Category Archives: Entertainment

679. Gill’s Book Club: A Gentleman In Moscow

Talking to my mum again about her latest book recommendation. A Gentleman In Moscow is about a Russian Count who is put under house arrest in 1922 in the beautiful Metropol Hotel in Moscow. 

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This episode is sponsored by LEP Premium. With Luke’s English Podcast I have two podcasts in fact. There’s the free episodes, which feature monologues, conversations with guests or specific topics. That’s where you get to listen to natural English on a regular basis, presented to you, for you. Then the premium episodes are all about language. Often I take samples from free episodes, then break them down for target language which I teach to you, help you remember and pronounce correctly. So the double whammy is to listen to LEP and also be a premium subscriber, to get the maximum benefit from my work. To get started with LEPP go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more info.

Introduction Transcript

Welcome to Gill’s Book Club, on Luke’s English Podcast.

This is the second Gill’s Book Club episode and this is where I talk to my mum, Gill Thompson, about books that she’s enjoyed.

My mum loves books, she’s a voracious reader, a member of a book club with her friends and she works in a second hand bookshop.

She gets through loads of books, and so this is naturally a topic that we can explore together on the podcast.

How does this work?

We pick a book a few months in advance, give people a chance to read it, then talk about it on the podcast, including some of the main plot points (no spoilers) characters, context and details.

Do you have to read the book too?

No. We’ll explain the main plot points without giving away any spoilers.
But you can read the book if you like, or get the audiobook version.

You could read the book first, then listen. Or listen first, then read the book, or just listen without reading the book at all, and enjoy hearing my mum talking about it, the characters, the story and so on. There might also be some nice vocabulary coming up which you can notice as we go along. As usual, check the episode page on my website to see some vocabulary notes and transcripts.

For other episodes I’ve done with advice on reading books to improve your English, check the episode archive.

I said earlier this year that the book we’d be talking about is A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles, and so that’s the main topic of conversation here.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a 2016 novel by Amor Towles. It is his second novel, following the release of the New York Times bestselling novel Rules of Civility. The novel concerns Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a man ordered by a Bolshevik tribunal to spend the rest of his life in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow. Wikipedia

There’s a bit of smalltalk at the beginning, and then we get stuck into the book.

I’ll talk to you again on the other side of this conversation, but now, let’s listen to my mum talking about her latest book recommendation.

——

Vocabulary Notes & Questions

Can you comment on these things with reference to the characters and events in the book?
Manners
Integrity
Loyalty
Vocabulary
Class

Do these words apply to Count Alexander Rostov?
Witty
Likeable
Standoffish
Spoiled
Privileged
Glass half full / Glass half empty

Does he change during the book?

House arrest
Did this book make you think of the lockdown?
If you had to be on house arrest, but you can choose any building you like, which building would you choose?
Which building would you choose to be locked inside? (not your own home)

Book club
What did the women from the book club think of it?

Book recommendation
The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Picture of Ivan the Terrible
booksyo.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/repin_ivan_terribleivan.jpg

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 is a painting by Russian realist artist Ilya Repin made between 1883 and 1885.

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 is a painting by Russian realist artist Ilya Repin made between 1883 and 1885.

Ending Transcript

So there you are. That was my lovely mum talking about a lovely book and it was all lovely lovely lovely.

Again, check out the page for this episode on my website for vocabulary notes, and the names of the different books and things that we mentioned, plus the chance to see that painting of Ivan the Terrible and more.

I’m still deep inside P24, having published 9 out of 12 parts. More coming for premium subscribers soon…

Later today I’m interviewing my dad.

I don’t like to talk on the podcast about stuff I’m going to do, because I’ve learned that often things don’t go as you expect and it’s unwise to make the listeners think that something is coming when it actually can’t happen because of a technical issue or a scheduling problem or something.

