Category Archives: History

532. A History of The World Cup

This episode is a history of The World Cup. You’ll see that it’s very long! I didn’t expect it to be this long. I hope you enjoy it! I covers all the World Cups we’ve had since 1930, focusing on the key events with a few dodgy jokes along the way. You can read 99% of the transcript on the page for this episode.

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Transcript – A History of The World Cup

You’ve probably noticed that the World Cup is starting on 14th June. I’ve received a few requests to talk about it, so here we go.

I’d like to do a few episodes about the world cup over the next few weeks, if I can, because I’m sure many of you around the world will be watching the games and getting into it. On the other hand, I’m sure some of you couldn’t give a monkey’s about football. I hope you listen anyway, and don’t throw your phone into a lake or indeed any body of water. Or anywhere. Don’t throw your phone. Just listen to this episode, you might actually enjoy it because football isn’t just about kicking a ball. It’s also about other things like scandals, corruption and geo-political maneuvering … and of course the people of the world coming together over a shared love of goals.
The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world as well as the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games; the cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet.
20 World Cups so far in 16 countries and that doesn’t include this year’s tournament which is the 21st World Cup so far and is, of course, taking place in Russia.
2309 goals in total so far
More stats, including teams with most victories and all-time rankings www.fifa.com/fifa-tournaments/statistics-and-records/worldcup/index.html

This year it is being hosted in Russia. It all kicks off on 14 June. But what’s the story so far? Let’s go back in time to 1930 when the first World Cup ever happened, and then go through each competition one by one and talk about some of the highlights.
I’m attempting to deal with the main points, like who won and where the competition took place, but also I’m hoping to cover some of the more interesting events, scandals, shocks, surprises and also my own personal memories of world cups too.

1930
The first World Cup took place in 1930 and was hosted by Uruguay. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Four days later, the first World Cup hat-trick was achieved by Bert Patenaude of the USA in the Americans’ 3–0 win against Paraguay, which just doesn’t seem right somehow – America taking part in the original tournament and a yank scoring a hat-trick? I mean, they call it soccer for goodness sake!

In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and became the first nation to win a World Cup. Well done Uruguay.

The 1934 World Cup was hosted by Italy. Uruguay, the title holders from 1930 boycotted the 1934 World Cup because they were upset that so many European teams hadn’t attended their original world cup in 1930. Obviously, I have no idea what I’m talking about but that does sounds a bit like a teenager’s temper tantrum. Nobody came to my party so I’m not going to yours.

Italy won the tournament, beating Czechoslovakia to become the first European team to win the tournament.

1938
The 1938 World Cup competition was also held in Europe, much to the consternation of many South Americans, with Uruguay and Argentina both boycotting. The temper tantrums continued. To be fair though, it was probably a huge pain in the neck for South American teams to travel to Europe and I bet that FIFA was already following the smell of cash. Cynical? France hosted, but for the first time the hosts did not win the competition, as Italy retained their title, beating Hungary in the final by four goals to two.

Up until about 1950 the World Cup was beset by political disagreements, boycotts and of course WW2, which sort of got in the way. WW2 was a bit like the World Cup in a weird way, but a world cup of blowing each other up and dying, so not as good as the world cup at all, not even a little bit. WW2 had many many downsides, not least of which was the fact that the 1942 and 1946 World Cup football tournaments were cancelled. Everyone was too busy trying to shoot each other, let alone shoot a ball into a goal with their foot. It wasn’t until later that the World Cup managed to unite the world as it is known for doing today.

1950
Competition resumed with the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, which was the first to include British participants. “Tally ho chaps! It’s us the bloody English! Pip pip and all that! We only invented the game of football and introduced it to the world to teach old Johnny Foreigner some good old British stiff upper lip discipline! Sorry we’re late by the way everyone, had a spot of bother over there on the continent with a rather naughty chap called Hitler. Silly sod thought he could take over the world, hahaha! Anyway, looks like the rest of you have finally learned how to play football by the proper rules. Right lads – time to show planet earth a thing or two about kicking an inflated pig’s bladder around a grass rectangle. Watch out world, here we come! Better fill that World Cup full of afternoon tea what? Hahahah” High hopes for the English entering their first world cup. And what happened? Did they beat everyone in a gentlemanly like way, while bringing values of fair play and democracy wherever they went? No. THey didn’t. The English failed to make the final group round in a campaign that included a 1–0 loss to the United States. Very humiliating, and very symbolic.
“Oh, jolly good America, right, of course, let the yanks have a crack at the old world domination so to speak – just, hand over the reigns there to old Dwight Eisenhower and his boys. Jolly good, carry on… yep, British Empire? What? No, we’re just clearing up a few things here, nothing to see. Carry on yes!”

Eastern European countries (such as Hungary, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia – yes, this Wikipedia article that I’ve adapted here does consider The Soviet Union to be “an Eastern European country”) did not enter. Title-holder Italy did take part, despite the Superga air disaster of 1949 in which the entire Grande Torino team (many who were national team players) were killed. Uruguay were surprise victors over hosts Brazil (in a match which would later be known as Maracanazo) and became champions for the second time. Another good result for Uruguay. If they keep up this level of form they might be in with a chance this year.

It must have been a nasty shock for Brazil, and the stadium must have been filled with Brazilian supporters.

When the match ended, people said the stadium was filled with “disturbing and traumatic absolute silence”,[10][11] except for the euphoria and celebration of the Uruguayan players and delegation.

Apparently the defeat still haunts Brazil to this day. The term “Phantom of ’50” was later used to refer to the fear that Brazilians and Brazil national football team feel of the Uruguay national football team due to this loss. Each time Brazil and Uruguay play at Maracanã Stadium, the theme resurfaces.

India were also supposed to play in the 1950 World Cup but apparently they had to withdraw because they weren’t allowed to play barefoot. They had no boots and actually expected to play with completely bare feet, which, presumably, was how they used to play in India back then.

1954
The 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland, was the first to be televised. The Soviet Union did not participate because of their dismal performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics. I’m not sure why this meant that they couldn’t take part in the world cup. Maybe they briefly forgot how to run or something.

Scotland made their first appearance in the tournament, but were unable to register a win, going out after the group stage, setting a precedent for the rest of their international career, which is generally marked by nothing in particular except for a great goal by Archie Gemmill, but other than that Scotland’s international career has been quite crap, which is probably England’s fault somehow.

West Germany were the tournament winners, defeating Olympic champions Hungary 3–2 in the final, coming back from being 2-0 down. The match is known as the Miracle of Bern in Germany, although Bern actually is in Switzerland.

Well, I mean, in Germany it’s known as The Miracle of Bern.

1958
Brazil made up for their crushing defeat in 1950 and won the 1958 World Cup, held in Sweden, and became the first team to win a World Cup outside their home continent (only 3 teams have done this to date – Brazil in 1958, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Argentina in 1986, and Spain in 2010).

The Soviet Union participated this time, most likely due to their win at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. It seems they had learned how to run and kick again. For the first (and so far only) time, all four British teams qualified for the final round – that’s England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Only Northern Ireland got through to the quarter finals and got smashed 4-0 by France. The tournament also saw the emergence of Pelé, who scored two goals in the final. French striker Just Fontaine became the top scorer of the tournament with a still standing record of 13 goals. Yes, “just” was his first name.

Who scored 13 goals in the 1958 world cup? It was Just Fontaine. What nobody else? No, Just Fontaine on his own.

Sounds a bit disappointing. So who was the top scorer?? It was just Fontaine. Oh… that’s a pity.

No, no. That’s his name. Just Fontaine.

1962
Chile hosted the 1962 World Cup. Before play began, an earthquake struck, the largest ever recorded at 9.5 magnitude, prompting officials to rebuild due to major damage to infrastructure. It’s hard to play football when there’s no floor to play on.

It must be tough living in a country where the earth shakes every now and then. It would be scary. Honestly, that’s one of the things I like about living in England and in Northern France. OK, the weather isn’t great, but the earth pretty much stays in one place.

When the 1962 competition began, two of the best players were in poor form as Pelé was injured in Brazil’s second group match vs Czechoslovakia.

Also, USSR saw their goalkeeper Lev Yashin show poor form including a 2–1 loss to hosts Chile as that team, inspired by team spirit captured third place. The competition was also marred by overly defensive and often violent tactics.

This poisonous atmosphere culminated in what was known as the Battle of Santiago first round match between Italy and Chile in which Chile won 2–0. Prior to the match, two Italian journalists wrote unflattering articles about the host country. In the match, players on both sides made deliberate attempts to harm opponents though only two players from Italy were sent off by English referee Ken Aston.

What happened in more detail. (Come on, we want a blow-by-blow account don’t we?)
Summary[edit] (Wikipedia)
The first foul occurred within 12 seconds of kick-off. 12 SECONDS. Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the twelfth minute after a foul on Honorino Landa, but refused to leave the pitch and had to be dragged off by policemen. HE HAD TO BE DRAGGED OFF BY POLICEMEN.
English referee Ken Aston did not see a punch by Chilean Leonel Sánchez to Italian Mario David, which had come in retaliation for being fouled seconds earlier. BRUCE LEE? When David attempted to kick Sánchez in the head a few minutes later (he missed), he was sent off. [Was he sent off for being pathetic?]
In the violence that continued, Sánchez broke Humberto Maschio’s nose with a left hook, but Aston did not send him off. [Right, because kicking the air is obviously worse than breaking a man’s nose with your fist! Although maybe at this point the referee decided that staying on the pitch was the greater punishment! “You broke this man’s nose with your fist. This kind of violence will not be tolerated. I’m sorry but I’m forced to make you stay on the pitch until the end of the game.” “No no!” etc) The two teams engaged in scuffles and spitting, and police had to intervene three more times. Chile won the match 2–0. But if it had been a boxing match, Italy would have won.
When highlights from the match were shown on British television a couple of days later (not the same night, because film of matches still had to be flown back), the match was introduced by BBC sports commentator David Coleman as “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”
In the end, the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety.

When the final whistle blew in the final, Brazil beat Czechoslovakia for the second World Cup in a row by a final score of 3–1 led by Garrincha and Amarildo, in Pelé’s absence, and retained the Jules Rimet trophy. In this tournament, Colombia’s Marcos Coll made World Cup history when he scored a goal direct from a corner kick (called an Olympic Goal in Latin America) the only one ever made in a World Cup and against the mythical goalkeeper Lev Yashin. [Mythical goalkeeper – I think he actually did exist, didn’t he?]

1966
The 1966 World Cup, hosted by England (UK), was the first to embrace marketing, featuring a mascot and official logo for the first time. Yes, that’s what England brought to The World Cup – annoying marketing. We (arguably) invented the game – or at least wrote a lot of the rules or something, and probably gave football to the world (or so we like to believe) and then decades later, we gave another precious gift to the world – irritating World Cup mascots! The World Cup was never the same again.

The trophy was actually stolen in the run-up to the tournament but was found a week later by a dog named “Pickles”. North Korea, became the first Asian team to reach the quarter-finals, eliminating Italy in the process. It says “Eliminating” – I think this just means they knocked Italy out of the tournament. They didn’t blow the country up and kill all Italian people or anything. Eliminated… just a slightly dramatic word choice there, by whoever wrote this article on Wikipedia. John Wikipedia.

England won the tournament, and Geoff Hurst became the first and to this day the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. Yes, England won and ever since we have been officially known as “Best Country in the World Ever” (in our heads). The rest of the world is just not bothered.

Eusébio, whose team Portugal were taking part in their first World Cup, was the tournament top-scorer, with 9 goals to his name.

*Controversial goal.

*Did the ball cross the line (no)

Joy for England in a pretty special year/decade for the country – well, there was this and The Beatles recorded Revolver, which on balance I am more proud of. Anyway, well done chaps! Now, let’s see if we can do it again. Oh, you’ve forgotten how to use your legs. What happened?

