🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. 📄 I found this story in answer to a post on Quora.com asking about true scary stories. I thought I could use it to help you learn English. Can you understand the story, and predict the twist at the end?
About 7 years ago I got an invitation to attend a dinner party at my cousin’s house. I have a pretty large family and I had never actually seen this particular cousin before. I had only ever spoken to him on the phone. I was surprised that his family unexpectedly invited me over, but I was curious to finally meet them.
The invitation had an address that I didn’t know and the GPS was unfamiliar with it too. It was in one of those areas where Google Maps doesn’t work properly because of poor phone reception,
so I had to use an old fashioned paper map. I marked the location on the map, tried to get a sense of where I was headed, and set off in my car.
As I was driving I started to notice how far I’d travelled into the countryside, away from civilization. I saw trees, farms and fields passing by. Just trees, farms, and fields, and more trees, more farms and more fields.
“Where the hell am I going?” I thought to myself. I’d never ventured out so far in that direction before.
I drove for quite a long time, trying to locate the address I had marked on the map.
The thing is, in this area, a lot of the roads don’t have names, or the names aren’t clearly marked by road signs. I just had to try to match the layout of the streets, to the layout I could see on the map.
I finally found a place at a location that looked like the one I had noted on my map. I was pretty sure this was the right spot, so I parked and got out of the car.
Approaching the house I noticed how dull and dreary it looked. It was completely covered in leaves, branches and overgrown trees.
“This can’t be it.” I said to myself.
But as soon as I walked onto the rocky driveway my aunt and uncle came out to greet me. They seemed excited and welcoming.
“Hello! Hello! Come in! Come in!” they said, beckoning me inside.
Walking into the house, I asked where my cousin was. Answering immediately one of them said, “Oh, he just went to run a few errands. He should be back later.”
I waited in their kitchen and we spent a couple of hours talking about my mother and my family. My aunt made a delicious homemade pot roast that I finished off in minutes.
After dinner we played an enduring game of Uno. It was surprisingly fun and competitive. My aunt in particular seemed delighted to be playing.
When we finished the game of Uno it was almost dark and there was still no sign of my cousin. My aunt and uncle assured me that he’d be back any time soon. Despite what they said, I decided that I had to leave.
It was almost dark outside and I knew it would be a nightmare to find my way out of this dreadful place after sunset, with no streetlights or road signs. As my GPS just wasn’t working, I asked my aunt and uncle the most efficient way to get to the highway.
They gave me a puzzled look.
“But, we thought you were staying the night?” they said.
I told them I couldn’t because I had work the next day and couldn’t afford to miss another day. “It’s much better if you leave tomorrow morning. Trust us. You’ll get lost” they said.
I shrugged it off and told them not to worry,
“Don’t worry. I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. I could find my way out of the Sahara desert.” I told them.
Looking aggravated, they strongly advised me to stay the night for my own sake. Their body language was weird too as they became more serious and insistent. My uncle stood shaking his head, and my aunt began to move about the place, picking up a set of keys to unlock what I assume was a spare bedroom.
At this point I was getting annoyed and irritable. I sighed, “Fine I’ll stay the night then, but I have to get up very early for work.” I said. Both of them seemed strangely ecstatic that I was staying the night.
As soon as they went out of the room to get bed sheets and pillows,
I ran out of the door, got in my car and hastily pulled away. I know it was rude, but I suddenly felt the urge to get out of there, quickly.
It seemed to take me ages, but I finally found my way back to the main highway and drove back through the night, wondering why my cousin had never turned up.
I got home several hours later than I expected. It was after midnight and I didn’t want to wake my parents up. Climbing over my fence and entering the back door, I noticed that the kitchen lights were on.
As soon as I took my first step through the door, I saw my mom sitting there looking impatient.
Bed bugs in Paris & London, Mosquito hunting in the middle of the night, a home invasion by fleas and the terrors of cockroaches – listen to some anecdotes about encounters with insects with Zdenek who has recently relocated to Vietnam. Also watch out for various insect idioms which appear during the conversation.
Hang out with me for an unscripted and unedited ramble about things like engaging moments while English teaching, how it feels to be about to become a father again, a funny new recording of my daughter speaking English, some recent films I’ve seen, and a recording of me doing stand-up comedy in front of an audience recently.
