Category Archives: language

892. You’re not a LEPster, by any chance, are you? (July 2024 Ramble)

Join me on another rambling episode as I encourage ninjas to come out of the shadows 🥷, touch on some present perfect continuous verb forms 🔁, give some podcast updates, give a report about the stand-up comedy show 😂 & live podcast recording 🎤, teach some polite and diplomatic language with a dramatic bank robbery scenario 🔫, give a summary of the UK’s general election results 🗳️ & more…


Episode PDF 👇 with transcript and notes

Listen to The Footglish Podcast – Learn English with Football ⚽️👇 (s01e28)

Pod links for The Footglish Podcast 👉

On YouTube 👇

890. The Simulation (Learn English with a Short Story)

Learn English with a short story. This one is about a man called Edward, who lives an ordinary stress-free life in London, until one day he notices something extraordinary while walking to work, and his world is never the same again. Follow the story, and then let me explain some vocabulary to you. To practise your pronunciation, consider repeating the lines of the story after me.


Story slides in PDF form 👇

Read my vocabulary notes 📝 👇

The Simulation

As the grey light of dawn filtered through the curtains,

Edward Wilson stirred in his bed.

To filter through – phrasal verb

The sunlight came through the windows and the curtains acted like a filter. The sun was less bright (describes a texture or certain look)

Other examples
This water is pure and clear, having been filtered through layers of rock and sand
In Van Gogh’s paintings, the world is filtered through his unique perception of the world, resulting in a unique style

Air – filtered through a purifier

To stir = move slightly (like a person or an animal waking up)
(also stir meaning mix a drink – homonym)

His hazel eyes blinked open, and he yawned, stretching his lean frame.

Hazel – eye colour (brownish green with some amber or gold)
Most common eye colours: Brown, blue, hazel (includes amber), green, grey
Lean = (adj) thin, but healthy – without a lot of fat We also use lean for business processes – meaning efficient and without waste
Frame = his body, especially with reference to his size or build (in this case – lean)

The pale sunlight streamed across the perfectly clean sheets of his bed, and across his spotless floor.

To stream across
stream = when air, light, liquid or gas flows out continuously
A stream = a continuous flow of liquid, air, or gas.
“Jane blew out a stream of smoke”
To shine across but in streams
(shafts of light, rays of light, beams of light, streams of light)
The light shone, beamed, streamed out/down/across/in etc
Streams of water. To stream music or movies.

Spotless = perfectly clean
“I want that car to be completely spotless by the time I get back – I want to be able to see my own reflection in the roof of it” “But it’s a convertible!” etc

He moved back the curtains, pulled open his window blind and stood, squinting at the silent city below his window.

Window blinds

Roller blinds, venetian blinds (in slats), Roman blinds (fold as you raise them), electric blinds
shutters (on the outside) curtains (we know)

To squint = To look with your eyes partly closed because you are trying to block out light (like me in the Walk & Talk Paris episode)

Another day in the sprawling metropolis of London awaited him, or so he thought.

Sprawling = spreading out far and wide in a haphazard fashion (in a disorganised or random way) like the way a city does

It could also be:
things in nature (a forest or desert)
A sprawling story
A sprawling universe
Anything that spreads out large and wide

A metropolis = a very large city, particularly a huge capital city

Awaited him = waited for him (a more formal/literary style – sometimes more formal language is used in literature to create a more serious tone)

Edward was a software engineer, working diligently at a prestigious tech firm in the city.

To work diligently / to be diligent = to work hard, with a lot of care and attention
Prestigious = high status, a lot of people respect it or think it’s good – a top, high level company
A tech firm = a technology company (probably software systems, or AI or something like that)
A firm = a type of company
A law firm, a tech firm, an investment firm

His life was a predictable routine of coding, coffee, and occasional nights out with friends.

Predictable = you know what is going to happen because it’s always the same – easy to predict (and therefore boring)
A routine = the things which you always do, every time (describe Edward’s routine)

His days were ordered, tidy, and conveniently empty.

