Category Archives: Idioms

616. Can you find the 15 idioms? (with Paul Taylor)

Listen to Luke and Paul play a conversation game and try to spot 15 common idioms. All idioms are demonstrated, explained and listed on the website.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast which is made by me in my flat in order to help you learn English and also enjoy learning English too!

If you heard the last episode, you’ll remember that I was planning to play an idioms game with Paul. That’s what you’re going to hear in this episode – a game with Paul in which we have to try to include some idioms into our conversation seamlessly.

What you can do in this episode is not only follow the conversation as usual, but also try to spot all the idioms as they crop up. There are 15 in total. Admittedly, about 3 of them are explained and defined at the beginning, but 12 others are slipped into the conversation and then explained and defined at the end.

So, can you spot all the idioms during the conversation? Do you know them already? Can you work out what they mean from context? This is good practice because it encourages you to pay attention and notice new language as it occurs in natural conversation. Noticing is actually an important skill which can really help with language acquisition.

This from the British Council’s website for teacher development, teachingenglish.org.uk

When learners “notice” new language, they pay special attention to its form, use and meaning. Noticing is regarded as an important part of the process of learning new language, especially in acquisition-driven accounts of language learning, when learners at some point in their acquisition, notice their errors in production. Noticing will only occur when the learner is ready to take on the new language.

Example
A learner might make an error in the use of a preposition, but “notice” its correct use by another learner, or in an authentic text. This might allow them to begin to use it correctly.

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/noticing

It’s an important skill to develop – to be able to notice language, to identify certain bits of grammar, or certain fixed expressions like idioms, notice the form (all the individual words used to create the idiom) and the meaning. It helps you identify differences between your use of English and the way it is used by natives, and that comparison allows you to then adapt your English accordingly. This awareness of what kind of English you’re aiming for is vital.

Developing noticing skills is an important part of developing learner autonomy and your language acquisition skills. The better you are at noticing, the more you are able to learn English by just listening to audio that you enjoy, rather than going through a language coursebook which teaches you specific language items. So, I encourage you to pay special attention during this episode on idioms and fixed expressions. Obviously idioms are confusing because they’re not literal – the whole phrase means something different to the individual words being used.

About the idioms you will hear. These are all very common ones. Some of them you are bound to have heard before and will not be new to you. In a way though, if you have heard them before I’m not concerned. That just means that you’re starting to learn all our idioms, which is a good thing. Remember that you also have to be able to use these idioms, not just understand them. When you do use them, be extra sure that you’re using them 100% correct – for example you’re not using a wrong little word here or there, or perhaps collocating the phrase with the wrong verb or something.

The topic of conversation just happens to be Paul’s brother Kyle who we talk about on the podcast occasionally. In case you don’t know – Kyle Taylor is a professional footballer who plays for the Premiership team Bournemouth FC, although he is still yet to make his Premiership debut. A debut is your first game. So he hasn’t played in the Premiership yet (he’s only about 20) but he has played in the FA Cup.

Alright, so you can listen to Paul and I discussing Kyle and his footballing career, amongst other things, and you have to spot the idioms, which will all be explained at the end. All the idioms are listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check them out there if you want to see specific things like spellings, the specific form of the idioms and so on.

Right, without any further ado, let’s begin!


Ending

Remember, all those idioms are listed on the page for this episode. So check them out.

The Idioms List from this game

  1. (to go) back to the drawing board
  2. to mind your Ps and Qs
  3. to feel under the weather
  4. to be all ears
  5. to take the bull by the horns
  6. a hat-trick
  7. to save something for a rainy day
  8. to pull your socks up
  9. to be down in the dumps
  10. to let the cat out of the bag
  11. to bend over backwards
  12. to get your skates on
  13. to call a spade a spade
  14. to be full of beans
  15. not a sausage

What did you think of the episodes about the mystery game? I don’t know what you all thought of that? Did you enjoy it? Was it too difficult to follow? Give me your feedback. You can do that on the website.

Get in touch and let me know how it’s going for you.

 

611. Top 10 Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Listen to 10 jokes from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy shows. Understand the jokes and listen to Luke break them down to help you learn more English.

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Video Version for Premium Subscribers

To sign up to LEP Premium, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Episode notes & transcripts

Hello folks and welcome back. I hope you’re well.

Here is another episode of this podcast for people learning English.

This time we are dissecting the frog again as we are going to be looking at top jokes from this year’s Ed Fringe. I’m going to read all the jokes to you and then dissect them for vocabulary which can help you learn English really effectively.

Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.

So let’s dissect the frog again!

A challenge for you:

  • Can you understand the jokes the first time you hear them?
  • Can you repeat the jokes, with the right timing, intonation and stress, to make the joke funny?

The Culture of Joke-Telling in English

Remember, when someone tells you a joke there are certain normal responses you should make. You shouldn’t give no reaction.

You have to show that you see that a joke has happened. Don’t just give no reaction or respond to the question on face value.

So when someone tells you a joke, you have to show that you’ve noticed it.

  • laugh
  • go “awwww” or something
  • Say “I don’t get it”
  • Heard it before

You also have to respond to certain jokes in certain ways.

Knock knock – who’s there?

Any kind of question, especially “What do you call a…?” or “What do you get if you cross xxx with yyy?”

You answer: I don’t know. Then the answer is the punchline.

Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2019

I did one of these last year – episode 547. A whole year has gone by. So I did 64 episodes of the podcast, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year for LEP!

Right now stand up comedians all over the UK are having a welcome break and a chance to think about how their Edinburgh run was and what they can learn from it.

The rest of us are reading articles in the press about the best jokes from this year’s fringe, and which new comedians to look out for over the coming year or two.

What’s the Edinburgh Fringe again? (I’ve talked about it a lot on the podcast. Never actually been there.)

From Wikipedia

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (also referred to as The Fringe or Edinburgh Fringe, or Edinburgh Fringe Festival) is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows[1] in 317 venues.[2] Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in EdinburghScotland, in the month of August.[3] It has been called the “most famous celebration of the arts and entertainment in the world”[4] and an event that “has done more to place Edinburgh in the forefront of world cities than anything else.[4]

It is an open access (or “unjuried“) performing arts festival, meaning there is no selection committee, and anyone may participate, with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatrecircuscabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events. Comedy is the largest section, making up over one-third of the programme and the one that in modern times has the highest public profile, due in part to the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Every year hundreds of stand up comedians go to the Fringe to do their shows. It is a sort of make-or-break experience.

Have you ever done it Luke? What’s it like? 

Joke types

I did something about different joke types in the last one of these episodes. I talked about things like “pull back and reveal” and “then I got off the bus”.

Here are about 5 different joke types, or stand-up techniques.

  • Puns (word jokes) – one word or phrase means two things at the same time, maybe because one word can sound like two words – homophones. [Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9. —> “8” sounds exactly like “ate”]
  • Pull back and reveal – the situation radically changes when we get more information. [My wife told me: ‘Sex is better on holiday.’ That wasn’t a nice postcard to receive.” Joe Bor 2014]
  • Observational humour – noticing things about everyday life that we all experience, but haven’t put into words yet. [What’s the deal with airline food, right?]
  • Similes – Showing how two things are similar in unexpected and revealing ways. [Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog…]
  • Common phrases, reinterpreted. This time it seems that most of the jokes are based on well-known common phrases and how they could mean something else if you change the context. It’s like a pun but for a whole phrase. [Conjunctivitis.com – now there’s a site for sore eyes. Tim Vine]

NME.com https://www.nme.com/news/10-funniest-jokes-2019-edinburgh-fringe-festival-2539446 

The top 10 jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 have been announced, with comedian Olaf Falafel taking the coveted top spot. Check out the full list below.

After previous triumphs from the likes of Tim Vine, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons, Falafel scooped the prize with a snappy vegetable themed one-liner.

He took ‘Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe’ with the gag:

1.I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

Florets are chunks of broccoli or cauliflower

Tourette’s is a condition in which people shout out the rudest and most taboo thing in any situation, particularly stressful ones.

The two words sound quite similar.

It’s not the best joke in my opinion.

What makes a really good joke?

If it’s a pun, it should work both ways.

You’re looking at a sentence that means two things at the same time. Ideally, both of those things will make overall sense.

I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

So, one sense here is that he has a type of tourette’s which only involves shouting out broccoli and cauliflower. That makes sense, sort of.

But the other meaning doesn’t. Why would he be randomly shouting out the words broccoli and cauliflower if he had some florets in his hand?

So, for me it doesn’t quite work.

Here’s a joke that works both ways

I broke my finger last week. On the other hand, I’m ok.

  1. On the other hand means “But” (the whole sentence still makes sense) He broke his finger but overall he’s ok.
  2. On the other hand means “literally on his other hand” (the whole sentence makes sense again) He broke his finger on one hand, but his other hand is ok.

I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

It came from Falafel’s show It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind, which was performed at the Pear Tree.

The comic, who won with 41% of the vote, claims to be “Sweden’s 8th funniest” comedian. He also works as an acclaimed children’s book author.
(This is like a democratic election in which the one that 59% of people (the majority) didn’t vote for, is the one that’s picked.)

Falafel said: “This is a fantastic honour but it’s like I’ve always said, jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar… demerara.”

(How is that like winning this list?🤷‍♂️)

Check out the rest of the top ten below.

2.”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy” – Richard Stott

I hope you’re happy

www.examiner.org/news/114141-councilman-walks-out-of-meeting-resigns

3.”What’s driving Brexit? From here it looks like it’s probably the Duke of Edinburgh” – Milton Jones

www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/breaking-prince-philip-crash-duke-13998489

4. “A cowboy asked me if I could help him round up 18 cows. I said, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows’” – Jake Lambert

To round something up (two meanings)

5. “A thesaurus is great. There’s no other word for it” – Ross Smith

There’s no other word for it

Fine dining is fancy, there’s no other word for itNewshub29 Aug 2019

6. “Sleep is my favourite thing in the world. It’s the reason I get up in the morning” – Ross Smith

It’s the reason I get up in the morning

Oxygen15 Aug 2019
She added that her dog is “the reason I get up in the morning.”

7. “I accidentally booked myself onto an escapology course; I’m really struggling to get out of it” – Adele Cliff

I’m struggling to get out of it

8. “After learning six hours of basic semaphore, I was flagging” – Richard Pulsford

flagging

9. “To be or not to be a horse rider, that is Equestrian” – Mark Simmons

That is the question

That is equestrian

10. “I’ve got an Eton-themed advent calendar, where all the doors are opened for me by my dad’s contacts” – Ivo Graham

Read more at www.nme.com/news/10-funniest-jokes-2019-edinburgh-fringe-festival-2539446#idlDviSDEPGrBuXP.99

Did you get all the jokes?

Did you get them first time?

Did you pick up some language?

Vocab review

  1. florets
  2. tourette’s
  3. I hope they’re happy
  4. To drive something (not a car)
  5. to round something up
  6. There’s no other word for it
  7. It’s the reason I get up in the morning
  8. Struggling to get out of something
  9. Flagging
  10. equestrian
  11. to open doors for someone

Check the LEP App for a video version of this episode!

577. UK vs US Slang Game (with Jennifer from English Across the Pond)

In this episode I’m joined by Jennifer – a podcaster from the USA, and we test each other on our knowledge of slang from our countries. Listen and learn some informal words from British and American English. Notes & definitions below. 

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Introduction

Hello folks,

How are you? I hope you’re well.

Here’s a new episode and in this one I’ve got a guest. I’m talking to Jennifer from the English Across the Pond podcast. You’re going to hear a mix of both British and American English and you can learn some slang from both sides of the Atlantic. Also you can find out about Jen, her podcast, and the other language learning services that she offers to you, with her co-host Dan on their podcast and also through their website. More on that in a moment.

But first let me give you a little bit of news here before we get started properly.