This is the longest episode of LEP so far, and it’s a solo ramble. Relax, follow my words, hang out with me for 3 hours, get stranded on a desert island of the imagination, and then get rescued. Includes a haircut, a sleep and a t-shirt change during the episode.
My friend Anna has written a book for children (7+) which has a full publishing contract and is available in all good bookshops now. The book tells the story of a boy who accidentally creates a monster when his secret collection of nose bogeys gets struck by lightning! This conversation includes lots of talk of snot and bogeys, as well as stories from Anna’s time as a travel writer.
Sharing a disturbing true story sent in by a LEPster by email. This episode contains some slightly scary and graphic descriptions of nightmare scenarios, visions, hallucinations and bad dreams, but there is a happy ending. Video version also available.
Iñaki’s Nightmare (and how LEP came to the rescue)
Hello listeners, welcome back to the podcast. In this episode I’m going to tell you the terrifying true story of a LEPster who went through a horrible nightmare but was rescued thanks to LEP.
This episode is based on an email I received a while ago (quite a long time ago now). I have been meaning to read this out on the podcast for some time now and I am glad to say that today is the day I am doing it.
I feel compelled to share this story with you and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
I often talk about LEP Ninjas on this podcast and complain that the vast majority of my listeners never get in touch with me, and I wonder who you are, what you’re doing while you’re listening and what this all means to you.
I often say that, but in fact I must say that I do get a lot of correspondence from listeners in various forms – episode comments, tweets, YouTube comments and emails. I love receiving your messages because it really helps me to know that there are people on the other end of this podcast – not just numbers but people, receiving my words and connecting with what I say.
Every now and then I receive a message that I simply have to stop and respond to there and then, even if I’m in the street or something, and there are also some emails which I feel I must share on the podcast with my audience. This is one of those emails.
I absolutely felt compelled to share this particular email with you, and felt it had to be in an episode of its own. So here we go.
It’s a compelling story which you might find fascinating, stories are good for learning English, as we know, I’m sure little bits of language teaching will come up here, and in this particular story I emerge as the hero who saves the day! So, naturally I am delighted to let the world hear it! (haha)
A slightly disturbing story
Some people might find this story a bit disturbing because it involves descriptions of surgery. So this is a heads up about that.
There are references to some physical, body related stuff, but also some slightly disturbing mental images too – some nightmarish visions and bad dreams, let’s say.
You’ll just have to listen to the story to understand what I’m referring to, but FYI the story has some slightly disturbing moments.
I should also say that this story has a happy ending. Things turn out fine in the end. So, if this makes you anxious, then don’t worry, the story ends in a happy place.
So, without any further ado, let’s just get straight to the email which I received from a listener called Iñaki.
I’m going to read it out as it was sent to me. It’s very well-written, but I might make a few changes here and there – I will correct one or two little errors relating to vocabulary or grammar.
Also I will comment on certain words in this story to help you learn some things as we go.
Email Message: Hi Luke: How are you doing? My name is Iñaki and I am writing from San Sebastian, in the north of Spain.
First of all I’d like to thank you for your podcast. I started listening to it some six months ago because my wife recommended it to me (she’s been a premium subscriber for a year or so). I have been listening to you ever since because I think what you do is very entertaining and interesting and I think that my English gets better too.
I know what I am about to tell you looks a bit boring in the beginning but please keep on reading because you show up in the middle of the story.
On the 29th of March I got a surgery operation to cure my apnea.
For your information, this operation took around 6 hours while I had general anesthesia.
They cut both sides of my jaw. Also they cut below my nose to move the position of my palate. Then they put everything together again in another (slightly different) position by using some screws.
All of this sounds a big frightening but it is a very usual operation with very low risk. All the surgery is done from inside your mouth so it doesn’t leave scars.
I took the decision to go ahead and everything went OK, and now I am fine at home and getting recovered but it is also true that when I woke up I felt a bit lost and my mind was not thinking straight and this was the most difficult part of my recovery.
So my operation was on a Monday at 08:00 and I woke up on Tuesday at 13:00. The doctor told me that the operation went fine. After, when my wife came to visit me she also said that the operation had gone right.
So why did I think that this was not true? Why did I start to suspect that something very bad had occurred during the operation?
I can’t quite explain since I don’t think I am such a negative person or I am not so hypochondriac.
But the truth is that my mind freaked out quite seriously and my paranoia was that the doctor had committed a fatal mistake during surgery and now all the doctors and nurses were backing one another up to hide this mistake.