Ordered = everything arranged in a certain way, things are put in a clear structure or arrangement – no mess
Organised is a synonym, but ordered suggests that things are neat, tidy, structured with no mess
Conveniently empty – empty – nothing in them – no serious commitments.
This is convenient because it makes life easier for him.

He wasn’t troubled too much by anxiety or stress, despite his demanding job, and the busy pace of life in the city.

To be troubled by something / bothered / inconvenienced (that’s less strong)
A demanding job = a job that demands a lot from you (asks you to do a lot of things) – hard work, energy, commitment, time, mental load (a demanding job is a difficult job)
Pace of life = speed of life

He had no specific emotional ties or commitments.

Ties = things that attach you or limit your freedom in some way
Things that tie you down → girlfriend, wife, kids
Ties or commitments (these are synonyms)
(it’s not uncommon to have several synonymous words used together for emphasis or style)

He was free to live how he wanted, spending his free time exactly as he pleased.
However, there had always been a certain feeling in the back of Edward’s mind, a sense that something in his life was not quite right.

In the back of your mind = it refers to thoughts or feelings which are there but you don’t think about them directly or clearly, not dominating your thoughts.

They’re there in the background and might give you a certain general feeling in your life. They might influence the way you think or behave.
For Edward, although life seems ordered and fine, something is still not quite right.

Something was missing.

One brisk autumn morning, as Edward was strolling along the Thames Embankment on his way to work, he noticed something unusual.

Brisk = bright, energetic, fast paced, lively, fresh.
A brisk morning
A brisk walk
Strolling = walking in a fairly relaxed way

An object hung in the air above the pavement up ahead.

Hang – hung – hung
Was suspended (somehow) – just in the air
The pavement (UK) – the sidewalk (US)

Edward walked on for a closer look.

To walk on = to continue walking
“On” is sometimes added to a verb to mean “continue doing it”
To move on
To drive on
To carry on
To talk on
To read on
To ramble on
To dream on

A seagull was frozen mid-flight, suspended in the sky like a photograph.

A seagull (or just gull) is a type of bird that often lives near the sea (but sometimes in land too – often near water)
You often see them at the beach
They can be seen in London, particularly by the river
Mid-flight = in the middle of flying (an adverb to modify the adjective “frozen”)

Pedestrians around Edward seemed oblivious as they hurried on, engrossed in their conversations or with their faces locked to their phones.

Pedestrians = people walking
Oblivious = with no idea that something is happening
To hurry on = to move on in a hurry
To be engrossed in something = completely involved in it, completely focused on it and not aware of other things
Engrossed in a book / engrossed in an episode of LEP (take care when driving and operating heavy machinery)

Edward reached out to touch the frozen seagull, but it vanished in front of his eyes.

Reached out = stretched his arm to touch the bird
Adding OUT emphasises that he has to reach his arm quite far away

Edward snapped his hand back suddenly, and stared at the spot where the seagull had been, just seconds earlier.

Snapped his hand back = moved his hand back very quickly
Snap = a very fast, sudden movement
A crocodile snaps its jaws
It also refers to something breaking and making a sound (I snapped my pencil, a stepped on a piece of wood and it snapped)
In all cases it refers to quick, sudden movement

He glanced around, to see if anyone else had noticed.

He looked around quickly in different directions.
Glance = look quickly
Glance around = in different directions

But nobody was watching. The world around him seemed utterly normal.

Utterly = completely
They’re synonyms – but “utterly” expresses a slightly more extreme feeling.
It’s more emphatic
That was utterly boring
That was utterly disgusting
That film was utterly ridiculous

…and yet for Edward, things would never be the same again.

Slowly, a strange feeling came over him.

A feeling comes over you = the feeling gradually arrives, you gradually start to feel something
A feeling of tiredness came over me.
Nervousness came over me.
A feeling of excitement came over me.