A little bit of news before we get started properly

If you’re a subscriber to my email list then you will have received an email from me recently with a link to a post that I published on my website. Did you get that email? Did you click the link? Normally emails from me just contain a link to a new episode, but sometimes I send you other stuff, like posts on my website which you might find interesting.

Basically in that recent post I said a couple of things. One of them was that February might be a bit quiet for the normal podcast – I mean, these free episodes (because there’s the free podcast and the premium podcast, you see). This is the second episode I’ve uploaded in February, and this might be it for February actually, on the free podcast and that’s because I’m focusing on LEP premium this month in order to make up for the lack of premium episodes in January.

So if you’re a premium subscriber you’ll see that you’ve been getting new episodes regularly and that’s going to continue throughout the month but the number of normal free episodes will be a bit lower.

Now, this means that all the free subscribers can just catch up on all the episodes I’ve uploaded since the start of the year (which is quite a lot) but if you want more you could just wait a bit for some new ones to come along, or you could consider signing up for the growing library of premium stuff.

New premium episodes this month include ones covering vocab & grammar from my recent conversation with Zdenek Lukas. I picked out over 40 bits of target language for you to learn from that, and so there are about 4 parts to that episode. Then, in the pipeline I’ve got premium episodes focusing on language from the Paul Chowdhry episode and the recent episode with James. Tons of language for you to learn. This is all stuff you’ve heard on the podcast, but I’m doing all the work of explaining, clarifying and demonstrating the language and also drilling it for pronunciation and all that – all to help you not just hear it but properly learn it. I do all that work so you don’t have to. To subscribe to my premium content, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

The other thing I wrote about in that recent website post was that I was featured in an episode of the Rock n’ Roll English Podcast. Do you remember Martin and Dan from episode 490. They’re the guys from Rock n’ Roll English, which is another British English podcast. Just recently they had me on one of their episodes and we talked again about how to handle awkward social situations (like we did the first time I was on their podcast), and we covered some pretty funny and fairly disgusting topics, including the ins and outs of giving up your seat on the tube, how long you should hold a door open for someone and how to deal with poo smells in public toilets. Yes, the poo thing is a subject that quite regularly comes up in their episodes.

Anyway, check the episode archive on my website for the recent website post about Rock n Roll English and that’s where you can find the relevant links to listen to that.

Click here to read that post and listen to the episode of RnR English.

Now then, onto this new episode of Luke’s English Podcast…

This is another collaboration with a fellow podcaster. There are quite a few of us out there in podcastland and from time to time we invite each other onto our respective podcasts as you will have noticed.

This time I’m talking to Jennifer from English Across the Pond. Some of you will be familiar with English Across the Pond – it’s another podcast for learners of English, hosted by Jen in the USA and Dan in the UK (that’s another Dan – not Dan from the RnR English Podcast). They do weekly episodes focusing on different topics and you can listen to their conversations which include both British and American English.

In this episode you’ll hear me talking to Jen via Skype (she was in California), and we chose to focus on slang words in British and American English.

UK vs USA Slang Game

We decided it might be interesting to see how much of each other’s slang words we know by playing a kind of UK vs US Slang Game.

What do you think will be the result?

So we both prepared a list of 5 slang words and prepared to test each other, and that’s what you’re going to hear.

There’s a bit of chat between the two of us first, so you can get to know Jen a little bit and then we get stuck into the slang game.

As you listen, see if you can play along with us. Do you know all the words in this game?

Keep listening to hear the words explained, defined and demonstrated. I have a feeling that long-term listeners to my podcast might know some of the British ones because I’ve probably dealt with them in previous episodes of this podcast, but do you know all of them? And how about the American English slang words you’re going to hear?

All the answers to the slang game are on the page for this episode if you want to see them.

And also keep listening until the end to find out about a nice offer that Jen and Dan have for you in terms of the learning English content that they are providing on their website.

Anyway, I hope you’re ready for some real slang from both sides of the pond.

So without any further ado, let’s get started.


Answers to the slang game

British English

1. Buff (adj)
You’re looking buff, have you been working out?
Meaning = muscular, toned

2. give me / let me have a butcher’s at that thing (noun)
Giz a butcher’s at that new phone of yours = give me a look at that new phone of yours
Meaning = Give me a look
It’s cockney rhyming slang. “A butcher’s hook” = a look.

3. Chuffed (adj)
I’m really chuffed to bits to have won the prize.
When my daughter does something for herself she always looks so chuffed.
Meaning = pleased, or pleased with yourself

4. Gutted (adj)
How do you feel to have lost the match today?
I’m absolutely gutted to be honest.
Meaning = very disappointed

  • How would you feel if these things happened? Chuffed or gutted?
    Dan wins a podcasting award, but you don’t.
    Tom Cruise crashes his car into your house.

5. Knackered (adj)
I’m absolutely knackered this evening.
I had an absolutely awful day at work today. I had to work a 12 hour shift with no break. I’m knackered. I’m just going to go straight to bed.
Meaning = very tired, exhausted

USA slang words (California specific)

1. a grippa somethin’ (a grip of something)
You must have a grippa toys in your house at the moment.
I have a grippa things to do today.
I have a grippa work that I need to get done today.
It feels good when we get a grippa things done.
Meaning = a lot of

2. To rock something (clothing)
You’re rocking some fresh sneakers.
I’m rocking this fresh cardigan.
I’m rocking some dope corduroy pants (trousers) this afternoon.
My brother rocks a cowboy hat.
Meaning: To wear some stylish clothes

3. To post up somewhere
If you want to go into that shop, I’ll just post up here and wait for you.
I like to just post up at the beach all day long and enjoy the sun.
Meaning: To stay somewhere for a while and hang out.

4. To flip a bitch
Hey, at the next light, flip a bitch.
Meaning = To do a U-turn (to turn around 180 degrees)

5. To trip out
I was tripping out because I thought I saw you at the restaurant yesterday but I thought “He’s not here. He’s not in Southern California.”
Meaning = to be confused


Outtro

So there you have it.

Now, if you liked what you heard there and you’d like to hear more, you could check out English Across the Pond – they have weekly podcast episodes, but also you could consider signing up for their Gold Membership Package, which includes loads of cool stuff to help you learn English with Jen and Dan.

I’m just telling you about this because you might be interested in what they have to offer. So here is some info that might be of interest to you, plus a couple of freebies (that means free things)

So you heard Jen mention this near the end of the conversation there.

Basically, if you sign up with their membership package, every week they send you a learning plan which contains loads of exercises, activities, tests, vocabulary lists, grammar explanations and also a speaking task and a writing task each week with real feedback from Dan and Jen. So, each week their members get a study plan with all those things.

Jen and Dad have set up a little freebie for any LEPsters that choose to become members, and that’s two free study plans if you sign up within the first week of this episode being published.

So, sign up and you’ll start to receive their weekly study plans and if you sign up within one week of the publication date of this episode you will get two extra study plans as a free gift.

So, if you’re interested just click the link on the page for this episode (below) or go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/eatp

Click here to become an English Across the Pond Gold Member + 2 free study plans
(offer valid within the first week of this episode)

Alrighty then.

So I hope you’re doing fine out there in podcastland.

Don’t forget to check the page for this episode on the website for all the slang you heard here.

Remember LEP will be a bit quiet in February, but LEP Premium is quite busy this month so consider signing up for that. You’ll see it’s very reasonably priced, because I am a very reasonable man.

I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.

Bye!

542. Talking Rubbish & Just Having Fun with The Thompsons

Talking to my dad, mum and brother about all manner of topics, including:
Space, climbing mountains, British comedy, fishing, earworms, tattoos, David Beckham, jokes, citizenship tests, baby monkeys, ghosts and celebrity impressions. Intro and outtro transcripts available.

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Intro Transcript

Hello folks, how are you doing? It’s been a while!

It’s August. Things are quiet. We’re between holidays. Going away for another couple of days next week and then things get back into full swing again in September.

We spent some time in the south of France not far from where my wife and I got married, and while we were down there we met up with my parents and my brother.

One evening last week, after consuming a delicious dinner (with some wine) we decided to record an episode of the podcast so that you can join us at the dinner table with some slightly silly banter and discussion with the Thompson family.

Topics include
Baldness, Space, climbing mountains, British comedy, fishing, earworms, tattoos, David Beckham, losing your marbles, jokes, games, citizenship tests, baby monkeys, ghosts and celebrity impressions.

Language
The episode is ripe with descriptive language, linking words and specific grammatical constructions for a range of purposes, including building an argument, describing something and just having fun and joking around. So listen carefully to follow the conversation, pick up some nice language and just enjoy being part of the fun. Also, you can experience the pleasant voices and accents of my family.

Topics (in order)

  • Going bald
  • Space (The Universe / The KLF)
  • Do you remember when…? (Welsh mountain story)
  • British Comedy Recommendation (Whitehouse & Mortimer: Gone Fishing)
  • Earworm (Baby monkey, riding on a pig)
  • Tattoos (David Beckham)
  • Idiom / Phrase (To lose your marbles) www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/lose-your-marbles.html
  • Guess who?
  • Tell us a joke!
  • Good book (45 by Bill Drummond)
  • Kindle? (Steve Coogan autobiography)
  • Citizenship Test lifeintheuktestweb.co.uk/test-2/
  • April Fool’s Day
  • Welsh cakes
  • Baby monkey
  • Have you ever seen a ghost?
  • Nick Frost’s book (ghost story)
  • Impressions (Michael Caine, John Peel, The Queen)

Outro Transcript

I hope you enjoyed being with us at the table there for our after dinner session of talking rubbish, all presented for your listening pleasure and as an opportunity for you to learn some real English as it is spoken by my family.

This would make a great premium episode. There’s a lot of good language to be revealed and explained here. Each episode is a source of great natural language, but you might not notice or at least might not have time to look up every single new word or be able to identify all the parts of specific expressions and their real meanings. With LEP Premium I do all of that for you. I’ll highlight vocabulary and expressions, particularly the structures which are harder to notice but essential to know. Things like phrasal verbs, idioms, preposition collocations and gerunds and infinitives. THere’s also grammar and pronunciation. Each episode has a pdf and a quiz at the end so you can test yourself and check your learning.

At the moment there are about 5 full episodes in various parts, a couple of videos and part 6 coming up very soon. You can think of these as study packs for LEP, where I hold your hand and make sure you can pick up this essential natural language so you can boost your English to a higher level.

To register go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium. There you can sign up. It costs about the same as buying me a beer or coffee once a month. Not that much. You get access to the entire premium catalogue and all future content too. Get stuck in there. teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Premium is available in the LEP app if you sign in with your premium login details. It’s also available online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium. There’s a comment section and a way to download pdfs in normal size, so check out teacherluke.co.uk for more information.

That’s it! I hope you’re having a great August. More episodes of LEP are coming soon as I have a few days, but then things might go quiet until September when everything will go back to normal.

Bye!

520. Idioms Game & Chat Part 2 (with Andy Johnson) + 18 More Idioms & Vocab Items Explained

The second part of my chat with Andy Johnson. Listen out for 18 more idioms which will be explained later. Topics include: Twitter abuse, the other Andy Johnson, training for the London Marathon + more. Transcripts and vocabulary definitions below.

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Introduction Transcript

In this episode you can continue to listen to a conversation I recorded with Andy Johnson just the other day. The language focus in this double episode is on idiomatic expressions.

In fact we’re playing a sort of idioms game. The rules of the game are that before having the conversation Andy & I had to prepare 3 idioms each. By prepare I mean to just think of 3 idioms, or flick through an idioms dictionary and pick 3 that you quite like. Then during the conversation we had to try and insert the idioms naturally, without drawing too much attention to them. Just to slip them in completely naturally. The challenge is that we both, at the end of the conversation, have to try and identify which expressions the other one had prepared in advance.

