Category Archives: Humour

540. What’s Up? Post World Cup / News / LEP Meetup London / Super Mario Earworms

Giving some news, summing up the World Cup, England out, France win, and some chat about music that gets stuck in your head. Get some English stuck in your head with this episode. Transcript available!

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Episode Transcript

Here it is, your regular dose of English listening practice.

The theory, the science, the method:
Listen regularly
Listen longer
Listen long term
Don’t stop! (e.g. when it gets difficult)
In time the results will be obvious to you.
Compound effect.
Time + practice + positivity = genuine progress in English
In a natural way.
All you need is the right resource to listen to.
Something personal.
Something designed for you as a learner of English not native to an English speaking country.
Something made by someone who *might* know what they’re doing!
Someone with the teaching qualifications, but also the experience of just talking to groups of people for the pure fun of it.
Something which has many episodes which you can use to get that English into your head.
Your mission is to get as much English into your head as you can – through your ears in this case, until you get to a point that you’ve heard so much that you start to get a feel for the language.
It’s like the force. You have to trust your feelings and do what you feel is right. The Jedi way – do or do not, there is no “try”.
When you do a grammar or vocabulary exercise you know the answer, by instinct, just because you feel that it’s the right answer. This feels right, that doesn’t. How can you possibly get that instinct without getting exposed to enough of the language in context?
Listen a lot, read a lot, regularly, for longer periods, long term, don’t stop and just enjoy the process.
These are the right conditions in which you can really learn English, and that’s what this podcast is all about.
Yep, this could be the resource for you.
Maybe I’m preaching to the converted, but if there are any new listeners listening to this – jump on board and get involved. Listen to the episodes, get the app, look through the archive list, star the episodes you think look interesting, listen to a bunch of them over the summer. Leave your comments in the comment section and introduce yourself to the friendly and funny people there.
This could be the thing that’s going to help you get the English that you want.
Check out my episode archive – I’ve got episodes about grammar, vocabulary, topics, conversations with guests, funny stuff, serious stuff.
And, I’ve got a premium subscription service where we take things further and really dig deep into the language, examining, uncovering, analysing, explaining, repeating the language which comes up naturally in episodes of this show made by me for you.
All the info you need is on the website of course – the episode archive, notes, transcriptions and the premium service. Teacherluke.co.uk

So, here’s your new dose of English.

What’s going on? What’s up?

LEP MEETUP LONDON
FRI 3 AUG from 2pm
Fitzroy Tavern,
16 Charlotte St,
Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY
Email teacherzdenek@gmail.com

First thing – I need to tell you about a LEPster meetup happening in London. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to make it myself although I would love to join in if I can. But there is a meetup happening with confirmed guests already.

So, attention LEPsters in London or nearby during the summer of 2018. There’s an LEP meetup happening on Friday 3 August from 2pm in the Fitzroy Tavern, 16 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY. Fitzrovia is a cool place, just north of Soho near Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. I used to go drinking there when I lived in London with my old mates from college. So that’s our old stomping ground.

The meetup is being organised by Zdenek Lukas, the guy behind Zdenek’s English Podcast. Zdenek is a long term fan of LEP, and a well-qualified English teacher from the Czech Republic. Every summer he goes to London and teaches intensive courses in schools there.

Zdenek is a big fan of board games, especially for learning English – which is kind of a special area of interest for some people. There is a movement in English teaching which is all about using board games. It’s a brilliant idea. Board games are interactive, they create communicative situations, they’re fun, they involve communicative objectives and all sorts of cool things which are ideal for learning English. Plus they’re a really great way for people to get together, socialise and practice. These are board games for adults of course, not kids stuff.

So, Zdenek will be in the Fitzroy Tavern from 2, joined by an English teaching friend of his from the UK (I think she’s called Claire) and some other LEPsters who I think are already confirmed. You really should join them. You won’t regret it. You’ll make instant friends and you will have an afternoon in London that you won’t forget – if you do it right, and by “do it right” I mean – be sociable, have a couple of beers, relax, let go, enjoy meeting some like minded people and have some fun and play some board games in English!

Now, Zdenek needs to know how many people are coming so he can book some tables in the pub. So, shoot him an email at teacherzdenek@gmail.com.
Wondering what to write? Just write this – Hi Zdenek, I’d like to come to the LEP meetup on 3 August. Please count me in! My name’s _____. See you there!
If you can’t be there at 2, you could probably join them later. You could ask Zdenek how long he’ll be there.
Got it?
Friday 3 Aug, from 2pm, Fitzroy Tavern, 16 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY. Email teacherzdenek@gmail.com to let him know you’re coming.

The World Cup

So I should probably wrap up the world cup commentary that I started in June. The WC is old news now isn’t it? It’s so last week!

Anyway, let me talk about:
England vs Croatia
France’s campaign (because I live here and it got crazy)

England vs Croatia

Perhaps England underestimated Croatia.
Maybe Croatia wanted it more.
Maybe England weren’t that good in the first place, and got lucky in the tournament.
England were outclassed.
Croatia were impressive. Incredibly determined and hard working.
We expected them to be tired. We expected to be able to beat them. But they’re made of tough stuff.
Croatia’s other games went to extra time and penalties. Denmark and Russia. They must have been knackered! But they soldiered on and ultimately overcame England.
Immediately the excitement and all the renditions of “It’s coming home” stopped and it was back to normal in England, and when I say “normal” I mean the general madness of the time – with the chaos of Brexit, our government imploding on itself, Trump visiting and being greeted by 250,000 people in the street protesting against his entire existence, he visited The Queen and arrived late, making her wait over 10 minutes.
What about France and the World Cup?

France vs Belgium (I somehow forgot to say all of this in the episode!)
1 – 0
Showed France could play a different type of football. Defensive, containing the danger of Belgium’s key players.
I saw a documentary about the French team. It was great.
Amazing team spirit. Pep talks in the dressing room. A positive atmosphere from the team in general. So much better than when the French team all threw their toys out of the pram and actually went on strike against the management team. This young team are really cool and get on well.
The crowds outside our flat went mad with a lot of noise.

France vs Croatia final

Don’t underestimate Croatia. Surely they must be tired by now, but they keep fighting. So much spirit in this team.
Some say France got lucky with an own goal and a debatable penalty.
The own goal was actually a great free kick by Griezmann. It did come off the Croatian defender, but it was right in the danger zone and if it had come off anyone’s head it would have gone in. A great free kick, a little bit lucky.
But Croatia came back, controlling the game in the first half an hour.
Then France won a debatable penalty. Griezmann crossed the ball in and the defender was coming down after jumping and appeared to move his hand to the ball in the penalty area. The ref couldn’t see it properly from that angle, so he went to VAR, and then called it a penalty.
Some people are saying the ref was biased but I can completely see how they gave the penalty, but I can also see why you’d be pissed off because it is really borderline. Is it intentional or not? The hand goes to the ball. It’s really hard to tell but the more you watch it on replay the more you think the ref can’t not give it.
France score.
2 – 1
I think at this point Croatia start to get tired.
It happened, eventually. This Terminator of a team, that wouldn’t stop coming no matter how hard you hit them. The comeback kings themselves, got a bit tired. Pogba started linking up with Mbappe and causing trouble for the Croatian goalkeeper. An amazing pass from Pogba to Mbappe led to an attack where the ball bounced around just outside the box and Pogba “got hold of it” and shot, the ball rebounded off the legs of a line of Croatian players and they didn’t know where the ball had gone and you see them looking around for a moment, but which time Pogba has stepped up and with the inside of his left foot has netted it from about 20 yards out.
3 – 1
At this point France show some class and generally have some great runs. Mbappe scores one of the goals of the tournament from further away than the Pogba goal hitting it hard with a bit of finesse, low into the bottom left corner leaving the keeper miles away. Amazing.
4 – 1
Croatia at this point must be feeling pretty crushed, having given it whatever they could for the last few weeks.
Then for some reason the French goalkeeper, Lloris makes a real sandwich of a backpass and cocks it right up by basically handing it on a plate to Mandžukić who was, as ever, pressing the goalkeeper and putting him under pressure. Mandžukić just knocked it in and then it was
4-2
And maybe there was a flicker of hope at that point for Croatia but it wasn’t to be and this French team really proved themselves, time and time again.
They had the more difficult route in the tournament, compared to England. Coming up against Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium and then Croatia, compared to England’s route of Colombia (where they were basically matched – just one pen between them) and then Sweden (who didn’t seem to put up much of a fight). Only when we met a real team like Croatia or Belgium, we didn’t quite cut the mustard.

But France, were brilliant and deserved to win. The thing is about France is that they can be a bit unpredictable and sometimes loose, they can win a game in 15 minutes, by just putting together 15 minutes of play they can handle most of the pitch, especially in that attacking midfield area. They showed that they had some depth and class and could really turn it on when necessary. And a fun, positive bunch of players who have a good future ahead of them.

England too might have a good future because the team is young.

Some people are saying this world cup represents the end of the Messi/Ronaldo era and the beginning of a new generation with guys like Mbappe.

I reckon this world cup has been one of the best in ages. It looks like Russia did a great job of hosting and this will be very good for Russia’s image I expect, with more people visiting and getting an idea of what it’s really like.

But generally the world cup was ace, with some amazing goals and some surprises with big teams getting knocked out early and some new talent coming through.

Next it’s the Euros in 2020 and apparently they’re being hosted all across Europe with the final in Wembley stadium which is brilliant.

