Category Archives: Family

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see if it makes any difference.

Anyway…

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

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

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

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

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


Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC MIXES

Includes these shows:

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

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


Leave your comments below

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

More Life Hacks (to justify the title)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

672. The Rick Thompson Report: COVID / BREXIT / BLM (July 2020)

Talking to my dad about recent developments in the UK relating to coronavirus & Brexit with a cameo appearance by Gill Thompson talking about statues.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report.

In the Rick Thompson Report I talk to my dad about the issues of the day, news and current affairs from the UK, especially politics.

The last time we spoke was in episode 652 at the beginning of the lockdown. We talked about COVID-19, how the government was handling it, what kind of crisis it could become.

Now, recording this at the start of July 2020, the world is coming out of lockdown in many areas. Are we out of it now, or are some places still affected? What’s been going on in the UK all this time? And will the government be ready to properly leave the EU at the end of the year when the transition period ends?

With his usual clarity then, here is my dad, Rick Thompson, to talk about these things.

And here we go.


Outro

There you are then. That was the Rick Thompson Report for July 2020 here on planet earth, specifically focusing on the UK sector.

Thanks again to Dad for taking the time to talk to me on the podcast today and for taking me to Wembley Stadium once in 1991 to see the FA Cup Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest. I was a Nottingham Forest fan but I also liked Tottenham and we went along and it was amazing. I saw some of my heroes like Stuart Pearce, Gary Linaker and Paul Gascgoine. So, thanks for that Dad. Forest lost the game but it was still amazing.

Anyway, what’s up with you?
How’s your English?
How’s that lockdown treating you?

Hey, can you do me a favour? Could you send me a message telling me what your favorite kind of LEP episode is?

What’s your favourite kind of LEP Episode?

Here are some categories

  • Talking to guests I don’t really know
  • Talking to guests I do know, like my family and friends, James, Amber & Paul
  • Talking about learning English with strategies and advice
  • Episodes about specific topics like 666, films, music and so on, often with James
  • Conversations with my wife
  • Listening to comedy and breaking it down
  • Explaining jokes and dissecting the frog
  • Rambling monologues
  • Made up stories and improvisations
  • Voices, impressions and characters
  • The Rick Thompson Report
  • Gill’s Book Club
  • Luke’s Film Club
  • Vocabulary, Idioms or Slang
  • Exploring a British TV show
  • Detective Stories and Mysteries
  • Something else

I think that’ll do for now.

Let me know what your favourite type of episode is. It’ll help me think of more ideas in the future.

You can write an email to me, leave a comment under the episode, or tweet me @EnglishPodcast

That’s it for this episode, thank you for listening. I will speak to you again in the next one, but for now – good bye!

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here we go…


Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye bye bye bye bye…


Video Clips

Quint describes the USS Indianapolis shark incident (Jaws)

Quint gets eaten by the shark (Jaws)

BONUS AUDIO

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

666. [Part 2] Frightening Experiences (with James)

James and I share some stories of genuinely scary and disturbing experiences which we’ve had in our lives.

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Introduction

Hello, are you a learner of English? Would you like something to listen to to develop your listening skills and by extension all other aspects of your English and your life? Well, you could listen to this. That’s the idea. Learning English through listening. Learning through listening. Listening through learning. Listening while learning. Listening and learning. Living and learning.

Anyway, welcome to this episode of my podcast.

This is part 2 of episode 666 in which my brother James and I are talking about scary things, horror, evil and general moodiness.

I uploaded part 1 of this a few days ago and so far there has almost been radio silence from the LEPsters. Just the sound of crickets in the comment section and on social media, despite the fact that I was regularly receiving messages from people before publishing episode 666 asking about what I was planning to do for this episode with an apparently significant number. There have been one or two comments, but I feel it’s less than usual. What’s going on. Have you been spooked by the subject matter? Are you all freaked out by the number 666? It’s possibly because the episode got blocked on YouTube and YouTube is normally where the first comments come in because it’s easier to comment on YouTube. So nothing from YouTube. I don’t know. The download numbers have been good. Maybe you’re just superstitious but like Stevie Wonder once said “Superstition ain’t the way”.

