Talking to my mum about a good book she read recently; a social history about 5 women who had one thing in common – they were all murdered by Jack The Ripper in 1888. Also includes some advice and comments about reading books to learn English.
Hello everyone, How are you doing out there in podcastland, or should I not ask?
We all know that the dreaded coronavirus is making life difficult for everyone and I very much hope that you are basically well and that you’re keeping your spirits up despite the many difficulties that you might be facing during this tricky period. I expect you will either be extremely busy looking after children, or perhaps trying to solve work-related problems, or perhaps you’re growing increasingly bored and lonely if you’re just stuck at home in self-isolation. I am also attempting to adjust to a new routine as we are looking after our daughter, trying to keep her busy, while also trying to get work done. But really, things are not too bad for us at this stage. We’re quite lucky.
I just want to wish everyone all the best and I hope you’re managing to stay positive. I won’t talk a lot more about this situation right now. I’m thinking of doing one or two episodes about self-isolation and associated vocabulary in the coming days or weeks.
In any case, this can be a good opportunity, if you have the time, to focus on things like listening to podcasts or reading books to improve your English and in fact that is what this episode is all about. It’s a podcast conversation with my mum about books, well, about one book in particular.
That’s right, this is the first episode of Gill’s Book Club, which I mentioned on the podcast a while ago, I think in my mum’s episode about Quintessentially British Things from January in which she chose to talk about 3 of her favourite books. I suggested that that might make a good regular feature for episodes of this podcast. Lots of LEPsters agreed and my mum is happy to do it and so here it is. Gill’s Book Club.
The concept is pretty simple. I talk to my mum about books that she has read. She describes them, tells us what they are about and what she found interesting about them. We can also read some samples from the books too if possible.
It could be any book or books she wants → an old favourite, a recent discovery or just something she thinks will be interesting to talk about. Hopefully it will just be a pleasant listening experience for you, but it could also give you some inspiration if you’re looking for a book to read in English.
Briefly, before we start. Here is some advice on how to use these episodes of the podcast.
How to use these episodes of Gill’s Book Club
You can either
a) Just listen to the episode, try to follow what my mum and I are saying and hopefully find it pleasant to listen to without feeling the need to actually read the book being described. As I’ve said before, it is very important and beneficial for your English to listen to things like this on a regular basis, equally it is important to read regularly.
So, your other option could be this:
b) Having heard us talk about this book, you can then get your own copy and then read it yourself. Alternatively you could get the audiobook version.
And perhaps if the particular book we’re talking about isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, listening to my mum talking about reading could just encourage you to read more in English yourself even if it’s not the book we’re describing.
If you do want to read a book to improve your English then I have some advice for you, but I’m going to tell you that advice after you’ve heard my conversation with Mum because I don’t want to go on and on too much here at the start.
So listen all the way until the end of this episode to hear specific advice from me regarding how to choose a book to read in English.
Anyway, let’s now talk to my mum. We decided to talk about just one book in this conversation in order to be able to focus our attention more clearly.
Don’t forget to check the page for this episode on my website, where you will find all the details of the book plus some other notes, transcripts of my intro and ending and so on.
So, without any further ado, let’s talk to my mum.
OK so there you are, that was the very first episode of Gill’s Book Club. Let us know what you think by leaving your comments in the comment section on my website. You’ll find this episode in the archive, or just click the link in the show notes in your podcasting app.
I said at the beginning that I had a few tips to help you choose a book in English.
I’ve talked about this on the podcast before in quite a lot of detail, but here’s some of my advice just distilled into a few brief points.
Tips for choosing and reading books in English
Choose a book you want to read. You’ve got to be motivated to read the book. Would you choose to read that book in your first language? People often say to me things like this, “I thought of reading Harry Potter, what do you think?” and I ask them if they would read it in their language and they kind of say “No”. I wonder then why they would choose to read it in English. Choose a book that you actually want to read, not only because you think it might be good for your English. Don’t choose to impose a boring and ‘homework-style’ reading experience on yourself. It is possible to read in English for pleasure and improve your language skills as a result.
Pick a book which contains the right kind of language. Pick something modern if possible. Older books (including really popular stuff like Sherlock Holmes Jane Austen and Charles Dickens) tend to be written in a fairly old-fashioned style which can be really difficult for learners of English (and me too – I love Sherlock Holmes but I often struggle to understand what is actually happening because it’s all so dense and detailed). Try to find something in a plain, modern style. Obviously, if point 1 is more important to you (i.e. you just really really want to read that book) then point 2 is less of a concern. Ultimately it’s good to be exposed to all types of English and if you’re motivated that’s the best thing. But to be on the safe side, pick a modern book in plain English. Harry Potter for example is not a bad choice in this case. It’s not perfect, because a lot of the words are made up words in the HP universe, but mostly it is written in a modern way, similar to how people actually speak now. You heard Mum and me mention Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I think would be a great choice actually, because it’s a good book and it’s written in the sort of English that people actually use these days.
Pick a book which you will be able to finish. Finishing a book is great isn’t it? It gives you a sense of success and closure, literally. That’s important! So, consider a shorter book, or even a book which has been graded for your level (Check: Macmillan Readers, Penguin Readers, Pearson English Readers – they all have some excellent books graded for different levels – choose a book you want to read and something appropriate to your level, probably B1 intermediate, B2 upper-intermediate or C1 advanced). Also consider buying the sort of book that is quite easy to read, like a page turner (The Da Vinci Code is an example of a page turner – it’s quite easy to read and you just want to know what happens next. Page turners usually contain mystery, romance or horror). An advantage of page turners is that you can fly through them quite quickly, which is one of your aims – get as much English into your head as possible. A disadvantage of page turners is that they can be a bit meaningless and of poor quality. For example, I found the 5th HP book to be a good example of a page turner. I couldn’t wait to get onto the next page to find out what was going to happen next. I read it incredibly fast, but at the end I realised that nothing really happened in the book. Somehow JK Rowling wrote it so that I felt something interesting was always around the corner, but then when I finished it I realised that it was mostly nothing. Someone dies at the end and that’s it really. But I read it extremely quickly. And that is actually a good thing for learning English. You want something that will allow you to read more and more and more.
So, overall you need to strike a balance between
A book which you want to read
A book which contains the right kind of English (today’s English, basically)
A book which you will be able to read
But the most important one is #1 → Pick a book you want to read, because motivation will carry you through points 2 and 3, and if you enjoy something the language is more likely to stick with you.
You can also choose to stop and check words in a dictionary, note them down, perhaps note the extract in which they appear, or just carry on and focus on continuing the book and only check new words when you think they’re really important. If literally every other word is new to you, then it might be better to choose a graded reader as I said before. In those graded books, the range of vocabulary is narrower and they’re easier to read. And remember, it’s not about being able to understand the most difficult books. It’s about reading as much as possible, as regularly as possible and enjoying the experience.
I think The Five is certainly an interesting sounding book which I can imagine many of you would like. The reviews for it are great. It has a rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon.co.uk. Although the English can be quite dense (which is normal for books like this), it is written in a modern style and there is definitely a lot of vocabulary which you would pick up from it. So if you’d like to learn more about these 5 women and their lives, then get yourself a copy of The Five by Hallie Rubenhold.
It’s available in Kindle version, Audiobook version and normal paperback and hardback versions.
Basically there are two approaches. Oh, I’ve already mentioned these things. Forgive me now as I repeat myself a bit.
1. Have a dictionary and check words as you discover them, noting little definitions or other things that might help you remember the words, possibly keeping a vocabulary notebook as you go.
2. Just focus on reading for pleasure and try to tolerate or guess the words and phrases you don’t know. Keep going and try not to be distracted by bits you don’t understand. It might make more and more sense as you continue.
I do strongly suggest that you persevere through the first 25% of the book. Often it takes a while to get used to a new book and it might not grab you until you get through a certain number of pages.
Resist the temptation to give up. Keep reading! Don’t stop! Push through the difficult or boring bits. From time to time, stop to think about the book and try to form some opinions on it as you go. What do you think of the characters? What’s actually going on? What is the writer’s point of view? What is this really about? What does the world of the book actually look like, feel like and even smell like? All of that can help you to get into the book more as you read it.
That’s it! Leave your comments below and tell us what you think of Gill’s Book Club.
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.
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…
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.