By the way, that song “It’s coming home” was written when England were hosting the Euros in 1996 and so in a sense football was coming home in that we were hosting the tournament and it was 30 years since 1966 when England won the world cup. The song is actually about always being disappointed by England but still having hope that they can play well. It’s actually a really well written song with good chord changes and lyrics.

Earworm

I have a serious ear worm going around my head.
What’s an earworm?
It’s when you have music stuck in your head. Sometimes you just wake up in the morning with a song running vividly around your head. Different songs each time usually. Throughout the world cup it was “It’s coming home” for me.
But this week I’ve had a serious earworm going on and I can’t shift it. Sometimes this is annoying, but I’m actually enjoying it.
I’ve had this all week and I’m not sure where it came from.
It’s the Super Mario Kart soundtrack from the old SNES version of the game. The original and best. Pretty much the entire thing!
In the 80s and 90s Nintendo released a series of absolutely classic games. They were quality from top to bottom. Something about Nintendo in that period just oozed quality. There was also Sega and it’s character Sonic the Hedgehog, and he was popular. A very fast hedgehog, kind of a joke. He was popular – but he couldn’t hold a candle to Mario and all the Mario games.
They breathed quality and class. Zelda too.
Visually, in terms of gameplay and also the sounds and music.
Turning on your gameboy, NES or SNES you’d instantly be greeted by an unmistakable sound – a bleep or a ding, and the Nintendo logo. Something about that dinging sound. It was just right. It was cute, it was quick, it was satisfying somehow, it was even reassuring.
Then, all the Mario games – Super Mario Brothers, and Super Mario Kart, and The Legend of Zelda were blessed with really good music and I’m being serious.
I just googled this and it turns out that was all the work of pretty much one guy, who did the music for a stunning number of classic Nintendo titles. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koji_Kondo
I’m probably being influenced heavily by nostalgia here, but I love these tunes and despite the limitations of the technology and software of the time, they were very catchy indeed, and also very melodic and jazzy with touches of bossa nova.

I spent a lot of time playing Super Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda and now a lot of that music is permanently embedded in my brain, and it just comes back at times.

This week it’s been all about Super Mario Kart.

I’ve been teaching 6 hours a day all week, working very intensively, without a moment’s rest on most days, just teaching teaching teaching. The pace and rhythm has been high and I’ve had to be very upbeat for days. Somehow this just completely suits that Mario music.
Let’s hear some.

I actually searched Spotify for the music and found an album by a band called the One Ups. It’s a whole album of Mario Kart music, performed by this band.
Let’s hear some.
This might be a trip down memory lane for some of you.
For others, you might not know these games.
But these are pretty nice tunes anyway. Probably very cheesy and I’m certain it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but let’s just take a sort of trip down memory lane.
Perhaps we can hear some of the originals too.
I actually put this music on when I’m working sometimes.

So I’ve been busy working intensively and looking after my daughter. This is why I haven’t uploaded for a while. Nearly 2 weeks without a normal episode of the podcast.

It’s July and nearly August in Paris and this is when it becomes difficult to record and upload podcasts. I’m not complaining or anything. I’m very happy. But I do want to explain that the uploading of episodes might be a little bit inconsistent over the next couple of months.
There should be premium episodes – I have to provide you with regular premium content because you’re paying for that (well, just the price of a coffee or beer per month).

But anyway, things are hectic. I’m working intensive courses all day every day in July at the BC and then August is holiday season and we’re going away to a few destinations in France.

Usually we go abroad to some far away place but this year we’re staying in France, which I’m very happy about. I want to explore more of this country, which is beautiful by the way. There are plenty of beautiful places here and I want to get to know those places, sample the local food, enjoy the weather, relax by the pool and all that. So, French holidays, mostly in the south. Probably no big adventures this time, but who knows. If there are stories, I will tell them on the podcast.

So that’s it.

3 things

If you’re in London then hang out with Zdenek and other lepsters at the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street near Tottenham Court Road station. Let Zdenek know in advance that you’re coming with an email at teacherzdenek@gmail.com Board games, beer, pub food and good times to be had by all.
Get the LEP app for all the episodes on your phone and a whole bunch of bonus bits and pieces including grammar lessons, stories, vocabulary, jingles, phrasal verbs, videos and more.
If you want to take it to the next level and help me out with a contribution each month in return for a premium subscription you’ll get access to regular language-based episodes focusing on the things you’ve heard in conversations on this podcast. Sign up to LEP premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

This has been Luke’s English Podcast. Have yourselves a great night, regardless of what time of day it is now. I just hope you have a good night – either in the sense that the next night you have is a good one, or the more gothic sense that even during the daytime it’s night time and so you can have a good night at any time if you’re a goth.

But if you’re not a goth then have a good day either today or tomorrow.

For now,

Bye…

534. Sugar Sammy Interview (Part 2) Language & Comedy

Part 2 of my chat with Canadian stand-up comedian Sugar Sammy, talking about his 4 languages, TV shows from our childhood, copying Indian accents, language-related controversy in Quebec, Sammy’s crowd-work skills, stories of difficult gigs in the UK, and our thoughts on recent Star Wars films. At the end of the episode you can hear my spoiler-free review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. Transcriptions and notes available.

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Sugarsammy.com – for news of Sammy’s live shows 

Introduction Transcript

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. Here is part 2 of my conversation with Canadian multilingual stand up comedy sensation Sugar Sammy.

In our conversation we’re talking mainly about language and comedy, and here’s an overview of the main points that come up in this episode:

  • First of all we talk about the 4 languages that Sammy speaks
    There’s a tangent about American TV shows that we both used to watch when we were children, and which actually helped Sammy to learn English when he was young.
  • Two of those American TV shows we mention include Knight Rider (the one in which David Hasselhoff drives around in a super cool black talking car) and The Dukes of Hazzard (the one about two brothers who live on a farm in Georgia who drive around Georgia in an orange Dodge Charger, being chased by stupid local police officers, doing lots of jumps and stunts in the car).
  • We talk about accents and copying accents: Specifically the question of whether I should do an impression of an Indian accent on stage, or if that would be inappropriate or unacceptable for some reason.
  • We discuss a language controversy that Sammy was involved in in Quebec, Canada – which included him receiving lots of criticism and even a death threat, essentially for performing a popular show in languages other than French – in Quebec (they are very protective of the French language there) It was quite scandal at the time.
  • We talk about what Sammy does on stage, especially his crowd-work, which is that skill of improvising moments of comedy by talking directly to members of the audience. This is something that Sammy is known for because he does it very well.
  • Sammy talks about some tough comedy gigs he has had in the UK over the years and tells us a story of how he once got heckled by an aggressive audience in Northern Ireland. Heckling is when audience members shout things at you while you’re performing. For a comedian it can be pretty difficult when you’re being heckled, but good comics are able to react and respond with funny “heckle put downs”, funny responses that turn an aggressive comment into a funny moment.
  • Then there’s a bit about Star Wars at the end – because like me, Sammy is a big fan.
    We talk briefly about Sammy’s favourite episode of Star Wars, what he thought of The Last Jedi and whether he is interested in seeing the new Han Solo film. When I recorded this interview I hadn’t seen Solo, but since recording it I have, so I will talk about the Han Solo movie briefly at the end of this episode, giving my non-spoiler review.

Don’t forget that Sammy will be touring parts of Asia soon – this year probably. He has gigs coming up in Malaysia and Singapore and will be organising dates in China and Japan. He also intends to visit Russia and South America to do shows at some point. So Sammy might be performing near you soon and you must go and see him. To get news of Sammy’s shows so you don’t miss him – visit sugarsammy.com and join his mailing list.

Now without any further ado, let’s continue listening to my conversation with the super cool multilingual comedian from Canada – Sugar Sammy.


Sugarsammy.com


Knight Rider

The Dukes of Hazzard

Peter Sellers in The Party (an English actor performing as an Indian character – it would be offensive but Seller’s impression is spot on according to Sammy)


Solo: A Star Wars Story (No-Spoiler Review)

Notes & Transcriptions

For those of you who are Star Wars fans – I’m now going to talk about the latest film, which in English is called “SOLO” – released last month.

This is a “star wars story” – not part of the Skywalker narrative.
It’s an origins story.
I was sceptical about the film.
Production for the film seemed troubled, which is usually not a good sign – but it’s not necessarily a guarantee of a bad film.
The original directors were fired by Kathleen Kennedy (head of Lucasfilm) because they took the film in a comedic direction and there was too much improvisation.
Ron Howard was brought in (a more conventional, reliable Hollywood guy) to fix it and bring it back in line.

Also there were doubts about the ability of Alden Ehrenreich to pull off the performance of a character who we loved so much, largely because of Harrison Ford’s star power.

I kept my expectations pretty low. I just thought – I’d like to see what happens, I just want to enter the world of Star Wars again and see what it’s like. I was ready to be disappointed though.

The film has underperformed at the box office. I’m not sure of the exact figures, but it’s taken less than it should have and might be considered as a financial failure, possibly even losing money for the studio in the short to medium term. It’s bound to make money eventually, long term, but the general feel is that it didn’t do as well as the studio hoped. Perhaps we’ve all had enough of Star Wars now. Star Wars fatigue, or maybe the fanbase has gone a bit weird. Star Wars has always been seen as an indestructible franchise. But the Last Jedi divided audiences, with quite a lot of fans absolutely hating it. Maybe Solo has suffered from the so-called Star Wars backlash.

