Category Archives: Family

709. The Stoicism of Groundhog Day (with Mum)

This is a conversation with my mum about philosophy, how the film Groundhog Day can help us understand the principles of stoicism, and how this can all help us to feel a bit better about the world.

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More information from experts on stoicism modernstoicism.com/

The Stoicism of Groundhog Day by Tim LeBon modernstoicism.com/the-stoicism-of-groundhog-dayby-tim-lebon/

Derren Brown talking about stoicism on the Joe Rogan Experience

Groundhog Day Clips

708. Tasha Liu from China (WISBOLEP Runner-Up) 🇨🇳

This conversation with competition runner-up Tasha Liu is a way to get to know Chinese culture in a more personal way including the story of how Tasha’s father gave up drinking alcohol, and other interesting details about real life in the world’s most populated country.

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Introduction Transcript (after the jingle)

Hello everybody,

How are you doing? Thanks for choosing to listen to my podcast today. I hope you enjoy it.

In this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with Tasha Liu from China, the listener of this podcast who came 2nd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Let me explain quickly what the WISBOLEP competition is, for that one person who doesn’t know.

If that’s you, and you don’t know what WISBOLEP is → Hello! I’m now going to explain it to you in one single sentence. You’re welcome.

Here it is. The competition, summarised in one single sentence.

WISBOLEP stands for Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and is a competition I ran at the end of last year in which the prize was to be interviewed by me in an episode, the winner of the competition being the one who received the most votes from listeners after I played all of the 2-minute recordings sent in by the competitors in episode 692 of this podcast.

There you go.

Walaa Mouma from Syria was the overall winner. You may have heard her episode. It was published last month. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you do so! It’s episode 703 and Walaa explained in some detail how she improved her English to a good level, despite the hardships that she faced in her life. It was an inspiring episode, to say the least. We focused on Walaa’s approach to learning English – both her attitude and specific things she has done and continues to do to improve her skills. So the focus was definitely on learning English.

The conversation in this episode though, focuses mostly on cross cultural understanding.

Walaa is quite a hard act to follow, but we’re not comparing here. It’s not a competition you know! Wait, it is a competition, isn’t it? It totally is competition, isn’t it. It was a competition anyway. But for me, the competition part is done, and now it’s just a case of listening to LEPsters who were chosen by the people who voted in this competition.

And the spirit of this competition was always about this: Finding some interesting guests to talk to on the podcast and letting some LEPsters speak a bit and share their experiences. Let’s see what insights we can learn from other learners of English around the world. And let’s celebrate the citizens of LEPland! Everyone has a story to tell. We can all learn things from each other. All we have to do is just listen.

So, now that I have said that, here’s a brief overview of the content of this chat.

  • There’s a bit of “getting to know you”, as this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to Tasha, so we talk a bit about her studies, where she lives and so on.
  • Then we move onto the things she hinted at during her competition recording – and overall these things are ways to get to know China and Chinese culture a little bit more, in a personal way. So this is a cross-cultural exchange here and a chance to get beyond the stereotypes and cliches and find out some real things about life in the most populated country in the world.
  • There’s the story of how her father managed to stop drinking, which might tell us some things about family life in China.
  • Then we talk about some of the commonly-held beliefs about China (particularly beliefs held in the west) such as the way Chinese people eat (do they, as the saying goes, “eat anything with 4 legs except the table, and everything that flies except planes”? (and helicopters I suppose), or are they more discerning in their eating habits than that? Another assumption that people might have is that China is quite undeveloped in certain ways compared to the west, or how it could be ahead of the west in various ways too, like the way technology is used – payment systems for example, and the idea of the cashless society.

And there’s more detail about what it’s really like living in China today.

Just a heads up: There were some technical difficulties during the recording, due to a slightly poor internet connection between the two of us. This meant that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other properly or the connection just failed. I think I’ve saved it in the edit, but there may be a few moments where the bad connection affects our conversation. It shouldn’t be too bad, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

OK, now I’ve done my introduction, let’s get started properly, and here we go!


Ending Transcript

So that was Tasha Liu from China. It was really interesting to talk to her and I got that amazing feeling that you get when you actually talk to someone who lives in a completely different part of the world and in a different culture but you just connect as human beings.

That’s always special – talking to people from other places and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives and the fact that although we’re different in many ways, we’re also really similar in the fact that we’re still having human experiences ultimately.

It’s easy to forget but I feel like as humans we have many more things in common than differences. We’re all humans living on earth (as far as I know – you might be an alien on another planet as far as I know) but we’re all having a human experience ultimately, and so there are many more things that unite us than divide us, aren’t there?

