Category Archives: Exams

592. It always seems impossible until it’s done

An unedited ramble about motivation for language learning, dealing with challenges, getting started on a task, getting work done and my process for making episodes of the podcast. There’s also some news, some OPP and a couple of songs on the guitar at the end. Vocabulary notes, links, videos and song lyrics are available below.

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Vocabulary Notes & Other Information

Let’s get this show on the road.
Let’s get started.
Let’s get this whole thing underway.
Things I’m saying to myself to get myself going.
I’m on my feet in order to try and get the energy going.
It helps me to get into the right mood.
I’ve been sitting here messing around for ages.
I’ve been fiddling around.
Plugging and unplugging (microphones)
Lots of messing around, farting about and faffing around.
You become very productive and you’re in the zone.
Sometimes you’re not in the right frame of mind and it feels like everything’s a bit of a struggle.
Once I get going it’s fine, but there are some days when I find myself unable to begin the episode..
Attempting to follow my own train of thought while talking.
You can probably hear handling noise (the noise of handling the microphone).

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Anything can seem impossible and that includes personal challenges (like recording a podcast in the window of time that I’ve got) that we have to face as individuals, and global challenges that we all face together.

“I can’t handle this. I can’t do it. It’s too overwhelming. There’s no way I can do it.”

Sometimes it seems a bit impossible, at the beginning of an episode.

I want episodes to be fun, engaging to listen to, relevant, personal, motivating, useful, natural and funny. (fun vs funny?)

What is the world coming to? I don’t know.

Fun = enjoyable (like a theme park)
Funny = it makes you laugh (like a great comedy show)

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Sometimes it’s dead easy. I have loads of ideas just waiting to come out and I can’t wait to switch on the record button and get started. (switch on the recording device and then press the record button)

With Amber & Paul I sometimes have to abandon the stuff I’ve planned and just go with the flow.

Other times it seems like having to climb a mini mountain and I feel like I just can’t do it that particular day. Getting started is the most difficult part.

Sometimes, when I’m doing the podcast, I start, get something slightly wrong or go off on a weird tangent, getting away from the main point of the episode and I stop the recording and start again. That can happen over and over!

It’s a bit of a catch 22 situation. I want it to be natural and not over-prepared, but I also want to be disciplined and to get to the point quite quickly. It’s a weird balance between being prepared and being spontaneous and sometimes it’s a bit difficult to walk that line.

But that’s just me. I think anyone attempting to do anything will feel the same. It also applies to learning a language. The challenge can feel a bit overwhelming but we know that it always seems impossible until it’s done.

Hopefully this can give you some motivation.

OPP: The Joe Rogan Experience

I was listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast (The Joe Rogan Experience) http://podcasts.joerogan.net/

Last week Joe Rogan interviewed Eddie Izzard. He’s a stand up comedy hero of mine.

Eddie Izzard’s unbelievable marathon running

Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days! (in 2012 in the UK)
Then (a few years later) he ran 27 marathons in 27 days (including 2 marathons in one day on the final day) in South Africa.
He did it all for charity and to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela.
It’s a stunning achievement and almost unbelievable really.

43 marathons in 51 days
27 marathons in 27 days

Eddie Izzard must have felt so daunted before doing his 27 marathons.

The whole thing is mind over matter, being determined and not giving up.

I think it’s a mental battle. The best thing is to just get your head down and get moving, get a rhythm going and just don’t stop!

Keep going, keep going, keep going, and eventually it will be done and it won’t seem so impossible any more, because you will have done it.

Comments from Listeners on teacherluke.co.uk

Some comments with interesting and motivating things to say about learning English

Farshid
One of the most important things that learning the English language teaches you is you’ll learn to have to carry on without getting any outcomes for a long time, literally working but getting nothing.
That does require you to be tremendously patient, that’s a skill that you’ll develop overtime by learning English.

Sometimes you don’t notice your progress until a certain specific moment, then you realise that the work you’ve put in, or should I say the time (because it shouldn’t feel like work) has paid off.

Marta
Hi Luke, I just wanted to stop by to leave a short message – I was at a concert yesterday (British singer Passenger), it was amazing and you know what? He talked quite a lot between the songs and I was able to understand 99 % of what he was saying. Those are such special moments when I’m so very much thankful for discovering your podcast because this is definitely one of the rewards.
Thanks!!

All that time listening to the podcast has paid off.

Agnes
Hi Luke,
I just want to share my accomplishment with you that I got C1 in CAE Cambridge Exam which I took at the beginning of April :-)
I want to thank you for appealing episodes keeping me motivated and hooked on English every single day :-)
Obviously, I don’t want to stop doing my daily learning routine. Even though I’ve passed this exam, I treat it as a start into deep advanced side of the language, I’m totally hooked which means that English is my life!
I feel terribly bad when I miss one day without English.
I’m really proud of myself because I have only been learning on my own, without classrooms, courses etc. As I always say my learning process is based on listening and undoubtedly that made me person who loves learning as a whole.
Once again, thank you, because of you I love British English :-)
best
Agnes

OPP: Other People’s Podcasts

English TVLive Podcast

I was interviewed by Jacob Teacher on the English TVLive Podcast.
Jacob featured me in an episode of his Advanced Vocabulary series
You can listen to it here.

The Letter “N” |Advanced English Vocabulary

The Earful Tower with Oliver Gee (walking tour video)

I was on an Earful Tower video walking tour of Batignolle Park with Oliver Gee.

Become a Patreon supporter of the Earful Tower to unlock the full 30-minute video https://www.patreon.com/theearfultower

The Earful Tower episode about the Notre Dame fire (not featuring me, but interesting if you’d like to know more about the recent fire at Notre Dame cathedral)
theearfultower.com/2019/04/22/notre-dame-fire-what-happened-and-what-next/

Other news and announcements

Episode 600 YouTube Live – Ask Me Anything (date TBA)

Think of questions you’d like to ask me.

LEPster Meetups

Check the page on my website – in the menu under CONTACT. People are leaving comments there. They might be in your area.

LEPSTER MEETUPS

My Avengers Endgame Review (with spoilers)

I did a spoiler-filled Avengers Endgame episode, only available in the app, with Fred. We go through the whole plot of the film and talk to about each point in full depth.

GET THE LEP APP

A correction from episode 591…

I got various comments about Schleswig-Holstein, including one from Cat.

I said, quickly, that it was a city near the German/Danish border.
It’s not a city.
I hate getting anything wrong!
It is in fact the northernmost state of Germany – a whole area, a bit like an English county.
It’s really large (similar in size to Northern Ireland) and is a historic place and geographically interesting. It’s northern border is the border between Germany and Denmark. To the west it has a coastline on the North Sea and to the east a coastline on the Baltic sea.

I’ve never explored that area of the world (which is no excuse for not knowing about it) but I would really like to go there and visit.

This episode is unedited. I’ve decided to publish it as it is, warts and all.

2 Songs on guitar

If you don’t like music, you can check out now. (Check out here means to leave, like when you check out of a hotel)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Neil Young – Lyrics & Chords
tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/neil_young/only_love_can_break_your_heart_chords_865950

Fade Away by Oasis – Lyrics & Chords
tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/oasis/fade_away_chords_36372

Thanks for listening!

586. The Importance of Listening

Recently I was reading a book about listening and learning English. This episode is a summary of what I read, including details of how listening fits in with learning English, some considerations of the importance of listening and also some tips for how to improve your English with audio.

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Episode Transcript

This episode is all about the importance of listening in the learning of English. It’s full of various thoughts and reflections about this topic and my aim to a large extent is to give you ideas and inspiration to help you keep learning through listening and to keep doing it more effectively, also to consider some things we know about learning through listening, to encourage you to reflect and form some metacognitive strategies towards your listening and also to give you some practical tips to help you learn English through listening and to improve your listening skills. I suppose ultimately I’d like to develop your process of understanding the place of listening in your learning so that you can take more and more responsibility for that learning. So that’s what this episode is all about. It’s quite appropriate I suppose considering this is an audio podcast for learners of English and you’re listening to this as a way to improve your English through listening, it’s worth taking time to think about the academic points on this subject.

