Category Archives: History

785. Crossword Puzzles & Word Origins (with Fred Eyangoh)

Fred Eyangoh returns to the podcast to bring some entertaining and useful word puzzles, quizzes and insights into English etymology & history.

Audio Version (Including 30min+ extra vocabulary summary and intro)

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Video Version (just the conversation with Fred)

Intro Transcript & Vocabulary Notes

Hello dear listeners,

Welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are doing well. Here are just a few words before we get stuck into this episode properly.

I am currently sitting here in my pod room. I got back from my holiday last week. Here we are. Back to normal life, whatever that means these days.

It was a very nice holiday, thanks for asking. I might do a post-holiday ramble episode and talk about it a little bit – although actually there isn’t that much to tell. Just standard holiday things – sunshine, a bit of time at the beach, a bit of swimming pool, a bit of cycling, eating seafood, plenty of relaxing, reading, playing with my daughter, spending time with the family – no big adventures really, no encounters with bears or volcano climbing this time. 

Anyway I might do the traditional post-holiday ramble over the next week or so, we will see. 

The thing is, I actually have a bit of a backlog of episodes to publish. I recorded 3 things during the holiday. So I just want to crack on get them published really, so I might forgo the post-holiday ramble this time. We will see. In any case, freshly recorded episodes are coming, including premium content where we get into the language side of things. 

It’s nice to be back in podcastland, if a little strange. You know when you’ve been away on holiday, there’s a slightly odd feeling of melancholy when you return. That September feeling. That’s how it is for me – a kind of end-of-the-holidays, Sunday evening, going back to school sort of slightly sad feeling that I always used to get as a child and I still get these days as an adult. Maybe it’s a northern hemisphere thing, at this time of year. 

As September arrives there’s that little hint in the air that autumn is here and winter is just around the corner. The kids all go back to school and we start thinking about work and studies again, and the things we’re trying to achieve, maybe learning English in your case, and after all, that is why we are here. 

That’s why I am here right now, talking to you on this podcast – to help you improve your English and to enjoy the whole process, which is so important. Learning English can be enjoyable and should be enjoyable because it’s probably more effective if it is enjoyable. So there. I invite you to enjoy listening to my podcast and to let the magic happen.

Now, I need to introduce this episode and I am going to do my best to keep this little introduction as brief as possible. You’ll see that the episode is long. There’s plenty of good stuff here, from beginning to end. I hope you listen to the whole thing, in several stages if you prefer.

All I want to say is that this episode is packed with English language learning potential. 

There is a veritable Smörgåsbord of vocabulary here for you to notice and pick up, a few more differences between American and British English and also some general inspiration for your learning of English. 

The overall message being – there are many ways to get new vocabulary into your life, but the main thing is that you need to maintain a certain level of curiosity, an open minded willingness to challenge yourself a bit, a certain readiness to be entertained while you listen and study and a focused yet relaxed approach to the acquisition of English through all manner of different avenues.

My guest, Fred, technically doesn’t have English as a first language but he has a really broad range of English vocabulary in his head. He likes to do word games and he reads a lot, and checks new words in various online dictionaries, and explores those words and phrases until they become memorable for him, and he notices them again and again, and he tests himself with word games, and learns new things from the questions he can’t answer, and has fun doing it all. I think it’s a really good attitude. Let’s explore that and do some word games.

This conversation is actually a continuation of the theme of a couple of episodes I did with Fred last year in which we looked at the New York Times Spelling Bee, and also some word quizzes on the Collins Dictionary website (episodes 720 and 721). 

This time Fred came back on the podcast to talk about crossword puzzles in which you have to use clues to find missing words in a grid. Sometimes the clues are quite cryptic and contain clever little riddles which you have to work out. Fred presents a few of these crossword puzzles to me during the episode and I invite you to listen carefully to the clues and try to guess the words with me. There are about 25 different questions overall, but plenty of other words and phrases which come up along the way.

We also talk about the history of English and the etymology of English words which have their origins in other languages and which reveal things about England’s ancient history and colonial past. 

So there’s lots of word quizzes and vocab games, and then at the end a bit about etymology, English history and colonialism.

If you find it hard to keep track of all the vocab during this chat, then don’t worry because I’ll give a quick summary of it all at the end of the episode, and I mean quick. Just to consolidate some of the things you heard I will list the vocabulary at the end. It won’t be the full LEP Premium treatment. It’ll just be a quick a reminder, to recap.

Check the episode page on my website for all the vocabulary notes. There’s a video version too which you might want to check out on YouTube, but it doesn’t contain this lovely introduction or the incredibly useful and generous vocab re-cap which I will do at the end of this wonderful audio version. 

Now, without any further ado, let’s chat to Fred again, and here we go…

Ending

So there you are that was Fred Eyangoh, being very useful there and sharing lots of fun vocab quiz questions and also insights about how crossword puzzles work and also words which have their roots in other languages.

I’ll invite Fred back onto this podcast to play “Plant, dish or animal”, which sounds like a fun game.

My prediction for the episode length

I said 1h36min

For the video version I was very close. It’s 1h34min22sec.

This audio version though is clearly much longer.

Vocabulary Summary

Mini Crossword Clues and Answers

  • Helpful reference for tourists – MAP
  • Dressy short sleeved shirt – POLO (Dressy means smart)
  • They have meters and motors – TAXIS (A meter is what counts the distance and price of the taxi journey)
  • D on a gearshift – DRIVE (In US English a “gearshift” is thing you use to change gears in a car – either an automatic or manual car, in UK English it’s more likely to be called a gear stick)
  • Fighting spirit – MOXIE (Moxie means “courage” or “nerve”, “guts” in US and Canadian slang)
  • Look _____ out there – LOOK ALIVE OUT THERE! (This is something that people shout at baseball players to encourage them. People also say “Attaboy” – “At her boy!”)
  • Football scores, for short – TDS (this is an abbreviation for “touchdowns”, which is of course American English because touchdowns are part of what we call American Football or Gridiron Football, but in the USA they just call it football, and they’re wrong of course, it’s not football it’s hand egg – just joking, they can call it football if they want, because, they have guns)
  • ____-ball – SKEE (Skee ball is a game that you might find in amusement arcades in the USA. To me it’s the kind of word that you hear sometimes in American movies or TV shows)