So, who knows, we might not be able to actually do the recording, but the plan is to talk to my dad later today, also about a book. But this isn’t a book that he’s read, written by someone else, it’s actually a book he’s written himself. Yep, he wrote a book during the lockdown. What’s with all these books!? About 5 people I know have written books during the lockdown, including my dad. So stay tuned to LEP in order to (hopefully) listen to a conversation with Rick Thompson about his new book.

Thanks again to my mum for her contribution to this episode.

I hope you all enjoyed listening to it and as ever I look forward to reading your comments and responses to this episode in the comment section on my website, but also on YouTube where you can find all my episodes, and you can keep in touch on social media, my favourite being Twitter and my handle is @EnglishPodcast

Take care everyone. I’ll speak to you again soon, but for now, good bye…

673. Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks (with James)

Talking to my brother about some click-bait topics, with stories, beliefs and a few celebrity impressions. Links, transcripts and videos available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you?

This episode is called CONSPIRACIES / UFOs / LIFE HACKS with James and I’m going for the full Joe Rogan clickbait title here, as you will see later.

I’ve said before that I wonder if clickbait titles actually work (I think they do) and whether I should use them (still not sure). I guess we will find out with this episode, which is a rambling conversation with my brother.

Clickbait, by the way, is any content on the internet which is designed just to get you to click it – usually with some sensational title or a promise of amazing exclusive information which is often not actually included. Usually they’re there as bait for clicks which ultimately will be turned into advertising revenue.

E.g. (for example)
“Dermatologists hate her new skin care routine that will save you thousands”
“Why Jabba The Hutt is the key to the Skywalker bloodline in ways you couldn’t imagine”
“10 Life Hacks guaranteed to change the way you live forever”
“Proof that aliens have already landed, and are living among us”
“7 Secrets about COVID-19 that the government don’t want you to know”
“These simple Language Hacks will help you speak like a native OVERNIGHT”

I hate clickbait but as an online content creator I am drawn to and fascinated by the impact of attention grabbing, wildly sensational titles. They obviously work, that’s the thing, because they’re everywhere. But a lot of the time I find clickbait titles annoying and even depressing because it’s so devious and also hackneyed. Anyway…

I’ve gone with the simple: “Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks” as a title. It’s clickbait-ish, with certain buzzwords that seem to attract attention. But really this is just a bit of a joke as you will hear in the episode.

Let’s see if it makes any difference.

Anyway…

What are you going to listen to in this episode then?

The other evening I called my brother James and I started recording our conversation before he answered the call, which I probably shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t expecting a podcast recording this time. But I pressed record before he’d picked up and what resulted was a spontaneous chat that ended up going all Joe Rogan as we talked about UFOs, conspiracy theories and life hacks.

First of all there’s a bit of a catch up and a chat about the COVID situation and how James has been handling it, and then we get on to some of the major topics of our time, including whether we are alone in the universe, how to cook poached eggs, how to walk up stairs, how not to make “British Tea”, The Beatles meeting Elvis, some sketchy impressions of celebrities, a dodgy chair and what you should do with overripe bananas.

I hope you enjoy it. I will be back at the end to chat to you again with some music going in the background as usual.

But now, let’s call my brother and see what happens…


Ending

I hope you enjoyed that. It was really silly in the most fun way possible. I’m glad I recorded it.

This tune in the background is one of James’ own, made on the Akai MPC2000. Those of you who work for the Akai consumer electronics company – James’ MPC2000 is currently on the floor of his living room, with the top off and all the circuits and boards visible. It’s not looking good. There’s something wrong with it and he needs a new one. So, if you’re in a position to provide him with an Akai MPC1 that would definitely help him to help the podcast by providing more background music. Just get in touch with the show if you’d like to help out and we will dedicate a special episode just to the wonderful Akai company and their delightful music making machines!

If you like James’ stuff check out his Soundcloud page where you can hear most of them

As you may know, James is also a DJ and since his MPC broke, he did a brand new LEP DJ set using his record decks and some new vinyl that he got recently. That special, exclusive DJ mix is now available on the page for this episode, it’s also available on the Music Mixes page on my website. Check it out there and have a listen. You’ll hear James introducing the tunes, speaking to you and DJing some music. Alternatively, get the Mixcloud app for your phone and listen to it there.