Before we start I just want to say to any premium subscribers that I’ve got a series of episodes probably coming out next week all about grammar, focusing on tenses. We’ll be looking mainly at present perfect, but also comparing it to other tenses. So it’ll be a sort of tense review, focusing mainly on present perfect. There’s also going to be a series about the language which came up in my conversation with James that you heard on the podcast earlier in the year. So, grammar stuff coming next week and vocabulary later. If you want to get access to that stuff and all the other premium content go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Recently I was thumbing through some books at work. One of the books was a copy of Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom by Tricia Hedge, which is something of a bible for English teachers. A lot of teachers use this book during their DELTA and CELTA courses as it is absolutely filled with insights about language teaching and learning, all based on academic studies done over the years. It is a great book and covers most aspects of the work of an English teacher, including how people learn English and how, accordingly, English teachers should adapt their teaching methods.

I remember reading the book intensely while taking my DELTA. You heard me talking about the DELTA course with Zdenek earlier this year.

So I remember reading the book very thoroughly when I was doing my DELTA. Can you believe it, that was 13 years ago! It stuns me to imagine that it was so long ago. Anyway, during that time, when I was taking the DELTA and I had nothing else going on in my life – I used to work, come home from work, make myself tea and then retire to my bedroom where I would listen to ambient music and desperately try to focus on my work without getting distracted by absolutely everything in the universe! Because, somehow, when you’re working – everything becomes a major distraction. Anyway, one of the books I used to pour over was this one. I had loads of post-it notes marking various important pages.

Anyway, the other day I was at work and I noticed the very same book on the shelf, so I picked it up and started thumbing through it. 13 years later my situation has changed a bit. These days I’m doing this podcast and the majority of the people I am essentially teaching English to are not in the same room as me, they’re not even in the same country and in fact the only way I can communicate with them is through the medium of audio. I can also write things and post pics and videos on the website, but most of my audience don’t check the website – only about 10% actually go to the page.

Anyway, the point is – it’s now all about listening, which is amazing.

One of my aims in the beginning was to get people listening more, and it’s working. I have always thought listening to English must be an essential way to learn the language. It’s got to be a vital part of the learning process, surely. It’s like music – there’s music theory, music technique and all that, but for most musicians the best way to learn how to play well is to listen to plenty of music, and to practise every day. Listening probably comes first, right? Then it’s a question of practice x 5 and trying to replicate what you’re hearing. But first you have to get to know what music can sound like and to hear the way it is produced. When I first learned to play the drums I became obsessed with listening to my favourite drummers, who were: Mitch Mitchell, Stuart Copeland and Ringo Starr. Playing the drums at the beginning gave me a sense of how the music was produced, so I could listen to those songs and hear what the drummers were doing. I knew how they were doing it – which parts of the kit they were hitting, how those sounds were made. It was all a question of practising until I could do it too. In most cases I couldn’t replicate what they were doing (except in the case of Ringo!) but in practising like that I developed my own style, my own ease, my own technique and ultimately I was able to do things on the drums, play the kinds of beats I wanted to play, fit in with a band in the way I wanted. Obviously, listening was vital. It sounds ridiculous, obvious, right? To learn music, you must listen to it a lot – pay attention to how it all works. It’s the same thing with learning a language.

Obviously there are differences – the thing about music is that you understand it from birth without having to learn it first, right? It’s just something you feel. But anyway, I think the point still stands – that listening is a vital part of the learning process, just like it is with music.

So, back to the book. Now I’m interested in listening and I’m interested in what Tricia Hedge has to say on the subject of listening. So when I had the book in my hands, I flicked straight to the sections about listening and I made a note of what I found there.

In this episode I’m going to explain some of the things I’ve read and reflect on them.

Academics often write that listening is overlooked in ELT

Think about the average English lesson. Most of the time is spent on other language skills and language systems.

Listening is one of the 4 Skills

It is one of the 4 skills and it is a very important part of Cambridge Exams such as FCE, CAE and IELTS. Those exams give equal weight to the 4 skills, so listening is 25% of the whole exam. Is 25% of your study time in class devoted to listening?

We don’t do much listening in class

The majority of classroom work is devoted to other things, probably speaking and writing skills, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I totally understand why. I wouldn’t spend all my time doing listening in my English classes. It wouldn’t make sense to get a bunch of learners of English together and just make them do only listening. Class time should be spent on other things, like communication skills, speaking and remedial work by the teacher.

We often listen to scripted listenings in class

Listening is in a lot of course books but the focus still seems to be on scripted dialogues which are designed specifically to present certain language, such as vocab or grammar. There just isn’t time to do extended listening, using unscripted dialogues that don’t follow a pre-planned agenda, but this is the sort of thing people need to practise listening to. Normal speech, which is a bit random, contains things like sentences that don’t end, false starts, moments when people talk over each other, moments of humour or spontaneous reactions and tangents in the conversation. So, real listening is overlooked.

Listening is vitally important in everyday life

The majority of interactions you will have will involve you speaking to a person, and it’s so important to be reactive to what they’re saying, and this relies on your ability to quickly follow what’s being said. It’s like fluency in a way – being able to follow fluid speech without thinking about it too much. That’s very important, of course.

Listening is linked to pronunciation and speaking

Raising your listening skills means raising your awareness of the connection between the written word and the spoken word – meaning that a good listener is able to recognise English as an oral language and this means being able to decode connected speech, elision of sounds, weak forms, how meaning is expressed through intonation and sentence stress. Getting good at listening means getting to know English as a spoken language. This in turn should help you make your English more natural, rather than just a version of the written language which comes out of your mouth, and that is a big problem. When I listen to learners of English (and I have met many thousands of them over the years) it’s amazing how often their mistakes are a consequence of them essentially speaking English as it looks when it’s written down. So many learners of English got to know English as a written language, to the point that the spoken version is so foreign to them that it’s almost like another language.

How much communication time do we spend on listening?

How much time do we spend on listening, when we communicate, compared to the other 3 skills? Research has been done into communication in English, focusing on the average time spent on the different skills of writing, reading, speaking and listening. How much time, on average, do we spend writing, reading, speaking and listening when we are communicating? The research shows that 9 per cent of communication time is devoted to writing, 16 per cent to reading, 30 per cent to speaking and 45 per cent to listening. (Rivers & Temperley 1978, Oxford 1993, Celce-Murcia 1995). There’s no doubt then that listening is really important and is perhaps the first thing you must master when you’re learning the language, followed by speaking. That’s if we decide that time spent during communication is the most important factor. Of course it depends on your situation. Maybe you work in an office and you have to write a lot of emails in English but you never speak it. I guess for you, writing would be the most important thing. But anyway, the numbers speak for themselves. We seem to spend most of our time listening. But we don’t spend most of our learning time on listening. The result is that when we are learning, we focus on learning words, learning structures and so on, but when we actually interact with the spoken version of the language, it all seems totally weird because the way we deliver those words and structures with our mouths often bears no relation to the English we have become familiar with during our studies.

Listening will be more and more important

Listening will only get more important. It’s almost definitely true that society in general is moving away from print media towards sound, so listening has become and continues to become more and more important as we move forward. Much more of our information comes through audio than ever before. With the internet a lot of the news we’re exposed to on social media is small video clips, we send each other audio messages, talk via Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp, there are frequent audio and video conferences at work, we have a plethora of podcasts available to us and much more than ever we are tapping into entertainment on a global level with platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime where there are loads of English language TV programmes in the original language version, perhaps with subtitles in your language. The internet has allowed us to use listening as the primary source of information transfer today. So, listening is more and more important all the time.

How do people learn English through listening?

But what do we know about how people can learn English from listening? How does this affect the way I can produce LEP and how my listeners can consume LEP?

Input vs intake

Comprehensible input

This is part of the theory of language acquisition which is very popular. The principle is that if learners listen to English which is understandable but slightly higher than their level, and they focus on understanding the message within a meaningful context, that they can then pick up the language as a by-product of the process. This is good news for LEPsters. It means that you can pick up the language from my episodes by listening carefully to the main message being communicated. By interacting with English like this, you’re just naturally exposed to language and learn the functions of phrases and grammar through context. The argument is that you learn a language when you can understand it, and the process of getting to fluent speech comes first through a lot of exposure to the language, at the right level. It’s important that you understand most of what you hear, and that allows you to learn the new things you are hearing.

Intake

This is the principle that people only learn from the bits which are genuinely important to them. Learners won’t learn everything they hear. They’ll be selective, based on their own personal motivations. For whatever reason, each person will value certain parts of the listening content more than others. This is the stuff they’ll really learn. This means, there are certain things that will make the listeners prick up their ears, and a lot of that is based on the preconceptions of the listeners, their values and so on. For example, learners might believe that they can only learn from an authority figure like a teacher, and therefore their words will carry more value and will become part of the intake. On the other hand, words spoken by someone they don’t respect will just go in one ear and out the other side. It’s not just respect of course. It could be other things. E.g. if a listener is an engineer, they’re naturally going to be more motivated towards the language of engineering. What this means for my podcast is that I have to constantly think of ways to keep you engaged in order to turn most of the listening input into intake. It also means trying to cover a wide range of topics, which I try to do. But I also think it’s something to do with being personable, real and relatable while talking. I try to always address my listeners and think about what it’s like for you and hopefully this keeps you focused, which is good for your English.