He felt a shiver run down the length of his spine as he remembered a quote from a famous physicist –
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

A shiver = a cold feeling that makes you feel uncomfortable / when your body shakes probably because it’s cold or you’re afraid
To run down the length of his spine = this shiver moved from one end of his spine to the other
Length, width, height, depth
Merely = only, just, no more than (we use it to say something is not that important)
“He’s not important. He’s merely a English language podcaster. He doesn’t pose a threat to us.”
Albeit – this is like “but”, “although” or “even though” but it is followed by a noun, adjective or adverbial phrase, but not a clause with a verb in it. It means “although it is”.
Although is followed by a clause with a verb:
Reality is an illusion, although it is a very persistent one.
Albeit, isn’t
Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
The music was great, although it was a little loud for my tastes.
The music was great, albeit a little loud for my tastes.
Why use it? It gives a slightly more sophisticated literary style.

Edward spent the day working in his usual focused way.

He didn’t mention the bizarre frozen seagull to any of his colleagues, but his curiosity was piqued and that evening he decided to delve deeper.

To pique something (works with fixed expressions)
Fixed expressions
To pique your interest
To pique your curiosity
The title of the episode really piqued my interest
It aroused or stimulated my interest.
It’s not peak (high point) or peek (a quick look) (homophones)

To delve into something (to look/search deeply into something)
To delve deeper (to investigate more profoundly) search for more information

He started by searching online for the quote he had remembered which led him down a rabbit hole of philosophy, quantum physics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

Down a rabbit hole
Like in Alice in Wonderland, when she follows a rabbit down a hole and gets lost.
Going down a rabbit hole means getting very interested in a specific topic and reading about it, researching it and getting lost in the subject.
E.g. if you believe that the earth is flat, you might go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about it, reading more and more things and sort of getting deeply obsessed with it
In this case, Edward goes down a rabbit hole of philosophy, and physics related to virtual reality and quantum science (in order to investigate what he has seen)

He searched for sightings of similar anomalies, witness accounts and stories from other people like him.

A sighting – when someone sees something (UFO sightings, ghost sightings)
Anomalies – things which are not normal, not expected – in this case, apparent “glitches” in reality.

He got lost in that rabbit hole for months, as the world moved around him, normal life passing him by.

To pass you by = to go past without stopping
I stood by the side of the road and watched the parade of musicians passing me by.
Focusing on my studies (or being a housewife) means I haven’t lived a full life! So many opportunities have passed me by!

Every day was the same.

The busy world of work and commuting, somehow softened by that pale London sunlight.

Commuting = travelling from home to work (when you live in a different place to where you work)
To commute
A commute
A commuter
A commuter train

But in the evenings, and at night time, he studied.

The more he learned, the more convinced he became that his world, his life, was not actually real. It was just some sort of illusion.

Every day, the world around him – the people at work, the office spaces and lunchtime cafes, the passers-by in the street – everything became less and less convincing.

A passerby (one word) is a person who walks past you, or passes you by in the street
The plural can be passersby (one word) or hyphenated passers-by
Not ❌ passerbys and not passersbys ❌

Edward began to feel trapped. Like a prisoner inside a huge trick.

One evening, as he stared into the glow of his computer screen, Edward received an unexpected email.

Glow = the light which comes out from his screen
The glow of a fire
The glow of a screen
The glow of the city lights

The sender’s name was ‘Seraphina’.

The message was mysterious and intriguing:

“Meet me at Westminster Bridge, at midnight.”

it read.

Intriguing = very interesting because it is unusual or mysterious
An intriguing question
She has an intriguing personality
An intriguing fact

The invitation, the name, the sudden yearning for human connection – it leapt into Edward’s heart.

To yearn = to have an intense feeling of longing or desire for something, especially something you can’t have. It has romantic or emotional connotations.
Yearning for human connection
Yearning for love
Yearning for solitude
Yearning to travel the world
Yearning for a simple life in the countryside
Yearn for something / yearn to do something

To leap = to jump quickly and quite a large distance
Leap – leapt – leapt
A tiger would leap at an animal it wanted to attack
To leap into – We we were driving through the safari park, a leopard leapt into the car!
Fear leapt into my heart

He knew it could be a scam, but he just couldn’t resist the temptation.

