Category Archives: Interview

691. Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach

How do professional actors change the way they speak for different acting roles? What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning? In this conversation I speak to Jerome Butler who is a very experienced dialect coach working in the TV and film industry in the USA, and we discuss these questions.

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Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa www.alisoncohenrosa.com/

Introduction Transcript

Hi folks, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been working on the WISBOLEP competition and it is coming soon. I’ll let you know exactly what I’ve decided, I will play you recordings from listeners and you’ll be able to vote and we’re going to find a LEPster to be interviewed on the podcast. So the next installment of Why I Should Be On LEP is coming soon.

Also some premium content is coming. Just a reminder that I recently uploaded a 28-minute video of one of my comedy shows. It’s me doing stand-up comedy in London a couple of years ago. I’d been holding on to that video for a while, but I finally decided it was time to publish it considering I’m not doing any gigs at the moment and I’m not sure when I will be able to. So, premium subscribers – check it out, as well as all the pronunciation videos I’ve uploaded and at least 100 premium episodes. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you want to sign up or know more.

Also you can expect more free episodes, including the next WISBOLEP episode and more conversations with guests. 

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews recently as you’ve probably noticed. It’s been a really good run of guests that we have never heard before on the podcast, but I will go back to the old favourites soon enough, with hopefully Amber & Paul making a return and an episode of Gill’s Book Club – the book in question will be 1, 2, 3, 4: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown – an interesting, recent book which explores the story of the Beatles in various interesting ways. We’ll be doing that in the new year because I’m getting it for Christmas and I’ll need a chance to read it. I think it will basically be a chance for me to talk about The Beatles with my mum and she was a huge fan back in the Beatlemania days and saw them live twice. So, you might want to get that – 1, 2, 3, 4 by Craig Brown. Anyway, onto this episode and this one is all about pronunciation, so get ready to think about accents and changing the way you speak. It goes quite nicely with other episodes like the recent one I did about Key Features of English Accents (682). So the question is, how can you change your accent? Let’s ask a dialect coach.

Jingle —

Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach 

Hello everyone – here is an episode all about accents and dialects and specifically how to convincingly sound like you come from a different place, with a different accent. 

You’re going to hear me in conversation with Jerome Butler who is a dialect coach. Jerome works with actors who need to change the way they speak. 

To give you an example of what this means, let’s say I’m an actor from England, and I’ve got a part in a TV show that takes place in the USA in a southern state. Perhaps the film is set in Atlanta or something like that (like in The Walking Dead perhaps) and the character I’m playing was born and grew up in that area, and so I need to change my RP English accent to a general Southern accent from the USA for the filming of the show. 

How can I do it? How can I change my voice? How can I consistently speak like I am from a southern state in the USA? Well, I would need a dialect coach, and that is what Jerome does. 

Actually, having to change your accent is quite common for actors in the English language TV and film industry. There are loads of famous actors who have successfully changed the way they speak for different roles. I mentioned The Walking Dead before and it is quite a good example – so many of the actors in that show are from the UK but they sound like they could come from Georgia or a neighbouring state. No doubt those actors worked closely with dialect coaches like Jerome. 

And it’s not just British actors working in the USA, it’s anyone who normally speaks in one way and needs to learn to speak in another way, and remember the English language is so diverse in terms of accents and dialects across different parts of the world that it’s very common for actors to have to make this kind of change in their work.

Now, talking to Jerome about this is actually a great opportunity for us to listen to someone who has a lot of experience and expertise in helping people change their accents. He’s been doing it for years now and has worked on loads of different film and TV projects and with loads of different actors from different parts of the world. Jerome is amazing actually, and we’re really lucky to have him on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking to him and it was very interesting to find out the specifics of what he does in his job.

For you as learners of English this should be particularly interesting, because the whole point of this conversation is to answer two questions really:

  • How can actors change their accents and dialects for different roles?
  • What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning?

How can you change your accent?

It’s quite a complicated question as you can expect – it involves many linguistic factors and a lot of work. In just a one-hour conversation we can’t give you all the answers of course. It’s a complex and very personal process, but at least we can get a sort of window into that process by listening to what Jerome has to say.

Let me tell you a bit about Jerome’s CV before we listen to him talking, just so you get an idea of who you are listening to.

Jerome Butler has had a really diverse career working for over 25 years in acting, teaching and dialect coaching. He graduated from The Juilliard School which is one of the most prestigious acting and performance art schools in the USA. Loads of great actors went there, including well-known people like Adam Driver, Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaacs, Anthony Mackie, Robin Williams and plenty of others.

He’s done various acting roles in theatre, TV and film productions even including episodes of Star Trek Voyager and ER but the majority of the work he has done in the industry is that of a dialect coach and if you look at his IMDB page the list just goes on and on, working on various productions with various performers including names you might recognise, like Emily Mortimer, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler, Robert Downey Jr., Jonathan Pryce, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Impressive, most impressive.

OK so I just dropped a bunch of names on you there, but this episode is not a celebrity gossip type thing. It’s not about that. I’m not asking him to tell us what Robert Downey Jnr is really like. I just wanted to let you know that Jerome is a proper, professional dialect coach who has lots of real industry experience, so he knows what he is talking about.

He’s also taught classes at universities like MIT and has been involved in an artistic rehabilitation program in the California prison system. That’s quite a glittering and diverse CV, and of course now he has reached the high point of his professional career – appearing in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Haha. 

In this conversation we start by talking about the work he does and what it involves, and the conversation gets more and more specific as it goes, as we try to understand what he does and relate it to your learning of English.

Now, I would also like to say that I think as a learner of English, the decision to change your accent or perhaps I should say the decision to try to sound exactly like a native speaker of English is completely up to you but in the EFL/ESL community this is actually quite a contentious issue. Should learners of English aim to or expect to ultimately sound exactly like native English speakers? People seem to disagree about it. 

Even now I can sense, using my jedi force abilities that some of you are saying “yes we should try to sound like native speakers!” whereas others are saying “no, we shouldn’t” and probably most of you are saying “I don’t really know Luke, I haven’t made up my mind!” and a couple of you are saying “Sorry, what was the question?” 

Let me repeat it.

Should learners of English spend time and effort on trying to sound exactly like native speakers? Should we all aim for “native level speech” as our ultimate goal? Or is it better to keep your accent when you speak English because this is all part of who you are and it’s perhaps even damaging to set such high standards? 

These are questions that are often discussed and people continue to disagree on the answers. 

To an extent it is a question of personal choice – people can do whatever they like and if sounding like a native speaker is your personal goal, then fine. Some people manage to do it really well. 

One thing’s for sure – nobody can argue against the importance of intelligibility – being understandable and clear, but exactly who you should sound like seems to be up to you.

But anyway,  I felt I should mention this whole argument in the introduction here, and Jerome mentions it too before going on to describe the specifics of how someone could shift their accent.

Also keep listening to hear Jerome start training me to speak in that southern American accent that I mentioned earlier. Can he help me learn to speak like I’m in The Walking Dead and I’m from a southern state like Georgia or Tennessee or South Carolina or maybe even Alabama?

OK, I will talk to you again at the end in order to recap and sum up some of the main points that are made in this conversation. But now, let’s start this conversation with me in Paris and Jerome Butler across the Atlantic in New York City.

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Ending Transcript

So, that was dialect coach Jerome Butler. Thank you again to Jerome for all that information he gave us.

So, for me that was fascinating and also reassuring to know that Jermoe uses more or less the same methods and approaches in the TV and film industries as I use in my English teaching. I think Jerome gave us some really valuable insights into how people can change their accents. As I said before, this is a huge and complex subject so we only scratched the surface here. 

If you’d like to know more from Jerome and use the tools he mentioned then visit his website, which is dialectcoachescorner.com/ You can create a free profile there and then start exploring and practising. It is for a general American English accent though, as Jerome pointed out.

Let me now just recap and sum up the main bits of advice in that conversation. If you found it a bit difficult to follow or to pick out all the specifics, this summary should help.