The point is that the language should be understandable yet not without challenge, and the content should be presented as valuable but with the understanding that you can’t please everyone all the time – that each individual brings their own personal motivation to the listening experience, which means that different parts are valuable to different people. Each person will focus their attention on slightly different parts based on their feelings and attitudes.

What can I do on LEP?

What I can try to do is make each individual feel personally involved, in any way I can. I believe this is done best when I address the listener directly and sometimes avoid speaking from a script. It’s more human and engaging to talk ‘off the cuff’. Also I should keep the topics varied and also have a variety of people on the podcast.

Why listening is more difficult than reading

The language is transient – I mean, the words are only audible for a moment before they disappear. You can’t normally go back and listen again, unlike when reading when you can simply read the sentence again or scan the text to find something again. Listening comes and goes into the ether very quickly. You need to learn to think in a slightly different way and get used to interacting with the listening text by remembering what is being said, predicting what’s going to come next, and so on.

The written word has a standardised spelling system which everyone more or less follows. Also there are gaps between words on the page, and punctuation to show when one sentence begins and ends etc. With listening you don’t get any of these things. It’s not standardised like writing. You’re dealing with a lot of diversity in terms of accent and different ways the language can sound (and English is an extremely diverse language in which there are many, equally valid, versions of the spoken word).

What can you do?

It’s important to bridge the gap between the spoken version of the language and the written version. One way to do this is to do plenty of listening and reading, so that you’re familiar with the conventions of both versions of the language, but also there are other things you can do.

  • Listen and read at the same time
  • Dictation or listen + repeat dictations (use audio with a script)
    This allows you to turn an interconnected stream of sounds into sentences, words, syllables, phonemes.
    I’ve talked about this on the podcast before and I will no doubt talk about it again because I think it’s a great technique and in fact I’ve been working on some content which is designed specifically for this technique. Basically, listen to some audio, repeat what you hear bit by bit, then compare it to the script. You can then do things like use a pen to mark emphasis, intonation, connected speech, pauses on the script, then record yourself reading out the script, then try and replicate the main ideas without reading (it doesn’t matter if you say it differently – it’s not a memory test, you just have to communicate the main ideas in your own voice – and you might find that you remember some of the lines that you repeated before. You can also try writing down what you’re hearing and comparing that to the script as well. All of it can help you turn fluent speech into individual words, phrases and sentences, helping you work on pronunciation and speaking skills too.
  • Engage with the subject, not just the language. We know that we tend to understand what we hear more when we are engaged in the subject. This means that you should think about the topic being talked about and perhaps predict some of the things we’re going to hear. Basically, before you listen to something, just take a moment to make sure you are intellectually and perhaps emotionally engaged in that subject. Find some way to relate it to yourself personally. Use your imagination to picture the whole subject, issues relating to it and the things which might be said. We know that this helps you to listen more accurately, rather than just going straight into the listening, cold.
  • Learn the phonetic chart and practise it. Get an app, like Sounds or Sounds Right by the British Council. Do all the exercises, learn the phonetic alphabet. These are the basic building blocks of English and can really help you to break down, recognise and replicate sounds, words and so on.
  • When you’re repeating, pay attention to the emphasis. Which word in a sentence is being emphasised? Why? When you repeat, try to say the whole sentence like a word with the emphasis on the same part that you heard it. This can help you not only learn good sentence stress (which arguably is the most important factor in pronunciation) but also can help you identify the key information when you are listening.
  • Listen to a variety of things. Different genres of audio tend to follow their own “macro-script”, meaning that they follow the same kinds of conventions. For example, listening to the news you’ll notice certain things they always say, certain things that they only do on the news. Sports reports have their own characteristics, political speeches have their own style, a radio drama sounds unmistakably like a radio drama, an academic lecture sounds like an academic lecture, etc. You’ve got to get used to recognising certain conventions of different types of audio recording. So listen to a variety of audio.
  • But also, listen to the same thing again and again. Listen to your favourite English podcast every day for a month. You should wait about a month before you make a judgement. Listening to just one episode isn’t going to make a huge difference. Listening to many episodes, regularly, over a longer period – this is what makes the difference. It is a compound effect and to an extent it’s not even noticeable, but keep it up! This is one of the main issues today. People want instant, measurable results, but the reality is that language learning occurs over time and is sometimes not noticable. It sort of happens under the surface. But you have to be in it to win it. If you don’t use it you lose it. So keep listening every day for at least a month, then you’ll see that suddenly you can understand more and more and a whole new world of English can open up for you.
  • Listen to things you enjoy and are really motivated to hear. This helps turn input into intake.
  • Listen several times.
  • Don’t assume that movies and TV series are the best things to listen to. They tend to focus on visuals first. There’s music and other sound effects which actually get in the way. Sometimes dialogue is so naturalistic that it’s kind of impossible to follow. Often I can’t actually hear what’s being said in movies. Audio podcasts are probably better because they’re made for you, and you can just focus on the English exclusively. But, of course, if you like watching films in English don’t let me stop you. If you’re a big fan of the MCU for example – go ahead and watch Avengers: Endgame in English, twice!
  • Watch out for subtitles. Watching Netflix with English subtitles is something that everyone assumes is a great idea, and it is good. You can read what you’re hearing, notice the way the written language is expressed in speaking, you can pick up new words and phrases and so on. But for working on listening skills alone, it’s important to try some other ideas. For example, try to spend time listening without subtitles, then rewind and listen to that section again with subtitles and see what you’ve understood. Use subtitles or scripts after you’ve listened, in order to identify which bits you got and which bits you didn’t. But don’t get too used to always having subtitles when you listen, because this means you don’t develop proper listening skills. Also, don’t feel you always have to have the subtitles on or off. Switch between having them on, having them off, watching scenes several times with and without subtitles. Good learners of English actively use TV and films and think outside of the box a bit. It’s not just a case of switching Netflix to English and then just relaxing on your sofa.

Another thing is this – if you listen to podcasts a lot, then you’re immediately pushing yourself ahead of your peers who don’t do this. Think of the advantage you’re getting over other people who just don’t do any listening.

Motivation, reducing anxiety and building confidence. Listening a lot can really help you with these things, because you become friends with the spoken word. Imagine if you’re a regular and long term LEPster and you have to do a listening test. While other people are probably panicking because listening is a nightmare for them, for you it’s like you’re entering your comfort zone. Make listening your friend. Get to know the spoken version of the language and get a leg up on the competition.

So finally, the points are…

  • Listen a lot! Yey! This is probably good news because if you’re a regular listener to this podcast you just need to keep going! Keep it up!
  • Listen to various things. I’ll try and keep it varied here, but consider checking out some other things. Check out BBC podcasts on different subjects and shop around a bit.
  • Use some techniques, like listening and repeating audio that has a script and learning the phonemic script.
  • But ultimately, just relax and enjoy the process! Take time to reflect personally on what you’re listening to and enjoy yourselves!

I am sure that many of you have some interesting things to add here – either stories of how you’ve improved your English through listening, or specific things that you do relating to learning through listening. So please, add your comments under this episode. Your input is extremely valuable because as well as all these academic studies that underpin many of the things in this episode, it’s the testimony and personal experience of people who have learned English to a decent level that is what counts. So, please, tell us your stories, give us your thoughts regarding learning through listening.

And thank you for listening to this!

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579. [2/2] IELTS Q&A with Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast

More conversation with Ben Worthington from IELTSPodcast.com, talking about English skills and exam skills, considering the whole approach and mindset that you need to succeed in IELTS. Includes questions from listeners.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

I hope you’re doing well. Here is Part 2 of this double episode that I’m doing about IELTS, this well known exam that tests your level of English. Learners all over the world are taking IELTS, preparing for it, suffering from it, recovering from it. So I’m sure most of you are aware of it. Here’s an episode about it.

As usual in these multi-part episodes I suggest that you listen to the first part before listening to this.

In this episode I’m talking to Ben Worthington from IELTSPodcast.com He specialises in helping people get ready for IELTS and in this episode we’re going through questions from listeners on social media about this test.

