Category Archives: Interview

604. London Native Speaker Interviews REVISITED Part 2

Listening to the audio from another old YouTube video of mine, and then exploring it for new vocabulary and English learning opportunities.

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Transcript

Hello folks, welcome to a new episode. In this one I’m going to go through some more audio of interviews I did with native speakers of English in London 10 years ago and will mine if for any nice bits of English vocabulary that we find.

Before we begin this episode properly I just want to say a couple of things about the last episode – the one about Queen & Freddy Mercury and also to let you know about my plans for the summer and how that might affect the podcast.

We’ll start with summer plans.

Summer Plans

First of all, I’m going away on holiday during the 2nd week of July, so no podcasts will go up during that time. Then when we get back I’m teaching intensive summer courses at the British Council, which means teaching all day every day. I still have the evenings, but having a lot less time probably means I won’t be able to produce podcasts at the usual rate. So, things might go quiet for the rest of the month. Also, in August we have several holiday plans which are currently coming together and that will mean being away for at least half of the month. So things might go quiet during July and August, only to return at the normal rate in September. I’ll also prioritise premium content, because that is stuff I I feel I have a duty to publish.

Right, so that’s the summer plans and how they will affect the podcast. Things might be a bit quiet as usual at this time of year, but there’s the whole episode archive to explore, all the app-only episodes you might not have heard and all the premium content too.

Audio Quality – Queen Episode

Next let me say a couple of things about the last episode, which was all about Queen, before starting this episode properly in a few minutes.

First of all, I received some nice, enthusiastic responses from people who were very pleased that I was finally talking about Queen on the podcast.

For example, Francisca Lopez Aperador on YouTube wrote:
Hi, Luke, I was waiting for this episode. You really made my day. How could express how thrilled I am. Thanks, thanks, thanks. Cheers from Spain, teacher.

However, some people are saying that Alex is unintelligible in the Queen episode. There weren’t many comments, but I reckon if I just get one or two comments about something, it’s probably representative of what a lot of other people (ninjas) are thinking too.

For example, Arsiney wrote on the website:
I don’t understand any words in this conversation.
Luk`s speech is clear but this guy speaks like alien.

So, is Alex unintelligible? Does he speak like (an) alien?

Personally I understand every single word Alex says and said in the episode and also I noticed that YouTube’s automatic subtitles understood most of what he said (my episodes go up on YouTube now too, so you can see the automatic subtitles, which are 90% correct, going up to 95% correct when I’m on my own).

But there were definitely moments when it was difficult to understand everything he said – largely due to the audio quality during the call and partly due to Alex’s speech, and that probably made it a less satisfying listening experience for you.

Apologies for that. The audio quality wasn’t up to the normal high standard that you have become used to.

Also, Alex doesn’t enunciate as clearly as I do, but then again most people don’t.

This brings us back to this perpetual question of the way I speak on the podcast.

“Luke, do you speak normally or do you slow down because I understand everything you say but I don’t understand other native speakers.”

I do try to be normal and natural but I’m also trying to speak clearly. This is actually how I speak. I always make an effort to speak clearly. That’s who I am – partly as a result of being an English teacher, but also it’s just the way I was brought up to speak.

However, in the real world you’re going to hear people who don’t speak as clearly as me, and you need to prepare for that. I think that most people don’t speak as clearly as I do and it’s not just about speed, it’s about diction. Diction is the manner in which words are pronounced. To an extent you’ve been spoiled by my clear diction. You also have to listen to people who are harder to understand. It trains you to do things like use the context, and other words you can hear to piece together the bits you don’t understand. It’s not always going to be laid out on a plate for you, and you can’t always blame the speaker for not being clear enough for you. As I said, I always understand everything Alex says, so as far as we are concerned, he doesn’t have a problem with his speech. He goes through his life fine, communicating without issues, doing comedy on stage and making people laugh. So, Alex’s pronunciation isn’t a problem in his life. He doesn’t speak as clearly as me, but not many people do.

So, listening to someone like Alex is actually good training.

The Pros and Cons of Audio Quality & Learning English

It’s important to listen to subprime audio.

But I know that some of you will be frustrated that you couldn’t understand or hear everything, and I’m sorry about that. I thought it would be alright. I think the main thing was the audio quality actually.

Understanding what you hear is an important part of the learning process, but be careful of getting used to understanding everything. Sometimes you have to learn to fill in the gaps yourself.

I want you to understand everything you hear. Understanding what you’re hearing is an important part of the enjoyment of this podcast. It’s also an important part of how this works. I’ve talked about the role of comprehensible input. Basically, this is the theory that you learn language when you understand it, and so finding compelling material to listen to that you understand is vital.

So, naturally, clear audio is a part of that and that’s why I spend a lot of time attempting to make sure the audio is of good quality on this podcast. Where possible I even send microphones to guests I’m interviewing by Skype. I’ve sent mics to my dad, my brother, Raphael in Liverpool. I sent a mic to Andy Johnson. I couldn’t send a mic to Alex because he was using his phone, making a whatsapp call over a cellular connection. I expect this meant that the bandwidth of the audio was very narrow, or something like that. Perhaps the audio was compressed so much that there was not much range in the frequency, making it sound squashed or small. I’m not an expert in audio broadcasting so I’m not sure, but it’s probably something like that. Alex doesn’t have wifi at home – believe it or not, and so our only option was to do a voice call. No way for him to plug in a USB microphone. So, that’s one of the reasons for the difficult audio.

I’m probably going too far here and people are going to write to me saying “It’s ok Luke, don’t apologise too much!” etc. I usually go a bit over the top if I’m apologising for something on the podcast – usually because I’ve mispronounced a place name, I’ve made some factual error about your country, like saying your country is part of another country when in fact they’re separate independent nations. You know, stuff like that. Even apologising for uploading too much content. And now, apologising for less-than-perfect audio in one episode. I am probably going too far.

But it’s still worth taking this moment to talk about the pros and cons of good and bad audio, when learning English.

There are good and bad things about having super clear audio and English you can understand easily.

The pros are that you can learn a lot from it (comprehensible input) and you get the satisfaction of understanding it all.

The disadvantage is that you get used to it and then struggle to understand fast native speech.

There are also pros and cons of having audio that’s harder to understand.

Difficult audio trains you to listen more actively and intelligently.

But sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t understand.

It’s about striking the right balance. Hopefully on my podcast I mix it up and have some audio which is not too difficult to follow, that you can learn from and enjoy, while also presenting you with more difficult things that you have to really focus on.

Now, about this episode you’re listening to right now.

This is London Native Speaker Interviews Revisited part 2.

Recently I uploaded part 1 of this series. That was episode 591.

If you remember, what I’m doing is revisiting some videos I made 10 years ago, when I went into central London with my video camera in order to do quick interviews with people about life in London. My question was “What is London really like?” I got loads of little responses from people talking about the good and bad points of life in our capital city and the videos were pretty successful. Two of them now have over a million views. Not bad.

So in these audio episodes what I’m doing is revisiting those videos. We’re going to listen to the audio from the video – see how much you can understand, and then I’m going to break it down in the usual way, clarifying bits of language and helping you to expand your vocabulary.

Also this gives me a chance to be like a film director doing my own DVD commentary track, which is always fun.

How does this relate to the topic of audio quality?

Well, I recorded these video interviews on a basic handheld camera just using the inbuilt microphone. There’s a bit of wind and loads of atmospheric noise (because central London is a very noisy place) and so yes, the audio isn’t as crystal clear as you might expect, but as I’ve said – it’s good practice. This is where we strike that balance between challenging listening and comprehensible listening.

Right, so let’s go! Let’s listen to the audio – we’ll do each mini interview one by one, and then I’ll break them down for language one by one.