1970
In 1970, The finals were held in Mexico. The group stage clash between defending champions England and Brazil lived up to its billing, and is still remembered for England goalkeeper Gordon Banks’ save from a Pelé header on the six-yard line, arguably the best save ever, although once my brother nearly dropped a glass of wine on my parent’s carpet but I managed to dive and catch it at the last minute. I still think this is better than anything Gordon Banks ever did.

The tournament is also remembered for the semi-final match between Italy and West Germany, in which 5 goals were scored in extra time, and Franz Beckenbauer played with a broken arm (not for fun, or because he was bored, I mean he wasn’t just playing with someone’s broken arm like “ooh it’s all floppy! Does it hurt when I do that? What about when I swing it round? – stop playing with my broken arm! – No, he had a broken arm and he played football with it – I mean, he wasn’t hitting the ball with his broken arm, he just carried on playing while he had a broken arm – is that clear?)

Germany had used up all their allowed substitutions so Beckenbauer had to carry on even though he had a broken arm. Football players were much tougher back then. These days if you sneeze on a footballer’s arm they’ll leap into the air like a salmon and then roll around holding their face in agony like a child having a tantrum in a supermarket.

Italy were the eventual 4–3 winners, but were defeated 1–4 in the final by Brazil, who became the first nation to win three World Cups, and were awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for their achievement. Basically, the world said to Brazil – ok you can have the world cup forever, you’re amazing. You now own football and your country will be forever associated with the game and whenever you meet people from other countries they will just say “Hey, you’re a Brazilian guy? So you love football huh?” a bit like the way when people meet an English person they typically will say “Hey, you’re an English guy huh? Cool! We don’t understand your food, your humour, your accents or your inability to score penalties, or in fact normal goals too! But please teach me your language, lol”.

This was a legendary Brazilian squad in 1970, including players like Pele, captain Carlos Alberto Torres, Jairzinho, Tostão, Gérson and Rivelino. For me this was when the World Cup entered a new era, with superstar players, in colour, with television in many people’s homes.

1974
A new trophy was created for the 1974 edition, held in West Germany. Some people make jokes about its appearance. I’ll let you imagine what those jokes are. The West German hosts won the competition by beating the Netherlands 2–1 in the final, but it was also the revolutionary Total Football system of the Dutch that captured the footballing world’s imagination.

In Total Football, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a predetermined role; anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender.

The only player who must stay in a specified position is the goalkeeper, because the whole thing would fall apart if the goalie suddenly decided to just become a midfielder. It’s not “rush goalie” which is a rule we used to play in the park when we were kids. Rush goalie means that basically anyone can be the goalkeeper – if they’re in the goal area, they’re the goalie. But generally what happened is that nobody wanted to be the goalie so quite often the goal would be left unattended while the members of the team looked at each other and argued about why nobody was in goal. Everyone was a glory hunter. An indictment of the English game there.

The very well-playing Poland finished third, after defeating Brazil 1–0 (and after defeating Argentina 3–2 and eliminating Italy 2–1 in the initial group play). Wow, another country, just eliminated. They lost in terrible rain in the semifinals to West Germany 0–1. Ouch, I bet that hurt. Germany basically said, “The Polish are proving to be rather problematic. Eliminate them, immediately.”

Johan Cruyff was one of the stars of this competition, showing off close ball control and dribbling skills (my daughter has some pretty good dribbling skills – better than Johan Cruyff I can tell you), including the legendary “Cruyff Turn”. T

1978
The 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina, causing controversy as a military coup had taken place in the country two years earlier. Tunisia won their first match against Mexico 3–1 and became the first African team to ever win a world cup game. There was some on-field controversy as well. During the second round Argentina had an advantage in their match against Peru since the kick off was several hours after Brazil’s match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3–1, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Peru by four goals to advance to the final. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumors suggested that Peru might have been bribed into allowing Argentina to win the match by such a large margin. Just rumours. Bribery and corruption in football, surely not? (please add irony and sarcasm) Argentina went on to win the final 3–1, Mario Kempes scoring twice, with the Dutch being runners-up for the second time running. Obviously it was a fantastic result for Argentina. The Netherlands still haven’t won the World Cup, despite being one of the great footballing nations of all time.

1982
Spain hosted an expanded 1982 World Cup which featured 24 teams. The group match between Kuwait and France was stage of a farcical incident. As the French were leading 3–1, the Kuwaiti team stopped playing after hearing a whistle from the stands which they thought had come from referee, as French defender Maxime Bossis scored. As the Kuwaiti team were protesting the goal, Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwaiti Football Association, rushed onto the pitch and gave the referee a piece of his mind, who proceeded to disallow the goal. Bossis scored another valid goal a few minutes later and France won 4–1.

Wonderful! Imagine the Sheikh running onto the pitch. “This goal must be disallowed. The whistle was blown!!” “Not my whistle sir” “I don’t care! A whistle was blown. Maybe not your whistle but it was a whistle!!! This goal must be disallowed!! May I remind you that I am a very powerful muslim and it would be very unwise to disagree with me!” “Oh really, that’s not necessary, that kind of off-colour anti-muslim joke has no place in an international tournament like this…” “Please just think about what I said and remember, god is watching you, and I have a lot of money and I’m sure we can sort something out.” “OK, goal disallowed!” “Thank you please Mr Referee, thank you you are very kind man”
A few minutes later France score again. “Oh shit”.

Also during the group stages Hungary beat El Salvador 10–1, which has been the only occasion to this day that a team scored 10 goals in a World Cup match. To be fair to El Salvador, their country was in the midst of civil war at the time which might have made training a bit difficult because apparently players were often late because they were helping the wounded on the way to the training ground.

The final was won by Italy (against West Germany), making Italian captain Dino Zoff the oldest player to win the World Cup. Italian striker Paolo Rossi, who was making his comeback after a match-fixing scandal and the ensuing ban, was the tournament top-scorer with six goals including a classic hat-trick against Brazil.

1986
Mexico became the first nation to hold two World Cups by hosting the 1986 World Cup. José Batista of Uruguay set a World Cup record being sent off after a mere 56 seconds into the game against Scotland. To be fair it was a very nasty and dangerous tackle and this decision by the referee helped to establish the idea that dangerous tackles like that should be outlawed.

The quarter final match between England and Argentina is remembered for two remarkable Diego Maradona goals, later regarded as player of the tournament, the first, the controversial handball goal, and the second, considered to be the Goal of the Century, in which he dribbled half the length of the field past five English players before scoring.

I remember watching it on telly with my family when I was 9. We were furious, because Maradona blatantly cheated. Nowadays this is seen as being a sort of revenge for the Falklands War or something, and generally it’s part of the colourful career of Diego Maradona. A big spectacle for sure, but some people reckon that if we hadn’t lost that game we could have won the tournament, but anyone can be chairman of the hindsight committee.

The fact that Maradona also scored that goal of the century kind of makes up for the handball, I suppose. Maybe in some countries that kind of thing is fair as long as you can get away with it. In England that sort of cheating is frowned upon.

In the final, Argentina beat West Germany 3–2, inspired by Diego Maradona, who set up Jorge Burruchaga for the winner. Maradona was undeniably amazing.

1990
The 1990 World Cup was held in Italy. Cameroon participating in their second World Cup, made it to the quarter finals after beating Argentina in the opening game. No African country had ever reached the quarter finals before. England put a stop to that. Sorry Cameroon. Roger Milla was an entertaining player. I think he invented the post-match celebratory dance.

An unpleasant episode marred the South American preliminaries: during the match between Brazil and Chile, a firework landed close to the Chilean goalkeeper Rojas, who then pretended to be injured by cutting his own face with a razor blade he had hidden in his glove. His team refused to continue the match (as they were down a goal at the time). The plot was discovered and resulted in a 12-year suspension for Rojas and Chile being banned from the World Cup in 1994.

The final featured the same teams as in 1986. After finishing runners-up in the two previous tournaments, West Germany beat Argentina 1–0 in the final to record their third title. The Republic of Ireland also made their first appearance in the tournament, reaching the quarter-finals without winning a single game (4 draws, with a penalty shoot-out win over Romania in the second round). This is the furthest a team has ever advanced in the World Cup without winning a game. Somehow it seems entirely appropriate that the Irish could get through to the quarter finals without actually winning any games. It’s as if the world said to them – Ireland, everyone likes you, your accent is adorable and Guinness is amazing – you can go through. The luck of the Irish?

I was 13/14 years old and obsessed by football at the time. I watched the tournament on TV and I had the fully completed Panini sticker album which my Dad bought for me one day. I loved that England team, and we nearly got to the final! England actually did quite well and fought hard against Germany in the semi final. Paul Gascoigne was a great player during that tournament and he cried when he got a yellow card that would ban him from the final. The match went to a penalty shoot out, which of course we lost.

1994
The 1994 World Cup, held in the USA, was the first tournament to be held in a country that largely didn’t understand either the rules of the game or the idea that other countries even existed in the world. “The World Cup, huh? So who’s playing who? Pittsburgh versus Cleveland?” Joking. This was the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, with Brazil edging out Italy.

Yugoslavia was excluded due to UN sanctions in connection with the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Russia (taking the place of USSR which had broken up over 1990 and 1991) played their first World Cup competition as a new country, with Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as the other first-time team.

Diego Maradona was banned mid-tournament after testing positive for recreational drugs. I think he was coked up (allegedly) during some of the games, which was obvious when you saw the way he reacted to scoring an admittedly amazing goal at one point. They guy was bonkers and off his head. Without him, Argentina were eliminated in the last 16 by Romania — the tournament also saw tragedy when Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was murdered 10 days after scoring an own-goal against the hosts in their first round match that eliminated Colombia.

This is a tragic story. There’s no other way of putting it. It’s just sad. This guy was just the victim of a gang-related culture that existed in Columbia at the time. Come on, let’s get the story.

(Wikipedia)

Escobar’s infamous own goal occurred in a match against the United States on June 22, in the second match for Colombia at the 1994 World Cup. Stretching to block a cross from American midfielder John Harkes, he inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net. The United States won the game, 2–1.[15]

After the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Escobar decided to return to Colombia instead of visiting relatives in Las Vegas, Nevada.[11] On the evening of July 1, 1994, five days after the elimination of Colombia from the World Cup, Escobar called his friends, and they went to a bar in the El Poblado neighborhood in Medellín. Then they went to a liquor store. Shortly afterwards, they arrived at the El Indio nightclub. His friends split up. At approximately 3:00 the next morning, Escobar was alone in the parking lot of El Indio, in his car, when three men appeared. They began arguing with him. Two of the men took out handguns.[16] Escobar was shot six times with a .38 caliber pistol.[8] It was reported that the killer shouted “¡Gol!” (“Goal!”) after every shot, once for each time the South American football commentator said it during the broadcast.[17] The group then drove away in a Toyota pickup truck, leaving Escobar to bleed to death. Escobar was rushed to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later.[16][18][19]
The murder was widely believed to be a punishment for the own goal.[20]
Escobar’s funeral was attended by more than 120,000 people. Every year people honour Escobar by bringing photographs of him to matches. In July 2002, the city of Medellín unveiled a statue in honour of his memory.[22]
Humberto Castro Muñoz, a bodyguard for members of a powerful Colombian drug cartel,[clarification needed] was arrested on the night of 2 July 1994, confessing the next day to the killing of Escobar.[23] Muñoz also worked as a driver for Santiago Gallón, who had allegedly lost heavily betting on the outcome of the game.[24] He was found guilty of Escobar’s murder in June 1995. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 26 years because of his submitting to the ruling penal code in 2001. Humberto was released on good behaviour due to further reductions from prison work and study in 2005 after serving approximately 11 years. His three accomplices were acquitted.

The murder of Andrés Escobar tarnished the image of the country internationally.[27] Escobar himself had worked to promote a more positive image of Colombia, earning acclaim within Colombia.
Escobar is still held in the highest regard by Colombian fans, and is especially mourned and remembered by Atlético Nacional’s fans. Escobar is known for his famous line “Life doesn’t end here”.[2][28]
After Escobar’s death, his family founded the Andrés Escobar Project to help disadvantaged children learn to play football.

Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup finals game in his country’s 6–1 group stage win over Cameroon. The same match, 42-year old Roger Milla scored the only goal for Cameroon, becoming the oldest player ever to score in a World Cup match. England didn’t qualify for this competition, but I watched a lot of the games anyway. I was 17 and one of my friends had a free house during the final week of the tournament. His parents were away. We all hung out there and watched a lot of games together. Fun times.

1998
The 1998 World Cup was held in France. Iran beat the Maldives in qualification by the widest margin in World Cup history – 17–0. Hosts France won the tournament by beating Brazil 3–0 in the final. What a great moment for the French! There was a lot of hype around the Brazilian squad going into the competition, especially around the star player Ronaldo. As the scorer of four goals in the tournament, Ronaldo appeared to be less than a hundred percent in the match, and was unable to make any impact.

What happened?

This is from The Guardian:
Hours before the final at the Stade de France, Ronaldo suffered a mysterious seizure and was whisked to hospital and out of the starting line-up. Then he made an apparently miraculous recovery and was hastily returned to the team sheet, only to underperform in Brazil’s heaviest defeat in 68 years of World Cups. Not surprisingly, the match soon transcended its sporting importance to become one of the resonant events in the country’s contemporary history.

Whereas the world’s media soon moved on to other subjects, Brazil’s did not.

Within weeks, a lawyer began a civil action in a Rio court, demanding explanations. Concurrently, the Rio regional medical council started a professional ethics action against the two team medics (they were both unanimously absolved).

But the most detailed investigation happened in Brazil’s national congress. And because the main protagonists all gave testimony, the public was offered unprecedented insight into what really went on behind the scenes on the day of the final. The details that emerged were riveting.

The squad had lunch at the Chateau de Grande Romaine in Lésigny, near Paris, then went back to their rooms, which they were sharing in twos. Ronaldo was with Roberto Carlos, next to a room with Edmundo and Doriva.
Suddenly Ronaldo started to have a fit. His entire body convulsed, he frothed at the mouth and began to shake uncontrollably. Roberto Carlos, overwhelmed by panic, started screaming for help. “When I saw what it was, I despaired,” Edmundo told congress. “Because it was a really strong and shocking scene.” He ran through the hotel hitting on all the doors and shouting for everyone to come.
A congressman asked the striker for more details. “Was Ronaldo hitting out or shaking?”
“Hitting out a lot,” replied Edmundo.
“Lying down?”
“Lying down and hitting himself with his hands like this, with his teeth . . . “
“Together?”
“Locked together and with his mouth foaming.”
“His whole body hitting itself?”
“The whole body, yes.”
Cesar Sampaio, the defender, was the first person to administer first aid. He got to Ronaldo before the doctors did and, with Edmundo holding him down, put his hand in Ronaldo’s mouth to unravel his tongue and prevent him swallowing it.

Ronaldo, still only aged 21, then fell asleep. According to Edmundo, the team doctors decided that the best course of action would be to pretend that nothing had happened when he woke up.

“We went back to our rooms, we rested,” said Edmundo. “But, you know what I mean, everyone was worried. My room was linked, so I saw everything. Every five minutes someone came and stared, and Ronaldo was there, sleeping like a baby.”

Collective trauma
Ronaldo woke up and went for tea. But he was subdued. Leonardo, in a distressed state, insisted that Ronaldo be told what had happened. The doctors broke the news and said he would be taken for tests. Only if the tests were fine would he be able to play the final.
When the squad took the coach to the Stade de France, Ronaldo instead went to the Lilas clinic in Paris. Forty minutes before the kick-off he showed up with the all-clear, insisting he should play. “Faced with this reaction,” said Zagallo, “I chose Ronaldo. Now was it his being chosen that caused Brazil to lose? Absolutely not. I think it was the collective trauma, created by the atmosphere of what had happened.”

Conspiracy theories came out

CONSPIRACY 1
Nike and the CBF forced Ronaldo to play
Ronaldo had a fit shortly before the game and was not well enough to play. The CBF (Brazilian Football Association) intervened and forced him to play, since there was a hidden part of the Nike-CBF contract that dictated he had to play in the World Cup final. This was because Nike had invested so much in him for its marketing campaign.

CONSPIRACY 2
Brazil sold the World Cup
Brazil’s players received a total of $23m (£15m) in bribes, the promise of Brazil hosting the 2006 World Cup, and an easy passage in the 2002 World Cup to throw the game. Ronaldo refused to have any part in this, hence Edmundo’s name was in the list in his place. But Ronaldo changed his mind after Nike threatened to withdraw his sponsorship money. The idea was for Brazil to lose on a golden goal, but since they were so shaken by the deal, France – who were unaware of the plot – scored three times in 90 minutes.

CONSPIRACY 3
Ronaldo was drugged
The striker’s indisposition on the day of the final was the result of sabotage by France, who wanted to put out Brazil’s best player.

CONSPIRACY 4
Ronaldo was unwell
Ronaldo had a secret medical problem which he had kept hidden all his life.

CONSPIRACY 5
The blue pill
The doctors gave him a “blue pill” as a painkiller. But it had tranquilizing effects that made him “sleepy”.

Alex Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life (Bloomsbury, £9.99)

None of those theories are true, according to the official narrative. Ronaldo just had a fit, it shocked the team, he was given a clean bill of health, he was rushed back into the team just minutes before the game, but he was subdued and the team were a bit shocked by it. Also, it was France’s time to shine – they were playing at home and this usually makes a massive difference in terms of the atmosphere in the stadium and the country as a whole.

Even if the Nike conspiracy theory isn’t true, it’s certainly true that there was a sense that the World Cup had become way too commercialised and more about money-making than the true values of the World Cup.

Debutants Croatia finished a commendable third.

I watched many of the key games at home, on my own :( This is when I was on summer holiday from university, living at my parents house, in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t have a car, so I had to try and persuade my mates to come and collect me so I could watch games with them. A lot of the time I was just stranded on my own, shouting at the TV. I was 21. England got knocked out by Argentina, yes, on penalties.

2002
The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia, and was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan. Australia defeated American Samoa 31–0 in a preliminary match – a new record for the margin of victory, and the highest-scoring match ever. The tournament was a successful one for teams traditionally regarded as minnows, with South Korea, Senegal and USA all reaching the last eight. Brazil beat Germany 2–0 in the final for their fifth title. I was in Japan during this competition. I was 25 years old. Japan went a bit nuts for football, as you’d expect. The Koreans went even more nuts though because their team did really well, getting to the semi-finals and eventually finishing third. World Cup fever gripped South Korea and I heard reports of people going crazy and jumping into rivers. That’s all I remember about that, that a lot of people jumped into rivers. I suppose that is a good way to react to your country doing really well in the World Cup. Waaah! We won! We won!!! Quick, find a river! Just jump into a river!!

There were some allegations of corruption and some rather questionable refereeing decisions that seemed to favour the hosts Korea. I remember a lot of Japanese people saying that the referees in the Korean games were obviously biased. But I don’t want to stoke up any tensions so, la la la, everything’s ok – happy happy happy.

Oh, England got knocked out by Brazil in the quarter finals by the way. Not on penalties this time. We just got beaten normally. Ronaldinho happened, basically.

And I went to one of the games – England vs Sweden in the Saitama Stadium and then went drinking in Tokyo with loads of Japanese people who were nuts about David Beckham and his haircut, which was described as a “soft mohican” or “soffuto mooheekanu”. A lot of my students were obsessed by David Beckham for about 2 weeks.

2006
The 2006 World Cup was held in Germany. By this point it had become normal to have loads of corruption scandals in the run up to the tournament, and I must say that the general atmosphere of the World Cup was all about making money for anyone with a vested interest in, well, making money from things. Having the World Cup in your country can bring in loads of money. Where that money actually goes, is not entirely clear. The World Cup is so huge and it’s privately owned, so it’s all about doing deals and those deals are made between states and companies. Public and private interests mingling in a very seedy and suspicious manner.

The way the host country is chosen is based on national delegates casting votes. These delegates represent different countries. The suggestion is that countries hoping to host the Cup, might try to ‘persuade’ the delegates, perhaps by doing dodgy little trade deals and offering kickbacks and other benefits in return for a vote.

To give you a taste of some of the shenanigans going on, here’s a paragraph from John Wikipedia’s page about the 2006 World Cup.

[A number of] …irregularities surfaced, including, In the months leading up to the decision for who should host the tournament, the sudden interest of German politicians and major businesses in the four Asian countries whose delegates were decisive for the vote.[9] Just a week before the vote, the German government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder lifted their arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and agreed to send grenade launchers to the country. DaimlerChrysler invested several hundred million Euros in Hyundai, while one of the sons of the company’s founders was a member of FIFA’s executive committee. Both Volkswagen and Bayer announced investments in Thailand and South Korea, whose respective delegates Worawi Makudi and Chung Jong-Moon were possible votes for Germany.[9][10] Makudi additionally received a payment by a company of German media mogul Leo Kirch.

FIFA deny these things. As far as I know they remain just allegations at this stage. I think proceedings were opened into the bid, but I don’t know the outcome.

First seed (seeded teams are the ones which are expected to do well – so the ‘first seeds’ are favourite teams and ‘second seeds’ are in the next category down, probably due to their performance in the qualifying stages) and WC holders Brazil and second seeded England were initially English bookmakers’ favourites. God knows why England were favourites to win. Presumably it was because of our performance in preceding games. We were knocked out in a quarter final against Portugal. Yes, on penalties.

A strong performance by Germany brought them as far as the semi finals. However, the final match-up was between Italy and France. This is the game in which French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the last 10 minutes of extra time for a headbutt to the chest of Italian central defender Marco Materazzi.

I think this was both one of the ugliest moments in World Cup history and one of the most awesome.

So, on the ugly side – this kind of violence should not happen in football. Loads of children would have been watching, all around the world. There’s no excuse for headbutting someone in the chest and knocking him down like that.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help being impressed by how badass Zidane was. Apparently Materazzi had been saying some extremely insulting things to him throughout the match. I expect the red mist descended and Zidane lost control… although it didn’t look like he lost control. That was one of the fascinating things. He looked like he was completely in control and it was such a devastating headbutt. It must have hurt Materazzi quite a bit. France lost the game, but again, if it had been a UFC Fight, France would have won.

Italy won 5–3 in a penalty shootout, the score having been 1–1 after 90 minutes and extra time. I watched this game in my flat in London, joined at half time by a Polish friend called Marek who brought a plastic bag full of beer, and who might be listening to this. I was 29 years old.

2010
The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa. It was the first cup hosted on African soil, and the cup was won by Spain.

The tournament was noted for its highly defensive opening matches (i.e. utterly boring games), controversies surrounding goal-line technology, and the introduction of vuvuzelas, which some people believe destroyed the atmosphere at many of the games. The noise was pretty annoying. Do you remember? It was like watching football during an invasion of killer bees. It was rubbish. They drowned out all the noise and sounded like a tiresome droning sound that never stopped.

Though considered as one of the tournament favourites, the Spaniards won the cup despite scoring only 8 goals in 7 games and losing their opening match to Switzerland. David Villa led the squad in scoring with 5 goals. In a final which saw a record number of yellow cards distributed and what some considered violent play from the Dutch side, the 10-man Netherlands squad were defeated 1–0 in the 116th minute of extra time by an Andrés Iniesta goal. I watched a lot of this in London with my girlfriend. I was 33. England were pretty rubbish. We got smashed by an amazing German team 5-1. They completely took us apart in very embarrassing fashion. Frank Lampard had a goal disallowed by the referee, although it did cross the line. Perhaps this was justice for the non-goal which was allowed back in the 1966 final when England beat West Germany.