Hello folks! Here is the last of this 3 part series I’ve been doing about quintessentially British things. I’m assuming now that you’ve heard the previous parts of this series and you know what this is all about.
If you haven’t heard those yet, may I gently suggest that you listen to them first? There’s one with my brother and then one with my dad too.
Now it’s my mum’s turn and since she is such a bookworm – she works in a bookshop, is a member of a book club and is a voracious reader, the three things she has chosen are all novels – books about British characters going through typically British experiences, mostly in the early part of the 20th century.
So if you’re looking for some interesting books to read in English, check out these ones which are some of my mum’s favourites.
Have a look at the page for this episode on the website where you will find the names of all the books we mention plus some other references and bits & pieces.
Remember you can sign up to my mailing list on my website to receive an email notification whenever I release a new episode, and that contains a link which will take you straight to the relevant page for that episode.
Now, without any further ado let me allow you to enjoy the nice tones of my mum’s voice as she talks to you about her quintessentially British things.
J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country”
R. F. Delderfield “To Serve Them All My Days“
R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September”
Withnail & I
Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff
The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff
The previous episode with my mum about books.
The Withnail & I episode
So that was my mum and her three books. Let me say the titles again. There was “A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr, “To Serve Them All My Days” by R. F. Delderfield and ““The Forgnight in September” by R.C. Sheriff.
It’s sort of a funny coincidence that all the writers of these books have initials at the start – J.L. Carr, R.F. Delderfield, R.C. Sheriff.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed listening to that and that you learnt a thing or two about the effects of the world wars on British people, and also that you might consider reading one of those novels yourself.
What do you think of my mum talking about books on this podcast? We did several episodes before together in which we talked a bit about books.
Both of which dealt with things like my mum’s favourite podcast, some favourite people and different books she’s been reading.
What would you think of a fairly regular podcast series with my mum in which she talks about books she’s read. It could be called Mum’s Book Club. If you like the sound of that, let me know. I might be able to make it a regular feature, a bit like The Rick Thompson Report (and yes I need to make new one of them).
So would you like to hear more episodes of Mum’s Book Club? If so, let me know.
But that’s it for this episode. What did you think, overall, of this series? Did you learn anything about the UK? Did you get some good recommendations? Did you enjoy listening to my family? Let me know in the comment section.
I’ll speak to you again soon. Don’t forget to download the LEP App from the app store to get loads of bonus episodes, and consider signing up to my premium service to get regular monthly grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Find out more at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
But for now, all that remains to be said is, good bye!
Dad picks his 3 British things to talk about in this episode which covers things like ancient history, British northern landscapes and the canal system which built the industrial revolution and changed Britain forever.
Hello everyone and welcome all of you this new episode. You’re listening to number 638 and this is the second part in the series I’ve decided to call Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) in which I talk to members of my family about things that they think are significant or typical examples of Britishness in their eyes.
I’m assuming that you’ve heard the previous episode in which James told us about 5 interesting English things, now it’s my dad’s turn and we decided to just go for 3 things this time instead of 5 to make sure the episode didn’t go on too long.
So you’re going to hear my dad describing certain aspects of Britain that include things like ancient history, the geographical and geological nature of these islands and how the industrial revolution changed the country.
There’s plenty of very descriptive language from my dad, plus quite a lot to learn in terms of history and geography.
You’ll notice that it sounds a bit like the Rick Thompson report at the beginning as we discuss what it really means to be British as opposed to English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh and there’s talk of the Scottish independence movement but my Dad assures me that his 3 things can be considered British.
We recorded this together in the living room at my parents’ place on New Years Eve and in fact we were still recording at the stroke of midnight, so you can hear Dad and me wishing each other a happy new year, enjoying some fireworks on TV and seeing in the beginning of the new decade together.
I think you know the concept of the episode now, so I will just let you enjoy listening to my dad talking about some British things that he likes in particular.
So that was my dad with his 3 quintessentially British things.
As ever I invite you to write your comments in the comment section if you have any, and don’t be a ninja hiding in the shadows like the vast majority of my listeners!
All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to download the LEP app from the app store to get the entire episode archive plus loads of bonus extras, and also to sign up to LEP Premium where I teach you grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation using target language which has occurred naturally in normal episodes of the podcast. To get started with that, go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Right then! Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again in the next one, which is going to be 3 Quintessentially British Things, with Mum.
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. This is your regular opportunity to practise your listening and develop your knowledge of British English culture.
This is episode 637 and this is the first of a three part series about Quintessentially British Things(that you might not know about).
You might be wondering what quintessential means.
It’s a word that’s often used in front of places, nationalities or cultures.
A quintessentially English summer
He’s the quintessential New Yorker
5 signs that you’re quintessentially Canadian
Quintessentially British or English is a common one. There are lots of articles and quizzes online to work out if you are quintessentially British and they all contain typical examples of Britishness, like cups of tea, Mr Bean, social awkwardness, the weather and so on.
So quintessential means a typical example of something. A thing which seems to be a perfect, unique example of something specific. Like for example a food which is uniquely British and is a great example of Britishness, like, what fish and chips maybe?
As I said there are plenty of articles about quintessentially British things online, but they always deal with the same tired old stereotypes of Englishness or Britishness that we’ve heard a million times and don’t always just apply to the UK.
For example this one, from BT
Let’s go through it quickly just to get all the usual stereotypes and cliches out of the way first.
But in this series of episodes I wanted to scratch below the surface of British culture a bit, and talk about some perhaps less known things. We all know about the cliches, but what if we go a bit deeper and hear from some English people about their favourite aspects of their culture, be it modern pop stuff, history, literature or geography.
So I decided to ask my Mum, my Dad and my brother to think of some typically British things for us to talk about on the podcast. So that’s what you’re going to get. Hopefully some revealing conversation about a diverse range of British cultural items, but also some good recommendations of other stuff that you can check out in your own time, which could help with your English.
Let’s get started then with this episode with James, my brother. This is quite a long one but stick with it. I asked him to choose 5 quintessentially British things. The next two episodes are shorter as we deal with just 3 things each. But this time it’s 5 and this is what happened, and you should know there is sporadic swearing throughout this conversation, so bear that in mind depending on who you are listening to this with. Check out the page for this episode on the website to see loads of videos and links for the 5 things we talk about.
James’ 5 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about)
1. Alan Moore
Writing, publishing, creating, the business of creating and selling books and magazines. Magic, art, politics, religion and the ethical complexity of superheroes in the real world.
2. Viz Comics
3. The Harrington Jacket
4. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
5. The Fast Show
There you go, plenty of stuff to check out including interviews with Alan Moore, Viz comics which you can get from the local shop if you’re in the UK, The Fast Show with some videos online, books by Jake Arnott,
All that remains to be said is thanks to James for appearing in another episode. The next one is going to be with my dad and he has picked 3 quintessentially British things, then my Mum will be on the podcast with her three choices.
Thanks as ever for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon!
638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad
639. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Mum
Hello and welcome back to the podcast. Here is one more episode of film club dedicated to the ridiculous new Star Wars film – The Rise of Skywalker, which my brother James and I recently enjoyed watching at a cinema in Birmingham.
This is a mammoth holiday season megaramble with James about Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker.
Of course, if the Star Wars films don’t interest you then this might not be your cup of tea and I totally understand.
Normal podcasting will be resumed shortly I promise. I have at least 3 other episodes in the pipeline that I recorded with members of my family this Christmas. I’m sticking this Star Wars one online now to be followed by plenty of other normal episodes afterwards and the usual audio and video content for premium subscribers.
But for those of you who have seen The Rise of Skywalker and would like to listen to a funny conversation with my brother, as we have a beer and go through the plot of the film, with plenty of little jokes, criticisms and details we liked. If you’re up for it, I think you’ll enjoy this one, with a few potential “laugh out loud on the bus” moments.
Of course there will be full spoilers throughout this episode as we talk about all the details of the plot. So, watch out if you haven’t yet seen the film.
Big Star Wars Questions
So we talk about the film’s plot and make all the comments we have about what happens, but we also talk about some big Star Wars questions which this film raises, like:
Is Luke Skywalker a virgin?
Who would actually consent to have sex with Emperor Palpatine, and when did that happen?
What happens when a force-sensitive Jedi has an orgasm? Could it be a dangerous moment, and is that why the Jedi follow a strict code of celibacy?