During the whole conversation lots of idioms just came up naturally. In part 1 I went through a lot of them – there were about 25 idioms in the first part. I explained them all at the end.

Do you remember them all? Here’s a quick reminder.

Idioms from last time:

  • to bring someone up to speed
  • to have beef with someone
  • to hold a grudge against someone
  • to have a score to settle with someone
  • to jump the gun
  • to be the butt of a joke
  • bad blood
  • to take something on face value
  • to be a piece of cake
  • not my cup of tea
  • to hit the nail on the head
  • to stick out like a sore thumb
  • to shoehorn something in
  • to do something on the spur of the moment
  • to be on the doorstep of
  • to be two/three sheets to the wind
  • to be half cut
  • to creep out of the woodwork
  • to feel peckish
  • to be jaw-dropping
  • to be eye-opening
  • to shine a spotlight on something/someone
  • to call someone out for doing something
  • to slag someone off

Again, I explained all of those at the end of part 1. Only 1 of those idioms was prepared in advance. All the others just came up on the spur of the moment.

So that means that in this episode there are still 5 more pre-prepared idioms left.

Having checked part 2, I can tell you that there are about 18 idioms in total. So, listen carefully to the rest of our conversation and try to spot expressions which you think might be the idioms I’ll be defining later. 5 of them were written down by us in advance and slipped into the conversation as part of the game, the others just happened naturally.

There’s also plenty more nice, useful vocabulary that you might not know coming up, so listen carefully – there’s a lot to learn from this episode.

In terms of the topics in the conversation, in this one you’ll hear us cover Andy’s experience of being abused or angrily criticised on Twitter, my experiences of facing audiences as a stand up comedian, how there is another Andy Johnson in London who also looks a little bit like Moby and who used to play football for England, Andy’s training for the upcoming London Marathon and then the results of the idioms game – with our comments about the idioms we noticed (or didn’t notice).

And as I said, I’ll also be explaining all the idioms and more vocabulary at the end of the conversation in the final part of this episode, so keep listening for some clarification of things you might not have understood or noticed.

But now, let’s carry on with the conversation and hear about Andy’s experience of facing criticism on Twitter because of a misunderstanding about his presentation about Millennials in the workplace. By the way, for more information about Andy’s talk on millennials and to find out what millennials are (if you don’t know) let me recommend that you listen to episode 424 in which I spoke to Andy and his colleague Ben about it in more detail.

424. With Andy & Ben from The London School of English (Part 2)

You can find the link on the page for this episode with all the other notes and stuff, or in the episode archive.


The conversation continues…

Luke & Andy’s Idioms Game – The Results

Ones Andy thought Luke had pre-planned: (actually, none of them were pre-planned)

  • Two sheets to the wind = drunk
  • To pull the rug from under you / to pull the rug from someone’s feet = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them

Luke’s pre-planned idioms

  • To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
  • To be a dead ringer (for someone) = to look exactly like someone else
  • To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger

Ones Luke thought Andy had pre-planned

  • It’s the cross I bear = a burden that you have to carry or live with
  • to be half-cut = drunk
  • To slag someone off = to abuse or criticise someone in quite a rude way

Andy’s pre-planned Idioms

  • It’s the cross I bear
  • To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    (Also – to put someone on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect)
  • Jaw-dropping / to make your jaw drop = surprising, amazing, astonishing (in Part 1)

…the conversation ends.


Sponsor Andy & help support The Christie Foundation Trust

Click here for Andy’s JustGiving page for his sponsored Marathon www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andybjohnson

Also via PayPal www.paypal.me/andybjornjohnson


Vocabulary List – Idioms and Other Expressions You Heard in this Episode

At least 18 Idioms and some other nice bits of vocabulary to learn

  • You are a bit of a dead ringer for Moby (I forgot to mention this one in part 1)
    To be a dead ringer for someone = to look exactly like someone
  • They’d all got the wrong end of the stick, but they were all slagging you off.
    To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a rude way
  • It was really eye-opening how quickly it can escalate and how people can latch onto something and they can completely turn it and twist it.
  • eye-opening = surprising and something you learn from (in part 1)
  • Jaw-dropping = amazing, astonishing (in part 1)
  • To latch onto something = to become firmly attached to something (physically), to strongly accept an idea with enthusiasm – just get fixed on one idea quickly and firmly
  • How did it feel to receive all that heavy-handed criticism?
    Heavy-handed (adj) = too strong, using much force than is necessary. E.g. heavy-handed policing.
  • I sent the guy a message, the guy whose tweet caused the kerfuffle
    A kerfuffle
    = A disturbance, a fuss, noise, a confusing and complex situation. E.g. She caused quite a kerfuffle when she sent out that letter accusing them of cheating.
  • I was thanking him for sticking up for me.
    To stick up for someone 
    = to defend someone, to back someone up.
  • If you stand on a pedestal and you give your opinion on things, you’re always setting yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    To set yourself up for something = put yourself in a position where something can happen. E.g. set yourself up for success, set yourself up for a fall, set yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    Heckling (see below)
  • Also – to put something on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect, to idolise or idealise someone
  • People react quite strongly to that especially when it’s posing some kind of threat to the status quo of their work
    to pose a threat to something (not really an idiom) = to present a possible danger to something
    The status quo = the present situation
  • People might feel like these new things are, like, pulling the rug from under them.
  • It’s like pulling the rug from under their feet.
    To pull the rug from under someone = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them
  • Heckling – meaning someone in the audience shouting out when someone is speaking publicly
  • I got an injury and it got worse and worse and worse throughout the week. I couldn’t run for 5 weeks. I had physio, I had acupuncture, I had ultrasound. (not idioms)
    To have physio  = physiotherapy
    ultrasound, an ultrasound scan = a sort of scan that uses sound as a way of seeing inside your body, as an alternative to an x-ray, to check for injury or maybe a baby (but not a baby in Andy’s case. “What seems to be the problem Mr Johnson? Well, my knee is really playing up. It’s very stiff and painful when I walk. Let’s have a look, if you’d like to just lie down here we’ll start the ultrasound. Oh, oh… Mr Johnson, it appears that you’re pregnant. What?? Yes, that’s right, you have a baby in your knee. But how is this possible? I’ve been using contraception! hahaha, etc)
  • The physio used to be the physiotherapist for Fulham Football Club. (person)
    A physio = a physiotherapist (person)
  • When I walked in he did a double take (thinking that Andy might be the other Andy Johnson, who used to play for Fulham FC)
    To do a double take = to look at something briefly, then look away and look back again very quickly! It’s really funny and comical! Also you can do a triple take and a quadruple take for maximum comic effect.

  • A bit of a mover and shaker in the world of football, this Luke Thompson
    A mover and shaker (in the world of …) = a powerful person who influences people and initiates events.
  • Any little problem gets exacerbated when you’re running a marathon.
    To exacerbate something = to make something worse (not an idiom)
  • It seems to be, touch wood, it seems to be OK.
    People say “touch wood” as a superstition to wish themselves luck or for protection against bad luck. It’s like saying “fingers crossed”.
  • Do you have a full slap-up breakfast or is it just a banana to keep the wolf from the door?
    slap up (adjective) = excellent, first class – used with food. A slap up meal. A slap up breakfast. It’s usually used in an enthusiastic and informal way to talk about a full meal.
    To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger, to stave off hunger
  • You go out too fast so after 6 or 7 km you’re knackered!
    Knackered (adj) = extremely tired (British slang)
  • Everyone’s in the same boat. They’ve trained for ages. There’s the music and the camaraderie, they’re running together. Everybody just goes off far too quickly.
    To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation
  • The charity is something that’s very close to my heart.
    It’s very close to my heart = it means a lot to me, it’s important to me
  • When you’re wishing someone luck you say “break a leg”.
    Break a leg = good luck! Have a good show!
  • The leg refers to a limb – an arm or leg, but also a large piece of wood like a beam, or branches of a tree. A large piece of wood can be a limb.
  • In comedy, when you have a really good show, you raise the roof. (the roof comes off because the audience are laughing and applauding)
    So, break a leg means “I hope you have such a great show that the roof comes off the building!”
  • I was using it in a very irreverent way, a very light-hearted way. (talking about the phrase “the cross I bear”)
  • I’m all at sea = I’m confused and not sure what to do

Come on!!! That must be useful to you! A huge slice of English learning cake there for you to feast upon. You could feed a whole family on that for about a week in some places!

Again, what do you think of the idea of this paid premium membership system?

Sign up to be a premium member for a nominal amount per month, per 6 months or per year.

Get access to a certain number of language-related episodes of LEPP (LEP Premium) per month. The episodes would be available in the app or on a website. Episodes would mostly deal with language that has come up naturally in conversations on LEP – like what I’ve done here, or in the recent grammar episodes. Yep, language related but with the usual funny examples and explanations. Also there would be more phrasal verb episodes and probably other things because I would want to reward my premium lepsters or PLEPSTERS, so I’d probably offer little videos and other things too. All for the price of a beer or a sandwich for me per month.

That’s something in the pipeline at the moment.

Why aren’t you just doing it now Luke?

Yes, good question. I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for ages. It’s slightly harder than you might think actually. The thing is, I really want it to work. I want it to be worthwhile. That means finding a model that works. I think now I’ve got the app and I can offer paid content in the app, that is the right platform. Now it’s just a case of making it happen. Enthusiastic responses from you would certainly give me a boost. I think it would be really great. I just hope you realise that too.

Anyway, you can contact me about it if you like, using the usual methods.

Join the mailing list.

Download the app.

Nice one for getting to the end of this episode. Imagine all that English that has gone into your brain. That’s good! Nice one. Give yourself a pat on the back. I think you can agree that your English is better now than it was before you started listening to this, can’t you? I think you can agree with that statement.

Alright, time to go.

Speak to you soon! Bye!!!

Luke

519. Idioms Game & Chat (with Andy Johnson) + 25 Idioms Explained

A conversation with Andy Johnson including loads of idiomatic expressions and their explanations. First you can listen to a rambling chat with Andy and then I’ll explain 25 idioms that came up during the conversation. Part 2 coming soon… Transcriptions, Vocabulary list & Definitions available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks – in this episode I’m talking again to Andy Johnson from The London School of English, and while we’re talking we’re going to play an idioms game, so you can practise your listening with this conversation and also learn some natural English expressions in the process.

Alright Andy? I’m going to do the introduction to this episode, with you here. Sometimes I’ll check in on you, just to see if you’re still there and to see if you’re ok with what I’ve said. OK?

Andy’s been on the podcast a couple of times before but if you haven’t heard those episodes here’s some intel on Andy J, to bring you up to speed. This is the Andy Johnson Fact File.

Andy Johnson started out working in marketing before becoming an English teacher. He’s been teaching English for … a number of years (I think it’s about 15 years now). He did the DELTA qualification at the same college as me (name of that college? That’s UCL in London) and has worked for The London School of English for over 10 years, first as a teacher and now as the Director of London School Online – that’s the London School’s online operation, and yes – I’m calling it an operation, which makes it sound either like they’re surgeons, or special agents and perhaps they are somehow a combination of both of those things – but for online English courses. London School Online offer various online courses for learners of English and other things of that nature. Get more details at www.londonschoolonline.com

Actually the correct link is www.londonschool.com/lso

Andy is a runner. He runs marathons, which is great considering he nearly lost a leg when he was younger, and when I say “lost” a leg I don’t mean that he just couldn’t find it for a while, like “oh where’s my leg? I put it down a earlier and I can’t find it… Ah, there it is! Oh, I nearly lost a leg there!” no, I mean he nearly had to have it removed permanently, which sounds like it was a very frightening and horrible experience. There’s an emotional and inspirational story that explains what happened, which you can hear if you listen to episode 472 when Andy talked about it.

472. Andy Johnson at The London School (Part 2) Why Andy runs marathons

So, despite an early issue with his leg, Andy is a runner and in fact at the moment he is training for the London Marathon which happens next month.