Since this idea was on my mind I couldn’t let it go and it only went bigger and bigger. All of the things I heard or saw fitted perfectly in MY reality. For example, a nurse said to me “Iñaki, why are you so sad? The operation has been v… successful”. So my head went: “why successful? Why not VERY successful? Why did she start the word VERY but she didn’t finish it?”
And this went on and on without control. My wife was with me all the time and she did a great job but still she didn’t manage to get these ideas out of my head. Monday night I was totally sedated with the anesthesia. Tuesday night I couldn’t sleep (and I mean not even a minute) because I was so frightened… Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn’t eat anything.
So by Wednesday evening I was exhausted due to the lack of rest and food. This didn’t help my mind get stronger. So on Wednesday evening I was quite certain that their plan was to let me die on medication.
I could feel that my wife had taken part in that decision. I thought that the idea was that since my life was not going to be worth living it onward, they decided to let me go. Of course, now I see that it didn’t make any sense at all but my mind was not able to work better than that on Wednesday evening.
I accepted this idea and I decided to be collaborative in the process. They gave me medication to calm me down and I could feel that my mind was even more clumsy. My wife told me once and again that the most important thing was to rest, to sleep. In this way the next day I would feel stronger.
For me this was a soft way of saying: “If you calm down and you get to sleep soon, then your death will be more pleasant”.
This sounds terrible to me now but I also think: in some situations in your life you need to lie to the ones you love in order to protect them, don’t you?
I mean, what would my girl tell me in a situation where I really was about to die? Would she clearly say it? Would she tell me straight? I don’t know…
I tried to sleep but this was very difficult because when I closed my eyes I could see some horrible images.
These images were not dreams.
All the time I knew that I was in the hospital and my wife was beside me. So I guess the images were a result of the medication and also my lack of strength.
The images were really terrifying. All the scenarios were dark, humid and steamy. In many of these images there were thick fluids (black, brown, dark grey…) flowing in different directions.
Among these ugly liquids there were macabre things floating: a pig’s mask, the face of my son in the 3D radiography when he was still in his mum’s belly, bones, parts of bodies…. I could also see parts of machinery like gears or parts of motors. These metal parts were broken and I was looking at them from very close and I had the feeling that they were looking at me, judging me… and it didn’t feel good.
Also crazy things like a kid crawling on the ceiling (clearly inspired by the film Trainspotting) or even me crawling on the ceiling. In another moment I was like a video camera up in space and suddenly I went down to the earth, to England and I ended up inside Brian Jones’ swimming pool and I could see his corpse from the inside of the water.
I also had to say no to entering inside tunnels with a light in the end. A couple of times I was brave enough to go inside the tunnels because I thought“OK, this must be it, let’s end it all now”. But then nothing happened….
With all these images in my mind I was not getting calmer, my breathing was out of control and I couldn’t sleep. This took like 2 or 3 hours, I think.
Then my wife came up with a new idea. She said: “Iñaki, what about listening to that episode of Luke’s podcast that you liked a lot? That one in which he read the short story by Roald Dahl? Maybe that’s going to calm you down….”.
Honestly, I didn’t believe that this would work but at least it was something different and since I was desperate I agreed that it was worth giving it a try.
When I heard your voice, the images automatically changed to something different. I started listening to your words, but since the images where suddenly very nice I was paying more and more attention to them and even if I could hear your voice in the background I wasn’t listening to your words anymore.
Now the images where very colourful ones. For example I saw some based on cartoons that my kids see on the TV.
I remember seeing characters of the series “True and the Rainbow Kingdom” and “The Octonauts”. I also saw some very nice cartoons in the style of Sgt. Pepper’s artwork and the Yellow Submarine film.
Among these “visions” I remember one in particular. It was very pleasant and it stayed for a while: there where some magic carpets with stripes of very beautiful colours. They were floating in the air and my 6 year old twins were jumping on them and using them as slides.
They were laughing and having so much fun.
Mixed up with this action I could see pictures floating around in the air. These were pictures of the 4 members of the family together: my wife, the kids and me….. When your voice stopped because the chapter ended I noticed it. I was conscious for the first time that my breathing was very calm. I also was conscious that I was thinking in a more positive way. I was thinking: “OK, maybe I don’t have to die tonight”. Since my breathing was calmer and my mind was calmer too I got more relaxed and I finally managed to get to sleep.