Here’s a link to James’ Mixcloud page with music mixes across various genres, including Drum & Bass, dub, punk, hip hop and so on

Music and comedy mixes (mostly done by me) on my website

MUSIC MIXES

Includes these shows:

  • The Classic Breaks Megamix
  • Moto Mix
  • Luke’s Radio Show
  • Walkman Mix
  • And some of James’ mixes too

Moto Mix (with plenty of silly improvisations, characters and voices by James and me)


Leave your comments below

Have you heard any conspiracies about COVID-19?
Have you ever seen a UFO?
Do you believe aliens exist?
Do you think they’ve made contact with us yet?
Who do you think might be posing as an alien in the world?
Do you think I might be an alien?
Do you have any good life hacks?

More Life Hacks (to justify the title)

OK, here are a few more life hacks. 5 fairly good ones I just found online, just in case you feel there weren’t enough life hacks in this episode.

This meaning of “hack” is something that makes your life easier – it’s like a solution to a problem in life. We talk about life hacks, learning hacks for language learners – simple little tricks you can apply that make your learning more successful.

I think you know what life hacks are then, so here are 5 more half-decent ones just to make sure you don’t feel undersold by the title of the episode, which is not a sentence that many internet content creator feel the need to say very often is it. “Oh yes, after all this video doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, sorry about that” – something you never hear. But I like to be different, so here we go.

  • Use a pillow case from a sheet set to keep the sheets in
  • When You Have To Hang Something With Exact Holes, Photocopy The Back And Use As A Template
  • Put a post it note on the wall when you’re drilling a hole
  • The Pomodoro Technique (dunno why it’s called that)
    Work for 25 mins then take a 5 min break. After doing this 4 times, take a 30 minute break. This will dramatically increase your productivity. (I definitely agree – when I was marking exams – 200 or more – I would set the clock for 10 minutes, blast as many as possible in 10 minutes and then perhaps mess around for a few minutes, then do it again. It made a huge difference, compared to just trying to sit and work constantly. Just focus for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode to charge it faster (but you knew that one already)
  • Dangle a fork into an opened bottle of champagne to keep it fizzy (This is an old myth I think. Apparently it makes no difference).

Noel Gallagher story about champagne
“Arr kid” means his brother Liam

(Liam had a fork in a pint of milk because he thought it would keep it fresh)

That’s the end of this episode, have a lovely morning, day, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you next time!

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.

666. [Part 1] The Number of the Beast / Scary Music / Black Sabbath (with James)

Talking to my brother James about the significance of the number 666, and then some scary music including ‘The Devil’s Interval’, Black Sabbath and more…

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Introduction

This is episode 666 and the plan is to talk about all things evil, satanic, demonic, wicked, unholy, malevolent, hellish and scary, focusing on pop culture – music and films and a few anecdotes and rambles.

This is part 1 and this one deals mainly with the musical side of things after we talk about the significance of the number 666.

Just in case you don’t know, the number 666 is associated with the devil, satan, lucifer and generally frightening things like that.

A DISCLAIMER: We’re not trying to offend or upset anyone!

Before we begin, here is a disclaimer of sorts.

I know people are very superstitious out there.

Just talking about this subject will probably make some people a bit uneasy or uncomfortable. Some people take this sort of thing quite seriously.

But, don’t worry, we don’t believe in numerology, the occult or satanism.

It is interesting but we don’t really believe in it.

Also some of you might suffer from hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia

…which is the fear of the number 666.

Yes, there is a phobia of this number. In the same way that some people have claustrophobia, arachnophobia or glossophobia, there are people out there who have hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia.

So, if you are one of those people, if you are very superstitious about this stuff, or if you are of a particularly sensitive nature then this might not be for you.

