Category Archives: Interview

881. The first non-native speaker to read the UK TV news (with Barbara Serra)

Barbara Serra is an award-winning Italian journalist who has spent much of her career reading the news in the UK on various high-profile well-established English language news networks including the BBC, Channel 5, Al Jazeera English and Sky News. Barbara has quite a specific relationship with the English language. We talk about learning English, challenges in her career, and the relationship between accent and identity.

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Intro Transcript

Hello listeners, today on the podcast I am talking to Barbara Serra, the Italian journalist who reads the news on television in the UK. She’s a very interesting guest and has lots of interesting things to say about the way her identity and career have been shaped by her relationship to the English language. 

We’re going to talk about reading the news in the UK when you sound like a foreigner, lots of questions around identity and accent, and all sorts of other things that Barbara has experienced in her time as a broadcast journalist. I think you will find it very interesting as a learner of English looking to improve your English as much as possible in different contexts, both personal and professional. 

LEPster meet-up in Da Nang Vietnam

Gordon’s Pizza (in An Thuong area) on Friday 17th May from 9pm.

Send Zdenek an email if you’re interested – teacherzdenek@gmail.com

Barbara Serra is an award-winning Italian journalist who has spent much of her career reading the news in the UK on various high-profile well-established English language news networks including the BBC, Channel 5, Al Jazeera English and Sky News. 

Barbara has quite a specific relationship with English. It’s her dominant language but not her native language. She has a certain accent, which does place her outside the UK somehow. So how has this affected her career as a news reader and reporter? 

Broadcast journalism is associated with a certain model of spoken English – in the UK that would be what is often called BBC English, and traditionally the role of newsreader has been synonymous with that kind of high-level, high-status form of spoken English. 

So what has Barbara’s experience been? 

What is the story of her English? 

How did she get the point where she was ready to do this job? What kind of challenges has she faced while reading the news in the UK? 

And what does this all tell us about learning English, what it means to improve your accent, the relationship between accent and identity, the definition of “native” and “non-native speaker”, the status of different English accents in the English speaking world?

Let’s get into it.


LINKS

👉 Barbara’s email newsletter “News with a foreign accent” https://barbaraserra.substack.com/

👉 Barbara’s website with course info https://www.barbaraserra.info/

Luke on a couple of other shows recently

Take Acast’s podcast survey here

879. Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques for Spontaneous Speaking ️with Matt Abrahams

Top tips for spontaneous speaking 🏆 with communication expert Matt Abrahams, a professor at the Stamford Graduate School of Business, California. Matt is a leading expert in his field and his latest book “Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot” gives you clear, academically-researched advice on how to deal with anxiety, focus on making connections, improve your mindset, learn to listen, and find really useful structures to help you become a more spontaneous and successful speaker.

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878. From Learning to Teaching and Beyond (with Elena Mutonono)

These days Elena Mutonono is an experienced business coach who helps online English teachers to gain independence and control over their own careers, but Elena’s journey started as a learner of English herself. In this conversation I ask Elena about how she learned English, making the step to becoming an English teacher, then teacher trainer and what challenges online English teachers face when trying to work in a crowded and demanding job market.

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https://youtu.be/Sp-1fX1Q15I

Links

Elena’s website https://www.elenamutonono.com/

Elena’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/elenamutonono/

Elena’s podcast https://www.elenamutonono.com/podcast/

877. How to Learn Vocabulary | A Conversation with Clare Whitmell

This conversation is a preview of my Zoom workshop on Thurs 18 April 2024 at 10AM (UK time), as part of the Advanced English Summit. In my workshop I will be talking about how to really learn vocabulary, and not just stare at word lists. This is a conversation about the subject of the workshop, and summit organiser Clare Whitmell asks me questions about why vocabulary is important, why I love teaching it, common mistakes made by learners, ways of learning vocabulary more effectively, and some tools you can use.

👉 Sign up for the Advanced English Summit here https://english-at-home.com/summit/

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

https://youtu.be/pThUa7fxteY

👉 Sign up for the Advanced English Summit here https://english-at-home.com/summit/

869. Working at UNESCO | English in International Diplomacy

In international diplomacy, “communication is everything”. This is the main point of this conversation, in which I talk to my friend who works for the UK delegation at UNESCO in Paris. We discuss the work that UNESCO does, and the various communication challenges involved in working together with representatives from countries all around the world, including the collaborative writing of official documents where the use of a single comma can be debated for hours, and the meetings and conversations in which cultural sensitivity and good-will are essential elements for success. Also includes some communication idioms and guitar playing near the end of the episode.