Andy is married and has two children who are boys. He sometimes steps on pieces of their lego, which I understand is incredibly painful. Lego comes from Denmark but Andy Johnson is half Swedish.

But Sweden and Denmark are both scandinavian countries, so the link still works somehow.

However, this does not lessen the pain he experiences when he steps on Lego.

Andy has a good joke about Swedish military ships having barcodes so that when they come into port they can “scan the navy in”, which sounds like “scandinavian”. It’s a good joke, despite the way I just told it just then.

As an English teacher Andy often attends teaching conferences where he presents talks to other English teaching professionals. Previously we talked about his talk on millennials in the English language classroom which he has done at various conferences including the IATEFL conference, which is like the Glastonbury Festival but for English teaching.

Andy also looks a bit like Moby (the American musician, DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, photographer and animal rights activist) but a better-dressed version. Sometimes people mistake him for Moby, with hilarious results, as we have heard on the podcast before.

So, Andy is like a better-dressed, half-Swedish half-English English teaching Moby look-a-like who runs marathons, steps on his kids’ lego and talks about teaching English to millennials at conferences. But he’s so much more than that.

Andy Johnson everybody…

Spot the Idioms

As well as having a conversation, in this episode we’ve also decided to play a game as a way of including a language-focus – in this case idioms. You have to spot at least 6 idiomatic phrases in this conversation, although there will definitely be more than 6.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms to include in our conversation.

What are idioms?

Remember – idioms are fixed expressions with a particular meaning – a meaning that might not be obvious when you take them on face value. The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used in the expression. They don’t have a literal meaning.

Really common idioms (which you probably already know) are things like “That was a piece of cake”, meaning “That was easy” or “It’s just not my cup of tea”, meaning “I don’t really like it”. Those two are really common and well-known ones that just happen to involve food. A third example might be “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there” – to hit the nail on the head, which we use when someone has made exactly the right comment – the sort of comment which perfectly explains or sums up the situation. “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there”.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms – but we haven’t told each other what they are yet. We’re going to play a little game while taking part in our conversation.

Idioms Game

The rules of the game are this:

  • We have to seamlessly include the idioms into the conversation. We should find a way to include the idioms in a natural way – so they are used correctly for the context of the conversation, and not too obviously. They shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, for example.
  • Both of us have to try and identify which idioms we chose, and when we hear them – write them down.
  • At the end of the conversation we will state which idioms we thought were the the pre-prepared ones. For each correctly identified pre-prepared idiom, we get a point.
    It is possible and indeed encouraged to slip in some other idioms as distractions, but these must not be pre-prepared. They can only be expressions that could naturally have come up in moments during the conversation.

So basically – I have to spot Andy’s 3 pre-prepared idioms, and he has to spot my 3 pre-prepared idioms.

A strategy could be – to insert your pre-prepared idioms into the conversation without them being too obvious, while perhaps attempting to distract each other or tempt each other with other idioms that we just include on the spur of the moment.

You can play too, ladies and gentlemen. Try to spot the 6 idioms we have pre-prepared. Also watch out for any other expressions that might not be on our lists, but which are worth learning too, like for example “to stick out like a sore thumb” or “on the spur of the moment”.

At the end I’ll go through all of the idioms and clarify them.


Conversation begins – and then pauses before Andy tells us about being abused on Twitter.


More Transcript…

Hi everyone,

I’m pausing the conversation right there. Andy is about to tell us about he got abused on Twitter, but you’ll have to wait until part 2 to hear that story and the rest of the conversation and the results of our idioms game.

But Luke, why are you pausing here?

The whole conversation went on for about 90 minutes and this time I thought I’d split it into two episodes – mainly because I want to take a bit of time to highlight certain features of language that you have heard already in the conversation, namely – all the idioms that have come up so far. We’re focusing on idioms in this one.

You know that we’re playing an idioms game in this episode and I wonder if you’ve been paying attention, trying to spot the idiomatic phrases that we prepared in advance.

But as well as the pre-prepared expressions, there are loads of other ones that are just coming up naturally.

So I’d like to highlight all the idioms which have come up so far. I’ve listened back to the conversation and made a list of all the idioms I could hear.

Let me now go through them. I’m not going to tell you which ones are the pre-prepared ones, except to say that only one pre-prepared idiom has been used in the conversation so far. That’s one out of the 6 pre-prepared ones. Only one has been used so far. The other 5 will come up in the next conversation.

So, I’m not telling you which one that is. What I am going to do though, is explain every idiom that has come up in part 1.

Here we go.

Vocabulary List + Definitions

Idioms and Expressions that you can hear in this episode (Part 1)

  • Here is some intel on Andy J to bring you up to speed.
    Intel = intelligence. This is just information but it’s a word used by the secret service. “Our agents have collected some valuable bits of intelligence.” “What’s the intel on the British Prime Minister’s security guards?”
  • To bring someone up to speed = to give someone the latest information so they are as informed as everyone else. “Hi, welcome back. Let me bring you up to speed on where we are with the negotiations.”
  • If Swedes have beef with anybody it’s with the Norwegians
    To have beef with someone = to have a complaint to make about someone/something, or to have a long running resentment or grudge against someone/something. E.g. you hear this a lot in rap music. Let’s say Notorious BIG insulted Tupac (maybe he said something about his mum) and then Tupac had a beef with him. (he also held a grudge against him and had a score to settle with him)
  • You’re holding a grudge against someone = you have an long running bad feeling against probably because of something bad that happened in the past. E.g. Mike stole Dave’s girlfriend, and so Dave’s had a grudge against him ever since. Murray has had a grudge against Nadal ever since he humiliated him in front of the crowds of spectators at Wimbledon a few years ago. Obama made a joke about Trump and so Trump had a grudge against him. He had beef with Obama.
  • You’ve got a score to settle with someone = you need/want to take revenge on someone
    Have you got your idioms Andy? I’ve already used one. I think I might have jumped the gun a bit there.
  • To jump the gun = to do something too quickly. Like runners who start the race before the gun.
  • Swedes use Norwegians as the butt of a joke
    The butt of the joke = the object of the joke. E.g. Years the Irish were the butt of a lot of jokes in England.
  • There’s some bad blood between the two of them.
    Bad blood = a bad feeling between two people because of something that happened in the past
  • A meaning that might not be obvious if you take them on face value.
    Take something on/at face value = you just accept something as the way it is, without realising there is a deeper meaning, or another aspect to it. E.g. if you take an idiom on face value, you might take it literally without realising it has another meaning. Or you might take a joke on face value, and not realise it’s a joke – take it literally.
  • That was a piece of cake = easy
  • It’s just not my cup of tea = I don’t really like it
  • You’ve really hit the nail on the head there = you said exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment
  • The idioms shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb = to be very obvious or different from the surroundings or other things
  • You shouldn’t shoehorn them in = force them in unnaturally
  • To include some unprepared idioms on the spur of the moment = on impulse, without planning in advance
  • The Notting Hill Carnival goes on just on the doorstep of the London School = very close to a building
  • The guy was clearly half-cut = drunk
  • He was sitting on the barrel, two sheets to the wind = drunk (also – 3 sheets to the wind)
    www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/three-sheets-to-the-wind.html
  • Did you ever have those socks with the days of the week on? Oh man, that was a minefield.
    A minefield = a very difficult situation in which failure or problems are very likely to happen so you need to take great care.
  • Wait, what’s a street walker? You’re going to have to spell it out.
    A street walker / A lady of the night = a prostitute
    To spell it out = to make it absolutely clear
    It made her look like a lady of the night.
  • What’s amazing is how many trolls creep out of the woodwork on international women’s day.
    to creep out of the woodwork = (a negative expression) when people who are previously hidden or silent, reveal themselves or their opinions.
  • If you’re feeling a bit peckish and you eat your thumb, the thumb will grow back.
    Peckish = a bit hungry
  • It’s jaw-dropping the amount of misogyny that comes out on days like this
  • It’s really eye-opening.
    Jaw-dropping = surprising and amazing. It makes your jaw drop open. Wow!
    Eye-opening = surprising and you learn something new from it
  • For him to shine a spotlight on these people and to call them out for their ignorance and their general dickish behaviour, while still raising money and raising awareness for the cause, I just thought it was really really good.
    to shine a spotlight on someone = bring attention to someone. Like pointing a theatre spotlight on someone on stage.
    To call someone out for something = to publicly bring attention to someone’s bad actions (Hey everybody – this guy criticised millennials!!)
  • Who is this guy to slag off a whole generation?
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a really unpleasant way. (a slightly rude expression)

Now that’s the end of the idioms in this episode.

There are more in part 2 and there should also be a bit at the end where I explain the vocabulary too.

I think this is really useful when I do this. What would really help you now is if you listened to the conversation again. Now that I’ve highlighted the idioms, listen to the conversation again and I 100% promise you that you will notice them more easily and you are also far more likely to remember them and be able to notice them again.

Listening to conversations I have on my podcast with my guests is definitely important, but I think that just highlighting some of the language you’ve heard by picking out certain phrases, repeating and explaining them – this can make a crucial difference in your ability to really learn English from my episodes.

It’s something I think is valuable and I’m looking at ways of introducing this sort of thing more permanently.

For example – an idea I’m thinking of and I’m nearly ready to do it – would be to introduce a paid premium service for just a few Euros a month, where you’d get regular language review episodes where I go through language you’ve heard in episodes. The episodes would be available to premium subscribers in the app and online via a computer.

Preparing language reviews is time consuming for me and adds a lot more work than just preparing a conversation, recording it, editing it and publishing it as a free podcast. I have to listen again carefully, note certain language features and then spend time clarifying them on the podcast.

A paid premium subscription option would allow me to do it more properly and regularly and would mean my time and work is being rewarded, and you’d get really valuable episodes in which I explain the language you’ve heard but might have missed in episodes.

Let me know what you think. From your end, it would be like this. You could sign up for LEP premium online via my host Libsyn. You’d need to pay a little bit of money per month, not that much – probably just the price of a pint of beer per month for me. Then you’d be able to sign into my app and get access to a certain number of premium episodes. Those episodes would be primarily about language. I do various types of episode on LEP – some of them don’t involve language teaching or a language focus although of course it’s all good for your English because you’re getting valuable exposure to the language and I’m here to help. BUt the premium episodes would all be about language and mostly they’d involve me explaining, clarifying and demonstrating English that you’d heard occuring naturally in normal episodes of LEP. So they’d be like Language Review episodes. You’d be able to listen to normal episodes of LEP and then several Premium episodes too which would explain, clarify and expand on the vocab, grammar or pronunciation you’d heard in the normal episodes.

I’m also planning to include other things for the premium package – including finishing off APVAD. I think the only way I can continue the phrasal verb episodes is if they’re part of a premium package.

And don’t worry – if you can’t get the LEP app, you’d still be able to access premium content from a computer on the premium page.

Anyway, this is in the pipeline. Things move a bit slowly here at LEPHQ but I’m getting there.

In the meantime, get the LEP app. More free extra stuff keeps popping up there. I recently uploaded Episode 518b which is part 2 of the grammar questions episode. Check it out.

Also, sign up to the mailing list on the website if you haven’t already done that.

Time to go now!

Speak to you again with Andy in part 2 of this episode where you’ll learn some more idioms and also find out what happens in our idioms game.

Cheers!

Bye.

Luke

479. Holiday Diary (Part 6) The Madness of Las Vegas / 11 Gambling Idioms

This episode includes anecdotes and descriptions of our short visit to Las Vegas, including stories of more rental car issues, Las Vegas craziness, winning and losing $$$ and 11 English idioms that come from gambling.

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⬇️ Episode script and notes (Idioms list below) ⬇️

Why Vegas?

