Category Archives: Humour

775. A Rambling Chat with James (June 2022)

My brother James comes back onto the podcast for a conversation about the hot weather, tricky WordPress updates, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, Rock Music concert movies, Alan Partridge’s live show, Irish/British relations and plenty more.

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Video Version on YouTube (try activating automatic subtitles)

Introduction Transcript (the audio version might be slightly different)

Hello listeners,

I hope you are doing fine today, and I mean that and I sincerely hope that you’re doing ok and that my podcast brings you some level of comfort.

You know my main aim is to help you with your English with these episodes by either teaching you language directly or by just providing you with a natural source of spoken English with my content, but also I hope to give you some enjoyment, and if that is any kind of remedy for the more serious and difficult things going on, then I’m glad.

Recently I was in London, wasn’t I, staying at my brother James’ place for a long weekend. You might remember that. In the episode we recorded together on the Friday, about the Royal Family, I mentioned that I was planning to record two conversations with James, one about the Royals, and another episode about whatever we felt like talking about. You heard the one about the Royals of course, but we didn’t actually get round to doing the second one.

But a few listeners got in touch wondering about the second conversation with James. It seems he has a bit of a fan club out there, which is no surprise I would say. 

So just the day before yesterday I sent James a Whatsapp message to see when he might be free to record another episode, online this time, and he immediately wrote back saying “I can do it now if you want”. 

I had about 1 hour before I had to go and get my daughter from school so I wrote back saying “Yes, great – let’s do it!” And a few minutes later we were recording a conversation, and that’s what you’re going to hear in this episode.

Now, my intention with episodes like this is to let you listen to a natural conversation in English, with all the usual features of spontaneous speaking. If you like you can imagine that you’re just in the room with James and me as we have a bit of a chat. 

Now, conversations like this, between friends (or in this case brothers) usually go in lots of different directions, don’t they? They don’t usually just stick to just one topic. They move from one thing to the other, they wind this way and that, there are tangents, serious moments, funny moments. That’s how informal conversations work. We’re rambling, basically. I mean, I’m rambling right now too. I’m rambling about how this episode features plenty of rambling. It’s like rambling on the top of rambling – or like Inception for rambling.

So, here’s a run down of the topics that come up in this conversation. I’m saying this to give you a kind of road map – as if to say “here is the main route or path of this journey today. We’re going to go here, then here, then there, then here and so on” – just in order to give you an overview of the conversation which might help your comprehension. Instead of presenting you with a slow, scripted conversation I am throwing you in at the deep end, but also throwing you a rubber ring, so you have at least a fighting chance of not drowning. 

Topics (A mix of serious stuff and not-serious stuff)

  • We start with the recently hot weather in Europe, and when that turns to the slightly depressing but important subject of the climate crisis we transition to a different subject, because we’re trying to keep it light – and we talk about what we both had for lunch and about eating habits and the challenge of eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, plus the pros and cons of eating salmon on a regular basis. That’s /sæmən/ not /sælmɒn/.
  • Then James shares what he was doing before I called him – trying to update a website using WordPress php and we talk about horrible moments when you get error messages when working on a computer.
  • During my lunch that day I was watching the new Obiwan Kenobi Star Wars TV series on Disney+ and we talk about that – just a few brief comments really. Not a full review. See if you can spot the vocabulary that James uses to describe the show.
  • This leads us to wonder about Jawas from Star Wars (side characters that appear in the SW universe), and the mystery of what they really look like under their brown hoods. Don’t worry – the SW chat is kept to a minimum.
  • Then we turn to the subject of rock music concerts and Neil Young’s live concert video called Rust Never Sleeps, which appears to feature some jawas, which is odd. 
  • We also talk about some other classic rock music festival movies including Woodstock, Rolling Stones at Altamont and The Last Waltz. So get your denim jacket ready.
  • We describe Jimi Hendrix’s historic version of the Star Spangled Banner performed at Woodstock, which also became an astounding statement against the Vietnam war.
  • We give some responses to comments from listeners on our recent conversation about The Royal Family, and also questions about why James doesn’t appear on video in my episodes.
  • James describes his recent experience of seeing the Alan Partridge live comedy stage show, called “Stratagem” at the O2 Arena in London recently. He gives a kind of review of the show and the venue, and describes a fight between two guys which happened in the bar afterwards.
  • We dissect some frogs – specifically several jokes from the Alan Partridge show featuring an Irish character also played by Steve Coogan.
  • This leads us back to more serious matters and the subject of Irish protest songs associated with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) which would normally never be played on the BBC but it happened in an episode of the Alan Partridge TV show. That was quite a surprising and fairly significant moment in the history of the BBC. You might learn a little bit about Irish and British relations there, and you can hear a clip of an Irish accent too.