In any case, let me introduce this properly. This is part 2 and there are 3 parts to this episode. James and I recorded all this a couple of weeks ago – him in London, me in Paris (we did it online of course, we didn’t just shout really loud) and we chatted for about 4 hours I think. I’ve edited that down, but still, this was a marathon recording, just because we had a lot of stuff we wanted to talk about.

In part 1 we talked about why the number 666 is associated with the devil, and then we talked about the devil in music with a little history lesson from James’ friend Kate Arnold who is an expert in medieval music and then there was some rambling from James and me about some of our favourite scary music – mostly the band Black Sabbath who are probably the first band to really make a name for themselves by being quite frightening, but also some death metal, some hip hop and some Aphex Twin. Apologies to those of you who were expecting us to talk more about Iron Maiden and also other genres like black metal and so on.

So that was part 1, but here in part 2 James and I are going to move on from music and instead share a few anecdotes of genuinely scary experiences we’ve had in our lives, scary things that have actually happened to us. So, a bit of storytelling in this one.

Then in part 3 of this we’re going to talk about scary films and horror movies, and then that will be it for episode 666.

I recorded this conversation with James remotely over video conferencing software and for some reason James’ microphone kept cutting out at various times. You might be able to hear it sometimes. He talks and then some of his sentences get cut in half or he suddenly goes silent a bit. I managed to fix this in most cases, but sometimes you will hear his voice cutting out and some words are missing or half pronounced. It was quite frustrating at the time, because of course I want you to be able to hear everything. It becomes a bit more obvious in the second half of this episode, and I hope you don’t find it too distracting. Hopefully you won’t even notice, although obviously you will now because I’ve mentioned it.

OK, so without any further ado, let’s jump back into episode 666 with some scary stories of real-life experiences from James and me, and here we go!


What is sleep paralysis?

www.nhs.uk/conditions/Sleep-paralysis/

Sleep paralysis (32 scary experiences from Reddit users)

32 INSANELY SCARY SLEEP PARALYSIS STORIES


Ending

OK listeners, that is where we are going to stop part 2, but this marathon episode will continue in part 3 in which James and I are going to talk about scary films and some other bits and pieces on this theme.

If you liked hearing our stories, you could check out some other episodes from the archive, which are similar. Here they are (just two of them).

Episode 140 is the one I mentioned earlier. That’s the ghost stories episode in which I tell 4 weird and disturbing stories from my life. Just a heads up: There’s quite a long and waffling introduction to that episode (what a surprise), so if you’d like to skip that and get straight to the stories, you should fast forward to about 17 minutes into the episode. Start listening from 17 minutes in if you want to get straight to the stories. You’ll hear The Scary Clock story again, plus 3 other weird anecdotes. That’s episode 140, starting 17 minutes into the episode.

140. Ghost Stories – True Tales of Really Creepy Experiences

Also there’s episode 372 which was called The Importance of Anecdotes in English, and that one contains 4 true stories told by my mum, my dad, James and me. At least 3 of them are quite frightening, including the time James got stranded in Hastings and ended up sleeping on a stranger’s sofa and it got a bit weird. My dad had a confrontation with a taxi driver in Greece when he was a student and I had a taste of the violent underworld crime scene in Liverpool when I used to live there. That perhaps sounds worse than it is – basically one evening a poor guy who had been kidnapped by drug dealers ended up at our front door and my housemates and I took him in without really realising what was happening, and the next thing we knew we had a bleeding traumatised stranger in our house and potentially some armed drug dealers outside looking for him. That was fun. Oh such lovely days as a student in Liverpool in the 90s.

Anyway, that’s an episode with 4 anecdotes told by my family and it is episode 372. There’s some language teaching about narrative tenses and how to tell anecdotes in that one, but if you want to skip straight to the stories again you’ll need to jump ahead to the 34 minute mark. Episode 372, 34 minutes in.

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

But that’s it for this episode. As I said earlier, I’d be curious to know if you’ve ever had similar experiences to us.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’ve been through much more frightening and dangerous things than us, and I’m sure you have stories to tell.

  • Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis like I described earlier?
  • Have you ever had a really scary ride on a motorbike or perhaps something even more dangerous?
  • Have you ever had a near-death experience or just been freaked out by something you can’t really explain?

Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy sharing your story with the LEPsters.

The final part of this unnerving trilogy will be arriving soon.

In the meantime, please stay safe, stay happy and stay healthy if at all possible and I will speak to you next time.

But for now, goodbye…

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

Before we begin, here is a disclaimer of sorts.

I know people are very superstitious out there.

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

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

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

Also some of you might suffer from hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia

…which is the fear of the number 666.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that is the plan.


Kate Arnold’s Music 
(download her album here)

katearnolduk.bandcamp.com/


VIDEOS & IMAGES

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

Bill Bailey’s Psychological Doorbell

Kate Arnold

Black Sabbath – War Pigs live in Paris 1970

Black Sabbath Greatest Hits – scary album art

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

Tony Iommi and the Black Sabbath sound

Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)

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

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

So, some anecdotes are coming in part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

664. Lockdown Ramble with My Wife

Chatting to my wife late one evening last week about what it’s like to be with an English guy, raising our daughter to be bilingual and more…

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Introduction

Hello listeners, how are you doing out there in podcastland? What’s going on with you then, eh? Where are you? Who are you? What are you doing right now? Where are you listening to this? How are you listening to this? Have you got headphones on? Are you in a car or something? In public? Are you allowed out at the moment? Have you got a mask on? I mean, a medical face mask, not a metaphorical mask, but maybe you’re wearing one of them too, hmmm….?

Anyway, enough weird nonsense. I just want to give you a hearty welcome at the start here and to make sure you’re really with me here as you listen to this episode of my podcast, which is designed to help you with your English. You see, it helps if you’re fully engaged and listening carefully. It helps with your English, if you’re really paying attention while you listen.

On the podcast today, you’re going to listen to a conversation between me and my wife. Yep, my wife is back on the podcast for the third time now. The 1st time was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502 (just to be clear: my daughter wasn’t born in episode 502 of course, I mean that was the first time my wife was on the podcast and it was just after our daughter was born) The 1st time my wife was on the podcast was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502, and the 2nd appearance by Mrs Thompson was in a premium episode series in which we taught you loads of phrases that my wife has learned from me and that we use all the time (That’s P08 by the way – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium )

The conversation you’re about to hear took place in our living room late in the evening last week, after we’d finally got our daughter to sleep and had eaten our dinner. We’d been talking about doing another podcast for a while and then finally we managed to record ourselves chatting about our experiences of living in lockdown and also to respond to some questions that listeners asked in the past.

Here are some of those questions…

  1. What is it like to be with an English guy?
    Some people have wondered about this and asked me to talk to my wife about it. What about the differences in culture between us? How does this affect our relationship? We mainly talk about communication style here, and I’d like to refer back to a recent episode – #643, called The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming, as it touches on some similar points.
    So, what does my wife like or dislike about being with an English bloke? That’s what we deal with first.
  2. What have you been doing on lockdown with your daughter?
    Then we talk about living in lockdown with our daughter, including what we’ve been doing to keep her busy and how we’ve been able to observe her development more closely during this period. I should say, there’s quite a lot of conversation about our daughter in this episode. After the recording we both were concerned that it’s just two parents going on about their child. Again, if you have children, you’ll probably relate to what we’re saying. If you don’t have kids, I don’t know what you’ll think. You might not be into that stuff. Often, parents talking about children bores the pants of single people. But this has always been quite a personal podcast and a conversation with my wife is bound to include stuff about our daughter – I mean we’ve been locked up with her for about 7 or 8 weeks, so there you go. Just a little heads up – there’s more kid-chat in this episode.
  3. How are we raising our daughter to be bilingual?
    The third main thing we talk about is the bilingualism of our daughter and our approach to that. How are we making sure that she learns English as well as French? What are the main ways of doing this and what are the main factors to bear in mind when raising a child to speak two languages?