We’ll listen to each clip twice. The first time I’ll just ask you the question “What are the good and bad things about living in London?”. Then listen and try to understand. Then we’ll listen again and I’ll break it all down bit by bit, and there’s quite a lot of nice, natural vocabulary to learn from this video.

On the page for this episode on the website you’ll see:

  • The video
  • A transcript for most of this, especially the first part
  • Transcripts for each part of the video
  • Vocabulary notes with definitions, for the bits of vocabulary I explain during the episode

Right, so let’s get started!

Student / Justin Bieber / Ed Sheeran

Transcript

Graphic design student: Hello
Luke: So, how long have you been in London?
Graphic design student: Two weeks
Luke: Really? What do you do?
Graphic design student: Err, graphic design. Camberwell, School of the Arts.
Luke: Ok. So, your first two weeks.
Graphic design student: First two weeks. It’s quite a big impact. Very big, lots of people, and it’s quite expensive as well.
Luke: Ok. What’s the best thing about it?
Graphic design student: Err, night life. Very good night life. It’s got, you know, erm… If you go to the right places… A lot of action, erm, you know, a lot of friendly people as well.
Luke: Excellent. What about the worst thing?
Graphic design student: Depends on where you go. I mean, there’s quite a lot of, err, muggers about, dodgy people looking at you weirdly. You want to just, turn, turn away from them
Luke: Ok yeah
Graphic design student: Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice. I mean, there’s some people that shove about, but, you know, you’ve just got to deal with it.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Graphic design student: That’s ok
Luke: Cheers.

Vocabulary
how long have you been in London?
night life
A lot of action
Muggers
dodgy people
looking at you weirdly
Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice
there’s some people that shove about
you’ve just got to deal with it.

Girl in the red scarf

Luke: So, hello
Girl in red scarf: Hello
Luke: Where are you from?
Girl in red scarf: I live in Redhill, which is about half an hour away from London
Luke: Ok, erm, how long have you lived there?
Girl in red scarf: Two weeks!
Luke: Ok. Everyone’s been living in London for two weeks for some reason. So, what’s London really like then?
Girl in red scarf: London, well, London’s a really really massive place which can be quite overwhelming, but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there. Erm, London has everything you’d ever want, if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything. Erm, I would say, just get stuck in there and go for it!
Luke: Ok, great, and what’s the worst thing about London?
Girl in red scarf: The worst thing… oooh the worst thing… err, I think the worst thing would have to be the pollution. It’s probably not as bad as some countries, but you always feel like you’ve got black fingernails.
Luke: Ok. Thank you very much.
Girl in red scarf: Thank you

Vocabulary
Overwhelming
but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything
just get stuck in there and go for it!

Real Londoner

Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Hi!
Luke: So, are you from London too?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, I am
Luke: Ok, so how long have you lived here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Err, my whole life. Luke: Ok, so you’re a real Londoner
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, a real Londoner
Luke: Ok, what’s it really like then, living here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): What’s it really like? Erm, well I think it’s fantastic. It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place with lots of things to do. You can never say that you’re bored or have nothing to do because then that’s all down to you, so…
Luke: What’s the best thing about it?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Erm…
Luke: You might have just answered that
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes I think I have. Just the variety and everything you want to do. Lots of things for different age groups, there’s always something for someone to do. I would say the best thing is, like, the cultural little occasions that we have, like Chinese New Year and things like that, where you have big street parties. I would say that’s the best thing.
Luke: Ok, what about the worst thing?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh… I don’t like to answer that question
The girl with the red scarf (off screen): Pigeons!
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh yeah! I hate pigeons! I hate pigeons! They’re just…
Luke: What’s wrong with them?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): They’re diseased!
Luke: They’re diseased. Flying rats.
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes
Luke: Right?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yeah. That’s the worst thing, I don’t dislike anything else.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): You’re welcome
Luke: Cheers

Vocabulary
It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place
that’s all down to you
I hate pigeons! They’re diseased. Flying rats.

Young Business Couple

Smartly dressed couple: Hi
Luke: So, are you from London
Smartly dressed girl: Err, we’ve just moved here, yeah.
Luke: Just moved here, right, so err… How long have you been here?
Smartly dressed girl: Err… We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
Luke: Ok. Everyone I’ve interviewed today has been in London for, like, two weeks. I don’t know why… So, what’s London really like then? What do you think?
Smartly dressed guy: Err, it’s a huge place. There must be about 10 million people living here. It’s got a lot of good things, bad things. It’s vibrant, it’s multicultural. It’s got fantastic places to eat, fantastic places to go out in the evening.
Smartly dressed girl: Fantastic theatre, fantastic restaurants. Fantastic museums, art galleries. Absolutely loads of stuff.
Luke: Ok
Smartly dressed guy: It’s a fast paced place. People seem to be moving around a lot faster than in the rest of the country
Smartly dressed girl: Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know. People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
Smartly dressed guy: But it’s interesting, but there’s also negatives to living here
Smartly dressed girl: It’s very congested, it’s very expensive. Err, extremely expensive, public transport is expensive. It’s hard… it can take a long time to get anywhere
Smartly dressed guy: And there’s also a lot of pollution, and crime as well. So, if you come to live here I think it’s about finding the right enclave
Smartly dressed girl: Yeah, the right neighbourhood to live in, definitely…
Smartly dressed guy: And having friends. Set up your own community of friends, rather than knowing your next door neighbour.
Luke: Yeah. Ok, thank you very much
Smartly dressed guy: No worries
Luke: Cheers, bye bye
Smartly dressed girl: Cheers, bye

Vocabulary
we’ve just moved here
How long have you been here?
We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
There must be about 10 million people living here.
It’s vibrant
It’s a fast paced place.
Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know
People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
It’s very congested
I think it’s about finding the right enclave

Vocabulary with definitions

Here are some definitions of some of the vocabulary in the video.

night life – social life at night, for example clubs and bars
a lot of action – lots of exciting things happening, and lots of nice girls to meet
muggers – criminals who might steal things from you in public (e.g. attack you and steal your bag)
dodgy people – people who are strange and can’t be trusted
looking at you weirdly – looking at you in a strange way
turn away from them – look/turn in the other direction
shove about – push people when in a large crowd (e.g. pushing people when getting on or off a crowded train)
you’ve just got to deal with it – you have to just learn to live with it. You can’t let it make you unhappy.
massive
overwhelming – having such a great effect on you that you feel confused and do not know how to react
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything – ‘to be into something’ means to be interested in it, or to enjoy it
just get stuck in there – get involved without hesitation or fear
and go for it – just do it!
pollution – dirty air caused by cars, bad air conditioners etc
a cosmopolitan place – a place with lots of people from all over the world (positive adjective)
Pigeons – very common birds which you find in the city (see the video at about 3:33)
vibrant – full of energy and activity in an exciting way
multicultural – involving people from many different cultures
fast paced – with a quick lifestyle (e.g. people rushing about everywhere, walking very quickly, in a hurry)
get quite a bit (too) much – be stressful and annoying
congested – full of traffic, lots of traffic jams
the right enclave – a small area within the city in which you live and feel comfortable
neighbourhood – part of town in which you live

599. Oliver Gee Returns with Stories to Tell

Australian journalist and podcaster Oliver Gee returns to LEP to tell us some stories about the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, meeting famous comedians as a journalist, learning Swedish and French and his honeymoon tour of France on a 50cc Vespa scooter.

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Introduction Transcript

Welcome to episode 599 of Luke’s English Podcast, a podcast for learners of English presented by me, Luke Thompson an English teacher and comedian from England now living in Paris.

In this episode you’re going to hear a conversation I recorded last week here in my flat. The conversation is with my friend Oliver Gee who is a journalist and podcaster, from Australia now also living in Paris.