Listen up if you have experience of IELTS, but equally if you don’t have to take the test I hope you can enjoy this episode in full relaxation mode, since you won’t actually have to take this evil test.

In this episode you’ll hear Ben and me saying various things about IELTS. Here’s a run-down of the conversation and the things we mention.

  • How to prepare for IELTS, self-study and using a course.
  • Tips for writing, reading, listening and speaking.
  • The importance of getting feedback on essay writing
  • Using Scribd.com for past papers
  • Self-study tips for the speaking test
  • Check online samples of people taking the test, like this one

  • The potential risks of taking group IELTS courses
  • Tips for how to get the best out of an online tutor
  • The importance of making a good first impression in part 1 of the speaking test
  • How to get ideas in speaking part 2
  • Using cue cards to practice the speaking test
  • Thinking on your feet and speaking spontaneously
  • Focusing on core skills

So we’re talking about a lot of specific English skills and exam skills, considering the whole approach and mindset that you need to succeed in IELTS.

As a special gift to my listeners, Ben is offering a 15% discount on his IELTS prep course called “Jump to Band 7 or It’s Free”. On his website check out the course and use the offer code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount. Not bad.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

Anyway, you know what to expect from this episode, so let’s carry on.


Ending

There you go. Unfortunately we couldn’t answer all the questions because we ran out of time, but you might find more answers and support on Ben’s website, which is IELTSpodcast.com. You can ask Ben and his team questions and of course Ben is offering you all 15% off his course, called “Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free”. Just use the offer code LUKE15 at checkout.

Thank you so much for listening, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

What about upcoming episodes of the podcast Luke?

578. [1/2] IELTS Q&A with Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast

A conversation with IELTS teacher Ben Worthington about the IELTS test, with advice for getting your best score in speaking, writing, reading and listening. Includes questions from listeners. Part 1 of 2.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Hope you’re well.

This episode is all about the IELTS test. Yes, that dreaded test that many of you will have either experienced or heard people talking about, probably saying things like “I need IELTS 6.5. HOW CAN I GET IELTS 6.5??” Like they’ve been poisoned, and IELTS6.5 is the name of the antidote that’s going to save their life – I need IELTS6.5! How can I get IELTS 6.5?? Tell me, quickly!!!”

It’s known for being a tough test. Not all the stories are horror stories of course. It’s important to be positive. There are plenty of success stories of people who managed to raise their score to the level they require. It is definitely possible to get success in IELTS. People do it all the time. But how?

Well, in this episode I’ll be talking to Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast about various things relating to this test. This episode is full of good advice and insights into how to prepare for this test and ways to improve your score.

Do you know IELTS? I don’t know if you are familiar with it.

I think most learners of English who are serious about doing things in English will probably end up considering taking an exam like IELTS in order to get some kind of certificate confirming your level, which you can then use to do something like get a job, get a visa or get a place in a university. There’s TOEIC and TOEFL as well, but those are the American exams.

Actually I did get some questions about TOEIC and TOEFL, which Ben and I didn’t have time to respond to in this episode. Speaking personally, I am less familiar with TOEIC and TOEFL because I’ve rarely had to work with those tests. I’m much more familiar with IELTS and other Cambridge exams, and so this is what I’m more qualified to talk about.

IELTS is the standard testing system in the UK and also other English-speaking countries such as Australia and Canada and I think IELTS is probably now established as the world’s #1 English test. I wouldn’t be surprised if you, listening to this, have taken IELTS or are thinking about taking it. Or maybe you’ve looked into other Cambridge exams like FCE or CAE or something.

Basically, it’s very common for people to take this test and prepare for this test. So it’s worth talking about again on the podcast.

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It’s administered both by Cambridge English and the British Council and there are centres in most countries where you can take the IELTS test.

It’s a notoriously difficult test. I think anyone who takes it finds it hard, no matter what level you are, even native English speakers would find it challenging to be honest.

Here’s a quick summary of the IELTS test

IELTS tests your skills in 4 areas – reading, listening, writing and speaking.

It takes about 2h45m to complete the test.

The reading section involves a number of texts (3 texts in the academic version and about 5 or 6 in the general version) with comprehension tasks which test various reading skills.

Similarly the listening section has about 4 listening texts with various task types to test a range of listening skills.

The writing part takes an hour and involves two sections. In part 1 of the academic test you have to write a description of a graph, table, chart or diagram. In part 2 of the writing test you have to write an essay which probably involves explaining different sides of an argument with an introduction and conclusion.

The speaking test is in 3 parts and takes about 15 minutes. The first part involves chatting with the examiner for a few minutes, answering some questions about yourself. In part 2 you have to talk on your own for 2 minutes based on a cue card given to you by the examiner, and part 3 is a discussion with the examiner in which you talk about some more abstract things like social issues.

So this test is pretty long and covers all 4 skills. It requires all your abilities in English – accurate and diverse grammar, a wide range of vocabulary, fluency, clear pronunciation and the ability to complete communicative tasks effectively in English.

The way it works is that the overall score you get is converted into a band number which is an indicator of your level across the 4 skills. There’s no pass or fail mark. It’s just a case of the higher your score, the higher your band or level at the end.

So this test reveals your level in English. Levels go from 1 to 9. 9 being the highest.

So, it’s a tough test.

People all over the world need an IELTS score for various purposes, so it is an extremely common challenge for learners of English to undertake.

Schools in many places offer IELTS preparation courses to help people learn exactly how to improve their IELTS score. Preparation courses are obviously important to help you raise your English core skills across the 4 areas, but they’re also important to help you develop exam skills – which means becoming familiar with the test, familiar with the task types, familiar with the way the test is administered, and familiar with the little tricks and traps that are intentionally put into the test. It’s important not only to improve your level of English to prepare for IELTS but also to get an understanding of what the examiners at Cambridge English are looking for. This is also true for other similar tests.

To be honest, the test is so contrived and the marking criteria so specific that it’s very unwise to take an IELTS test without some preparation in advance because you simply must get familiar with it and develop your own strategies for each section. So I always advise students to do some test preparation, be it self-study or by following some sort of course either online or offline.

Offline options would probably be to find a preparation course in a school near you and the online options include finding and using self-study materials and practice tests, taking one to one lessons with a tutor for feedback (using iTalki for example) or finding other online resources that offer alternative ways to work on your exam skills.

One of those resources is IELTSpodcast.com run by Ben Worthington, my guest today.

As the website name suggests, IELTSpodcast.com is a podcast about IELTS with lots of tips about each section, but it’s also a website with lots of resources – videos, blog posts, practice tasks and also paid courses for specific exam skills and services including things like essay correction and feedback from Ben and the other teachers he works with.

Ben Worthington has been training people in IELTS preparation for some time now and has got lots of advice to share, all of which can really help you improve your IELTS score. A lot of his advice is shared on his website and in his courses, but in this episode he’s going to share some of that with us.

You can sign up to Ben’s full IELTS preparation course, called “Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free”, which is a confident name if ever there was one. If you don’t get to band 7 then it’s free. You can get it at IELTSpodcast.com and Ben has offered to give a 15% discount on the course for listeners to the podcast. So this episode is all about good advice for IELTS and it should be a genuinely useful episode, but if you want more thorough preparation for IELTS you can get a 15% discount on the Jump to Band 7 Or It’s Free course by using the offer code LUKE15 – if you’re interested.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

Ben originally is from Yorkshire in the north of England. You might notice some slight differences in his accent compared to mine. I’m from the south and the midlands, basically – but I sound mostly like I’m from London probably. Ben has a slight northern accent because he’s from Yorkshire. His accent is not that strong, but you might notice a few differences.

Now, the IELTS test is big and there is a lot to say about it – more than can be covered in just one or two episodes of this podcast (and I think this will be a two-part episode).

If you follow me on social media you might have noticed that I asked my audience for questions about IELTS and I received quite a lot across the different platforms. I’ve tried to include as many questions as possible, but we didn’t have time to deal with every single one.

So, apologies if your question isn’t mentioned in the episode. You can actually ask questions to Ben on his website if you like.

What if you’re not taking IELTS?
This will be relevant to the large numbers of people in my audience who are taking or have taken this test, but also hopefully to those of you who don’t need to take this test right now. I think it’s a good idea for any learner of English to have a sense of what’s involved in the IELTS test and of course the skills you need for IELTS are skills that anyone needs if they want to be more than just a competent user of the English language.

I have done several episodes about IELTS before. If you haven’t heard those episodes it’s probably a good idea to check them out, especially if you’re preparing for the exam.