Summarising Advice from this conversation

Learn the phonemic script because it will help you become more aware of the different sounds that are used in English. There are apps you can use to do this. Check “Sounds” by Macmillan. This will really help you to identify and then produce specific sounds that are used in English → British English in the case of that. “Sounds” contains various tasks that will help you learn the sounds, practise recognising them, transcribing words phonetically and more. The full name is “Sounds: The Pronunciation App” and the best way to download it is from the Macmillan website www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/ 

Categorise words by the different sounds – for example, what is the vowel sound in the stressed syllable of the word?

You can take all the vowel sounds – monophthongs and diphthongs and consider them to be categories. Try putting different words into those categories.

Vowel sounds would be good. 

Also certain consonant sounds like voiced and unvoiced pairs, TH sounds and so on. Also, -ED endings for regular verbs.

A textbook like Ship or Sheep by Ann Baker can help because in that book all the different vowel sounds are listed chapter by chapter and you can practise recognising, categorising and repeating words with those sounds.

Mechanical practise is important. Repetition is the mother of skill – I think that’s the phrase that Jerome used. It’s reassuring to know this – and he’s a man with a proven track record of results. He knows that to help someone change the way they speak it is a combination of heightening your awareness of the different sounds and how they are made, then mechanical practise with those sounds until they “enter your body” and you acquire the ability to quickly switch between the categories and quickly work out how to say words in the accent you have chosen.

So, again, practise identifying which sound is used – practise categorising words over and over again.

Then practise saying these words by repeating after someone. Again – Ship or Sheep can help because there is an audio CD. Other books or websites may be available.

But there are many things to take into account. It’s not just vowel sounds. If I’d had more time with Jerome we might have got onto other things like intonation, connected speech, elision of sounds, sentence stress, weak forms and all that stuff.

It can be hard to do it on your own so you might also need a personal coach of some kind, like a one to one teacher who can work closely with you.

Let me point you towards Jerome’s website again dialectcoachescorner.com/ where you can contact Jerome, create a free account to access all the resources and more. Remember, that is if you are looking for a general American accent, or perhaps more specific regional accents in the USA. For British English, well of course I’d recommend my premium subscription!

So, work with someone, work with resources designed to help you with this.

Alternatively, you can practise simply repeating after someone whose accent you want to copy. 

If you want to copy my accent, you can repeat words and sentences after me. 

Do this either by shadowing – just try to repeat as you listen, or perhaps pause and repeat.

Or you can use the pronunciation drills in my premium episodes, because they are designed to help you repeat after me and I focus my attention on things like sentence stress and other specific features.

Practise practise practise.

Have fun with it too.

But also remember that it is a question of personal choice. Please don’t feel that you have to sound exactly like a native speaker. In my opinion, it is totally fine and reasonable to retain traces of your native language when you speak English. That’s part of who you are. Like Jerome said, perhaps the only reason to completely lose all trace of your first language in your English accent is if you are an actor or a spy. 

Also, I think it requires a lot of time, dedication and effort to work on your accent to the same level as a professional actor. This isn’t always a realistic proposition for learners of English who are also busy in their lives. So, working on being clear is the main thing and if you have a regional accent in English, that’s fine – it’s part of who you are, just like someone from Liverpool has a Liverpool accent, someone from Glasgow has a Glasgow accent, someone from Essex has an Essex accent – you can have an accent from your country, as long as people understand you.

It’s all a question of personal choice at the end of the day – but there it is, I think speaking to Jerome shows us that there are ways of working on the way that you sound, if you are prepared to put in the time and the effort.

I also wonder sometimes if some people are more naturally talented at changing their pronunciation than others, but that is a question I’m not completely able to answer at this moment. What do you think? Do you think some people are naturally better than others at matters of pronunciation?

A Few Expressions in the Episode

My tongue is firmly in my cheek – This just means he’s not being serious. He said calling himself a dialect coach would mean he’d get paid more.

We’re splitting hairs – To split hairs means to make very specific and unnecessary distinctions between things. Jerome could be called an accent coach or a dialect coach and it doesn’t matter – although to be specific, dialect refers to the words and the grammar, and accent refers to the pronunciation.

I’m not going to go into the weeds – This means getting deeply involved in very specific details. He’s not going into all the complex details, he’s just giving us a simple overview.

Links

Here are some of those useful links again

689. Baking Cakes, Telling Jokes & Speaking Chinese with Kate Billington

A funny chat with Kate who speaks multiple languages, makes delicious cakes, teaches English and does stand-up comedy. Enjoy!

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LEP Premium Promo

This episode of Luke’s English Podcast is sponsored by Luke’s English Podcast Premium. Premium LEPlanders, did you know that in the LEP App, as well as the category for premium audio episodes, there’s a category called Pronunciation Videos? Did you know that? There are currently 13 pronunciation videos in there with drills for you to repeat after me with annotations on the screen, plus a new video which I created and uploaded just the other day – a set of pronunciation drills for present perfect simple and continuous. I just thought I would let you know. I’m also working on a new premium audio series which is coming soon, so keep checking the premium category in your LEP App and also on my website. If you’d like to become a premium listener, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo  


Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you today? I hope you’re basically doing alright.

Sometimes I get messages from people who say things like this:

“Luke, when you talk on the podcast, are you talking at your normal speed, because I can understand everything you say” and “Can you speak at your normal speaking speed on the podcast please? Because we want to hear natural, fast speech – like the way native speakers usually speak.”

OK then. Actually, I think I do speak at my normal speed on this podcast more or less, most of the time, but as I’ve said before it’s probably easier for you to understand me when I’m talking on my own than when I’m talking to a guest. My conversations with guests tend to speed up. As you may have noticed.

But if you are one of those listeners who is looking for English listening at a fast, natural speed, then this kind of episode (that’s this one, that you’re listening to right now) is for you, because the conversation I’m presenting this time goes at a really rapid pace. 

My guest and I got quite carried away during this conversation, which does happen when I speak to guests. We didn’t see the time passing and we covered a lot of different little topics with some bits of humour thrown in and we weren’t simplifying our English throughout. It’s just like when you’re talking to your friends in your native language I expect. 

Basically, listeners – are you up for another English listening challenge? If the answer is “yes” then, great. Here you are. Here is this episode.

But it might be difficult, so brace yourself. It depends on your level of English of course. Maybe you’ll have no problem understanding this at all. But I think for some people, it might be a challenge.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to explain all the main points you are going to hear in advance, like I do sometimes at the start of episodes – that kind of explaining can be very helpful, but I’m not doing it this time, mainly because I want to keep the episode length under control – I don’t want it to end up being tooooo long. In fact, I’m going to stop this introduction in a moment and just let you listen to the conversation in full without loads of support from me. You’ll be alright. You’ll be fine.

My guest this time is Kate Billington, who you haven’t heard on this podcast before – so another new voice for you to get to know. 

Kate does a lot of different things – she speaks multiple languages. British English is her mother tongue but she also speaks Chinese, French, Spanish too I believe. She is an English teacher like me. She makes cakes at a professional level (unlike me – I’m not great at making cakes but I’m very good at eating them) But Kate is a pro. I mean she is a professionally-qualified cake maker. She has a particular set of skills as you will hear – and watch out for some descriptions of some classic British cake recipes. Kate is a stand-up comedian (yes, another one), and she is interested in lots of other things too, as you will hear.

Kate and I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do too and that you just get really involved in listening to us and that you don’t see the time passing. If you do lose track of what we’re talking about at any point, which is quite possible, maybe use your podcasting app to skip back a bit and listen again.

If it is difficult, all I can do now is just encourage you to complete the episode from start to finish, even if you don’t get 100% of what we’re saying. It’s important when learning a language to persevere. It’s worth it. Anyway, if you simply enjoy the atmosphere and the things we say, hopefully that will make things much more pleasant for you.

Remember you don’t have to listen to the whole thing in one go. If you need to stop at any point, your podcast app will remember where you were and you can just carry on again later, which is one of the great things about podcasts. 