But Solo isn’t really like The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have the same subtext of progressive politics, or themes that seem to subvert the core ideas of Star Wars. It’s pretty conventional and straightforward stuff.

What I liked

  • The performance by Alden Ehrenreich. He was charismatic, swashbuckling but also had a vulnerable side – the key things that Harrison Ford brought to the role originally. Han Solo has swagger and he’s really cool, but there’s something a bit vulnerable and loveable about him. He’s quite goofy and adorable, but also capable of being quite a ruthless fighter when necessary. It’s an interesting character and the actor did a good job of hitting those points. It’s not just a Harrison Ford impression. He seems to have got the spirit of Han Solo.
  • The dirty, gritty world.
  • Visual effects were incredible (although the whole film was very murky – intentional? Bad cinematography? I personally like that. I don’t need everything to be brightly lit like in the prequels. I like Clint Eastwood films that are full of shadow and darkness and you don’t see everything in bright contrast.)
  • The absence of Jedi and light sabres – it made a nice change. This was all about just having a good blaster at your side, knowing who to trust. It was like Rogue One in that sense. You got the idea that people could die – they weren’t immortal cartoon characters with superhuman abilities.
  • The train robbery scene was amazing, particularly the explosion at the end. I’m not sure why the empire needs to transport goods by train, considering they totally have spaceships, but it made for a good scene and made me think of old action movies and westerns that have action scenes on trains. The film was full of this kind of thing – standard movie tropes but in a Star Wars universe and I liked that. It was appealingly old school.
  • It was a slightly smaller story and that was appealing too. Sometimes you don’t want it to be about the huge Star Wars narrative about destiny and the force. Just a small, compact story about low-level gangsters is all you need.
  • Not too many geeky references to other films. There were some, but they were *fairly* subtle…
  • Nice chemistry between Solo and Chewbacca.
  • There are a couple of jokes which were not bad and pretty much in the spirit of the original films. They didn’t go overboard on the humour like in The Last Jedi, which a lot of the fans hated. I think the original directors probably had a lot more humour in it and after seeing the audience response to the humour in TLJ perhaps Kathleen Kennedy decided to replace them for a more serious director. There is a moment when Han Solo speaks Chewbacca’s language which was a bit over the top (if he speaks Wookie, why did he never do it in the other films – seems like a cheap trick, but it didn’t ruin the film for me.
  • Chewy has some badass moments.
  • Qu’ira’s character is interesting as a femme fatale. Emilia Clarke is very easy on the eye and I found her character to be interesting because I never knew where her loyalties were and there was always this sense that she was going to betray Han, and Han was sort of obsessed with her. It’s a bit like your first love – when, as a younger guy, you fall in love with a girl who might be slightly out of your league and you know she’s always going to break your heart.
  • Just really enjoyable. Woody Harrelson was a dependable screen presence as ever.

What I didn’t like

  • The cheesy musical score running through a lot of the scenes, as if we needed to be told how to feel and to make sure we didn’t get bored or anything
    Some cheesy clichés, which I can’t really remember now – but a lot of typical movie tropes and “yeah, right” moments.
  • There are probably some plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, there’s a moment when one character dies and I thought “why did that happen, it seemed completely unnecessary”
  • Some of the moments when they tried to link this film with the wider Star Wars universe – like linking it to some plot points in Rogue One – or just trying to include some of the large Star Wars themes – the birth of the rebellion. It seemed forced, and shoehorned – I mean, like they forced certain big themes into the film (no pun intended). It would have been better to make it a completely self-contained film without having to connect it to the broader world of Star Wars, the birth of the rebellion and all that.
  • Classic westerns like Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy (spaghetti westerns) are just about those characters in an isolated story. It would have been good to do something like that. Let the audience use their imagination to fit it in with the larger universe.
  • Also, it feels a little bit like Star Wars is pushing an ideological position these days, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I suppose it always was – the rebellion, the empire. It was basically about the struggle of local groups of freedom fighters against a vastly more powerful military dictatorship. But that message was usually delivered a bit more subtly in the original films. These days it’s like Star Wars needs to push this message a bit harder for some reason.

I can’t go into it in more detail without spoiling the film.

Anyway, those were my thoughts about Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.

And I just talked about it there because it’s something Sammy and I discussed.

Let me remind you – sugarsammy.com to get news of his upcoming shows – possibly in a city near you soon.

Thanks for listening.

Other news

The World Cup is going on. I really want to talk about that a lot, like I did in 2014 – but I have so many episodes to upload! And I’m working on LEP Premium – basically making some episodes to upload soon and then I’ll launch it properly.

I usually worry when I have too much content to upload. I tend to think – if I upload too much (like loads of World Cup episodes) then people won’t be able to listen to it all and then they might just stop listening completely… they’ll think “Oh I can’t keep up and I don’t really like The World Cup so I’ll just move on to something else” and…

So, expect some WC episodes coming soon during the tournament, but if that’s not your cup of tea (or World Cup of Tea) then I suppose you can just skip them and know that it’s not all going to be about football forever.

Speak to you soon. Bye!

Luke

533. Sugar Sammy Interview (Part 1) Multilingual Comedian

Sugar Sammy is a very popular and famous comedian from Canada. He’s often described as Montreal’s #1 stand up comedian. He speaks 4 languages, he has performed comedy in lots of countries. He might be coming to your country soon to make you laugh. Ladies and gentlemen – meet the wonderful Sugar Sammy!

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Join Sugar Sammy’s Mailing List – for news of his international shows

Introduction Transcript

Hi everyone. This is quite a special episode because of today’s guest. I’m talking to a really famous comedian, so it was quite a thrill for me and I really hope that it translates into a good listening experience for you too and that it grabs your attention and not just because it’s a chance to practise your listening in English.

You know that as well as being an English teacher and a podcaster, I’m a stand up comedian, which means that I go onstage in front of audiences and try to make them laugh – by telling jokes, telling stories and doing voices. Stand up comedy is huge as a form of entertainment, and arguably as an art form – particularly in the English speaking world. In Paris, where I live, there is a stand up comedy scene in English. It’s pretty small – there are not that many English speaking comedians and shows in English, and in some ways that’s actually really cool because I get to meet and hang around with some pretty famous people who come here to do comedy. For example there are the professional French comedians who also perform in English, and I’m talking about people like Gad Elmaleh (the biggest French speaking comedian in the world) who I have kind of met (I said hello to him and we performed on the same show) and other French comics like Yacine Belhousse and Noman Hosni (who have been on this podcast), but also comedians who come here from other places like the UK, the USA or Canada to perform their comedy in English or maybe in French – people like Eddie Izzard, Ian Moore and so on. Basically, because it’s a small scene I get to meet and hang out with some really great comedy stars.

That’s how I met today’s guest – Sugar Sammy who comes from Canada.

Sugar Sammy

Sugar Sammy is a genuine star of comedy. He’s probably the biggest name I’ve ever had on this podcast. I had David Crystal of course – the famous linguist. You know I’m interested in language and language teaching, so David Crystal was a big guest for that reason but I’m also obsessed with stand up comedy and Sammy is massively famous in the world of stand-up especially in Canada, and I’m lucky to be friendly enough with him to get him on this podcast.

Some information on Sammy
In terms of his background, he was born and grew up in Montreal, Canada – a bilingual city. The official language there is French but everyone can speak English too.
In total he speaks 4 languages – English, French, Punjabi and Hindi – and he does stand up comedy in all of them.

He is of Indian origin. I’m not sure of the details but I’m guessing that his parents or maybe even his grandparents moved to Canada from India at some point. Anyway, this is why he can speak Punjabi and Hindi – both Indian languages.

He has a list of accomplishments and awards as long as your arm. I don’t know how long your arm is, but I’m assuming it’s very long because so is this list.

(A list as long as your arm – it’s just a phrase meaning “a long list”)

A quick look at his Wikipedia page tells you about his achievements:

He’s done sold out one man shows, HBO comedy specials, his own TV shows, he’s opened for Dave Chappelle, he gets featured in newspapers and photographed by paparazzi.

One of his main accomplishments is that he was the first to perform a successful bilingual show in Quebec – a place which is notorious for how it protects French as the official language, so performing in English, Punjabi and Hindi there was actually a very controversial thing to do.
He once performed in front of over 115,000 people at the end of a 420 show tour at the Just For Laughs festival in 2016.

Sammy has performed all around the world in the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, England, Australia, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, China, India, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Northern Ireland, Dubai, Haiti[12] New Zealand and South Africa, where his one-man show sold 15,000 tickets.[13]

And that’s just in English. He also has a successful comedy career in French.

As a stand up comedian I would describe him as confident, charming, very sharp, good at imitating different accents, good at playing with cultural stereotypes, excellent at exploiting people’s cultural assumptions and very very quick when it comes to doing crowd work – improvising off the interactions he has with members of the audience.

His shows always include a lot of improvisation in which he talks to the people on the front row and always manages to turn the interactions into very funny moments of comedy.

If you want information on how to see Sammy on stage, go to his website sugarsammy.com

You can see him performing in French in Paris at the Alhambra theatre, and later this year he is going to tour internationally – and he has plans to visit parts of Asia – including Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan and potentially even more places. So, seriously – watch out for Sugar Sammy doing shows in your country soon and I really recommend that you get out and see him.

Sugar Sammy is a world-class comedian and a really cool guy and I’m pleased to have him on the podcast.

In terms of his English and his accent – he is a Canadian native speaker of English, so he has a typical Canadian accent, which for many people is indistinguishable from a sort of standard American accent. I can usually hear the difference between Canadian and American accents I think, but it’s a very subtle difference. Basically, in many cases Canadian English is very close to American English.