Episode 256 is called IELTS Tips and Tricks. In that episode I tried to include as much of my personal advice as possible into just one episode, so that should be useful to you.

254. IELTS Tips & Tricks

Then there was episode 297 which is all about good approaches to the speaking part of the test, and that was with Jessica from IELTS Energy Podcast.

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

Anyway, let’s talk to Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast. He produces lots of content online for learners of English who are preparing to take this test. He’s been teaching students IELTS for a number of years now.

We’ll start by getting to know Ben a bit (this is the first time I’ve spoken to him actually) and then we’ll get into his advice for preparing and taking the different parts of the test, and I’ll ask him some of those questions sent in by my audience on social media.

Let’s see what we can cover about this big test for learners of English.


Outtro

You’ll have to wait for part 2 of this episode to hear what Ben has to say about preparing correctly for IELTS.

This is the end of part 1. Remember if you’re interested in using Ben’s online course for getting ready for IELTS, which is called Jump To Band 7 Or It’s Free, go to IELTSpodcast.com and use the code LUKE15 at checkout to get a 15% discount.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

 

 

 

So, we will leave the episode here and you can pick up the rest of the conversation in the next part.

By the way, there was a short quiet period at the end of February, and that’s because I was uploading a lot of LEP Premium episodes. There are now over 30 full episodes with tons of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, focusing on teaching you the most common phrases and talking points in English and how to say them all clearly and fluently.

There are now premium episodes about language which came up naturally in conversations I’ve recorded for the podcast. Recently I did ones about the episode I did on Paul Chowdhry. In the premium pipeline I have episodes about the conversation with James, my conversation with Jessica from English Across the Pond and also this episode with Ben. I’ve been noting extracts, vocabulary, grammar, phrasal verbs, idioms as we go.

To sign up for LEP premium just go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium and all the details are there. It’s the equivalent of a cup of coffee a month from you to me, that’s less than 10 cents a day. It’s pretty good value I’d say!

Right, in any case I hope you’re doing well. Fun fact, I’ve been using different microphones while recording episodes recently. All the P11 episodes were with different mics and this one that I’m using now isn’t a usual mic I use for intros and outtros.

My question is, outside of IELTS, can you even notice a difference in the sound because I’m using a different microphone? Can you tell the difference between the different mics I use or does it all sound basically the same? Let me know in the comments section.

And the IELTS conversation will continue in the next episode.

But for now,

Bye!

Luke

570. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 2)

Part 2 of my chat with Zdenek from the Czech Republic. In this one we talk about becoming an English teacher, taking the infamous DELTA teaching course, Zdenek’s podcast and board game, and some long-lost (and embarrassing) comedy YouTube videos I made in the pre-podcast days.

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Introduction Transcript

This is part two of this double episode featuring Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic.

Zdenek is an English teacher, a podcaster and a board game enthusiast. In this conversation we’re learning about Zdenek’s story. In part 1, which you’ve all listened to, we heard about how Zdenek learned English to a high level by working as a labourer and electrical fitter on a building site in East London. In this episode we continue the story by talking about these things:

  • Coming back to the Czech Republic and becoming an English teacher
  • The challenge of doing the DELTA (the notoriously difficult Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, which is considered in the industry as the highest practical English language teaching qualification out there)
  • My story of failing one of my teaching observations when I did the DELTA in 2006 (Don’t worry folks, I took the teaching observation again and passed it by the way, my record and my reputation remain intact)
  • Teaching English when it’s not your first language – the preconceptions, challenges and possible advantages of that
  • Zdenek’s podcast – his inspiration, his reasons for doing it, what he does in his episodes and how the podcast fits in with his teaching and his life in general.
  • There is also a slightly embarrassing story from me about some lost comedy videos I made in the years before I started Luke’s English Podcast.
  • And finally we have Zdenek’s interest in board games, both as a teaching tool in the ELT classroom but also in English speaking gaming communities online using the Steam platform. Zdenek has in fact created his own board game which he hopes to get properly published in physical form in the future.

Enjoy!


Ending

So that was Zdenek from the Czech Republic.

If you would like to play Zdenek’s game online you need to download the Steam platform and then buy TableTop Simulator. Then, in the Workshop area you will find Zdenek’s game which is called Kingdoms of Deceit.

If you’d like more information about this, leave a comment on the page for this episode on my website. I expect Zdenek will be able to help you there.

Playing online games like Kingdoms of Deceit can be a great idea for your English and for your social life in general as Zdenek said. This sort of thing is a great solution to that problem of not being able to get social time in English. So, check it out, it could result in you making some friends online, having fun playing some virtual board games and improving your English in the process.

As I said, get Steam, then TableTop Similator and find Kingdoms of Deceit there. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’ll find it. If you have questions, just leave a comment on the episode page and I expect Zdenek will be able to respond.

Also, check out Zdenek’s English Podcast which you can find on iTunes and most other podcast platforms. He also has a Facebook group which you could join in order to keep in touch with him and his listeners.

You heard me mention those ridiculous videos I made with my brother, before I started LEP, the ones filmed in some woodland at the bottom of my parents’ garden, in which I’m a survivalist who gets everything wrong.

I did, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), delete and lose almost all of those videos, but I have realised that there is one that still exists and is still on YouTube. It’s just a few minutes long and you can see it if you like, by checking the page for this episode. I watched it again and it did crack me up a bit to be honest. Maybe those videos were funnier than I remembered.

In the video you’ll see me pretending to be a survival expert and doing various comical pratfalls (a pratfall is when you fall over, for comical purposes – I did a lot of pratfalls in this video, falling into hedges and actually injuring myself quite badly – I had scratches all over my arms which I had to cover up with long sleeves for a few weeks while teaching. I’m wearing an old safari suit from the 70s that my Dad had in the back of his wardrobe, which looks ridiculous and is too tight. Perhaps the funniest bits are when you can hear my brother trying not to laugh behind the camera. This is the least embarrassing video, which is why I didn’t delete it. Probably the most embarrassing thing about the video is my haircut, to be honest.

Unfortunately the footage of me jumping into a pond, being attacked by imaginary spiders and smearing myself in mud is lost forever. Unfortunately? Actually, it’s probably for the best…

Anyway, check out the video on the page for this episode if you like. It’s called How (not) to Light a Fire.

Alright then, that is it for this episode.

Thanks again to Zdenek for being on the podcast.

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to check out my premium service at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for regular episodes in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Join the mailing list on my website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish content on the website.

Also, follow me on Twitter, which is where I’m most active on social media. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again in another episode soon!

Bye

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

557. I’m a Rambling Guy (Monologue – Autumn 2018)

A rambling monologue about my recent French test, a duck-related error, responses to the Alan Partridge episodes and the Russian comedy club video, moving out of the sky-pod, and life with my wife and daughter. A video version of this episode is available for Premium subscribers in the LEP app and online. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Yes, this episode is long… but you don’t have to listen to it in one sitting. Listen to a bit, then stop and go to work/college, then listen to the rest later. This is much more convenient if you are using a podcast app, like the LEP app (available in the app store on your phone of course!) because it will remember where you stopped listening.

Audio Version

[DOWNLOAD]

Video Version (only available for Premium subscribers)

Unlock the video by becoming an LEP Premium subscriber here www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Notes, Transcripts & More – A Rambling Monologue (October 2018)

Hello!

I’m going to just talk in this episode without much preparation. It’s so tempting to prepare all of this in advance and I’ve been sitting here going – “OK let’s record this episode without preparation this time” and I keep adding more stuff to my notes here but it’s time to stop writing and start talking!

Like everyone I suppose, I have to plan my speeches quite carefully or they will go off on weird tangents and get a bit out of control. Imagine talking to an audience and making it all up as you go. You’ll end up talking too much or not getting to the point. It’s the same for my podcast. If I have an episode that needs some careful preparation, I will write a lot of stuff down in advance, but then sometimes it’s fun to speak without much preparation, like in these rambling episodes. It’s fun and it’s also more authentic because I’m just making up my sentences on the spot.

I’ve got some notes here. Some things are written down but I’ve decided to stop writing now and just start talking.

So my challenges in this episode are…

  • To talk without preparing most of it in advance
  • To just keep going even if I feel like I’ve made a mistake and I’d like to start again. Just keep going Luke!

I’m videoing this too. The video version will be available for Premium subscribers. If you’re a subscriber you’ll find the video in the app (either in the Videos category or Premium category) and online at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium which is also where you can go if you want to sign up and become a premium subscriber to get bonus stuff like this as well as regular premium episodes that focus on teaching you grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

Rambling = talking in an unplanned and slightly unorganised way, probably for too long.