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Introduction Transcript

My guest today is my friend who works at UNESCO. 

UNESCO stands for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (Wikipedia)

It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) which has the aim of promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. 

Perhaps the most famous thing they do is to protect certain world heritage sites, but that is only one of the things that they are involved in.

My friend works there and in this episode you’ll hear us talking about his work and about communication in the context of international diplomacy.

This is quite complex stuff actually. 

Normally in these situations, when I’m publishing an episode like this, I have to make certain decisions about what to say in the introduction.

How much should I explain in advance? 

What kind of support should I give to my audience before you listen?

People listening to my podcast have varying levels of English. Rather than slowing down and stopping to explain every word, I want to give you a conversation at natural speed, but explaining some context at the start can really help a lot of people. It’s not just because of English. It’s also just a question of general knowledge too.

Before I met M__, I didn’t really know a lot about what UNESCO did, and honestly, I think most people probably find it a little bit of a mystery. 

So I have decided to explain one or two things here, so you are properly placed to understand all of this and therefore enjoy it and benefit most from it.

Of course I don’t want to say too much or repeat myself or anything, so I’ve written this introduction in advance to try and keep me focused, to be informative but also efficient, and then you can just get stuck into the conversation with my guest.

M__ works for the UK delegation at UNESCO, which has its headquarters in Paris by the way. The word “delegation” comes up a few times (also the word “delegate”) and that will be explained.

UNESCO HQ is in Paris – I did stand-up there once, which was weird! I was invited as part of a festival in 2019 called Paris Talks. It was a bit like a series of TED Talks, all of them serious – about the future. 

***Luke talks spontaneously for a couple of minutes about doing stand-up comedy at the UNESCO HQ in Paris***

Whenever I chat to M__, if we have a drink together or something, I am always really curious about his work and I find it really fascinating. Hopefully it’ll be fascinating for you too.

So, we’re going to talk about the work that UNESCO does and the way the organisation works, but also about the different forms of communication that happen there, and this, for me as an English teacher, is perhaps the most interesting thing about it.

Imagine, nearly every nation in the world collaborating together at a government level on very important projects. This of course includes nation states which have different relations with each other, some friendly, some antagonistic. 

Also, you’re dealing with often vastly different cultures with different communication styles and values. But you’ve got to try to work together with these different groups towards a common goal.

This involves communication at a very high level – international diplomacy. What does it take to cross these barriers of culture, politics, economics, at a state level? 

Diplomatic communication is a huge part of it and working in this context requires a variety of different types of communication skills. 

There’s persuasion, there’s negotiation, there’s showing respect, there’s using pressure, there’s giving compliments and expressing gratitude and it can happen in writing and in spoken English too at various levels of formality.

Imagine these different communication contexts:

  • Huge meetings with representatives from countries all around the world, sitting at tables with little flags on them and everyone attempting to work together to agree on certain big decisions. Sometimes they don’t want to do the same thing. There are groups that are friendly, and groups that have their differences.
  • The collaborative writing of very formal documents in those big meetings. These are documents which UNESCO issues – a bit like laws passed by a government (although UNESCO doesn’t actually make laws)
  • Smaller, less formal meetings in which different delegations attempt to build support for their proposals, with negotiations and persuasion.
  • Individual one on one conversations or conversations in small groups, between the more formal meetings, where representatives might stand up and chat together perhaps over coffee and a softer form of persuasion or negotiation occurs, and the building of relationships and alliances.
  • And the work of interpreters – who sit in other rooms, looking through windows, with headsets on, having to simultaneously translate what is being said in these important meetings from one language to another, and the quick decisions they have to make about how exactly they should word things without subtly changing the tone of what is being said. Interpreters are a huge part of this. Maybe some of you listening are considering becoming an interpreter, or maybe you already are.

How is language used in these different situations? How does the language change?

We’re talking about different levels of formality, and the pragmatics of diplomacy at this high level.

Also, what does UNESCO do exactly? How does it actually work? What does M__ actually do on a daily basis?

These are the things I was very interested in capturing in this conversation.

Before we start, here are a few more details.

Here’s some more information from Wikipedia.