2014
The 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil, marking the second time that Brazil hosted the competition. I did quite a few podcasts about it back in 2014. They’re all in the episode archive. One of them is a conversation with my dad about his memories of attending the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England.
As ever there were scandals and allegations of corruption, and criticisms that the money generated by hosting the world cup was not going to be re-invested in order to help local Brazilian people, many of whom really needed (and still need) support. Whether the WC was good for Brazil overall is debatable. Certainly it brought the attention of the world to Brazil. There were protests, but also big parties and celebrations.
The cup was won by Germany, who beat Argentina 1–0 in the final. The Netherlands defeated Brazil 3–0 in the bronze medal game. There was also a famously humiliating defeat for Brazil by Germany in the semi final, when the Germans thrashed the Brazilians 7 -1 and nobody could believe their eyes. That must have hurt a lot. Brazil, if it makes you feel any better – England got eliminated in the group stage after just two matches.
This was also the tournament in which Luis Suarez (Uruguay) bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. The 3rd time he had done it in his career. Luis, it’s called football for a reason. Foot-ball. Not tooth-head. Or tooth-arm… or … just don’t bite anyone OK?
2014 was the first time that three consecutive tournaments saw the winning side come from the same continent (Europe: 2006 Italy, 2010 Spain, 2014 Germany).

And that brings us to 2018, Russia!

Who’s going to win? What’s going to happen. I have no idea, but hopefully it will be fun finding out in just a few days.

I’m hoping to do one or more episodes about this year’s tournament, if I can manage it. I will be watching.
Cheers!

530. More Murder Stories (with Moz)

My friend Moz (Michael J. Buchanan-Dunne) from the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast tells us some more true stories about murders from London’s past. Contains some gruesome details and explicit descriptions, and some fascinating and unbelievable true stories! Intro and outtro transcripts available. *Adults only: Contains gory details and explicit descriptions*

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Introduction Transcript

This episode features another conversation with one of my friends for you to listen to as part of your learning English diet, and yes let’s imagine that learning English is a bit like having a diet plan, but instead of limiting your intake like you do with a food diet, with this English diet the plan is just to consume as much English as possible and really enjoy it. Just binge on English as much as you like – yum yum yum yum yum.

So yes, here is some more natural English conversation for you to indulge in.

The friend I’m talking to in this episode is my mate Moz, who has been on the podcast a couple of times before. You can find all his episodes in the archive. Just search for Moz – m o z. The long-term listeners will know Moz but if you’re fairly new around here, here is a 2-minute summary of what you need to know about him.

I met Moz (whose real name is actually Mike or in fact Michael J Buchanan-Dunne) doing stand-up comedy back when I was living in london a few years ago.

He lives on a canal boat, spending most of his time in London where there is a canal network that crosses the city.

Moz gives guided walking tours around parts of central London – especially Soho. The theme of these walking tours is murder, and Moz takes groups of visitors to different locations and then describes real murders that happened in those places. The tour includes stories of serial killers, crimes of passion and mysteries that have never been solved. Quite a lot of my listeners have actually taken his tour when visiting London and you can do it too if you’re in town. Just go to murdermiletours.com to get the details and to book a tour. It’s a really different way to explore parts of central London with a local person. It’s much more interesting than the normal boring tourist walks, and it has a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. Not bad.

Moz also has his own podcast called the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast in which he describes, in plenty of detail, the stories that he tells briefly on his walking tours, and more. He started the podcast just 7 months ago and since then it’s gone from strength to strength. It got a nomination in this year’s British Podcast Awards in the True Crime category.

So Moz is something of a specialist when it comes to describing the stories of true crimes in London. His stories are painstakingly researched using court and police records from the national archives, and Moz is a well-experienced and enthusiastic storyteller.

And it’s the storytelling that I’m interested in here, as much as anything else, because stories can be really great resources for learning English, especially when the storyteller is enthusiastic and the content of the story is gripping. They help to draw you in, make you focus on the details and just get more English into your ears, which is so important, as we know!

Well, Moz is certainly keen to describe the events in his stories and you have to agree that there is something fascinating about the subject of murder. Of course it’s horrible and tragic – especially for the victims and their families of course – these are often appalling crimes, but at the same time it’s hard not to wonder about the motivations of murderers, the lives they led, the conditions in which it could be possible for one person to take the life of another.

This is why crime and mystery novels, TV shows and documentaries are so popular. Apparently we can’t get enough of this kind of thing. So, although their subject matter is dark and quite explicit, I think that these stories are compelling and well-told and that is reason enough for me to present them to you in this episode.

Now, as I usually say when Moz comes onto the podcast and talks about murder – I think I should warn you here – Moz’s accounts often contain some very graphic and explicit descriptions of some truly horrible acts of violence and moments of horror.

So, if you’re sensitive to this kind of thing – if you don’t like blood and violent imagery – if you’re squeamish – you might want to proceed with caution. If you’re playing this with children around, like if you’re in the car and the kids are listening – you should probably pick another episode. My episodes are usually aimed at adults anyway, but this one in particular is not suitable for children. So, that should be clear – if you don’t like gory details, proceed with caution, if kids are present, listen to this later when they’re not around.

Ok we’re very nearly ready to begin here.

A coot – “as bald as a coot”

At the beginning, you’re going to hear Moz’s quick report from the British Podcast Awards ceremony which he attended just a couple of weeks ago and then he goes on to tell us about some of the murder stories he’s been researching over the last year or so.

So, without further ado, let’s go!


“Outtro” Transcript

Moz is getting very good at telling these stories isn’t he?

If you enjoyed this conversation, let me recommend Moz’s podcast – just in case you’re looking for more stuff to listen to in English. As he said it is available on all the usual platforms that you use to get your podcasts. Search for Murder Mile True Crime Podcast. Quite a lot of you already listen to his show, which is great.

The next episode is going to include a Vocabulary Quiz focusing on the language of crime – different nouns and verbs for various types of crime. So vocab hunters, watch out for that.

Well done for listening to the end. Good luck with your English. Keep it up!

Leave your comments on the website as usual. Join the conversation and practise doing some writing in English.

Download the app for convenient access to the whole archive of episodes and some bonus content.

Speak to you again soon!

Bye bye bye!


Links

Murder-Mile Walking Tours

Murder-Mile True Crime Podcast


Listen to serial killer Dennis Nilsen Speaking

528. The Royal Wedding (with Mum)

Talking to my mum about the royal wedding between Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. Describing the ceremony, the guests and the dress, and discussing the place of the monarchy in modern British life. Some transcriptions and vocabulary available below.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks, welcome to this new episode.

How are you doing? I’m recording this in the middle of a thunderstorm. I don’t know if you can hear it. It’s quite dramatic. There’s been hail, there’s been lightning, there’s been thunder.

Here’s a new episode and it’s a conversation with my Mum about the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which happened last Saturday.

I also have some things to say about the British Podcast Awards and I know that I’ve spoken about this, probably too much, recently but I expect this will be the last I will say on the matter. The results came in at the weekend, and so I just want to explain what happened.

Some of you already know the results and that this year, unfortunately, I didn’t win one of the medals. No Bronze, Silver or Gold. However – I was in the top 10. I don’t know where (if I was 4 or 5 or 6 or whatever – but I was in the top 10, which actually is amazing considering the competition I was up against.

So, even though I didn’t get bronze, silver or gold – I do feel happy so thank you for your votes.

I’ll talk more about it at the end of the podcast, ok? OK

This morning I spoke to my Mum on FaceTime and we chose to talk about the royal wedding between Prince Harry & Meghan Markle which happened this weekend on Saturday. I expect you were aware of that – it was probably covered in the media and online. You might have watched it. I think it was live streamed on many channels and networks.

I don’t know what you think of the royal wedding – you might be fascinated by it, but equally you might be completely fed up with it. I don’t know where you stand! But since one of the purposes of this podcast is to provide you with authentic speech to listen to as part of your learning English routine, and we take a special interest in British things on this podcast (of course) the royal wedding seems like a logical thing for me to talk about, right? How could I not cover this?

Also, I have received a number of requests from listeners asking for me to talk about that. So, that’s what you’re going to get in this episode – a chat with my Mum all about the royal wedding, and hopefully we’ll cover it in a fairly broad way, dealing with things like the wider issues of monarchy in the modern age, some of the unconventional aspects of the ceremony and the different attitudes to the royal family that people in the UK have. Not everyone is a flag waving royalist – some people don’t really like the monarchy and see big weddings like this to be a waste of taxpayers money (although it’s not entirely clear how much of this was paid for by the taxpayer – as we established in the previous episode I did about Prince Harry & Meghan Markle, the royal family gets its money from a combination of public and private sources, and I think a lot of the costs of this wedding were privately covered) – anyway, plenty of people disagree with the wedding for various reasons. But also there are people, like me, who aren’t completely sure how to feel about the monarchy one way or the other, but are interested in events like the royal wedding just as a fascinating spectacle and something that reveals many aspects of life in our country, for good or bad.

I don’t need to do any more introducing at this point. Let’s just start listening to my conversation with my Mum and you can hear our descriptions of the wedding and what we both think about it all.

SOME BITS OF VOCAB

  • Staid
  • Traditional
  • High-bound
  • Stuffy
  • Worthy
  • Hushed and reverent
  • Solemn
  • Reserved
  • Stiff upper lip
  • Soberly
  • Animated
  • Gesticulating
  • vague, ambiguous and weird
  • Incoherent

Harry lifts Meghan’s veil and they say their vows

Reactions to Michael Curry’s Address

 

527. Can Paul Taylor Pass The UK Citizenship Test?

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

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

Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Long Episode!

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

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

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

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


THE “LIFE IN THE UK” CITIZENSHIP TEST

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

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

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

lifeintheuktestweb.co.uk/test-1/

Criticisms of the Test

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

The criticisms in a nutshell:

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

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

What would you include in the citizenship test?

The “Real” Citizenship test

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

realcitizenshiptest.co.uk/


‘Outro’ Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke

509. What’s it all about? (Philosophy and Language Learning)

This episode is all about philosophy and how this applies to language learning. Listen to me describing 8 different ‘schools’ of philosophical thought. Are hedonists good language learners? How do rationalists and empiricists disagree about how we learn languages? Is language learning an innate ability or just something that can only happen as a result of things we do after we’re born?  And, how does philosophy answer life’s big questions such as, “What’s life all about?” “What are we doing here?” and “What shall we have for dinner?” Transcript Available.

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Transcript – 95% complete

Introduction

What’s it all about then eh? This is a question that people have been attempting to answer for bloody ages. Nobody seems to be able to agree or decide for certain what the purpose of our existence is, or even what the true nature of reality is, but over the years the things people have said and written in response to this question have influenced our lives in loads of ways, without us even realising it.

Considering the question of “What’s it all about?” is basically the foundation of philosophy and in this episode I’m going to talk about philosophy and define a few of the main types of philosophy that exist.

I’ll also attempt to apply those different types of philosophy to the understanding of language learning if I can. And if I can’t, I’ll just make a jam sandwich or something.

So, with this episode you can learn English relating to lots of things, including abstract ideas, ethics, science, debate, reason, logic, experience and academic thought in general, and also we can consider the process of language learning from a couple of different points of view.

A while ago I found a questionnaire online which was called “Which school of philosophy do you belong to?”

I thought, “that makes a change from the usual stupid quizzes, like ‘Which Star Wars character are you?’ ‘Which type of biscuit are you?’, ‘Which type of fluff are you? The fluff in the corner of the room, the fluff in the tumble dryer, the fluff in your belly button, the fluff that collects in your jacket pocket or the fluff which collects under the strings of a guitar that never gets played?’ (I was the fluff in your jacket pocket by the way).

This one was about philosophy – “Which school of philosophical thought do you belong to?”

And I thought “ooh, I haven’t done an episode about philosophy on the podcast. That might be an interesting, yet fun way to explore a fairly intellectual topic.

I thought it would be an interesting way for Paul, Amber and me to have an intelligent and highbrow discussion (instead of just talking about poo or Russian jokes or having accordions for legs – although they are, of course, perfectly valid topics of conversation).

I haven’t talked directly about philosophy on the podcast before. So I thought it could be an interesting subject for the podpals to discuss.

And we got together a couple of months ago actually, and recorded ourselves going through the quiz in order to find out what school of philosophy each of us belongs to, based on the ways we live our lives and think about the world.