The icing on the cake

Juuuust before we start, I feel I should explain one idiom in English which comes up near the beginning. “The icing on the cake”

I was thinking of calling this episode “The Icing on the Cake with Kate Billingon” but then I thought “no, people don’t know what that means”. But I want to explain it anyway because it does come up and you’re here to learn English, right?

If you say that something is “the icing on the cake” it means that it is something extra that is added to an already good situation, which makes it even better.

You have a situation which is already good, and then you add a little extra something to make that situation even better.

“The episode was good – but that joke that Kate told at the end was the icing on the cake”.

This is an idiom in English of course. It’s not only used to refer to cakes.

Icing is a sugary frosting which is added as a thin layer on top of a cake. So, the icing on top of a cake is an extra little layer of yummy sweet stuff which is added, making it even better. A cake is already amazing, right? Well, adding icing on top makes it even more amazing.

For exmaple: “It was incredible seeing Neil Young doing a concert in Hyde Park but Paul McCartney arriving on stage at the end of the show was the icing on the cake.”

This idiom comes up at the start. Watch out for it.

OK, I’m going to stop this introduction now. So let’s meet Kate Billington for the first time on Luke’s English Podcast, and here we go…


Ending Transcript

So, that was Kate Billington in an epically long conversation. Thanks again to Kate.

Hello you! You made it until the end. Nice one. How was that for you? I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

If this episode was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?

Maybe a long fruit cake – rich, quite heavy, fruity, made in the run up to Christmas, very British and best enjoyed with copious amounts of brandy.

Or maybe you found it more like a Victoria sponge cake – light, fluffy, sweet and moreish.

Or perhaps a battenburg cake – it looks like one solid whole, but when you get into it you realise that it’s made up of different sections. 

Anyway, thank you for listening all the way up to this point. 

Let us know any thoughts or reactions you have by writing something in the comment section on the website. 

  • How was this episode for you?
  • Did you learn anything from it?
  • Do you have any specific questions about vocab that came up?
  • Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share?
  • Do you have any thoughts in your head, generally? (I hope so) 

Check out the page for this episode on my website where you will see things like transcriptions for my introduction and this ending bit, plus pictures of most of the cake types and pastry types that we talked about → Victoria sponge, fruit cake, Battenberg cake (aka window cake) plus some lovely French things like croissants, pain au chocolate and more.

Kate Billington on Instagram

Check out Kate’s Instagram to see lots of lovely pictures of lovely delicious cakes that she has made – yum yum yum and indeed, yum.

www.instagram.com/cake_by_cake_paris 

See stand up comedy in Paris (covid-permitting)

Also you can check out Comedy Croissant on Instagram & Facebook, especially if you are in the Paris area and you’d like to come to one of the shows when they eventually come back. And as I record this ending bit France is again under strict lockdown measures, which means the comedy shows are not happening for the foreseeable future, but when they’re back, which they will be one day, you’ll know about it if you follow Comedy Croissant on Facebook.

You can find information about all the English comedy nights in Paris by going to www.englishcomedyinparis.com 

Bonus Audio in the LEP App

LEP App users – There is a little outtake in the app (extra audio – just in case you didn’t get enough from this episode) – tap the gift icon while listening to the episode and you’ll hear a couple of bonus minutes of Kate and me talking about some blue bookends that I have in my pod-room. Bookends are things you put on the end of shelves to stop the books falling off. Usually they are rectangular in shape, but also L shaped – because part of the bookend has to go under the books. My blue bookends, which you might have seen in my videos, look like the Tardis from the TV show Doctor Who. The Tardis looks like a blue telephone box. Doctor Who fans will know. If you’d like to hear us talking about my Tardis-shaped bookends and whether I am a proper Whovian (Doctor Who fan) or not, then find the gift icon for this episode in the LEP app and tap it!

The bookends in my pod-room which caught Kate’s eye. The bookends look like The Tardis. Listen to the bonus audio in the app to find out more.

Posh, or not posh? Gap yah, etc…

Another thing is, if you are wondering about posh people – how to know if someone is posh, what a posh accent sounds like, and that whole “Gap Yah” thing, then go to the episode archive and find the “Posh or not posh” episodes – 581, 582 and 584. They should explain everything relating to poshness and how posh people speak.

Thank you again to Kate for this episode. Thanks Kate.

Dear listener, I will speak to you again soon on the podcast in either a free episode or a premium one (I’m working on more content for you), and yes the next part of the WISBOLEP competition is on it’s way. I am working on that too.

Thank you for choosing to listen to my podcast.

If you are feeling up for it you could leave a nice review for LEP on iTunes – it helps the podcast appear in those recommended lists and things. Like and subscribe and  leave a comment if you’re listening on YouTube. Consider donating to support the podcast by clicking a donate button on my website. Download the Luke’s English Podcast app from the app store and consider becoming a premium lepster by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

And finally, please remember to be excellent to each other, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive.

But for now, it’s just time to say, goodbye!

English Cakes

Again, check Kate’s Instagram, because her photos are much more appealing than these ones. www.instagram.com/cake_by_cake_paris/

Traditional English fruit cake
The Christmas version of an English fruit cake – probably “fed” with brandy and left in the cupboard for weeks.
Victoria Sponge Cake
Battenberg Cake (a.k.a “Window cake”) www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/battenburg_cake_60878

French Viennoiserie

“All butter” Croissant
Pain au chocolat (also known as a chocolatine in some parts of the country) 😋

685. Raising Bilingual Children [1] Alex and his daughter Alice, in Moscow

An episode exploring the subject of how to raise a child to speak English. I speak to Alex, an English teacher from Moscow about how he has been speaking exclusively in English to his 4-year-old daughter Alice since she was born. Let’s find out how it’s going.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

Just in case you don’t know. My name is Luke and this is my podcast for learners of English all around the world. Welcome. 

Just a reminder at the start here that this podcast is made possible thanks to donations from listeners and the paid premium subscription that you can sign up for in order to get access to over 100 episodes all devoted to helping you improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The library is growing all the time as I publish new premium stuff, and I am currently working on some new episodes which I hope to record and publish soon. Being a Premium LEPster means you get access to all that content, as well as the free stuff, and it also means that you support this whole project too. To get all the information, including the very reasonable prices just go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

One other thing – there’s a big vote coming up, a very important election in which one person is going to be chosen and it’s all very tense and historic – everyone’s talking about it – yes that’s right I’m referring to the WISBOLEP competition on LEP (what else?) I just wanted to mention this because people have been asking about it. The competition is closed now and I am working on the next stage of it, which will be to let you hear all the competition entries and then let you vote for your favourites, then based on the results of that vote, I’ll choose a LEPster to be interviewed on the podcast. I can tell you that there have been lots of strong entries so it will be difficult to choose just one person, but that’s what we have to do. So, stay tuned to LEP to hear an episode with everyone’s 2 minute speeches in which they try to convince you to pick them for LEP. That’s coming soon, when I’ve worked out how to manage it all. It’s coming in any case. Right, that’s that then, and now it’s time to start this episode properly, and here is the jingle!

JingleYou’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast, for more information visit teacherluke.co.uk

Hello and welcome back to the podcast everyone. 

This is the first in a series of episodes called Raising Bilingual Children, and it is about exactly that – the topic of bringing up children to speak several languages, or more specifically bringing up children who speak English as well as another language.

Ever since my daughter was born nearly 3 years ago I have been meaning to talk about the topic of raising bilingual children, or at least raising children who speak English fluently.

My podcast is mainly here to help my listeners improve their English, but a lot of you out there have kids and naturally your thoughts turn to them and their English. 

I have had lots of requests from listeners asking me to talk about this topic, so that’s why this series exists, this being the first proper episode on the topic. I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing these, but it’s a topic I plan to return to in various ways in the future. 

Maybe you have children and you want them to speak fluent English as well as another language. This is for you if that is the case. Maybe you don’t have children yet, but you might in the future, in which case you are thinking about how to help your future children learn English. We know that starting early is so important in language development. So, it’s certainly useful to have an awareness of this topic so you can do the right things when children come into your life.