UNESCO was founded in 1945 and its founding mission, which was shaped by the events of World War II, is to advance peace, sustainable development and human rights by facilitating collaboration and dialogue among nations.[10] 

It pursues this objective through five major programme areas: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information.

What does it actually do? I find this quite hard to work out!

  • It assists in the translation and dissemination of world literature – making sure the best works of literature are available to be read by everyone, and not just in their countries of origin.
  • It works to bridge the worldwide digital divide (attempting to reduce disparities between developed and developing countries in terms of what technologies are available to people)
  • It creates inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication. By Knowledge Societies, UNESCO means societies in which people have the capabilities not just to acquire information but also to transform it into knowledge and understanding, which empowers them to enhance their livelihoods and contribute to the social and economic development of their societies. UNESCO has launched several initiatives and global movements, such as Education For All.

How does it actually do these things? As far as I can tell, they create what M__ calls “standard setting documents”. 

Those are not laws because they are not legally binding but they are similar to laws because they set out guidelines on what should or should not be done. 

Governments in the member states can use these standard setting documents to help them form policies and laws, in line with UNESCO’s overall objectives.

So they’re not binding legislation but these UNESCO documents are still very formally written. 

M__ tells us about how this is done, at the various stages, referring to different communication contexts in the process.

This all might sound a bit dry in my descriptions, but just let me take you back to that image of the large meeting room at UNESCO with all these representatives or delegates from the different countries. Imagine you are actually there. 

Imagine having to open one of those big meetings. Imagine the mood in the room as you look out and see these different faces representing the different nations. Imagine the tone you would have to use in your speech, the specific wording, to gain their attention and their respect, to speak with the relevant level of importance, to try to create a feeling of goodwill, to make the different delegations feel respected, and then to attempt to unite these different nations with competing interests and worldviews.

Imagine having a specific project, and trying to get it off the ground – arranging smaller meetings to try to build alliances. Taking the time to chat one on one with people between meetings, drafting emails with proposals, and finally trying to edit formal documentation in collaboration with other delegates in huge writing sessions that can last days.

That’s the world we’re talking about here and specific things about how we have to adapt our language in these situations.

Several other things

  1. My friend is also a really good guitarist, and so at the end of this conversation we couldn’t help but turn our attention to the guitars in my podcastle. He plays one of my guitars and we talk about guitars. So, we do move from international diplomacy to guitars. If you want to hear him play, just stick around until the end of the conversation.
  2. Background noise. There was a guy in the corridor outside my podcast room doing some work – sanding a wall. So, apologies – you’ll hear the sounds of normal life bleeding into the recording slightly. I think it’s not too bad, but if you hear some noise and wonder what it is, it’s a guy sanding a wall outside.

Right, so without any further ado let’s get started. The first thing you’ll hear now is me saying that often the most difficult part of podcasting is the very beginning of a recording, and M__ gives me a good bit of advice which he has learned from his work at UNESCO.

So, let’s now join the conversation at that point. I’ll chat to you a bit at the end.


Communication Idioms (explained at the end)

  • To beat around the bush
  • To talk at cross purposes
  • To grab/get the wrong end of the stick
  • To hit the nail on the head
  • It strikes a different chord in people’s minds (if you speak from the heart)
  • This guy is trying to wrap me round his finger (to manipulate/control me)

868. How the USA is changing (with Lindsay McMahon from All Ears English)

Lindsay has been observing social, economic and political trends in her home country and comes on the podcast today to talk about them.

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Introduction Notes / Transcript for Episode 868

Hello!

Today on the podcast I am talking to Lindsay from All Ears Engish. 

Do you know the All Ears English podcast? If you don’t know it, then that is a surprise to me because All Ears English is an extremely popular, well-known and high ranking podcast for learners of English. 

I’m sure you’ve come across it before. Yellow logo, Lindsay and her co-hosts Michelle, Jessica and Aubrey. American English. Their episodes are always full of positive energy. They promote personal growth through learning English and their mantra is “connection not perfection”. All Ears English. Over a million subscribers on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, ranked in Best of Apple Podcasts categories in 2018 and 2019, and #1 in US Education Language Courses category. Lindsay and her team have been featured in Podcast Magazine, Language Magazine, and Forbes. When your podcast is in a magazine, when you’ve crossed from one medium into another, you know you’re doing something right. You know, All Ears English! https://www.allearsenglish.com/

Lindsay is a returning guest on my podcast. She has been on this show a few times before. Long, long term listeners might remember her first appearance way back in episode 186 in 2014 talking about culture shock. So we’ve collaborated quite a few times. I have also been on All Ears English a number of times too, including recently.