Why is everything in the Star Wars universe made of such highly explosive material?
Can droids hack into anything? Where’s the cyber security in this universe?
Why does a fat pilot die in a space battle at the end of every film?
If “the force will be with you, always”, why do they also have to say “may the force be with you”?
Also I should point out that there is some swearing in this episode and some generally rude language at times, so you might want to bear that in mind if you’re listening to this with children or the swearing intolerant.
So, those of you who are still here, I assume you’d like to listen to us rambling on about this final Star Wars episode.
This might be the final star wars episode ever on this podcast, certainly for a while. But I might want to talk about The Mandalorian when it’s available where I live.
Part of me thinks it is a bit excessive to upload even more content about Star Wars but I actually think this conversation is much better than episode 633 which was my immediate reaction to seeing the film. Frustratingly, in that episode I struggled to talk articulately about it because I couldn’t remember the complex details of the plot! I’m afraid you may have listened to me umming and aahing as I went through the plot.
I also missed a few points and generally struggled to be coherent about this film, partly because the film itself isn’t very coherent.
But this conversation with James is worth a listen in my opinion. Star Wars can be quite a funny topic, with plenty of opportunities for voices, sketches and jokes. We recorded it in my dad’s office in the evening a few days after Christmas. It’s a long conversation, but I reckon it’s worth a listen.
I would say, if I was learning a language, say French.
I would say that I would like to listen to a couple of people discussing The Rise of Skywalker in French, while defining little phrases and other points as they went along. That would be right up my street and would definitely be a good way to do some focused listening and language study. If only that podcast existed out there for French learners. Why is nobody doing that? Hey French LEPsters – where’s Le Podcast Francais de Jean-Pierre?
Anyway, hopefully this final star wars episode will be a step up from the last one and a genuinely enjoyable and useful thing for you to listen to.
Oh, and Happy New Year.
So there you go! Congratulations for listening all the way to the end of this. If you like this sort of thing – reviewing movies with some fun along the way, you might like my review of Avengers: Endgame which you can find in the LEP App in the app-only episodes category.
Apologies again for James’ sneezing and blowing of his nose but I think we can let him off because he has such bad allergies. I should say thanks again to James for taking part in this episode. I should do and I might. In fact I will. Thanks to James for this episode, to Dad for letting us use his office, for the local Sainsbury’s for providing us with some local beer for the recording.
But that’s almost it for this episode.
Next up on the podcast we have a few more episodes featuring members of my family. I’ll be speaking to James again, then my dad and then my mum. They’re all getting their own episodes. The theme of this little series is going to be “Quintessentially British Things” and I asked everyone to think of a few things that they thought were typically British or that they liked about the UK. So prepare for some chat about things like pop culture, literature, theatre, TV shows, British landscapes, places and history. They’re good episodes and I expect you’ll enjoy them very much.
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. Here is the second part of this double episode I’m doing here at the beginning of this new decade.
In this episode I’ll be continuing to refresh the podcast for 2020 with this double-ramble in which I’m talking about the kinds of things you normally talk about in the new year period – what I did during my holiday, my new years resolutions, some of my plans for the future for the podcast and also a chance to reestablish some of the main aims for this show. Also I’ll be talking about my daughter’s English and our efforts to bring her up to be bilingual.
This is part 2, you should also listen to part 1 first.
Do you have any new year resolutions?
Luke rambles about motivation and attitude in learning English
Avoid comment sections on YT, Twitter etc
Work hard, get a good routine, eat well, don’t drink too much, be loving with my loved ones, organise things with my wife, get my bike fixed, keep working on the podcast and trying to make it better all the time.
Here’s something I saw Billy Bragg tweet the other day. It’s some New Year’s Rules by folk singer Woody Guthrie in the 50s or 60s. I thought it was quite good and I intend to follow some of these steps.
What did you get for Christmas?
Paul McCartney tickets
My second chance to see him live and my first opportunity to see him do a whole concert.
I’m very excited to see an actual Beatle doing a show and I understand that he puts on a really great show. I am very interested to see which songs he chooses to play, since I am a big fan and I know almost all of his work. I think he does a lot of Beatles songs these days and has a fantastic band that he’s been working with for ages.
Any other stories from your holiday?
Saw The Snowman with our daughter.
What’s The Snowman? In the local church with the stained glass windows and a live orchestra playing along and some singing. They put up a screen in there.
She is now obsessed by snowmen and said “sennan” whenever she sees one, woke up saying sennan sennan in the morning. Must have been dreaming about a snowman. Kept saying sennan! Sennan! When she spotted one in the street or at the airport.
My Daughter’s English
Is she bilingual? Are you raising her to be bilingual? How are you working on her two languages?
I am planning a whole series of podcast episodes about this, but let’s talk about it a bit now.
Kids need a reason to learn another language. French is obvious, I’m working on the English.
It seems to help if you do English in certain situations or always with a certain person. Major language and minor language. Outside, French is the major language and I’m not worried about her picking it up like a native. She goes to daycare in French, will go to school in French, will have French speaking friends going to French speaking parties. There’s no doubt that she’ll learn French. English is the minor language there because she will use it only sometimes, usually when I’m with her. Then in the house, English is the major language and French the minor one. I speak English with her, I speak English to my wife and my wife speaks a lot of English and some French. We have English books, listen to English songs and also i just play BBC Five Live, 6 Music or Radio 4 in the background quite a lot. She likes watching some cartoons in English and is quite obsessed by The Beatles and often demands to watch Beatle videos on YouTube, which I’m very happy about of course.
Also, when we go back to England she spends all her time in English, talking to my parents, my brother and just people in shops and stuff. Sometimes she sees her cousins and speaks English with them, but they live in the US these days.
In terms of her having a reason for learning English, hopefully it will be obvious but I expect at some point I will have to explain it. English is the language of her dad and all the dad’s side of her family. She is English as well as French and so this is a whole aspect of her personality and her family. Also if she wants to really get to know me she needs to do it in English. The other persuasive things are the fact that a lot of music, TV and films are in English and English can give her way more opportunities in the future. And, hopefully, I can convince her that it’s somehow cool to be able to speak English like an English person.
Her English is coming along. I think her French is a bit better at the moment, but the English is not far behind.
Bilingual kids take a bit longer to speak, but she’s doing fine. (Play recording)
Quintessentially British Things
This is a podcast series that’s coming soon. I think I’ve mentioned it so I won’t go on about it too much but…
Here’s a little preview of what’s to come for the next few episodes.
First there’s the Star Wars 9 megaramble with James, and then a series of 1 to 1 conversations with members of my family.
The idea was that I wanted them to pick a few typically British or English things and then talk about them on the podcast. They could be anything that they thought was interesting or worth talking about → quintessentially British, meaning very typical examples of Britishness, and not the usual cliches like tea, fish and chips, Mr Bean etc.
The result is three conversations about some interesting aspects of British culture, history and geography and also a good chance to get to know each member of my family a bit more, through the British things they like talking about.
So, coming soon to LEP → Quintessentially British Things
I interviewed James, Dad and Mum for that series, but nobody interviewed me. If they had, my QBT would be Neil Innes, who sadly died on 29 December. Neil was one of my favourite people in the world and I was really sad to know that he’d died as was everyone else in my family because we’re all big fans.
Basically, Neil Innes was a musician, song writer, comedian and a sort of absurdist as well as various other things.
He was a member of The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (later The Bonzo Dog Band). His song “Urban Spaceman” was produced by Paul McCartney and was a hit. Worked with Roger McGough and Mike McCartney. Worked with Monty Python (the 7th python) and provided music, sketches and performances. Worked with Eric Idle on Rutland Weekend Television, where they invented The Rutles, which later became a feature film. Innes wrote two albums worth of music for it. The whole thing was a Beatles parody, but perfectly done and the music was incredibly spot on. For me The Rutles music is up there with The Beatles. I find them to be as good as a lot of my favourite Beatles songs, and yet there is an added enjoyment in that they’re postmodern comedy songs commenting on the Beatles and their age, through a perfect musical parody of them.
Neil Innes went on to record several albums which had music videos too. The albums span many genres of music and there are a lot of really interesting, funny, and spellbinding songs in his discography.