I have been accused of rambling in the past. “Luke, you’re rambling!” Yes, yes I am!

It’s sometimes a weakness of mine, that I struggle to be brief when I talk, but I like think that like Batman I can turn my weakness into my greatest strength.

Batman is actually afraid of bats (or he was when he was a kid), so he becomes a bat in order to conquer his fear. Bats were his weakness, so he became a bat, well, a man dressed as a bat. By doing that he becomes fear itself and then he uses this power to fight crime and all that stuff.

Similarly, my weakness is that I can talk and talk without really getting to the point – I ramble and so I can become RambleMan and I can use rambling to my advantage to become some sort of super hero, although I have no idea how I can fight crime with this skill, except perhaps to give would-be criminals something else to do – just distract them with talking so they don’t commit any crimes.

OK the analogy doesn’t work, but it was worth a try!

Here’s a run-down of the stuff I’m going to ramble about in this episode.

  • French test
  • My recent duck-related error
  • Responses to the Alan Partridge episodes
  • Responses to me talking with Amber and Paul about the Russian comedy club video
  • Moving out of the sky-pod
  • How’s your daughter?
  • How’s your wife?

But first, I have a shoutout to the Orion Team – everyone involved in that, and in particular a listener in the comment section called Syntropy.

Transcripts

Message from Jack
Dear teacher, I’m writing to you to let you know that my acquaintance from the transcription team “Syntropy” has single-handedly transcribed two long episodes of the podcast. I just thought that it would be nice of you to thank him in the next episode of the podcast.

Syntropy has single-handedly transcribed two long episodes of the podcast. That’s amazing.
Normally you just do a few minutes, and everyone works together to finish episodes. Doing a whole episode is long. Thank you Syntropy and thank you to all the members of the Orion Transcription Team. Listeners, you can check out their work and get involved too by visiting the website and clicking transcripts in the menu.

Thank you Syntropy.

In fact, here is a comment from Syntropy that I got the other day and which I thought was worth sharing.

Comment from Syntropy
Hi Luke, and Hello LEPsters :)
Luke, I just wanted to say thank you so much. I’m a long-term listener, although I haven’t been able to catch up with all episodes. Luke’s English Podcast has been my main resource for learning English, and thanks to you I’ve managed to score C1 level in a placement test.
I travelled to Manchester 🐝🐝 in order to study English for a couple of months. Before the trip, I had listened to your Alan Partridge episodes. When the teacher asked me about my method for learning English, you were the first person that crossed my mind. She got really surprised, since few learners of English really listen to podcasts. Then, I mentioned Alan Partridge, and we even had a small talk about comedy. If it wasn’t for LEP, I wouldn’t have such knowledge on British culture, for example (not to mention other things, like pronunciation and vocabulary). You definitely helped me to achieve a high level in this crazy language.
In the end, she told me that my level was actually higher than advanced. You have no idea of how happy I got after what she said. And I must say that it was pretty much all due to you, and your podcast.
I remembered that rambling chat with Moz in which you talked about a similar experience you had with a student who also listened to your podcast haha.
I can’t thank you enough, Luke 😊. Also, a special thanks to the brilliant Orion Team for transcribing the episodes.
Keep it up. There’s definitely method to the madness.
Cheers,
Syntropy

French test and citizenship

I had to take a French level test as part of my application for French citizenship. “But Luke, why are you becoming French?” One word: Brexit.

My Duck-related error

In episode 555 I talked to Raphael and we ended up talking about Disneyland and how there are weird illogical mistakes in Disney cartoons. It sounded like this (26:05). Can you spot the duck-related error I made?

Donald duck not daffy duck! (Episode 555) I hate to get my duck names wrong. Impressions? It’s funny when you spot these inconsistencies in cartoons. Obviously, that’s the joy of cartoons, and you’re not supposed to think about it too much, but I like to do that! Another listener pointed out another scene in which Donald and his 3 kids are sitting down for dinner and there’s a big roast bird on the table. Is it a chicken? Turkey? It could be a duck. They’re cannibals, basically.

Responses to the Alan Partridge episodes

I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough because I’ve had so many positive comments about these episodes. There was one person who wrote a comment saying that the comedy episodes weren’t for him because he just didn’t get the jokes and this made him feel stupid, but on the whole the response was very positive which is great for me because it makes up for those painful moments in the past when I’ve failed to help my students to enjoy comedy. I think the key is to pre-teach a lot of details before even listening to the clip and then to go through it all very carefully afterwards.

…and the Russian Comedy Club video from episode 552

I’ve had messages with various opinions. Most of the comments are from Russian listeners, as you would expect. Most people were happy to hear us talking about the sketch. Some people say they this is a pretty crappy sketch and an example of mainstream entertainment (we also have mainstream stuff in the UK too which is basically shit – although that makes me sound a bit snobbish) and that these guys used to be better but now they’ve kind of lost it. Other people say I still don’t really get the joke and that it’s about how non-native speakers understand each other but non-natives don’t understand them (but that’s not really true) Apparently there is underground comedy which is much more nuanced and good. In fact I know for certain that there is stand up in Russia, in the main cities, including stand up in English. I was going to interview some people involved in that at some point but it never happened.

Moving out of the sky-pod

It’s the end of an era

How are your wife and daughter?

They’re great thanks! There’s a premium episode with my wife coming soon (because she’s a premium person – yes, and so are my family and friends, ok ok)

What George Harrison said about becoming a dad (paraphrased).

You get tons of perspective. You can become a child again, but you also become your father too. So you live 3 generations at the same time.

Steve Martin – I’m a Rambling Guy (on Spotify)

527. Can Paul Taylor Pass The UK Citizenship Test?

Testing Paul Taylor’s knowledge of British life, history and culture and discussing the “Life in the UK” citizenship test. Practise listening to British English natural speech, learn facts about the UK and have a laugh as Paul gets angry about this test for people who want to become UK citizens. Will Paul actually pass the test? Listen to find out what happens. Transcriptions and notes available.

[DOWNLOAD] [ITALKI OFFER]

This episode’s guest Paul Taylor is a British stand up comedian, living in France. Check out his YouTube channel here and Twitter here

Introduction Transcript

In this episode you’re going to listen to my friend Paul Taylor attempting to pass the UK citizenship test.

Every year thousands and thousands of people choose to become British citizens, for various reasons. This year one of those people is Meghan Markle, who is moving to Britain to marry Prince Harry – as everyone knows because it’s all over the news, probably all around the world. In fact the wedding is happening tomorrow! By the time you listen to this they will probably be married. I hope everything goes well for them.

Anyway, there are lots of complicated requirements for becoming “naturalised” as a British citizen, including the fact that you need to prove that your English is at B1 level or above, and you have to pass the Life in the UK Test. This test is supposed to make sure that you have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK in order to integrate into British life. The assumption is that if you can pass this test then you know enough about life in the UK to be considered worthy of being a British citizen.

By the way, quite a lot of people fail this test. I was looking for specific data. I found that in 2016 about 36% of people failed the test. Just over a third.

  • What is the content of this test?
  • Do you think you have enough knowledge of “Life in the UK” to pass it?
  • What kinds of questions do you expect to find in this test?
  • Is the average British person able to pass the test? You would imagine so, right?
  • What can you, my listeners, learn from this in terms of “essential British knowledge” and useful British English vocabulary?
  • And can my mate Paul Taylor, who was born in the UK and has spent much of his life living there, pass this test?

Let’s find out as we take the British Citizenship Test in this episode.

A Long Episode!

This is a long episode, but there is absolutely loads of stuff that you can gain from this in terms of historical and cultural knowledge – both from the past and present, as well as vocabulary and general listening practice and also just the pure enjoyment of listening to Paul becoming increasingly angry about the content of the questions in this test.

Also, there is quite a lot of swearing in this one, and by swearing I mean rude words that you normally shouldn’t use in polite company because they can be very offensive. So, watch out for those rude words – either because you don’t like that sort of thing, or because you love to hear how people swear in British English. In either case – you have been informed – there is rude language in this episode.

So I suggest that you do listen to the entire thing, perhaps in several sections – when you press pause your podcasting app should remember where you stopped listening so you can carry on later. There are notes and scripts for the intro and outro to this episode on the website – so check them out.

Now, without any further ado, let’s get started…


THE “LIFE IN THE UK” CITIZENSHIP TEST

The test is computer based. Applicants coming in from outside the UK need a certain level of English and they need to take this test.