Our conversation focuses on comedy, language and various issues relating to both of those things.

I’ve divided the conversation into two parts, which should make it easier for you to listen to. Our conversation moves pretty quickly. It might be difficult to follow – depending on your level of English. You can see as you listen to it. Part 2 will be available soon.

I think we’re lucky to be able to listen to Sammy on this podcast. I feel very grateful to have been able to sit down and talk to him for over an hour. As you are all learners of English I hope that this provides you with the interesting, engaging and authentic English listening practice that you’re looking for. I won’t say any more in the introduction here. It’s time to just start listening to my chat with Sugar Sammy.


Ending Transcript

I’m stopping the conversation there. The rest will come in part 2.

Sammy is excited about new people… and win them over.

That could be you!

sugarsammy.com

So, I wonder how this is for you. How is this for you so far?

I said already that for me it was a thrill to record this conversation – partly because Sammy is a top comedian and it feels like a privilege to be able to interview him, but also because it’s just loads of fun to talk to him and hang out with him.

But how’s it going for you? Are you alright? I certainly hope you’re enjoying this as much as you actually should be enjoying it. Because, just in case you didn’t realise, you really should be enjoying this quite a lot.

I expect you are enjoying it like I am, but it’s probably a bit hard to follow in places. It’s probably been quite difficult to follow everything, – but of course it depends on your level of English, you listening skills.

But if it is hard to follow sometimes, then I’m not surprised! First of all, you’re probably listening to this because you’re learning English, in which case, if it’s hard to follow everything in a native-level conversation like this then that makes total sense and is completely normal. You’re not a native speaker so it’s bound to be more difficult. What I’d say to you is – keep listening, keep practising. You can understand conversations like this 100%. It takes time and practice, and motivation and positivity, but you can definitely do it.

Also, let’s not forget that in episodes of this podcast I often play you natural conversations between friends that are not graded. Nobody’s trying to simplify their English or anything. It’s also spontaneous and fast like a normal conversation. So, I am not surprised if it’s difficult sometimes. That’s normal. This is not a listening exercise in a coursebook published by Oxford University Press. The recordings you get in those publications are usually scripted, and graded to make them easier to understand – even at advanced levels. For example, Headway Upper Intermediate and Headway Advanced.

They’re easier, aren’t they? Don’t get me wrong, they’re good publications, but they go for a different approach. They grade their listening materials. My conversations aren’t graded. In fact I specifically ask my guests to speak naturally – because I want them to be natural and I want them to still be funny and relaxed because for me what we might lose in terms of intelligibility we gain in authenticity and in humour, basically.

Right. So listening to this conversation with Sugar Sammy is the real thing, so it’s normal if it’s pretty tough, but for me this is a good strong way to work on your English. It’s a bit like high-altitude training – when people train high in the mountains where there’s less oxygen. It’s hard, it’s strenuous, it’s challenging, but when you go back down to lower altitude levels where there’s more oxygen, you’re suddenly much more effective and the training really pays off.

Anyway, speaking for myself, this was a really fun episode to do and if I were you I would listen to it several times to squeeze maximum enjoyment out of it – because I promise you that if you listen again you’ll understand and therefore enjoy it even more, and then you can also get stuck into part 2 which may already be available for you.

Come on people. Seriously, you’re getting more than your money’s worth here are you not?

Check out the page on the website for some more details, including a transcription of my intro and ending to this episode, a video of Sammy improvising on stage talking to an Iraqi guy in the audience who has moved to Texas, also you can see video of Bill Hicks and his routine about being asked “What are you reading for?” and a video of the extraordinary Russian singer Vitas doing his song 7th Element.

Thanks for listening. Get my app from the app store to get all my episodes on your phone plus loads of bonus content and access to premium episodes when they are available.

Speak to you again in part two.

Bye!

Sugar Sammy & The Happy Iraqi in Texas

Bill Hicks – “What are you reading for?”

Vitas – 7th Element

Rosanne Barr Controversy

Court Jesters

www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/what-was-life-like-for-a-court-jester/

527. Can Paul Taylor Pass The UK Citizenship Test?

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

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

Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Long Episode!

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

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

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

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


THE “LIFE IN THE UK” CITIZENSHIP TEST

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

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

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

lifeintheuktestweb.co.uk/test-1/

Criticisms of the Test

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

The criticisms in a nutshell:

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

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

What would you include in the citizenship test?

The “Real” Citizenship test

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

realcitizenshiptest.co.uk/


‘Outro’ Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke

521. Talking about Pets (with James)

Usually when I talk to my brother on the podcast we talk about fairly obscure topics, like cult films, musical subcultures or skateboarding, but this time we chose a universal topic; pets. Listen to this conversation to hear James and me remembering the pets we had as children and discussing some issues related to keeping animals as pets.

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Introduction

It’s national pet month in the UK from 1 April – 7 May so here is an episode all about living with animals, domesticated creatures, our furry companions, our four-legged friends – pets in their various shapes and sizes.

National Pet Month is actually a registered charity in the UK and its aims are to promote responsible pet ownership, and to make people aware of the mutual benefits of living with pets. You can find out more by going to www.nationalpetmonth.org.uk/

Just like everywhere else in the world, British people love pets – the most common ones being dogs, cats and fish.

Since it is national pet month I thought I would talk about pets with James, my pet chimp, I mean, brother.

We both had pets growing up together as children, so we thought we’d take a little trip down memory lane in this episode and remember some of those cute little animals that we loved so much when we were young.

Yes – pets! It’s a simple topic. It’s a universal topic – I think pets are popular the world over. And it’s a fun topic which we can use as a way of presenting you with some authentic listening practice in English.

When you think about it humans have a pretty diverse relationship with animals. Sometimes we farm them and breed them for various purposes, sometimes we ride around on them (for transport or sport), sometimes we eat them (quite often, for lunch maybe), sometimes they eat us (less often, admittedly) sometimes we just like to watch them eating each other (in BBC nature documentaries for example) and sometimes we like to offer them a friendly invitation into our home so they can live with us, like little hairy members of the family almost, just because we love them, we find them cute and they help to lower our blood pressure. Apparently they are good for us, they can keep us healthy. They’re like little furry doctors with no qualifications except a degree in being warm and cuddly.

That is something people say – having a pet can help you live longer. But surely it depends what kind of pet. If you have a silverback gorilla or a saltwater crocodile as a pet you’re probably not going to live to a very old age. In fact, you’d be lucky to survive beyond a couple of minutes with a crocodile in the house. “Oh that’s a lovely 23 foot long crocodile you’ve got. Oh how original. They’re basically dinosaurs aren’t they? Oh what’s his name – Bitey? Bitey the crocodile. There there Bitey, hello little bitey – CHOMP. Oh he’s bitten my arm off, how adorable… CHOMP CHOMP oh and now he’s grabbed me by the leg and is pulling me underwater where he’ll drown me and then eat me in one go. How lovely.”

It does depend on the pet you choose of course. Crocodiles don’t usually make great pets I expect. But I don’t know maybe they’re very loving and gentle. Let me know if you have a croc as a pet.

Anyway, the most common pets in the world are generally lovely and fluffy and not usually our natural predators of course. Here’s some data.

Pet data stevedalepetworld.com/world-pet-population-data-mixed-bag/ www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5845-infographic-most-of-world-owns-pets-dogs-are-tops?utm_source=KnowledgeMarketing&utm_medium=Watt%20Products&utm_campaign=Pet%20Weekly%20Roundup%20All%20Others%20List&eid=237316200&bid=1430132

Around the world there may be different cultures of pet keeping, for example whether it is normal to neuter or spay your pets (that means giving them an operation on their reproductive systems so as to make them infertile – unable to breed – in some places that’s normal, in other places you might consider that to be a horrible thing to do!) or whether it is normal to keep your pets mostly indoors or outdoors. In some countries you wouldn’t dream of letting your dog or cat stay outside all night, whereas in other places it’s the other way around.

The cultures may be different, but one thing’s for sure – humans seem to have the desire to live with animals as companions and over time we have developed a symbiotic relationship with certain animals – notably dogs, who seem to express a sense of duty towards their owners and perform various functions for humans.

There are ethical issues relating to keeping pets too of course – it’s always hard to escape issues of morality and ethics even in a seemingly innocent topic like this. For example, is it somehow cruel to keep animals as pets and how do pets affect the natural world around them?

My conversation with James touches on some of these things, but the main reason we chose to talk about this topic was to let you hear a conversation in English about a subject that I’m sure you can all relate to and the main focus of our conversation is to remember the various pets we had when we were growing up as children.

So listen out for some little stories and memories and also descriptions of typical behaviour in the past. See if you can notice certain features of grammar and vocabulary in the way we express these ideas.

The specific vocabulary and grammar relating to that are things I can deal with specifically in another language-focused episode.

But this one is all about listening to some real British English conversation and so, without any further ado – let’s talk to James about pets.


Ending

So there you go, that was my chat with James about pets.

In the comment section please write about pets that you have or that you have had in your lives. Tell us about cute or funny things your pets do. Do you have an unusual pet? Have you got any good little pet stories? Put your thoughts into words and add them in the comment section.

Now, in terms of language – this conversation obviously contained some vocabulary that would be worth reviewing and clarifying.