As some of you will remember, Oliver has been on the podcast before, in episode 495, over 100 episodes ago. Can you believe it!? In that episode we talked all about Australian things, including Australian English, so while you’re listening to Oli’s voice and you’re wondering about his accent and other Australian things, check out episode 495.

Oliver is a podcaster and YouTuber who makes content about Paris and France, in English. Recently I joined Oliver on one of his live YouTube video walking tours in Paris, which you can find on the page for this episode and it was a lot of fun talking to him and I thought it was high time I invited him back on the podcast for a chat and to tell us some stories.

And, as a journalist, Oliver is very interested in stories. That’s what journalism is about a lot of the time – finding stories, covering stories, reporting stories and generally reporting events in the form of stories. So, that’s what I wanted from this conversation. I wanted Oliver to tell us some stories – not bedtime stories or fairy tales. I’m talking more about true stories of people’s lives, moments that people experience, big events that happen in the world, etc.

We communicate so much of what we do and see via stories – either in the media, or in the way we just talk to each other and describe things. Stories are central to the way we communicate with each other.

So, the focus for me in this conversation was to let Oliver tell us some of his stories, and I wanted to hear him speak about these things in particular:

The Notre Dame Cathedral fire

When the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire recently (you must have seen it in the news) Oliver went down to the cathedral with his camera in order to see and record what was happening and to capture the moment. He also interviewed to a tour guide all about it for his podcast in which they described it in full detail. So, Oliver can tell us about what he saw that evening, generally what happened at the cathedral and what’s happening next and there are some pretty weird coincidences in his story too. In fact there are quite a of weird coincidences and special moments described during this episode.

Meeting famous comedians

I also wanted stories about Oliver’s time working as a journalist, how he started and particularly moments when he ended up meeting some famous people – especially comedians that we’re big fans of.

So listen on to find out who Oliver has met, how he met them and what they were really like in person. There’s one comedian who is particularly famous at the moment. Oliver got to meet him in really quite an intimate situation, and I love the story.

Learning Swedish & French

Oliver has lived in Sweden and now lives in France, so I wanted him to tell me about his experiences of learning languages, particularly moments when he felt challenged and when he’d made significant progress.

The honeymoon tour of France on a scooter

And finally, there’s the story of Oliver’s honeymoon road trip around France on the back of a scooter. Imagine two newly married people travelling all around France, even crossing over the alps, all on a small 50cc Vespa scooter. Listen on to find out what happened.

So those are the main topics – Notre Dame Cathedral, meeting famous people, learning languages and a honeymoon road trip. There’s also some chat at the start about my podcast as Oliver noticed that LEP has had over 50 million downloads in total and I’m approaching episode 600. So we talk a bit about podcasting vs using YouTube as different platforms for what we do.

We’re about to jump into the conversation now, just before we do let me prepare you a little bit because the conversation starts quite quickly.

In episode 495, if you remember, we said that the better people know Oliver, the shorter his name becomes. This is normal. It’s like nicknames. So, acquaintances probably call him Oliver, then friends call him Oli, then close friends might call him Ol, then really close friends might just call him O.

I just wanted to remind you of that, because it’s the first thing you’ll hear, so you might immediately get lost and go “Wait, what? I’m lost already!”

The better people know you, the shorter your name becomes. That’s how this begins.

Alright, so now you’re ready, let’s go!


Ending

So that was Oliver Gee on the podcast again. I really hope you enjoyed that conversation full of stories. If you struggled to understand everything that was said I just want to say congratulations and well done for listening all the way through to this point. I know sometimes it is difficult to follow these long, fast conversations on my podcast but I truly believe that you can make progress if you manage to just keep listening. Sometimes you’ll get lost and not understand, but try to tolerate the bits that you can’t understand and use the bits that you do understand to help you guess the rest and keep going. The best language learners persevere even when things aren’t completely clear.

Stay positive, keep it up.

As ever I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section if you have anything to share or any thoughts regarding any of the things that came up in this episode.

On the episode page you will find loads of links and videos relating to the things we talked about in this conversation, including… (links all listed below)

So this is the end of episode 599. Episode 600 will be the next one.

I hope you can join me for the YouTube live stream when I will be recording episode 600.

That is going to happen at 3PM (CET) on Friday 7 June on my YouTube channel. You’ll find the link to that on the front page of my website in the comment section.

If you can’t attend the live stream, then I am sorry! You will be able to watch the video later and obviously listen to the audio in episode 600.

The theme of the live stream is “Ask me anything” (although I do reserve the right not to answer questions if I don’t fancy it, like “what colour is your underwear?” “Mind your own business!” or “What are your credit card details?” etc. You can ask me questions about English or whatever comes to you and I will try to answer the questions as best I can, and as briefly as I can in the time we have available.

Also, premium subscribers – premium episodes are coming! I’m working on several premium series at the moment, and so June will see more premium stuff and less free stuff.

OK then, that’s it! Until episode 600 I will now say, good bye bye bye bye bye…


Links

Oliver’s episode about Notre Dame Cathedral (The Earful Tower Podcast)

theearfultower.com/2019/04/22/notre-dame-fire-what-happened-and-what-next/

Oliver’s tour of Notre Dame when it’s empty – before the fire (The Earful Tower)

When Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire (France 24 News)

Oliver’s video of Parisians singing hymns while Notre Dame burns (The Earful Tower)

My walking tour with Oliver in the Square des Batignolles (5 minute version)

Bill Bailey does comedy about minor and major keys in music

LEP #462 British Comedy: Bill Bailey

462. British Comedy: Bill Bailey

A clip from Russel Brand’s Netflix Special (I think this is the one that Oliver & his wife attended)

Oliver’s live walking tour / interview with French model/author/music producer Caroline de Maigret (The Earful Tower)

595. Andy Johnson Returns (Part 2) Eating / TV Series / Football / Music

Asking Andy questions from a speaking task in the English File Intermediate course book and chatting about eating habits, TV series, Liverpool & Tottenham in the European Champions’ League and music we’ve been listening to recently including some stories about Steely Dan and The Beatles. Intro & ending transcripts + Videos available below.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. How are you? You’re doing alright?

How’s the weather? Not too rainy I hope. Sunny? Bit cloudy? Windy?

OK, that’s the small talk, the chit chat out of the way. But enough of this idle banter, let me introduce the episode.

This is part 2 of a conversation I had with Andy Johnson. You should probably listen to part 1 first, if you haven’t already done so.

In this part I ask Andy some questions from a speaking exercise from English File Intermediate 3rd Edition, a book I’ve been using with some intermediate classes I’ve been teaching at the British Council.

I’ve been helping my students practise their grammar, pronunciation and speaking using this book and I thought it would be interesting to ask Andy some questions that my students have been discussing with the aim of practising “used to” and other ways of talking about habitual behaviour in the past or present.

So, what you’re going to hear is us using “used to” and some other bits of grammar and then rambling on in a natural way, answering these questions designed to help learners of English develop their fluency.

The topics of the questions include stuff about our eating habits, TV series we used to be addicted to (Andy gives a nice summary of The Wire and we talk a bit about how neither of us have ever watched Game of Thrones – shock horror!) and then we go on to talk about music we’ve been listening to on Spotify recently – the latest Vampire Weekend album in Andy’s case and a classic album by Steely Dan in my case. If you’re a fan of Steely Dan, then listen all the way to the end for a bit of Steely Dan chat. I’ve been listening to their stuff on repeat recently and I’ve become slightly obsessed by a couple of their songs.

We also end up talking about football at some point, specifically the dramatic and unbelievable recent events in the European Champions’ League. Barcelona and Ajax fans, I expect you’re currently feeling a bit wounded by what happened last week, but I think it’s fair to say that football fans around the world were stunned at how both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur managed to win their semi-finals against all odds, beating Barcelona and Ajax respectively. Basically, it looked like Liverpool and Spurs were both definitely going to be knocked out as they were both behind by quite a few goals each, but they both managed to come back in spectacular fashion, winning their games and going through to the final. That description doesn’t quite do it justice. Those of you who saw the games will know that they were somehow two of the most astonishing moments of football in recent memory, certainly for us Europeans.