Also, you should know that during this episode we will be playing some extracts of fairly loud and scary music, and also you will hear some clips from scary horror films – including weird and creepy background noises, maybe some screaming, maybe the sound of a chainsaw… you know, stuff like that.

So if you’re listening on headphones or something and you hear some scary noises, those scary noises will probably be coming from the podcast, rather from the world around you…

But just bear in mind that there will be scary noises and some heavy-ish music during the episode, I hope it doesn’t give you a shock or freak you out too much.

OK, I feel I should say that stuff before we start just to give some of you a little warning.

My companion in this episode is my brother James, naturally. He is the scariest person I could think of to invite onto episode 666. (just joking, he’s lovely)

Actually, ages ago James claimed episode 666. He bagsied it.

Also, listeners have been asking me about this since they realised that I’d make it to 666 episodes. Typically comments are like this: Luke, Episode 666 is coming up. I hope you are planning something special for it, like maybe an episode on heavy metal or horror films or something.

Well, that is the plan.


Kate Arnold’s Music 
(download her album here)

katearnolduk.bandcamp.com/


VIDEOS & IMAGES

Maths experts show us how 666 refers to Emperor Nero, and how 666 is not such a remarkable number.

Bill Bailey’s Psychological Doorbell

Kate Arnold

Black Sabbath – War Pigs live in Paris 1970

Black Sabbath Greatest Hits – scary album art

The Triumph of Death by Breugel (don’t look too closely unless you want to see all the disturbing details) More info and a high-res image here mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/the-triumph-of-death/

Tony Iommi and the Black Sabbath sound

Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)

END OF PART 1 – Parts 2 & 3 coming soon…

Hello everyone, this is actually the end of part 1, we will continue the theme in part 2 and as you heard just at the end there we are going to tell some true stories about frightening things we’ve really experienced in our lives.

So, some anecdotes are coming in part 2.

I hope you have enjoyed part 1 and that you’re not feeling too disturbed or anything. 

Just to recap, we talked about the origin of the idea that 666 is the number of the devil, and how it turns out that it’s not quite as satanic as people often think. Then we talked about the devil’s interval in music – the augmented 4th or diminished 5th depending on your outlook on life (augmented means raised – to augment means to increase the value of something or to go up, and diminished is the opposite – to diminish means to make something less – so when you go up one semitone from a fourth you get the augmented 4th, and when you go down from a 5th you get the diminished 5th, but they’re actually the same exact note – just two ways of describing it). We talked about that, which is a feature of so-called unholy music, and then we had a good old ramble about Black Sabbath, heavy metal and other scary forms of music.

Still to come we have our scary stories and then in part 3 we turn to the topic of scary films.

Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy getting involved.

Thanks again to Kate Arnold for her input in this episode. 

App users – you will find a bit of bonus audio for this episode. It’s Kate talking more about The Wheel of Fortune, which is the name of her album, but it’s also an image which appeared in a lot of medieval art and culture. So if you’d like to hear Kate talking for a couple of minutes about the wheel of fortune, then tap the gift icon for this episode in the LEP App. The icon can be found when you’re playing this episode, it’s next to the share, favourite and download icons in the app. If you don’t have the app, you can get it free from the app store on your phone, just search for Luke’s English Podcast App.

If you’d like to hear Kate’s music properly, without it being faded out by me, then check out the page for this episode on the website where you will find links to her album on Bandcamp and also some YouTube videos of her stuff.

Also on the page for this episode on the website you’ll see a video from Numberphile, explaining in more detail how the number 666 is a code which refers to Emperor Nero rather than the devil, plus some footage of Black Sabbath and the Heavy Metal Britannia documentary which is well worth a watch.

That’s it for this part then and we will speak to you again in part 2, but for now… good bye!

662. Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10 (Surviving Lockdown with Kids)

Chatting to Amber Minogue & Paul Taylor about dealing with confinement at home with children, the birth of Amber’s baby, tongue twisters, weird children’s TV series and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello. Welcome back to LEP. I’m talking to you again as the rain falls on the roof above my head.