Fred’s Crossword Quiz Questions for Luke

  • Campaigned for office – RAN (to run for president, for example)
  • Urban air pollution – SMOG (A portmanteau word between smoke and fog)
  • Rowing tool – OAR (also “to stick your oar in” – meaning to get involved in a situation which you shouldn’t be involved in. E.g. when two people are arguing and you interrupt and give your opinion too, but it just makes the argument worse, “Sticking your oar in doesn’t help! Just mind your own business)
  • Kisses and caresses in British lingo – SNOGS
  • It may pop before a toast – CORK
  • Doe’s mate (the mate of a doe) – STAG
    Other related words: 
    buck (also a male deer) to buck (when a horse kicks its legs to get someone off its back) 
    to buck the trend (to do something different than the trend – e.g. to focus on long form audio content, rather than short form video content)
    a fawn (a young deer – pronounced /fɔ:n/ by me and /fɑ:n/ by Fred with his American accent.
  • Angers – IRES (to ire someone means to make someone angry or frustrated, but I never use this word. Still it’s useful to know it and it’s the kind of thing that might come up in a book or something – also useful for crosswords and scrabble)
  • Fuss, kerfuffle, trouble, tizzy, hubbub, brouhaha, ballyhoo – ADO
  • Blocked, as a river – DAMMED (We also have “Damned” as a kind of swear word, which for me sounds the same as dammed)
  • “Hold your horses” – WAIT 
  • Shush – ZIP IT! 
  • Current events? – TIDES (current has several meanings – a current in the water, an electrical current, and also the adjective current which means at the moment *not actual* as in some languages. Also there’s the homophone word currant which is a small dried grape, like a raisin)
  • Drop a line? – FISH (“drop me a line” means “call me on the phone” but you also drop a line when you go fishing)
  • Mini freezer – BRAKE (the brake is what stops a car, and a Mini is a kind of car. To freeze means to stop, so a mini freezer is a brake)
  • Good or bad vacuum review – SUCKS (this vacuum sucks! Good, that’s what it’s supposed to do!)
  • Locale for drawers in the study – ART SCHOOL (tricky – but it’s where you find artists involved in studying) 
    Draw a picture with a pencil
    A drawer where you keep your knives and forks
    He speaks with a southern drawl

That’s all folks!

Leave your comments in the comment section.

Leave a positive review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen.

Sign up to LEP Premium for all those bonus episodes where I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, and the storytime series.

All the very best to you and your English. 

Have a lovely morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again soon.

782. Paul McCartney at 80 (with Sam Whiles)

Paul McCartney turned 80 this year, so let’s talk about this legend of British music! In this one, I am joined by Sam Whiles, the host of the Paul or Nothing podcast. Listen to hear an overview of Paul’s career, and some Paul McCartney stories. Video version of the interview available on YouTube.

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Video Version (with no introduction or ending ramble from Luke)

Introduction (audio version only)

Hello listeners,

Welcome back to my podcast. I hope you’re doing well. Here is another episode to give you some listening practice. This one features a conversation, at normal speed, about a specific topic relating to British culture. 

If you’re looking for lessons from me specifically about language – English vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation practice then check out my premium episodes, and you can sign up to LEP Premium by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium 

The premium episodes always involve specific language teaching. These free episodes might have language teaching too, but also they often just feature more conversational content about topics which I hope will be interesting and motivating for you.

So what about this episode?

Paul McCartney – from The Beatles, and Wings – the rock star Paul McCartney (Sir Paul McCartney in fact) – he turned 80 this year and around the time of his birthday earlier this year I received a few messages from listeners asking me to record an episode about him and, of course, as a big Paul McCartney fan I am well up for this. I think it is a great idea. 

I did a few episodes last year about John Lennon so it’s only right that I would also do something about Paul McCartney.

So let’s talk about this absolute legend of music, a British national treasure, an international star, one of the most well-known British people in the world with the Queen, and someone who we are lucky to have with us in the world, performing music, releasing new songs and generally entertaining and inspiring us. Let’s talk about Sir Paul McCartney and try to put into words why he is such a beloved and significant figure. 

With the John Lennon episodes last year I spoke to Antony Rotunno who has a John Lennon podcast (Glass Onion: On John Lennon), and so for this one I thought I would do a similar thing and interview a Paul McCartney podcaster, and so my guest today is Sam Whiles who hosts the Paul or Nothing Podcast – a podcast dedicated to the life and work of Paul McCartney.

Check out the Paul or Nothing Podcast with Sam Whiles

Actually, Sam and Antony already know each other. They did a couple of episodes together for their podcasts a while ago, which I heard and really enjoyed, and Antony said that Sam would be a great guest for my show, so here we go.

I have heard a few episodes of Sam’s podcast and I always enjoy listening to it. Sam is full of enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for his subject. He’s very articulate as you will hear. He uses a wide variety of vocabulary and he has the gift of the gab, which means he can certainly talk and talk, which is what you want from a podcast guest.

But, get ready -because I predict that this one could be a challenge for you (depending on your level of English). By the way, just in case you are listening to this and you’re not familiar with my podcast – my show is for learners of English. I like to present natural conversations and monologues as listening practice for learners of English around the world.

So, for some of my listeners, this episode could be a challenge. I say that because Sam speaks pretty quickly, he has a slight regional accent (and learners of English often find that more difficult) and in our conversation we make references to some things you might not know about – like Paul’s work – the names of albums, the names of songs, the names of projects, the names of other people in Paul’s life, etc. So this one might be a challenge for you for those reasons. 

But as usual I really hope you stick with this as, hopefully there will be plenty to learn and enjoy from this chat.

The aims of this conversation are, on the one hand to explain the appeal of Paul McCartney and on the other hand to simply to present an enthusiastic conversation about him.

First you’ll hear me get to know Sam a little bit including where in England he comes from.

Then I ask Sam how he got into The Beatles and why he chose to focus on Paul McCartney in particular for his podcast. 

I ask Sam to give us a short history of Paul’s life, which he does with amazing speed. He manages to cram a lot of important moments and events in Paul’s whole life into just a few minutes. It’s a bit of a whirlwind tour of Paul’s career.

We talk about how Paul’s image has changed over the years, why he is now (arguably) more celebrated than at any other time in his life and then we share a few stories and anecdotes about Paul – seeing him perform live, moments when people we know have met him and some of our favourite Paul McCartney stories.

And of course there are some Paul McCartney impressions or caricatures – where we copy Paul’s voice and mannerisms. Long term listeners will know that I just can’t help myself in that department.

There is a video version of this on YouTube as well – just the conversation part with Sam – this wonderful introduction is only available in the audio version, and that’s also true for the bit where I ramble at the end. Those bits are only in this audio version. The video is just the conversation with Sam, and have a look at that because the visual elements might help you and you really need to check out Sam’s shirt and his Zoom background too.

OK, that’s enough of an introduction from me.

Are you ready? Are you ready for some intense listening practice, to meet my wonderful guest Sam Whiles and to learn a thing or two about the living legend that is Paul McCartney? So, here we go!


Listen to the audio version to hear 30 extra minutes of rambling about Paul McCartney…

781. Film Club: Monty Python & The Holy Grail (revisited ) with Antony Rotunno [LEP / Film Gold SwapCast]

Talking to Antony Rotunno about a classic British comedy film which makes fun of the legend of King Arthur (and everything else!) Originally published by Antony on his Film Gold podcast earlier this year.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast!

This episode is called Film Club: Monty Python & The Holy Grail (revisited) with Antony Rotunno [LEP / Film Gold SwapCast].

I think the best way to give an introduction to this is just to explain the title. So let me do that.

I will try to keep this short, and I will probably fail.

Film Club

As you may know, from time to time I do these film club episodes in which I talk about films that I love. The idea is that I want to introduce you to films in English which I think are great, and which you might enjoy too and watching films can help with your learning of English as I have discussed before. You can watch these films in English with or without the English subtitles. I recommend doing a bit of both. Sometimes with subtitles, and sometimes without.

The idea is that you can listen to this episode and get to know the film through our comments and descriptions, then watch the film and hopefully understand and appreciate it a bit better, or just listen to this without watching the film at all if you prefer. There are a few audio clips from the film included, for educational purposes of course, so you will be able to hear some moments and scenes. 