I’m sounding a bit pretentious there, possibly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Here are some reflections – just things that I thought about after having that conversation.

These are reflections about cross cultural understanding.

When we think about other cultures or experience them, there is a tendency to not fully understand those other cultures, and as a result we jump to conclusions about them, probably based on the fact that we’ve never had proper experiences of those cultures, never met or talked to those people properly and never observed things from their point of view. This is normal I suppose because we can’t always be everywhere and see everything.

We end up with limited views of other cultures, which might also be informed by other people’s attitudes, like “these people are just unsophisticated” or “it’s such a backward society” and this could be in any direction. It could be, in a broad sense – the west looking at the east, or the east looking at the west, and not just east and west, any culture thinking about another culture – we often don’t see the whole picture. We are all humans, but there are all sorts of complicated reasons why we behave or live slightly differently.

We are all the same, but our contexts are different.

That’s it really. I could ramble on more, but I think I’ve said enough.

I wonder what your thoughts are, now that you’ve listened to this conversation.
What reflections do you have?

I found it really interesting to talk to Tasha, and I just want to thank her again for telling us her stories, and for being willing to share her comments about her country. Also, congratulations to her! 2nd place is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Right then. More competition runners up will appear on the podcast in due course.

Next up in the WISBOLEP series will be William from France. That will probably arrive in a couple of episodes’ time. I had a really nice conversation with him, which I think was just as insightful as the other WISBOLEP conversations we’ve had so far. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Tasha and the one with Walaa, then I think you’ll like hearing William’s story as well.

That’s coming up on the podcast soon.

I’m working on new content all the time, including new Premium episodes which will arrive in the LEP app before too long.

LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

LEP App teacherluke.co.uk/how-to-download/get-the-lep-app/

704. The Rick Thompson Report: Brexit Update (February 2021)

Talking again to my dad about UK politics and current affairs, focusing on the latest developments in Brexit, plus a bit of weather and sport. What does Rick think of the government’s trade deal with the EU? How does it affect Northern Ireland? And where are all the benefits promised by Boris Johnson & co? Listen to hear my dad explain complex things in plain English. Full transcript and text video available.

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703. Walaa from Syria – WISBOLEP Competition Winner 🏆

Walaa Mouma from Syria has an amazing and inspiring story for all learners of English around the world, and some specific tips on how to improve your English long-term. Listen to this episode to hear all about it. Transcript and text video available.

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Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

702. Emergency Questions (with James)

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

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

Song – The Urban Spaceman by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858579321/

700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

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

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My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

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

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

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

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

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

Several things before we start. 

WISBOLEP

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

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

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

JINGLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Royal Family Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—–

Video Clips

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

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

Ending

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

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

Thank you for listening.

Reminders

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

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

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

685. Raising Bilingual Children [1] Alex and his daughter Alice, in Moscow

An episode exploring the subject of how to raise a child to speak English. I speak to Alex, an English teacher from Moscow about how he has been speaking exclusively in English to his 4-year-old daughter Alice since she was born. Let’s find out how it’s going.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Just in case you don’t know. My name is Luke and this is my podcast for learners of English all around the world. Welcome. 

Just a reminder at the start here that this podcast is made possible thanks to donations from listeners and the paid premium subscription that you can sign up for in order to get access to over 100 episodes all devoted to helping you improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The library is growing all the time as I publish new premium stuff, and I am currently working on some new episodes which I hope to record and publish soon. Being a Premium LEPster means you get access to all that content, as well as the free stuff, and it also means that you support this whole project too. To get all the information, including the very reasonable prices just go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

One other thing – there’s a big vote coming up, a very important election in which one person is going to be chosen and it’s all very tense and historic – everyone’s talking about it – yes that’s right I’m referring to the WISBOLEP competition on LEP (what else?) I just wanted to mention this because people have been asking about it. The competition is closed now and I am working on the next stage of it, which will be to let you hear all the competition entries and then let you vote for your favourites, then based on the results of that vote, I’ll choose a LEPster to be interviewed on the podcast. I can tell you that there have been lots of strong entries so it will be difficult to choose just one person, but that’s what we have to do. So, stay tuned to LEP to hear an episode with everyone’s 2 minute speeches in which they try to convince you to pick them for LEP. That’s coming soon, when I’ve worked out how to manage it all. It’s coming in any case. Right, that’s that then, and now it’s time to start this episode properly, and here is the jingle!

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

Hello and welcome back to the podcast everyone. 

This is the first in a series of episodes called Raising Bilingual Children, and it is about exactly that – the topic of bringing up children to speak several languages, or more specifically bringing up children who speak English as well as another language.

