be uploaded when possible, and I’ll probably be doing a few little interviews, maybe a conversation or two with James, Dad, Mum. Those will probably be published in the new year, but we will see.

In any case, let’s now go through this list of dodgy jokes for Christmas 2020 and then I’ll ramble on to you a bit more.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

Let’s see how many of these you get. They’re either word jokes or cultural references to things that have happened this year. Also, there are bound to be words and phrases to learn here, and I will be going through all that properly during this episode.

  1. What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song?
    Driving Home for Christmas
  2. Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve?
    They have herd immunity
  3. Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call?
    Because there was no Zoom at the inn
  4. Why can’t Boris Johnson make his Christmas cake until the last minute?
    He doesn’t know how many tiers it should have
  5. How is the pandemic like my stomach after Christmas?
    It’ll take ages to flatten the curve
  6. How can you get out of talking to your boss at this year’s staff Christmas party?
    Just put him on mute
  7. How is Christmas exactly like your job?
    You do all the work and some fat guy in a suit gets all the credit.
  8. Why is Parliament like ancient Bethlehem?
    It takes a miracle to find three wise men there.
  9. Christmas dinner is a lot like Brexit. Half the family were told they needed to make room for Turkey, so opted to leave Brussels.
  10. Why doesn’t Jeremy Corbyn ever visit Santa?
    Because he struggles in the poles.
  11. Why was the snowman looking through the carrots?
    He was picking his nose.

A Year in Podcasting

Top 20 episodes this year

I released about 100 episodes this year, including all the premium content and other bits and pieces I’ve created and uploaded this year. That’s got to be the most productive year ever for LEP.

I guess since COVID-19 came along I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this year. Not much travelling and as a result I was very productive and you were also very attentive, listening more this year than in previous years. 

In 2020 the podcast got over 13 million downloads (13,663,983 to be exact – at the time of counting – 18 December 2020), which is awesome and I think it’s the biggest year so far. 

Here are the top 20 episodes from 2020

  • 676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works
  • 660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English
  • 661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)
  • 682. Key Features of English Accents, Explained
  • 655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences
  • 663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul
  • 637. 5 Quintessentially English Things (that you might not know about) with James
  • 640. IELTS Speaking Success with Keith O’Hare
  • 673. Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks (with James)
  • 669. How to Learn English

Here are the top countries for 2020

It’s the usual list to be honest!

  • 20 Australia
  • 19 Hong Kong
  • 18 Saudi Arabia
  • 17 France
  • 16 Brazil
  • 15 Vietnam
  • 14 Thailand
  • 13 Turkey
  • 12 Italy
  • 11 Ukraine
  • 10 Korea
  • 9 Germany
  • 8 Spain
  • 7 United States
  • 6 United Kingdom
  • 5 Poland
  • 4 Taiwan
  • 3 Japan
  • 2 Russia
  • 1 China

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Upcoming stuff

Paul’s episode (with a hint of Amber)

Maybe something with James in which we ramble about a load of nonsense. 

Something about The Mandalorian (perhaps with James, perhaps with someone else) but I don’t know all the comic book backstories and even the animated series like Star Wars rebels. 

Some kind of Rick Thompson report, but we might be waiting until Brexit day, when the transition period ends. Boris Johnson is attempting to create a deal but there’s no way that deal would be better than just being in the EU itself, and anyway he probably won’t even get a deal at this rate. Will there be huge disruption at the borders, lack of stock in the shops and other repercussions?

Gill’s book club – 1,2,3,4 by Craig Brown – the book about the Beatles. McCartney III is out now by the way.

I keep wanting to do something about the Beatles but the topic is so huge that it’s hard to cover it all. Perhaps what I can do is a rambling story of the Beatles episode or series which tells the story, and it is an epic story with many elements to it. It’s hard to tell it because there are 4 people involved and more, but I might have a go at it. I could just try and do it all from memory. Probably be a 10 part series or something like that!

WISBOLEP conversations. These will be dotted out over the next few months I think. 

More conversations with guests.

I have something in the pipeline about legal English, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds as we look at various aspects of the law and legal English, including stories of landmark cases involving dead snails and jaffa cakes. It should be a bit of an eye opening episode if you’re unfamiliar with legal English, but also just the thing you want if the world of law is your thing.