It was just as a stopover between L.A. and other areas, and to have a one look in your life, see what all the fuss is about sort of experience.

Take the rental car back to the car rental company.

Remember them, from part 1 of this?

Wrong Cars™

When we picked up the car in LA – just a Nissan hatchback by the way, nothing fancy, at the start of the trip we had to go and wait in a boiling hot car park in Inglewood or somewhere, where I stood waiting on my phone for ages waiting to get through to someone to tell them we had arrived, standing there on hold with my arm going numb and the sun beating down on both me and my pregnant wife, and after about 40 minutes a guy in a rental car came and picked us up, and told us “oh yes, the shuttle busses are in the garage – they broke down on Tuesday”.

We drop off the car, pay the money, ask about the difference in price between the bill and the receipt –
“Sorry Mani, isn’t here today.”

“Can you do it?”

“Sorry, I can’t. He’s the manager.”

(We got fobbed off by the girl behind the counter)

There’s supposed to be a shuttle (bus) service back to the airport.

But it’s obvious that this is a crappy little rental car company that is cutting corners and fobbing everyone off with this talk of the “shuttle” that is mysteriously always in the garage.

Again we’re told that the shuttle is in the garage so we squeeze into another rental car with a German couple this time.

My wife is in the front, and I’m squeezed in with the Germans.

The Germans are quite nice, but it’s pretty clear they didn’t have the best experience with their car and they’ve driven a really long distance, without cruise control (which is standard for rentals usually) and they’re saying to the driver,

“Do you not have cars with cruise control? Because it’s very uncomfortable to drive 4,000 miles without cruise control, you know?”

I’m thinking – 4,000 miles! Without cruise control. His leg must be knackered.

The driver goes “Cruise control? Yes, there is cruise control.”

“No, there is no cruise control in this car.”

“This was your rental?”

Turns out the “shuttle” is just the same car the Germans just rented.

“Yes, there is no cruise control in this car. It was very difficult for us. Do you not have cars with cruise control?”

The driver is not interested in taking questions. He says “Some of them do and some of them don’t.”

“I think it would be good if your cars have the cruise control”

“I’m just the driver man”

I note in my head that our car had cruise control, and I never used it, not once, but I don’t say anything. I don’t think it would have helped.

“Well, our car had cruise control, and guess what we never used it! Ha ha, it would have been useful if we’d swapped, right? I bet you would have appreciated that after the first 3,000 miles!!”

But I didn’t say that. I just ‘enjoyed’ the really awkward vibe in the car, and the knowledge that my wife was pretty much steaming, but keeping herself under control.

After the Germans got out my wife chose to cross-examine the driver.

“So, where are the shuttles?”

“Oh, they’re in the garage, we had some trouble with them.”

“Both of them?”

“Yes, it’s just a coincidence.”

“OK. When did they go in the garage?”

“Oh just on Friday.”

“Well last week you said they broke down on Tuesday.”

“I’m just the driver”

“I know you’re just the driver but…”

“You’re getting driven there, I’m driving you personally…”

“I know but we just don’t appreciate being lied to, that’s all…”

At this point he got really angry and started making it personal.

“OK, you’re getting personal with me now, and I don’t appreciate you making personal attacks against me, ok?

As I was taking the bags out of the back, I was trying to say, “Look, it’s not personal we’re just commenting on the service. We were told one thing, we get another thing. It’s not you, right? it’s your management, right?”

He just went “Well I deliver you to the airport and you make it personal” and he just got in the car and drove off.

I couldn’t help feeling bad for the guy. I think he probably has no choice but to lie about the shuttle thing because the crappy management of this company keeps telling their customers there will be a shuttle. It’s written in their emails and stuff. I imagine he’s just trying to keep his job.

He couldn’t really say “Yes, well to be honest sir our company is lying to you. We don’t have any shuttles, it’s not worth it – you know? Because we don’t get enough customers to justify using a whole bus, and there’s obviously nowhere for us to park one anyway, so we just use these cars and I’m always dealing with these problems, but it’s because the management keep lying.”

He can’t admit that the company lies or is wrong. It’s unfair on him. I know, I’m making excuses for the guy, but what can he do?

The management should just say they have a personal car service, it would solve the problem.

That’s the solution. We don’t care about shuttles. Just say there’s a personal car service. The driver can introduce himself. “Hi, I’m Carlos, I’m your driver, where are you guys from?” Etc. That would solve the problem. Instead, Carlos (or whatever he’s called) is on the defensive and can’t start talking to the customers because he knows they’re not happy. Poor Carlos, and poor customers.

I wonder what’s really going on there – at this particular franchise of Wrong Cars™.

Anyway, after that we got on our plane for the short flight to Vegas. We could have driven but we planned this to make sure there was as little driving as possible, because when you’re pregnant it’s not good to sit in a vibrating car for hours on end, and anyway it sucks to be stuck in a car all the time.

We arrive in Vegas

It’s hot.

It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert for goodness sake.

We rent a car from another company this time – more established. Enterprise. Admittedly, it’s a bit more expensive but we don’t want to risk it because we’ll be driving in some fairly deserted spots and we want a car that will not break down and that has customer service that’s actually available by telephone.

So we get to the car rental area – a massive building in airportland. Dazzling service. We’re in the car in a matter of minutes and it looks brand new. We rented a small SUV. The main thing was that it was comfy and could deal with bits of rough terrain if needed. We get a Jeep Renegade. It’s pretty cool. Wife is happy and in comfort. OK.

Staying at New York New York Hotel.

Vegas is completely insane and, honestly, not a great place. In fact it’s the most tawdry, sleazy, tacky place ever.

Pick the most touristy part of any town and amplify it by 1000. It’s like that.

It’s boiling hot outside but inside it’s freezing, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build this massive place with all these things like swimming pools, hotels and golf courses in the middle of the desert.

God knows how they get their water.

And it’s just a weird place cut off from reality in which you are constantly being seduced and distracted by flashing lights and big things and encouraged to gamble your money away. It’s like one huge sales pitch in the form of a city.

Inside the casinos there are no windows. They’re like huge circus tents on the inside, with big restaurant facades around the edge, tables for gambling – playing poker or roulette or the one where you throw the dice and there are loads of different numbers and letters and it’s a bewildering illusion of choice, big individual gambling machines, lamp posts (inside the hotel), fake little streets, massive Irish pubs (which is never really a bad thing in itself) but all this stuff and you look up to the sky and it’s the black ceiling of the hotel above you, quite high and in the background. It’s probably daylight outside, but you can’t see the desert sun. Inside the hotel’s gambling area there’s this black canopy of the ceiling above all this trashy fake stuff.

It’s so weird to come to the desert and then find yourself in this totally synthetic place all set against a black backdrop.

This is some people’s idea of a wonderful place – a vast plastic playground with so many attractions, but there’s something very unnatural and twisted about it.

Weird things

People smoke indoors and this feels wrong now after 10 years since the smoking ban. No big deal, but still… I think the reason is that they prioritise the gambling, so even though it fills the air with harmful smoke, it means people stay at the tables and don’t go outside to smoke their cigarettes.

There are tourists wandering around, families and stuff but also you spot these grizzled gamblers losing fortunes.

You see some old people who have travelled for miles to spend their money because they don’t really know what else to do with it, so it all goes in these machines.

There are some really drunk people, sitting at the bar.

But also families with kids walking around.

Even some bars have gambling machines built into them, so you can lose money (or maybe win) while you’re taking a break from the bigger tables.

In one casino, where we went to the theatre – there was a girl in suspenders dancing erotically on a table, and kids were wandering around.

Seriously weird.

It was like a strip club in Disneyland. It was like a cross between Disneyland and a lap dancing club. Adult Disneyland, but with families wandering around in it.

Our hotel had a rollercoaster going around it.

Yep, a rollercoaster, with tracks that actually went around the outside of the hotel.

You can stand in the bedroom and every now and then you hear the rumble of the rollercoaster and the muffled screams of people outside the window. This is from inside your hotel room..

If you part the curtains and look out you can see part of the track twisting around past the window and eventually you’ll see the rollercoaster race past, people screaming.

Take a look into the distance and there are the mountains, some desert and then closer to you just weird, big shiny bright buildings and Trump tower. A massive tower with his name at the top in huge gold letters.

“We’ve got the greatest buildings folks, all the best casinos. You’re gonna have fun, and you’re gonna make so much money. We’re gonna Make America Great Again. Believe me folks.”

And the house always wins.
That’s the thing with these casinos.
You have to enjoy the process of it, because you’re basically paying money to experience the excitement of possibility of having more money, even if the probable outcome is that you’ll end up with less.
You’re paying for the excitement of losing, it’s exciting because there’s a possibility that you won’t lose, but the fact is you will probably lose.
So the chances are that you’re going to lose
but you might win
and that’s what makes it exciting
to throw your money away.
The house always wins.
Sometimes somebody wins.
But most people are losing.
And the house is always winning.

Fair enough though, people choose to gamble and they probably enjoy it. People seem to enjoy it – that’s their choice, but it doesn’t appeal to me very much, beyond just having a go to see what the fuss is all about.

But there are some good things about Vegas, ok!

It’s not all awful! It’s fun for a night or maybe two, depending on what you do.

It is a big spectacle – some of the hotels look amazing and massive, and also there are some spectacular shows that you can see – like dance shows such as Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group and magic shows like David Copperfield or Penn & Teller.

We chose to go there as a stopover but also to experience it and we did have a laugh!
You have to just go with it a bit and just go ‘ wow, look at that, that’s ridiculous!’

A lot of the time we were walking around, couldn’t believe our eyes, saying “this is insane” “Look at that! It’s a massive Egyptian pyramid!

Our hotel was basically a recreation of the New York skyline. Other hotels have things like an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphinx, massive fountains and light shows.

It was pretty weird to see the Eiffel Tower considering we see it every day in Paris.

Also, it’s a very convenient place – in the sense that it’s really easy to access the airport, it’s not all that big, things are open 24 hours a day.

People are helpful and friendly.

There was a wholefoods there. In fact there are a few Wholefoods supermarkets there – say no more!

Some of the stuff is good fun.

So, that’s that then isn’t it.

Penn & Teller

Gambling in the Casino

We played some one of the “one armed bandits” – the fruit machines. It’s like one dollar to pull the arm and watch some things spinning around. We put aside about 50 dollars for fun. My wife enjoys the one armed bandits and she’s actually very lucky. I’m a lot more sceptical about it.

But she thinks she’s blessed with luck or something.
(Actually she’s blessed with Luke, but anyway… I’m not sure “blessed” is the right word – “married to” is probably better)

In England, when we had first met each other, we took a trip to Brighton, on the south coast, and we went to the pier (a wooden walkway that stretches out over the sea, wooden legs supporting it – a pier) where there are lots of arcade machines and gambling machines and other attractions, and she was convinced she would win money on the machines and I was going “ but the house always wins” and she was saying “no I’m magic!”.

I was shaking my head thinking “there is no magic, only the force” and she put one pound in a slot machine and promptly won £20, and said “I told you I was magic”. We walked away £20 richer. We didn’t continue gambling. I think she’s smart enough to know that you quit while you’re ahead.

The same thing happened years later, we were in a little resort in the north of France where you find some casinos. She’s not a gambling addict or anything. She just likes playing the machines a few times when we’re on holiday sometimes.

We went to a casino and chose to spend no more than 50E. A 50E limit. Ooh, big bucks, right?

We were walking around trying to find a good machine. There were some slightly sad looking people just sitting there plugged into these persuasive light shows – it’s a sort of low level basic addiction (or high level for some people) – an addiction to the sales pitch, basically.

I was being very sceptical, and making various sceptical noises.

We ended up leaving with 80E, 30E up from when we went in.
Not bad.

We quit while we were ahead.

In Vegas we did some gambling on the machines. I was thinking, “Well, she is magic. Maybe we’ll win enough to get a half decent dinner.”