That night I slept and woke up many times but I think I got to sleep a total of around 3 hours. Early next morning, at around 6:00 am I listened to birds singing. It made me feel good because by then I was totally convinced that I would hear that sound many times in the future.
I was also a bit ashamed that my mind had been so confused and I made my wife suffer so much. I thought a lot about you too and I felt grateful that you helped me in my recovery. I was also grateful that my wife came up with this great idea which really made the difference.
But, of course, my mind was mainly with my kids. Can you imagine the infinite happiness of knowing that I would be able to hug them again when only a few hours back I thought the opposite?
All of these words are only to explain to you how I went through a very rough situation and how you helped me get out of it. The moment I heard your voice is the exact moment that I started to get out of this horrible hole I was locked up in. So in the end all of this is only to say thank you. Just because it makes me feel good to do so. Thanks Luke!!! Iñaki
Luke: Summarise the story in your own way, in your own words.
Iñaki and I exchanged a couple of emails after this and he said he was happy for me to read this out on the podcast.
Here is my response.
I’m glad you’re ok with me reading out your story on the podcast. I think it’s absolutely fascinating, and of course I’m always happy to tell the world any story in which I emerge as the hero!!
Joking aside, your experience must have been absolutely terrifying and horrendous and I am genuinely amazed and pleased that the sound of my voice was reassuring for you in those moments.
I don’t know if you’ve heard my Sick In Japan episode (episode 118 – I think). I ended up in hospital in Japan once. I felt dreadful and I didn’t really know why I was there because I didn’t really understand what the doctor was saying. Thankfully it turned out that I was not seriously ill, but the first couple of nights were very frightening because I felt very bad and my diagnosis was lost in translation. \
I thought I was seriously ill and was afraid that I might die. I felt very paranoid and had to work hard to keep my mind calm. Like I mentioned – my experience wasn’t quite as bad as yours, but still – I have a slight sense of what your experience must have been like, and it’s incredible to me that the sound of my voice helped you to get through it. It’s flattering to know that, but also very reassuring and encouraging that my podcast can bring comfort to someone.
I also think your story is very compelling and well-described, so I think it should be fascinating for the LEPsters to hear it.
And, I truly believe that bad experiences become a little better in our minds when we turn them into stories which we can share.
You certainly have a great story there, and I think my audience are the perfect people to appreciate it.
So, I’m very glad you’re happy to let me share it. Hopefully it will provide something gripping for the audience and I really hope you enjoy hearing me read it out on the podcast. Congratulations on your English too by the way. You described the story very specifically and clearly.
In any case, I’m glad to hear that you’re basically back to normal again. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I read it again this morning and I found it very moving – especially the moments when the joy and colour came back into your mind when you listened to my episode, particularly the visions of your happy family.
Have a great week, and all the best to you.
Some words & phrases to review
A compelling story
A waking nightmare
A vivid dream
To have surgery
To have an operation
To have a local anaesthetic
To have a general anaesthetic
To (not) think straight
To suspect that something is happening/has happened
Paranoia / paranoid
To back someone up
To manage to do something
To tell something/someone straight
Breathing / breath
Thanks again to Inaki for providing that story.
Quite a scary one!
I often wonder where you are and what you’re doing while you’re listening to this podcast, and if you have a similar story, don’t be a ninja – let me know in the comment section.
Learn English with another short story. In fact, this episode contains two stories. Listen until the end for the 2nd one. Repeat after me to practise your pronunciation. Learn some vocabulary & grammar in the second half of the episode, with an explanation of modal verbs of deduction in the past and present. Video version available.
Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing out there in podcast land? Surviving?
Here’s a new episode. It’s time to do some more English learning with a story.
In this episode, I’m going to read another short story to you, and use it to teach you some English.
I recommend that as well as listening to me read the story out loud to you today, that you read this story out loud too, and I will give you a chance to do that by repeating after me.
We’ll also look at some vocabulary and grammar from the story during the episode. And if you listen until the end, I will tell you another story too.
That’s all going to come later in the episode. If you’re watching the video version – hello. Don’t forget to like & subscribe.
If you are listening to the audio version. Click the link in the description to visit the page for this episode where you will be able to read a transcript for the whole things. You’re welcome.
Recently I have been looking for short stories to help me teach English, the shorter the better, and I found lots of 100-word stories on several websites. A 100-word story is a story with no more than 100 words.