I hope you are surviving out there in Podcastland. There’s been a little delay since the last free episode, because I’ve been making and uploading content for the premium subscribers. Premium people will know that I am in the middle of premium series #22 which is a vocabulary builder series which also has examples from films and TV shows. I’m halfway through that series, and I’ll be uploading the remaining episodes after I’ve published this episode (this is 662) and the next episode (663) of LEP. If you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all those other episodes I publish, just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

But here we are. This is episode 662, called Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10, the first of two Amber and Paul episodes. The podpals Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor are back again, this time on Zoom – the lockdown videoconferencing software of choice.

Obviously we are social distancing and so we couldn’t record in the same room. The result is that the sound quality is not up to the usual standard. You’re probably used that now, I expect – talking to people online via Zoom and other software has become the new normal, so it’s probably no big deal really to hear a conversation recorded on Zoom, but you might find the audio quality makes things a bit more difficult to follow. For example, sometimes Paul in this episode sounds a bit like a robot alien or an Aphex Twin remix – you know they way people’s voices distort sometimes in videoconferences? Anyway…

The subtitle of the episode is “Surviving Lockdown with Kids”.

A bit of a heads up here at the start. This is quite a child-heavy episode because all three of us have got kids and so naturally this is dominating our experience during the lockdown. We couldn’t do a “catching up” episode without talking about our children. They’re there all the time, you see. We’re not complaining, it’s wonderful. But it is what it is.

Those of you with children will know exactly what this is like. Those of you with no children might not be fully on board with all the kid-chat. I don’t know. Anyway, you can expect quite a lot of conversation about being locked up with our children in this episode, including things like how to keep them busy all the time, how their languages are coming along, which childrens’ TV we choose to watch, and which shows we like, don’t like or find really weird, including programmes like Paw Patrol, Puffin Rock, Peppa Pig and Tellytubbies, which can be found on Netflix, YouTube or Cbeebies the childrens’ BBC channel.

There’s also other stuff, including a tangent about a French tongue twister which is “ton tonton tond ton thon” which translates as “Your uncle mows your tuna”, which doesn’t actually mean anything really. To mow is to cut grass with a mower, like you would mow the lawn in your garden or mow the grass on a cricket pitch or something. Tuna is a fish, as you know. So, if you say “Your uncle mows your tuna” in French, it sounds pretty funny – “Ton tonton tond ton thon”. The words sound the same but are spelled differently. It’s just one of those funny things in French.

I’m mentioning this because we talk about it for a few minutes and there’s a good chance that if you don’t speak French you’ll get lost at that point. So I’m just trying to prepare you.

Paul also mentions an English tongue twister, which is “English can be a difficult language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though”. When you see that written down, the words have very similar spelling – THROUGH TOUGH THOROUGH THOUGHT THOUGH, but  they are pronounced quite differently. You can see that written on the page for this episode on the website.

These tongue twisters came up in one of Paul’s recent YouTube live videos, because he’s doing YouTube Lives every day during the lockdown. He can’t do stand up shows at this time, so YouTube live is how he is keeping in touch with his audience. His YouTube lives are called “Happy Hour with Paul Taylor” and basically at 6PM CET every weekday Paul opens a beer and talks to his audience, answering questions and generally having a laugh for about an hour. Just search for Paul Taylor on YouTube and don’t forget to smash that like button and subscribe. Hit the bell icon to get the notifications for when Paul is going live, and represent the LEPsters in Paul’s comment section.

Anyway, as well as a few tangents and things, there is quite a lot of stuff about living in lockdown with kids, but this episode is not for kids, it’s not really suitable for children because there’s swearing. The F bomb gets dropped here and there, and some others, so you might want to bear that in mind if you’ve got kids in the room –> either because you don’t want your kids hearing those words, or because you do want your kids to hear those words in order to for them to learn them and you might want to turn up the volume. I don’t know, it’s up to you. The main thing is: There is swearing in the episode.

I’d like to just make a quick note about swearing on the podcast actually because I was having this conversation in the comment section today.