Also, there was some grammar there. We were talking a lot about the past, so there were the usual past tenses, but also some very specific aspects of grammar that you might not have noticed  and I’m talking about the ways in which we don’t just tell stories in the past but the way we describe habits in the past. There are certain grammatical forms that we use for that, and it might not be immediately obvious to you how it is done.

I can help you learn these things – learn how to notice them, learn how to understand them and learn how to use them to listen and speak like native English speakers.

It would be useful if I published a follow-up episode to this in which I go through all that language. THat’s the sort of thing you can expect from LEP Premium when it arrives.

You’ve heard me talk about LEP Premium in recent episodes. I’m setting it up at the moment. If all goes according to plan then at some point soon I’ll make that service available to you and you’ll be able to sign up, support my work and gain access to some extra episodes in which I focus more carefully and specifically on the aspects of language that you need. Analysing and explaining the grammar and vocabulary in my conversation with James is an example of what you could expect from LEP Premium Episodes.

Also, not just language that’s come up in conversations and monologues, but also it could be a way for me to focus on  other aspects of language that I think you need to know.

As I said, I’m still in the process of setting this up at the moment. I’ll be setting it up with my host Libsyn, so that I can publish the premium content into the App (you’ll be able to sign in to get premium content there) and also online from a computer, so expect more information soon.

Thank you again for listening. Visit the website to see my transcriptions for the intro and outtro to this episode. Join the mailing list. Download the app to get all the bonus content there and to be ready to get LEP premium episodes. Send me a donation through the website if you want to support the show.

Have a great day and if you have a pet, give them a little treat like a snack, a stroke, a scratch or a nice walk in the park.

Speak to you again soon, but for now…

Bye bye bye.

Luke

Phrases and vocab from episode 521. (contributed by Jack)

I don’t know if you can tell but my voice sounds a bit funny
Domesticated creatures
Furry companions
And since it’s a national pet month I thought I’d talk about pets with my pet chimp James.
We thought we’d take a trip down memory lane…..
Pets are popular the world over
Humans have a pretty diverse relationships with animals. Sometimes we farm them and breed them for various purposes. Sometimes we ride around them for transport or for sport.

Sometimes they eat us – less often admittedly.
Warm and cuddly
Salt water crocodile
Silver back gorilla
Chomp
He’s bitten my arm off
You’ve got to throw in some data
Neuter or spay your pets
You wouldn’t dream of…..
We have developed a symbiotic relationship with animals.
Morality
My conversation with James touches on these things.
About a subject that I’m sure you can all relate to
So listen out for some…..
Do you think the audience are expecting this to be riveting and hilarious
I wouldn’t want to build it up too much
Are you a pet person?
A pair of gerbils
Distraction
They come from the Gulf
They tend to gnaw on things
I suspect dad probably named them
The idea of keeping them in a little cage is a bit messed up
Deep ethical implications
They’re not immortal

Luke: One of them had escaped
James: I didn’t remember that, no

Run out of food
Bullied by mice and cats

They thought we’d be traumatised
It was rigid, stiff as a board and it was half way through a loo roll tube.
…..at that moment something clicked.

They’d make bedding out of them
The cats were obsessed with catching the gerbils
I don’t remember there were any gerbil cat crossover

Luke : Just so I can…..
James : fill me in on bits of my life

….and she would curl up in the casserole dish.
Spare bedroom
You try and stroke her, tickle her or something and invariably she would strike out or hiss…..
They had a litter of cats
Kitten
Posy (bunch of flowers)
We took it to the doctors to get it checked out.
She never quite got over that really. He was always screwed up about that.

James : He was mental. Really manic looking face, wild looking eyes. White flash very fluffy. White flash running down its front. And just Bizarre weird animal

Luke : Bonkers

Hyperactive
Running up your trouser leg
Always go for the liveliest one when choosing a cat.

Went to the doctor not to just have it checked out but have it spayed.
Castrated
They spray pheromones and stuff
Vet
Climbing underneath the underside of the sofa.

Introduce a pet into a wild ecosystem where he’ll just ravage all the wild life.
….and somehow he dragged this rabbit through the cat flap as well.

Luke :Several times I would come back, we had a little room between the kitchen and the back garden which is where we’d put the cat’s food down and there was a cat flap….to let the cat into that little space. We wouldn’t let the cat into the house at night. He (posy) would have that utility room area and outside and he would bring in the animals into the utility room onto the door mat and then eat them there. Couple of times I went into the utility room and saw posy in a moment of wildness.

Lions taking down a wilder beast.
Door mat
Bitting the rabbit’s head off
Spleen
Fluffy tail
They’ll stick around and pretend to be cute for food.
Cat isn’t really self aware
…..but yet it is petted, softened and domesticated. They are kind of bipolar.
Run over a dog
They’re pretty nasty psychopaths
Crossbreed to make them smaller, cuter and more manageable
A waste of space
Poker faced
Squashy faced

Luke :They have those creased up faces. And they have those broad front legs, stocky little back legs. And they have the lower jaw sort of…..

James : protruding

Luke : prominent lower jaw…..

Lower centre of gravity
It’s harder for other dogs to flip them over.
Wrinkles and creases in their face are so that the blood can drain off.
That sounds a bit far fetched
Medieval times

Luke : like if people in the city were rioting.

James: bring out some bad tempered cats on leads and sort out the protestors.

Leopard
I think they’d be too skittish to be of any good.
Do you think you could disperse a riot by introducing a bunch of big cats into the streets?
All the big cats that are just loose in London.
Drug sniffing cats
Cat nip – It makes them all high
Drool
I think we are going on a bit of a tangent here.
Dalmatians
We may need to fact check that one
Sleeping on a window sill
We used to put out the cat at night.
Posy was getting up to things at night outside.
Howling and screeching sounds going on in the garden.

James : It’s like having a Mexican stand off. Staring at each other, wailing.

Luke : staring wailing and just arching their backs.

Full moon
…….have a big stand off around a flowerbed; the patio in our garden.

Posy was just lounging like some sort of mafia boss
So he was either the alpha male or the most beta-ish male.
………Lowest rung of the cats.
Debating the best way to overthrow the humans.
a stick insect
Intact you might as well just get a stick
Brown twiggy thing – Stick

James : Now he’s picked the most obscure, not obscure the sort of random words to explain…. They can understand all this but the one word they get hung up on is stick

Luke : I might have been teaching English for 15, 16 years!

James: Stick is something you throw to a dog if it’s fallen off a tree.

Sawdust
They’d be gnawing a piece of wood which would be like rattle and tap against the glass.

Suburban farce
Posy would sort of trot through the kitchen and would be on the floor by the door just casually and he’d spot one of the gerbils out of the corner of his eye and just go bonkers and just launch himself at the gerbilarium and scrabble in the corner.

Metal edged aquarium
Their fins start drooping and you start fretting – May be I haven’t fed them enough
Morsels of food.
It was really very lively.
I don’t know the workings of a gold fish.
We had a tiny little pond; basically an overflow from the gutters. Fairly clean water. It was rain water.

Luke :They’re probably happier there then in a bowl or in a box

James : oh yeah I would have thought so!

A ferret
They are like a mink.
Pole cat
They are pretty versatile, pretty tough little creatures.
They are lively……
They are very good at crawling through tunnels in the ground.

And also up north they have a sport of putting ferrets down your trousers.
Blokes tie strings down the bottom of their trousers and shovel load of ferrets down their trousers and they wriggle around.
Chuck em down their trousers
Mishaps
A dog can around a whole load of sheep and get it through a fend a gate.
Paper round
Some of the dogs are very yappy
Ring the creature in half (break the neck)
They can be mean.
Roulette
It would come tearing towards you.
Whippy stick
It’s a reflection on the owners of how the dog behaves.
Tug of war
It would come bounding up to you.
Bit far fetched
We’d have to walk past the house to get to the station.
I always thought it would leap over the fence.
They are cold blooded animals and they need to be kept warm and I can’t be bothered with that.
Wardrobe full of snakes. She bought a wardrobe and adapted it. Put a glass front on it; I think it might be on the side of it. And there’s two compartments.

Quite affectionate, they purr.

Boa constrictor
Babboon
Scratch his face
Vibe
But you can tell he’s panicking and scared
Where they decided to bring up a monkey or a chimp.
Bunch of hippies decided to rear it.
And it’s miming back
And as it gets bigger it gets more and more unruly.
They start giving it booze and they start giving it weed. And this f***** chimp is smoking spliffs around a table with them.
It’s a bit of a symbiotic relationship.
The ethics of having a pet.
All that is contributing to deforestation
And those cows fart all the time apparently.
And they cut down rain forests to put down cattle farms and stuff
If you’re vegan and you have a pet – You’re a f***** hypocrite.

James : let us know if you’re a vegan dog owner. Actually don’t bother.
How do you justify that?

Cultish following for these dogs.
If they are well looked after they can be very cool.
Dog straining on the lead.
I think that’s a suitable note to end this chat.

He’s gone into the cheesy radio host voice now in case you are wondering.
In the comments section please write about the pets that you’ve or that you’ve had in your life.

Now, you might have heard me talk about LEP Premium in recent episodes. I’m setting it up at the moment.

And if you’ve a pet give them a little treat like a snack or a stroke or a scratch or just a nice walk in the park.

517. Professor Stephen Hawking (An Obituary)

I woke up this morning to the news that Stephen Hawking had died and I thought – I really must talk about this. He was a British scientist who must be considered one of the most significant people of recent years – a brilliant mind who contributed so much to our understanding of the nature of reality itself while also struggling against some extreme personal difficulties and for those reasons he’s a great inspiration to many people around the world.