There’s also some chat about other things, like some comments from listeners, going to visit the castle near where my parents live, and whether my wife likes Star Wars and The Beatles.

Listening back, I noticed that sometimes I was speaking really fast during this episode, especially in the second half. I have mixed feelings about this, about fast speech on this podcast. For some listeners, this will be great news because some of you want to listen to fast natural conversation. For others this will be challenging.

I think I speak quickly in this conversation because my wife and I are very close (we’re married, you see) and she has no qualms about interrupting me and so I have to raise my speaking speed in order to prevent that happening. It’s a bit like when I’m with my brother. There’s this feeling that we’re going to talk over each other so we end up speaking more quickly as we try to get our ideas out before we get cut off.

I suppose ultimately this is good for you to listen to, because this is how people really speak to each other. They interrupt, they finish each other’s sentences, they make false starts and correct themselves and they don’t always finish the points they are making. It is good to listen to that kind of speaking because it’s how people really speak, unlike the kind of contrived listening you get in textbooks where everything is written in advance and read out fairly awkwardly by actors. I’m not having a go at English course books – they can be incredibly useful, but at the same time they aren’t very realistic.

My Wife’s English (actually she’s French)

You might be curious about my wife’s English, and her background with English.

Just in case you don’t know, my wife is French, and English is not her first language. She had some lessons at school and at university like most French kids but mostly she learned her English in adulthood. We speak English at home together. Sometimes we speak in French together, but as anyone with experience of this will tell you, it’s quite hard to shift the language of your couple once it has been set, and our relationship definitely started in English and my wife’s English is better than my French, so English is the language of our couple. We sometimes speak French together, but in French I am quite incompetent – I am a lot like Mr Bean, and when she married me, that’s not what she signed up, so, English is how we communicate, and there it is.

Ok then so now I would like to invite you into the living room of our flat in Paris. Would you like a glass of wine? Maybe a cup of tea? Take a seat. Don’t speak, you can’t actually speak, you can only listen (this is a bit weird), but you can write some notes to us after we’ve finished  – I mean, you can share your thoughts in the comment section under this episode if you wish. Otherwise, can just sit in the corner there and listen to us talking, if it’s not too awkward.

All right, that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get on with it, here is my lovely wife, here is her lovely voice and here we go!


Ending

So here is that bit at the end where I talk to you for a while before the episode finishes.

I hope you liked that conversation. Did you think I was talking a bit quickly at some points or did you not notice? I wonder what you think of my wife? It’s a bit weird publishing these conversations with my family sometimes. I wonder if I’m giving away too much of my personal life, but it’s not like I’m doing a reality show or anything is it? Maybe I’m being precious about it. Who knows.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a bit of time in our flat during this episode, but I’m afraid we’ve got to go to bed now, so err…. would you like me to call you a taxi or…?

Nah, I’m joking of course hahaha, but please do leave now, thank you.

Actually I do have a couple of things to say.

Push notifications for the app are not currently working, which is a drag. Sometimes things take ages to get done around here, but I’m working on fixing the issue. As a result, app users and premium users might not know that I’ve been uploading premium episodes. I’m now onto premium series 22 and I recently uploaded parts 4, 5, 6 in that series. Check them out, they’re in the app in the premium category. You can also get them online at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium That’s just a heads up in case you didn’t realise they were there.

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free 30 Day Trial with Audible + One Free Audiobook Download

www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

TV shows

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

Podcasts

  • Phoebe Reads a Mystery
  • Criminal
  • This is Love

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

www.youtube.com/user/paultaylorcomedy

661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)

Talking to my cousin Oliver about moving to Los Angeles, working as a TV producer and how his American colleagues react to his British English.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome to episode 661. In this episode I’m talking to my cousin Oliver who you might remember if you are a long term listener of this podcast, and I mean a really long term listener.

Oli has been on the podcast quite a few times before. I’m not talking about Olly Richards the English polyglot and I’m also not talking about Oliver Gee the Australian journalist who does the Earful Tower podcast in Paris. Those are two other Olis that I have had on this podcast. 