There are some other bits and pieces too, but I’ll say no more here in this introduction. I think that’s probably enough. I hope you can keep up with the conversation – I will chat to you again a little bit at the end, but now, let’s chat to James, or as my daughter calls him: Jamie.


Ending Notes / Script

Thanks again to James. If you want to buy him a pint by the way, or just to show your appreciation or support – the best way is to visit his page on bandcamp.com and buy some of his music. jimthompson.bandcamp.com/ YOu know what, don’t tell anyone, but you might be able to see a photo of him there. And while you’re doing that, check out his music. He makes mostly electronic music, some ambient, some techno, some hip hop. You can buy his music and most of the money (if not all of it) will go directly to him. You can support him like that and also you can get some of his “choons” too, which are getting better all the time by the way. jimthompson.bandcamp.com/ 

I’m going to ramble now for some minutes. 

Some changes to premium content and how it is delivered to you.

If you’re wondering why it’s been a while since I uploaded new stuff, it’s because I am working behind the scenes to make a few changes to the way I deliver premium content to you. I have also been making a series of premium episodes but I’m holding onto them until I know exactly what is happening. That is the storytime series which I’d been meaning to do for ages. I finally got down to it and wrote about 15 stories – all true stories from my life, which I can use to teach you grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. That’s coming up on LEP Premium. Don’t worry, I am still working on that and have no intention of stopping or anything. 

Remember if you need any information about your premium account – any questions about it, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo because I have put answers to all the frequently asked questions about the premium sub there.

I also just want to say to all of you – especially the premium subscribers and people who have donated but also to those of you who listen until the end of episodes like this and leave comments and so on – thank you for supporting my show. There are always so many episodes I want to make, things I want to say and do – including different topics, different techniques, more language-focused content, returning guests, new guests – and all the things that people often request or suggest. 

There are only so many hours in a day and days in the week though. It’s tricky to do everything – and I don’t want to overload you or myself.

These are not complaints I am making by the way – nor are they excuses. I’m just attempting to have a bit of transparency here at LEP.

It’s hot! It’s now the day after the day after I recorded this conversation with my brother. It’s Friday late afternoon as I record this and the current temperature is 34 with a “feels like” temperature of 36. So it’s 36 degrees basically. I’m flippin hot, but my pod room is not too bad. The podcastle withstands the heat quite well and I don’t get any direct sunlight in my window which helps. Another thing that helps is that if I open a window in the corridor outside my room, and open the window in my room (of course) and then prop open the door of my room just a bit (if I keep it ajar by propping it open with an object – in this case a retro plastic skateboard) then I get a slight breeze blowing through the room and this really helps to keep me cool. That’s a little tip I picked up in Japan. It’s common sense of course, but it was one of the little things I used to do to try and deal with the hot summer weather there. Always try to keep the air circulating if possible, by giving the air somewhere to come from and somewhere to go. Oops, nearly got back into cotton eye joe there. Sorry for the earworm listeners.

OK, that’s enough now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. Leave your comments about these things:

  • The Obiwan Kenobi series – do you agree with James and me that it’s lacklustre, or not? 
  • Do you always get your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and how?
  • How is the weather where you are and how do you manage to cope with it? Do you have any good tips for keeping cool? Maybe you just have air conditioning, but what if you don’t?
  • What is your favourite rock concert film? We mentioned Neil Young, Rolling Stones at Altamont, The Last Waltz and Woodstock, but there are so many others. Which is your favourite? Maybe you’ve never seen one. Actually, my all-time favourite concert film is probably Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads. Amazing film. 
  • That’ll probably do actually!