Right then, so now you’re prepped for the rest of the conversation, let’s get started.

Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll see a script for this introduction and some more bits and pieces including a load of recommended YouTube videos relating to the music we talk about. Oh and one more thing – bonus points for anyone who manages to notice the sound of a hoover in the background during this conversation. You might hear a hoover (a vacuum cleaner) at one point and you might think “Where’s that coming from? Is that someone hoovering in my house or something? I SAY! WHO’S HOOVERING?” Well, it was our cleaner who comes round once a week and was doing some hoovering outside my room while I was recording this. Hopefully you won’t notice, but just in case – there you go. So, extra bonus points for anyone who notices the sound of my flat being cleaned in the background.

All right then, let’s go!


Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Andy for being a great guest on the podcast as usual, and also a special thanks to my cleaner for doing the hoovering in the background.

Any comments you have – leave them on the page for this episode and Andy might well reply to you. He quite often does that when he’s been on the podcast.

Before we finish, I would like to just clarify something I said near the end of the conversation about drummer Bernard Purdie. It just seems important somehow.

Bernard Purdie & The Beatles

At the end there you heard us talking about a drummer called Bernard Purdie who played drums on some Steely Dan songs back in the 70s. I said that Purdie was a compulsive liar who claimed to have played on some Beatle records. This is actually a bit of a legendary story in the world of music, especially for Beatle fanatics like me.

I’d like to just fact check this or clarify this a bit, because I don’t want to spread misinformation and I would like to be fair to Bernard Purdie. He’s one of my drumming heroes. Long term listeners might remember that he appeared in episode 88 of this podcast, which was called How to play the drums. He wasn’t a guest on the show, unfortunately. I mean, I just played some audio of him talking about one of his drumming techniques. Episode 88 is in the archive of course.

88. How To Play The Drums

So here’s the story of Bernard Purdie and The Beatles.

The facts as far as I know are that Purdie once said that he’d played drums on 21 Beatle songs (we’re not sure which ones exactly) and that the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was in the studio when he did it. We think he means he overdubbed drums on some of the songs, but he’s never been 100% clear about it. in fact his story changed quite a lot over the years, which makes it seem like he’s lying.

He also said that there were 4 drummers who played in the Beatles, and Ringo wasn’t one of them.
For any Beatle fans, those are slightly outrageous claims to make.
Which 21 songs is he talking about?
Ringo didn’t play the drums in the Beatles?
What’s he talking about?

Also, this isn’t just some nutter with no credentials. Purdie was a bona fide legend of the drumming world. His drumming was amazing. One of the best funk, soul & RnB drummers ever. His work was outstanding, he was recognised for it and was highly respected as a session musician.
Also, looking at interviews and drum tutorial videos he did, he seems to be a jovial, friendly, big hearted person.

So I was a bit unfair when I said he was a compulsive liar.

He might have misremembered events from his life, or perhaps made a mistake that he just didn’t repair over the years. Perhaps he was just saying something outrageous in order to give himself a bit of publicity as a drummer, which worked because, well people are still talking about it.

The truth of the matter is that he did overdub drums on some recordings featuring John, Paul and George, but they weren’t recorded under the Beatle name, and they were songs the boys recorded while living in Hamburg, Germany in 1961.

Beatle fans will know those songs as the Tony Sheridan recordings, the most famous one being “My Bonnie” which was a minor hit at the time. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete Best played as the backing band to Tony Sheridan who was a singer working in Germany at the time. They recorded 7 songs. This is before the Beatles were famous and before Ringo replaced Pete Best in the group. Before Brian Epstein turned round to him one day and said “I don’t know how to turn round and tell you this Pete, but the boys have turned round and told me they don’t want you to be in the group any more”, or something along those lines. I digress…

Later on, when the Beatles (with Ringo installed on drums) had become a massive sensation, the Tony Sheridan recordings were acquired by a record company in the USA and they wanted to re-release them under the Beatle name, but the drums didn’t sound good enough in their opinion.

They were too quiet in the mix and there was no bass drum sound. So they got a studio drummer to record drum tracks over the top of the 7 Tony Sheridan songs. That studio drummer was Bernard Purdie. So, he did overdub drums on some songs, but not the 21 songs he claimed before, and they weren’t really Beatle songs, they were Tony Sheridan songs, with the Beatles playing in the background.

And, the thing about the Beatles having 4 drummers but Ringo wasn’t one of them… God knows what he meant. Maybe he was alluding to the fact that Ringo wasn’t the drummer on the Sheridan tapes, and also the fact that there are a few other Beatle songs in which Ringo isn’t the drummer. Some of the tracks on the White Album feature Paul as the drummer, and there’s a version of Love Me Do, the Beatles’ first single, which has a session musician called Andy White playing the drums, because producer George Martin wasn’t convinced by Ringo at the time.

So, just a bit of fact checking there, for the record and for the music fans listening.

Purdie wasn’t really a compulsive liar, but he didn’t exactly tell the truth either. But what is certain is that he was a brilliant drummer.

I have to give credit to a YouTube video by FabFourArchivist which I watched and which gave me those facts. If you’re interested in music and these sorts of stories, you might enjoy it. The video is on the page for this episode.

Going back to Steely Dan, that band that we talked about before. I have a few other videos to recommend to you if you’re a fan of theirs or if you’re interested in stories about how songs are made and recorded.

First, I’ll put a video of the song Deacon Blues with lyrics so you can check it out, listen to the song and try to work out what the lyrics all mean.

Then there’s a brilliant video essay by a YouTuber called Nerdwriter1 which is all about how Steely Dan wrote and recorded the song Deacon Blues and what it all means. It’s a very well made video and is fascinating.

And you heard me talking about the Steely Dan Classic Albums documentary which is on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, including the scenes with drumming legend Bernard Purdie.

I’d like to thank Andy for coming back on the podcast. He’s always a great guest.

You can find him on LinkedIn, on Twitter @andybjohnson and the London School Online website is www.londonschool.com/lso/ And he’s on Spotify of course, just search for Moby.

That’s it for this episode. Let me just give you a gentle reminder that you might want to become a premium subscriber. I’ve got premium episodes in the pipeline for this month that include some explorations into vocabulary that has turned up in episodes of the podcast. That means you’ll get audio English lessons teaching you real, natural vocabulary, with all the usual things like PDF worksheets with tests, pronunciation drills and all that good good stuff. And of course, when you become a premium subscriber you get instant access to the entire back catalogue of premium episodes, which is ever growing. I put a lot of work and time into my premium content, and it’s available at what I consider to be a very competitive price! Just like buying me a nice cup of coffee every month from my local coffee place, maybe with a nice bit of carrot cake too if I fancy it, and why not? www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Thanks for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.

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

For now though, it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye…

Ajax fans turn from celebration to devastation as they watch their team get knocked out of the Champion’s League.

More Bernard “Pretty” Purdie Videos (because this is what life is all about)

Cory Henry jams with one of Bernard Purdie’s drum tutorial videos

Bernard talks about The Purdie Shuffle – “I’m gonna SPLAIN ya!”

Bernard Talks about his “Ghost Notes” (previously heard in episode 88)

 

 

579. [2/2] IELTS Q&A with Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast

More conversation with Ben Worthington from IELTSPodcast.com, talking about English skills and exam skills, considering the whole approach and mindset that you need to succeed in IELTS. Includes questions from listeners.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

I hope you’re doing well. Here is Part 2 of this double episode that I’m doing about IELTS, this well known exam that tests your level of English. Learners all over the world are taking IELTS, preparing for it, suffering from it, recovering from it. So I’m sure most of you are aware of it. Here’s an episode about it.