For me, swearing on its own isn’t always bad – it depends on the situation and the intention behind using swear words.

I include swear words on the podcast sometimes because I want the podcast to be authentic and when I am talking to my close friends and family, swear words do come up. But I’m not saying you should use them all the time.

There’s a difference between saying a swear word to emphasise something, like for example (and I’m going to swear now) “That film was fucking awful” That is different to swearing at someone in order to insult them, like “You’re a fucking twat mate”, which is something I don’t really want to condone.

I’m saying that because I want it to be clear that although I have swearing on the podcast sometimes, I’m not saying that I’m a huge advocate for swearing all the time and I’m not trying to teaching people to swear at each other.

Was that a patronising thing to say? I’m not sure. I am a teacher after all so I feel I need to say things like that sometimes.

Anyway, we talk about children a bit in this episode, but it’s not really for children and after this one, there is another Amber & Paul episode coming (ep 663) with no conversation about our children at all, so there you go.

But the main thing is – Amber & Paul are back on the podcast, which is great. So let’s get started. I will talk to you again at the end of the episode but now – here is the jingle!

Free 30 Day Trial with Audible + One Free Audiobook Download

www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

TV shows

  • Tiger King
  • Better Call Saul
  • Puffin Rock (for children)

Podcasts

  • Phoebe Reads a Mystery
  • Criminal
  • This is Love

Paul’s YouTube channel – Happy Hour with Paul Taylor – Weekdays 6PM CET

www.youtube.com/user/paultaylorcomedy

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

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!

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!

647. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 6)

The final part in this little series following Alan Partridge through a day in his life, and breaking it down for language. Alan is not for everyone, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and learned some English from it.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back. This is the 6th and final part of this particular episode run about Alan Partridge. I might come back to continue with part 7 and onwards at a later date.

But here is part 6 and in this one we’re going to conclude the storyline that we started in part 4 of this.

So we’re listening to some clips from this award-winning TV comedy from 1997 I think. It’s over 20 years old now but Alan Partridge is still a popular character and he is still on TV these days with new shows coming this year or early next year apparently.

But I’ve chosen this episode from 1997 because it follows on from the stuff we listened to in previous episodes.

Again, if you haven’t heard the other parts in this series, I suggest you go back and listen to them first. This won’t make a lot of sense to you if you haven’t heard those parts, and I mean parts 1-5. Check them out.

So we’re going to continue and conclude the story from this episode, which is episode 2 from series 1. It’s actually called “Alan Attraction”.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened in Alan Attraction so far.

It’s happens to be Valentine’s Day and Alan has been sending chocolate oranges to women he knows aged 50 and under. The thing is, all the chocolate oranges are shop soiled – probably ones that have been on display in shops and then taken off display and sent back to Rawlinsons for some reason, and so Rawlinsons don’t know what to do with all these damaged Chocolate Oranges, so they’ve somehow done a deal with Alan whereby he plugs Chocolate Oranges from Rawlinsons (Just say “Chocolate Oranges are available from Rawlinsons”) and then they give him 50 of the shopsoiled chocolate oranges.

More importantly for Alan, he is struggling financially. He hasn’t been given a second series by the BBC so now he is being forced to make financial changes. He has sacked all the staff in his company Pear Tree Productions and has to trade down his Rover 800 for a smaller model.

In the last episode we heard him go to Pear Tree Productions and sack them all in the most cowardly and pathetic way, except for Jill – the middle aged divorcee that works for him, and who he fancies. He lied to Jill about sacking everyone and then took Jill on a romantic Valentine’s Day trip to a local Owl sanctuary and then he asked her out to dinner at the travel tavern where they have an extremely romantic all-you-can-eat buffet for 6 pounds. It’s all you can eat from an 8-inch plate and Alan is cheating by smuggling in a 12 inch plate from his room.