Have a nice day, night, morning, evening etc, keep cool and I will speak to you soon.

Videos

Jimi Hendrix – “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock

Santana – “Soul Sacrifice” at Woodstock

Alan Partridge meets his Irish lookalike Martin Brennan (This Time With Alan Partridge, BBC1)

Alan Partridge talks to Martin Brennan during the live “Stratagem” show

By James a pint and listen to his music – jimthompson.bandcamp.com

772. Rambling in the Podcastle (June 2022) News / Thoughts / Reflections

This is an unedited monologue in which I talk about some things which are on my mind at the moment, including how my hair is stopping me from learning French (and vice versa), virtuous and vicious circles, how English is like a shark (or a river – or maybe a shark in a river), some comments about recent episodes and a visit from a friendly bat at my podcastle.

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Video Version (try activating the automatic subtitles)

Some vocabulary extracts

I have been deliberating about which microphone to choose

Geeky microphone chat

I have a plethora of microphones

People who have just stumbled across this and are wondering what this is all about

Perhaps you’re in transit somewhere, maybe you’re doing some housework, maybe you’re listening to this in a classroom while your teacher takes a well-earned break, or maybe you are lying in a floatation tank or in zero gravity in the international space station

Stick with me, and enjoy being a LEPster

Here’s a run-down of some of the things I’d like to talk about.

  • How my hair is stopping me from learning French, and vice versa – how my French is stopping me from getting a hair cut (virtious and vicious circles)
  • How my summer is looking, what my plans are and what that might mean for the podcast (busy – difficult to record podcasts in July and August – what’s new?)
  • Thoughts on recent episodes like Sick in Japan and Spinal Tap
  • Some metaphors and similes for language learning and teaching
  • That’s probably plenty!

I’ve been just sweeping it (my hair) back over my head

Maybe I’m being a bit precious about this but I can’t help feeling self-conscious

Taking initiative is very important but it can be hard. 

It can just be taking the initiative to speak, to make an effort to communicate with someone, to risk looking a bit stupid, going out of your comfort zone.

But if you take that tiny little risk, it can pay off in various ways.

You need to keep the English moving through you like a river or the water of your English will become stagnant. We all know this.

But without that little impetus to speak, you won’t do it.

If you don’t take initiative, you don’t put yourself into situations in which your confidence can develop.

Starting a virtuous circle is a matter of taking small steps in the right direction.

Micro-decisions or micro-steps.

Now I have to go out of my way to walk to the hairdresser.

Some people commented that the crowd were quiet.  Well-behaved maybe. 

I should have:

Hyped the crowd up more

Done more stand up at the start

Warmed them up by getting them to make noise. 

“French people make some noise!” Etc

I should have done more crowd work.

Spinal Tap – maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but at the end of the day I am the one who decides what happens in these episodes.

I find that with my learners it’s not just listening skills or vocabulary, but just “being on the same wavelength” and that includes things like little references to culture, or just having a certain sense of humour.

It’s also important that I do stuff that I am personally invested in, or this whole thing just won’t happen. So there.

I love teaching but sometimes I get a bit frustrated because it can be a bit like banging your head against a wall.

You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

771. Sick In Japan (Recorded Live at the BC)

My story about how I ended up in a Japanese hospital bed, scared out of my brain. Recorded live in front of an audience at the British Council in Paris.

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YouTube version (activate automatic subtitles)

The original Sick In Japan episode (with notes/transcript)

769. Film Club: This Is Spinal Tap (with James)

A return to Luke’s Film Club with the classic comedy This Is Spinal Tap, a “mockumentary” about a fictitious rock band from the 1980s. This time I am joined by my brother James and we discuss what was once voted “Funniest comedy film of all time”. Learn some famous quotes from the film, listen to some scenes and understand the comedy with help from James and me.