Ever since my daughter was born nearly 3 years ago I have been meaning to talk about the topic of raising bilingual children, or at least raising children who speak English fluently.

My podcast is mainly here to help my listeners improve their English, but a lot of you out there have kids and naturally your thoughts turn to them and their English. 

I have had lots of requests from listeners asking me to talk about this topic, so that’s why this series exists, this being the first proper episode on the topic. I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing these, but it’s a topic I plan to return to in various ways in the future. 

Maybe you have children and you want them to speak fluent English as well as another language. This is for you if that is the case. Maybe you don’t have children yet, but you might in the future, in which case you are thinking about how to help your future children learn English. We know that starting early is so important in language development. So, it’s certainly useful to have an awareness of this topic so you can do the right things when children come into your life.

Or maybe for you, having children is not a concern, because you’re not going to have children or you’ve already done it, but I still hope this will be interesting for you, because ultimately it is all about learning English and certain essential principles related to doing that. 

The topic of raising bilingual children is massive. I am by no means an expert on this specifically, although it’s something I’ve been reading about, thinking about, talking about and also I’ve been doing it myself because I am raising a bilingual child, or hoping to, anyway. 

As you may know, I live in France, and I have a young daughter – she’s nearly 3. My wife is French and and we are doing our best to make sure that our daughter learns to use both French and English with ease and confidence. So, I have experience in this area. But I haven’t done a masters degree in this topic or anything like that. My qualifications and experience are in teaching English to adults mainly. So I’m learning about it myself too.

It’s a complex topic.

There are big questions that come up when you start to talk about bilingualism in children, like “What is bilingualism exactly?”, “How do we define “bilingual?” “What is a native speaker?”, “How do children acquire languages? And is this different to the way adults do it?” and more… “What are the standards that we can realistically expect from children who aren’t living in an English speaking country and whose parents aren’t native English speakers?”

Also there are the many combinations of factors involved – many different situations that make it quite hard to get a proper grip on the topic. 

For example, (and let’s just let’s use France as an example here, because that’s where I live,  but you could replace France with any other country and this will still work)

Examples of Different situations

These different situations might require slightly different approaches or they might involve different challenges for parents. 

  • One parent is French, the other is a native English speaker, they live in France. (like my situation) 
  • One parent is French, the other is a native English speaker, they live in England.
  • Both parents are French, neither is a native speaker of English, but they live in England, the child is at school in English.
  • Both parents are English, both are native speakers, but they live in France and the child goes to school in French.
  • This is the holy grail: Both parents are French, neither is a native speaker of English, they live in France and the child is going to school in French.
  • Or similarly, one parent is French and let’s say the other is Korean, neither is a native speaker of English, and they live in Brazil and their child is going to school in Brazilian Portugese. 

There are probably more possible combinations, and also there are other factors to take into account, like whether there is a wider community that exists in the target language (like grandparents who speak English that live nearby) or whether the child is going to a “bilingual school” (and there are various versions of that) or a monolingual school (only in English).

The more you think about the possible combinations, the more complex it gets! Especially from my point of view as I want to cover all the bases.

Also, there are different approaches you can take.

  • One parent, one language. 
  • English in the home, another language outside.
  • English at the weekend and another language during the week. 

Lots of combinations.

But, without getting too academic about it, I think one of the best ways to explore this subject is just to talk to people in various situations who are raising their children to speak English or who have done it, and just find out as much as possible about them. 

Actually there are loads of people I can talk to about this, including my wife, our friends like Amber for example – who lives in France and has two children now, some of my colleagues at the British Council whose job it is to teach English to children and a lot of LEPsters who have success stories to share.

Alex Suvorov and his daughter Alice (4 years old)

This brings me to this episode in which I am talking to a long-term LEPster Alex Suvorov, and his 4-year-old daughter Alice.

I have been meaning to talk to Alex on the podcast about this topic for quite a long time now. 

As you’ll hear, Alex fits into the category of a non-native speaker in a non-English speaking country (I mean one where English is not the first language) who has been raising his child to speak English.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but basically I want to find out firstly how Alex got his English up to its current level, and then talk about his daughter’s English. That’s it, basically.

Hopefully we can shed some light on this whole subject and maybe give you some inspiration or food for thought.

At the beginning of the conversation Alex is joined by Alice, and you’ll be able to hear her speaking a little bit, but after a few minutes she goes into the other room and it’s just Alex and me, but at the end you will be able to hear a short recording that Alex made of him speaking to Alice, which will give you a little idea of what her English is really like.

So, without any further ado, let’s go.