Just a couple of months ago, Lindsay and I decided that it was about time we collaborated again on a couple of episodes so we invited each other onto our respective podcasts. I was on her show just a couple of weeks ago, in episode 2140 talking about differences between American and British English. We compared the vocabulary differences, communication style differences and more. If that sounds interesting, you could check it out. AEE 2140: The Subtle Differences Between American and British English with Luke’s English Podcast

Listen to Luke on All Ears English talking about differences between UK and USA English (audio version)

And for Lindsay’s appearance on my show in this episode, we agreed that it could be really interesting to talk about Lindsay’s home country – the USA and what’s going on there at the moment in terms of economic, political and cultural changes.

You’re going to hear us talking about things like:

The actions of unions and how that has been affecting workers’ rights. 

The way cities are evolving because of changes in people’s working lives especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Property prices, the energy crisis, American people’s attitudes about their government, trust in public institutions and other things of that nature.

Also, I couldn’t help adding my own comments about what’s been going on in the UK as well, in order to compare and find similarities between our two countries.

It’s a big year for both the UK and the USE – we have big elections coming up – a presidential election in the USA at the end of the year and a general election in the UK at some point. 

There’s plenty to talk about. I hope you find it all interesting. I’ll talk to you again a little bit at the other end of this conversation, but now, without any further ado, let’s get started. 

“Across the Universe” – Lyrics and Chords

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-beatles/across-the-universe-chords-202167

867. Multimodal Communication (with Nik Peachey)

This episode is all about the different modes of communication that we use beyond the 4 linguistic skills of reading, writing, listening speaking. My guest is Nik Peachey who has helped to write a new paper published by OUP called Multimodality in ELT: communication skills for today’s generation. Listen to Nik and me chatting about the importance of multimodal literacy in our social interactions and in the ways we consume and produce media online.

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Read the OUP paper “Multimodality: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation” here (OUP registration required)


Introduction Notes / Transcript

Hello!

This episode is a conversation all about multimodality in communication. My guest is Nik Peachey, who will introduce himself to you in a few minutes when the conversation part of this episode begins.

Let me give you a bit of background information about how this episode came about, and what the main topic of conversation is.

I was contacted by OUP (they publish academic materials for English teachers and learners – course books but also teacher training materials for English teachers).

They have published a paper about multimodality in ELT and they wanted to see if I was interested in doing an interview with one of the people involved in the writing of this paper. The paper is called Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation.

I thought “Hmm, multimodality, that’s a nice word – sounds interesting”. I was also aware of Nik Peachey already – he’s a fairly well-known figure in the world of English language teaching and publishing, especially in the UK. He’s a name you see at things like teaching conferences or in teacher training.

So I replied to OUP and said I was interested, they sent me a copy of the paper they have published and we arranged this interview, which actually took place a couple of months ago. It turned out to be a very interesting and wide-ranging conversation about so many things.

Let’s consider the title of that paper again “Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation”.

Basically, this is all about how as teachers we always need to be aware of the ways in which learners of English need to use English to communicate in the world today. This involves looking at communication and considering how that happens, and also considering how changes in technology are having an effect.

How do we communicate? Is it just through language? How is our communication affected by advancements in technology?

What OUP are saying, with this paper, is that more and more our communication is multimodal, which means that we communicate in a variety of different ways or modes.

This is not just in terms of the 4 skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. That is, traditionally, how communication has been defined.

Those are all linguistic or verbal modes (language based), but there are more communication modes than that, including non-verbal ones which are still hugely important. This includes body language, but there is a lot more than that, especially when you consider how much of our communication is mediated through technology these days.

To try and break this down, let’s think about this in two areas: social interactions (the way we speak and listen to each other face to face), and the way we consume media (content such as video, audio, texts).

There is also how these two things (social interactions and media) combine because more and more we use media to communicate – write texts and emails, do video calls, and combine text, images, video and audio to create social media posts.

So, let’s consider these two areas then: social interactions, and media, and let’s think about how they are multimodal – how they involve many various forms of communication.