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VIDEO VERSION with images on-screen

767. Amber & Paul in the Podcastle

Two hours of PodPal action for your enjoyment. This one has a bit of everything. Some audience questions, an idioms game, some dodgy jokes, accents, impressions and more. Video version available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, welcome to the podcast.

I’ve got a full two hours of Amber & Paul lined up for you here. Actually, it’s about an hour and twenty mins of Amber & Paul and maybe 45 minutes of just Paul as Amber had to leave to pick up her kids.

There’s a bit of everything in this one. It’s just the usual rambling from the podpals but we answer some listener questions, do a few accents, tell some stories and dodgy jokes and Paul and I play an idioms game at the end. It’s a pretty goofy episode which shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There is a video version on YouTube as well.

Just an announcement for any LEPsters in the Paris area. I am doing a live podcast recording and storytelling show at the British Council on 19 May at 7pm. It’s free, everyone’s welcome and all you need to do is sign up to reserve a seat. All the details are available at www.britishcouncil.fr and then click on EVENTS or événements. I’ll be telling the story of how I ended up in a Japanese hospital scared out of my wits. It’s a story of culture shock, comedy and misadventure. If you can’t come, you should be able to listen to it on the podcast, if the recording comes out ok and the show isn’t a complete flop!

Right, so let’s get back to this podpals episode. I want to point out a stupid slip that I make right at the very start. I wanted to say “Hi, I’m Luke and I need a haircut” but for some reason it came out “Hi, I’m Luke and I’m need a haircut”. I suppose it just shows that native speakers make language errors from time to time, although this was more of a slip than an error. A slip is when you make a mistake even though you know the rule. It just comes out wrong accidentally. An error is when you make a mistake because you don’t know something about the language.

Anyway, I will let you enjoy my language mistake and then settle into over 2 hours of Amber and Paul in the podcastle.

766. Learning English with The News (with Stephen from SEND7 Podcast)

Talking to Stephen from the Simple English News Daily podcast about learning English with the news and whether BBC reporters actually speak like normal humans.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks, a very quick introduction from me.

In this episode you are going to listen to a conversation I had with English teacher and podcaster Stephen Devincenzi who does a podcast about learning English with the news. 

We recorded a video for this but we had technical problems so only one part of that is available on YouTube. If you go to my YT channel you’ll see it. It’s the part where we discuss the pros and cons of using the news to improve your English. That’s the only video part on YouTube but the audio is fine and you’re listening to it now and this audio will be available everywhere including youTube as usual, and you can check to see if the automatic subtitles are available.

We were plagued by technical difficulties while attempting to do this episode and in fact this is the 3rd time we tried to record. We did this 3 times.

About 3 weeks before this we did another full recording of over an hour which turned out to be unusable because of issues with lag and distorted sound and horrible internet based problems, and then we set up another meeting but had to cancel that due to Stephen’s poor internet connection.

Then Stephen had fibre optic internet set up in his room.

And so did I!

And then I got electricity installed.

But then my fibre optic internet went down (and still is down) but despite the gremlins in the system we managed to record this 3rd version on Zoom with my iphone working as an internet hotspot.

This episode is all about learning English with the news, the pros, the cons, the hows the whys. But is listening to the news a good idea for learners of English? How can you do it? Let’s discuss. 

I’ll chat with you again briefly at the end, but now let’s get started.

Ending

THanks for listening. Thanks to Stephen from the SEND7 podcast.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section as usual. It’s always interesting to read what you have to say.

Have you used the news to learn English? 

Did you find it useful? 

How do you do it? Do you have a particular method? 