Or maybe for you, having children is not a concern, because you’re not going to have children or you’ve already done it, but I still hope this will be interesting for you, because ultimately it is all about learning English and certain essential principles related to doing that. 

The topic of raising bilingual children is massive. I am by no means an expert on this specifically, although it’s something I’ve been reading about, thinking about, talking about and also I’ve been doing it myself because I am raising a bilingual child, or hoping to, anyway. 

As you may know, I live in France, and I have a young daughter – she’s nearly 3. My wife is French and and we are doing our best to make sure that our daughter learns to use both French and English with ease and confidence. So, I have experience in this area. But I haven’t done a masters degree in this topic or anything like that. My qualifications and experience are in teaching English to adults mainly. So I’m learning about it myself too.

It’s a complex topic.

There are big questions that come up when you start to talk about bilingualism in children, like “What is bilingualism exactly?”, “How do we define “bilingual?” “What is a native speaker?”, “How do children acquire languages? And is this different to the way adults do it?” and more… “What are the standards that we can realistically expect from children who aren’t living in an English speaking country and whose parents aren’t native English speakers?”

Also there are the many combinations of factors involved – many different situations that make it quite hard to get a proper grip on the topic. 

For example, (and let’s just let’s use France as an example here, because that’s where I live,  but you could replace France with any other country and this will still work)

Examples of Different situations

These different situations might require slightly different approaches or they might involve different challenges for parents. 

  • One parent is French, the other is a native English speaker, they live in France. (like my situation) 
  • One parent is French, the other is a native English speaker, they live in England.
  • Both parents are French, neither is a native speaker of English, but they live in England, the child is at school in English.
  • Both parents are English, both are native speakers, but they live in France and the child goes to school in French.
  • This is the holy grail: Both parents are French, neither is a native speaker of English, they live in France and the child is going to school in French.
  • Or similarly, one parent is French and let’s say the other is Korean, neither is a native speaker of English, and they live in Brazil and their child is going to school in Brazilian Portugese. 

There are probably more possible combinations, and also there are other factors to take into account, like whether there is a wider community that exists in the target language (like grandparents who speak English that live nearby) or whether the child is going to a “bilingual school” (and there are various versions of that) or a monolingual school (only in English).

The more you think about the possible combinations, the more complex it gets! Especially from my point of view as I want to cover all the bases.

Also, there are different approaches you can take.

  • One parent, one language. 
  • English in the home, another language outside.
  • English at the weekend and another language during the week. 

Lots of combinations.

But, without getting too academic about it, I think one of the best ways to explore this subject is just to talk to people in various situations who are raising their children to speak English or who have done it, and just find out as much as possible about them. 

Actually there are loads of people I can talk to about this, including my wife, our friends like Amber for example – who lives in France and has two children now, some of my colleagues at the British Council whose job it is to teach English to children and a lot of LEPsters who have success stories to share.

Alex Suvorov and his daughter Alice (4 years old)

This brings me to this episode in which I am talking to a long-term LEPster Alex Suvorov, and his 4-year-old daughter Alice.

I have been meaning to talk to Alex on the podcast about this topic for quite a long time now. 

As you’ll hear, Alex fits into the category of a non-native speaker in a non-English speaking country (I mean one where English is not the first language) who has been raising his child to speak English.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but basically I want to find out firstly how Alex got his English up to its current level, and then talk about his daughter’s English. That’s it, basically.

Hopefully we can shed some light on this whole subject and maybe give you some inspiration or food for thought.

At the beginning of the conversation Alex is joined by Alice, and you’ll be able to hear her speaking a little bit, but after a few minutes she goes into the other room and it’s just Alex and me, but at the end you will be able to hear a short recording that Alex made of him speaking to Alice, which will give you a little idea of what her English is really like.

So, without any further ado, let’s go.


Ending

So that was my conversation with Alex Suvorov, about his approach to giving his daughter a headstart in English. I’d like to say thanks to Alex and his daughter Alice. 

Now, it would be interesting to hear a bit more from Alice so I’m now going to play a quick recording that Alex & his daughter made together, so you can hear her speaking in English. 

This is about 5 minutes long and you’ll hear Alex basically trying to get Alice to show us her English, which is quite hard, because as you might know, it can be quite difficult to get little children to cooperate sometimes, but if you listen carefully you can hear Alice responding to Alex’s questions and prompts and saying little comments here and there.

Bear in mind that she is only 4 years old. So in terms of her English we’re not looking for Dame Judy Dench here – you’re never going to get spectacular and fully formed language from a child of that age, in any language. So don’t expect to hear Amber Minogue here. THat’s not what we’re looking for.

What we are looking for is the ease with which she speaks in English. Listen out for how comfortable she is speaking English. Actually, I don’t hear any grammar or vocabulary errors from Alice but she might be a bit hesitant  or shy – because 4 year old children often are and Alice knew she was being recorded here. Her accent might sound a bit Russian, but as we said near the end of the conversation, for a 4 year old the main thing is that sense of confidence and comfort in English – and I think Alice has that. Specific points of pronunciation can be worked on later. But a foundation of comfort, confidence, fluency and the feeling that English is your own language combined with an instinctive sense of grammar and vocabulary are the most important things you can give a child. I think you can hear that from Alice. 

Anyway, let’s listen…

Listen to Alex and Alice talking…

So that was Alex and Alice.

Some of you will be desperate to say that she has a Russian accent, and maybe she does a bit, but like we said before, that’s fine. We’re not looking for perfection here. We are looking for a baseline or foundation of comfort in English, and I think it’s fair to say that Alice has got that. You heard her producing correct grammar, fairly complex little chunks of English, decent and other things might come later, like her accent, especially if she continues to listen to English from things like cartoons, films, and also audiobooks and so on.

But the main advantage that little Alice has got is that English is part of her life. 

Is Alice “bilingual” – well that depends on how you define bilingualism. 

As Alex said, he estimates her vocabulary to be about 20% behind that of a native speaker of her age. That’s great. Remember: Connection, not perfection. For those of you who cannot get over the fact that Alice still sounds a bit Russian, I would ask you this – Is Alex wasting his time? Would it be better for Alice if her father only spoke Russian to her? Is it realistic to expect Alice to speak like a native speaker, like mini Amber Minogue? Is Alice’s English 20% worse than a native speaker, or is it perhaps 80% better than a child who only ever speaks Russian?

Food for thought there.

Of course it is about personal choice. 

But still, it is worth thinking about.

If you are also raising your child in English to some extent, do get in touch and tell us about your experiences in the comment section of this episode. We’d like to know what you think and what you are doing, including your doubts too.

Thanks again to Alex for talking to us and sharing his story. 

You can find Alex on Instagram by the way, and everything he posts is in English, so check it out. 

www.instagram.com/suvorovalexander/

And that website for checking your vocabulary – www.testyourvocab.com

The website’s test is fairly reliable I would say, if you answer it honestly. It’s all based on an academic research project and every time you take the test the data gets added to their database, and the database is there to help with the academic study. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it seems quite reliable, but that’s the best I can say.

I just took the test. It took about 5 minutes. Would you like to know how many words I know? 

Well, apparently I know 31,200 words which is ever so slightly above average for a native speaker of English in my age group. So, this means I am entirely normal, or a tiny amount above normal, which is good to know. So, my English appears to be a very good sample of what the average British person knows, which is quite reassuring.

Do you have a story of raising a bilingual child that you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

684. Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth Graty

A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!

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There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.

Shall we start the episode? OK.

Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)

I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.

The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.

This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.

Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.

Explaining this episode’s title

The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.

The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!

It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.

What is “a tangent”?
Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.

In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.

It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.

“To go off on a tangent”

There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.

I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.

Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.

My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.

What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.

So you’ll have to focus.

Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.

So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.

The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)

We talk about

  • Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
  • Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
  • Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
  • Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
  • Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
  • Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
  • Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
  • Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
  • Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
  • Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
  • Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
  • How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
  • Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
  • Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
  • Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that
    Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state
  • If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
  • A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
  • Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
  • The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
  • How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
  • Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
  • Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.

Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.

Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.

Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.


Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)

Ending Transcript

Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).

How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.

I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?

Elspeth on Instagram

www.instagram.com/elslostinfrance/

I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).

I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many.
Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).

Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?

I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.

In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.

I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.

Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.

I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…

Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.

Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.

Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)

OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.

I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.

Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…

Thanks for listening… Speak to you again soon… Bye!!

683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly

Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more. Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵

LEP Premium Promo

Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.

WISBOLEP Competition

Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681. But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…

Introduction

Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again! This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English. Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly” Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good. Feelgood stories of flirting Flirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious. Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.

Marie Connolly

Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex. Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it. Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris. Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination. For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit. Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about: As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers. I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know. Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea) ….I’m now pausing for laughter… Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs. You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris. At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share. Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more? It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes. The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?” — I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you — The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered. She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men. What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man? Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.

VOCABULARY

Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note. I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional. I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen. *There is some swearing*
  • To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
  • To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
  • To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
  • Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
  • To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
  • To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
  • To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
  • A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
  • To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
  • ______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
  • A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
  • To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
  • Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
  • Self-soothing
  • To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
  • A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
  • To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
  • A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
  • To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
  • Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
  • White vs Pale (to describe a person)
  • Calf muscles
  • A sand castle
  • To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
  • The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
  • To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
  • A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
  • Chick-lit
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation. But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat. Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…

Ending

Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you. Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions). The One-Woman Comedy Show “Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy. www.facebook.com/marieconnollycomedy/ Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts” Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)

Explaining the Vocabulary

Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode. Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean? Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version. The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️ Still not sure about the meanings? Try using www.oxforddictionaries.com to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode. What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters. As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free]. Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP! Right, I will let you go now. Thank you for listening. Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces. I look forward to reading your comments on the website. Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active. Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.

Speak to you soon. Bye bye bye…

680. Park Life – A Year in The Wildlife Of An Urban Park (by Rick Thompson) / Animal Collective Nouns

My dad has written a book and it’s all about the wildlife you can find in an urban English park. He’s on the podcast to tell us all about it, and there are some collective nouns for animals too, plus some bonus stand up comedy at the end.

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Introduction Transcript

Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast – this award-winning podcast for learners of English. Yes, the podcast has won a few awards over the years, but not lately. The last few years have been quiet, on the award front. If you see any competitions for best podcast for learners of English, or something, let me know!

Speaking of competitions, I’ve been thinking of launching another listener competition, and I’m wondering what you think. The competition would involve you recording yourself speaking and sending it into the podcast, then people would vote for their favourite and that person would then get interviewed in a full episode of the podcast. This idea was sent to me some time ago by a listener called Vadim. What do you think? I haven’t fully decided to do it yet, so let me know what you think of this new competition idea from Vadim.

But anyway, what about this episode then?

Park Life – A Year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park

As promised, this episode features my dad, which should be good news for all the Rick Thompson fans out there. As you might know we sometimes call my dad Rickipedia because he knows so much stuff about so many things, although it might be unreliable from time to time.

People often say that my dad should start his own podcast, as his episodes are so popular. He still hasn’t created a podcast of his own, but I am glad to say that he has written a book. 

The book is called “Park Life – A year in the Wildlife of an Urban Park”

The book is available for you to read. You can find it on Amazon.com and also Bookdepository.com (free shipping).

In this episode I’m going to talk to my dad about the book he’s written including a broader discussion of urban parks in the UK – green public spaces which perform an increasingly important role in UK life.

We start by talking about the book, what it’s about, how he was inspired to write it and what style it’s written in. Then we move on to describe some of the wildlife you can find in a local English urban park. Then we discuss some history of urban parks and the health benefits of spending time in green spaces. 

Also there are some collective nouns for different animals, including things like “a murder of crows” and “an unkindness of ravens”. Keep listening to hear some more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation. I’ll chat with you a bit afterwards, but now, here is Rick Thompson talking about his new book.

—–

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Dad for being on the podcast today. Once again, check Amazon or BookDepository for Rick Thompson Park Life to pick up a copy of my dad’s book for yourself.

In fact the book has already picked up a 5 star rating on Amazon from someone called Princesslizzykins

I have no idea who she is, but this is her review.

5.0 out of 5 stars

 A wonderful read.

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 September 2020

What a beautifully and thoughtfully written book.

A super balance of content between wildlife and local history, with some lovely poetic references thrown in, this book shows how anyone can escape the haste of urban life and take a moment to look at and love the world around them.

I live in Warwick, so have the added benefit of knowing the localities mentioned, but would recommend this to absolutely anyone that has an urban park near them and enjoys a damn good read.

Thumbs up for Dad. Nice one.

We’re not done here yet, I have some more things to do in this episode.

First of all, you heard me mention the stand up comedy gig that I had on Sunday and I did the gig and it went fine. I recorded it so I’ll play a few minutes of that at the end of the episode.

But first, let me go through some more collective nouns for animals. This is a really interesting and curious aspect of English – the way we use different words to collectivise different animals.

You heard us mention some there, and I’ve included them in this list too. So here is a list of common collective nouns for animals.

More Collective Nouns for Animals

  • A school of whales
  • A murmuration of starlings
  • A flock of sheep
  • A nest of rabbits
  • A litter of puppies
  • A flock of pigeons
  • A parliament of owls
  • A troop of monkeys
  • A pride of lions
  • A swarm of insects / flies / bees
  • A colony of gulls
  • A charm of finches
  • A murder of crows
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A pack of dogs
  • An army of frogs
  • An array of hedgehogs
  • A mischief of mice

That’s it for this episode then! Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

As promised earlier, here are a few minutes from my stand up set on Sunday evening. There was one LEPster in the audience by the way, who had come because he’d seen the gig advertised on my facebook page www.facebook.com/lukecomedian So, shout out to that LEPster!

Anyway, this was my first gig since Christmas, but it was great to be back on stage again and I should be doing more gigs this year, lockdown permitting.

So this is me on stage at the New York Comedy Night in Paris last Sunday. Thanks for listening and speak to you again soon. Bye…

678. The Vintage Furniture Trade in London (with Howard Roach)

Talking to my old teaching colleague Howard Roach about his furniture business in South London.

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Introduction

Hello LEPsters in LEPland, how are you doing today?

I hope you’re all doing well out there in all corners of podcastland, wherever you are, whatever you find yourself doing at this particular moment. You’ve chosen to press play on this podcast episode and I thank you for that. Welcome to the podcast. My name is Luke and I’m an English teacher from London and this is my podcast for learners of English, like you I expect!

Here I am again at my desk in the podcastle, preparing a new free episode for you all.

I’ve taken a little break from the mammoth Premium series I’ve been doing this week about homophones and jokes. Premium lepsters will know that I’ve uploaded 8 parts of series 24 now, and there are still 3 or 4 parts to go! If you haven’t checked them out yet, do so. In the LEP App, in the categories section, you’ll find Premium and also Pronunciation Videos. That’s where you go to get the premium content on your phone. On a computer, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get all the premium content there. And for more information and how to sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

But this is free episode 678 and in this one you’re going to listen to a conversation with a guest who hasn’t been on this podcast for over 10 years. Today I am talking to my friend Howard Roach who first appeared in episode 5, about Joaquin Phoenix, and then he made at least one more appearance in episode 11 (Men vs Women) and then that was it, for nearly 11 years!

I know Howard from our days teaching together at the London school of English. But he’s back again now to talk about something completely different that he’s been doing since he stopped teaching 7 years ago.

Howard now works in the vintage furniture trade in London. He gets hold of pieces of vintage furniture, then sells them on to customers, perhaps restoring the furniture in the process.

This is a business he set up 8 years ago when he decided to transition from being a teacher to being a furniture dealer.

Howard’s business is called Vintique London and this is what it says on their website. 

www.vintiquelondon.co.uk/

THE FURNITURE RE-LOVE REVOLUTION.

RETRO, VINTAGE AND MID CENTURY FURNITURE WAREHOUSE LONDON

Based in Peckham, South East London, Vintique London, is an eclectic treasure trove of retro, mid century, vintage and designer furniture and interior accessories.