However, the conversation that we recorded ended up being quite heavy. We got a bit bogged down in just trying to understand, interpret and discuss what each question really meant. Not only did we have to try and make sense of the different types of philosophy, we also just had to try and understand the fairly complex questions in the quiz.

It made me think “ooh, this might just be a bit difficult to listen to – a complicated conversation and a complicated topic – it could be a bit of a challenge for the LEPsters.”

I will play you the conversation and you can hear our discussion, and you can also do the quiz with us while you listen, if you like.

But that’s going to be in the next episode because I thought it would be a good idea for me to talk to you about philosophy first, and to define some terms, before you hear our conversation. That should make it a bit easier for you to follow what Paul, Amber and I are going on about, while also making it possible for you to perhaps learn some things about philosophy and also the language we use when talking about philosophy and while tackling the big questions, like “What’s it all about?” and “What shall we have for dinner?” (well, maybe not that one – although it is rather a big question as I’m sure you’ll agree).

Now, I know you might not be philosophers. I have all sorts of people listening to this, from many different backgrounds. Some of you might be academic types, others not. Some of you are the types of people who like complex and abstract discussions, others might be the types of people who would rather listen to us talk about more tangible things, like Amber’s son doing a poo under a table, or something like that.

In any case, I like to present a fairly wide range of topics on this podcast and I think that’s important for your English.

So, let’s talk about 8 different schools of philosophical thought, and then you can listen to Amber, Paul and me taking that quiz, and hopefully it will make a bit more sense to you!

And by the way, if you would rather hear that story of Amber’s son doing a poo under a table in a restaurant (which is a real story) just listen to episode 380 again. You can find it in the archive.

380. Catching Up with Amber and Paul #3

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is all about how we understand the world and how we make sense of everything around us.

It’s not just “why are we here?” or just “what’s it all about?” it helps us to create the assumptions behind how we understand pretty much everything.

Really, it’s about attempting to answer questions that relate to every aspect of our lives.

Wikipedia: It is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, the mind, and language.[5][6] The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.[7][8] Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it?[9][10][11] What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)?[12] Do humans have free will?[13]

So, philosophy is the study of how we understand everything, and the answers to these questions form assumptions about so many things including :

  • Education (What should children do at school and why are schools important in the first place? How should we organise our universities?)
  • Health (How do we understand our bodies – how do we know what will make us strong or weak, healthy or sick?)
  • Politics (What is the best way to run the country?)
  • Science (What is the nature of reality? How do we measure that? Can science solve the problems we face? What is the scientific method and can it help us to discover the truth about the world?)
  • Debate and communication (What is the most effective way to argue your point in a discussion? What are the most effective ways to present information to people?)
  • Religion (Who or what is God and does he exist? How does this relate to the choices we make in life? Do we even have choices?)
  • Language (What is language? How does it work? What does it tell us about us as people? How do we learn it? Should it be controlled? What constitutes “good” and “bad” language?)
  • Ethics (How do we decide what is the right or wrong thing to do in any situation)

Ethics

An example of an ethical question is “if your neighbours are having a loud party late at night, is it ok for you to call the police to stop the party?”

Imagine – your neighbours are having a loud party and it’s keeping you awake. What should you do?

Here are some of the reasons for stopping it: it’s annoying for you personally, it’s annoying for everyone in the area, it’s somehow damaging behaviour for them – i.e. because they need sleep and shouldn’t drink, it’s breaking a rule imposed by the government. Or reasons for not stopping the party: everyone has the right to have a party sometimes, it would be rude to interrupt their celebration, the police might be unreasonably aggressive with them and someone might end up being arrested or even physically harmed, or

“if they don’t stop playing that music now I will go round there and murder everyone in the building, especially if they play THAT song again”.

These are the sorts of questions that philosophers might spend a lot of time thinking about, especially if their neighbours were having a noisy party next door. The philosopher might spend ages pondering the question of exactly what to do, even if most people would just bang on the wall and tell the neighbours to “shut up! For god’s sake shut up or I’ll call the police” assuming of course that god exists and that the police have got nothing better to do, other than sit around smoking cigarettes.)

Still on that example of the ethics of “having a loud party in a highly populated area”, one of the big responses might be “it’s unfair for these people to have this party, because it is simply unethical for a small group of people to be happy at the expense of the happiness of the majority of people living in the surrounding area.” which would be a very reasonable thing to say under the circumstances. I imagine most people would just think “Those bastards! Those bastards! Those bloody bastards!!!” (which is not an established philosophical position, I think)

The ethical principle I described there (not the “you bastards position” but the “happiness for the majority of people is the deciding factor” position, is: What benefits the majority of people is the right thing to do. English philosopher Jeremy Bentham might come to mind, when considering this idea, if you know who Jeremy Bentham is. If you don’t know who he is, and have never heard his name before, I’d be very surprised if he comes to your mind, to be honest. You might just be thinking “How can I get my neighbours to turn down the music?” and suddenly – JEREMY BENTHAM! – that would be weird.

Anyway, Bentham said “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number [of people] that is the measure of right and wrong”. This is the foundation of utilitarianism – a system which influenced lots of people and, for example, contributed to the construction of the welfare state – that’s the system in the UK that provides healthcare for everyone, but which is probably paid for mainly by the people with incomes – the people who earn money from their work, and the higher the income the more you pay – as tax. As long as most people are made happy, this is the right way to run a society. People who work should pay tax and a lot of that tax should go towards a healthcare system that is available for everyone, even those people who don’t work and even if it means that some people who earn more money are also paying more.

This is an example of how a philosophical idea – in this case “utilitarianism” has an impact on the political policy of a nation, and how that can affect everything else.

You can see here that philosophy is at the centre of all the big questions that we face in society – both personal and communal. E.g. Should guns be legal? Should I buy a gun? Should drugs be legalised? Am I a bad person if I take drugs? Should we download films from torrenting sites, or buy them from the established distributors? Is it wrong if I watch a pirated film on the internet without paying for it? Does it matter which film it is? What if the film is a big-budget blockbuster like Transformers? What if I wouldn’t have actually paid for it anyway? Should I feel guilty if I listen to episodes of Luke’s English Podcast and yet I never send him a donation for his hard work? (by the way the answers to all those questions, in order, are “It depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, YES)

All these questions are philosophical at their very heart – in most cases here we’re talking about ethics, which is just one branch of philosophy.

Different “Schools of Thought”

There are lots of philosophical schools of thought. Not all of them are completely different. Some are quite similar. They came out of different contexts: different people, different periods of time and different places.

Let me go through some of them. Which one do you agree with? It’s quite possible that you agree with more than just one of these things, because I think most of us probably take a bit from here, a bit from there, and have a complex and diverse way of making decisions and understanding the world. In fact I’m quite sure that the general culture in the world is now a combination of all these different schools of philosophical thought, as well as all sorts of other influences, such as traditional customs and beliefs. But there was a time when many the thinking processes that we consider now to be just part of normal common sense didn’t even exist. A lot of the general assumptions that we have about questions of ethics, politics and even language were not always there. Basically, I mean – people used to be really really stupid – like mind numbingly stupid, and slowly but surely, over decades, centuries and millenia, a complex dialogue about the big questions has been going on, involving people from different countries. Various conclusions have been made and a certain amount of progress has been achieved in general thinking… even though some people in the world still enjoy the music of Rick Astley.

The different schools of thought that have appeared over the years are like different realisations – like different rooms in this big palace of thinking that we now all have access too.

So if you feel like it’s hard to make a distinction between some of these schools of thought, that’s ok – some of them are quite similar and in fact over the years they have combined to an extent, so that today it can be hard to distinguish between them. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Also, there are other positions or ways of looking at the world that might emphasise politics, economics or psychology which aren’t included here. E.g. if you believe that the defining force in your life is your place in the class system or wealth system in society, or how your life is dictated by those in power or by the decisions of your bosses, or the police – you might turn out to be a Marxist, or something like that. Or if you think that your experiences as a child are the most influential factors in how your life has meaning, you might be a Freudian, or simply if you believe that our lives are entirely dictated by some sort of intelligent creator who has designed everything including all existence and everything that happens, has happened or will happen – then you might be a religious person like a Christian or a Muslim or something.

Or perhaps if you believe that your life is given meaning by how you interact with audio content uploaded onto an internet based RSS feed, which you then consume through headphones attached to your ears, you might be a LEPsterian.

But again, it’s most likely that your worldview is some sort of combination of all these different schools of thought and of course a lot of the time we don’t really know which school of thought we belong to, because it’s not football. You don’t need to pick a team or anything. And it’s much more complicated than football, and perhaps less fun than football. Certainly in the UK hardly anyone goes around saying “well, I’m an epicurean so I disagree with what you said” or “Hey, shall we get pizza this evening?” “Well, I’d quite like to have noodles so speaking as a platonist I think we should have a debate about it and then choose our dinner based on the outcome of that argument, perhaps you would like to start by outlining your predicates for why you believe pizza is the best option…” Nobody does that, right? But anyway, here we go – different schools of philosophy, in alphabetical order, not chronological. As you’re listening to this you can just think about these questions:

a) Do I understand what the hell this position is all about?
b) Do I agree with this? Is this a good way to look at the world and make decisions?

Empiricism

The basic ideas of empiricism were probably first established by Persian and Arabic philosophers in the 11th and 12th centuries, and then developed into the more established positions by British and Irish philosophers from the 17th century into the 20th century.

Knowledge can only come from what you see and experience with your own eyes. “I’ll believe it when I see it” or “It’s only true if we can actually observe it.” Observation tells us what is true.

This is often contrasted with rationalism which basically says that you can use logic and reasoning to work something out without observing it – e.g. that there are rules of logic that are always true and that these define what will happen.

Empiricism basically says – I don’t trust any other information than the information I’ve seen and I can only know something after I’ve actually seen it, observed it, measured it. So, knowledge is something that comes after our experience.

Rationalism on the other hand says that there are certain universal laws of logic which will ultimately give you the truth about something. So, knowledge exists before us and it’s a matter of uncovering it.

Empiricism is all about ‘what comes after’ and rationalism is about ‘what comes before’.

The ‘what comes after’ means that the knowledge you have of something comes after you’ve observed it.

The ‘what comes before’ means that the principles of logic that exist before an event – universal laws of logic that everyone is born with the ability to use. These laws of logic are then applied to something in order to help us understand it.

So, for ‘flat earth’ an empiricist would say “Let’s look at the earth. Let’s measure it. If it looks round, we’ll know it’s round”. This is limited because sometimes our senses can be wrong. We might not be able to see things, and our senses might even distort what we’re seeing. E.g. for flat earth we can’t see the curvature of the earth from our current position, even if we’re in a plane, even though the curvature is there, because of our relatively close proximity to the earth. You’d need to travel to the edge of the atmosphere to see the curvature, and not many people can do that. So, a problem with being an empiricist is that you put too much faith in your senses, which can be misleading and can’t cover all aspects of knowledge – e.g. stuff that we can’t actually see – like gravity. I think there’s also an argument that the act of observing something has an effect on it. So, observation is not 100% perfect.

I think that the best approach would probably combine both systems, that to prove that the earth is round you’d observe the earth, measure it but also apply different mathematical laws or physical laws to it.

How does it relate to language?

We can align the rationalism side of things with the idea of ‘language nativism’. Rationalists say that we are all born with the ability to use logic and reason, that it is innate to us – perhaps part of our genes. Language nativists argue that we are born with an innate ability to learn languages. That language learning is in our genes. That all of us learn languages in the same way (regardless of the language) and that it is instinctual.

Language empiricists on the other hand believe that language is something that only happens after we are born – that it is something that we learn, rather than something that is kind of built into us genetically.

Epicureanism

This is an ancient school of thought created by a Epicurius from Athens in ancient Greece – around 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ (307 BC).

This was when people were just trying to work out how to live properly – coming up with approaches to the best way to live your life. These days we are inundated by different methods and approaches to how to live your life. Think of all the lifestyle magazines and articles about dieting and making the right life choices and career moves. Once upon a time, people hadn’t really worked that out, and the philosophers in Ancient Greece really paved the way for this sort of thing. It seems they spent an awful lot of time sitting around trying to work out what human beings should really be doing with their lives beyond just surviving like all the other species on earth.