Ending

So that was my conversation with Alex Suvorov, about his approach to giving his daughter a headstart in English. I’d like to say thanks to Alex and his daughter Alice. 

Now, it would be interesting to hear a bit more from Alice so I’m now going to play a quick recording that Alex & his daughter made together, so you can hear her speaking in English. 

This is about 5 minutes long and you’ll hear Alex basically trying to get Alice to show us her English, which is quite hard, because as you might know, it can be quite difficult to get little children to cooperate sometimes, but if you listen carefully you can hear Alice responding to Alex’s questions and prompts and saying little comments here and there.

Bear in mind that she is only 4 years old. So in terms of her English we’re not looking for Dame Judy Dench here – you’re never going to get spectacular and fully formed language from a child of that age, in any language. So don’t expect to hear Amber Minogue here. THat’s not what we’re looking for.

What we are looking for is the ease with which she speaks in English. Listen out for how comfortable she is speaking English. Actually, I don’t hear any grammar or vocabulary errors from Alice but she might be a bit hesitant  or shy – because 4 year old children often are and Alice knew she was being recorded here. Her accent might sound a bit Russian, but as we said near the end of the conversation, for a 4 year old the main thing is that sense of confidence and comfort in English – and I think Alice has that. Specific points of pronunciation can be worked on later. But a foundation of comfort, confidence, fluency and the feeling that English is your own language combined with an instinctive sense of grammar and vocabulary are the most important things you can give a child. I think you can hear that from Alice. 

Anyway, let’s listen…

Listen to Alex and Alice talking…

So that was Alex and Alice.

Some of you will be desperate to say that she has a Russian accent, and maybe she does a bit, but like we said before, that’s fine. We’re not looking for perfection here. We are looking for a baseline or foundation of comfort in English, and I think it’s fair to say that Alice has got that. You heard her producing correct grammar, fairly complex little chunks of English, decent and other things might come later, like her accent, especially if she continues to listen to English from things like cartoons, films, and also audiobooks and so on.

But the main advantage that little Alice has got is that English is part of her life. 

Is Alice “bilingual” – well that depends on how you define bilingualism. 

As Alex said, he estimates her vocabulary to be about 20% behind that of a native speaker of her age. That’s great. Remember: Connection, not perfection. For those of you who cannot get over the fact that Alice still sounds a bit Russian, I would ask you this – Is Alex wasting his time? Would it be better for Alice if her father only spoke Russian to her? Is it realistic to expect Alice to speak like a native speaker, like mini Amber Minogue? Is Alice’s English 20% worse than a native speaker, or is it perhaps 80% better than a child who only ever speaks Russian?

Food for thought there.

Of course it is about personal choice. 

But still, it is worth thinking about.

If you are also raising your child in English to some extent, do get in touch and tell us about your experiences in the comment section of this episode. We’d like to know what you think and what you are doing, including your doubts too.

Thanks again to Alex for talking to us and sharing his story. 

You can find Alex on Instagram by the way, and everything he posts is in English, so check it out. 

www.instagram.com/suvorovalexander/

And that website for checking your vocabulary – www.testyourvocab.com

The website’s test is fairly reliable I would say, if you answer it honestly. It’s all based on an academic research project and every time you take the test the data gets added to their database, and the database is there to help with the academic study. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it seems quite reliable, but that’s the best I can say.

I just took the test. It took about 5 minutes. Would you like to know how many words I know? 

Well, apparently I know 31,200 words which is ever so slightly above average for a native speaker of English in my age group. So, this means I am entirely normal, or a tiny amount above normal, which is good to know. So, my English appears to be a very good sample of what the average British person knows, which is quite reassuring.

Do you have a story of raising a bilingual child that you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

684. Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth Graty

A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!

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There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.

Shall we start the episode? OK.

Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)

I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.

The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.

This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.

Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.

Explaining this episode’s title

The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.

The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!

It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.

What is “a tangent”?
Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.

In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.

It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.

“To go off on a tangent”

There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.

I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.

Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.

My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.

What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.

So you’ll have to focus.

Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.

So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.

The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)

We talk about

  • Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
  • Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
  • Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
  • Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
  • Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
  • Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
  • Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
  • Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
  • Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
  • Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
  • Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
  • How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
  • Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
  • Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
  • Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that
    Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state
  • If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
  • A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
  • Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
  • The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
  • How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
  • Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
  • Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.

Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.

Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.

Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.


Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)

Ending Transcript

Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).

How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.

I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?

Elspeth on Instagram

www.instagram.com/elslostinfrance/

I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).

I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many.
Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).

Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?

I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.

In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.

I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.

Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.

I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…

Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.

Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.

Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)

OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.

I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.

Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…

Thanks for listening… Speak to you again soon… Bye!!