Neil Innes was a brilliant songwriter, an excellent lyricist, and a very wise, aware man who seemed to live a fairly ordinary suburban life, while also writing psychedelic masterpieces. I think he’s a national treasure, but he’s still not that well known. Still, the papers published obituaries of him and there was a lot of stuff on twitter with various people announcing the sad news and wishing his family well.
But it’s sad knowing that he is not with us any more. I used to like the fact that he was in the world and now he isn’t, so it’s sad.
My mum announced the news when my dad, me and my daughter had been out to the park. She came in with a tear in her eye and said “Neil Innes has died”. We all used to listen to The Rutles songs at home and in the car and watched the film lots of times together. James and Dad even went to see The Rutles perform in London, which was mainly just Neil Innes and his band doing all the songs.
So, a long ramble about SW and then 3 episodes about QBT, which I think you should find interesting.
That’s what’s coming up next on LEP!
As ever, thank you for sticking with the podcast all the way to the end of the episode and for being a loyal listener! Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel, download the LEP App from the app store and consider becoming a premium subscriber in 2020!
Luke wishes you a Happy New year and rambles about recent podcast statistics, new year in the UK, welcoming new listeners to the podcast, and some stories about travelling to the UK with a toddler by plane. Transcript available below.
Hello there and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you’re doing fine wherever you are in the world. I’m back from my holiday and am now ready to record a new episode for you, and here it is – this is it right now, it’s actually happening and you are actually listening to it with your actual ears which should be connected to your actual head which contains your very real brain which is now processing sentences in English as you are hearing them. Welcome back to the podcast!
I have listeners all over the world. Let’s have a look at my top ten countries for 2019 to get a sample of where my audience is located.
In this one I’m going to do a few things, including welcoming any new listeners that I have here at the beginning of this new decade. I’m going to give a reminder about the aims and methods of this podcast for learning English. I’m going to talk about what I did during the Christmas holiday, give an update on my daughter’s English progress, give some news about the podcast and upcoming episodes, new year’s resolutions, a comment about one of my heroes who died on 29 December, and a few other bits and pieces. This might get long so it could be a double-ramble. We’ll see.
How are you?
Where are you?
What are you doing?
What’s the weather like?
How are you listening to this?
How long have you been listening to the podcast?
How’s your English coming along?
New Year – New Decade – New Start → here’s to fresh new challenges for the 2020s and to another decade of listening to English with this podcast. I am looking forward to making more and more episodes this year and into the future, and I can’t wait to actually take ideas that are swimming around in my head and make them happen in upcoming episodes of this podcast. So many things to talk about, so many things to do, so much English to teach you.
Transcript / Notes on the website
By the way, I am reading most of this from a script that I’ve been writing for a couple of weeks. 90% of the episode is transcribed in advance, and the rest is being read from notes.
I haven’t been able to podcast during the last 3 weeks or so, but in spare moments I’ve been writing notes in a google document on my computer and my phone and I’ve put them together to make a sort of transcript for this episode. You can find the transcript on the page for this episode in the archive at teacherluke.co.uk You’re listening to episode 634.
Happy New Year!
Happy new year! I hope you had a good celebration. I expect new year is a bigger celebration around the world than Christmas. Certainly, in my experience living in other countries I’ve noticed that new year’s eve is recognised all over the world as the big event, with fireworks in all the major cities and so on. It’s pretty cool.
I wonder what you did out there in podcastland. What are the typical things that happen on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day in your country?
In the UK it sort of depends on your age.
When I was younger it was sort of mandatory to go out to a party or a club or something and when you get back to college or work everyone’s asking each other what they did for New Year’s. I remember many occasions when I went out in the centre of town with some mates for a nightmare evening of loud music, too much drinking, singing, hugging and shaking hands and an impossible mission of getting back home to bed when all the public transport is closed and the taxis are all taken.
I actually had a very quiet New Year’s Eve this year. I generally don’t really like to do much on new years eve these days, maybe because I’m so boring now, or perhaps it’s because I just like the company of friends or family at home to see out the old decade and see in the new one, in some comfort. Also the fact that we’ve got a 2 year old daughter can make it a little bit more tricky to go out and party like I used to.
Anyway, this year I was in, my wife had gone back to Paris a bit early, I was at my parents’ house. My mum went to bed to get her energy back and so Dad and I sat up and from about 11pm we started podcasting, recording a conversation about some of his favourite aspects of Britain, which will be coming in an episode soon. We were actually podcasting while Big Ben counted down to midnight and you’ll be able to hear it soon.
Welcoming New Listeners
First of all I’d like to welcome any new listeners that I have. Welcome! My name is Luke and this is my podcast for learners of English. I expect you’ve found the podcast by searching things like iTunes or Spotify for podcasts for learning English, or maybe a friend recommended it for you or something – leave a comment in the comment section (my website is the best place for that) saying how you found the podcast.
So I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and I’ve been teaching English for nearly 20 years now. This podcast has won awards, don’t you know. Yep, 4 awards based on audience votes, a British Council Elton nomination, and I came third in the British Podcast Awards in 2017 – not bad!
In these episodes I talk about all sorts of things, but the main aim is to help you improve your English through listening. The principle is twofold. Firstly, we all know that doing plenty of listening in the target language is a vital part of developing your English. You can’t expect to learn a language unless you actually listen to it, get to know how it sounds, the rhythms of English and also the typical ways in which it is structured. You need to do plenty of listening, regularly, long term – and hopefully this podcast can help you achieve just that.
In each episode you have to just follow what I’m saying or follow a conversation with someone else and just try to keep up. I try to make my episodes entertaining as well as educational. I talk about learning English, give tips and advice, but also talk about loads of other topics in some depth to give you a chance to hear a range of different vocabulary.
The second part of the principle here is that you can develop your vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation a lot through listening. The grammar and vocab come from both trying to notice new language while you’re listening, and from the episodes in which I am specifically teaching or explaining new language to you.
The pronunciation part comes from copying me, shadowing me, and doing the pronunciation drills that I also publish. I also have a premium subscription in which I specifically teach language and give you plenty of pronunciation practice.
So if you keep up with my episodes, follow the advice I give, enjoy the different topics and conversations and follow my instructions for working on your English, you should find that your English improves accordingly.
Of course, this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. I mean, it’s also necessary to practise your speaking, your reading and your writing too in active ways. You could check out my sponsor italki for the speaking practice and check out my episode archive for plenty of other episodes in which I give specific advice about other areas of your English and also for specific things like the IELTS test.
The best way to listen to my podcast is through the LEP app which is available free in the app store. With the app you have the whole archive, some app-only episodes and access to the premium content. When you listen with a podcast app on your phone, the app will remember where you stopped listening (like at the end of your morning commute to work) and when you press play again (like at the end of your working day) the episode will continue where you left off.
Also on YouTube you can check most of my episodes (just audio but some videos) and there you can find the automatic subtitles which are 99% accurate.
I also have a transcription project done through my website in which a team of keen LEPsters (listeners to this podcast) transcribe my episodes by dividing each one into 3 minute chunks, then each member of the team transcribes his or her chunk and the whole episode is then completed. After that the more high-level listeners proofread the scripts, the end goal being for me to eventually publish them on the website or turn them into an ebook perhaps. Transcribing 3 minute chunks of my episodes is an excellent way to work on your skills as it requires a lot of things – being able to listen intensely for every single word, being able to recognise different words and phrases and how they are actually said by native speakers, being able to write with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, being able to reproduce exactly what you hear. It’s great training for your English.
Check my website for the entire episode archive and loads of other things. The episode archive on the website also contains loads of other content, like episodes of other people’s podcasts that I’ve been invited on, YouTube interviews with me and so on.
Sometimes I’m featured on other people’s shows and I usually will add a post in the archive so you can listen to it or watch it.
IELTS Speaking with Keith O’Hare
For example, recently I was featured in a video with a YouTube English teacher called Keith O’Hare. He specialises in helping people prepare for the IELTS speaking exam and he’s been doing a series in which he asks other online teachers to take a speaking test on video so you can learn how it is done.
He interviewed me in December and it’s now available on YouTube (link below). So, watch the video in order to see me taking an IELTS speaking test, to learn some of the language I used and also to get feedback from Keith on my performance. I also give some tips for learning English. I’ll be having Keith on the podcast at some point to interview him about IELTS speaking.
So if you are new to the podcast – a hearty welcome to you. I hope you stick around and listen to the other episodes too, and consider becoming part of my online community by putting your comments in the comment section and maybe taking part in the transcription project. You can find the details for that on my website.