But now I will bid ye farewell for the time being.

When the Paul episode drops it probably won’t have a long intro or anything. It’ll go straight into the conversation. When I talk to you again, I’m not sure but it shouldn’t be too long before new episodes start arriving again.

So, merry Christmas one and all, seasons greetings and a happy new year to you and yours. Stay safe, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again next time.

694. The Crown / The Royal Family (A Royal Ramble with My Wife)

Talking to my wife about the latest season of the Netflix TV drama The Crown, which follows the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II and her family. We talk about Charles & Diana, Margaret Thatcher, The Queen’s accent, Prince Andrew’s BBC interview and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, How are you today? I hope you are doing well. Here’s a new episode of the podcast. 

Several things before we start. 

WISBOLEP

The voting is over in the WISBOLEP competition. Yep, the voting closed on Sunday 6 December at midnight. I will be announcing the results in an episode of the podcast soon. So, stay tuned for that.

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Premium LEPsters – hello. I just want to let you know that I have uploaded several premium episodes covering language from my conversation with Lucy in the last episode. I went through the conversation again and picked out over 50 words and phrases that you might have missed, or that I think are worth highlighting and then I presented them to you with explanations, examples, a memory test and pronunciation drills. That’s P28 parts 1 and 2 and it’s in the premium section now. Also, Premium series 27 is underway and I recently uploaded parts 1 and 2 of that to the premium section – they contain some grammar and vocabulary language tips and practice, with pronunciation drills too. Parts 3-8 will be coming up in the next couple of weeks. If you want to know more about LEP Premium including how to get the episodes, and how they can really help your English in various ways – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

JINGLE

694. The Crown / The Royal Family (A Royal Ramble with My Wife)

In this episode I am returning once again to the topic of the UK’s Royal Family. This time I’m talking to my lovely wife about the royals because we’ve recently been watching season 4 of The Crown and so royal stuff is definitely on our minds at the moment. 

Just in case you don’t know, The Crown is a Netflix TV series about the British Royal family. I expect many of you will be aware of it too and maybe you’ve also been binge-watching season 4 recently, like us. Here’s an episode all about it. 

My wife, who is French, is particularly fascinated by the bizarre lives of my country’s monarchs and we often talk about the show and the real events it is based on, so we thought it might be interesting to share some of our thoughts with you in an episode of the podcast. 

If you haven’t seen The Crown yet, and you’re worried about spoilers in this conversation, I don’t really think it is possible to spoil this show as it’s all based on real events which most people know about. In fact, listening to this before you watch the show, could even help you understand it and enjoy it a bit more. Also, if you have no plans to watch The Crown, I think that you can still enjoy listening to this. It’s not just for people watching the show.

I know what some of you will be thinking. You’ll be thinking – “Do you recommend this as a good show for learning English?” 

Yes, as long as you genuinely enjoy it.  I think most people agree that The Crown is good and that it’s interesting – high drama, beautiful to look at, great actors, an interesting topic.

You should also be aware that the characters speak in a very posh accent, which is not how most people speak. It’s not massively different to, let’s say, “normal English” but you should be aware that they do sound very posh and have a posh accent. It’s important to hear a wide variety of accents in English, because this is the nature of the language. It’s a diverse language and you need to take that into account when learning it. You should be able to understand the various accents and hopefully be able to identify them to some extent anyway.

So, overall – yes, I think it’s a good show to watch and can definitely be useful for your English.

To get more specific tips about how to use TV shows like this to improve your English, listen to episode 660 of my podcast.

The Crown is currently in its 4th season, which deals with the period in which Maragaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister, and when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer – later to be known as Princess Diana. So this is the late seventies, the eighties and the early nineties. 