In this episode I’m just going to talk about him, his life, his achievements and how he will continue to be an inspiration to people for many years to come. Let’s learn some English along the way. Vocabulary list & links available below.

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BBC Obituary

www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-15555565

Adversity, challenge or difficulty can somehow focus you and force you to concentrate your energy in one direction. It must have been tough, but it’s almost like he thrived on the adversity.

Hawking’s popularity in China

Hawking was popular and inspirational all over the world, but according to a BBC News report he was particularly loved and respected in China.

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43395650

Hawking talks about depression

As well as contributing so much to our understanding of the universe, he also was an inspiration to people struggling against difficulty of various kinds – both physical and mental.

Stephen Hawking Has a Beautiful Message for Anyone Suffering From Depression

A scene from The Theory of Everything

Hawking interviewed by John Oliver (Hawking obviously had a sense of humour)

Monty Python – The Galaxy Song

This is a song written by Eric Idle, for Monty Python’s film “The Meaning of Life”.
Hawking agreed to record a version of this song for Monty Python’s recent live shows.
It’s all about how we should remember that in the context of everything, our problems are actually rather small and insignificant, and by extension we should realise that there are no frontiers in our minds and we should realise that many limitations that we feel inside ourselves are actually imposed on us by ourselves.

Lyrics & ukulele chords: stewartgreenhill.com/ukulele/TheGalaxySong.html

Vocabulary which came up in this episode

  • motor neurone disease
  • he was left almost completely paralysed
  • a tracheotomy
  • a layman’s guide to cosmology
  • He was reportedly offered a knighthood in the 1990s but later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
  • He was renowned for his extraordinary capacity to visualise scientific solutions without calculation or experiment.
  • Undeterred by his condition, he continued his work
  • his condition inevitably made him dependent on others
  • Police questioned several people about allegations that he had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse
  • He was known to be an erratic, almost reckless driver of his electric wheelchair
  • the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called “vomit comet
  • “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster”
  • aliens might just raid earth of its resources and then move on
  • Stephen Hawking: China’s love for the late physicist
  • the world mourns Prof Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76
  • His 2006 visit to China was covered with breathless excitement
  • the adulation and respect he has always commanded in China is perhaps in another universe altogether
  • a role model ideal for the Chinese state to champion emerged.
  • the Chinese government preaches that scientific prowess is crucial to the country’s future power
  • he didn’t let it deter him from doing his best to live fully and passionately
  • If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you
  • My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field

516. Paul McCartney’s Spider Story

Learn English from an anecdote told by Sir Paul McCartney. Let’s listen to Paul telling a sweet story about something funny that happened to him and George Harrison when they were teenagers, before they became world famous musicians in The Beatles. Let’s listen to his story , do some intensive listening practice and then I’ll help you understand everything. Also, let’s have a laugh with some funny Paul McCartney impressions. Video and notes available below.

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Pre-Jingle Vocabulary

This episdoe is called Paul McCartney’s Spider Story and if you keep listening you’ll hear what happens when a couple of Beatles meet a couple of spiders.

You can also do some intensive listening practice focusing on every single word, and then later there are some bits focusing on Paul McCartney’s voice – including a few fun Paul McCartney impressions.

But right here at the beginning, before the jingle even, I just want to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that appear in the episode. I’ll tell you the vocab now and while you’re listening and hopefully enjoying the episode, just try to spot these words and phrases as they come up, and when you do spot them you can just go – oh, there’s that word, there’s that phrase.

  • a bed and breakfast (a B&B) = a simple guesthouse where you pay for a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning, a bit like a basic hotel which is just someone’s home. (e.g. We hitch-hiked around Cornwall and stayed in a few little B&Bs along the way)
  • to turn out (phrasal verb) = when you discover a fact or when something is later revealed to be true or to be the case ,turn out + infinitive (e.g. we got talking to this guy and made friends with him and it turned out that his mum owned a B&B up the road or I was standing in a shop and I overheard someone talking about recording music and a concert and it turned out to be Paul McCartney!)
  • menace (noun) = something dangerous that can cause you harm (e.g. next door’s dog is a real menace to my chickens, or he has an air of menace about him, or there was a hint of menace in his voice)
  • as blind as a bat = totally blind, e.g. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses! (Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes)
  • a nativity scene = a set of models or statues depicting the birth of the baby Jesus Christ, with Mary & Joseph often sitting over the baby Jesus. Every Christmas my school used to display a nativity scene in the school’s entrance. Sometimes people display nativity scenes in their homes or even outside the house if they’re particularly religious at Christmas.
  • to bury the hatchet = to stop a long running argument and become friends again. E.g. I wish you two would just bury the hatchet so we can get the band back together. (bury the weapon you might use to fight with someone)
  • to bury the hatchet in someone’s head = a joke! If you bury a knife, sword or hatchet in this case in someone’s head – it means you stick it deep in their head – to kill them. E.g. I’m ready to bury the hatchet – in your head! – Makes it sound like you’re ready to stop fighting, but actually you still want to kill the other person!
  • showing off = behaving in a way to attract attention and show people how great you are, but in a way that’s annoying. E.g. Dave is really good at the guitar but he’s always showing off doing these ridiculous guitar solos. He just wants to impress everyone. or Stop showing off in front of all the guests!

OK – so, no information yet about the context that those words come up in, but I just wanted to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that definitely do come up at various points during the episode. See if you can spot them all as they naturally come up. Now, on with the episode!

Introduction

What are we doing in this episode? Listen to an anecdote – a real one, told by none other than Paul McCartney.

This is a video I found on YouTube (see below). Listen to the story, and just work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a few questions to guide you. Then I’ll go through the recording again and explain it, clarify, highlight any features of language and generally help you to understand it as well as I do. So, this is a great chance to learn some English from a real anecdote – a personal little story, in this case told by Sir Paul McCartney.

I love The Beatles. I love listening to Paul talking about, well, anything really, and I love this particular video and this little anecdote.

It’s not a story about how he conquered the world in The Beatles, or how they played Shea Stadium or how they sold millions of records or whatever.

It’s just a sweet and funny little story about something that happened to him and his mate George Harrison when they went hitchhiking in Wales – before they were even famous or in The Beatles.

I think the video originally appears as an outtake from the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Highly recommended.

He was just asked if he could tell a story about a good memory of George. Of all the things they must have been through together, this is the one he picked.

Who’s Paul McCartney? (as if you don’t know…)

He’s got to be one of the most successful musicians to have ever lived.
He was in The Beatles – you must have heard of them!
I don’t know if you like their music, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most significant bands ever and also one of the most significant moments in cultural history. I have no doubt that their music and their story will forever be remembered, studied and considered ultimately to be like classical music.

But I don’t mean to build it up too much. For me, I’m a fan of the Beatles not just because of their place in cultural history, but because of the fascinating story of these apparently ordinary guys from Liverpool, their lives, their friendship and the amazing pool of creativity that seemed to open up between them once various factors were in place and the career of the Beatles happened.

Comprehension Questions

Watch the video of “Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison” (below)

Try to answer these questions. Listen to find out the answers.

  1. Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
  2. Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
  3. Where did they stay?
  4. What did he realise later on?
  5. Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
  6. What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
  7. Who were Jimmy & Jemimah?

Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison – “The Menace! The Spiders!”

The second anecdote – Buddy Holly and John Lennon’s poor eyesight

What’s the funny thing Paul says about John’s eyesight?

Answer: John Lennon famously wore glasses because he was very short sighted. He used to take the glasses off if girls were around. Later, Buddy Holly became a famous pop/rock star and suddenly it was quite cool to wear horn-rimmed glasses. Anyway, one night after writing songs at Paul’s house one dark evening at Christmas time, John walked past a house and thought he saw some neighbours still sitting outside in the freezing cold playing cards. Paul later realised that it was just a nativity scene, and John was so blind that he’d thought the statues of Mary & Joseph bending over the baby Jesus were a couple of people playing cards outside their house.

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan do Beatle Impressions in The Trip to Spain

Rob and Steve do their Paul McCartney impressions. Rob talks about how Paul’s voice has been affected by the fact that his mouth has lost some mobility now that he’s quite old. Steve disagrees and says that he thought Paul was quite articulate. They then start doing John Lennon impressions.

Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo

A parody of the Beatles in their Let It Be period, when there was lots of friction in the band and they couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the group. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz does impressions of all the Beatles.

Listen to Episode 414 – “My Uncle Met A Rock Star” – My uncle’s account of how he once met Paul McCartney in a shop

414. With the Family (Part 2) My Uncle Met a Rock Star

515. Becoming “Maman” with Amber & Sarah – Bringing Up Children The French Way

In this episode I’m talking to friends of the podcast Amber Minogue and Sarah Donnelly about the subject of raising children in a foreign country – in this case, France. So this is an episode all about cross-cultural experiences, specifically relating to parenthood. It’s also about a new podcast and stage show which Amber & Sarah have just started. Transcriptions, notes and links below.

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In this episode I’m talking to friends of the podcast Amber Minogue and Sarah Donnelly about the subject of raising children in a foreign country – in this case, France. So this is an episode all about cross-cultural experiences, specifically relating to parenthood. It’s also about a new podcast and stage show which Amber & Sarah have just started.

If you’re a long term listener then I’m sure you know Amber, and you should also remember Sarah because she’s been on the podcast a few times too.