A New Year Ramble, meaning that I’m talking about all the stuff that has been building up in my brain over the holiday period.
Obviously, it has been very busy, with looking after the little one, travelling to London, Birmingham, other parts of the country, dealing with the stress of Christmas, but also having an amazing time catching up with the family, exchanging presents, eating delicious food cooked by my mum and walking in the park to get some fresh air.
Normally I am podcasting quite a lot during any given week, pouring out ideas or teaching content into my podcast feed. Then I go on holiday and things start backing up a bit – I mean it feels a bit like a traffic jam with things that want to come out but the road is closed. So I’ve been imagining doing this episode and planning the next few episodes ahead.
And this episode is going to be me pouring those things out onto the podcast..
Let me talk you through what I’ve been thinking at certain quiet moments when my mind has been able to think about the podcast a little bit. Sometimes, like when my daughter is having a nap and I sort of have a nap too, or just before I go to sleep or something, my mind drifts to what I’m going to do on the podcast when I come back in January. I think about what my audience seems to like, what excites me about doing this, what things I think would be fun or useful for you to listen to and I turn it all over in my head, planning and thinking about the next episodes and waiting for some kind of inspiration to strike. Normally I keep thinking like this until I get a tangible idea of what the episode is going to be like, then it’s just a case of preparing for it and recording it. But once I know basically where the thing is going to go, the rest is just a case of trying to make the vision in my head into some kind of reality.
So during the holiday, I didn’t have many chances to record things, but plenty of chances to just think about it all.
Order of upcoming episodes and thoughts about previous ones
Whenever I go away on holiday and leave the podcast for a couple of weeks, the most recently uploaded episode gets loads of downloads. It stands to reason. The top episode in the list is going to be listened to more because it’s there. And so if you upload one episode and another one straight after it, the first one gets fewer downloads because they don’t know it’s there. It gets hidden behind the next one, which should be an argument for spacing out your episodes a bit more to give them time to breathe and for the audience to catch up. But then again, you want to keep uploading regularly to keep the interest up. For me, I tend to just upload whatever I make, and I try to give enough time for people to notice and listen to all the episodes, and there are those times when I go away on holiday and everyone can catch up.
But I do have to consider which episode I will be leaving at the top of the list when I go on holiday. This will be the episode that everyone will notice for the next 2 or 3 weeks, and if that’s the new year period it is especially important because a lot of people choose to start listening to podcasts as a resolution, and so they’ll be looking and new people will be finding Luke’s English Podcast, so the first impression is important.
So, sometimes I was worrying a bit, because the last two episodes I uploaded (except for some premium ones) were about Star Wars episode 9 and that’s not really a fair representation of what I do on this podcast. Also, I was stressing because I think the last episode, number 633 is not that great because I couldn’t remember the plot of the film and I was umming and ahhing.
So I wasn’t completely pleased with that episode and also not too pleased it was the episode at the top of the list for all those new listeners.
But I still wasn’t done with Star Wars, because it has become something of a tradition that at Christmas time, James, Dad and I go to see the new Star Wars film and this is the 4th time it has happened. The Force Awakens in 2015, Rogue One in 2016, The Last Jedi in 2017 and then The Rise of Skywalker in 2019 and the tradition also includes a long rambling podcast to dissect the film afterwards, so James and I duly went off to Birmingham on the train to see the film, had a beer afterwards and chose to discuss it all on the podcast. The result I think is very funny and quite interesting, and I’m much more pleased with it than my previous spoiler review. Anyway, I thought “I can’t wait all that time and then upload yet another Star Wars episode, which is nearly 2 hours long!!”
So I’ve decided to record this episode first, which is why it has taken so long. I have already edited and prepared the James & Luke Star Wars Discussion which will go up quite soon after this episode appears. So, it will be there so all you Star Wars fans can check it out and then we will continue with podcasting as usual. More about that later.
Christmas / New Year Holiday? What did you do?
What have you been up to during the break then Luke?
My wife, my daughter and I travelled to the UK -first to London and then to the midlands where my parents live. We spent just over 2 weeks away.
On new year’s eve I was actually with my dad and we decided to do a podcast from 11pm until midnight when the year ended. I’ll mention that again later.
Travelling with a toddler – describe what it’s like taking a child on a plane journey
Years of helping drunk friends in nightclubs to get home has really prepared me for this. Little kids or babies are a lot like drunk friends on a Friday night. They fall over a lot and might hurt themselves. They’re liable to suddenly run into the street. They sing like hooligans. They might break down and start crying, and could easily piss themselves, shit themselves and puke on themselves all at the same time. And they’re quite rowdy, annoying and loud too, which makes them a liability in things like queues and the confines of a seat on a plane, surrounded by other passengers.
Describe taking a toddler on a flight with just one person. With two it’s better, even though you have more bags, but with one adult it’s tricky.
This is what I described to Paul recently, because he basically can’t imagine flying with his daughter because she cries all the time and thinks it would be a huge operation to travel somewhere with all the equipment and baggage that you need for a child, with the travel cot, the car seat, the pram, the bottles and devices, the cleaning stuff and nappies, spare clothes and then all your stuff too! Paul can’t imagine it, and he listened sort of wide eyed as I explained it to him, like this.
I take: One large suitcase (really big) with all our clothes, bottles, powdered milk, powdered cereal, washbag, thermometer, doliprane (paracetamol), books, toys, pacifier, doodoo (teddy bear or comforter), sleeping bag, my computer, my podcast stuff, leads, microphones, recorders, the pram, the waterproof cover for the pram (we’re going to England), A bag with food, drink, snacks, a bag with nappies, wipes and a towel, a change of clothes, some cartoons downloaded on netflix as a last line of defence, colouring books, pencil, sticker book, story book, maybe a farm animal, a book for me which I will never read, passports and my daughter.
So a pram (foldable) a huge suitcase, a backpack and my daughter and me.
Taxi to the airport. It’s expensive, but it’s just a much much smoother and efficient way to get this show on the road and get to the airport. Otherwise it’s taking a metro, walking a lot, then onto the RER, many many lifts and corridors and horrible air. The taxi option is amazing as they drop you right at arrivals.
Cruise through the terminal like a sort of huge articulated lorry, with the pram in front, my daughter probably sitting forwards and taking it all in, then me with my backpack and my other arm dragging the huge suitcase behind on its little wheels. A huge articulated truck moving through the airport.
Straight to the display, then probably to area C to queue up and check in the massive suitcase which could easily be overweight.
At this point JNR (my daughter) is sitting in the pram and probably demanding to be given the passports to be held. This could be her outstretching her hand, pointing at your pocket and saying “hand hand!” or even some mangled version of “passport”.
She’s being very insistent and we’re surrounded by silent queueing zombies so I give her the passports and just hope that she doesn’t drop them. She’s normally pretty good at holding onto them because she knows they’re important, which is why she wants to hold them.
But she has dropped things in airports before. Maybe the last time we were going through the airport and she was holding her doodoo (a teddy bear) . After walking for a while I noticed that bear was not with us any more and I went to JNR, where’s bear? And she looked around herself and then just went “huh!?” like, “Oh my god, where’s bear!?” This is like, worse than losing your phone for her.
So we wheel backwards and retrace our steps, both of us scanning the floor for bear, and I see him on the floor in the distance, lying next to a wall, slumped, and a woman is picking him up and having a look, she’s a member of staff and other people are gathering around. I just get there in time and explain that the bear belongs to my daughter and they are reunited and all’s well that ends well. Everyone sort of laughs and maybe waves at JNR and she says “bye bye “ and maybe “Aassiii” which is a combination of “thank you” and “merci”.
By the way, her languages are coming along quite well. She spends most of her time in French during the day at creche, but at home it’s mostly English. Her French has come on quicker than her English as she has certain standard phrases like “encore” and “oui” and “Cel-la” but the last two weeks she was in the UK really boosted her English.
First we spent some time with my cousin Oli and his family. He’s got three kids, one of whom is a couple of years older than my daughter, and another is the same age as her and they speak English so it was a real boost for her there.
Then with my parents and my brother it was all English for quite a long time, and her English really improved. She was saying things like “and that?” , which is quite a big step I think, and “please” “thank you” “bread” “Nice!” “Happy” “bird” “TV” “Farm” and “Beatles!”