680. Park Life – A Year in The Wildlife Of An Urban Park (by Rick Thompson) / Animal Collective Nouns

My dad has written a book and it’s all about the wildlife you can find in an urban English park. He’s on the podcast to tell us all about it, and there are some collective nouns for animals too, plus some bonus stand up comedy at the end.

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Hello  listeners, this is a reminder about LEP Premium, which is my other podcast service. With episodes of LEP Premium I focus specifically on language, helping you understand, remember and pronounce target vocab and grammar. I’m currently still deep into premium series 24 which is about homophones, but also you can access an archive of over 80 episodes now both audio and video, all about teaching you the kind of English that I speak, and there are plenty of stupid improvisations and jokes and things too. Get started by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

Introduction Transcript

Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast – this award-winning podcast for learners of English. Yes, the podcast has won a few awards over the years, but not lately. The last few years have been quiet, on the award front. If you see any competitions for best podcast for learners of English, or something, let me know!

Speaking of competitions, I’ve been thinking of launching another listener competition, and I’m wondering what you think. The competition would involve you recording yourself speaking and sending it into the podcast, then people would vote for their favourite and that person would then get interviewed in a full episode of the podcast. This idea was sent to me some time ago by a listener called Vadim. What do you think? I haven’t fully decided to do it yet, so let me know what you think of this new competition idea from Vadim.

But anyway, what about this episode then?

Park Life – A Year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park

As promised, this episode features my dad, which should be good news for all the Rick Thompson fans out there. As you might know we sometimes call my dad Rickipedia because he knows so much stuff about so many things, although it might be unreliable from time to time.

People often say that my dad should start his own podcast, as his episodes are so popular. He still hasn’t created a podcast of his own, but I am glad to say that he has written a book. 

The book is called “Park Life – A year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park”

The book is available for you to read. You can find it on Amazon.com and also Bookdepository.com (free shipping).

In this episode I’m going to talk to my dad about the book he’s written including a broader discussion of urban parks in the UK – green public spaces which perform an increasingly important role in UK life.

We start by talking about the book, what it’s about, how he was inspired to write it and what style it’s written in. Then we move on to describe some of the wildlife you can find in a local English urban park. Then we discuss some history of urban parks and the health benefits of spending time in green spaces. 

Also there are some collective nouns for different animals, including things like “a murder of crows” and “an unkindness of ravens”. Keep listening to hear some more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation. I’ll chat with you a bit afterwards, but now, here is Rick Thompson talking about his new book.

—–

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Dad for being on the podcast today. Once again, check Amazon or BookDepository for Rick Thompson Park Life to pick up a copy of my dad’s book for yourself.

In fact the book has already picked up a 5 star rating on Amazon from someone called Princesslizzykins

I have no idea who she is, but this is her review.

5.0 out of 5 stars

 A wonderful read.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2020

What a beautifully and thoughtfully written book.

A super balance of content between wildlife and local history, with some lovely poetic references thrown in, this book shows how anyone can escape the haste of urban life and take a moment to look at and love the world around them.

I live in Warwick, so have the added benefit of knowing the localities mentioned, but would recommend this to absolutely anyone that has an urban park near them and enjoys a damn good read.

Thumbs up for Dad. Nice one.

We’re not done here yet, I have some more things to do in this episode.

First of all, you heard me mention the stand up comedy gig that I had on Sunday and I did the gig and it went fine. I recorded it so I’ll play a few minutes of that at the end of the episode.

But first, let me go through some more collective nouns for animals. This is a really interesting and curious aspect of English – the way we use different words to collectivise different animals.

You heard us mention some there, and I’ve included them in this list too. So here is a list of common collective nouns for animals.

More Collective Nouns for Animals

  • A school of whales
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A flock of sheep
  • A nest of rabbits
  • A litter of puppies
  • A flock of pigeons
  • A parliament of owls
  • A troop of monkeys
  • A pride of lions
  • A swarm of insects / flies / bees
  • A colony of gulls
  • A charm of finches
  • A murder of crows
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A pack of dogs
  • An army of frogs
  • An array of hedgehogs
  • A mischief of mice

That’s it for this episode then! Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

As promised earlier, here are a few minutes from my stand up set on Sunday evening. There was one LEPster in the audience by the way, who had come because he’d seen the gig advertised on my facebook page www.facebook.com/lukecomedian So, shout out to that LEPster!

Anyway, this was my first gig since Christmas, but it was great to be back on stage again and I should be doing more gigs this year, lockdown permitting.

So this is me on stage at the New York Comedy Night in Paris last Sunday. Thanks for listening and speak to you again soon. Bye…