So in this episode we’re going to hear

  • What happens on Alan’s date with Jill
  • Will they get on?
  • What’s going to go wrong? (because this is Alan – something always goes wrong)
  • Is Alan going to get involved with Jill?
  • What kind of lover do you think Alan is?
  • And is Alan still going to sack Jill like he promised Lynn he would?

I realised just before recording this that I haven’t described the appearance of the characters in the show.

Alan has a kind of middle-aged, middle English kind of look. He wears sensible shoes, brown slacks, a cardigan and shirt or possibly a blue or green blazer with brass buttons. His hair is a sort of side parting but it goes quite wide at the sides. Somehow it is exactly the sort of hair cut that TV presenters had in the mid-nineties.

Lynn looks like a typical middle-aged conservative English churchgoing woman. She is very modestly dressed in a long skirt (grey or brown) a plain blouse, cardigan, overcoat which is light brown or grey maybe. Her look is extremely sensible and plain. Her hair is, again, generic middle aged woman territory but there is absolutely no glamour to Lynn. She is a Baptist, which is quite a strict form of English protestant Christian. She’s very conservative, extremely meek, modest and also completely devoted to Alan. We don’t know why she is so devoted to him but she is. Alan of course takes her devotion for granted. Everyone should be that devoted to him, probably. He is generally quite mean to Lynn although he is also affectionate in some ways. For example, he plays her a song on his radio show as a dedication but feels the need to then say it’s nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Then there’s Jill in this episode who I think is also 50 (like Lynn) but she’s far more glamourous and sexy (read: slutty) than Lynn. Really, Jill is very trashy – low cut top (revealing her cleavage), short skirt, hair pushed up, lots of make up. She has tanned (probably fake tanned) skin, smokes fags, wears high heels and makes loads of dirty and flirtatious comments.

Those are the main characters in this episode I think.

Right, so let’s carry on and we’re going to now listen to Alan and Jill having their romantic dinner at the Travel Tavern (a horrible place for a valentines date).

Here are some things to look out for

17:22
Alan and Jill have dinner at the travel tavern
Jill has changed into a red dress, Alan is wearing his green blazer. Alan and Jill have just finished dinner. Alan buys Jill a rose. He holds onto his larger (12 inch) plate and Jill orders a chocolate moose, then Alan gets up onto the stage, grabs the mic and does something.

  • What does Alan do on the stage? What happens?
  • Jill says “I didn’t know you could sing” – What is Alan’s response about being in the choir when he was a boy?
  • Lynn arrives. What does she have to tell Alan?
  • Why was Alan’s phone switched off?
  • Why is Lynn wearing a “snazzy cardigan”?
  • What does Lynn suggest to Jill?
  • What’s Alan’s response?
  • What does Lynn give to Jill?
  • What does Jill suggest at the end?
  • What happends in the video? Basically!

22:00
Alan’s Room

Alan emerges from the bathroom in a bath robe.
Jill is in the bed in a nightie.

  • What does Alan suggest to Jill about the bathroom?
  • What does Alan think about living in a travel tavern?
  • Alan puts some change on the bedside table. What does Jill say? What’s Alan’s awkward response?

Alan wants to turn off the light, Jill suggests that they just dim it and Alan slowly dims it to complete darkness. “Bit more, bit more, bit more”

The next bit is perfect because it’s just audio.

Alan in bed with Jill
23:10

  • What do you think of Alan’s pillow talk?
  • What does he actually say while they’re having it off?
  • What do you imagine they’re doing?
  • What does Alan say about condoms?
  • Why does Alan want to keep talking?
  • “People forget that traders need access to Dixons!
  • They do say it will help people in wheelchairs”
  • What does Jill do that upsets Alan?
  • Who knocks at the door?

Alan’s Lovebud

Alan is back in the studio for his morning radio show as Jill is driving home in the taxi. Alan does a feature on his show called “Alan’s Love Bud” which is probably about romantic stories. In this one he tells another story but it’s obviously him and Jill.

  • What’s the conclusion of the story?
  • What will Alan be doing in 3 minutes’ time?