What started out as a hobby collecting iconic vintage and retro pieces soon turned into a startup business in 2012. Since then we haven’t looked back. 

So I’m going to talk to Howard about the vintage furniture trade in London, what kind of stuff he sells, how he buys, sells and restores interesting and cool items of furniture and if he has any stories about particular purchases or sales that he’s made in the past.

As I mentioned before, Howard also used to be an English teacher, working with me at the London School of English with other guests from this podcast that you might have listened to in the past. So there are also a few tales of teaching from back in the old days in London.

Vocabulary

Let’s have a quick look at some vocab to begin with. Here’s some stuff that might come up and stuff that is relevant to the topic of buying and selling furniture.

  • Furniture (uncountable noun) 
  • a furniture / furnitures some furniture
  • Pieces of furniture
  • Items of furniture
  • Vintage = ​typical of a period in the past and of high quality “Vintage furniture”
  • Retro = using styles or fashions from the recent past “We specialise in selling retro and vintage pieces”
  • Mid-Century = from the middle of the last century – 50s, 60s “Most of our items are mid-century in style”
  • Turn of the century = the beginning of the last century, early 1900s “It is also possible to find pieces from the turn of the century”
  • Antiques / Antique = old and valuable, an old and valuable item – think darker more ornate pieces “and occasional antiques”
  • Darkwood furniture = furniture made from darker woods, like mahogany “and other types of darkwood furniture”
  • Second hand = Previously owned by someone else – “All items are used or second hand, but have been fully restored to their original quality”
  • Used = Same
  • Car-boot sale = an event where people load up their car with stuff from their home or loft and drive to a field, then open the boot and sell the contents to people. It can be a way to pick up antiques. “I first started going to car-boot sales and markets where you can find some real bargains”
  • Auction = an event when things are sold by bidding. An item is presented and the bidding begins at a certain amount, and people in the audience can raise their bids until the item is sold to the highest bidder. It’s like Ebay, but in real life. “I’ve bought a few things at auctions. You can learn a lot from the other dealers”
  • Restored = if an item is restored it means it might be fixed, or certain parts might have been replaced but it’s back to its original look and original quality. “A fully restored mid-century vintage chest of drawers”
  • Quid (30 quid) = “quid” means pounds “Just 75 quid for you mate”

Items of furniture

  • Chest of drawers = a large wide item with drawers
  • Bookcase = an item with space for storing books
  • Sideboard = a low, long piece which is supposed to go against a wall and contains some drawers and some cabinet space. You could put a TV on it.
  • Highboard = like a sideboard but it goes higher against the wall with perhaps a glass cabinet
  • Cabinet (just two doors)
  • Record cabinet = space for a record player and records
  • Dining chairs = chairs for sitting at a table
  • Armchairs = chairs for relaxing in the living room

So let’s get started. As I said earlier, before we get onto the whole topic of Howard’s furniture business, there is some chat about our time as teachers in London with about 15 minutes of stories and reminiscing about teaching and then we get onto the furniture (not literally). We don’t actually climb onto the furniture at any point in the episode.

When we get onto the furniture we are not also literally getting onto the furniture, conducting the interview balanced on chairs and tables.

But anyway, for the first time in over 10 years, let’s welcome back Howard Roach onto Luke’s English Podcast. 


Ending

Ooh a 10% discount for all LEPsters. The website address again:

www.Vintiquelondon.co.uk   

Don’t forget P24 for 8 parts of an episode series about homophones and jokes plus much more

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676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works

Professor David Crystal returns to talk about his latest books, and more. The first book is all about the art of conversation in English, and the second one is a spy thriller inspired by real events. David Crystal is one of the world’s leading linguists and an expert on the English language. He is also a national treasure and it’s a treat to be able to talk to him in this episode. Video version also available on the Luke’s English Podcast YouTube channel.

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YouTube Video Version

Recommended books

Some of his most popular books include:

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

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

Previous LEP episodes with David Crystal

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/05/31/454-david-crystal-interview-part-1-professor-of-linguistics/

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/06/06/455-david-crystal-interview-part-2-questions-from-listeners/

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/06/09/456-conclusions-about-language-learning-from-the-david-crystal-interview-part-1/

670. Language Learning with James Harris

Talking to writer and comedian James Harris about life as a writer, going to Oxford Uni, being an international Brit and learning German, French and Chinese as an adult.

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Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing fine on this particular day. This episode features a conversation, recorded a couple of weeks ago now, with a comedian and writer from the UK about various things, as you’ll see. Your task is to follow along and see what you can pick up and what bits of language learning wisdom you can glean from this conversation.

I don’t really know James that well. I’ve only actually met him once in fact.

He’s a comedian and a writer, he speaks several languages and his twitter feed is good value. He tweets about politics, learning languages, the issues of the day, comedy and various other things. We share a mutual friend – that’s Dharmander Singh from Birmingham, who I used to be in a band with and who is now a stand up comedian in Berlin. The time I met James was in Berlin when I was there on holiday, and I did some stand up on the same show as him.

So why have I invited him on the podcast? Well, it’s mainly because of Twitter. As I said his Twitter feed is interesting. He takes a moderate and balanced view of things, and his interests are pretty wide-ranging, including the fact that he’s very international. He’s married to a Chinese girl, he’s lived abroad, he used to work as a tour guide in several countries, he used to be an English teacher like me, he speaks very good German and French, he’s working on his Chinese, he works as a translator and he’s generally an articulate and interesting guy and so I just thought that he could be worth talking on the podcast.

The language learning thing is obviously very appropriate and I’m always interested in finding out as much as possible about how someone has learned a second language to a very decent level in adulthood, and that is something that we talk about for at least 50% of this conversation. The first half of our chat is basically me getting to know James properly, talking about his work, his studies, his experiences of going to Oxford University, why he chose to move to Germany, being married to a Chinese girl. Then we get into the details of how he learned German mainly, but also French and now how he’s working on his Chinese.

No need to say much more except that I hope you manage to follow the conversation clearly all the way through. Let me know how it was for you and I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation, probably with some background music going over the top.



Thank you to James for being on the podcast today. Look him up online to read some of his stuff, follow him on social media and help him out by keeping him fuelled up on coffee.

Follow James on Twitter @JamesHarrisNow
Writing, Mini Screenplays shoeleatherexpress.org/
BUY A COFFEE FOR JAMES HARRIS t.co/8AAQ6P33wJ?amp=1

So, how are you listeners?

Did you pick up any useful nuggets from that conversation? I think there was some pretty good advice there especially the stuff about reading and noting down certain words, being a bit rigorous about your studying and believing that you can do it, really helps.

667. Four Way Call (with Alex, Moz & Paul)

A lockdown Zoom call with my friends Alex, Paul and Moz which should be a fun but challenging listening exercise. Intro & ending transcripts available.

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Transcript (Intro & Ending)

Hello dear listeners and welcome back to the podcast. This episode features a 4-way conversation between three of my friends and me, recorded on Zoom recently (other video conferencing platforms are available), and it’s basically us asking each other questions in a sort of 4-way interview scenario. I think it should be a fun conversation to listen to but I also think it will probably be a challenge for your listening skills. That is what I expect but I will let you find out for yourself.

Upcoming YouTube Live Stream

Before we get started on that, I just want to remind you about the YouTube live stream I’m doing on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM CET.

Did you hear the announcement episode I published at the weekend? Well, if you did, then you’ll know all about this.

I’m doing another YouTube Live Stream on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM Paris time, and you are invited to join me. I’m going to be messing around, answering questions from listeners in the chat, maybe singing a couple of songs with the guitar, and generally just hanging out with my audience on YouTube.

If you can’t make it, the video (and audio) will be published later so you will still be able to watch it or hear it. I’m doing it at 3PM on a Wednesday because my daughter will be in the nursery (or creche as they call it in France – the daycare centre) and so I’m free to get up to some online antics, and at the weekend it’s family time – so, midweek and in the afternoon (my time) is just the right time for me to do it.