Epicurius believed that pleasure and pain are the only things that have intrinsic value to beings, and that the goal of life was to maximise pleasure and minimise pain for both yourself and others.

He taught that people thus needed four virtues: prudence (caution – being careful), justice, friendliness and fortitude (courage and the ability to withstand pain and difficulty). Epicurus emphasised that the pleasure from an action must be weighed against the negative side effects, a concept that could be called the ‘pleasure calculation’. For example, you could save up £1000, buy twenty kilograms of chocolate, and eat it all at the same time. In this case though, you need to weigh the pleasure of eating chocolate against the inevitable stomach ache and the weight you’ll gain from eating a third of your body weight in chocolate. Epicurus had a second part of the pleasure calculation that he said to consider: is it worth the momentary benefit of £1000 of chocolate or buying a new bike a bit later for £1100?

The greater pleasure, even if it causes a slight negative effect at the moment, is the greater good. Epicurus also taught that sensual pleasures weren’t all that there was to the world. Epicurus noted that appreciation of art and friendship also count as pleasure. Moreover, Epicurus taught that the enjoyment of life also required old Greek ideals of self-control, temperance, and serenity. Desires need to be curbed, and serenity will help us to endure the pain we may face.[2] Epicurus also preached altruism over self-interest. Said he that friendship “dances around the world, calling all people to a life of happiness.” He taught that the best life for the individual is one that is lived with other people for their benefit in addition to the individual’s own benefit. (RationalWiki)

No idea what he says about language to be honest!

Perhaps that when choosing to learn another language we should measure the benefits of learning that language against the pain we might experience as a result.

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that while learning English can be painful, frustrating, confusing and embarrassing, the benefit of learning this language clearly outweighs those negative things. So, on balance Epicurius would probably say – “Go ahead and learn English! And make friends with people while you’re doing it!”

Existentialism

www.philosophybasics.com/branch_existentialism.html

Language?

Hedonism

www.philosophybasics.com/movements_hedonism.html

Would a hedonist make a good language learner?

I imagine a hedonist might be a bit lazy, especially if learning a language from scratch doesn’t involve much bodily pleasure.

But perhaps hedonists might learn language if it meant gaining access to more forms of gratification. E.g. they might learn language in order to seduce people, get access to alcohol, drugs, or other forms of bodily pleasure! I expect a hedonist’s vocabulary would be rather limited to dirty words, useful phrases for drug deals and pillow talk.

Humanism

www.philosophybasics.com/movements_humanism.html

Language

I’m certain that humanists put a high value on language as a means of connecting with other people in the world. Humanists might have a democratic and prescriptive approach to language too.

Platonism

www.philosophybasics.com/movements_platonism.html

It’s pretty confusing, but to boil it down let’s say: Plato basically invented the first university – a place called The Academy which was positioned outside the city limits of Greece. This was where he delivered lectures to his students and engaged in debates. This was the foundation of certain academic principles and methods. Those academic “for and against” essays that you might have to write at university, or for an IELTS Writing part 2 – that all started with Plato and his academy.

He believed highly in the value of debate, argument and discourse as a way of reaching certain eternal “higher truths” – these are truths which are eternal. He thought that ‘ideas’ were more important than ‘matter’ (physical stuff) and that the persuit of knowledge or the process of learning is a question of uncovering universal truths that already exist in our immortal souls.

Language

From a language point of view, Plato believed that ultimate knowledge already exists inside us and it’s just a matter of uncovering it.

Noam Chomsky has applied this idea to his understanding of linguistics – how languages work, specifically in the idea that there is a Universal Grammar that we are all born with.

Basically, the idea is something like this – how do native English speakers know exactly how to use grammatical forms like present perfect tense correctly, without having formally studied it or been taught it?

E.g. my brother James knows when a sentence is right or wrong – e.g when present perfect is being used correctly or not, although he’s never been taught English grammar. How did he learn it? The idea is that James, like all of us, was born with an innate understanding of grammar.

From www.fluentu.com

1. Plato’s Problem
The writings of Plato stretch all the way back to the beginnings of Western philosophical thought, but Plato was already posing problems critical to modern linguistic discourse.
In the nature versus nurture debate, Plato tended to side with nature, believing that knowledge was innate.
This was his answer to what has become known as Plato’s Problem, or as Bertrand Russell summarizes it: “How comes it that human beings, whose contacts with the world are brief and personal and limited, are nevertheless able to know as much as they do know?” Being born with this knowledge from the get-go would naturally solve this little quandary and consequently he viewed language as innate.

Personally, I just can’t agree with this. What about people who are rubbish at grammar because they’ve had no exposure to it?

(Note: I’ve changed my mind! I think we must be born with the innate ability to learn grammar – but the whole subject is difficult to fully understand)

Scepticism

Philosophybasics.com

Skepticism (or Scepticism in the UK spelling)
At its simplest, Skepticism holds that one should refrain from making truth claims, and avoid the postulation of final truths. This is not necessarily quite the same as claiming that truth is impossible (which would itself be a truth claim), but is often also used to cover the position that there is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge (sometimes referred to as Academic Skepticism).

Language Learning & Scepticism

For language learning, you could say that a sceptic would avoid jumping to conclusions about the language being learned. E.g. when you think you’ve learned a rule about the language, avoid saying “this is always true”. E.g. The idea that quantifiers like “some / any” are always used in a certain way. You might learn from an intermediate book that “some” is used in affirmative sentences and “any” is used in questions or negative – but watch out, that so-called rule is often broken. So, a language learning sceptic might avoid thinking “this is always true” or “this is never correct”.

Stoicism

Dailystoic.com

Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC, but was famously practiced by the likes of Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment should be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

Stoicism has just a few central teachings. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.

Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate.

I found this article on Benny Lewis’s website “Fluent in 3 Months” and it’s doing exactly what I’m doing (or trying to do) in this episode – applying certain principles of philosophy to language learning.

This one is written by Jeremy Ginsburg, who describes himself as a writer, entrepreperformer and language learner and you’ll find it on

How to Apply Stoic Philosophy to Language Learning

So there you go folks. 8 different schools of philosophical thought.

Empiricism, Epicureanism, Existentialism, Hedonism, Humanism, Platonism, Scepticism, Stoicism.

There are many more types of philosophy than that of course, but that was just a series of 8, based on this online survey that Amber, Paul and I took recently.

If you’re feeling a bit confused

Don’t worry, I totally understand. Honestly, I’m a bit confused too. That’s normal. This stuff isn’t supposed to be easy, that’s why people have been thinking about it and going on about it for thousands of years.

Really, philosophy is all about wisdom and trying to understand things better, make the right decisions and choose the correct way of life.

I wonder what school of philosophy you associate with most?

Also, if you’d like to listen to Amber, Paul and me finding out which school of philosophy we belong to – just wait until the next episode to hear our discussion.

Thanks for listening!

Luke

508. Six True Crime Stories from Victorian England, Told by My Dad

Learn English by listening to Rick Thompson telling some true stories of petty crimes committed in an English town in 1851.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, and welcome to this brand new instalment of Luke’s English Podcast – a podcast for learners of English.

In this episode my dad is going to tell you some true crime stories from England’s history. There are six stories in total and they all involve curious crimes and their punishments which can tell you quite a lot about what life was like in England in the mid 19th century.

We have established the value of listening to stories on this podcast before, right? Listening to stories can be a great way to improve your English, especially when they’re told in an interesting, clear and spontaneous way and of course I’m always happy to get contributions from my dad on this podcast – so I’m feeling good about this episode. I think it should be a good one.

These days my dad is semi-retired but he keeps himself busy doing various things, including some volunteer work for an organisation based in the town where my parents live – Warwick, in the midlands, in England.

The organisation is called Unlocking Warwick and it is a volunteer group based in a restored building in the centre of town.

This building used to be a court-house – a place where, in the past, people who had been accused of committing crimes were sent to be tried and possibly sentenced to various punishments, and back in the Victorian times those punishments could be quite harsh. The building operated as a court room from the early 16th century all the way through to the 1970s when it eventually closed. Then, a few years ago the building was fully restored to its former glory and is now a cultural centre for the town of Warwick. The volunteer group that my parents belong to, Unlocking Warwick, does various events and activities in this building as a way of helping people to explore the history of the town, which is also the site of one of the UK’s best medieval castles. Warwick is a place that’s worth visiting if you’re into English history and it’s only about 30 minutes away from Stratford Upon Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Last year you heard me talk to my Mum about the Unlocking Warwick project and she mentioned the regency ballroom in the building, where they organise events like dances with historical themes, and since the building used to be the location of a court room, the group also presents dramatic reconstructions of real court cases that happened there.

These are like plays based on real records of the court proceedings which are stored in local archives, and my dad is the one who writes these dramas. He reads the details of old cases from the archives, picks the ones that sound interesting and then turns them into plays which are performed for the public by volunteer actors. They even get members of the audience to shout things out and generally play along, a bit like they would have done during the real trials back in the 19th century.

So, because he’s written these plays, Dad has a few stories at his disposal and I thought it might be fun, interesting and good practice for your English to hear him describe these stories in an episode of the podcast, so that’s what you’re going to get; six true stories of crimes that actually happened in Warwick, told to you by my dad – and almost all of it is told using past tenses – so straight away, there’s some grammar and pronunciation for you to look out for. I’m not going to go into all the details of those narrative past tenses here, but if you’d like to listen to episodes in which I explain those tenses, give examples and help you to pronounce them then you can check out episodes…

Other episodes dealing with Narrative Verb Tenses in more detail

29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses 

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

176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review 

They’re all (also) in the episode archive on the website. 

But right now, let’s jump into this conversation that I had with my dad just the other day when my parents were visiting us. So, without any further ado – let’s get started.


The Six Stories

I’d like to summarise those six stories again now, just to make sure you got the main details and to help reinforce some of the language that you heard in the conversation.

You can find the notes I’m reading from here, written on the page for this episode on the website.