Requirements for British citizenship www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen

⬇Click the link below to take the same test we did

lifeintheuktestweb.co.uk/test-1/

Criticisms of the Test

A summary of criticisms and comments on how the test needs to be reformed www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/01/british-citizenship-test-meghan-markle-brexit-reform

The criticisms in a nutshell:

  • While it’s obviously good to know facts about a country’s history – what is the true purpose of a citizenship test? It’s to ensure that people understand the values of that country, and practical knowledge of daily life in order to help them integrate
  • The questions seem arbitrary and inconsistent
  • Fair enough, there are questions about certain key moments in our history and in our political system but a lot of important things are missing (e.g. the number of elected representatives in the devolved parliaments, but not the number of MPs in commons? The height of the London Eye?)
  • They won’t help people integrate, and they won’t help people just get by on a daily basis
  • It also doesn’t educate people about history – there’s no interpretation of why these things are important. If anything it will just piss people off.
  • What might be more helpful would be:
    • Teaching people social rules (e.g. how to order a drink in a pub)
    • Teaching people about common culture so they know what the hell British people are talking about half the time
    • Teaching people the essential basics of how to live – like, bank holidays, how to phone for an ambulance, how most Brits are shocked by things like animal rights or racial or sexist jokes

But it’s all wrapped up in politics and perhaps the people who wrote the test didn’t do it to help migrants – the opposite, maybe.

What would you include in the citizenship test?

The “Real” Citizenship test

This is an alternative test based on suggestions by British people on Twitter

realcitizenshiptest.co.uk/


‘Outro’ Transcript

I don’t want to extend this episode a lot more but I do want to say “nice one” for getting to the end of this one. I say that because I know it can be hard to follow about 90 minutes of native level speech in English, and Paul does speak pretty quickly as a few of you mentioned to me after hearing the previous episode with him.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – the more you listen, the better, and sometimes listening to fairly quick speaking can be really good training for you. It’s important to mix it up – sometimes listening to content that you understand without too much trouble, and sometimes listening to more challenging things. There is value in both, and basically the important thing is to keep going and not give up. If you’re listening to this it means you didn’t give up even if you didn’t understand everything. Nice one.

Then again, some of you might be thinking – Luke, it was a pleasure and I wish there was more! Well, in that case – great! I agree. This was a fun one.

There’s more to be said on the UK citizenship test so I might be doing another episode on this soon.

But for now – that’s it! Download the LEP App from the app store. Check out the extra content you can find there.

Have a great day, night, morning, afternoon or evening wherever you are in the world and whatever you’re doing. Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now… bye!

Luke

496. RAMBLECAST

Rambling about life, learning English, Star Wars, screwing up paper into a ball and more…

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Here’s a rambling episode with a few bits of news and some tangents.

Episode 500 – Please send me your voice messages

Please send me a 30 second voice message to luketeacher@hotmail.com

Tell me your name, where you’re from and something else.

Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Penguin Readers https://www.pearsonelt.com/tools/readers.html#productComponents

441. Andy Johnson at the IATEFL Conference

A conversation with Andy Johnson, talking about the IATEFL teaching conference, millennials, more tales of Andy’s appearance and the possibility of a WWE wrestling match between Andy and me.

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Get 10% off all courses at London School Online.

Hello hello hello! I’m back from my trip to Japan. It’s great to be back. We had an amazing time! We did all the big Japanese things – we saw the cherry blossom, enjoyed lots of delicious food, explored parts of Kyoto and Tokyo, saw a mix of the busy metropolitan city areas and the more peaceful natural spots too and had an amazing evening entertaining Japanese LEPsters at a comedy show in Tokyo. It was an amazing and intense week, it was really great to be back in the country I called home for several years and I will be recording a couple of episodes about it soon and I will tell you all about the trip including descriptions of what we did, what we saw and how it all felt, so you can look forward to that.

In the meantime here is an episode which I recorded before going away on holiday.

This one is another conversation with my friend and former colleague from the London School of English, Andy Johnson, recorded on Skype while he was attending the IATEFL conference in Glasgow earlier this month.

Before we start that, let me just make a couple of announcements here at the beginning.

Announcements

  • It’s LEP’s 8th Birthday!
  • British Podcast Awards – voting actually closes on 28 April. If you haven’t voted, please do it! If you have – thank you. I have a slim chance of winning this one so I need all of you to vote please. www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote
  • My Teacher Talk at the British Council – make your reservation at www.britishcouncil.fr/evenements/teacher-talk-quoi-humour-britannique
  • I’m also performing comedy on Monday in Paris – all the details on my page on Facebook for my comedy stuff – Luke Thompson – Comedy
  • Moscow LEPsters get together – Friday 21 April – I can’t actually be there, but I will be talking to the group via Skype – responding to some questions. Check Moscow LEPsters Conversation Club on FB for more details.

Click here to reserve your place at my British Council Teacher Talk in Paris

This episode

In episodes 423 and 424 you might remember that I spoke to my former colleagues Andy Johnson and Ben Butler – English teachers from The London School of English. They were in Paris to take part in a teaching conference. We sat in the foyer of their hotel drinking overpriced beer and talked about loads of things including teaching, Andy & Ben’s presentations, millennials, teaching English for specific purposes, our teaching experiences and a few anecdotes about our appearances including a couple of funny stories about how Andy sometimes gets mistaken for Moby, the American musician.

They were fun and popular episodes, sparking quite a lot of discussion in the comment section, including a debate about who is the best teacher between Andy and me and how we should settle that debate by having a high-profile wrestling match… Yes, I know – that sounds rather dramatic doesn’t it.

Well, Andy is back in this episode today, and he’s at another conference – this time the English teaching industry’s biggest event, the IATEFL conference which this year is taking place in Glasgow.

Ben wasn’t available for this one – he was attending a session at the conference, but I spoke to Andy and asked him about this year’s conference and we continued our conversation about millennials from last time. You’ll also hear a couple of stories about what happened in Paris in November after we recorded our previous conversation and a number of other things, including the idea of us going head to head in a no holds barred wrestling match in order to determine who really is the greatest English teacher.

So without any further introduction, here is Andy Johnson in Glasgow.


That was my conversation with Andy. I hope you enjoyed it.

I just want to remind you that you can get 10% off all of the courses at London School Online. Just head over to londonschoolonline.com and use the offer code LUKE10 at checkout.

Also, Andy wanted me to let you know about a free webinar that they are putting on this Friday. If you’re interested in IELTS, check it out.

IELTS Workshop: Your questions answered
Friday, April 21, 2017 3:00:00 PM GMT (London time) – 4:00:00 PM CEST (Paris time)
This is the third in their series of free webinars. This is a webinar about IELTS and will take place on their eLearning platform, London School Online. It is suitable for anyone who is preparing to take the IELTS exam, or for teachers of the exam.

The idea is that you can use this webinar to get answers to your IELTS questions.

It’s being hosted by Daragh Brady, who I used to work with at LSE. Daragh is an excellent teacher who has wide experience in lots of areas, and he’s an IELTS examiner so he really knows all the ins and outs of this tricky but important English exam.

It’s totally free and everyone’s welcome but you do have to register.

Find the link here on the page for this episode or on the LSE Facebook page.

Click here for the LSE Online IELTS Webinar

Don’t forget also…

My teacher talk at the British Council in Paris. Thursday 27 April. I’ll be doing a kind of TED Talk about British Humour and Comedy. It’s also free and everyone’s welcome, but you need to register. You’ll find the relevant link on the page for this episode below.

Click here to reserve your place at my British Council Teacher Talk in Paris

Thanks for listening!

Watch this space for some episodes about the Japan trip with some stories, comments about Japanese culture and descriptions of the comedy show I did in Tokyo.

Cheers! Bye.

Who do you think would win in a battle between Andy and me?

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386. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 2)

Here’s part 2 of this episode about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. Click here for part 1 of this episode wp.me/p4IuUx-6Wl

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Measure your progress – test yourself

Take a test, do an IELTS or CAE simulation. Speak to people and see how it goes. Try to understand a TV show without help. Read authentic material. Try to do exercises meant for a specific level and see how it feels. Take FCE use of english sample papers. Take the grammar test at the back of Blue Murphy. Download Duolingo and take their level test.