Anyway, join me on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM for a YouTube Live “Ask Me Anything / Hang Out with Luke”. To find the specific location on YouTube, check the show notes for this episode and you’ll find a YouTube link or just subscribe to my YouTube channel – that’s Luke’s English Podcast and click the bell icon to receive a notification when I go live.

OK, so that’s that…

This is number 667, and here is my introduction…

This intro is quite long but I’ve done that on purpose to help you understand what I think will be a difficult episode, but if you really prefer, you can skip forward to approximately 22mins but of course if you skip forward you won’t know what you’ve missed and you’ll live the rest of your life thinking “I wonder what Luke said in that introduction to episode 667? What did I miss? And when you’re old and grey and near the end of your life and you’re asked by a grandchild one day, “Do you have any regrets?” you might manage to say “If I have one regret, it’s that I skipped that introduction to episode 667, that’s …that is my only regret in life. I skipped the introduction and I didn’t fully understand that conversation with his friends. I didn’t have sufficient context. A lot of jokes went over my head. Oh, it was confusing and I just gave up on learning English. And that’s when it all went wrong for me. I’m sorry children. It still haunts me to this day. What did he say? What did I miss…? I suppose I’ll never know.” So, if you want that to be you, just skip ahead to 22mins now.

Ok so you’re still with me. You didn’t skip ahead. Excellent choice. You’ll be fine now, for the rest of your life. Everything in your life is just going to slot into place now, just right. It’s going to be perfect from now on. You’ll have no regrets and it’s all going to be roses. Just remember though, when you are sipping cocktails on your own private yacht somewhere in the future. Just remember to thank me, OK.

Introduction

One of the only good things about the coronavirus pandemic lockdown confinement social distancing isolation situation is that it has encouraged people to get in contact with each other more than they normally would. Maybe this is because we’re unable to get together physically (if you know what I mean), so we’re making up for it by calling each other more, or we’re just aware that it’s important to stay connected during this weird time, in order to make ourselves feel a bit better.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you but I’ve been in touch with friends and family more than usual during this time, including my mates Paul Langton, Alex Love and Moz. We’ve had a few Zoom calls together recently just to have fun chatting and also to generally keep our spirits up. Paul, Alex and Moz have all been on the podcast before so I thought it might be fun during one of our Zoom calls for us to reunite on the podcast again, for the first time in years. And that’s what you’re going to hear today. This episode was recorded during the lockdown with me in Paris and the others in their homes in England.

This was recorded 2 or 3 weeks ago when the lockdown was fully in place both in France and the UK.

The four of us first recorded podcasts together at the Brighton Fringe Festival in episodes 104, 105 and 106, then there was the Slightly Drunk Episode (ep 109) and On a Boat (ep226), recorded on Moz’s narrow boat. I wonder if you’ve heard those episodes? Let me know if you remember Paul, Alex, Moz and me sitting on the beach in Brighton and the creation of Luke Johnson, my evil clone. Do you remember us sharing beers inside Moz’s boat one summer evening and talking nonsense in my flat and other weird moments from deep in the episode archive?

Super-duper long term listeners will remember those episodes, but for those that don’t know here is a quick summary of some background context to help you understand this episode a lot more.

Forgive me for rambling on in this introduction (as usual). I know this is long but this kind of context is essential to help language learners understand a conversation between four friends, and listening to a group of friends chatting can be really hard in another language.

So this is all necessary context to help you piece together what you’re going to hear in this episode which will help you enjoy it more and learn more from listening to it.

Background Context

We all first met each other doing comedy in London in 2009 when we did the Amused Moose stand up comedy course run by Logan Murray, which I have mentioned before. That was a series of comedy workshops designed to help us develop basic skills for doing stand up comedy.

After doing that course, we did various comedy gigs together in London and also shows at the Brighton Fringe Festival from 2010 to 2012. That’s a comedy festival in Brighton, a bit like the Edinburgh Fringe but smaller, and in Brighton. Paul, Alex and I were in a show together called Snigger Happy, and Moz did his own shows, in the same venue as us.

Here’s some intel on each person in this conversation.

Paul Langton
Paul was born and brought up in central London and has a London accent. As a stand up comedian in London, Paul used to regularly MC one of London’s best open mic comedy shows, called “Comedy Virgins” at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, South London, and he was also the host of one of the first live-streamed comedy/music shows that I know of, which was called Teaserama (and that was at least 10 years ago), but more recently Paul decided to stop doing stand up comedy. He made a fairly big career move and became a police officer for London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is what he now does on a full time basis, working on London’s streets, fighting crime, a bit like Robocop, if Robocop was actually an Irish man called Rob O’Cop who liked drinking lots of Guinness during his time off.

Paul was on the podcast on his own in episode 349 talking about Marvel and DC superheroes, as he is something of an expert in that kind of thing – basically, he’s a tall police geek with a London accent and a penchant for Guinness.

Alex Love
Alex grew up near Stroud, which is in Gloucestershire, which is in The Cotswolds, which is in the south west midlands, in England. As well as working as a freelance journalist writing articles for newspapers, Alex continues to do stand-up comedy (although not during the lockdown of course). Recently he has been doing a successful show called “How to Win a Pub Quiz” which he has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sold out rooms in recent years. Unfortunately Edinburgh is cancelled this year, leaving Alex with a huge August sized gap in his summer. I say Edinburgh is cancelled. I mean the festival, not the city. The city still exists as far as I’m aware. Alex has also brought his pub quiz show to various other places including a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. He managed to get back home to Stroud in England just before New Zealand closed its borders because of the coronavirus outbreak. This sounded like quite a dramatic escape, which I imagine was pretty much as exciting as that moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo manages to escape from the belly of a huge space worm just before it closes its mouth. Remember that scene? I’m sure taking off in a plane from New Zealand in the nick of time, was exactly like that.

Alex has been on the podcast a few times before, talking about his Edinburgh show, doing a pub quiz with me, and talking about Queen the rock band.

Moz 
Moz used to work for the BBC as a producer of comedy TV shows, and he worked on various shows including one memorable flop called Horne and Corden, a sketch show with James Corden who you might know these days as the presenter of The Late Late Show with James Corden on TV in America. A few years ago Moz changed career a bit and became a writer, podcaster and tour guide, setting up Murder Mile Walks and the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast, both of which are about real murders which occurred in various parts of London. On his tours he takes people round various parts of the city and tells them true stories of grisly murders that happened there in the past. You might remember his previous appearances on this podcast telling the gruesome stories of some of those killings. Moz does loads of research into these crimes using court and police records, in order to describe what really happened in proper detail. This level of research is one of the things that makes Moz’s work unique. The other things are of course Moz’s animal magnetism and his captivating storytelling abilities.

You can hear these stories by listening to the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast (link in the show notes) or by going on one of Moz’s walking tours of London (link also in the show notes). More recently Moz started doing storytelling shows on stage in front of live audiences (rather than dead audiences) that’s until COVID-19 came along of course, putting a stop to those live shows, but his podcast continues. Moz also used to do stand-up comedy with Alex, Paul and me, but his performances were a bit different. In stand up it is normal to be yourself on stage. But Moz always performed in character. He also used a lot of pre-recorded audio. He would record an audio track beforehand and then while the audio played through speakers he would stand on stage in costume and mime his performance without speaking, except maybe for a few noises here and there. One of the characters he used to do was called Sloppy Party Bottom, who was a sort of surreal clown (in the proper French clowning tradition) but that description doesn’t really do it justice at all. It was very funny and very weird. These days Moz lives on a narrow boat on London’s canal network, and yes, he does have a toilet and a shower on his boat, which I assume he uses. I hope he uses them anyway.