  1. The Case of the Notorious Window Smasher
    A woman who would go up and down the high street in Warwick and also in Birmingham, smashing shop windows (cutting up her arms in the process) and stealing goods, including a roll of top quality French material – and she was sentenced to time in the house of correction where she probably had to do hard labour all day, including walking in the treadmill – a kind of human-powered machine for grinding corn or wheat. Imagine being a sort of hamster in a wheel all day long – like going to the gym, but doing it for 10 hours or more and I’m sure the conditions were very dusty and awful. The Victorians, being sort of puritanical and protestant had a strong work ethic, and believed that hard work was the right remedy for people’s problems. You can see how this went together with a certain industriousness that marked that period of British history.
  2. What Happened to the Extremely Drunk Man?
    He was brought into the court by a policeman simply for being very very drunk, and was sentenced to 6 hours in the stocks.
  3. The Story of the Poor Lunatic Woman
    Her husband took her to the authorities claiming she was hysterical and completely impossible to live with, and she was promptly taken to the local lunatic asylum where she probably spent the rest of her life – but was she really mad, or did her husband just want to get rid of her?
  4. The Woman Who Ran Away from the Workhouse
    There were different places you could end up if you were found guilty of a crime, or simply didn’t have the means to look after yourself. The worst would be Australia, which was probably a very tough place to try and survive back in those days and the long boat journey would probably kill you anyway. Then there was prison, and I’m sure 19th century prisons would have been full of disease and all kinds of hideous misery. You heard about the hulks – these broken old ships that were moored on the river Thames in London, which worked as prisons. I expect the ones on the land weren’t much better. Then there were the houses of correction – essentially prisons where you did hard labour all day long. Then there were workhouses – not exactly prisons, but places that would house people who had no money. They’d give them accommodation and food in return for work. Honestly, I think places like this still exist in many parts of the world and it’s really sad and terrible, especially when we realise that some of the products that we consume might have been made in places like these – we call them sweatshops these days – places where people work long hours in awful conditions. The woman in this story ran away from her workhouse because, as she claimed, they weren’t feeding her. I expect that could be true. I think the food given to people in workhouses was often just very weak and watery soup (called gruel) which probably contained next to no nutritional value, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people were denied food as punishment in a workhouse. There was so much cruelty in those days. This woman ran away, and was caught – but she hadn’t really committed a crime, had she? A workhouse wasn’t a compulsory place to stay. It’s not a jail. She ran away of her own free will. But they caught her and charged her with theft of the clothes she was wearing. I expect the clothes were provided for her by the workhouse – so that’s how they got her. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some sort of personal revenge or some kind of personal vendetta against this woman, or some kind of conspiracy against her. Her sentence? 3 months hard labour in the house of correction. I’m sure some people profited from all this free labour.
  5. Why did Joseph Smith Break a Lamp in the Market Square?
    Just to get arrested and put in the house of correction – because he had no money and no food. So he did it just to get fed and housed, even if it meant having to do menial work. It sounds like he was pretty desperate. There was no such thing as welfare or social security in those days. That didn’t arrive for nearly another 100 years, after WW2.
  6. What Happened to the Shoemaker’s Rabbit?
    It was stolen – and footprints were found in the garden of the house where the theft happened. Emmanuel Cox was charged with the theft – and accused of stealing the rabbit and cooking it in a pot.  The police officer that arrested Cox seems to have been tipped off by someone. The constable mentioned “Information received” – so did someone tip him off about Emmanuel Cox? Was someone trying to set Cox up, or did they have genuine information about Cox? In any case, when Cox’s place was searched they found a rabbit skin hanging up in the kitchen, which the shoemaker identified. It looked like an open and shut case. The evidence was a dead giveaway! But during the trial a woman in the audience defended Cox (she turned out to be someone he lived with – so probably not a great witness) and it was claimed that there was a witness who could testify to Cox’s innocence – but he couldn’t be found. In the end Cox was acquitted – the magistrate let him go without a charge, because he said the evidence was not sufficient. I wonder what the punishment would have been, for stealing and eating a pet rabbit? I’ll hazard a wild guess at 3 months in a correctional house, because it seems that doing pretty much anything would land you in the correctional house for 3 months, if you were a petty criminal and you lived in Warwick.

Well there you have it, the case of the shoemaker’s rabbit and 5 other stories.

I hope you enjoyed it, that you learned some English or at least you had some nice and nourishing listening practice – yum yum yum.

You can find notes and some transcriptions on the page for this episode on the website, where you can see some of the words and phrases used in this episode.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app for your smartphone. It’s free – that’s where you’ll find the entire episode archive on your phone and there are various app-only episodes and other bonuses for you to check out.

Join the mailing list on the website to get an email whenever I upload new content. That email will contain a link that’ll take you straight to the page for that content – usually a new episode and sometimes some website-only content, like when I’m interviewed on someone else’s podcast or if I want to write to you about something in particular that I think might interest you.

Sometimes episodes arrive on the website a day earlier than everywhere else, so being an email subscriber might be the fastest way to find out about new episodes when they’re released.

So, be an email subscriber, be an app-user and if you enjoy my episodes and find them useful and if the spirit moves you – please recommend this podcast to at least one person who you think might like it, leave LEP a review on iTunes or the Google Play store, and you could consider sending a donation to the podcast to help with running costs and perhaps as a sincere way to say thanks for my work.

In any case, I’d just like to say thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon!

Bye! 

Luke

Observations on the Paris Metro… from Inside the Metro (Listen to my appearance on Oliver Gee’s podcast “The Earful Tower”)

Hello website LEPsters! Here is some more listening you can do while waiting for the next episode of LEP.

I was recently invited onto The Earful Tower Podcast by Oliver Gee (remember him from episode 495?) We recorded an episode all about the Paris Metro while riding the Paris Metro. You can listen to it here.

You’ll hear us talking about our experiences of using the Metro, some of the things we find fascinating, funny, weird, cool and even disgusting about it. You can hear various background noises and experience what it’s really like to travel through Paris on line 2 with Oli and me.

Keep listening to the end to hear a cool story from Paris’s history, read by Oliver’s regular storytelling guest Corey Frye.

Click the link below to see photos from our trip and to check out other episodes of The Earful Tower podcast with Oliver Gee.

Click link below for photos from our trip and more info:

theearfultower.com/2017/12/07/observations-on-the-paris-metro-from-inside-the-metro/

Oliver Gee is a journalist from Australia now living in Paris. His podcast is all about Paris and episodes include interesting stories, bits of history, chats about language and comments about the cultural differences. It’s all in English and you should check out his episode archive – you’ll find several appearances by Amber Minogue, one episode with Paul Taylor and two with me (including this one). Enjoy!

p.s. You might be wondering whether our baby daughter has been born yet. Well – not yet! We are still waiting. She’s currently one day overdue, but everything’s fine. She could still arrive at any time. We’re waiting with bated breath.

More episodes of LEP coming before too long.

Don’t forget to download the LEP App and enjoy listening to some full-length episodes only available in the app, plus more bonus content.

Cheers!

Luke

499. Prince Harry & Meghan Markle / Royal Family Quiz (with Amber)

Talking to Amber about the UK’s Royal Family, including our thoughts on the upcoming wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, some royal gossip & rumours, and also a Royal Family Quiz with questions about the monarchy today and in history. So, expect to hear our thoughts and some facts about this very traitional British institution. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Here’s an episode about the Royal family.

You probably know that recently we had the news that Prince Harry is going to marry his gorgeous girlfriend Meghan Markle. I don’t know if that made the news where you are.

There’s going to be another royal wedding next year. This is actually quite a big deal for the UK.

You might be wondering what British people think about all of this. What do we think about Harry and Meghan and what do we think of the Royal family in general?

Well, I can’t ask every single Brit what they think, but I can give you my opinions and the opinions of Amber, who I am talking to in this episode..

Also this gives us an opportunity to chat generally about the Royal Family on the podcast again, and that’s usually a subject which attracts quite a lot of interest from abroad.

Also, in this episode Amber and I have prepared some quiz questions about the royal family.

I wonder if you know the answers.

So first you’ll get a discussion of Harry and Meghan, and then a royal family quiz.

Let’s see how much you know about the royals and hopefully this episode can help you you learn a few things about the British monarchy that you didn’t know before, including some scandals, some rumours, some big moments in history and other interesting facts about this most traditional of British institutions.

—- Conversation Notes and My Quiz Questions —

Amber mentions “Christmas-abilia” – this is not a word! She just made it up. She meant ‘bits and bobs relating to Christmas, like decorations and things in her flat.

It sounds like “memorabilia” which means: ​objects that are collected because they are connected with a person or event that is thought to be very interesting. (Cambridge Dictionary)

e.g. Beatles memorabilia, or memorabilia from the royal wedding. Stuff like this:

 

Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle next May.

  • Who is Meghan Markle?
    An actress from the TV show “Suits”
    Background – Rachel Meghan Markle[5][6] is of Dutch, English, and Irish descent through her father. Don’t know about her Mum but apparently she was African-American. She was born on August 4, 1981, in Los Angeles.[7] Describing her parents, she has said, “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African-American … I have come to embrace [this and] say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident, mixed-race woman.” [8] (Wikipedia)
    Divorced
    American
    Catholic (sounds like Wallace Simpson – the woman Edward VIII chose to marry)
  • What do we think of her?

Royal Family Quiz – Luke’s Questions

How much does it cost the UK taxpayer per year (on average) to maintain the royal family?

About 66p in 2016. That’s the part that comes from the treasury.

The family also gets money from other places. (see article)

Where do the royals get their money from?

2 or 3 main sources.

Sovereign Grant – about 15% of the profits made by the Crown Estate. That’s money made from all the properties owned by the Queen. I’m not sure how the money comes in – it’s probably rent, ground rent, entry fees for visitors etc. All that money goes to the government, who give back 15% of it two years later.

The Privy Purse – profits from all the land and assets that have been owned by the royal family for generations. Residential, commercial and agricultural properties. It’s about 184 km2. Between 2015-2016 that was about £17.8m. That pays for expenses incurred by other members of the family.

Private savings and personal fortune. The Queen herself owns properties which she inherited from her father, including Balmoral castle in Scotland. She also has a large art collection apparently. This is all worth about £340m.

www.businessinsider.com/where-does-the-royal-family-get-money-2017-1?IR=T

Who was Edward VIII and what did he do?

How many monarchs can you name from the Queen back?
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_monarchs

Who has to die for Harry to take the throne? (Can you tell me the line of succession?)
The Queen, Prince Charles, George, Charlotte – they all have to go before Harry can become king.

Queen – Charles – William – George – Charlotte – Harry – Harry’s Kids (none) – Andrew – Andrew’s kids (Beatrice and Eugenie) – Edward – Edward’s kids – Anne – Anne’s kids – no idea.

Queen Elizabeth II (born 1926)
(1) Charles, Prince of Wales (b. 1948) B D W
(2) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (b. 1982) B D W
(3) Prince George of Cambridge (b. 2013) B D W
(4) Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (b. 2015) B D W
(5) Prince Henry of Wales (Prince Harry) (b. 1984) B D W
(6) Prince Andrew, Duke of York (b. 1960) B D W
(7) Princess Beatrice of York (b. 1988) B D W
(8) Princess Eugenie of York (b. 1990) B D W
(9) Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (b. 1964) B D W

Which living royals (in the nuclear family) are divorced? Did they have affairs?
Charles
Anne
Andrew
(Diana, Sarah Ferguson – both had affairs which were leaked in the press)

Which royal was once given a toe-job?
Fergie’s Toe-Sucking Scandal

What gives the monarch his/her power?
It’s a covenant with god! Haven’t you seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

What would happen if the Queen murdered someone?
Nothing, apparently. She can’t be prosecuted. Amber disagrees.

True or false?

  • The Queen has her own poet. True – poet laureate is officially the poet to the monarch and is paid in sherry. TRUE
  • The Queen can fly and regularly pilots her own helicopters and light aircraft. Her favourite is a Harrier Jump Jet which she sometimes flies over Dartmoor where she enjoys blowing up deer. FALSE
  • By law, all pubs in the UK must display a picture of the Queen behind the bar. FALSE
  • The Queen and Winston Churchill once had an affair. FALSE
  • The Queen doesn’t really like Scottish people. FALSE
  • The Queen smokes cigarettes. FALSE
  • The Queen smokes pot. DUNNO – probably FALSE. Queen Vic used it.
  • The Queen owns all dolphins which swim in British waters. TRUE
  • The Queen owns all the Swans on the River Thames. TRUE
  • The Queen writes ‘the laws of the land’. FALSE – she gives them ‘royal assent’.
  • The Queen is in charge of the government, including the PM. FALSE – not really in charge of them, but she officially invites them to form a government on her behalf.
  • The Queen’s powers include visa free travel, veto (refusal of royal assent) and invisibility. TRUE (except the invisibility – we think)

Will Megan be a princess when she marries Harry?

Which member of the royal family talks to trees and believes in homeopathy?

Outro Transcript

What you just heard there was The Queen’s speech from 2015. That was actually the Queen’s voice. Have you heard her speak before?

She speaks in a heightened RP, or as some might say “very posh English”.

I don’t know if you can recognise it, but to me it’s unmistakable. For you it might just sound like clear speech (which it is – she does speak very clearly), but for me there are certain features of her voice that are a dead giveaway that this person is really posh, and honestly this kind of “posh” accent isn’t how most people speak. For example, my Dad and I speak clearly but we don’t have this posh accent.

Every now and then I’ll hear someone speaking with this kind of accent and it’s a sign that they come from an upper-class background. There’s a lot more to say about this subject and I intend to explore it further in later episodes.

Anyway, thank you for listening to this episode. I look forward to reading your responses in the comment section.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and if you are celebrating Christmas this year I hope you’re starting to get into the Christmas spirit.