Also a few other sentences that I can’t really remember now. She also babbles a great deal in a weird alien language and makes up songs with nonsense words and sometimes sings like a hooligan while standing on a chair.
Anyway, I give my daughter the passports and she can give them to the woman behind the counter, which is quite cute and a good way to ingratiate myself with the Air France woman, so I can try to get a better seat, maybe with nobody next to us.
She does her best and finds one for me. Air France are pretty awesome. Also, my bag is 26kg and the limit is 23kg but she says she can see it’s for both of us so she lets me off too. Nice.
Then it’s “Operation Get to the Gate” and also “Operation Energy Cancel”.
Operation Get to the Gate basically means getting through all the stuff like passport control, security and duty free and then being able to set up a base from which you can send out the child on exploratory missions to research and discover everything in the general area. That can be difficult because you have to deal with another queue, and then go through x-ray security, which means taking everything out of my backpack, separating all the baby food and water for the milk, take JNR out of the pram, fold it up and put it through as well, then coax my daughter to walk through and pretty much command her to stand in one spot while you get everything off the trays and your belt on and keys in your pocket and everything.
Then there’s a fight because I want her to get back in the pram but she’s not having it. I eventually decide that sometimes there’s no point struggling with a kid who doesn’t want to do something so we agree to walk, I push the pram and she sort of follows along and I have to constantly give her pointers like “this way” and “come on” “we’ve got to get to the gate” and she goes “GATE” and I say “Yes”. And there’s plenty of “no” “stop” Don’t do that, don’t touch. No hands. No, No No. Etc.
I try not to say no too much and to always explain to her what we’re doing and involve her somehow too.
So we keep going and I get her to push the pram, but it gets a bit tricky when we get to the big hall with all the gates because there are loads of distractions and also large open spaces. There are the arcade games and she always wanders in among the games of street fighter, fifa and pac man. I have to go and grab her, pick her up even though she doesn’t want to go and carry her, explaining that we have to get to the gate, then find some water for her and sandwiches for me.
So we get in the queue at Pret a Manger, leaving the pram over there, keeping one eye on it, while my daughter is wandering along the sandwich fridge, picking up salads and I’m telling her to put them back and come here. She wanders around but generally is quite cute and nice so people don’t get too annoyed. She wants to use the card machine and hold my credit card, anything that means she’s involved in what’s happening.
Normally it’s pretty good but sometimes it can be quite difficult following her around and picking her up as she kicks and screams if she doesn’t want to go, but usually it’s fine because I’ve explained exactly what’s happening and she likes that. I explain a day or so before that we’re going to the airport (she has an airport book) and do the motion of a plane in the sky and she knows what that is and she does it too and she goes “fly , fly” and maybe “plane!” or “avion!”. So she knows what’s going on and I’ve tried to explain that she needs her seatbelt, so the seatbelt is always in the story. Now she’s ok with seatbelts and says “seatbelt”.
Then there’s some running around after we’ve found our base of operations at one of the chairs next to our gate, and it’s “Operation Energy Cancel” or energy drain or something. The main aim here is to burn off as much of her energy as possible, and usually this involves running along side her going “run run run run run run run” and she gets really excited and giggly and runs along with you, looking like super mario. Run run run run run run. We do that up and down until she’s pretty tired or we have to queue up for the plane.
This bit might also involve lunch depending on how much time you have, and sometimes lunch is done on the plane. In any case lunch is always more like a drug that you give to your child than an actual meal! You know that when you’ve given them lunch, they’ll probably fall asleep about an hour later, so lunch is more like a sleep drug that you apply to your child so you can have a break. In fact all meals, milk, food are more like drugs that you give to your children.
The aim is to make her tired on the plane. At this point it is difficult to keep everything under control because I have a heavy backpack on my back full of podcasting equipment and kid stuff, a folded pram over my shoulder and my slightly hyper daughter investigating everything and kind of giggling or pointing at things.
When people start queuing for the plane I like to hang back until almost everyone is on board. Why would you want to get on board early and spend even more time sitting in that cramped little seat. I prefer to wait until all the stressed out people have struggled with their bags before sliding in at the end while everyone else watches you get on board and my daughter walks along the aisle looking at everyone. I have a huge backpack and a pram over my shoulder so I’m probably bumping people in the arm or in the head if I turn quickly. I have to shove some bags out of the way to push the folded pram in the overhead locker.
Then it’s operation distraction, subtitled “I hope she goes to sleep”.
There are basically six levels of “kid on a plane”
Distracted by something quite wholesome, like drawing, stickers, reading a book. She’s quite happy to sit on your lap and try to pick up stickers and put them in places. I also don’t care at all if she puts stickers all over the seat or the magazine. Not a problem, if my daughter isn’t making a fuss, it’s all good. I might have to try and ingratiate myself with the person next to us, like a smile or just by talking to my daughter and hoping she does something cute, which usually works. So level 1 is – doing an activity.
Walking up and down. This one is vital for when level 1 just doesn’t work and your child has some pent up energy. I walk her up and down the plane and also let her hang around at the end near the weird little shelves and kitchen area at the end of the plane. That tends to use up some energy and stop her kicking the chair in front or complaining or making a police siren noise.
Changing the nappy. This can be quite a big operation depending on whether it is a #1 or a #2 and if there has been some kind of “leak”.
Obviously the worst possible one is a leaked #2 which can be a sort of Armageddon in the underpants, and can be really tricky to deal with in a plane toilet. You hope to hell that there’s a baby changing table, and if there is my daughter hardly even fits on it. She’s tall for her age. Anyway, I put her on the table and she’s a bit freaked out but very curious about everything in this grotty plane toilet. Then you change the nappy making sure she doesn’t touch it and you use loads of wipes to clean everything up, meanwhile your arse is pressed against the unit behind you, your left shin is pressed against the edge of the toilet and your head might be pressed against the curved ceiling on some planes. It might also be necessary to change her clothes, which is why it is vital to bring the other outfit. So that’s level 3.
Watching a video on your phone. This is a sort of fallback position which might help you to get to Level 5. It’s not ideal because you don’t really want your child to be watching a phone for any length of time, and sometimes she tries to play with the phone and ends up going into your emails or photos or something. But it can be a great way to pacify a child who is being boisterous.
We tend to show her Babar The Elephant, which is basically like Downton Abbey for kids. They’re exactly the same thing. In fact it’s the other way round, Downton Abbey is like Babar The Elephant for grown ups.
It’s very cute and they have adorable Canadian accents.
Blissful sleep when you can just take a break and even have a nap yourself which is the thing you’ve been craving all this time, ever since you were woken up at 6AM by her crying, then you take her in bed with you and she sort of kicks you and falls asleep until 7AM when she starts wailing for milk like a heroin addict and then after she downs it in about 2 minutes, she spends the next half an hour sort of rolling around and kicking in a half asleep trance, maybe in a bad mood, before sort of waking up and immediately giggling and playing around. So, getting the chance for a nap is just sensational.
…is meltdown. There are different stages of meltdown of course, but this is what you are trying to prevent at all times. Wrestling in your arms Refusing to cooperate Pushing your hands away so you end up doing some weird Chinese gung fu together Wailing and crying loudly Police sirens Car alarms Going red, tears Sometimes this develops into a full on raging demonic possession but that has only ever happened once on the Eurostar in the evening when she was really tired but didn’t want to sleep or go in the pram, and it was like The Exorcist or something.
Anyway, normally it is a mix of levels 1-4 which is basically ok. Then there are more queues, more giving her passports and then fighting with her to get her in the pram and possibly failing, waiting for the huge bag and then going to meet my dad, get her in the back of the car and drive, and she always falls asleep within the first 2 minutes of the ride.
I’ll talk a bit more about my daughter later, including some details about her English and her bilingualism.
I don’t normally talk about her this much but I did spend loads of time with her this holiday so it’s pretty fresh in my mind.
That’s it for part 1. Part 2 will be available soon!
A conversation with English comedian BJ Fox, who performs stand-up in Japan and has his own TV show on NHK. Our conversation includes the story of how BJ managed to pitch the show to Japanese producers, how he learnt Japanese to a proficient level, doing stand-up in a different culture and much more.
Hi everyone, welcome back to the podcast. It’s lovely to be talking to you again. I hope the feeling is mutual.