We lost all the money we took in. All of it.

It was a steady one directional flow of us putting money into the machines and getting nothing in return. Las Vegas just ate our 50 dollars like a crocodile eats a chicken. One gulp, all gone, didn’t even chew. It didn’t even touch the sides as it went down.

We won nothing.

Well, almost nothing. We always seemed to win a few credits just before our money ran out, which I’m sure is a little trick to encourage you to put more money in because you think the machine is going to ‘start paying out’ at some point.

Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing. We had no clue and I’m sure those machines were the wrong ones to be playing, and some of the casinos are better than others, but anyway we weren’t really there for the gambling. We were more interested in playing it safe.

11 Gambling Idioms (that don’t just apply to gambling)

  1. to be on a winning streak (when you’re winning)
  2. to be on a losing streak (when you’re losing and nothing is going your way)
  3. to break even (when you take the same amount of money that you spent – in gambling or in business. No profit, no loss.)
  4. to quit while you’re ahead (stop when you’re winning)
  5. the house always wins
  6. to bet (to gamble) “I bet you £20 that Arsenal win the game” or (a challenge) “I bet you can’t throw this paper ball in the bin from there!” or (an expectation) “I bet all the tickets are sold out”
  7. to show your hand (show the cards in your hand / reveal your position)
  8. a poker face (a facial expression which reveals nothing – used while playing poker, or in any other situation where you keep a straight face)
  9. don’t push your luck (take a big risk and try doing something that could end in failure – it’s a bit like saying “watch what you’re doing” or “be careful”)
  10. to raise the stakes (the stakes = the money which you have to gamble in a round of poker. The expression is used to mean to increase the amount of money you can win or lose in a gambling game, but also to raise the general level of what you can win or lose – e.g. this line from a recent Daily Mail news article “Mr Trump raised the stakes in the escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear threats, suggesting drastic economic measures against China and criticising ally South Korea.”
    www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-4847836/North-Korea-conducts-nuclear-test-making-hydrogen-bomb-claims.html
  11. the chips are down (chips = the plastic coins you use while gambling. The expression means – when you’re feeling bad, or when the situation is bad) E.g. in cricket – “When the chips are down for England, Moeen is often the side’s most useful player.”

I once saw a great documentary by Louis Theroux about high stakes gamblers in Vegas. Some of them lose thousands of dollars, but they keep gambling because they think they’re going to eventually start winning it all back. I’ve put some videos from the documentary on the page for this episode. I love Louis Theroux’s documentaries. They’re fascinating.

The phrase that I take away from one of the videos: Louis and a high-stakes gambler are standing in the biggest hotel suite in the city, looking out of the window at the huge hotels and Louis says “Vegas – they didn’t build these casinos on winners you know” and the guy says “I think in the lifetime, everyone’s a loser. But the thrill of being able to win today, lose next month, win the year after. I think it’s the challenge. I think it’s the thrill. I think it’s the entertainment in this city.”

Louis Theroux Gambling Documentary – video clips

Louis hangs out with a high-stakes gambler in a very expensive hotel suite in Las Vegas

Here’s the same guy, after losing about $400,000 dollars in 3 days

Louis gambles with a couple of gambling “enthusiasts” (addicts?)

Louis plays the “one armed bandits” with Martha (these are the machines that took our $50 in just a few minutes) Martha says “I lost 4 million dollars in the casino in 7 years.”

Louis gets lucky playing Baccarat
“Because I resigned myself to failure that night, Lady Luck had decided to tantilise me by making me win.”

How gambling can be dangerous

It seems that this is how it goes:

  • You might begin by winning some money. Then you feel lucky so you bet bigger, but you lose it.
  • You then start digging yourself in deeper and deeper, expecting your luck to change but there is absolutely no certainty that it will.
  • Some people talk about ‘the law of averages’ – suggesting that in time any sequence will balance out. E.g. you might spend a certain amount of time losing, but ultimately this will be balanced out by the number of times you win.
  • But that’s assuming that gambling in a casino is random. Usually it is subtly weighed in favour of the casino so that the pattern is that the casino wins more often than you. Even if you win a lot, the casino can afford it because more people have lost overall.
  • Often these high stakes gamblers keep betting because they think they’ll eventually start winning. They often don’t and then leave utterly devastated by the loss.
  • The house always wins.
  • Then what might happen is that you’ve lost, you’re dejected. You resign yourself to failure but play another game because why not, and then you hit a winning streak.
  • What a powerful combination of defeat and then victory, all out of your control. You’re at the mercy of this external force, playing around with “luck”. (Not Luke)

And the house always wins.

We drove along the strip. It’s madness out there! Just all the flashing lights and the spectacle, it’s like Picadilly Circus on steroids and the steroids are also on steroids.

Unbelievably massive plate of pancakes for breakfast.

Then we got out of town.


I told you I would talk about nature and canyons, and big rocks! All that stuff I really loved seeing, but I got carried away – distracted by tales of gambling in Vegas.

Las Vegas – a place that seems diametrically opposed to somewhere like Bryce National Park or The Grand Canyon.

I’m glad we only spent an afternoon, one evening and a night there.

Natural beauty is so much more real.

Well, anything is more real than Las Vegas, I suppose.

Thanks for listening.

Join the mailing list.
Thanks to the Orion transcription team and Andromeda proofreading team.
Shout out to the comment section crew.
Shout out to the Long-Term LEPsters, you know who you are.
Shout out to the new listeners, I hope you stick with us.
Shout out to every single one of you all around the world, listening to this right now and united by the fact that you are all citizens of LEPland or Podland or whatever we are calling this community which crosses international boundaries.
Be excellent to each other and party on!

Speak to you in the next episode.

Luke

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460 Catching Up With Amber & Paul #6 (feat. Sarah Donnelly)

Conversation and language analysis with the podpals and guest Sarah. Hear some conversation about being married to a foreign person, bringing up kids to be bilingual, and learn some slang in Australian and Northern Irish English. Vocabulary is explained at the end.

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Introduction

This episode is choc-a-block with natural conversation and language.

Yesterday I had Amber and Paul over to the flat, and I also invited Sarah Donnelly, a friend of the podcast. Sarah also brought her baby who she had since she was last on the podcast. There’s no relation by the way between her being on the podcast and having a baby. Purely coincidental. Anyway, the four of us sat around the table yesterday in the blistering heat to record some podcast material and that’s what you’re going to hear.

Sometimes you can hear the baby screaming and gurgling in the background but I don’t think it spoils the recording really. She hasn’t learned to talk yet, but who knows being on the podcast might help a little bit in some way.

The conversation is a bit chaotic because there are 4 people, sometimes talking over each other. If you like you can imagine you’re in a business meeting. A business meeting in which no business actually takes place, nobody observes the rules of formality and where the participants just chat with each other. So, not much like a business meeting really, but anyway a meeting of sorts, and this is the kind of thing you might have to deal with in the future if you go to a meeting in English and there are a number of people discussing things and you have to keep up. It’s good practice to listen to this kind of thing to help you prepare for that kind of situation.

This recording was slightly shorter than the usual full-on ramble that we have together. But I’m going to do a bit of language analysis at the end. I’ll pick out a few words and phrases and will clarify them after the conversation has finished.

Also there’s another language-related episode coming soon with Amber, Paul and Sarah.

Here now is a discussion between podpals Amber and Paul, also featuring Sarah Donnelly the American with Irish roots who has been on this podcast before, most recently talking about the US Presidential Elections with Sebastian Marx.

Things we all have in common:

  • We’re all English speaking expats in France
  • We are all with French partners, either married or “paxed”
  • We’re all comedians on the stand up scene too

In this chat we discuss a few things, such as the complexities of being with a foreign partner, bringing up a child in a foreign country to be fully bilingual, getting married and what it feels like for the bride and groom on the big day, Amber’s podcast which was recently released online, Paul’s upcoming gig in Australia, Sarah’s Irish roots and some English slang from New Zealand, Australia and Northern Ireland.

Questions

Here are some questions for you to consider as you listen. This can help you to focus on the content.

  1. Are you or have you ever been with a foreign person in a relationship? What are the difficulties of that?
  2. What’s the best way to bring up a child to be bilingual? Is it possible to raise a bilingual child when only one of you speaks one of the target languages to the child?
  3. Are you married? How did it feel for you on the big day? Did you cry? Have you ever been a guest at a wedding, and did you cry?
  4. Have you heard Amber’s podcast, which is called Paname? It’s now available at panamepodcast.com
  5. Can you identify different English accents and dialects from around the world? How about American vs British, or different areas of the UK? How about Ireland and Northern Ireland? What about Australia and New Zealand? Do you know what their English sounds like?

Right. Consider those questions as you listen to this conversation and hold on until later when I’ll explain some of the vocabulary and some cultural stuff too, maybe touching on different accents, wedding vocabulary and more.

But now you can listen to Amber, Paul, Sarah and me, melting in my boiling hot apartment.


Vocabulary and other language points – Explained

It’s really hot
It’s hot as hell
It’s boiling
It’s sweltering
It’s baking
It’s blisteringly hot

Being partnered with a French person is hard work.
I have one hour’s worth of material on this.
One hour’s worth of something
5 minutes’ worth of something
We’ve got 3 days’ worth of food left
I’ve got about 10 minutes’ worth of battery left

Bringing Up Children
Bringing up
a baby in a foreign country with a foreign partner – will they speak English?
Bring up a baby
Raise a child
Be raised in / to
Grow up
Do you have experience of bringing up a baby to be bilingual? Let us know.
If just one parent speaks English, and the rest of the time it’s French with school, friends and everything else – will the kid be bilingual?
Anglophone
Francophone

Condone/Condemn
I don’t condone the hitting of a child (stupid thing to say actually – but that’s what happens when you joke – sometimes you go over the line a bit – obvs I didn’t mean it)
Condone / condemn

Paul’s Wedding
An out of body experience
We were so stressed out

Crying
To cry
To be in tears
To well up
To choke up

Neither of us cried
I thought everybody would be in tears
I welled up a bit
I was choking up

Walk down the aisle
The altar

Her parents aren’t with her any more. They passed away.
Paul’s dad gave her away. “It was so sweet that it was your dad that was giving her away.”
I’m left-handed
I can’t grip it like I like to grip it. (innuendo)
He’s jumped ahead. (he’s gone to the innuendo before we realised it)

Some ninjas came out of the woodwork. (to come out of the woodwork)
to appear after having been hidden or not active for a long time:
After you’ve been in a relationship for a while all sorts of little secrets start to come out of the woodwork.
Mildly disapproving.
From Cambridge Dictionary Online.

They feel like they’re going to do mistakes. Make mistakes.

Aussie slang mentalfloss.com/article/61847/25-awesome-australian-slang-terms
G’day mate, how are you going?
Arvo: afternoon
Barbie: barbeque
Bogan
Chockers
Fair Dinkum
Fuckin’ oath!
Sweet as
Strewth! (Cliche)

Kiwi slang
The slang is pretty similar to Aussie or UK slang, but the accent is different. For years I couldn’t differentiate it from Aussie, but the more you hear the more you realise how different it is. Watch Flight of the Conchords to hear lots of it. Episode in the pipeline.

454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

Talking about language with one of the world’s top linguists, Professor David Crystal.

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Introduction

Hello everyone, thank you for choosing to listen to this episode of my podcast. I am particularly pleased to be able to present this episode to you. It is, in fact, a privilege for me to say that today on the podcast I am talking to Professor David Crystal.

I’m now going to give a quick introduction just to make sure that you are all fully aware of the calibre of this guest and to emphasise to you just how lucky we are to have him on the podcast today.

According to The Guardian newspaper, David Crystal is the world’s foremost writer and lecturer on the English language.

He isn’t an English teacher, but he is an expert on linguistics. That’s the study of language and all the issues relating to it.