In this conversation you will hear us talking in the usual rambling fashion about things like:

  • What we think of the show, including descriptions of how it looks and the production in general
  • The performances by some of the actors 
  • Accents you can hear in the show, especially the high RP which is spoken by the Queen and other royals.
  • What the show makes us think about specific members of the family, their stories, their relationships with each other and how they are represented in the show
  • What the show makes us think about the institution of the monarchy itself, including some of the pros and cons of having a royal family – for the country as a whole, but also for the individual members of the family itself who enjoy the luxuries of their privilege but are bound by the duties that they have to the crown 
  • We also assess the reign of Elizabeth II, and talk about “Operation London Bridge is Down”, which is the codename that refers to the official plan for what will happen in the days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, when that inevitably happens. It’s actually quite extraordinary and makes you realise how significant The Queen is to the nation.
  • We also end up talking about the recent scandal involving Prince Andrew, who is one of The Queen’s four children – he’s the third one in fact. I don’t know if you are aware of this scandal, but it was big news in the UK. It is actually a disturbing and shocking story, but it’s also fascinating. I am referring to Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of the trafficking and prostitution of underage girls. Epstein died in prison in pretty suspicious circumstances. The official story is that he committed suicide but plenty of people believe that he was killed in order to prevent the truth from coming out. Anyway, Andrew was allegedly one of Epstein’s friends or “associates” let’s say and in fact one girl who was a victim of Epstein’s has made claims against Andrew specifically. In response to those claims, Andrew chose to conduct an interview with the BBC in 2018 . He wanted to deny all the claims against him, but the interview did not go very well and it was a bit of a PR disaster for Andrew. I find it absolutely fascinating as well as disturbing and I’ve been wondering for ages whether I should discuss it on the podcast. Keep listening to find out more about this whole story.

The Royal Family Tree

Before we start properly I think it will really help if I remind you of the basic family tree in the Royal Family.

So there’s The Queen of course. Queen Elizabeth II. She has been Queen since 1952 and that’s the longest reign of a UK monarch in history. Her husband is known as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. In season 4 of the show The Queen is played by Olivia Coleman and Philip is played by Tobias Menzies.

The Queen’s mother was also called Elizabeth but she was commonly known as The Queen Mother. She died in 2002.

The Queen had a sister, called Margaret, known as Princess Margaret, played in the show by Helena Bonham Carter. Margaret also died in 2002, less than 2 months before The Queen Mother, in fact.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had 4 children. The oldest is Charles, the Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne. Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and she became Princess Diana of course. They had two children. The first is William, now the Duke of Cambridge and married to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. They have three children. The oldest is George and he is third in line to the throne after Charles and William. 

Charles and Diana’s second child is Harry who is now married to Meghan Markle. Harry and Meghan are to some extent cut off from the royal family as they chose to leave their public duties fairly recently, and they were quite heavily criticised for that. William, Kate, Harry and Meghan don’t actually feature in the show, but they do come up in this conversation.

Charles and Diana’s marriage ended in divorce in 1992. Diana of course died tragically in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Charles later married Camilla Parker-Bowles, who he had been romantically involved with since before he married Diana. Charles and Camilla are now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

The Queen’s other children are Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

That’s probably enough information about the family tree there, but I decided it was probably a good idea to remind you of their names and their positions in the family, just so you definitely know who we are talking about.

Anyway, I won’t go on much longer here in the introduction, except to say that my wife  enjoys being on the podcast from time to time and she loves talking about this topic, but she’s a little bit self-conscious about speaking English in front of my entire audience like this. But I assured her that my audience are all lovely and non-judgemental and that she has nothing to worry about – so, listeners, don’t let me down. OK? 

Right then, I hope you now can enjoy sharing some time with us in our living room, having quite a long and rambling conversation about The Crown and all things Royal and here we go…

—–

Video Clips

That moment when Charles said “Whatever love means anyway…”

When The Queen met Michael Fagan after he broke into her bedroom

Ending

There’s nothing more for me to add here except this:

  • What do you think about all of this? I mean about the royal family and all that stuff. Do you feel sympathy for the individual members of the family?  Have you seen The Crown? What do you think of it?
  • We didn’t talk much about Margaret Thatcher, played in this series by Gillian Anderson who first became known for playing Scully in The X Files. We are fans of hers, and my wife thinks her performance in the show was great. I’m not so sure. I partially agree. Anyway, we couldn’t cover everything in this conversation.
  • Finally, what do you think – should I do an episode all about the Prince Andrew interview on the BBC?

Thank you for listening.

Reminders

Premium LEPsters – check out the app and the website for the latest premium episodes. If you’d  like to sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

WISBOLEP – I’ll be revealing the results and talking about what happens next in a forthcoming episode, soon.

Right, so I will speak to you again soon, but for now – goodbye!