Some of you will know the film already ← and if that is the case, congratulations – you get bonus points. If you know the film already, hopefully we will still be able to tell you something new about it, because there is a lot to say.

I hope you can get access to the film somehow. There’s always the DVD or BlueRay version if you still have a player, and at the time of recording this, I can see that Monty Python & The Holy Grail is available on Netflix, with subtitles in various languages and everything. I’ve also found the entire film on YouTube and it’s been there for 3 years, so you might be able to watch it there. I’ll include a link to that on the page for this episode, where you can also read this whole introduction transcript if you want. 

https://youtu.be/N8edjriU3is

Monty Python & The Holy Grail

The film we’re talking about here is a British comedy film from 1975, by Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Just in case you don’t know, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a group of comedians who did a TV series, some films, some stage shows and some audio albums, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s. 

The members are/were John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle. Sadly, Graham Chapman and Terry Jones are no longer with us.

They are/were all British, except for Terry Gilliam who is originally from the USA. 

This film is a ridiculous but very clever comedy adventure story about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This fits in quite nicely with the recent episode with my dad about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as I will say in a moment.

King Arthur is a mythical king from British history. We think he’s mythical, but there might have been a real King Arthur once upon a time who the myths are based on, but we’re not sure. 

But certainly there are various stories about Arthur in British culture, including legends about him searching for the Holy Grail – the cup which Jesus drank from during the Last Supper, which may or may not have found its way to the British isles at some point, and also stories of how Arthur first became King by either pulling a magic sword, called Excalibur, out of a rock, or by being given the sword by The Lady of the Lake – a magical enchantress or fairy – a supernatural woman who, in these old stories emerged from a lake to give the sword to Arthur, signifying that he had a god given right and duty to be the King and to unite the whole country. It’s sort of an origin story of the Royal Family, kind of, but also just a romantic tale which has been told again and again and again, particularly in England for many centuries. 

With this film, the Monty Python team decided to make a comedy version of the story of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail, set in medieval times.

The connection to the episode about Sir Gawain and the Green Night with my dad is that that is also a folklore story from the Arthurian legends – the set of stories associated with King Arthur and his Knights (that’s knights with a K). 

Monty Python & The Holy Grail, although a comedy, does also contain many of the same themes that are present in Sir Gawain & The Green Knight. There is honour, there is a quest into the unknown, there are games and challenges from various characters and beasts along the way, there is a temptation scene, there is an enchantress, there are duels with mysterious and deadly enemies but of course this film is a parody of all those idea – a joke version, making fun of all those tropes of medieval romantic adventures. The film is an affectionate parody of that whole story archetype. It also makes fun of plenty of other things as we will discuss.

Revisited

I am revisiting this film on the podcast with this episode (talking about it again). I say that because I did an episode about this film on the podcast in 2014. Long-term listeners should remember that. It is in the archive if you want to check it out – episode 202. 

In that one I focused on just one scene from the film, in a lot of detail, breaking down all the language bit by bit, to help you understand it all. If you haven’t heard that – let me recommend it. It should be a good addition to this episode and you will hear me fully dissecting all the language and comedy in what is probably my favourite scene in the film. We also talk about that scene a little bit in this episode.

This time though, we’re dealing with the whole film, discussing it and giving an overview of the entire thing, how it was made, what it all means (if it means anything), and what happens in the story scene by scene.

With Antony Rotunno

The other person you will hear in this episode is Antony Rotunno. You’ve heard Antony a few times on this podcast now, most recently in the episode about Meditation. Antony is an English teacher, a podcaster and a musician from England.

LEP / Film Gold Swapcast

A swapcast is when two podcasts publish the same audio recording. So, this recording was first published by Antony on his film podcast earlier this year. His film podcast is called Film Gold. He edited this episode and published it in February. Antony said I could publish it on my podcast too so here you go. 

No doubt this episode will be epically long, which I think is totally fine I must say. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you don’t have to listen to it in one go. If you are using a podcast app on your phone you can pause any time, go and live your life for a while, and when you come back to the episode your podcast app will remember where you stopped. So, here’s a nice long episode for you to enjoy in your own time.

One note: If you are listening to this on YouTube and you want to activate the automatic subtitles, I have a suspicion that they won’t be available. I always activate the automatic subtitles on my YouTube videos, but sometimes YouTube just says “no”. I suspect that might be the case this time, which is a pity. So you might just have to survive without subtitles this time and focus on your listening skills rather than your reading skills. If it’s any consolation, my other episode about this film (ep 202) does have plenty of notes and scripts, which you will find on my website.

So in a moment LEP is going to transform into Film Gold, hosted by Antony with me as his guest. I must say thank you to Antony for doing all the editing and production work and allowing me to publish this here for my audience to enjoy. 

I would like to recommend Antony’s other podcasts to you again. He’s got three. You can find them wherever you get your podcasts.

Right then. In a moment you’re going to hear the pleasant sounds of Antony’s Film Gold intro music and then lots of sound effects, fanfares and crazy madness for a minute or two. 

If you wonder what that is, it’s the audio from the original movie trailer for Monty Python & The Holy Grail. 

As you will hear, one of the jokes in the trailer is that the person doing the voice over keeps being fired and replaced. We start with a cheesy American announcer, then we get a couple of English guys who can’t really read very well and finally the voice over is done by a person speaking what I think is Chinese (although I’m not sure exactly what variety of Chinese it is – please feel free to confirm or deny in the comment section). 

The trailer is typically crazy, and there are lots of little clips from the film and sound effects. If you’re wondering what’s going on, basically you are being transported into the madcap world of Monty Python, and then you will hear Antony’s voice and you’ll know that you are in the comfortable surroundings of the Film Gold podcast.

Right, so without any further ado, let’s stop my introduction so you can hear another introduction to this introduction to the introduction to the film of Monty Python & The Holy Grail. 


Other Links & Videos

The Camelot Song

Brave Sir Robin complete song

The Holy Grail on Location (BBC Documentary)

Rob Ager’s Holy Grail analysis videos

LEP Episodes with Rob Ager (Film analysis)

Monty Python Live at Drury Lane

Monty Python Live at The Hollywood Bowl

779. [2/2] Poetry Reading: Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (by Simon Armitage)

Luke reads verses from a modernised version of this medieval poem, considered one of the masterpieces of Middle English literature. Listen to hear the rhyme and rhythm of the poetry, the descriptive vocabulary and details of the story, with vocabulary explanations and comments from Luke. This is part 2 of a double episode about this story. Video version available with on-screen text.

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Video Version with on-screen text 👇

Part 1 with Rick Thompson 👇

Book Title

Sir Gawain and The Green Knight by Simon Armitage, published by W. W. Norton & Company (available in all good bookshops)

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Welcome to episode 779 of my podcast for learners of English. This is in fact part 2 of a 2-part episode. 

In part 1 of this (episode 778), I talked to my dad about an old poem from the medieval period in Britain.

The poem is basically a really mysterious and wonderfully descriptive adventure about a knight from King Arthur’s table at Camelot. 

King Arthur was a mythical king of Britain who people told and wrote stories about, many centuries ago. 