As usual in these multi-part episodes I suggest that you listen to the first part before listening to this.

In this episode I’m talking to Ben Worthington from IELTSPodcast.com He specialises in helping people get ready for IELTS and in this episode we’re going through questions from listeners on social media about this test.

Listen up if you have experience of IELTS, but equally if you don’t have to take the test I hope you can enjoy this episode in full relaxation mode, since you won’t actually have to take this evil test.

In this episode you’ll hear Ben and me saying various things about IELTS. Here’s a run-down of the conversation and the things we mention.

  • How to prepare for IELTS, self-study and using a course.
  • Tips for writing, reading, listening and speaking.
  • The importance of getting feedback on essay writing
  • Using Scribd.com for past papers
  • Self-study tips for the speaking test
  • Check online samples of people taking the test, like this one

  • The potential risks of taking group IELTS courses
  • Tips for how to get the best out of an online tutor
  • The importance of making a good first impression in part 1 of the speaking test
  • How to get ideas in speaking part 2
  • Using cue cards to practice the speaking test
  • Thinking on your feet and speaking spontaneously
  • Focusing on core skills

So we’re talking about a lot of specific English skills and exam skills, considering the whole approach and mindset that you need to succeed in IELTS.

As a special gift to my listeners, Ben is offering a 15% discount on his IELTS prep course called “Jump to Band 7 or It’s Free”. On his website check out the course and use the offer code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount. Not bad.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

Anyway, you know what to expect from this episode, so let’s carry on.


Ending

There you go. Unfortunately we couldn’t answer all the questions because we ran out of time, but you might find more answers and support on Ben’s website, which is IELTSpodcast.com. You can ask Ben and his team questions and of course Ben is offering you all 15% off his course, called “Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free”. Just use the offer code LUKE15 at checkout.

Thank you so much for listening, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

What about upcoming episodes of the podcast Luke?

578. [1/2] IELTS Q&A with Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast

A conversation with IELTS teacher Ben Worthington about the IELTS test, with advice for getting your best score in speaking, writing, reading and listening. Includes questions from listeners. Part 1 of 2.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Hope you’re well.

This episode is all about the IELTS test. Yes, that dreaded test that many of you will have either experienced or heard people talking about, probably saying things like “I need IELTS 6.5. HOW CAN I GET IELTS 6.5??” Like they’ve been poisoned, and IELTS6.5 is the name of the antidote that’s going to save their life – I need IELTS6.5! How can I get IELTS 6.5?? Tell me, quickly!!!”

It’s known for being a tough test. Not all the stories are horror stories of course. It’s important to be positive. There are plenty of success stories of people who managed to raise their score to the level they require. It is definitely possible to get success in IELTS. People do it all the time. But how?

Well, in this episode I’ll be talking to Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast about various things relating to this test. This episode is full of good advice and insights into how to prepare for this test and ways to improve your score.

Do you know IELTS? I don’t know if you are familiar with it.

I think most learners of English who are serious about doing things in English will probably end up considering taking an exam like IELTS in order to get some kind of certificate confirming your level, which you can then use to do something like get a job, get a visa or get a place in a university. There’s TOEIC and TOEFL as well, but those are the American exams.

Actually I did get some questions about TOEIC and TOEFL, which Ben and I didn’t have time to respond to in this episode. Speaking personally, I am less familiar with TOEIC and TOEFL because I’ve rarely had to work with those tests. I’m much more familiar with IELTS and other Cambridge exams, and so this is what I’m more qualified to talk about.

IELTS is the standard testing system in the UK and also other English-speaking countries such as Australia and Canada and I think IELTS is probably now established as the world’s #1 English test. I wouldn’t be surprised if you, listening to this, have taken IELTS or are thinking about taking it. Or maybe you’ve looked into other Cambridge exams like FCE or CAE or something.

Basically, it’s very common for people to take this test and prepare for this test. So it’s worth talking about again on the podcast.

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It’s administered both by Cambridge English and the British Council and there are centres in most countries where you can take the IELTS test.

It’s a notoriously difficult test. I think anyone who takes it finds it hard, no matter what level you are, even native English speakers would find it challenging to be honest.

Here’s a quick summary of the IELTS test

IELTS tests your skills in 4 areas – reading, listening, writing and speaking.

It takes about 2h45m to complete the test.

The reading section involves a number of texts (3 texts in the academic version and about 5 or 6 in the general version) with comprehension tasks which test various reading skills.

Similarly the listening section has about 4 listening texts with various task types to test a range of listening skills.

The writing part takes an hour and involves two sections. In part 1 of the academic test you have to write a description of a graph, table, chart or diagram. In part 2 of the writing test you have to write an essay which probably involves explaining different sides of an argument with an introduction and conclusion.

The speaking test is in 3 parts and takes about 15 minutes. The first part involves chatting with the examiner for a few minutes, answering some questions about yourself. In part 2 you have to talk on your own for 2 minutes based on a cue card given to you by the examiner, and part 3 is a discussion with the examiner in which you talk about some more abstract things like social issues.

So this test is pretty long and covers all 4 skills. It requires all your abilities in English – accurate and diverse grammar, a wide range of vocabulary, fluency, clear pronunciation and the ability to complete communicative tasks effectively in English.

The way it works is that the overall score you get is converted into a band number which is an indicator of your level across the 4 skills. There’s no pass or fail mark. It’s just a case of the higher your score, the higher your band or level at the end.

So this test reveals your level in English. Levels go from 1 to 9. 9 being the highest.

So, it’s a tough test.

People all over the world need an IELTS score for various purposes, so it is an extremely common challenge for learners of English to undertake.

Schools in many places offer IELTS preparation courses to help people learn exactly how to improve their IELTS score. Preparation courses are obviously important to help you raise your English core skills across the 4 areas, but they’re also important to help you develop exam skills – which means becoming familiar with the test, familiar with the task types, familiar with the way the test is administered, and familiar with the little tricks and traps that are intentionally put into the test. It’s important not only to improve your level of English to prepare for IELTS but also to get an understanding of what the examiners at Cambridge English are looking for. This is also true for other similar tests.

To be honest, the test is so contrived and the marking criteria so specific that it’s very unwise to take an IELTS test without some preparation in advance because you simply must get familiar with it and develop your own strategies for each section. So I always advise students to do some test preparation, be it self-study or by following some sort of course either online or offline.

Offline options would probably be to find a preparation course in a school near you and the online options include finding and using self-study materials and practice tests, taking one to one lessons with a tutor for feedback (using iTalki for example) or finding other online resources that offer alternative ways to work on your exam skills.

One of those resources is IELTSpodcast.com run by Ben Worthington, my guest today.

As the website name suggests, IELTSpodcast.com is a podcast about IELTS with lots of tips about each section, but it’s also a website with lots of resources – videos, blog posts, practice tasks and also paid courses for specific exam skills and services including things like essay correction and feedback from Ben and the other teachers he works with.

Ben Worthington has been training people in IELTS preparation for some time now and has got lots of advice to share, all of which can really help you improve your IELTS score. A lot of his advice is shared on his website and in his courses, but in this episode he’s going to share some of that with us.

You can sign up to Ben’s full IELTS preparation course, called “Jump to Band 7 or it’s Free”, which is a confident name if ever there was one. If you don’t get to band 7 then it’s free. You can get it at IELTSpodcast.com and Ben has offered to give a 15% discount on the course for listeners to the podcast. So this episode is all about good advice for IELTS and it should be a genuinely useful episode, but if you want more thorough preparation for IELTS you can get a 15% discount on the Jump to Band 7 Or It’s Free course by using the offer code LUKE15 – if you’re interested.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

Ben originally is from Yorkshire in the north of England. You might notice some slight differences in his accent compared to mine. I’m from the south and the midlands, basically – but I sound mostly like I’m from London probably. Ben has a slight northern accent because he’s from Yorkshire. His accent is not that strong, but you might notice a few differences.