This one is my cousin Oli Thompson who first appeared on the podcast 9 years ago in episode 76 which was all about how to use the London Underground. That was the first time Oli appeared on the podcast. He then appeared in 6 other episodes all of which, of course, are available in the archive.

Most of those appearances were in the early days when we were both living in London and used to see each other quite a lot. Since then things have changed a bit for both of us. The last time I spoke to Oli on the podcast was in 2016. He was working for the BBC as a TV producer, living in Bristol in the south West of England and he and his wife were awaiting the arrival of their first child. We talked about that and about predictions for the future.

That was episode 325 and 326.

Since then, Oli’s life has changed quite a lot, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t predict those changes in our last conversation.

The main things are that he now has 3 children, he no longer works for the BBC, he now works for Neftlix and he lives in Los Angeles (I think you’ve heard of L.A. too – yes, that big city in the USA where they have things like Hollywood and cars). 

So there are loads of things to talk about here.

In this episode

One of the main things was that I wanted his first-hand experiences of communicating with his American colleagues and how they react to his British English. 

  • UK English vs USA English
    Are the differences between British and American English significant? Do they make life difficult for him at all? What are some real examples of his experiences of communicating with people? And we talk about that but also we talk about things like
  • Oli’s Work as a TV Producer
    Details of Oli’s work.
  • Moving from Bristol to Los Angeles
    How he decided to leave his home country of the UK and move so far away to a completely different city.
  • Living in Beverly Hills
    What it feels like to live not only in Los Angeles but specifically in Beverly Hills – a location that we only ever knew from TV shows and films that we used to watch as kids in the 80s and 90s. 
  • Working In TV Production
    Also, what it’s like to work for a big TV Streaming company? We all know this company, so many of us use the service and so what’s it like on the inside? What is their working culture?
  • Oli’s Recommended Documentaries
    Which shows has Oli been involved in making? And which shows can he recommend to us?

I hope you manage to keep up with this conversation. If you’re wondering, Oli’s accent is much like mine really. He speaks standard English RP. Some people say that he speaks quite quickly, although he was quite relaxed during this conversation so his pace of speaking was not too fast. I will let you see for yourself. 

Here are some phrases to look out for. These are all phrases that Oli has used in meetings or conversations with his American colleagues and they either didn’t understand them really or found them funny. I’m not going to explain them now, I’m just saying them so you will be able to identify them when you hear them later in the conversation, and we do explain them a bit then.

  • To be on the caseDon’t worry, I’m on the case.
  • To ring-fence some moneyLet’s ring-fence that money for advertising.
  • To tidy something upWe need to tidy up our processes.
  • Chinese whispersI think it’s just a case of Chinese whispers.
  • To give someone a bell / a ringI’ll give you a bell later. I’ll give you a ring after the meeting.
  • Fancy dressA fancy dress party
  • A pantomime horse – Oli and I were dressed as a pantomime horse.

I’ve just said those now to help you notice them again later when they come up in our conversation.

All you have to do now is keep up, and hopefully enjoy finding out about Oli’s new life living and working in LA-LA Land, and here we go…


Ending

Thanks again to Oli for talking to us in this episode. I really enjoyed talking to him and catching up like that, and I hope you enjoyed getting a first-hand account of some differences between British and American English, the experience of a Brit living in LA and what it’s like behind the scenes in TV.

Check the page for this episode on the website to see things like

Culture Memo slideshare on LinkedIn

These are presentation slides which outline the internal working culture at Oli’s company, and have been viewed nearly 20 million times.

Documentaries Recommended by Oli

Also the details of those documentaries that Oli mentioned. Let me repeat them to you now, and you’ll find their titles written on the page, with links to make it easier for you to watch them.

FYRE – The Greatest Party That Never Happened

www.netflix.com/title/80220207

The Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music experience on a posh private island, but it failed spectacularly in the hands of a cocky entrepreneur.

Icarus

www.netflix.com/title/80168079

In his Oscar-winning film, an American cyclist plunges into a vast doping scandal involving a Russian scientist — Putin’s most-wanted whistleblower.