Anyone can submit a story to these sites. The stories are then checked by the website editors and then published for everyone to read.
The only rule for the writers, is that the stories have a 100-word limit. I think the minimum is 75 words, but the maximum is 100. So, a story with no more than 100 words.
That’s quite a challenge.
The writers need to be very disciplined. They have to choose their words carefully, and as a result these stories are very minimal and manage to convey descriptions and emotions using only a few words.
As a teacher of English, I think these stories are great because it gives us compelling and concise samples of English to work with.
Get the book
I want to just point out that there is a book full of these very short stories, which you could buy.
It’s called Nothing Short of 100: Selected tales from 100 Word Story
OK so let’s start with a story which I’ve selected from the Nothing Short of 100 book.
This story is called DOPPELGÄNGER
By the way, we don’t usually use an umlaut in English → ä
What is a doppleganger?
A doppelganger is someone who looks exactly like someone else, but it’s creepy and scary, like a ghostly copy of someone.
I think the word has its origins in German (hence the umlaut in the title), and translates directly as “double goer”. So your doppelganger is your double, a copy of you, who looks exactly like you and who goes around, walking the earth.
In my case, that would be Luka Modric, the Croatian footballer. That’s what people say anyway, that Luka Modric is my doppelganger.
Yes, he is my doppelganger. I’m not his doppelganger, ok? He’s my doppelganger. I was here first!
We do use the word in conversational English.
We say things like “Oh, I saw your doppelganger in the street today!” (meaning, “I saw someone who looked just like you”) or “It’s amazing, he’s your complete doppelganger!” etc.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever seen someone who looks exactly like someone you know? Have you ever done a double take and been confused for a split second? Has anyone told you that they’d seen your doppelganger?
OK, I’m now going to read the story
Just one question 👇
How did the person feel at the end of the story? Why?
Answer: She felt shocked, upset, sad, surprised and possibly heartbroken. Maybe she couldn’t believe her eyes, because she saw her lover with another woman, or she saw someone who looked exactly like her lover with another woman.
Listen to the episode to hear me summarise and explain the story.
Let me give my comments and explanations, line by line (listen to get my comments)
DOPPELGÄNGER I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you. I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café, and just at the last second, I caught a familiar hand gesture, and looked again. It couldn’t have been you though, my love, because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite. Your heads were too close. She was laughing, that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment, totally in love. I walked on, heels tapping out a staccato rhythm, as I no longer wanted to look at the you who wasn’t you.
It was her husband/boyfriend, cheating on her, having an affair with another woman.
It wasn’t her husband/boyfriend. It was just someone who looked like him, but it still disturbed her because she’s terrified that he could cheat on her.
It was her ex, someone she is still in love with. They’re not together any more. He’s moved on, but she hasn’t.
It was a guy who she loves but they’re not together and she can’t bear the fact that he’s with someone else.
Perhaps she lost her husband (he died) and she just saw someone who reminded her of him.
Vocabulary & Grammar
The you who wasn’t you (Although you normally takes are/were, it is not plural, and so the relative pronoun who is singular)
Just at the last second
To catch (a look at) something (to get a glimpse of something)
Clasping her hand
To be totally in the moment
To walk on
A staccato rhythm
It couldn’t have been you, my love 👇
Modal Verbs of Deduction
Who is that?
I’m sure/certain it’s Dave
It must be Dave
It’s possible (that) it’s Dave-not sure
It could be DaveIt might be DaveIt may be Dave
It’s impossible (that) it’s Dave
It can’t be DaveIt couldn’t be Dave
Who was that?
I’m sure/certain it was Dave
It must have been Dave
It’s possible (that) it was Dave-not sure
It could have been DaveIt might have been DaveIt may have been Dave
It’s impossible (that) it was Dave
It can’t have been DaveIt couldn’t have been Dave
Repeat the story after me, line by line.
Try to say each line with no pauses between words.
Notice which word has the main emphasis (stress) in each line.
Don’t sound like a robot! 🤖
I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.
I was walkingpast the outdoor tables of the Frenchcafé,
and just at the last second,
I caught a familiar hand gesture,
and looked again.
It couldn’t have been you though, my love,
because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.
Your heads were too close.
She was laughing,
that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment,
“This book says everyone has a doppelganger, a mirror image, and if you meet yours face to face, you’ll die.”