Talks in English – British Council Paris – 19 May (Storytelling – Culture Shock & Live Podcast Recording)

765. Travelling Stories / Reverse Culture Shock (with Martin Johnston from Rock n’ Roll English)

Martin joins Luke to talk about moving back to the UK, his fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees and some funny stories about travelling experiences.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to Martin Johnston from the Rock n Roll English Podcast. Do you know the Rock N Roll English Podcast? This is where Martin and his Rock N Roll friends and family do podcasts for learners of English that are unfiltered and frequently involve discussions of taboo subjects, but also plenty of other stuff as well. It’s very funny and bound to be good for your English and general cultural knowledge. Martin featured me in episode 250 of RnR English and we talked about what it’s really like being an English teacher with a podcast. That was a funny chat with lots of memories and funny moments. Episode 250.

In this episode though, we’re going to have a rambling chat about moving to different countries, Martin’s fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees and then some stories of travelling and getting stuck in tricky situations while abroad.  

Martin has recently moved back to England after living in Italy for a number of years, so I thought I would ask him about his experiences of feeling like a foreigner in his own country, and some of his culture shock experiences both abroad and at home. Because this is a thing – reverse culture shock. When you feel like a foreigner in your own country after living abroad for a long time.

Martin has also recently launched a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees. Basically it is a learning pack with 25 stories, and transcripts and exercises. All the proceeds go to help Ukrainian refugees. You can find out more at www.rocknrollenglish.com/stories 

So this is a very good cause. We know that several millions of people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of this war, invasion, operation – whatever you want to call it. This violence and aggression has separated families and made civilians homeless as well as killing thousands. This is a horrendous thing to be happening on our doorstep and so the least we can do is try to provide support in some way, so I call upon all of you to go ahead and get that PDF with those 25 stories and all the money will go towards helping these refugees. Martin talks about it  during the episode if you want more details. But let’s help out some fellow citizens of LEPland here. Plus, of course, you get tons of stories with audio versions and everything. It sounds like a win win to me.

So we chat about the project a bit, which is all about learning English with stories and this then leads us to have a story-off. This is a sort of battle of stories where Martin and I trade different anecdotes and we see who comes out on top. So there are 4 or 5 funny stories of travelling experiences we’ve had, in the second half of this episode. I hope you enjoy them.

That’s it for the introduction. There is a video version on YouTube. Don’t forget to smash that like button.

I should say there is some fairly explicit content in this episode, which means fairly graphic descriptions of things like nudity, sex and bodily functions, which is completely normal for an episode of Rock n Roll English to be honest.

I’ll speak to you again briefly at the end, but now, let’s get started.


Ending

So there you are, that was Martin Johnston. I hope you enjoyed our stories.

Don’t forget, if you want to get that pack of 25 stories by the RNR English family, go to www.rocknrollenglish.com/stories It costs just 10dollars or pounds, and all the proceeds go to help Ukrainian refugees.

This is obviously a very good cause as so many people have been displaced, made homeless and so on and these people need our help.

If you enjoyed our stories in this episode, you could check out some of the episodes with those stories told in full. 

Check out 118 Sick in Japan (although I should be doing a live version of that next month) and also Holiday in Thailand 

or A Rambling Chat with Moz for more of the spa story

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

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

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Introduction & Ending Transcripts

Hello listeners,

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

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

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

Private Online English Lessons with the British Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the British Council does offer that service. 

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

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

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

There are currently over 150 teachers there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 5 Ss  – speaking speaking speaking speaking speaking.

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

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

So the first session is just $1. 

You can try it and see if you like it.

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

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

So, the first lesson is just $1. 

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

Sounds pretty good right?

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

Think about it. Could be a really good move.

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

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

The link is also in the description of this episode.

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

So, obviously, do that then.

teacherluke.co.uk/english

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s some context.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine you had to do that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beatles

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

Members:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ending

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

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

I wonder how that was for you listening in podcastland.

A couple of questions for you. 

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for listening all the way until the end.

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

Thank you for listening.

More podcast episodes will be coming towards your ears soon.

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

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

At least 150 BC Approved teachers to choose from.

Classes adapted to your needs.

All from the comfort of your own home.

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

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

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

Link in the episode description.

Nice one.