Tiger King – Murder, Mayhem & Madness

www.netflix.com/title/81115994

A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.

The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

www.netflix.com/title/80220207

A sobering docuseries filmed in association with UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program and Common Sense Media. This is one that Oli’s team worked on. A boy’s brutal murder and the public trials of his guardians and social workers prompt questions about the system’s protection of vulnerable children.

As usual you are welcome to add your thoughts, questions or comments on the website.

One suggestion regarding writing comments – if you have a comment which is specific to an episode, write it in the comment section of that episode page, not on the main page.

The main page is the front page of my website. Lots of comments get written there including general banter between regular commenters and stuff. So if you write a comment there about a specific episode, it might disappear quite quickly as other comments replace it.

But if you find the specific episode page by checking the archive (click EPISODES in the menu) and write your comment there, it will still be visible after some time, I’m more likely to see it and other people more likely to be able to respond to it.

Thank you for listening! Speak to you again soon.

659. Lockdown Chat with Cara Leopold

Chatting to Cara Leopold about living in self isolation, the global coronavirus lockdown and how you can work on your English at home using TV shows and films.

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Hello ladies and gentlemen of the world, I hope you are doing alright in both body and mind at this particular moment in time.

Welcome to this new episode of my podcast which is here to help you develop your English skills simply by listening to some authentic, unscripted and spontaneous conversation – because we know that regular exposure to spoken English is vital in the learning process, and if listening to this can just keep you company for a while too, then that is an added bonus. 

In this episode you’re going to hear a chat with Cara Leopold, an English teacher from the UK currently living on lockdown in the east of France. 

Cara has been on this podcast before, two times as you may remember. 

The first time was back in episode 523 in which we talked about learning English with films and TV shows.

Then more recently we talked in episode 618 about the climate crisis.

This time you can hear us chatting about social distancing and being on lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic, and some more comments about how to improve your English during this period at home using TV series and films.

Yes, there is quite a lot of talking here about the coronavirus. I hope you’re not completely fed up with this topic now. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to talk about it too much, but I do still want to address the subject a bit, just because it’s on our minds so much and if I ignored it completely it would just end up being the elephant in the room.

Here is a quick rundown of the main points that came up in this conversation, just to help you understand what’s going on.

First we talk about the complex feelings and emotions we’re experiencing during this covid-19 lockdown, including things like anger, guilt, compassion, empathy, helplessness and general feelings of cognitive dissonance as we try to make sense of what’s going on in the world at the moment.

Then we talk about trying to balance the seriousness of the situation with your general mental health on a daily basis. Weighing up the positives and negatives of being stuck inside while the TV news reports on serious events going on around the world every day.

We talk about how much people are following the lockdown rules in our local areas and the vagueness of government positions on those lockdown rules in both France and the UK.

We speculate about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude towards social distancing (if you describe someone as ‘cavalier’ it means you’re criticising them for being a bit careless, reckless or not really taking the situation seriously enough) so we talk about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude a few weeks ago which resulted in him personally catching the virus. 

Breaking news at time of recording: he is now out of intensive care, which seems to be a good sign for his health, even though I expect it might have been touch and go for a while. Of course we wish him well, and anyone else who is suffering at this time.

We discuss the challenge of trying to work out a moral position on all of this, specifically several approaches to dealing with the crisis: social distancing vs herd immunity.

We chat about managing daily life at home, with a 2-year-old child (in my case), and what happens when I leave her unattended for more than 10 minutes.

Then we turn our attention to you and your English – and how you can use online content like TV series and films (for example on Netflix or perhaps on OpenCulture.com) to improve your English at home.

We did cover a lot of that kind of advice in episode 523 – link above.

but I will sum up the main bits of advice we made in that episode at the end of this one, so stay tuned for more comments about how you can use TV series and films to improve your English nearer the end of the chat.

By the way, Cara’s last episode was transcribed by the Orion Transcription team and apparently it was quite a tough transcribing job partly due to the sound quality from Cara’s side of the conversation. I think she may have been in an echoey room or at least a room with lots of flat surfaces around (a kitchen maybe) which caused her voice to be a bit difficult to hear. 