Janice, my flatmate, closed the book, finished her tea and toast, and slammed out of the door for her A&E shift at St. Margaret’s hospital just down the road. She loved any kind of fantasy literature, always immersed in some supernatural genre book. Not my cup of tea at all. Give me a good Nordic Noir mystery anytime.
After taking a shower I went to brush my teeth. If you meet your doppelganger face to face you’ll die, my reflection in the bathroom mirror laughed as I recited the words, but they’d begun to worm their subliminal way into my subconscious, waiting to claw their way to the surface and pounce.
One day, a couple of weeks later, I headed for the front door ready to set off into town where I worked at a music store. Doppelganger, I froze as my mind hissed the insidious word. What if I saw me on the train? Or stood behind me in the line at the coffee place? What if I came into the shop to buy a record and had to serve myself? The words shot through my mind. I let go of the door handle as if I had been electrocuted, and phoned in sick.
“Do you fancy a night out at that new wine bar down the street?” Janice bounced through the front door one afternoon, chirpy as a blue bird, her shift trauma-free for once.
“Not tonight, Janice, I’m still not feeling very good.” The image of my other self perched on a stool at the far end of the bar, possibly raising a toast, was too hard to stomach.
‘You haven’t been outside for ages, Natalie, not even for work…you’ll end up getting fired. What’s going on with you?” Janice pressed.
“I’ll meet my doppelganger and die if I go outside,” I burst into tears, knowing how ridiculous I sounded.
“You know there’s no such thing. You need to get help, Natalie. I’ve got a therapist friend who works at the hospital. I’ll fix you up an appointment.” She wrapped me in a comfort hug.
“You’re booked in for ten o’clock this morning.” Two days later Janice grabbed my arm and pulled me through the front door; I didn’t stand a chance.
“You won’t meet yourself between here and St. Margaret’s.” She smiled reassuringly and we set off down the street.
“Excuse me,” a hand tapped my shoulder as we waited to cross the busy main road. I turned around and my shriek froze the blood of everyone close by, before I stepped backwards off the footpath into the path of an articulated lorry.
“I didn’t mean to frighten her,” tears ran down the anguished face of one of the two men who’d been standing behind me. He was holding a large six-feet square mirror which they were carrying across to the framing workshop across the road. “I just wanted to ask her to step to one side.”
Summary of Story 2
The narrator, let’s call her Sue (although I realised after recording this that she’s actually called Nathalie in the story!) lives with her flatmate Janice.
One day Janice reads a line from a scary book she’s reading. It says that if you ever meet your doppelganger, you’ll die.
Sue doesn’t usually believe that kind of thing, but the idea gets into her head and as she is leaving the house one day, she suddenly gets scared that she might meet her doppelganger, and die.
So she decides to stay at home.
In fact she keeps staying at home, every day. The idea of meeting her doppelganger has made her too terrified to leave the house.
Janice gets worried about Sue and arranges for her to meet a therapist, and assures Sue that nothing can happen to her on the way.
Sue agrees to leave the house, but at the main road someone taps her on the shoulder.
Sue turns around and sees her own reflection.
The man who tapped her on the shoulder was trying to carry a mirror across the road.
He wanted to ask her to step to one side, to make space.
But Sue turned around and saw her doppelganger – her reflection in the mirror and screamed!
Then she stepped back, into the road, and was hit by a large lorry.
That’s the end of the episode, but check out LEP Premium.
I’m going to do a premium episode all about this second doppelganger story.
All the vocabulary (with a memory test), some grammar, some pronunciation practice.
I’ll go through the vocabulary and some grammar and I’ll do some pronunciation practice with it too, just like I did with the 100-word story.
My dad returns to talk more about UK politics, this time describing the disastrous economic policy of Liz Truss and her Chancellor (finance minister) Kwasi Kwarteng. Advanced level English listening practice – this is complicated stuff, but keep listening to develop your English skills and learn about what’s going on in UK politics and current affairs. Video version available.
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.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight by Simon Armitage, published by W. W. Norton & Company (available in all good bookshops)
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.
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.
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.
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
and as it has been inked
in stories bold and strong,
through letters which, once linked,
have lasted loud and long.
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.
Listen to Luke reading a text adventure story set in a summer camp. You can read the story at the same time as you listen, or just relax and have fun following this action packed horror story, and read do text adventure later. Includes some vocabulary explanations, differences between British & American English and some very dodgy jokes. Video version available.