In terms of social interactions there’s verbal communication (the words we’re using etc) but also body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity. Also cultural factors come into play such as pop culture references that we use, or different social codes of behaviour in different cultures.

To communicate successfully we need to have an awareness of those social factors.

*Give an example of how I have to consider these things as an English teacher talking to my class – body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity, cultural references, social codes of behaviour*

The second area is the way multimodality relates to the way we consume media – for example if you watch some video content online, understanding the various ways in which that media is constructed. How certain visuals are important, the use of certain tropes, the use of different fonts, different colours, different editing techniques, music and so on. Understanding these things allows us to decode the media we see, and this is crucial in understanding the intentions behind content we are exposed to, which in turn helps us to detect things like misinformation or just the purpose of the video.

For example, if you show a certain online video to someone who has very little multimodal awareness (like your grandmother or something) it’s not uncommon for this person just to be completely confused by what they’re seeing, or to experience some kind of culture shock. Imagine playing a video of Davie504 on YouTube to my grandmother. By the way Davie504 is an extremely successful YouTuber who makes very distinctive and funny videos about playing the bass guitar. If my gran watched one of his videos, I genuinely think she would not know what was going on. That’s because she isn’t familiar with all the different codes being used.

So it’s important to be have a level of multimodal literacy, so you can properly understand the media you are consuming, but also so that you can also communicate successfully through media yourself, by doing things like creating social media posts which combine sound, video, text and designs.

Nik Peachey is going to give various examples of these things during the conversation, which should help to clarify this all for you.

Ultimately, this is all about the importance of multimodal literacy in both our everyday communication and also in the way we consume content.

I guess for you, as learners of English, you can just consider how language exists as one part of an overall context which also includes things like culture, non-verbal communication, media literacy and more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

One note about the sound – I predict that some of you will comment that you found it hard to hear Nik. He’s not using a podcasting or broadcasting microphone, which might make it a little bit hard to hear him at first. You can hear some sounds of the room around him – a bit of echo and reverb. You might have to adjust your ear at the beginning, but you will get used to it. For me, this conversation got more and more interesting as Nik and I got to know each other better and got really into the whole subject of communication in its various modes. I hope you enjoy it too and that it makes you think about how learning English can be about more than just learning words and grammar.

I’ll speak to you again a little bit at the end of the conversation.

856. My brother’s new album is out now / Music Chat with James

Here’s a bonus episode, and it’s for fans of my brother’s music. James’ new album is out now and so we decided to record this episode in order to promote it and also to talk generally about music, including a chat about favourite albums, first albums we ever bought, albums we discovered in our parents’ record collection and more.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Buy Mood Selector by Glytek Audio

Other albums which we talked about in this episode

853. A Conversation with Rhiannon Carter

Join me as I meet and get to know Rhiannon, an English coach whose mission is to help you feel awesome about your English. I had never met Rhiannon before this interview, so listen as I get to know her and we chat about her English & Welsh roots, moving to Edinburgh, studying theology at university, early experiences as an English teacher, why learners often feel ashamed of their English, and how she can help. We also discuss the wonders of fish & chips and deep fried Mars bars which you can buy on the streets of Edinburgh.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Work with Rhiannon 👉 https://www.rhiannonelt.com/

Instagram 👉 https://www.instagram.com/rhiannonelt.coaching/

Rhiannon’s podcast 👇

850. Any Language You Want 📖 with Fabio Cerpelloni

Fabio has written a book about language learning, based on his own personal experiences of learning English. Each chapter ends with the same sentence: “This is how to learn a language”. But each chapter disagrees with the next. There are many ways to learn a language, and none of them is the only right way to do it. In this episode, we talk all about this and Fabio shares some of his stories. Fabio is the host of “Stolariod Stories” a self-development podcast which includes lots of lessons about learning English, and learning about life in general.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

☝️ The audio version has 20+ extra minutes of rambling from Luke ☝️

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK3zmdowd_A&ab_channel=Luke%27sEnglishPodcast

👉 Get Fabio’s book “Any Language You Want” https://fabiocerpelloni.com/any-language-you-want/

👉 Listen to Fabio interview Luke about stand-up comedy on Stolaroid Stories https://pod.link/1588409467/episode/5a1f614be55bdffa8513091565ef4985

👇 Video version of “The Art of Making People Laugh” on Stolaroid Stories


Also, listen to Luke’s funny story on Bree Aesie’s podcast recently 👇