Let me tell you about this episode. So, this one is a conversation with an English stand-up comedian, living in Japan. He goes by the name of BJ Fox and he’s doing really well over there. He’s one of the top comedians on the English language comedy scene in Tokyo (which is a relatively big scene in fact) he also performs stand-up in Japanese, which is really cool because it means that his Japanese must be really good – he makes audiences of Japanese people laugh a lot in his shows. He has also performed stand-up in lots of other countries, especially across Asia but also in the UK and now he has his own sitcom on Japanese TV – on NHK, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of the BBC. So, he’s got his own TV show.
Now this is quite an extraordinary achievement – to get your own sitcom on Japanese telly. BJ writes the show himself and also plays the main character. So, how did he manage this? How did he get his own TV show? I mean, a lot of people move to other countries, manage to learn the language and live quite successfully there, but not everyone ends up with their own TV show. Also, how did he learn Japanese to such a high level? What’s it like doing stand up in Japan? What’s his TV sitcom all about?
BJ has also worked in the video games industry, including time spent at the Pokemon company and at Rockstar Games. I don’t know if you know Rockstar Games. They’re the ones who produce the Grand Theft Auto series and also the Red Dead Redemption series, and in fact BJ was one of the people responsible for bringing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to the Japanese market.
I spoke to BJ over Skype recently and asked him about all these things.
Before we listen, I just want to mention that I have published a premium episode covering specific vocabulary from this conversation. I went through the recording, picked out lots of vocabulary and in the premium episode I explain it, demonstrate it and also drill it for pronunciation. Those of you who are premium subscribers will have access to that in the app and on the website. It’s Premium episode 18 (parts 1 & 2) and I think you’ll find that listening to that episode (either before or after you listen to this converstion) will really help you understand everything much better, it’ll help you notice and pick up certain phrases and to practise saying them with all the correct, natural pronunciation, and all of that is a great way to maximise your learning potential with an episode like this. That’s what my premium episodes are all about.
So check out Premium series 18 – which accompanies this episode. It’s already available in the app and on the website. To sign up to LEP Premium just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and the best way to listen to premium content is by using the Luke’s English Podcast App. If you have any questions, just send me an email through my website or through the app.
Right then, let’s meet BJ Fox and find out about his stand-up, his career, how he learned Japanese and what it’s like having his own sitcom on Japanese TV.
The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast– Stuart Goldsmith interviews some of the best comedians in the world in great depth and finds out exactly how they do their comedy.
That was BJ Fox then. I’d like to say thanks again to him for coming on the podcast. It was really interesting to talk to him.
I suggest that you have a look on the page for this episode on the website where you will find a clip from Home Sweet Tokyo, links to BJ’s website and also a link to The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, which is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in exactly how comedians do what they do – which is, basically, to make people laugh really hard until their faces hurt. It’s like actual magic, it’s amazing.
And don’t forget that I recently published a two-part Premium episode covering language from this conversation. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to LEP Premium in order to listen to that and maximise your English learning from this podcast. The episode covers vocabulary and pronunciation, so you can expand your range of English and sound more like a native speaker. Sign up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium .
I’ve also recently uploaded more little premium videos with pronunciation drills. They’re short videos in which I drill some sentences, you can see me saying the sentences, I highlight some features of pronunciation like sentence stress, weak forms and connected speech, you can see my mouth moving as I say them, you can copy me and also the target sentences are written on the screen with some features highlighted like the stress and the weak forms. Premium LEPsters – there’s a heads up. Check out the latest content – it’s there in the premium category in your app, and also online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium . There should be more content coming this month.
A bit of a ramble
Basically, it’s been great to get some nice feedback from listeners. The 2 episodes with James (Oasis, Do you ever…?) have had great responses. People really enjoyed them. I am lucky to have a brother who I get on with most of the time, and we make each other laugh a lot. I’m glad if that comes across on the podcast and that you can join in the laughter too.
The Emina episode – I’m very happy that lots of you found it inspiring and also that you found lots in common with her. I think it’s always interesting to speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, and to try to work out how they did it.
The Rick Thompson Report is always popular – people often say that this is how they get informed about Brexit. Even some of my friends who are native speakers of English listen to those episodes. The UK’s general election is due to happen on 12 December (Thursday) and I would like to record something about that after the results are in. My Dad will hopefully be up for it, but I can’t guarantee it. It depends if we find the right time to do it. December is shaping up to be an extremely busy month.
I haven’t finished the 3-part series about “88 Expressions that will confuse everyone” – the series about very British expressions and slang. I do plan to finish that. I promised you 88 expressions and so far I’ve given you 50. So I owe you another 28. Check out my maths!
Also, the episode about terrible jokes went down well, so I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. Basically, we’re going to keep on trucking here at LEPHQ. I say “we” – it’s mainly just me, isn’t it? With a little help from my friends and family of course, who join me as guests sometimes and of course the support I get from you my listeners in the form of donations (thank you thank you thank you if you’ve donated) and also just the fact that you are loyal listeners, that you recommend the podcast to your friends, leave glowing reviews on places like iTunes (LEP is simply sensational, there’s no other word for it). So thank you for the support.
Crazy strikes in France
Emmanuel Macron (the French president) is currently attempting to reform pension laws here. I don’t fully understand it, but because of this, a lot of workers across many sectors are protesting and going on strike at the moment and it looks like the strikes are going to continue throughout December, which could make life extremely difficult here. It already is, in fact. The main problem is transport, but this has some major knock on effects in other areas. Almost all the public transport is closed – The Metro, busses, train lines, trams, and in Paris that makes a huge difference because almost everyone relies on it to an extent. So this means that loads of other things are affected. Lots of people can’t get to work and it causes a lot of general chaos. For us the main problems are the creche and our travel plans at Christmas.
The daycare centre (creche) for our daughter could be closed for the next couple of weeks, so my wife and I will not be able to work like normal. We’ll have to stay at home with the little one. Now, I’m not complaining – it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with her and I can walk to school when I have lessons to teach. Also, I have some sympathy with the people who are on strike but this could seriously affect my podcast output this month because while I’m looking after my daughter I can’t really do anything else, including podcasting.
Update: Our daughter is being looked after for a few days by her grandparents, leaving us free to concentrate on work we need to do before Christmas. But it’s only for a few days – so I have to cram all my content creation into these next few days. So I will be locked in the Pod-Castle, making episodes as quickly as I can!
Luke – tell us what happened yesterday, as an example of the travel chaos gripping the city.
Also it could affect our travel plans to the UK for Christmas, so everything is up in the air at the moment. The main thing for you is that it might be difficult for me to prepare, record and upload all the content I’m planning for the next few weeks, and that includes the annual Christmas episode (which this year is going to be about Christmas jokes), perhaps one other free episode of the podcast which I haven’t worked out yet, maybe a Star Wars episode if I get to see Episode 9 when it is released here on 18 December, also I’m planning another premium audio series and more premium pronunciation videos. That’s quite a lot of content but I will be off on holiday during the Christmas period so I want to publish or prepare quite a lot of content before that, but I might not be able to do anything. We will see what happens and whether we can find childcare for the little one.
Anyway, let’s see how much I can get done in the time I have. It might just be that I have to do some late night or early morning podcasting, or perhaps no podcasting at all. We will see. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you get radio silence from LEP later this month.
But now it is time to wish you all a warm farewell until next time. Check out the LEP App if you don’t already have it, check out LEP Premium, sign up to the mailing list on the website, follow me on Twitter, have a look at the page for this episode for all your BJ Fox info and I will speak to you again soon I hope, but for now it’s just time to say GOODBYE!
…but remember the best way to listen to these episodes is by using a podcast app on your phone. That way you can listen to a bit, pause the episode and when you choose to listen again your app will remember where you previously stopped. If you’re wondering which podcast app to use, let me recommend the Luke’s English Podcast App, which contains the entire episode archive and loads of bonus stuff. Just search for Luke’s English Podcast App in the app store for Apple devices or Google Play store for Android, and yes it’s completely free. Using a podcast app means that you don’t have to listen to an entire episode in one sitting, which is the best way to listen to longer podcasts like this one.
Introduction (after the jingle)
In this episode, let’s just ask each other a bunch of “do you ever?” questions.
This is going to involve using present simple tense a lot. This is the most basic verb tense we have in English, and we use it to talk about permanent facts and habitual behaviour.