Now, the IELTS test is big and there is a lot to say about it – more than can be covered in just one or two episodes of this podcast (and I think this will be a two-part episode).

If you follow me on social media you might have noticed that I asked my audience for questions about IELTS and I received quite a lot across the different platforms. I’ve tried to include as many questions as possible, but we didn’t have time to deal with every single one.

So, apologies if your question isn’t mentioned in the episode. You can actually ask questions to Ben on his website if you like.

What if you’re not taking IELTS?
This will be relevant to the large numbers of people in my audience who are taking or have taken this test, but also hopefully to those of you who don’t need to take this test right now. I think it’s a good idea for any learner of English to have a sense of what’s involved in the IELTS test and of course the skills you need for IELTS are skills that anyone needs if they want to be more than just a competent user of the English language.

I have done several episodes about IELTS before. If you haven’t heard those episodes it’s probably a good idea to check them out, especially if you’re preparing for the exam.

Episode 256 is called IELTS Tips and Tricks. In that episode I tried to include as much of my personal advice as possible into just one episode, so that should be useful to you.

254. IELTS Tips & Tricks

Then there was episode 297 which is all about good approaches to the speaking part of the test, and that was with Jessica from IELTS Energy Podcast.

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

Anyway, let’s talk to Ben Worthington from IELTS Podcast. He produces lots of content online for learners of English who are preparing to take this test. He’s been teaching students IELTS for a number of years now.

We’ll start by getting to know Ben a bit (this is the first time I’ve spoken to him actually) and then we’ll get into his advice for preparing and taking the different parts of the test, and I’ll ask him some of those questions sent in by my audience on social media.

Let’s see what we can cover about this big test for learners of English.


Outtro

You’ll have to wait for part 2 of this episode to hear what Ben has to say about preparing correctly for IELTS.

This is the end of part 1. Remember if you’re interested in using Ben’s online course for getting ready for IELTS, which is called Jump To Band 7 Or It’s Free, go to IELTSpodcast.com and use the code LUKE15 at checkout to get a 15% discount.

Click to see Ben’s IELTS preparation course – enter the code LUKE15 to get a 15% discount

 

 

 

So, we will leave the episode here and you can pick up the rest of the conversation in the next part.

By the way, there was a short quiet period at the end of February, and that’s because I was uploading a lot of LEP Premium episodes. There are now over 30 full episodes with tons of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, focusing on teaching you the most common phrases and talking points in English and how to say them all clearly and fluently.

There are now premium episodes about language which came up naturally in conversations I’ve recorded for the podcast. Recently I did ones about the episode I did on Paul Chowdhry. In the premium pipeline I have episodes about the conversation with James, my conversation with Jessica from English Across the Pond and also this episode with Ben. I’ve been noting extracts, vocabulary, grammar, phrasal verbs, idioms as we go.

To sign up for LEP premium just go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium and all the details are there. It’s the equivalent of a cup of coffee a month from you to me, that’s less than 10 cents a day. It’s pretty good value I’d say!

Right, in any case I hope you’re doing well. Fun fact, I’ve been using different microphones while recording episodes recently. All the P11 episodes were with different mics and this one that I’m using now isn’t a usual mic I use for intros and outtros.

My question is, outside of IELTS, can you even notice a difference in the sound because I’m using a different microphone? Can you tell the difference between the different mics I use or does it all sound basically the same? Let me know in the comments section.

And the IELTS conversation will continue in the next episode.

But for now,

Bye!

Luke

570. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 2)

Part 2 of my chat with Zdenek from the Czech Republic. In this one we talk about becoming an English teacher, taking the infamous DELTA teaching course, Zdenek’s podcast and board game, and some long-lost (and embarrassing) comedy YouTube videos I made in the pre-podcast days.

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Introduction Transcript

This is part two of this double episode featuring Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic.

Zdenek is an English teacher, a podcaster and a board game enthusiast. In this conversation we’re learning about Zdenek’s story. In part 1, which you’ve all listened to, we heard about how Zdenek learned English to a high level by working as a labourer and electrical fitter on a building site in East London. In this episode we continue the story by talking about these things:

  • Coming back to the Czech Republic and becoming an English teacher
  • The challenge of doing the DELTA (the notoriously difficult Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, which is considered in the industry as the highest practical English language teaching qualification out there)
  • My story of failing one of my teaching observations when I did the DELTA in 2006 (Don’t worry folks, I took the teaching observation again and passed it by the way, my record and my reputation remain intact)
  • Teaching English when it’s not your first language – the preconceptions, challenges and possible advantages of that
  • Zdenek’s podcast – his inspiration, his reasons for doing it, what he does in his episodes and how the podcast fits in with his teaching and his life in general.
  • There is also a slightly embarrassing story from me about some lost comedy videos I made in the years before I started Luke’s English Podcast.
  • And finally we have Zdenek’s interest in board games, both as a teaching tool in the ELT classroom but also in English speaking gaming communities online using the Steam platform. Zdenek has in fact created his own board game which he hopes to get properly published in physical form in the future.

Enjoy!


Ending

So that was Zdenek from the Czech Republic.

If you would like to play Zdenek’s game online you need to download the Steam platform and then buy TableTop Simulator. Then, in the Workshop area you will find Zdenek’s game which is called Kingdoms of Deceit.

If you’d like more information about this, leave a comment on the page for this episode on my website. I expect Zdenek will be able to help you there.

Playing online games like Kingdoms of Deceit can be a great idea for your English and for your social life in general as Zdenek said. This sort of thing is a great solution to that problem of not being able to get social time in English. So, check it out, it could result in you making some friends online, having fun playing some virtual board games and improving your English in the process.

As I said, get Steam, then TableTop Similator and find Kingdoms of Deceit there. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’ll find it. If you have questions, just leave a comment on the episode page and I expect Zdenek will be able to respond.

Also, check out Zdenek’s English Podcast which you can find on iTunes and most other podcast platforms. He also has a Facebook group which you could join in order to keep in touch with him and his listeners.

You heard me mention those ridiculous videos I made with my brother, before I started LEP, the ones filmed in some woodland at the bottom of my parents’ garden, in which I’m a survivalist who gets everything wrong.

I did, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), delete and lose almost all of those videos, but I have realised that there is one that still exists and is still on YouTube. It’s just a few minutes long and you can see it if you like, by checking the page for this episode. I watched it again and it did crack me up a bit to be honest. Maybe those videos were funnier than I remembered.

In the video you’ll see me pretending to be a survival expert and doing various comical pratfalls (a pratfall is when you fall over, for comical purposes – I did a lot of pratfalls in this video, falling into hedges and actually injuring myself quite badly – I had scratches all over my arms which I had to cover up with long sleeves for a few weeks while teaching. I’m wearing an old safari suit from the 70s that my Dad had in the back of his wardrobe, which looks ridiculous and is too tight. Perhaps the funniest bits are when you can hear my brother trying not to laugh behind the camera. This is the least embarrassing video, which is why I didn’t delete it. Probably the most embarrassing thing about the video is my haircut, to be honest.

Unfortunately the footage of me jumping into a pond, being attacked by imaginary spiders and smearing myself in mud is lost forever. Unfortunately? Actually, it’s probably for the best…

Anyway, check out the video on the page for this episode if you like. It’s called How (not) to Light a Fire.

Alright then, that is it for this episode.

Thanks again to Zdenek for being on the podcast.

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to check out my premium service at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for regular episodes in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Join the mailing list on my website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish content on the website.

Also, follow me on Twitter, which is where I’m most active on social media. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again in another episode soon!