Amber and Sarah are both ex-pats living in Paris, like me. They’re also stand-up comedians who perform on stage in English here, like me. They’re both with French partners, like me. They both have kids here in Paris with their French partners, again, like me; and now they are both podcasters, like me.

Amber (who is from the UK) has been a podcaster for a while, as you may know, with her charming and quirky podcast about the history of Paris – called “Paname” (available at panamepodcast.com and on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts) , but now Amber has joined forces with Sarah (who is from the USA) in order to work on a new project which is called “Becoming Maman”. “Maman” is the French word for “mum” or “mom”.

The project is primarily a stage show – a kind of “two-woman show” which is all about their experiences of having kids in Paris. I saw the first performance of Becoming Maman a few weeks ago and it was brilliant. The two of them are very funny as a double act and the show was full of very astute and amusing observations, jokes and sketches about life as an English-speaking ex-pat bringing up children in Paris.

As well as the stage show, they’re also doing some videos for Facebook and YouTube and the new podcast which is also called “Becoming Maman”. In the podcast episodes Amber and Sarah typically sit down together and discuss certain issues and experiences relating to raising children in France – particularly the differences in the parenting culture between France and their home countries of the UK and the USA.

If you’re an email subscriber or a regular visitor to my website, you might know all of this already (you might be going “yep, yep – got it, been there, seen that, got the t-shirt, already subscribed to Becoming Maman – I have already become Maman) email subscribers might already know about this because I wrote a post last week to let you know that I had been interviewed by Amber and Sarah on their podcast, and I shared links so you could listen or download that episode and subscribe to the podcast. In that episode of their podcast they asked me about my experiences of becoming a dad, and we talked about how children learn languages. Check it out here.

For more information about their project, check out all the links below.

Becoming Maman – podcast page

Becoming Maman on iTunes

Becoming Maman – RSS feed

Becoming Maman – Facebook page

So – raising kids in France when you’re not French and the differences in the parenting culture between France and the UK and the USA. These are the things that we’re going to talk about in this episode, as well as a few of the usual tangents including some thoughts about differences in the behaviour of boys and girls and whether these differences are caused by innate factors that children are born with or subtle ways in which we encourage certain kinds of behaviour as parents.

Well, just before we begin I’d like you to consider how this topic relates to your life experience in some way. You might not have kids, but since you’re out there, probably learning English, there’s a good chance that your life is, has been, or will be affected by cross-cultural experiences, not just relating to parenthood. Thinking about how you have things in common with us should help you to generally relate to our conversation better, and by extension that should help you just get more out of it in terms of language learning and general enjoyment.

So, here are loads of questions for you to consider before we get stuck into this conversation.

Also, pay attention to certain bits of language relating to childhood and raising kids and let me also remind you of episode 68 which is full of the language of childhood – and that’s vocabulary like “to bring up children” “to raise children” “to grow up” and so on – all explained.

68. Childhood / Growing Up / School Days – Phrasal Verbs and Expressions

Before you Listen – Questions for your consideration

  • First of all, what kinds of cross-cultural experiences have you had?
  • Have you ever lived abroad or spent a good deal of time with people from other cultures?
  • Did you notice any differences in the way you or other people do things? That could include anything in life – like slightly different ways of doing business or eating food or communicating, but also ways of dealing with children.
  • What were the challenges associated with the experience you had with another culture or in another country? How did that make your life more difficult, crazy, funny, strange or interesting? E.g. Did you find it hard to work out the administrative system, the work-life balance or the approach to education at school?
  • Could you imagine settling down in another country and bringing up children there?
  • If you already have kids, in what situation did you raise your kids or are you raising your kids?
  • Are you and your partner from the same country, and are your kids growing up in that country too? That’s a monocultural and monolingual situation.
  • Can you imagine bringing your children up in a foreign country, perhaps with a foreign partner, with several languages involved? So, a bi-cultural or bilingual situation.
  • How would that make things different?
  • How could it make life more complicated?
  • For example – consider the identity of your child or children. Where would you consider your children to be from? How would you feel if they grew up to be from a different culture to you?
  • Let’s say, if you’re Spanish (or Polish or Chinese or Russian or Brazilian) and you’re bringing up kids in London are your kids still Spanish, Polish or Chinese or Russian or Brazilian, or are they now English – because that’s where they were born and have grown up?
  • How would living abroad affect your parenting style?
  • Should you, for example, adapt your parenting style to fit the new culture, or keep doing it how it’s done where you’re from?
  • What if the parenting style in this other place is quite different to how it’s done where you’re from? What if you don’t really understand the way they do it in this other place?
  • How would that be challenging for you?
  • Would you feel somehow stuck in a grey area between the country and culture where you are from, and the country and culture where your kids are growing up?
  • Are there certain advantages to that situation? Perhaps it can be much a more exciting, diverse and broad-minded lifestyle.
  • What have you heard about parenting in France, or in the UK or the USA? Do those places have a reputation for particularly good or bad parenting? For what reasons?
  • Would you like to raise your kids in any of those cultures? The UK, France or The USA?
  • Have you heard of a book called “French Kids Don’t Throw Food” by Pamela Druckerman? How about any other parenting guides which are about “how they bring up kids in another country”? Do any other countries have a good reputation for bringing up kids as far as you know?
  • What if you ended up falling in love with someone from France, the UK or the USA or indeed any other place, moving there for love, having an adventure and then finding that you’re starting a family in a completely foreign place? How would you feel?
  • Maybe that’s exactly what’s happened to you, or you’re in a situation in which it could happen.
  • And if you don’t have kids in your life, perhaps you could consider the situation in which you grew up. Would you rather have been raised by parents from the same country, or parents from two different countries? How might that have affected your language skills and your identity in general?
  • Do you think boys and girls behave differently because they’re born that way, or because we encourage them somehow?
  • And how could you put all of these thoughts into words in English?

With all those questions in mind, let’s now listen to my chat with Amber and Sarah all about the challenges of bringing up kids in a foreign country and what it really means to become not just a mum or a mom, but a “maman”.


Let me remind you that Amber & Sarah’s podcast is now available for you to listen to, including the episode in which they interviewed me about becoming a dad.

Those links again for “Becoming Maman”

For more information about their project, check out all the links below.

Becoming Maman – podcast page

Becoming Maman on iTunes

Becoming Maman – RSS feed

Becoming Maman – Facebook page

As I mentioned before, I do plan to do another episode about raising bilingual kids at some point.

I can also refer you back to episode 68 in which I talked about childhood and school days and explained a lot of phrasal verbs and other vocabulary.

Links for everything on the page for this episode!

In the meantime – I look forward to reading your responses to this episode in the comment section. Did you have any thoughts while listening to this? (I hope so!) Share them in the comment section. Don’t be shy – give it a try.

A couple of other reminders:

  • Join the mailing list to get a link in your inbox when I post something to the website – it’s usually once or twice a week and my emails aren’t very intrusive or anything.
  • Download the LEP App for your phone. Check the app store for the Luke’s English Podcast App – it’s not just a place to listen to the podcast, there’s also a lot of other content in there including videos, episodes of my phrasal verb podcast and various app-exclusive episodes and other bonuses.
  • Thank you if you have donated to this podcast – you’re helping to keep the whole thing alive and I consider your donation to be a very sincere way to say thank you for my work.

Have a lovely morning, lunch, afternoon, evening, night!

Speak to you soon,

Bye!

Vocabulary List for Episode 515 – Provided by Jack from the Comment Section

Juggling
a labour of love
Dig these episodes
Quirky
Expats
Astute
Tangents
Indoctrinate
Stuck in a grey area
Scream your lungs out
Skiing
Oriented
Boisterous
Rowdy
Beat the living day lights out of
Notion
Enamoured
Pragmatic
Coagulated
Starters
Cheese course
Main course
Starch
Cereals
Dessert
On site
Individualism
Flip side
Pedagogical
Crouch down
Babysitter
Pay stubs
Synonymous
Athleisure clothing ( fat Americans feeling good wearing gym clothes while chewing fat)
Trendy
Goldfish crackers
Toned down
Preset
Jacket potato
Chedder
accustomed
Intrusive

TV shows and videos which we mentioned

The BBC’s gender experiment

TV and films that Sarah was watching when she was about 10 years old… a bad influence?

“The Kids on the Hall” – I’m crushing your head 

Absolutely Fabulous

Planet of the Apes (quite scary and weird) “Human see, human do!”

 

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

Listen to readings of “If—” by Rudyard Kipling, a popular poem from England. Includes analysis of the vocabulary and the themes in the poem and also a chance to enjoy the unique voice of Sir Michael Caine – with some funny impressions too. Transcript, vocabulary and videos available.

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Episode Transcript

Introduction

Hello, here’s an episode of the podcast devoted to one of the UK’s favourite poems.

I thought it was about time we looked at some poetry on the podcast. I was wondering which poem I could look at. In the end I’ve chosen one that is popular with lots of people in the UK. Sometimes poetry is a bit complicated and highbrow, but this particular poem is pretty clear and not too challenging or anything, while also touching upon ideas that most people can relate to. So I think it’s probably a good one for us to do.

We’re going to listen to the poem, understand the vocabulary used, and talk about the general meaning of the poem too.

You’ll also be able to listen to the voice of Michael Caine, and hear some Michael Caine impressions too.

The poem in question is called “If -” by Rudyard Kipling. That’s it… “If -“.

It has been voted the UK’s favourite poem in a number of polls done by the BBC. So, let’s listen to this much loved poem being read out by a couple of different people and then analyse the lines for their full meaning and pick up some vocabulary in the process.