In lessons at school this tense is often taught to students at low levels because it’s a really important foundation for general English, but it tends to be a little bit dull – not the way students deal with the tense, but the way it’s presented in textbooks. Usually, materials based around present simple tense just involve daily routines, what time you normally get up, eat lunch, go to bed etc.
Students at that level lack the vocabulary to be able to talk about habits and routines in a more complex way. When they do have more vocabulary at higher levels, the course books always focus on other tenses – e.g. past tenses for telling stories about the past, future tenses for making predictions about the future, conditional sentences and modal verbs for speculating and so on.
The poor present simple tense is left with this boring reputation of just being a low-level bit of grammar which we only use to talk about what time we get up in the morning and how often we go to the gym.
So, let’s come back to present simple tense and see if we can use it to talk about slightly more unusual and fun things.
As a teacher, the main problem I have noticed when students are using present simple tense is just remembering to add ‘s’ or maybe ‘es’ (which often adds another syllable to the word – like ‘I wish’ and ‘he wishes’ for example). Often it’s just missing 3rd person forms. Like someone saying “He go” when it should be “he goes”. It’s so basic but it’s worth self-correcting if it happens.
Anyway, this episode is called “Do you ever?” and I’ve prepared a big list of unusual behaviour which I think we don’t often talk about, but which I think many of us do, or maybe it’s just me.
Now, I don’t necessarily do all of these things. They’re just based on observations I’ve made. Also, some of the things in this list were written by my brother during a conversation we had ages ago about weird little habits that we have.
Let’s see what happens in terms of the language that comes out. Will we switch to other tenses at any point? What kind of vocabulary will emerge? And do you ever do these slightly unusual things?
I’m interrupting here because, before we go any further, I think it’s necessary to say a few things about this episode in order to help you understand it all a bit better.
First of all, you should know that this is quite a silly and rambling episode and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Most of what you’re going to hear is just for fun really and I hope you enjoy it.
There is quite a lot of rude language in the episode and by that I mean things like the F word (you mean the word “Fuck” – err, yes – OKay, thanks. Just checking. Wait – who are you? Never mind, carry on!) So there is some swearing but for me that’s quite normal in an informal situation but obviously – swearing is still not a good idea in polite company or at work for example. But for two people like James and me chatting informally at home, swearing might happen and, you know – I want this to be authentic, as if you’re sitting with us the whole time. So, that’s why there is swearing.
Also, I think it will probably be difficult for many of you to follow this conversation because we talk about some very specific and quite personal things, sometimes we talk quickly because we’re in a rush to say things before the other one interrupts us, we talk over each other sometimes and the topic of conversation changes a lot as we go through each question quite quickly.
So this is definitely going to be a difficult one, depending on your level of English of course. But sometimes you need a challenge!
Generally, I think I am quite easy to understand when I’m talking on my own, even when I’m speaking quickly. I just have a clear voice. But when I’m talking to friends on the podcast I think it becomes a lot more difficult to understand everything and that might demotivate you. But you need a bit of a challenge from time to time. I hope the bits that you understand will carry you through the bits that you don’t understand.
But I do want to help you understand as much as possible, so I’m now going to read out all the Do You Ever…? Questions that we answer in this episode. I’m going to read them all out now, just to give you a chance to understand them all in advance. This can make a big difference to your comprehension of this conversation.
If you have already had a chance to think about the different things that we talk about, you’ll be in a much better position to understand it all.
So, let me now go through this list of “Do you ever…?” questions and I’d like you to concentrate and just try to understand each one and then prepare to hear what we have to say about them in the rest of the conversation.
You should also consider whether you do these particular little things or not, and if you consider them to be normal, funny or weird.
Right, so listen carefully – these are the questions that James and I are going to discuss in this conversation. Here we go…
Do you ever…?
Get song lyrics stuck in your head (like an earworm)
Aim at things when you pee
Use a special system for getting to sleep
Have dreams or nightmares
Wave at people on boats
Look out of the window in a moving car and imagine that you’re running along next to the car like Mario or Sonic, jumping over obstacles, or that you’re cutting everything with a huge saw or laser as you move past
Shave your beard into a funny moustache for a moment when shaving
Talk to yourself in a different voice, when nobody else is around
Wipe while sitting or wipe while standing
Imagine doing an amazing performance in front of your old school during an assembly or something
Avoid stepping on the cracks in the pavement, or live by any other superstitions
Go to the hairdressers and have a really bad time but say nothing about it
Drink loads of tea or coffee at work just so you get more toilet breaks
Smoke cigarettes because you’re bored, or decide to smoke a cigarette because you see someone in a movie smoking
Imagine what you would do if a zombie apocalypse happened right now
Count the number of steps it takes you to get up a flight of stairs or go from the sofa to the toilet
Flip something, like a remote control, in the air over and over again until you drop it
Do fake bets with yourself or your friends
Badly need the loo on the way home
Listen to songs and completely misunderstand or mishear the lyrics
Fugzi – Waiting Room
The lyrics are, “I am a patient boy. I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait.”
James thought it was, “I am a pastry boy. I weigh, I weigh, I weigh, I weigh.”
Open toilet doors with your elbows
Use the back of your hand or certain fingers for touching your face, as if the back of your hand or your knuckle are ‘totally safe’
Think “that would be a good name for a band”
Fall asleep in public and then suddenly wake up because your head has suddenly moved, you’ve snored or you’ve made another noise, or your head has moved back and your mouth has hung open, or you’ve drooled out of your mouth
Throw a ball of paper at the bin, miss, pick up the ball and try again from the exact same spot as before
Eat any parts of yourself – e.g nails, dead skin or bogies
Tap your foot to the beat of other people’s music which you can overhear from their headphones, in order to show them that you can hear it (or because the music is actually good)
Walk past someone you know in the street and go to say hello, then realise they’ve chosen to blank you (to ignore you)
Not move down in public transport even though you could, because you want to save space for yourself and because you generally hate other people
Fall in love with a stranger on public transport and yet do absolutely nothing about it other than glance at them and hope they don’t notice
Add your own voiceover track to films or TV shows
Doodle particular things with a pen while you’re on the phone
Hate strangers on public transport for no reason
Put toast in the toaster, it comes up not done properly, then you put it back and then it’s burnt
Lie on your back and throw a ball or maybe an orange into the air, and fail to catch it
Walk for ages with a stone in your shoe – it feels massive, then you take it out and it’s tiny
Find everything totally fascinating, just before bedtime – especially if you promised yourself earlier in the day that you’d have an early night
That was the LEP Jingle Megamix that you heard at the end there. I haven’t played that on the podcast for a while. If you’d like to know where all those little samples in that jingle come from, check out the Jingles & Music category in the LEP App. There’s a full episode there in which I go through all the samples and explain where they all come from. It’s called “Deconstructing the LEP Jingle Megamix”.
Well done for listening to all of that. I wonder how many of you have made this far, and how many people just couldn’t handle it any longer for whatever reason, and how many skeletons there are with headphones on right now – skeletons that were perfectly healthy fresh-faced humans when they started listening to this, who slowly perished as the episode went on.
But not you – no, you made it all the way through and there’s a good chance you laughed with us, and perhaps were struck by a profound sense of shared experience when you realised that you also do some of the things we talked about.
But well done to you, in any case and I hope you also picked up some English along the way – because, after all, that is the main purpose of this whole thing, of course. I expect the lower level listeners or the more serious listeners probably stopped listening because they couldn’t keep up or because they felt that they didn’t have time. I’m not going to get into all the stuff about the pros and cons of long episodes vs shorter episodes and things like that. Anyway, the point is – if you made it this far then “nice one” and I wonder what your favourite moments were from this episode. You could share your thoughts in the comment section of course.
Let me thank James again for being on the podcast. I always enjoy our episodes together and I hope that that comes across in the recording.
Right, time to stop talking. There’s no time to mention that you should sign up to LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium. No time to that, but you should anyway. There are now over 60 premium items available and more premium episodes are coming, I promise. They just take quite a lot of work and preparation. But there will be more coming before Christmas.
All I’ll say now is thank you again for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now – goodbye!
What’s the music at the end of the episode, Luke?
The music you can hear at the end is called Wonderland and it was produced by James on his Akai MPC2000. You can check it out (and his other tunes) on his Soundcloud page here soundcloud.com/jt-2000