A scam = a trick to deceive someone, usually in order to steal their money
You get a message on your computer saying that there is a security problem and a data breach and you need to download certain software, or to give your bank details to pay for someone to repair your computer.
It’s a scam because either it’s fake and they just want your money, or because they want to get access to your bank account.

Scam emails – asking for you to send your personal information because they have money to give to you.
Often the email looks like an invoice – it says “Please find attached your invoice for $568. Let us know if any information is missing.”
but it’s a phishing scam designed to make you download the attached file, which actually contains some sort of malware which hacks your computer.

In this case, Edward is worried that it’s a scam and someone just wants to rob him.

He arrived at the bridge at the stroke of midnight, the imposing Big Ben looming out of the shadows above him.

At the stroke of midnight = when the clock “strokes” midnight – when the hand of the clock touches 12
When the clock strikes 12 (this means a bell ringing or chiming at 12 o’clock)

To loom (over/above/out)
If something looms – it’s a large object or thing, which appears in a threatening way – often over you or above you.
A building looms out of the shadows.
A huge ship loomed above us.
Clouds loomed over us in the sky.
A huge monster loomed over us.
The mountains loomed in the distance.

In the story, Big Ben (actually the Tower of Westminster) looms out of the shadows – creating a scary atmosphere.

The streets were deserted, and the moon cast eerie shapes on the ground in the half light.

Deserted – nobody there
Cast – projected, sent out (broadcast, podcast)
Eerie – strange and a bit creepy, scary or unsettling
Eerie music played during the horror film
An eerie atmosphere in the church at night
The moon cast Eerie shapes – the moonlight projected strange, scary shapes on the ground)

As he waited, the tower’s chimes resonated through the night, and he turned to see a woman emerging from the shadows.

Chimes – the sound of a bell
Resonated – when sounds carry through the air, ring out, reverberate
Sounds can resonate – the sound carries or continues
Things can resonate with you – meaning they have an emotional impact – you feel the emotional resonance (vibration) of it.
Luke, your story really resonated with me. I felt similar to the main character. I was able to identify with him.
To emerge = to come out

Seraphina appeared to Edward like an enigma, her features shrouded in darkness.

An enigma = a mystery or puzzle that you have to work out
Someone’s features = the shape or characteristics of their face or body – the way their face or body looks
Strong features, soft features.

To be shrouded in darkness
A shroud is like a long cloth that might wrap around your body and head, protecting you.
In this case, Seraphina appears shrouded in darkness.
The darkness covers her body. Maybe she is wearing a dark coat and a hood. Maybe she is standing in the shadow of the tower or trees. Edward can’t see clearly what she looks like.

“You’re Edward, the one who’s been searching for answers,” she said.

Edward nodded. “Yes, I am”.
He paused
“… and you are?”

To nod your head
What’s the opposite?
to shake your head

“Call me Seraphina. I’ve been watching you, Edward. I believe you’re right, about this world.”

Her eyes met Edward’s. She paused.

Edward’s heart raced.

“What do you want from me?” he said.

“I need your help, Edward. We need your help” Seraphina replied.

“What are you talking about?” said Edward.

“Edward. You are not alone. There are others. We’re forming a resistance. We want to break free from all this and uncover the truth behind what’s really going on.”

Edward paused.

“What, like in The Matrix?” he said.

“Don’t mention that” whispered Seraphina, glancing away for a moment.

She turned back to Edward.
“Look. Just join us” she said.
“We need someone like you. With your skills.”

Edward hesitated but found himself drawn to Seraphina.

If you are drawn to someone, you feel like you are moving towards them, like you’re being pulled in their direction.

For once, things didn’t seem so ordered, and empty.

Ordered – neatly organised, tidy

“Wait” said Edward.
“One question.
Are you… real?”

“Yes. I am real.” said Seraphina, resolutely.

Resolutely = done with firm determination, with strong resolve
She said this with strength, integrity, courage and self-assuredness.
She’s definitely telling the truth and she means it.

Edward paused.

“But how can I be sure?”

He said.