“If-” by Rudyard Kipling

“If—” is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling (a nobel laureate is someone who won the nobel prize for their poetry). The poem was written in 1895 and was first published in 1910.

It is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet’s son. You can imagine that the poet is talking to his son about life and teaching him what it means to be a man.

Grammatically, it’s basically one huge ‘if clause’ with each line beginning with the word ‘if’ and then concluding at the end of the poem. It might actually be the world’s longest conditional sentence – “if you do this and this and this, then eventually, this will happen”. Like, “If you do plenty of practice, stay motivated and don’t give up then eventually you’ll be a fluent English speaker.”

As poetry, “If—” is a literary example of the principles of Victorian-era stoicism. This is a set of attutides that became popular in the UK during the Victorian period. By stoicism I mean a kind of attitude and approach to life that involves being tolerant of difficulty, showing a sort of calm self-discipline, having control over your emotions, being patient, accepting difficulty and having a quiet determination to just keep calm and carry on. It could also be described as the principle of “stiff upper lip”, which British people often consider to be a national virtue. If your upper lip is stiff, or firm, I suppose it means that you have your emotions under control.

Often Brits will talk about how they are proud to be tolerant (not just of things like cultural differences, but of difficulty, discomfort and hardship) and I think we quite like the idea that we are in control of our emotions because it shows strength of character. This is what “If–” is about and because of this, the poem remains a cultural touchstone in the UK.

We’re not always self controlled of course. You can’t generalise. There are times when Brits intentionally lose all self-control – like when they get drunk on a Friday night or when they go on holiday to Majorca or something, and get drunk there. Those moments seem to be like time off from being self-controlled. Also, these days, I think British people are more in touch with their emotions than they used to be.

But this poem is all about the side of the British personality that is all about quiet strength, fair play and not losing your head in a crisis.

It is also like a of self-help mantra which inspires people to try and do the right thing and probably gives people some inspiration for living your life correctly and dealing with times of difficulty.

For these reasons it’s often voted one of the UK’s favourite poems.

Listen to Academy Award winning actor Michael Caine reading the poem

Listen to Michael Caine reading the poem. All the sentences start with IF – how do you think the poem will end.

If you’re already familiar with the poem, you can just enjoy the voice one of our favourite actors. Michael Caine

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

(video below)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

The audio comes from a YouTube video uploaded by Peace One Day www.peaceoneday.org/

Peace One Day is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1999. In 2001 due to their efforts the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day.

Peace One Day’s objective is to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.

I guess these ideas are universal and this applies to everyone facing the challenges of life.

Girls – I hope you can relate to this too, even though he says “…and you’ll be a man my son”.

Read it again and analyse the words

“If—” by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you’re in a stressful situation in which everyone else is losing their heads and saying it’s your fault, but you stay cool and stay in control…

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Everyone doubts you but you trust yourself, but you still consider their doubts in you – you don’t ignore them

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, (patience is a virtue)
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

other people are lying about you, but you manage to avoid lying

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

others hate you, and you feel pressure to hate them too, but you resist that pressure and don’t give in to hatred, or give way to hatred – don’t let hatred come in – it’s sounding a bit like the Jedi code here

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

stay modest in your appearance, and also don’t talk like you know it all

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

have dreams, ambitions and ideas but keep them in perspective so you’re not just a dreamer but someone who is still practical and pragmatic – a doer not just a dreamer

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

you can be thoughtful, but manage to actually do things rather than just thinking about things all the time

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

don’t let success go to your head, but don’t let failure get you down either – an imposter is something or someone who is not welcome or someone who is pretending to be someone else – e.g. someone who claims to be an experienced pilot and fakes their ID, or someone in a hospital who claims to be a doctor but isn’t

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

if you can stand having your words manipulated by dishonest people – e.g. in the press or in a court of law) (to bear something = to tolerate something) (twisted = changed, distorted, manipulated) (knaves = dishonest and untrustworthy people, it’s an old fashioned word)

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools:

see your life’s work, ruined and then just start again even though the tools you’re using are damaged by lots of use

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

(you take a big pile of all the money you’ve won and risk it all on one go – if you’re willing to take big risks) (a game of pitch-and-toss is an old gambling game in which you ‘pitch’ a coin – throw it – towards a mark on the ground. The one who gets closest to the mark wins the right to ‘toss’ all the coins which have been thrown. To toss means ‘throw’ but specifically to ‘toss a coin’ means to throw it up so it spins and then lands. If you win you can toss all the coins and you can keep all the ones that land with the heads facing up” – so basically, if you can win loads of money and then risk it all on one game…

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

and then lose but just start again from scratch

And never breathe a word about your loss;

and never tell anyone you lost – that would be hard!

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,

even when you’re exhausted you keep going and force your body to keep going, sinew = tendons, ligaments

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

so, just using your willpower you force your muscles, heart, ligaments to resist and keep going

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

if you can stay honest and moral even when you have the attention of a crowd of people – e.g. you might feel pressure to lie, bend the truth, tell them what they want to hear. Virtue = doing and thinking what is morally right. Adj – virtuous.

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch

if you spend time with rich and powerful people but never lose touch with ordinary life and people

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

Foes = enemies. You’re not affected by criticism or praise.

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you value everyone equally. Everyone counts – everyone is important.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

if you can make the most of every single minute – the unforgiving minute means 60 seconds, no more no less. So, if you have the strength, stamina and determination to do your absolute best in every second of every minute

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

Hear Michael Caine’s thoughts on it from the recording

If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.

Films can be either successful or failures. You have to be able to deal with both outcomes.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

When you’re a famous actor the press sometimes takes your words and uses them against you – especially the tabloid press.

He also says that war ruins everything. Also, every single war has been declared by men who are too old to go, and this has made him suspicious.

Impressions of Michael Caine’s Voice

Michael Caine’s voice. It’s quite distinctive. He comes from the East End of London – so it’s a cockney accent, basically – not very strong, but it is there. Also, his voice is unique (just like everyone’s voice is unique) and quite well-known. It’s so well-known that he is one of those actors that lots of people can impersonate, like Sean Connery.

How Michael Caine Speaks

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off! (The Italian Job)

Batman – The Dark Knight Rises “I won’t bury you”

Vocabulary Review

  • keep your head (stay calm, stay in control!)
  • Don’t lose your head (don’t lose self control)
  • (Don’t) Blame it on someone (it was his fault, he did it!)
  • To have doubts (silent letter)
  • Make allowance for something / take something into account (include something in your decision making process – e.g. when I plan lessons I have to make allowances for the fact that students come from different countries and cultural backgrounds)
  • Don’t give way to hatred/anger/frustration = yield, give in (Star Wars)
    (Star Wars: don’t give in to hatred)
  • To be wise / to have wisdom (e.g. Yoda, Gandalf, Dumbledore, ObiWan Kenobi – most old dudes with grey hair and beards)
  • Keep something in perspective (think about things in a reasonable way – e.g. Let’s get things in perspective / let’s keep things in perspective. Sure, we’re locked up in a Turkish jail, but at least we have each other! It’s not that bad! OK bad example. The doctor says I have a 1 in 200 chance of survival!!! Oh shit!!! Wait, let’s keep things in perspective. 1 in 200 is really quite good, and you’re quite young and in good shape. Don’t panic.)
  • Treat someone/something like something (Don’t treat me like an idiot Tony!)
  • Impostors = people who fake their identity in order to get in somewhere. “I felt like an imposter” (common usage) I think it’s quite common for us to feel like an imposter if we feel we don’t deserve the success we’ve had, or when we are in a situation that we don’t deserve to be in, because we feel inferior. Have you ever felt like that? You’re in a situation, you look around and everyone seems so impressive. They’re all so clever and have achieved so much and you feel like you’re not as good as them, and you’re not worthy to be there. You feel like an imposter. It’s a common feeling. I think this might be the situation in which the word “imposter” is most commonly used today, other than when someone has intentionally sneaked into a place by lying.
    If you have ever felt like that, here’s a nice little anecdote from Neil Gaiman – a great author of short fiction novels, comic books and graphic novels.
  • This is from an article I found on Quartz.com and it quotes Neil Gaiman from his Tumblr page. qz.com/984070/neil-gaiman-has-the-perfect-anecdote-for-anyone-with-impostors-syndrome/
    Neil was asked if he had any advice for people experiencing imposter syndrome – that feeling of being an imposter.
    Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
    On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while some musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
    And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
    And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.
    So, there you go – even Neil Armstrong feels like an imposter, and so does Neil Gaiman and many other people who’ve done good things.
    How about you? Do you ever feel like an imposter?
  • Bear to do something / bear to hear your words twisted (I just can’t bear to see him like this)
  • To stoop (bend down)
  • To build something up (create something from the bottom up)
  • A heap of something (a pile)
  • Winnings (all the stuff you won)
  • Don’t breathe a word (don’t reveal a secret)
  • Virtue / virtuous (opposites = dishonor, evil, immorality)
  • The common touch (the ability to appeal to ordinary people)
  • Friend / Foe
  • Count (v) (all opinions count, every second counts) = to have merit, importance, value, etc.; deserve consideration

Finally, listen to Dave Bassett doing it in a scouse accent

I did an episode a while ago called “The Chaos of English Pronunciation” which included a couple of poems which are full of notoriously difficult words to pronounce in English. You can find that episode in the archive. It’s number 144

144. The Chaos of English Pronunciation

Thanks for listening!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More episodes of LEP coming before too long.

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

Cheers!

Luke