Use DIALANG dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

DIALANG is an online diagnostic system designed to assess a person’s proficiency in 14 European languages.[1][2] Competences tested are reading, writing, listening, grammar and vocabulary, while speaking is excluded for technical reasons.[1]

DIALANG was designed primarily for European citizens to assess their language abilities in adherence to Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference – CEFR – as a basis for determining language proficiency. The CEFR is a widely recognized framework used to describe and measure the language proficiency level of a learner in a particular language.[1]

Dialang was funded by the SOCRATES programme and by some 25 institutions, largely universities, throughout the European Union.[3]

Also, ExamEnglish.com www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Practice practice practice practice practice (The 5 ‘P’s)

Practise using it! Again – a language partner on italki can help.

A note about using italki or any 1to1 lessons – make sure you know what kind of teacher you’re looking for. Be clear about what you want from lessons. If you want plenty of speaking, say so – be clear that you want a lot of language feedback. Bring topics yourself. Be imaginative and prepare questions, speaking tasks etc. If you need to do job interviews, ask to do that, and bring some materials to the lessons – e.g. job interview questions. The more involved you are the better. Know exactly what you want before you get into the lessons. In the first lesson or trial lesson, explain what it is you want to practise. This will avoid the trap of just talking aimlessly, or letting the italki teacher talk too much or make it all about them. I think a good italki teacher should do a lot of listening. Make sure you take time to show that you respect them as a teacher and that you’re glad to talk to them, but also make it quite clear what you expect from them.

Attitude

It’s how you perceive your progress. Where are your priorities? What’s making you feel like you’re not making progress? Perhaps you’re focusing on one thing too much that might not be that important. E.g. you might be frustrated that you can’t lose your accent, but in fact that doesn’t matter too much. Understand that some things will just never be perfect, and realise that you’ve made a lot of progress in other areas. Don’t get caught up on your accent – don’t let one thing hold you back. Keep pushing in other areas too.

Be positive!

Yes we can!

A lot of people just tell themselves they can’t do things.

A student of mine recently told me that she couldn’t speak English. She said “I think I can’t speak. I don’t know why but I just can’t speak English. What do you think?” I said – well, you can speak English because you’re doing it right now. What you mean is that it’s difficult.

When you experience resistance, don’t say “I can’t do this”, just say “this is difficult”. It’s all achievable with practice and the right attitude.

Goals

Give yourself little goals, not one big one. Learn English step by step. I know some students who have unrealistic goals, or at least goals that are too high. E.g. I want to become bilingual – it might be possible one day, but at the moment it’s probably best to scale it down to something more achievable, like I want to improve my accuracy, or I want to be able to speak on the telephone about my work more confidently. I want to improve my sales skills in English, for example.

Don’t create a vague goal like “I want to master English”. It’s built for failure.

Create specific goals that will allow you to define a specific set of actions to achieve it.

Goals are pointless unless you have a plan on how to achieve them.

Let’s use the CAE test as a standard. Cambridge English have put a great deal of time and effort into classifying and testing advanced English. Let’s use their test and their assessment criteria to create goals. You’ll see that there are a LOT of goals here! But the point is – they’re specific.

www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/cambridge-english-advanced-handbook-2015.pdf

I can/want to/will:

(let’s just use writing and speaking as an example or this will go on forever)

  • Writing
  • Write a structured ‘for and against essay’ in which I compare two opinions on a subject, write in the appropriate register, use the right linking phrases, develop arguments and give a persuasive point of view.
  • Write a business email with the appropriate style, including the right opening and closing parts and the appropriate phrases for making requests, agreeing, disagreeing, asking for and giving information.
  • Write a business report in which I give details of results, numerical data and recommendations for action to be taken.
  • Write a personal email in a friendly style.
  • Learn and use the appropriate phrases and style to achieve all those types of writing.
  • Speaking
  • Use a wide range of grammatical structures accurately and with the right amount of control (note that this aim focuses on being able to use the grammar not just understand it)
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary, especially on abstract areas which are unfamiliar. (again a focus on using vocab not just understanding it)
  • Produce longer pieces of structured spoken English with little hesitation, e.g. a 1 minute speech on any topic.
  • Speak clearly and intelligably (not with a perfect British accent!)
  • Use intonation and sentence stress to help me make a point
  • Interact naturally in conversation with others, including negotiating things, managing any breakdown in communication. (this is about effective communicative competence and comes from listening as much as from speaking but must be practised in the context of real communication)

You could even break those things down into more specific goals too. E.g. to be able to talk freely about finance, or to be able to write clearly about facts and figures, or simply to be able to say all the numbers and dates without hesitation.

That all might seem a bit challenging, but it has been proven time and time again that breaking down your learning into small yet achievable goals is the way to deal with the challenge.

Step by step

How do you eat an elephant – one spoon at a time. How do you climb a mountain – one step at a time. Don’t try to leap up it. Take it steadily – it’s a long journey but every step is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you take steps backwards and work out where you’ve gone wrong and then find the path again.

Repetition

Study the grammar again and again and again. Test yourself again and again. Learning a language is difficult. It takes time and effort. Accept that and just keep going day by day. In the end it will all pay off. When I first started teaching English I couldn’t understand a lot of the grammar. I had to study it for ages at the weekend before I taught it, but I learned my own grammar! It helps that I’m a native speaker, but understanding the rules was difficult for me too. Now I know it well and I think it’s because I put the time in and because there was pressure – I had to teach it. Also it’s because I studied and taught the grammar again and again. It’s the same with vocab, and with other areas like listening.

Listen to episodes of the podcast more than once, like this comment from Mayumi

MayumiM 3 minutes ago

Hi, hope you feel better than the day you recorded this episode. Your voice is kinda sexy like you mentioned and I’ll miss that when your voice is fully recovered, though.;) Anyway, you always keep encouraging us to keep listening even though we have some difficulties to understand everything and listen again. That totally worked this time for me. I’ve repeated last Ian Moore episode maybe 3 or 4 times straight. I could do this because the conversation was just fascinating. Maybe I could understand 70% at first and next time, 80% or more and at the end of this routine, I felt I could get almost everything! After that, I did with different episodes and it went well, too.

Thank you for encouraging us as always and I’m looking forward new episodes.

Enjoy it! Take stock. Enjoy the small victories. See progress as achievable.

Grammar

Spend some time learning grammar but do it selectively. Use the murphy grammar test to identify things you need to work on. Notice the grammar you’ve been studying in the real world. You’ll start to notice it everywhere.

Don’t get blocked by your grammar knowledge

I suggest studying the grammar, but sometimes you need to know when to just put the grammar rules away and use the force.

Listening and reading a lot are just as important in learning grammar as focusing on the rules. You need to have seen and heard a lot of grammar to be able to judge if something is right or wrong and to make sense of the rules. Always remember to understand and analyse the language in a meaningful context, not just abstract grammar rules. Everything comes back to the way the language is actually used, not the so-called rules on paper. Understanding this can help you study grammar more effectively.

Notice grammar in the real world. Make your own rules. Test them. Check them with the rule book. Keep going.

Writing to get through the Plateau

I should also mention that writing is a really important way to get through the intermediate plateau.

You can use it to help you find errors that you make in your language, correct them and learn to stop making them. Often these errors are simple fossilised mistakes that you know you shouldn’t make. Your own knowledge of the language plus any research you do can help you identify and correct the mistakes, making it less likely that you’ll do it again.

So you can correct yourself by doing some creative writing and then checking it carefully on your own. But also you might need someone to correct your writing or give you feedback. You might have a native speaker, a teacher, an italki teacher or a relative who can check your work, or  you can you have your writing corrected through sites like Lang-8 and LingQ.

Different skills in English are connected and mutually beneficial. There are basically 4 skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking, and they’re all connected. There are receptive skills like listening and reading, and then productive skills like speaking and writing. Listening is connected to speaking because it is the oral version of the language, and reading is complementary to writing because of the syntax, the spelling and punctuation.

Writing is also different to speaking in that you have more time to reflect on what you’re putting down. When speaking you have to be spontaneous and it’s linked to body language. Writing is a solo experience and that allows you to think more clearly about the language you’re producing.

Also, as you correct your writing, this will benefit your speaking by giving you an inner monologue which can be converted to speech. All in all, it’s a good idea to practise writing as well as speaking in order to improve your accuracy and fluency.

Enjoy it 

Enjoy the English you consume and produce. Follow your heart and focus on the aspects of language that you enjoy and that will keep you coming back. Take pleasure in the act of learning a language. Remember that it’s making you a much more rounded and multidimensional person.

Here are some motivational quotes

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
‒Sarah Caldwell

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
‒Chinese Proverb

To have another language is to possess a second soul.
‒Charlemagne

❝The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.❝ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Rapping with Fluency MC

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

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