So this time Cara made a special effort to create better recording conditions. In fact for the whole conversation she was in a cupboard surrounded by coats – the point being, she was doing her best to get good quality sound. Hopefully she will be a bit clearer this time.

Clarifying Some Reference Points / Vocab

I’d like to clarify a couple of reference points, particularly in the opening minutes of the conversation, to help you follow what we’re saying.

Like an episode of Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a TV show which many of you will have seen, but also plenty of you won’t know about it. Episodes of the show typically involve some kind of scary situation, like perhaps a post-apocalyptic world or a world in which certain technology has completely changed our every day lives and not for the better, or it could be life in the context of an environmental or economic crisis or something. But basically “like an episode of Black Mirror” has become a phrase meaning “like we are living in a scary version of the future” or something.

France 3 / BFM  –> These are news stations which you get on French TV.

Canal+ –> a TV station / online platform which you have to pay for in France

ICU = intensive care unit

Helicopter parent / helicopter parenting = (informal disapproving) a parent who is closely involved with their child’s life and tries to control it too much, especially their child’s education

Collins Dictionary dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/helicopter-parent

There are plenty of other reference points and bits of language that I could explain and clarify now but actually I think it’s best to just let you listen to the conversation and simply try to follow it all, notice things as you go, work them out from context and try to find things that you can relate to personally, but in English.

So let’s begin…


Ending

Thanks again to Cara for climbing inside a cupboard and staying there for the duration of our conversation in a bid to improve the sound quality on her side of this conversation. Nice one Cara.

As ever, you can leave your comments on the website. I’m curious where you stand on all of this. 

I mentioned before that I would sum up the main points Cara and I made in episode 523 about using TV and films for learning English, with and without subtitles.

I’ve decided to put that into a separate episode, because I think that rather than tacking it onto the end of this conversation it deserves to have a whole episode of its own. Plus there will be people out there who would appreciate having all the advice in one single episode. So that will be the next episode of the podcast – a summary of advice for using Netflix (and other platforms) for improving your English, plus some more specific recommendations for shows and films you can watch.

Cara’s free course on udemy.com “Improve your English Listening Skills with Movie Quotes”

www.udemy.com/share/1020Lg/

Upcoming episode with Oli

Long term listeners will remember that I have a cousin called Oli who used to be on the podcast quite a lot until he moved to Bristol and I moved to France and we didn’t get the chance to see each other very often. Well he now works for Netflix as a producer at their offices in Los Angeles (I swear I am not sponsored by Netflix!) He moved there a couple of years ago and coincidentally enough I recorded a conversation with him the other day about moving to the USA, what it’s like working for Netflix as a producer and what it’s like to be a Brit living in the USA and communicating with American people every day. That is coming soon. Again, I’m not promoting Netflix – they don’t need me to do that. But anyway, it was a good conversation that covers details of his work and the communication and cultural differences between the UK and USA.

Coronavirus Mini Interviews 1-3 on Zdenek’s English Podcast

If you enjoyed listening to this conversation with Cara, and you enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences of living in lockdown in different countries then I’d like to recommend that you listen to several recent episodes of ZEP including episode 2 which is with me. Links on the page for the episode or just subscribe to Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Episode 1 – Alexander from Russia, Musa from Turkey who is currently living in the UK, Daniel from Switzerland who is also known from My Fluent Podcast, and Daria from Ukraine.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-291-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-1/

Episode 2 – Luke from England, Rita from Italy, Lavi from Hungary, and Nrup from India.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-292-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-2/

Episode 3 – Kieren from England, Kais from the Netherlands, Nikita from Canada, and Darkan from Kazakhstan. 

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-293-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-3/

Some of you will be wondering when another RT report will arrive. Soon, I think!

Thanks and speak to you again soon!

653. Gill’s Book Club – “The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper” by Hallie Rubenhold / How to read books to improve your English

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.

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Introduction

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.


Ending

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Tips on how to read a book in English

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.