We’re not sure if he really existed, if the stories about him are all fictional, or some combination of those two things. 

Anyway, the Arthurian legends, or stories of King Arthur and his Knights from Camelot are full of magic, chivalry and adventure. 

Chivalry means the rules that all honourable knights had to follow – a code of honour. 

Anyway, the poem I talked about with my dad in the last episode is about one of Arthur’s knights who accepts a strange and dangerous challenge. The poem is called Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.

If you listened to episode 778, you heard my dad describing the story of the poem, the linguistic style and how it fits into British history and the history of the English language. 

At the end of that episode I read some verses from a modernised version of the poem, by Simon Armitage.

In this episode I’d like to read some more verses from the poem, but this time I’d like to explain some of the vocabulary and other aspects of the language while I am doing it.

So here you will be able to hear part of a medieval poem written in middle English, which has been updated into modern English, with explanations and comments from me.

Again, the poem is called Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. 

It was probably written in England in the 14th century (probably around the year 1370).

Since this text was discovered it has been studied and translated and is now considered one of the greatest works of medieval English literature.

Modernised versions have been published, including one by JRR Tolkein and another one more recently by Simon Armitage.

The one I’m going to read from here is the modernised version by Simon Armitage, which is available as a book from W. W. Norton & Company – you can get it in any good bookshop. 

I do recommend it. It has a really interesting introduction and it presents both the modernised version and the original text, side by side.

In terms of language, there are three main things to notice. 

These linguistic features or poetic devices were all present in the original version and Simon Armitage has done a great job of replicating them in this modern version.

  1. Alliteration
    This is when the same sounds are used at the beginnings of words.

    It creates a kind of rhythm or music to the lines.


Examples:

a fearful form appeared, framed in the door

a mountain of a man, immeasurably high,

a hulk of a human from head to hips,

so long and thick in his loins and his limbs

I should genuinely judge him to be a half giant,

or a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals.

  1. The “Bob and Wheel”.
    This is a poetic device which can be found in poems from this era.

    Each “stanza” (group of lines) ends with two syllables (the bob) and then four flowing lines which follow (the wheel)

So listen a little while to my tale if you will

and I’ll tell it as it’s told in the town where it trips from

the tongue; 

and as it has been inked

in stories bold and strong,

through letters which, once linked, 

have lasted loud and long. 

  1. Descriptive vocabulary
    The poem is full of vivid descriptions, and Simon Armitage has managed to modernise the vocabulary so most of the language used here is up-to-date and still used by people today.

So, let’s get into the poem.

I’ll read each verse one by one, and then I’ll go back through and explain the language.

You could try to repeat the lines of the poem after me. That would be a good way to practise your pronunciation.

I’m going to start reading from line 130.

Just to bring you up to speed with the story, here’s what happens between lines 1 and 129.

The poem begins by referring to Greek mythology. It briefly describes the fall of Troy and the foundation of Rome, and it makes a clear connection between King Arthur of Britain and those heroes from Greek and Roman mythology.   

It’s Christmas in Camelot and King Arthur is celebrating with a big feast (a big meal which lasts for a long time). 

The poem describes the celebrations, the food, the games they’ve been playing, the decorations, the seating arrangement with all the knights, ladies and their guests. King Arthur’s wife Guinevere is there, and the poem describes how beautiful she is. 

They are just about to start eating, when the celebration is interrupted by something extraordinary.


Luke reads lines 130 – 466 from the Simon Armitage version of the poem.


What do you think? Leave your comments below 👇

778. [1/2] Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (with Dad)

A conversation with my dad about a great medieval adventure story originally written in middle English and updated and translated into modern English by Simon Armitage. Dad talks about the origin of this story, its connection to the history of the English language, and the poetic devices used in the writing. In the second half I read a summarised version of the story and some verses from Armitage’s modernised version.

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Introduction Script

Hello there, how are you? Hope you’re well. Just before we start – a quick bit of news. 

So, my full time teaching schedule at school has ended now and I have about 1 week to work on LEP content, and upload it before the August summer holiday begins. I’m not sure if I will be able to work during August, because “hello” it’s holiday season – my daughter is off school, we’re going on holiday in France and in the UK, and I might not bring my computer with me and so on. So I might upload loads of content this week, which you can listen to during the summer. I don’t want to overload you, but also I don’t want to underload you (is that a word). 

In any case, it’ll be like waiting for a bus again – you wait ages and then 3 come at the same time. This includes premium content. An update about LEP Premium: New episodes will be arriving very soon, including P35 part 2, which is full of pronunciation practice. As you may know, LEP Premimum is still in a transition from Libsyn to Acast and during this time I can’t upload episodes because of a slight issue relating to transferring 6 and 12 month subscriptions, but this is going to be solved very soon, and as soon as it is solved, new premium content will arrive. If you are a premium subscriber on Libsyn (the old system) with a 6 or 12 month subscription, and you’re keen to move to Acast – I will be contacting you soon with a solution to the situation. Just hold on. If you don’t understand what’s happening, check my website for updates. But mainly – just hold on. 

If you are new to LEP Premium, you can go ahead and and sign up through Acast+ – it’s www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium or click the link in the description. If you do that you will be supporting this whole project and in return you will get access to all the LEP Premium episodes (well over 100 vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar practice lessons) PDFs, videos and also you get ad-free episodes of LEP. If you’re wondering how it all works, have a look at my website where you will find all the information you need, including how to access the PDFs and how to add LEP Premium episodes to your podcasting app of choice. 

— Jingle — 

Hello everyone,

In this episode, my dad is back, but it’s not the Rick Thompson Report, so no politics this time. Instead we’re doing an episode that we have been hoping to do since Christmas last year. 

In this one, Dad is going to tell us about an old story from the Arthurian legends – that’s a set of stories about the mythical King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. British legends and folklore. 

The story we’re talking about is in the form of a poem called Sir Gawain & The Green Knight. This long poem was probably first written down in the 14th century by an unknown poet, but the story is probably much older than that, and part of a long oral storytelling tradition.

What Dad is going to do is describe the significance of this story, give us a summary of the plot and also he will make some comments about the history of the English language, and the rhythmic and rhyming style used in the original 14th century version, which was written in what we now call middle English. My dad studied English literature at university in the 1960s and this was one of the texts that he studied, and so he knows it quite well. 

Recently the old 14th century version of this poem was updated by a modern poet called Simon Armitage (the current poet laureate in the UK). Armitage has managed to write a modern version of this poem using modern English vocabulary, but it retains many of the linguistic and poetic devices of the original, including certain forms of rhyme and rhythm that made the poem so effective.

My dad got that version for Christmas and that’s what inspired us to do this episode.

It should be interesting for you to hear the story, hear my dad’s comments about it and learn how this fits into the history of the English language.

In the second half of the episode I will read you a summarised version of the full story just to make sure you get to hear an uninterrupted version, plus I will read out a few verses of the Simon Armitage version of them poem, again, to give you a good chance to hear some the rhythm and rhyme of it uninterrupted.

So, if you are sitting comfortably, let’s begin. 


Ending Script

Well, how was that?

You might be keen to hear more of the story and to hear more samples of the poem. That’s what I’d like to do in this ending part.