By the way, our baby hasn’t arrived yet, but it could be any day now. I don’t know how that will affect the podcast, but if there are no new episodes for a week or two, that’s why. I think I should be able to record something for you, so I don’t think there will be a big delay, but anyway – if you don’t hear from me from a bit, it’s probably because I’m changing nappies, dealing with visiting family members, and generally in a sleep deprived condition.

Alright then, thanks for listening and speak to you soon I hope.

For now, bye bye bye!

Harry & James Hewitt 

They look pretty similar, don’t they? 

497. Film Club: Withnail & I (with James and Will)

Talking about a classic British film which not many learners of English know about. Listen for explanations of the film, its appeal, descriptions of the characters and events, the type of people who like the film and a few bits of dialogue too. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I am going to be talking about a cult classic of British cinema – a film called Withnail & I.

This is a slightly ambitious episode because in my experience this film is usually very difficult for learners of English to fully appreciate. Even the title of the film somehow fails to register with many people when I tell them.

“Can you recommend British films?” one of my students might say.
And I say “Yes, definitely. You should watch Withnail & I”
And the person’s face creases into an expression of “what was that you just said?”
“Withnail and I” I repeat.
But still, this clearly just seems like a noise to this person.
He doesn’t know what to write. He doesn’t know how many words that is. He doesn’t know how to spell “Withnail and I”. He’s lost for a moment.
So I write it on the board “Withnail and I”.
Still, this doesn’t help much. The person doesn’t even recognise the word “Withnail”. It’s difficult to spell, it’s difficult to pronounce, it doesn’t seem to mean anything.

Then I think – “There’s no way this guy is going to enjoy this film, he can’t even get past the title.”

But something inside me says – “Luke, Luke… I am your father…” No, it says “Luke, you need to make these people watch this film. It is your duty as a British person teaching people your language and culture. These people need to see this film. They need to know what a Camberwell Carrot is, they need to know about cake and fine wine, they need to know why all hairdressers are under the employment of the government. It is your duty Luke, to teach these people about the wonderful world of Withnail and I – even if they don’t want it!”

So now I feel duty bound to tell you all about this cult British film. By the way, the title of the film “Withnail and I” – these are just the two characters in the film. Withnail and another guy whose name we don’t know. He’s simply “I”.

If you’re interested in British films, if you like slightly dark comedies with good acting, interesting characters, an excellent script and some top level swearing – this is a film for you.

You might never have heard of it, I realise, and that’s partly why I’m doing this episode. I like to recommend things that you might not know.

Withnail and I is a cult film which means it’s very very popular with a certain group of people. It’s not a mass-appeal sort of film. It might not be the film you think of when you consider typical “British films” – you might think of something like Love Actually or a Jane Austen adaptation, but Withnail & I is a film that you will definitely know if you a proper lover of British films. It is a cult classic and those who love it – really love it with a passion as if they’ve lived the film themselves in their own lives.

But not everybody gets it. Certainly, in the UK it is very highly regarded by people who have a special love for films, but it’s not a film like Four Weddings or James Bond which seem to appeal to everybody. Plenty of Brits don’t get it. Also learners of English hardly ever know about it (because in my experience most learners of English understand British cinema as things like Hugh Grant, Harry Potter and even Mr Bean). It can be a difficult film to understand if you’re not a native speaker from the UK. It’s not well known in the USA even.

But as I said, it’s a cult success in the UK.

Cult has two meanings. A cult can be a sort of small religious group devoted to a particular person, but when cult is used as an adjective with something like “film” then it means that this film is extremely popular with certain people.

  • What kinds of people like this film?
  • Why do people love this film so much?
  • What is the appeal?
  • What can this film tell us about British culture?
  • Why should you as a learner of English take any interest in this film at all?
  • How can you learn some real British English from this?

Let’s find out in this episode of Luke’s Film Club on Luke’s English Podcast all about Withnail & I.

I’m a huge Withnail & I fan but in this episode I’m also joined by several other Withnail fans who are very keen to talk to you about one of their favourite films.

Those two fans are my brother James and his mate Will.

I just sincerely hope that we can somehow explain this film and its appeal, and make this interesting for you to listen to (that’ll be hard considering it’s three blokes with similar voices talking about an obscure film that you’ve probably never seen).

***

Links & Videos

The Wall of Withnail – superfan Heidi’s collection of objects seen in the background of Withnail & I. wall-o-withnail.blogspot.fr/

Withnail and Us – a great documentary about the making of the film, by the people who made the film.

Bruce Robinson interview

Bruce Robinson & Richard E Grant at the London BFI

The Hamlet Monologue (Act 2, Scene 2, Page 13)

“I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither.”

In plain English:

“Recently, though I don’t know why, I’ve lost all sense of fun —the whole world feels sterile and empty. This beautiful canopy we call the sky—this majestic roof decorated with golden sunlight—why, it’s nothing more to me than disease-filled air. What a perfect invention a human is, how noble in his capacity to reason, how unlimited in thinking, how admirable in his shape and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! There’s nothing more beautiful. We surpass all other animals. And yet to me, what are we but dust? Men don’t interest me. No—women neither.”

Outtro

What you just heard there is the final scene of the film in which Withnail repeats lines from Hamlet by Shakespeare and it’s quite a tragic ending, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens.

So that was an ambitious episode! I honestly think this one is as ambitious as the one about the rules of cricket. All the way through that conversation alarm bells were ringing in my head.

Sometimes I get alarm bells when I’m teaching. From experience I know what my learners of English will and won’t understand. For example, if there’s a listening that we’re doing and it contains a few phrasal verbs or connected speech or a specific accent, the alarm bells ring in my head and sure enough none of my students have understood it.

So for this episode alarm bells are ringing like mad. First of all the film is like kryptonite to students of English (which is a pity because there’s a lot to enjoy), but also because you were listening to three guys talking with fairly similar voices in a comfortable way – meaning, not graded for learners of English to make it easier, and also we’re talking about a film that you’ve probably never seen. Also the little clips in particular were, I’m sure, rather difficult to follow.

So a big well done if you made it this far. I promise you that this film is an absolute gem and if you give it a chance it will actually improve your life.

I have talked about this film on the podcast before and in fact I do remember getting a message from a listener who said that she had watched the film on my recommendation with her boyfriend and that now they enjoy repeating lines from the script when they are about the house.

So if they can get into it then you can too, although of course this film is not for everyone, that’s why it’s a cult film.

I’ve just remembered, I promised to play the Withnail & I swear-a-thon. That’s like a marathon isn’t it, but with swearing.

Withnail and I is celebrated for its swearing and there is a lot of colourful rude language in the film. For the 20th anniversary DVD box set someone edited together all the swearwords from the film in order. This is the Withnail and I swear-a-thon. Now, as you would expect the next minute or so is going to be absolutely filled with swearing so brace yourselves. YOu’re going to hear all sorts of rude words like bastard, shit, fuck and also cunt. Here we go.

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this episode of Luke’s Film Club on Luke’s English Podcast.

Check out the page for the episode for some notes, transcriptions and also a bunch of video documentaries, clips and interviews that are definitely worth watching if you’d like to know more.

Have a great morning, evening, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleep, commute or run!

495. Australian Stereotypes and Cliches (with Oliver Gee) ~didgeridoo sounds~

Discussing stereotypes and clichés about Australia with podcaster Oliver Gee who comes from a land down under. Learn about Australian English, Aussie accent, Aussie slang and exactly what you should say whenever you meet a true blue Aussie, mate! Vocabulary list available. Hooroo.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Oliver Gee who comes from Australia.

Oliver lives in Paris these days and is a journalist and podcaster – he does a podcast about Paris for World Radio Paris, which is a sort of radio network in English, based in Paris.

Oliver’s podcast is called The Earful Tower – and it’s available from all good podcasting apps and online at theearfultower.com/ 

Click here to listen to Oli’s podcast The Earful Tower

If you are a subscriber to my email list then you’ll know that earlier this year Oliver invited me onto The Earful Tower to talk about French people learning English. You can find conversation on the Earful Tower in the episode archive.

This time I thought I’d invite Oliver on to LEP in order to talk about all things Australian.

Australia is of course a country where English is the first language and Australian English is a thing. It’s definitely a thing. I mean, it’s a major type of English in its own right. Everyone always talks about American English and British English as the two types, but of course there are plenty of other types of English – with their own accents, particular words and so on. Australian English, New Zealand English, Irish English, South African English, Canadian English and more…

But let’s turn our attention in this episode to Australia.

Australian English is it’s own thing basically. Originally it was a form of British English, but like American English it has evolved into its own form of the language, with a distinctive accent and vocabulary that reflects the things you might see, experience or feel if you were living in this place which is very far removed from life in the UK. Australian English is also undoubtedly influenced by American English as well to a certain extent.

Now, let’s consider the land down under before listening to this conversation. I want you to think about Australia.

What do you know about Australia?
Have you ever met an Australian? Or been to Australia itself?
Can you recognise or understand Australian accents?
What does an Aussie accent sound like?
What should you say to an Australian when you meet them, in order to impress them?
What are the stereotypes of Australia? Are they true?
And what are Vegemite, Tim Tams and Thongs anyway?

You can now look for answers to those questions as we now talk to Oliver Gee from Australia… (didgeridoo sounds)

Australian Words, Phrases and Reference Points

  • G’day
  • Mate
  • How ya going?
  • Arvo
  • Bail – to cancel plans
  • Barbie – Barbecue
  • Brekky – Breakfast
  • Brolly – Umbrella
  • Choccy Biccy – Chocolate Biscuit
  • Chrissie – Christmas
  • Ciggy – a Cigarette
  • Dunny – Toilet
  • Good On Ya – Good work
  • Heaps – loads, lots, many
  • Maccas – McDonalds
  • No Worries – it’s Ok
  • Servo Service Station
  • Sickie – a sick day off work
  • Stoked – Happy, Pleased
  • Straya – Australia
  • Thongs – Flip Flops. Do not be alarmed if your new found Australian friend asks you to wear thongs to the beach. They are most likely expressing their concern of the hot sand on your delicate feet.

Other references (some clichés)

  • Crocodiles
  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Ugg boots
  • Didgeridoos
  • Boomerangs
  • Flip flops (thongs)
  • Relaxed people
  • Beer drinking
  • Vegemite
  • Selfies
  • Baz Lurhman making a film
  • AC/DC
  • Sydney Opera house
  • Heath Ledger
  • Kylie
  • Koala bears
  • The outback
  • Steve Irwin
  • Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth
  • WI FI
  • Black box recorders
  • Polymer banknotes
  • Wine
  • BBQs
  • Cricket
  • Tim tams
  • Aborigines
  • The spork
  • Coffee

Outtro

So that was Oli Gee from Australia mate.

I hope you enjoyed listening to our conversation.

Remember you can listen to Oli’s episodes of The Earful Tower on iTunes or any other good podcasting service. Find the earful tower episode with me talking about French people learning English by dipping into the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk and search for Earful Tower.

That brings us to the end of this episode.

Thank you for listening .

Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll find transcriptions of the intro and outtro and some notes for my conversation with Oli including some of the Australian slang and other specific words.

Join the mailing list.

Episode 500 is coming up and I’m thinking of things to do for it.

Please send me your voice messages for episode 500 – luketeacher@hotmail.com

One idea I had was to collect audio messages from you the audience – short ones, and then put them all up in episode 500. So if you have any messages for me, please send them to luketeacher@hotmail.com

What I’d like you to say is:

  • Your name
  • Where you’re from
  • Something else, like:
    • If you’d like to say something to the audience
    • If you’d like to say something to me
    • If you’d like to ask me a question
    • How you first discovered the podcast
    • How you learn English with the podcast
    • Anything else you’d like to say

Make it no more than 30 seconds. I know that’s short but it’s going to be a montage of all the recordings and it’ll be really cool if they’re all pretty short.

So about 30 seconds and don’t forget to say your name and where you’re from. It’s not a competition this time but more of a celebration. I can’t believe I’ve done 500 episodes and they’re all about an hour each or more.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m very happy to have reached 500 episodes. Why don’t you celebrate with me and send a voice message to luketeacher@hotmail.com

Thanks for listening!

Bye!

Luke