David Crystal

David Crystal has a worldwide reputation and has published something in the region of 120 books including numerous academic reference works and encyclopedias of language, and books for the general reader covering topics such as English grammar, spelling, punctuation, accents, connections to Shakespeare, the influence of technology and the development of language throughout history.

He is currently patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL), president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the UK National Literacy Association, and honorary vice-president of both the Institute of Linguists and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

He is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales and in 1995 he was on the Queen’s honours list when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (the OBE) for services to the English language. The OBE is the second highest honour which you can receive from The Queen – the highest being the knighthood or damehood.

So he’s Britain’s favourite language expert and he regularly makes appearances at literary festivals and teaching conferences, appears on British radio and television, writes articles for newspapers and magazines and researches all kinds of language-related topics.

But the main thing he does is to write books…

David’s Books

Some of his most popular books include:

  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
  • The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
  • The Story of English in 100 Words
  • You Say Potato: The Story of English Accents (written with his son Ben)
  • Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain (Written with his wife Hilary)
  • Txting: The Gr8 Db8
  • Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment – a fascinating project investigating how English was pronounced by the original actors in the Globe Theatre when Shakespeare was alive
  • Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling
  • Just A Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language (which is both his autobiography and a highly accessible introduction to the field of linguistics)
  • And from this year “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar”

Many of those titles can be purchased as ebooks from David Crystal’s website – www.davidcrystal.com or from any good bookseller. There are also audiobook versions which are read out by the man himself.

David Crystal’s writing is clear, entertaining, informative and simply a pleasure to experience. The same can be said about his public speaking. I’m always impressed by his ability to take a complex academic subject like linguistics and turn it into the sort of thing that anyone can understand and enjoy.

I met David once at a teaching conference where he presented Andy Johnson and me with an award for a presentation we did. I had a chat with him afterwards and was delighted to discover how down-to-earth and friendly he is and I’ve always wanted to interview him for this podcast, but it’s only recently that I actually plucked up the courage to ask him. Thankfully he agreed.

David Crystal is a nothing short of a national treasure and I can’t believe I’m talking to him on my podcast.

Right – I think you get the idea now – he’s kind of a big deal for anyone interested in language and language teaching and so without further introduction, here is my conversation about language with Professor David Crystal.


Questions for David Crystal

Grammar

Your recent book from this year is called Making sense: the glamorous story of English grammar.

Is grammar really ‘glamourous’?

In my experience, a lot of learners of English feel a bit bored or intimidated by grammar, leading some teachers out there to say that you can learn English without grammar – learn English without thinking, etc.

Do you think it’s possible to learn English as a second language without studying grammar?
I know you’re not actually an English teacher, but do you have any tips for learners of English who want to improve their grammar?

You recently wrote a political history of grammar in the UK as a supplement to your book “Making Sense”.

What relationship does the average Brit have with grammar today, in your experience?
Has this attitude changed over the years? How has it changed?

Language Decline

I was recently having a conversation about language with a couple of friends on this podcast and we arrived at several questions that we couldn’t really answer. I thought you might be able to help.

People often complain about the so-called decline of the English language – citing things like poor grammar, punctuation, spelling, acronyms or text-speak as evidence that standards of English are slipping. Do you agree with that? Are standards of English declining? How do we even measure that?

People seem to be afraid that what they see as falling standards will result in “the death of the English language”. Has a language ever completely “died out” due to declining standards? What causes languages to die?

Are we better or worse at communicating than we used to be? (answered later)

‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’

Are you bothered by those so-called ‘errors’ in English that make some people angry?

Non-native speakers influence on English

My mate Paul says (as a bit of a joke) that because there are more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers, we’re actually the ones who are using the language incorrectly. E.g. because more Chinese people pronounce some English words in a certain way, it’s the native speakers who are pronouncing those words wrong.
Does he have a point or is he talking nonsense like he usually does?

French Pronunciation example

My French students often feel bad about their pronunciation because it’s so ‘French’. We understand everything that they say, but they’re really hung up on the fact that they sound so French – e.g. they can’t pronounce TH sounds in words like strengths, clothes, thirty three etc and it seems to be impossible to fix it.
Do they need to feel so bad about it?

How should my listeners feel about their relationship with English, and the version of English that they speak?


End of part 1

That’s the end of part 1. The conversation will continue in part 2 where you’ll hear me asking some questions sent in by listeners, and there were some really great questions including predictions about English in the future, the role of AI in language learning, the impact of Brexit on English in the world, and the way Donald Trump and Barack Obama use English.

I hope you’re enjoying listening to this, and that you’re able to follow some of the slightly complex points being made.

David gave so many really interesting answers and made some very important and useful points, and he continues to do that in part 2.

I think David speaks very clearly, with that slightly Welsh or Scouse twang in his voice. He lives in Hollyhead, in Northern Wales, not far from Liverpool, and he lived in Liverpool for a while as a child, which accounts for the slight accent that he has, if you noticed that.

As he said, his accent is a mix of different things, caused by the time he has spent living in different places and interacting with different people – RP speakers in the south east, locals in Wales and Liverpool and so on. It all contributes to the way he speaks. He also happens to be very articulate and I really admire the way he expresses his thoughts so clearly.

I hope you agree that we really are rather lucky to have David Crystal on the podcast and I think it’s worth listening to this episode several times so you can really absorb everything he’s saying because he really does know what he’s talking about and there’s a lot of knowlege there.

I think I should do a follow-up episode to this in which I just restate the main points that he made, just to consolidate it all, and I plan to do that. I could also talk about some of the questions which I didn’t have a chance to ask David.

I also hope you noticed that David Crystal helped to clear up some of the things I was discussing with Amber and Paul in episode 452. I should go over those things again if I do a follow-up episode, just to make it “crystal clear” – pun intended. I totally intended to make that joke and I think you should know it’s a brilliant joke which nobody has ever made before and this is sarcasm but it also isn’t.

Don’t forget to check out www.davidcrystal.com for all his work, his blog, videos of him speaking publicly and more information, including the opportunity to send him a message if you want to.

I strongly recommend getting some of his books, which should be available from any good bookseller. You could try “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar” for example.

Also, don’t forget that you can get audiobook versions of his work.

For example, I listened to You Say Potato – the one about accents in the UK and I think the audiobook is better than the printed book because you can actually hear his son Ben doing all the accents. You could get that as part of a trial with Audible – and remember I have that deal with them – you can get a free audiobook if you go to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke or click an audible logo on my site. They’ve got a lot of DC’s work there. Start a trial, download your audiobook, listen to it using the Audible app on your phone and you can cancel the membership and not pay anything, or continue your membership for about $15 dollars per month and get another free book next month and so on…

So, that’s the end of part 1. Part 2 should be available for you very soon and you can hear David answering questions from listeners, and that’s brilliant because the questions were very diverse and David Crystal answers them – what more do I need to say? I still can’t believe I spoke to him on the podcast. I need to contact other awesome people for interviews now I think.

Thank you very much for listening to this. Don’t forget to join the mailing list to keep up with every new episode and to get convenient access to the page for each one where you’ll find various bits of supporting information, transcriptions, links, videos and the comment section. Just visit teacherluke.co.uk and pop your email address in the subscription form and Bob’s your uncle.

I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.

Reminders

LEPsters are still getting together and spending time socialising in English.
In Moscow there is a group that hangs out every Sunday. Their FB group is called “Conversational English for Free – Moscow LEP Club”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/

Also in St Petersburg there is a similar group which gets together on Sundays. You can find them on FB by searching for “SPB LEPsters Conversational Club” – I understand they have get togethers on Sundays. Kristina from Russia who won the LEP Anecdote Competition last year often takes part – friendly people, speaking English, playing games, hanging out. https://www.facebook.com/spbenglishLEPclub/

LEPsters in Tokyo have got together a number of times, and I attended one in April to do some stand up – you can hear all about that in my Trip to Japan episodes (part 2).

Also, recently a group got together in Prague in the Czech Republic – in fact you can hear their conversation because it was recorded and published on Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Again I’m flattered because they talked mainly about LEP – including, shock horror, their least favourite or “worst” episodes of the podcast.

Listen to both episodes below.

Also, if you’re in Spain I have heard rumour that there will be at least one meetup group getting together there, somewhere, sometime soon.

If you’re thinking of setting up something similar, let me know because I can publicise it on the podcast and get the word out.

Speak to you in the next episode!

Luke

445. British Podcast Award / Hello to New Listeners / 17 Vocabulary Expressions

In this episode I’m going to talk a little bit about the results of the British Podcast Awards and also do a sort of introduction to the podcast for new people who might be listening for the first time. I’m going to bring you up to speed on what this podcast is all about and also recommend a few episodes from the archive that you could listen to. Also – for the dedicated language learners, at the end of the episode I’m going to explain 17 expressions which you’ll hear as I’m talking. Which expressions will they be? You’ll have to wait and see.

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As ever, I encourage you to listen out for words, phrases, bits of grammar and so on, so that you can notice them and add them to your vocabulary. It’s notoriously difficult to notice new language when listening because unlike when you’re reading, if you don’t know a new word when you hear it, it’s hard to even notice that it’s there. You tend to just follow the bits you understand and the new language can pass you by if you’re not careful, so I always encourage you to just pay a little bit more attention when you’re listening and try to notice new any interesting phrases as the podcast goes along. I’ll be picking out 17 of them and explaining them at the end. You can try to guess which ones I’ll be explaining.

The British Podcast Awards – LEP WON BRONZE IN THE LISTENERS’ CHOICE AWARD!

For the last couple of months I’ve been asking you to vote for LEP in the BPA, saying things like “I need all your votes if I’m going to stand a chance of winning this!”
I honestly didn’t believe I could win. I thought, “it’s a long shot but it might just happen!”
The awards event was this weekend in London but I didn’t get tickets because I didn’t think my podcast was going to win anything. I was up against some pretty stiff competition. But damn it, I should have got tickets! I shouldn’t have underestimated the awesome power of my audience!
I have to thank you, my listeners soooo much, because I actually won the bronze medal in the Listeners’ Choice Award.

This means I came third, and I beat some other really great podcasts in that category and I’m blown away.

This means so much to me.

The winner was Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review – my favourite podcast of all time. I’ve been listening to Mark and Simon forever. Hello to Jason Isaacs. The silver award went to The Anfield Wrap Podcast, which is the #1 podcast for Liverpool Football Club and then I am in 3rd place, and I beat so many of these giant podcasts that I love to listen to all the time, like Athletico Mince, Distraction Pieces with Scroobius Pip, My Dad Wrote a Porno, The Adam Buxton Podcast (although Adam did win an award in another category), The Empire Film Podcast, Unexplained, Monkey Tennis The Alan Partridge Podcast, Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (or RHLSTP as the cool kids call it) and more.

This is mind-blowing and immensely satisfying.

Here are some phrases to explain how I feel

  • I’m blown away
  • I’m over the moon
  • I’m buzzing today
  • I’m feeling pretty good about myself
  • I’m feeling on top of the world
  • I’m absolutely delighted
  • I’m very flattered
  • I’m immensely proud
  • I am feeling quite smug, self-satisfied and a bit pleased with myself

My podcast is featured on the front page of the iTunes store today right next to Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo, and other podcasts that I am a fan of. I’ve been tweeted by the British Podcast Awards and there’s my podcast in the winners list with these other big names, for the whole world to see.

I feel like I’ve just won a Bronze medal at the Olympics of podcasting.

Actually, I’m still yet to find out if I get anything at all. Obviously the winners (Mark & Simon) got a nice glass award. I don’t think I’ll get anything, but I hope they send me some sort of badge that I can display on my website because that would help a lot to give a good impression when people visit my site for the first time.

But I might get a bit more exposure from this. I’m not sure how much, but I expect a few people might be checking out my podcast at the moment, which is nice. Hello!