I’m going to do a couple of readings for you now.

I thought it would be useful for you to hear a brief version of the whole story, just to give you an overview and to make sure you’ve understood the whole thing. Then I’ll read a few of verses from the Simon Armitage version, in order to give you a flavour of the poetry with its distinctive style: wonderfully descriptive language and a particular rhythm, which was originally used in the 14th century version, as my dad described. 

A Summary of the Story

This is a version of the story, from a TED Ed video by Dan Kwartler.

Credit for this version goes to Dan Kwartler and there’s an animated version of it here https://youtu.be/SaQImmPev2o I have adapted this version slightly.

This doesn’t have the rhythmic style of the original poem, or the richly descriptive language. 

But it does tell the story quite briefly. I’m not going to explain all the words here. I might do that in part 2 (If there is a part 2).

It was Christmas time in Camelot 

and King Arthur was throwing a party.

The entire court was invited, 

except for the evil sorceress Morgan le Fay.

The food and drink flowed freely.

But in the midst of all the revelry, 

the castle doors suddenly split open.

A tall knight riding an emerald horse 

burst into the room,

stunning the court into silence.

He was green from head to toe, 

including his skin, hair and clothes. 

Even his horse was green.

Then, in a deep bellowing voice, he proposed a game.

The Green Knight declared that he would allow

the bravest warrior present 

to attack him with his own axe.

If they could strike him down, they would win his powerful weapon.

However, the knight would be allowed to return that blow

in one year and one day.

Arthur and his knights were baffled.

No man could survive such a strike.

How would the Green Knight be able to return the blow in a year’s time?

The Green Knight began to mock their leader’s hesitance,

and Arthur stood up to defend his honour.

But as soon as he gripped the axe, 

another person leapt up to take his place.

It was Arthur’s nephew, 

Sir Gawain, 

who decided he could not let the king be drawn into such a macabre game.

Keen to prove himself as a worthy hero, 

Sir Gawain took the weapon instead.

The Green Knight knelt down to receive the blow from the axe, 

even moving his hair away to expose the naked green skin of his neck.

With one swift strike, Sir Gawain beheaded the knight.

But the moment his skull hit the ground, it began to laugh.

The Green Knight bent down,

collected his head 

and mounted his horse.

As he rode off, 

his severed head reminded Gawain of their contract

and told him to seek the Green Chapel 

one year and one day from that moment.

In the months that followed, Gawain tried to forget this bizarre vision.

But despite the strangeness of the knight’s game,

Sir Gawain was determined to act honourably and fulfil his promise.

When the following winter approached, 

he set out —

enduring foul weather 

and encounters with dangerous beasts

in his quest to find the mysterious Green Chapel.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, he saw a shimmering castle on the horizon.

The castle’s lord and lady were thrilled to help such an honourable guest,

and informed him that the Green Chapel was only a short ride away.

They implored Gawain to rest at their home until his meeting with the Green Knight.

Thrilled at this news, Gawain happily accepted their offer.

However, in exchange for this hospitality,

the lord made a strange request.

Over the next three days, he would go hunting 

and every night he would share whatever he caught with Gawain.

In return, Gawain must give him whatever he’d gained during his day at the castle.

At first, Gawain was perplexed by these strange terms.

But the lord’s meaning became quite clear the next day,

when his wife tried to seduce Gawain.

To rebuff the lady’s advances without offending her honour,

Gawain allowed one kiss —

which he then passed on to her husband in exchange for a slain deer.

The next day, Gawain allowed two kisses, 

which he gave to the lord for a dead boar.

But on the third day, 

the lady offered more than just three kisses.

She presented a magical sash that would protect Gawain

from the Green Knight’s blade.

Gawain accepted immediately, 

but that evening, 

when the lord returned,

Gawain offered only three kisses and did not mention the enchanted gift which he had received.

The next morning, 

Gawain rode out to the Green Chapel—

a simple mound of earth

where the Green Knight was waiting and ominously sharpening his axe.

With the sash’s protection, 

Gawain approached stoically —

determined to honour his agreement.

He bowed his head for the deadly blow.

He flinched twice, 

but then with a massive swing,

the Green Knight cut Gawain’s neck —

but inflicted nothing more than a flesh wound.

Once more, Gawain was bewildered.

Why hadn’t the sash protected him?

And why hadn’t the knight killed him?

Bursting into laughter, 

the Green Knight revealed himself to be the castle’s lord,

and that he’d been working with the sorcoress Morgan Le Fay

to test the honour and bravery of Arthur’s knights.

He was impressed with Gawain’s behavior,

and he’d planned to spare his neck entirely —

until Gawain concealed the sash, 

and this is when the Green Knight chose to inflict the fleshwound upon him.

Filled with shame, Gawain returned to Camelot.

But to his surprise, his companions absolved him of blame

and celebrated his valor.

Struggling to understand this strange journey,

it seemed to Gawain that perhaps the whole world was playing a game —

with rules more wild and bewildering than any man could understand.

Ok, so that’s the story. 

It’s a bit confusing and mysterious.

(Luke gives a quick summary again)

Reading Verses from the Simon Armitage version of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

What you don’t get from that story summary (above) is the beautiful language.

  • Wonderfully descriptive vocabulary
  • Alliteration (the repetition of rhyming consonant sounds at the start of words)
  • The “Bob and Wheel” (a rhythmic device which ends each verse)

There are some extracts from the Simon Armitage version available in the preview of the book on Amazon (other bookshops are available) 

Let me read a couple of those initial pages. 

The way the Armitage version of this poem is presented is that it gives one page of the modernised version, and then on the next page you have the equivalent original text, so you can compare them side by side. 

I won’t read any of the original text because the English is so old fashioned that I frankly wouldn’t be able to pronounce it all. And before you fall out of your chair in disbelief that I don’t know my own language – hardly anyone is able to pronounce sentences written in middle English. Only academic experts can do that, and a lot of them disagree about how middle English should be pronounced. So, that’s not for us. Middle English is almost like another language, so there’s no need for me to read it to you. 

The modern version of this poem on the other hand, is much more appropriate for us, and Simon Armitage has done a fantastic job because as my dad said, his version of the poem manages to keep the same alliteration, the same rhythm, and the bob & wheel –  that structural device where after a few lines the verse comes to an end with a distinctive two syllable break (the bob) and then four lines which follow it (the wheel). You’ll have a chance to listen to examples of that again in a moment.

Simon Armitage, while managing to keep a lot of these literary and poetic devices from the original poem, has updated it using normal modern English words. So this is still written in a literary and poetic style, but these are words that are still regularly used by people today, more or less.

Listen carefully to the rhythm and sounds of this and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m now going to read the first few verses to you. This is very rich in terms of language. Again, I am not going to stop and explain everything here, or analyse the text. I’m just going to read it to you. 

I do plan to do another separate episode in which I just read out some of these verses again and then break them down for language. Hopefully I will be able to make a video version of that too. Perhaps it will be the next episode. We will see. If not, I will do my best to get it done at a later date.

But now, for your listening pleasure, have a listen to this.

Extracts from Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, by Simon Armitage.

There is no script for the verses, but you can check the Amazon page for this book, where you can preview the first pages of the book, including many of the lines I’m reading here.