Bye

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

560. Sarah Donnelly Returns – Writing jokes, public speaking, doing comedy in another language

Talking to comedian Sarah Donnelly about how she writes her jokes, advice on public speaking and how to avoid nerves and negative feelings, performing stand-up comedy in another language, and more. Sarah is a comedian and language teacher from the US,  now living in France.

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Introduction

Today I am talking to friend of the podcast, Sarah Donnelly.

It’s not the first time Sarah has been on this podcast, but it’s been quite a long time since she was in an episode on her own, I mean – as the only guest, not just alone. She wasn’t completely on her own in front of a microphone in an empty room, like “Umm, Luke? Hello? Is anyone here?” I was there too of course. I mean, without any other guests.

Mostly Sarah has been in episodes of this podcast with other people you see. Earlier this year I talked to her and Amber about their comedy show about becoming a Mum in France (episode 515), and before that she was in a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul (episodes 460 & 461) and she was in one with Sebastian Marx in which we discussed the 2016 Presidential Elections in the USA (388 & 389).

Sarah’s first appearance on the podcast was all the way back in 2013 (episodes 155 & 157).

You’ll hear us talk about that episode a little bit, and how Sarah felt about it.

Sarah is from the United States of America (I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s quite a famous country). She originally comes from North Carolina but also has lived and worked in Washington DC, which is where she first started performing stand up comedy.

Then in 2012 she moved to France – roughly at the same time as I did, after she met a French guy. Her story is not dissimilar to mine in fact, except for the differences.

Sarah is a primarily a comedian – she’s a stand-up and also a comedy writer. She performs on stage very regularly – as a solo stand up performer and also with Amber Minogue in their show Becoming Maman – which by the way happens every Thursday evening at 20:15 at Théâtre BO Saint Martin 75003 Paris. If you’re in town, check it out!

Sarah also works as an English teacher at university in Paris.

Our conversation covers quite a lot of things but mainly we talk about:

  • How Sarah writes jokes and comes up with material for her stand up comedy performances
  • Some tips for successful public speaking including how to deal with feelings of nervousness that you might have before you do a speech or performance, and any feelings of shame that you might experience if you feel like you didn’t do as well as you wanted – all the usual difficult feelings we experience when doing public speaking. Sarah’s been doing stand up comedy very regularly for years now, and also she has plenty of experience of talking to large groups of students as a teacher, so she knows a lot about speaking to audiences and has some good advice and experience to share.
  • Sarah is also a language learner – French in this case, and we talk about her experiences of performing comedy in French.

There are also the usual tangents and silly stories and things, but I think this conversation should be useful and relevant for anyone doing public speaking, or speaking publicly in another language, and it’s also just nice and fun to spend some time with Sarah. She brought some pumpkin pie for my wife and me, which was nice of her. Pumpkin pie is a bit of a tradition in the states at this time of year and it was delicious.

So then, without any further ado. Let’s get started.


Ending

So, don’t listen to the shame wizard! Don’t listen to those feelings of shame or embarrassment that we do feel from time to time. Try to ignore those voices. Switch it off if possible.

When you’re speaking English, or thinking about your English, the shame wizard might creep up on you and whisper negative thoughts in your ear, making you feel ashamed of yourself. But don’t listen to him. Tell him to get lost.

When you’ve got a presentation to do, the shame wizard might whisper in your ear that everyone thinks you’re rubbish and you have no right to do what you’re doing. Don’t listen to him, he’s LYING!

Good advice from Sarah there.

In the moments before your presentation, stretch out your arms, stand up, take up some space with your body – but don’t punch someone in the face accidentally of course.

Vocabulary

Language to describe stand up comedy, writing comedy and writing jokes

Parts of a stand up performance

A set = the whole performance from start to finish. E.g. “I did a 15 minute set last night” or “Did you see Sarah? She did a 30 minute set and it was hilarious.”

A bit = one part of a comedian’s set. It could be a story or just a series of jokes based on a particular premise. For example, “She did a whole bit about puberty, and it was funny because it was soooo true”

A joke = one single statement that is intended to make you laugh. It could be a line or a few lines. “Did Sarah do her chalk joke last night? Oh, man, I love that joke.” “Yeah she did, but I don’t think the audience knew what chalk was… But they laughed anyway!”

Parts of a joke

A joke can be broken down into parts.

The premise = the basic idea of a joke, the foundation of it. Like just the idea that it’s pretty weird that we used to use chalk all the time to write on blackboards, but now, younger people don’t even know what chalk is and essentially we used to write on rocks with other rocks, that was our technology, and it was a bit weird” (that’s a bit nebulous, I mean vague, but it’s a starting point – that’s a premise, just the general idea of a joke)

The set up = parts of a joke that set up the situation and put all the elements in place

The punchline = the funny line that, hopefully, makes people laugh.

The wording of a joke = the specific way the joke is worded – the specific construction of a joke. The wording of a joke can be very important in making it funny or not. Often if you believe the premise of the joke is funny, but audiences aren’t laughing at it, you just need to reconsider the wording of that joke. Once you’ve got the wording right, the joke might be more successful.

Other vocabulary for comedy

Material = all the jokes, bits and sets that a comedian has in his or her repertoire. “She’s got so much material, she could do several Netflix specials now.”
Tried and tested material = the material you’ve done lots of times. You know it well and you’re confident it should get laughs pretty much every time.

To improvise = to make things up on the spot without preparation

An open mic = the sort of comedy show you do when you first start out as a comedian. An open mic means anyone can perform. Often these “open mics” are good places to try out new material, but often the whole arrangement is not exactly “professional level show business”. It could be just in the back room of a bar with people coming and going and a generally sketchy atmosphere.


What about that whole Louis CK thing?

Didn’t Sarah open one of his shows in Paris recently?

Recently on the podcast I talked a bit about how disgraced comedian Louis CK had made a surprise visit to one of our comedy shows in Paris (Sebastian Marx’s show The New York Comedy Night to be exact) and Sarah was invited to be one of the other comedians on the show. It was quite a tricky decision for her. You’ll see that in the end we don’t talk about that in this episode, mainly because we ran out of time. But if you’d like to hear Sarah expressing her thoughts on that situation, then you can check out an episode of another podcast called The Europeans, which is a podcast about Europe and European life. Sarah was interviewed on that show and she talked about the whole situation very clearly. So, have a look. The name of the podcast is The Europeans, and she was in the episode from 20 November 2018. Her interview starts at about 23 minutes into the episode. There’s a link on the website as usual.

Listen to Sarah’s appearance on The Europeans podcast, talking about performing with Louis CK

Sarah’s appearance is at about 23:00


Videos & media mentioned in the conversation

The TED talk about body language


Big Mouth on Netflix

(Subtitles should be available for this trailer on YouTube)


More Vocabulary

Some more words that came up in the episode

a Nebula [noun] – a cloud of gas and dust in space

Nebulous [adjective] (this is the word I was looking for) – formless and vaguely defined

Puberty [noun] – the period during which adolescents reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction.
“the onset of puberty”

Shame [noun] = a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.

Self-esteem  [noun] = confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.


Previous episodes with Sarah

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

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

461. 25 Deceptively Difficult Questions (with Amber, Paul & Sarah)

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

155. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 1)

157. A Cup of Coffee with… Sarah Donnelly (Part 2)

553. Fighting Wildland Fires with Benny the Russian Firefighter

Talking to firefighter Anton Beneslavsky (aka “Benny”) who works as the leader of an international fire fighting project. We talk about becoming a firefighter, the work that he’s doing with Greenpeace around the world and the very serious threat of climate change.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi folks,

This summer I received a message from a listener in Russia called Sasha, suggesting that I talk to his friend Benny on the podcast.