Now the things is, I owe this to you my listeners because without your support I wouldn’t have got this boost.

So, really – thank you thank you thank you if you voted for the podcast. I really appreciate it.
I especially want to thank all those ninja listeners out there who normally just hide in the shadows listening but never coming out and revealing yourselves.

If I can just activate you lot more often I could be in a position to actually take over the world, in the best possible way of course.

It’s brilliant, isn’t it, this? Podcasting. I still find it incredible that I can produce these episodes in my home and have people around the world listen to them.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, never before have we had language learning resources available to us so conveniently. In the past, previous generations found it very difficult to get access to sources of English to help them learn. They had to use books mainly, or records, tapes, CDs and they were hard to come by and costly. Now it’s all here for you online and I’m sure this is going to have an impact on the world as this generation takes advantage of these resources and uses them to become genuinely much better at speaking English and communicating.

Some people are out in the world right now arguing that globalisation is a bad thing, but let’s not forget the positives – that the fact we’re all more connected today means we can learn to understand each other a bit more, communicate better and hopefully make things work well for everyone, rather than retreating into closed off worlds where we don’t trust people from other places and we harbour resentments and rivalries. Basically, I’m saying that podcasting will save the world, and this podcast specifically is going to save the world, or at the very least people will know more phrasal verbs than they did before, but it’s something isn’t it!?

Hello to new listeners

I expect that various new people will now be having a look at the podcast. If you are new then hello! Welcome to my podcast. I guess you’ve worked out that it’s a podcast for learners of English, but everyone’s welcome to listen.

I’m an English language teacher – a TEFL teacher. That’s been my full-time job for about 16 years now and I’ve been doing the podcast for about 8 years. I’m also a stand-up comedian and what I try to do on the podcast is just create content which is enjoyable as well as being educational. I do teach English on the podcast but over the years I’ve worked out that my audience responds best to content which is quite genuine, personal or entertaining, so that’s what I try to do. I just try to make it easier for my audience to listen to lots of English on a regular basis. I’m not sure I’m always successful but I do try to make the content engaging and funny as well as of some educational value.

Most of the time it’s just me talking about different subjects relating to British culture, the English language and just life in general, but I try to get lots of guests on the show too including members of my family, friends who are comedians and anyone interesting. Hopefully this gives my listeners a bit of variety in terms of the types of English they can listen to and also a few different types of interaction.

Generally, the plan is to create diverse personalised content covering a range of different topics, to make sure I am always presenting real English in context and to help my listeners to get as much English into their lives as possible. Basically, I’m trying to inject English directly into the brains of my listeners as much as I can, in any way I can.

It’s backed up by a few principles of language learning including the idea that people learn more effectively when they are personally engaged with what they’re hearing and that they’re motivated by more than just the desire to learn the language. Also, it’s important to listen regularly, and for as much time as possible. The longer the better.

I’m from Hammersmith in London but these days I spend most of my time living in Paris where I work at the British Council and also do stand-up comedy in English. I often travel back to the UK and record episodes there in London where I used to live or in the midlands where I grew up.
I have a brilliant, lovely audience from all around the world who regularly contact me with comments, questions and general encouragement and I’m really flattered that so many of them chose to vote for me in this award. I’m blown away by it really.

My audience

My biggest countries are China, Russia, Japan, the UK, Spain, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, Germany, Italy and the USA.

They are really the ones who really make the podcast great because I don’t really do any marketing and so I think most of my publicity is done by word of mouth, which is the best form of publicity I think.

Some listeners are really active in the comment section of my website and they have some funny conversations there.

I meet my listeners sometimes at comedy gigs, or in classrooms by coincidence. I went to Japan recently and did a show there and I was treated like a celebrity with a big queue of people waiting to take my autograph. It was amazing.

Transcriptions

For learners of English, having transcriptions for episodes is very useful because it allows them to check the words they’re hearing and also practise sound scripting where you write notes on the script to indicate where the stresses, pauses and intonation patterns are. This helps to identify speech patterns and then practise copying them. It’s really useful.

I don’t usually script my episodes. Some of them are scripted but most of the time I try to talk off-the-cuff. I think it’s a better indication of how people actually speak when they’re thinking on their feet and therefore is better practice.

So a lot of my episodes don’t have scripts, BUT there is a team of LEPsters called the Orion Transcription Team that work together to transcribe portions of my episodes and then proofread and correct each other’s work. The result is that they end up transcribing many of my episodes and those scripts are available for everyone to see on Google docs. It’s a cool way for my audience to generate scripts for my website and work on their English in a very effective way at the same time.

Some recommended episodes

You can get all the episodes in my archive on my website at teacherluke.co.uk and so just check it all out there.

Click here to visit the episode archive

It’s really hard to know which episodes I would recommend if you’re new to this podcast. You could just look in the archive on my website and just listen to whatever takes your fancy.

You could choose (and this is based on what my listeners tend to enjoy)

  • Ones where I teach language or learning strategies. These ones are designed to help my listeners learn the language more effectively – either by exploring methods for motivation and self-study or by teaching specific language like grammar, vocab or pronunciation. I like to do episodes about regional accents in the UK.
    174. How to Learn English with LEP
    385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau
    405. Accents in The Lord of the Rings movies
    40. Health and Feeling Ill – vocabulary
    176: Grammar – Verb Tenses
    29: Mystery Story: Narrative Tenses
  • Episodes about British culture. My listeners tend to be interested in the UK’s culture and I think it helps to learn the language if you learn some things about the mindset and lifestyle of that language. I’ve done episodes about British humour, tea drinking, holidays and festivals, British comedy, communication style and more.
    432. British TV: Gordon Ramsay
    427. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show
    411. British Holidays & Festivals
    420. Let’s Have A Nice Cup of Tea
    261. What is Britishness?
    83. How to Swear in British English
  • Ones where I have my friends Amber & Paul. These ones tend to be a little more difficult for my listeners but they are so popular with my listeners just because we have a good dynamic between the three of us, Amber has the loveliest voice in the world and Paul’s laugh is very infectious. We usually play games or respond to comments from the website. Amber and Paul are both stand-up comedians. Paul is now quite a famous because he has his own TV show on Canal+ and YouTube (Amber and I help him write it) – it’s called What The Fuck France? You might have seen it. An angry English guy going on about French culture and swearing a lot? Yes, that’s him. He gets away with it because he speaks French like a native and really the show is quite an affectionate piss-take of French culture from a British point of view.
    435. Catching Up With Amber & Paul #5
    436. The Lying Game Returns
    410. Teaching Idioms in the Street / On the set of WTF France.
    272. Bad Haircut
  • Ones where I have my Dad on the podcast. My Dad used to be a BBC journalist and he generally keeps a close eye on current affairs, particularly in Europe, so he’s the ideal person to talk to about politics. Every now and then I ask him for his thoughts on Brexit and other issues. He is very good at breaking down these complex issues clearly and concisely.
    444. The Rick Thompson Report: Snap General Election
    390. The Rick Thompson Report: Hard Brexit / US Election
  • I also have other members of my family on the podcast quite a lot, particularly my brother who is known for being quite sardonic and a bit grumpy. Generally though, my listeners seem to enjoy hearing the 4 of us rambling on about various things.
    415. With the Family (Part 3) More Encounters with Famous People
  • Silly comedy stories. As a comedian I like to do some episodes just for the sake of fun and laughs. Every now and then I like to improvise stories with lots of tangents and different characters. They’re basically long shaggy dog stories. The most well-known one is The Pink Gorilla Story – and there’s part 1 and the sequel, part 2.
    125. The Pink Gorilla Story
    400. The Pink Gorilla Story 2
    173. The Curse of the Lambton Worm
  • Travelling stories. Whenever I go away on holiday somewhere I usually do an episode about the experience and they often involve some story telling, bits of history and general reflections on the different culture. I’ve done ones about Japan, Thailand, California, Indonesia and France.
    443. The Trip to Japan (Part 2)
    377. Holiday in Thailand Parts 1 & 2
    209. Travelling in Indonesia Part 2

So, that’s a selection of recommended episodes, but really – I hope you just have a look at the episode archive and pick whatever seems interesting to you and have a listen.
Remember, this podcast is primarily for people who don’t have English as a first language, although I try to make it as entertaining as any other podcast out there.

If you like it – great! If it’s not your cup of tea, no worries!

But if you do enjoy it then I hope you listen regularly and really get into it. Join my community of listeners – you’re all welcome, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
I do have native speakers listening to this as well, which I’m very happy about!
Anyway, thanks for listening.

Technical stuff – moving to a new audio host

It’s time for me to leave Audioboom.com They’ve been great hosts. I like their service a lot. Their embedded players look fantastic and I have had hardly any problems with them over the years.
But for one reason or another it’s time for me to move on. I want to be able to offer more things for my listeners, so I’m moving to a new podcast host.

This is going to be a bit more expensive for me, but I think it’ll be worth it.

I’m moving to Libsyn which is probably the biggest podcast host online. The cool thing with them is that I get a lot more control over the things I can do. This might not mean a lot to you, but essentially I can start controlling my catalogue and I can also launch an LEP app for Android and IOS, which could include bonus content only available in the App, as well as premium content and more. So, hopefully things will develop in a good way over the coming months.
This podcast has gone from strength to strength every year, and I want that to continue. In 2016 I got about 9 million downloads. This year I already look set to smash that number. My listening figures are more than double what they were this time last year. It’s brilliant.
So, watch this space!

Moving to a new host might cause a few technical problems, so if you experience anything, just hold in – it should all be fixed soon.

Those 17 Expressions

Remember at the beginning I said I’d pick out 17 expressions and explain them?
Why 17? No reason.

Did you notice any language that you think I would be explaining?

Here’s my list – and the only criteria for me picking these expressions is because I think you might not know them, or they’re just idioms or fixed expressions which I think are useful and you could add them to your vocabulary if you want.

If you know them already – excellent, but that’s only about 30% of the battle won – you also have to be able to pronounce them properly and use them correctly in a variety of ways (e.g. in different tenses and so on).

  • to bring you up to speed (on something) = give someone all the updated information about something, so they know the same as everyone else. If you come to something late, you’ll be behind everyone else, you need to catch up with everyone. If I tell you all the info that you’re missing, I’ll bring you up to speed. “Let me just bring you up to speed on what we’ve done so far.” “Could you bring me up to speed on this?”
  • to stand a chance of + ing = to have a hope/likelihood of winning or being successful. “I wouldn’t stand a chance if I had a fight with Anthony Joshua or Wladimir Klitschko.”, “They didn’t stand a chance, the attack came without warning.”
  • it’s a long shot (but it might just work!) = something that’s unlikely to succeed but it’s worth trying anyway
  • to be up against some pretty stiff competition = up against competition (competing with people), stiff competition (difficult competition)
  • to be/feel blown away = impressed, shocked (positive)
  • to be/feel over the moon = delighted
  • to be buzzing = feeling happy and excited, with a really good feeling inside.
  • to feel pretty good about yourself = it’s quite clear, but the construction is worth noting – feel good about yourself
  • to be/feel on top of the world = delighted
  • to be/feel flattered = pleased about something because it makes you feel important or special. It’s also a slightly embarrassing feeling. It’s how you feel when people say very nice things about you. “Don’t flatter me” “You’re flattering me.” “I feel very flattered” “That’s very flattering, thank you.”
  • to be/feel immensely proud = you know the word proud, but how about immensely?
  • to be/feel smug = (negative) feeling pleased with yourself to the point it becomes unattractive
  • to be/feel self-satisfied = smug
  • to be/feel pleased with myself = smug, sometimes not negative
  • to be backed up by (evidence, research) = supported
  • off-the-cuff = unprepared (apparently it comes from the idea that if you did a speech which wasn’t fully prepared you had to write notes on the cuff of your shirt)
  • to think on your feet = think without any preparation – to react to things in the moment