Luke
I think you know who I am, but I should remind you that I also do stand-up comedy, although not as regularly as I should and not at all since COVID-19 came along of course. I performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival 3 years running with Alex and Paul in a show that we called Snigger Happy. In 2010 our show was reviewed by Steve Bennet, who is probably the UK’s most well-known comedy reviewer, certainly among comedians. I had a good gig and got quite a good review. Bennet said I had a promising future. Ooh, exciting. 2 years later Bennet unexpectedly reviewed our show again, but I had a truly awful gig that day and died on my arse in front of him and the rest of the audience. Naturally, his 2nd review was not positive at all, quite the opposite. This still stings to this day, when I think about. I promised Steve Bennet that I would have a bright future as a stand up comedian, and I then two years later when the future arrived I spectacularly failed to deliver on that promise. I think I have told the story of what happened during that awful performance before, so I won’t explain it now. Perhaps I’ll tell the story again some time. Suffice to say, it was bad, and I will never really live it down, meaning, it is an embarrassing comedy failure that may haunt me for years to come, especially if Alex, Paul and Moz keep reminding me of it, which they often do, because it amuses them.

I wanted to interview Alex, Paul and Moz all at the same time so what we’re going to do in this episode is take turns to be interviewed by each other. We’re all going to be cross examined by each other one by one. It’s a bit hard to explain this idea, but you’ll see.

Basically you’ll hear us talking about a variety of topics like our lives, our comedy stuff, how our careers have been affected by coronavirus, regrets we have about our pasts, little anecdotes, criticisms we’ve faced over the years and of course the occasional bit of toilet humour.

What’s the purpose for learning English, you might ask? Well, just the usual thing, which is that it’s vital to regularly listen to authentic conversations in English. It’s this kind of immersion, exposure and input which can make a crucial difference to your learning of English. Obviously the episode is long but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t have to listen to this in one go. Pause, take a break, come back and your podcast app will remember where you stopped.

One issue – audio quality

This episode was recorded online via Zoom and despite my best efforts I couldn’t get any of the others to use proper USB microphones. I even sent one by international post to Alex, but unfortunately his laptop is basically kaput so he had to use his phone. Not everyone is a teched up podcaster with a plethora of microphones at his disposal you know. So if you struggle to understand this conversation, then you can blame them for not having state of the art microphones, or blame me for choosing to do this whole project in the first place, or blame your old English teachers at school who didn’t give you enough listening practice, or blame yourself, or just don’t blame anyone. Probably the last one would be best.

Anyway, the main difficulty that I expect you will have with this is the sound quality. It’s going to sound like it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and that’s because it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and because there are 4 of us and you might not know Alex, Paul and Moz that well, and because nobody is speaking super slowly to help you understand them, this could definitely be a challenging episode. So, brace yourself. But then again, for all I know, this will be fine for you.

Some of you will be fine with that, but others will find it tricky. But, rarely in the real world do we get the luxury of perfect sound conditions, especially when doing video conferencing which is becoming more and more commonplace during these times.

OK, I don’t want to waffle on any longer. Instead I will say now that it’s time to join me as I chat with my friends. I hope you enjoy it.

Your tasks are:

  • a) to be able to identify who is talking (basically, can you differentiate between Paul, Moz and Alex’s voices and
  • b) can you actually understand what we’re all talking about?
  • c) Can you use your imagination a little bit and imagine that the whole coronavirus thing isn’t actually happening and that we’re all in fact all sitting around a table sharing a beer or soft drink in the pub and you’re there with us and everything is fine in the world.

OK, that is all. Now let’s get started, and here we go!


Questions

Round 1

  • What is your name?
  • What do you do? 
  • How has that been affected by the coronavirus?

Round 2

Questions for Paul

  • Luke: When questioning a suspect in the police station, have you ever thrown a chair against a wall or slapped a cigarette out of someone’s mouth?
  • Alex: What is your biggest regret from your time doing comedy?
  • Moz: Why do you love Rick Mayall?

Questions for Alex

  • Luke: In the episode we recorded together about the rock band Queen, one listener said “I don’t understand any words in this conversation. This guy speaks like alien.” How do you respond to this claim?
  • Moz: What advice would you give to 8-year old Alex Love?
  • Paul: As the only one of us who regularly still gigs, what advice would you give to your younger self just before you got on stage many moons ago?

Questions for Luke

  • Paul: What do you most miss about London?
  • Moz: What part of your body annoys you the most and why?
  • Alex: You were once predicted a bright future in comedy? What happened?

Questions for Moz

  • Luke: You live on a narrowboat on the canal network. What’s the most annoying behaviour that you’ve observed and experienced from others on the canal network?
  • Alex: In your time at the BBC, what’s the worst TV show you worked on and why?
  • Paul: Have you ever been tempted to get back on stage as one of your old characters?

Round 3

Questions for Paul

  • Alex: How close have you been to pooing your pants on duty as a police officer?
  • Moz: If you had to go shopping at the supermarket right now, what would you buy?
  • Luke: What’s the best way to talk to a police officer, to avoid being arrested? (inspired by this Adam & Joe video – below)

Questions for Moz

  • Alex: You did a lot of pre-taped audio tracks with your comedy. Why did you never do stand up as yourself?
  • Paul: You do your murder mile walks in London. What is the funniest crack-head story you have from your tours?
  • Luke: What’s the wettest you’ve ever been?

Questions for Luke

  • Alex: When you were young, what job did you want to do when you grew up?
  • Paul: What is the most surreal review or comment you’ve received in the 10 years you’ve been doing this podcast?

Questions for Alex

  • Moz: Why would you make a great or a shit astronaut?
  • Luke: What is the worst or best gig you’ve ever had?
  • Paul: What’s the worst heckle you’ve received on stage?

At the end: Some stories of awful gigs, including stories of weird audience members – a woman with a glass eye, a deaf man, a poor man who had a seizure during a show, another poor man who was a burns victim, a scouser who just didn’t like me and more…


Ending

OK everyone, that’s it. I would just like to thank Paul, Moz and Alex for being on the podcast today. I hope you enjoyed joining us on our Zoom call. I know the audio quality might have made it a bit tricky for you to follow all of it. Let me know. I expect someone will comment that my friends sound like alien or something. But they don’t to me.

Remember, check out Moz’s podcast. It’s called The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast and it’s available on all good podcast apps.

Alex doesn’t have a podcast but he is still writing a blog, which you can find at alexlove.co.uk

If you want to find Paul, just commit a crime in the London area and he will probably find you and then you might end up having a one on one sit down interview with him in a police station. There’s an interesting approach to finding ways to talk to native speakers – just get arrested! The police will ask you lots of questions, and you’ll have lots of people to talk to in prison too! Yey!

By the way, I did have a lovely birthday, thank you for asking. I’m recording this bit about a week after doing the call, so yes I had a nice birthday and thank you for those of you who sent me birthday wishes. That was very nice of you. Those of you who didn’t, I will still accept your birthday messages quite gladly, and I am still open to gifts, flowers, chocolate, gold bullion and cash donations in most currencies but especially pounds sterling. If you don’t know my age, I wonder how old you think I am, perhaps just based on the sound of my voice.

If you’re wondering about my gifts, I got some new trainers from my wife and also I got a multi-track recorder for making music. If I actually have any time, I plan to record some music so I got a digital muti-track which will allow me to record guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals. Now, all I need is some actual musical talent and I might be able to create something half-decent. We will see.

I was also treated to a birthday cake of pancakes in bed – that’s a cake made of pancakes, with honey – a pancake cake, with candles and decorations and the candles set the decorations on fire and so they were fully ablaze by the time the cake got to me, so essentially my wife brought me a fire hazard directly to my bed first thing in the morning, which was actually very funny and not as dangerous as it sounds. Anyway I had a nice birthday, if you’re interested.

How about you? Are you ok? I sincerely wonder how this episode was for you. I really enjoyed getting together with Paul, Moz and Alex again on the podcast, and I hope you did too, but I expect it was difficult to follow. Let me know in the comment section.

You know, difficult to follow isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s the sort of episode that challenges you a bit and pushes your English skills a bit further, in theory anyway.

Well, in any case, it’s time to draw this all to a close. Thanks for listening and speak to you soon, but for now — good bye!


Links

The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast 

Murder Mile Walks

Alex Love’s Blog