This is what Sasha wrote to me:
I know a guy who works on the Greenpeace Global Fire project. His name is Benny (actually Anton Beneslavsky but that’s just a formality). He has been fighting wildfires almost all over the world and teaching volunteers and Greenpeace staff how to fight wildfires. In fairness, I must say that teaching people how to fight all types of wildfires is not the main purpose of the project. What is more important is raising people’s awareness of wildfires and the consequences of these fires. So they’re trying to do all these sorts of things within the project, fighting wildfires, teaching and mind shifting as they call it. Benny is really of great experience in this topic.
I would like to ask you (with great humbleness:)) if there is any chance that you’ll find it possible to have a conversation with Benny on your Podcast for the sake of pleasure and good things?

Well, since you asked so nicely…!

Anton “Benny” Beneslavsky (Photo credit: Ivan Burov)

Benny sounded to me like an interesting person doing important work and so we arranged an interview over Skype and you’re going to listen to it in this episode.

Benny first became a firefighter as a volunteer 8 years ago in order to fight large wildfires (wildland fires) which were burning near where he lived in Moscow. For the non Russian listeners, 2010 is infamous in Russia as the year of big wildfires in various parts of the country that became a major public health issue.

This from Wikipedia
The 2010 Russian wildfires were several hundred wildland fires that broke out across Russia, primarily in the west in summer 2010. They started burning in late July and lasted until early September 2010. The fires were associated with record-high temperatures, which were attributed to climate change[4]—the summer had been the hottest recorded in Russian history[5]—and drought.[6]
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven regions, and 28 other regions were under a state of emergency due to crop failures caused by the drought.[7] The fires cost roughly $15 billion in damages.
A combination of the smoke from the fires, producing heavy smog blanketing large urban regions and the record-breaking heat wave put stress on the Russian healthcare system. Munich Re estimated that in all, 56,000 people died from the effects of the smog and the heat wave.[8] The 2010 wildfires were the worst on record to that time.

This is what got Benny to become a volunteer firefighter in the beginning, and in this episode you’re going to hear Benny talking all about becoming a firefighter, the work that he’s doing with Greenpeace to fight wildfires and their causes around the world, the impact of climate change, the best and worst things about being a firefighter and projects that he’ll be working on in the future.

Some of the dedicated language learners listening will, no doubt, be paying attention to Benny’s English during this interview, but don’t judge him on his English which he uses every day in his work, instead judge Benny on that work that he’s doing and the important issues relating to climate change that he mentions during our conversation.

And this is quite timely because climate change is back in the headlines again.

This from theweek.co.uk just a few days ago

UN report warns of global warming
A new report from the UN warns of a huge risk if global warming is allowed to exceed 1.5C and calls for unprecedented action within the next 12 years to prevent extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty. The authors of the report, some of the world’s leading scientists, say the goal is affordable and feasible although it is ambitious.

So this is a big issue right now for all of us.

I don’t always feature non-native speakers on this podcast, but sometimes I do and I think it’s worth remembering that as long as you’re communicating effectively and playing your part as a member of a team in English then that’s the main thing. I mean, you don’t necessarily have to wait to have 100% native-level English before you can start doing important work in English. Perhaps knowledge of vocabulary is the most important thing, and being a clear speaker.

On the subject of vocabulary, look out for all the words and phrases relating to fire in this episode.

There is a bit of disturbance in the sound quality unfortunately as Benny’s headset microphone picked up all the plosive sounds that he made. Those are the /p/ / b/ /s/ /k/ /tch/ /f/ sounds, etc. So while Benny is speaking his microphone does sort of explode a bit sometimes, but there it is, this is just what we’re dealing with. I’m sure when you do your conference calls or when you’re on the phone to another part of the world the sound quality isn’t always perfect. In fact, it’s often quite poor isn’t it? So, this is good practice for you, and it’s also good practice to listen to non-native speakers because if you’re working internationally you’re probably going to speaking English to other non-natives and that’s an important thing to consider.

Right, so without any further ado, let’s get started.


Ending

If you’d like to know more there are links on my website for…

Greenpeace Indonesia www.greenpeace.org/seasia/news/-Fires-burning-inside-palm-oil-concessions-linked-to-major-household-brands/

Greenpeace Russia www.greenpeace.org/international/story/15550/the-incredible-firefighting-women-of-russia/

Fighting fires sparks dialogue and builds respect

Want to support Greenpeace Russia and the work they’re doing? Click this link to their crowdfunding page where you can donate money to help them buy equipment and other resources join.greenpeace.ru/firefighters/index.phtml

Thank you for listening.

Don’t forget to visit the website where you can find all those links, and also links for my sponsors, my premium service and everything else, even updates on my next stand-up shows and my Twitter feed and all that, not to mention the active comment section where LEPsters from around the world chat to each other and express themselves in English.

Jump into the comment section whenever you want. Everyone’s welcome.

Coming up next on the podcast…

I’ve got some more interviews. I haven’t done a rambling episode for a while (although they’re usually a bit rambling but I mean one where I’m on my own) so I’d quite like to do that soon. Maybe just have no notes or script or anything and just talk off the top of my head. It’s been a while since I did that. But I have loads of interviews saved on my computer which I’ve been editing. For some reason September was full of Skype calls to different people. So lots of guests with different accents. Also I managed to get another episode with my parents, for more of our slightly inane rambling and I have to say this one really cracks me up. I think it will give you a chuckle on the bus. That might be the next episode, or very soon anyway.

Anyway, bye for now!

Bye bye bye

Luke

544. The Rick Thompson Report: No Deal Brexit

Talking to my dad about the current Brexit situation, including what could actually happen in the UK if we leave the EU with no deal. Expect language relating to politics, economics and the big issues of the day. Intro and outtro transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi everyone, how are you doing? Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report. Long-term listeners will be familiar with this type of episode. This is where I talk to my dad about the news, which is almost always about Brexit. We’ve been doing these ever since the referendum happened, tracking the UK government as they attempt to extract the country from the EU. We’ve heard all about the leave campaign and their claims, the impossible job of negotiating a deal with an entity that you’re also leaving – like marrying someone that you’re also divorcing.

The last time I did a RTR was in December last year and we talked about the state of the UK’s negotiation with the EU, with the shaky leader Theresa May attempting to put together a new deal which could somehow keep things as good as possible while also letting us leave. Both my dad and I are quite perplexed by the desperate need to leave the EU, when it looks like just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Sometimes I hear from people, or read things on social media that suggest that the UK as a whole wants to leave the EU. I might read comments about how Britain wants to leave, or Britain doesn’t want to be in the EU, and I feel a bit annoyed because there are plenty of British people who think Brexit is a bad idea. I’m one and so is my dad, we make no bones about that, but this isn’t for some ideological reason, or because we’ve picked sides. It’s because it doesn’t really make practical sense to close access to our biggest marketplace and a zone which also includes all sorts of environmental, scientific and security communities that we will also be leaving. Also the real prospect of leaving the EU with no deal could be catastrophic in many ways, and even the UK government is issuing advice about stockpiling food and other measures in the event of a no deal Brexit. The deadline is approaching fast and the UK still hasn’t found an agreement with the EU. What will happen next March when we leave officially? How will this affect life in the UK? Listen on to find out.

I do invive your comments of course, so if you feel like you have something to say, leave your comment in the comment section. I’m very curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking.

But now, without any further ado, let’s talk to my dad about the latest Brexit news.


Ending Transcript

So there you have it. There are my dad’s thoughts on Brexit. I certainly hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Rick Thompson Report, keeping you up to date on Britain’s tricky situation.

As I said earlier, please do leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’m curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking. I wonder how Brexit is reported and generally considered in your country? Is the leading narrative that Brexit is a good or bad thing, and why do you think that is? Do you think Brexit would help or harm your country in some way?

Thanks as ever for listening, leaving comments and generally being great audience members.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I’ll speak to you again 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.

[DOWNLOAD]

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!