What do you think? Leave your comments below 👇

773. What do British people think about The Queen and The Royal Family? (with James)

Luke and James discuss their feelings about the Royal Family, with some survey results about the popularity of royal family members among British people in general.

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YouTube version (Automatic subtitles should be available soon)

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and welcome to the podcast. This is episode 773 “What do British people think of The Queen and The Royal Family (with James)”.

Yesterday I came back from my trip to London where I was staying with my brother for a few days. I mentioned it in the last episode. My weekend with James coincided with the celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. You might have seen reports of the celebrations on the TV or online wherever you are.

The celebrations involved a kind of military procession called the trooping of the colour, the lighting of Platinum Jubilee beacons across the country (a series of large flaming torches which are lit as part of a long tradition at this kind of celebration),  a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Derby at Epsom on Friday (a horse racing event usually attended by the Royals), The Platinum Jubilee Party at The Palace (a big entertainment show with live music and celebrity appearances), Jubilee lunches and street parties which happened across the country (although I didn’t see any in the areas where I was visiting in South London) and The Platinum Jubilee pageant which is a sort of procession through the streets led by the Queen’s Golden Carriage. The Queen wasn’t actually in the carriage and so a sort of digital version of her was visible inside the carriage instead (this was a kind of animated projection of her waving from inside the carriage – a bit like a hologram but not, technically, a hologram). 

I was planning to record an episode with James over the weekend anyway, and I felt we couldn’t avoid talking about The Royal Family because people are interested in it and so we decided to make a whole episode on this subject. The plan was to try and answer the question “What do British people think of the Queen and the Royal Family”. It’s hard to sum up what all British people feel about this, and so we decided we could only give our own opinions really, so it should really be “What do James and I think about the Queen and Royal Family” – but we are British people after all, so the original title still works. 

As you’ll hear we tried to be objective and to weigh up the arguments for and against, or maybe to just express the complex feelings that we have about this – complex, mixed feelings because we can see both good and bad things about the whole thing.

So we just tried to express our feelings, but also to deal with the different points of view, and to refer to some surveys and public opinion polls that seem to show how British people in general feel about the Royals.

After recording we were slightly worried that we came across as a bit too negative or cynical towards the Royals and that perhaps we should have had a Royalist on for balance. 

So here is a sort of disclaimer for the episode:  We’re just two people taking and this is just how we feel. Our comments represent a very small sample of public opinion in the UK. We don’t hate the Royals or the Queen but instead we are just not completely sure about the arrangement.

As you listen you can see whether we think the monarchy should be abolished completely, or maintained, or some kind of third way. In any case, I hope you enjoy this episode and that you find that we were able to express ourselves clearly and that you understand exactly what we actually think about this subject.

I also want to say that after having published episode 772 (the one previous to this) in which I made some comments about other recent episodes like Spinal Tap and Sick In Japan – I received a lot of messages from listeners which put my mind at rest – namely that they loved the episode about Spinal Tap and they thought the audience were fine at my talk at the BC. 

I do respond to a couple of those comments at the start of this, but then after 5 or 10 minutes we get properly into the topic of what we think of the Queen and The Royal Family, in quite a lot of depth. I hope you enjoy this conversation and find it informative.

Please leave your comments as usual. What do you think of the Queen and the Royal Family from your point of view. Maybe you observe these Royal events from a distance in another country, or maybe you are living in the UK and see it much more closely. In any case, let us know what you think too.  

That’s it for my introduction. Let’s now travel through space and time into my brother’s living room on Friday 3 June in the middle of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Make yourself a nice cup of tea, get comfortable and let’s get started.


Links

Young People Want to Ditch the Royals (Reuters) https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/young-british-people-want-ditch-monarchy-poll-suggests-2021-05-20/#:~:text=The%20survey%20of%204%2C870%20adults,unchanged%20from%20two%20years%20ago

What do the Brits think of the royals  (The Week)

https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/uk-news/952455/what-does-the-british-public-think-of-the-royal-family

Popularity of individual royals article with a poll (The Week)

https://www.theweek.co.uk/104474/the-most-popular-british-royals

Image by Jhoan Cordoba from Pixabay

770. Boats & Murder (but mostly murder) with Moz

An episode with my friend Moz from the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast. Moz returns to tell us some true stories of crimes in the London area. Expect some smalltalk about living on a boat, some murder stories and an interactive detective game in which we have to solve a murder.

[DOWNLOAD]

English Comedy Show in Paris (20 mins of stand up comedy by Luke) https://www.panameartcafe.com/shop/stand_up/paname-english-comedy-night/

The Murder Detective Story (and advert for Penguin books)

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/children/2018/murder-most-unladylike-quiz.html

Murder Mile True Crime Podcast

https://www.murdermiletours.com/podcast.html

768. English Teaching Methodologies (with Gabriel Clark)

Gabriel Clark from clarkandmiller.com joins me to discuss a short history of teaching methodology in the world of TEFL. The direct method, the grammar translation method, The Audio Lingual Method, the Structural Approach, Suggestopedia, Total Physical Response, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), The Silent Way, Community Language Learning, Task Based Language Learning, The Lexical Approach and dogme style – all these get described and discussed. Learn how English teachers teach you English!

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Video Version (with no ramble at the end)

Come to my talk at the British Council in Paris – 19 May 7PM – https://www.britishcouncil.fr/evenements/talks-english-comedie

Any listeners in the Paris area – This is just a reminder about the talk I am doing at the British Council at the Invalides centre in Paris on Thursday 19 May at 7pm. I will be doing some storytelling in front of a live audience and you can be there if you want. It’ll be sort of a mix of stand up, storytelling and podcasting at the same time as well as a social gathering afterwards, all in English of course. 

I will be on the stage telling the story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital bed, scared out of my mind because I thought I was going to die or something – now, that sounds quite scary but the idea is to make it funny and entertaining. 

It is a true, personal story of travelling, living in another country, and how things can sometimes get completely lost in translation, leading to some rather dramatic experiences. 

If you want to come and be part of the audience – you can. It’s free. Everyone is invited. I will be recording it for the podcast, but if you want to actually be there in the room and have a drink afterwards, socialise in English and so on – then you are welcome. You need to book a seat though, and you can do that at britishcouncil.fr and then click evenements – my event is the one called Talks in English : Le choc culturel – humoriste


761. Why we love The Beatles (Recorded Live at The British Council) + Public Speaking Tips

This is a presentation I did at the British Council in Paris recently, in front of a live audience. First I talk about public speaking and my approach to doing presentations and then you can hear the recording of my talk. The Beatles were a global phenomenon when they first appeared in the 1960s and their appeal continues to this day. The world still loves The Beatles. But why is this? Join me as I take a deeper look at the social, cultural and psychological factors that make The Beatles story so compelling even after all these years.

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Introduction & Ending Transcripts

Hello listeners,

Another day, another new podcast episode. Let’s keep calm and carry on, shall we?

This is episode 761 and most of this one was recorded live at the British Council in Paris in front of an audience of people. I think it is the first podcast I’ve ever recorded with a live audience there and it sounds a bit different because you can hear the audience reacting to things I’m saying and there are some moments of interaction with the crowd and some jokes and stuff. I hope you enjoy it.