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

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

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

755. FUNNY RUSSIAN CITIZENSHIP TEST with Amber & Paul

Can Luke, Amber & Paul pass this funny Russian citizenship test which was written and sent in by a Russian LEPster? Join us as we attempt to answer questions which (apparently) every Russian person would know. This could be embarrassing!
P.S. I am 99% sure that this really is the final episode of 2021.

Audio Version (No extra rambling this time)

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Video Version

👇Read Vadim’s Russian Citizenship Test👇


Russian Citizenship Test  

For Luke Tomson  

Please answer the following questions. You will get one star (because Russians  do like stars) for every correct answer.  

Count your correct answers to get your score at the end of the test.  

The decision on your Russian citizenship will be made and enforced immediately.  Do not close the door (yeah, like it could stop us).  

“Good luck” © Bad guy from “Taken”  

Question 1. 

What animals we have in Russia instead of Tom and Jerry? 

  • A) Wolf and hare  
  • B) Bear and bee  
  • C) Dog and cat  
  • D) Elephant and mouse 

(See the answer below)

The answer is… 

A) Wolf and Hare 

From the “Nu, Pogodi” (eng. “Well, Just You Wait!” ) animated series, (1969 – 1986). 

In the 2014 all-Russian poll “Well, Just You Wait!” won as people’s favorite  cartoon/animated series of all time. 

The series follows the comical adventures of Wolf, trying to catch – and  presumably eat – Hare. The series’ most common line is the eponymous “Nu,  pogodi!” yelled by the wolf when his plans fail. 

Fun fact: Since the 1990s, when the fall of the Iron Curtain allowed better  exchange of films, both Russian and Western audiences have noted similarities  between Nu, pogodi! and American cartoons, the most noticeable being Tom and  Jerry. The director has admitted that he was learning from Disney animated films  which were brought into the USSR from Germany immediately after World War II,  particularly Bambi. However, he did not see any Tom and Jerry episodes until his  on bought a VCR in 1987. 

Question 2 

What animal does every Russian see on the streets every day? 

  • A) Giraffe  
  • B) Bear  
  • C) Lynx 
  • D) Gazelle

The answer is… 

D) Gazelle 

The GAZelle is a series of light commercial vehicles: pickup trucks, vans and  minibuses made by Russian car manufacturer GAZ. Until now, it is actively used in  all Russian cities as a “marshrutka” – shuttle or public bus. 

Side mission: Can you say “marshrutka”?

Question 3 

September 3rd in Russia is a good day to … 

  • A) Drink vodka from balalaika 
  • B) Crush wooden sleds with axes 
  • C) Turn calendar upside down 
  • D) Hang winter boots out of window

The answer is… 

C) Turn calendar upside down 

“The third of September” is a well-known Russian lyric song, first performed  by Mikhail Shufutinsky in 1993. The chorus of this song contains the lines: 

I’ll turn the calendar upside down 

And there will be the third of September again 

Of course, the singer meant, “I’ll turn a calendar page in a loose-leaf  calendar” but many Russians making fun of it. It gave rise to many funny pictures  of upside-down calendars. These lines have become a popular meme in Russia,  and the third of September in itself has become a kind of holiday, when people  joke about the calendar and listen to this song whole day. The singer, by the way,  has a positive attitude to this meme and to the popularization of his song among  young people. 

Question 4 

What do Russians expecting the lobster to do on the top of a  mountain? 

  • A) dance 
  • B) go to war 
  • C) pray 
  • D) whistle

The answer is… 

D) whistle 

“When a lobster whistles on the top of a mountain” – it is a Russian idiom. In fact,  it is an adynaton — a figure of speech so hyperbolic that it describes an  impossibility. The implication of such a phrase is that the circumstances in  question will never occur. 

“The pigs will fly when a lobster whistles on the top of a mountain”. Oh, I’d like to  see it.

Question 5. 

What French name is most often mentioned on the New  Year’s Eve in Russia? 