As you may know, I teach English to classes of adults at the BC in Paris but also we have some extra events there in the evening. The talk you can hear me doing in this episode was one of those extra events. I’m hoping to do more of this kind of thing in the future – podcasting in front of a live audience. 

Private Online English Lessons with the British Council

Just before we start properly I want to tell you something about taking English lessons with the British Council, which is something that you can do online. Did you realise that?

Are you interested in having private English lessons online with a British Council teacher? Because you can. 

Sometimes people ask me if I am available for private lessons, and unfortunately my answer to that question is usually no. I just spend my time making episodes of my podcast and teaching group classes in the real world so if you wanted lessons with me you’d need to be in Paris and you’d need to become a student at the BC there using the normal registration process and just hope that you end up in one of my classes. 

But, other British Council teachers are available and they are online.

So if you are looking for an English teacher for private lessons, I just want to let you know that the British Council does offer this service now – personalised one to one lessons with a British Council teacher online

And this is great because you can do it anywhere in the world, you can choose the date and time for lessons, it’s totally flexible, you can choose the teacher and you can basically have classes which are designed around your needs completely, whenever and wherever you want, basically.

Want to practise your speaking and have your errors corrected – you can.

Want to work on your grammar and vocabulary. You can.

Want to develop your pronunciation to be a clearer speaker or to work on a more British-sounding accent if you like. You can do that too.

Also, you can have lessons for specific purposes such as for exams, for job interviews, for specific work arrangements, to prepare for IELTS. It’s all possible with these private online lessons because they’re all based around what you want to do and the British Council teachers will design the lessons based on your priorities.

I’ve always said that listening to my podcast regularly (or any podcast for that matter) is an important part of your learning process – the 5 Ls – listening, listening, listening, listening, listening but of course you need to be doing plenty of speaking too and to practise all the other things – the other language systems and skills.

One to one lessons are a really great way to achieve that and doing them online with an actual human teacher face to face is now a completely normal, tried and tested way to do this. All you need is just the right service.

And the British Council does offer that service. 

It’s called British Council English Score Tutors. (Click the pic below for the details)

It’s the official 1 to 1 tutoring service from the British Council.

It’s quite new but they already have 12,500 learners of English using the platform.

There are currently over 150 teachers there.

The tutors on English Score have an average rating of 4.9 stars (out of 5), which is reassuring.

The teachers are all British Council approved and a lot of them are in the UK but there are also British Council teachers living in other countries all over the world so you can find teachers in most time zones, which means, basically, there are teachers available 24/7. So you’ll be able to find someone to match your timetable.

So, why not go ahead and find a teacher for you and book some lessons to really push your English further and gain more confidence. There’s an offer for you because you listen to this podcast by the way – I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

Maybe you listen to me regularly and you’re happy that you can understand me or that you’ve got to the stage where you’re understanding most of what I say, which is a very good sign – why not build on that and get your speaking up to a similar standard. 

If you’re working on your listening and making progress, there’s a good chance you can convert that to speaking and make progress there too. Activate your English.

Work on your fluency and accuracy and clarity and general confidence. 

The 5 Ss  – speaking speaking speaking speaking speaking.

You’re asking – What about that special offer for us Luke?
Yes.

The BC is offering you a first introductory session for just $1, just so you can see if you like it.

So the first session is just $1. 

You can try it and see if you like it.

There’s no pressure or obligation to continue after that.

But if you do choose to buy a pack of lessons (normally about 20 hours or something) the BC will throw in a free lesson for you because you’re a LEPster.

So, the first lesson is just $1. 

If you like it you can buy a pack of lessons with a teacher, and get a free lesson included because you’re a LEPster.

Sounds pretty good right?

This could be your way to really work on your speaking as well as your listening.

Think about it. Could be a really good move.

Young learners – they do young learners too. There are classes available for 13-17 year olds and you get the same deal.

To find out more and to get that special offer of the free lesson go to teacherluke.co.uk/english or click the PRIVATE LESSONS button on my website menu.

The link is also in the description of this episode.

You’ll only get that free lesson if you enter the website through my link though.

So, obviously, do that then.

teacherluke.co.uk/english

All right then. Let’s begin the episode properly. Here’s the jingle.


761. Why we love The Beatles (Recorded Live at The British Council)

Hello listeners! Welcome back to the podcast. Let’s get back to some normal podcasting, shall we? OK then.

This is #761 Why we love The Beatles (Recorded Live at The British Council).

As you can tell from the title, this episode was recorded live at The British Council in front of an actual audience of people, as I mentioned earlier. 

I’ll play the recording to you in a few minutes. First I want to tell you about the talk I did and how I prepared for it in order to perhaps share some personal tips I have about public speaking. This might seem like another one of my epically long introductions, but it’s not. In fact, let’s imagine that the introduction is over now and here we are in the main body of the episode, and I’m giving you some comments and advice about how to speak to an audience of people – public speaking.

Public speaking is a slightly different skill to normal podcast recording and so it might be interesting for you to hear me doing it in this episode. 

Here’s some context.

The British Council in Paris, where I work part-time, is essentially a language school in a nice building not far from the Eiffel Tower. We teach classes to adults and children and there’s also a exam centre for the IELTS test.

The BC in Paris also offers some special evening events including regular Talks In English. This is when a guest is invited to come and talk about a specific topic at the school in one of our nice big rooms on the 2nd floor. 

Everyone is invited to attend at that means students at the school but anyone else too – friends, staff in the school, other teachers, just anyone who’s interested in attending. 

The speaker does their talk and afterwards there’s a chance to socialise, drink some wine and talk in English together. 

Our marketing manager Phil is always on the lookout for people to do one of these Talks in English, and a couple of months ago he asked me if I’d like to do a talk about anything. I immediately thought of The Beatles, because it’s one of my favourite topics and it’s a very British topic, relevant to British culture and it’s the sort of thing that would probably attract some people. Also the series produced by Peter Jackson called “Get Back” had just been released on Disney+. Phil happily agreed and we put it in the diary.

I decided the title of my talk would be Why We Love The Beatles and basically I wanted to try and explain why The Beatles were and still are so popular. What is the appeal of this group? Why are they so adored by people even 60 years after they first came onto the scene? 

I also decided I’d try and record it as an episode of this podcast.

Now, I know this is another episode about The Beatles and some of you might not be that interested or keen. My talk is called Why We Love The Beatles – but some of you probably don’t Love The Beatles that much, or you just don’t know. That’s totally fine of course. I get it. I’m not here to convince you that they’re the best band. Music is subjective. It’s a question of personal taste.

But I still hope you listen to this, because I might be able to help you understand why people love them.

Public Speaking – Talking to an Audience (Some tips and comments)

I’m now going to give some tips and comments about public speaking and how I prepared for my presentation but if you’d rather just skip straight to the recording of my Beatles talk, then you can move forward to 30:00 (the 30 minute mark).

Let’s think about public speaking then, and doing a presentation to an audience. I just want to mention a couple of things about how I prepared to do this talk. 

Maybe this can help you learn a little bit about public speaking.

So I had to prepare to talk to a room full of people for about 45 minutes. 

It was a fairly small audience to be fair – about 50 people.

Is that a small number or a big number? I don’t know. I’ll let you decide.

Imagine you had to do that. 

  • What would you be thinking? 
  • How would you do it? 
  • How would you prepare? 
  • What are the important things to consider?

I knew the audience would be a mix of adult learners of English (mostly French people and maybe some other nationalities) with an English level at intermediate and above and also some native English speakers.

I didn’t want to write a script, because I wanted to keep the presentation spontaneous. I find that if I write a script then I just get stressed during the talk because I’m trying to remember everything I’ve written and that’s impossible, and reading from a script can take the life out of a presentation. It can take away a certain spark, especially if the person is actually reading from the script on paper and they have to keep glancing up at the room but not really connecting with anyone. 

It depends, of course. Sometimes you need a script because in some cases every single word is vital, and you might have a prompter or something (that’s a screen which shows you your script without the audience seeing it – like in those big political speeches) or maybe if you are doing a best man’s speech at a wedding it can help to have the script in your hand. It depends on the situation of course. But for me, I decided that I didn’t want a script.

Also I didn’t want to use presentation slides on a screen with lots of words or information on them. Slides can be good, but they can also be very distracting. It’s human nature for the audience to just stare at the slides and then you lose the connection with them, and an old rule from stand-up comedy is: if it’s not adding anything, then it’s taking something away. 

Sometimes slides are not really adding anything to your talk, and so they just take away the focus from you and cause the audience to get distracted, especially when there’s lots of text and they end up reading rather than listening to you. No thanks.

Nothing is better than just trying to establish a good connection with the people in front of you. So I decided to do it without a script and without any slides, just like in a stand-up comedy who.

Doing it without a script can seem a bit daunting though, because you think “How can I get it right? How can I be sure that I’m going to say the right things?” 

Basically, in my experience, you have to just try to get to know your subject really well, create a simple structure for your talk, practice a lot and then trust yourself to be able to do it. So that’s what I tried to do. (I’m talking like I’m some expert public speaker here – I’m not, but I do have some experience from teaching and from doing comedy, so I’m just trying to share my experience with you).

In the weeks leading up to the talk I just thought about it a lot, thought about the specific focus of the talk “Why do people love The Beatles?” wrote some ideas down when they came to me, asked friends and family for their advice, talked out loud to myself a bit, imagining I was doing the talk and eventually worked out a general plan for what the content and structure should be. I did write some things down as a script but then I boiled it all down to a list of simple one or two word prompts. I then printed those prompts on some cards which I held in my hands during the talk. The idea was that I could just glance at the card in my hand and then ramble on that topic, hopefully remembering the main things I wanted to say. I also wanted to leave myself room to improvise and respond to what was happening in the room because in my experience, that’s the best way to keep things entertaining and to stop the audience falling asleep at all. 

I also wrote a few other things on the cards in pencil. Just some names, dates and quotes in case I forgot them while talking.

So that’s what I did as preparation and in a moment you can hear how it went.

Let me just say a couple of very basic facts about The Beatles for listeners who are new to the subject, just so you don’t get lost. 

The people in the room for my talk were probably already fans of The Beatles, but you might be new to them.

The Beatles

They were a group of musicians (a band) from Liverpool in England who recorded and released music together from 1962 to 1970 more or less. 

Members:

  • John Lennon (guitar & vocals)
  • Paul McCartney (bass guitar & vocals)
  • George Harrison (lead guitar & vocals)
  • Ringo Star (drums & vocals sometimes)

Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe were members of the band before they became really famous.

They formed in the late 1950s and played live concerts together from the early days in Liverpool and Hamburg until the year 1966 when they were playing stadiums and huge theatres around the world. Then they stopped performing live and concentrated on making music in the studio.

The band broke up officially in 1970 and went their separate ways.

John Lennon was killed in 1980 meaning that the four members could never reunite again as a band.

The Beatles were not just commercially successful. They represented a huge cultural shift and also were groundbreaking in many ways beyond just their influence on popular music. They were also just very funny, stylish and charming and their message was ultimately one of peace and love.

So, “Why we love The Beatles” that’s the title of my talk, that’s what I talked about a couple of weeks ago, and that’s what you can hear now in this first episode of LEP recorded in front of a live audience. I hope you enjoy it…


Ending

So, there you have it. That was my talk about The Beatles at The British Council. 

I am not completely sure if I managed to answer the question of why people love them so much, but ultimately I think I managed to entertain my small audience and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and maybe that’s the most important thing at the end of the day, and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day…

I wonder how that was for you listening in podcastland.

A couple of questions for you. 

  1. Did I manage to tell you something new about The Beatles that you didn’t know before?
  2. If you’re not a fan of the band, did I give you a sense of why people love them so much, including the fact that it’s not just about the music, and there’s more to them than just Yellow Submarine, Yesterday, Hey Jude and Let It Be?
  3. What was it like listening to a podcast episode that was recorded live in front of an audience, and should I do more episodes like that in the future?

Actually, I have sort of already decided that I would like to do more stuff like this in the future and I would like to do talks at the British Council that can also be published as podcasts. 

One idea is that I re-record some old episodes but in front of an audience, especially episodes which are essentially stories. For example, I would love to do the Sick In Japan story because I think it’s long enough, has enough funny moments and drama in it and it’s been a long time since I published the episode (10 years in fact – omg).  

So look out for more stuff like this in the future and maybe a live version of Sick In Japan or something like that. We will see.

Anyway, let me know how it was listening to this as a podcast episode.

Thank you for listening all the way until the end.

If you got this far, let’s think of a code word you could use to show that you’ve listened until the end. Let’s say that if you got this far, you have to use the word “LOVE” in your comment, especially in a Beatles lyric such as “Love is all you need” or “All you need is love” or “The love you take is equal to the love you make” – or in fact, quote ANY Beatles lyric in the comments to show that you have listened all the way until the end, and if you mention that a semolina pilchard was climbing up the Eiffel Tower during the episode, you will get bonus points. More than just 10.

Thank you for listening.

More podcast episodes will be coming towards your ears soon.

Just a reminder – Private Lessons with British Council English Score Tutors

If you’re looking for private one-to-one lessons online with a teacher, check out British Council English Score Tutors.

At least 150 BC Approved teachers to choose from.

Classes adapted to your needs.

All from the comfort of your own home.

$1 for the first lesson so you can check it out.

Then if you pay for a pack of lessons, you’ll get one lesson free because you’re a LEPster.

For the details and to get the offer – https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/english

Link in the episode description.

Nice one.

Thank you for listening! I hope you loved this episode. 

My pod room is nearly ready, for goodness sake. There’s still no electricity connection! A guy came to fit plugs around the room, and to connect it to the earth. He just needs to come back to do a bit of paperwork but of course he keeps texting saying it’s not possible today and then the next day, then he says he can come on Friday afternoon which is a full week after he actually did the main part of the job. Why does everything take so bloody long? Then it’s just a few clicks and switches and I need another hard working motivated guy to come and connect the room to the fibre optic internet and then I will be able to actually get installed and start working properly again. Damn, I can’t wait! I’m buying a second-hand desk from a local company tomorrow (it was supposed to be today but yep – she had to cancel and postpone). I’m looking for a decent office chair at a good price. I will podcast standing up if I have to!

Speak to you soon but for now it’s just time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye bye