  • A) Jean-Paul  
  • B) Olivier  
  • C) Pierre  
  • D) Serge

The answer is… 

B) Olivier 

Olivier salad (Russian: салат Оливье, salat Olivye) is a traditional salad dish  in Russian cuisine, which is also popular in other post-Soviet countries. It is usually  made with diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs,  onions, diced boiled chicken or bologna sausage, with salt, pepper, and mustard  added to enhance flavor, dressed with mayonnaise. In many countries, the dish is  commonly referred to as Russian salad.  

In Russia and other post-Soviet states, as well as in Russophone communities  worldwide, the salad has become one of the main dishes served during New  Year’s Eve (“Novy God”) celebrations. 

Additional information: The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by a cook of Belgian  origin, Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow’s most celebrated restaurants. Olivier’s  salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and became the restaurant’s  signature dish. 

The exact recipe—particularly that of the dressing—was a zealously guarded secret, but it is known that  the salad contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck,  although it is possible that the recipe was varied seasonally. The original Olivier dressing was a type of mayonnaise, made with French wine vinegar, mustard, and Provençal olive oil; its exact recipe, however,  remains unknown.

Question 6. 

What tree do Russians always want to hug when sad?

  • A) Larch  
  • B) Pine  
  • C) Birch  
  • D) Baobab

The answer is… 

C) Birch 

Birch is considered as a tree of “Russian nationality”. 

«While traveling for a long time abroad, a Russian often misses his “native  birches”. To hold a birch tree tight and cry… that’s the only thing a Russian wants  to do in a melancholic mood. 

According to multiple folk proverbs and beliefs, ancient pagan Slavs  considered hugging a birch tree as a sign of good luck. Birches were compared to  humans – its thin trunk was frequently associated with a thin body of a young  lady. 

Modern Russians would never confess they hug birch trees on a daily basis.  However, some of us have done it or at least thought of it. And for sure, when we  see those leaves and branches trembling by the wind, our harsh northern hearts  melt. And the one certain sign that Russians love birches is the fact that they  make fun of it, even creating “go hug a birch” memes and jokes.» 

Extract from the article www.rbth.com/lifestyle/331832-russians-birch-tree

Question 7. 

What is the right way to drink vodka in Russia? 

  • A) Only for the reason and with lots of food 
  • B) Looking into each other’s eyes shouting “Na zdorovye!”
  • C) In small sips from a large glass 
  • D) No matter how – it has to be drunk!

The answer is… 

A) Only for the reason and with lots of food 

Most Russians never drink without a reason. A birthday, wedding, funeral,  national holiday – these are all appropriate reasons to drink Vodka. However, it  doesn’t need to be so pretentious; you can always make up a good reason for  drinking, but the important thing is that you should always have one. 

Before you begin drinking, make sure you have something to eat. In Russia  we call it “zakuska” – literally means “snack”, but it isn’t that simple. Its history  goes back to the traditional Russian ritual of greeting important guests with  “bread and salt” – and, in most cases, an alcoholic drink. Other Traditional  Russian «zakuska» is cold cuts, cured fishes, mixed salads, kholodets (meat jelly),  pirozhki, various pickled vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, sauerkraut,  pickled mushrooms, open sandwiches, and breads. The fact is – you should never  drink vodka without eating immediately something afterwards. 

And here is a fact: Russians never looking into each other eyes while drinking  – it would be considered very strange and weird. And they will never shout “Na  zdorovye!” NEVER.

Now, let’s count your stars, comrade.  

If you got…  

7 stars:  

Congratulations! From now on, you are officially Russian. You can go to the  embassy and get your balalaika. The pet bear will be send to your place later this  evening.  

5-6 stars:  

Nice try, comrade! A couple more shots of vodka and the citizenship will be  in your fufaika’s pocket!  

2-4 stars:  

Well, you will get your citizenship one day, but first you have to ask the  lobster to get to the mountain and do some action. Is he still waiting for Gazelle?  

0-1 stars:  

If only you dare touch a birch, it will turn you upside down, like a calendar!    

(Just kidding. It doesn’t matter how many stars you got – everyone is  welcome to Russia. Zakuski are waiting for you!)  

Thank you for your time and До свидания!