“Well” Seraphina replied.
“You’ll just have to take my word for it, won’t you?

Now, will you join us Edward?”

You’ll just have to take my word for it
= you’ll just have to believe what I say, without further proof or evidence.
I can’t prove it with evidence, so you will just have to take my word for it – you’ll just have to believe what I say.

Edward stood still, his mind turning.

He glanced at Seraphina again.

“OK. I’ll help” he said.
“But how?”

In her hand Seraphina held a small, unassuming device.

Unassuming = doesn’t look very special. Modest, Humble.
Ordinary looking.

“This is a disruptor. It can manipulate the fabric of our world, of… the simulation.”

A disruptor is something that disrupts things – to interrupt or disturb.
To stop something from working normally. Stops a system, process or event from working normally.
The traffic was disrupted by an accident.
The the government’s website was disrupted by a hacker, who wanted to cause problems, as a protest.
This disruptor probably disrupts the simulation, somehow. (conveniently this is unexplained but you just have to go along with it)

To manipulate something = to control it
The fabric of our world / the fabric of time / the fabric of space
Fabric literally means a kind of woven material, like wool or cotton.
The fabric of space/time/reality/our world = our world is like a fabric made up of lots of strands woven together
It means “the structure of our world”

“The what?” Edward interrupted.
“What did you call it?”

“There’s no time to explain, Edward, but I think you know, don’t you?”
Seraphina continued.

“Edward. You have skills that I don’t have, ok?
I need you to locate the core, the central computer that controls our world, and disrupt it, with this.”

She held the device out to him.

“So? Are you in? Will you come with me?

Edward took one look into Seraphina’s dark eyes and felt himself hurtling through time.

Hurtling = moving at a very fast speed, in a slightly uncontrolled way

He nodded resolutely. “OK”

Done with firm determination

Together, they embarked on a journey that would challenge everything Edward knew about his so-called reality.

To embark on a journey (formal, literary – to set off, to start a journey)
So-called ← we use this to say that people call it this, but we are skeptical about it, and want to question it
“The so-called expert couldn’t answer basic questions about the subject.”
“Her so-called friends abandoned her when she needed them most.”

They visited hidden pockets of the city – places that he had never noticed before.

Pockets of something = small isolated places or groups of things (in this case – hidden ones)
Pockets of civilisation in the wilderness
Pockets of wealth in an otherwise poor country
Hidden pockets of the city

Doorways he had passed without a second glance

Without looking at / without noticing / without checking again / without thinking about
“She’d always walked past him without a second glance – assuming there was nothing interesting about him at all”

Dark corners where walls left gaps into vast undiscovered chambers and corridors,

Gaps – empty spaces
Vast – huge, massive, enormous, gigantic
Undiscovered – nobody had discovered them before
Chambers – huge rooms, or caves

shadows under trees which revealed themselves to be the mouths of unseen tunnels, all leading to the underworld.

The mouth of a tunnel

Here they met others who had also seen through the reality of the simulation, each with their own stories to tell.

To see through something
= to see something as it really is, to see beyond the way it looks on the surface

Over time, Edward and Seraphina grew closer.

As Edward’s love for Seraphina blossomed amidst the chaos of their quest, he felt a growing sense of purpose.

Blossomed = developed, grew, like blossom (on a tree)
Describes something growing and in bloom (with flowers growing)
Amidst = in the middle of
Chaos = total disorder, a situation where everything is completely confusing and disorganised
A sense of purpose = purpose = a reason why something is done = a sense of purpose is the feeling that there is a reason or objective for what you are doing
You understand the purpose of it, you understand why you are doing it

It was a love forged in the belief that they were both fighting for the ultimate truth – the chance to live a human life, in the real world.

To forge something = to make it from metal, using a lot of heat
This is a metaphor, meaning to make something with a lot of work and time
“We forged a strong friendship while travelling together, or while working together”
Passive: “Our friendship was forged on the battlefield”
Sounds literary and quite impressive, dramatic

But their journey was not without peril.

Peril = danger / a situation in which there is a lot of risk or threat of harm
To face the peril of crossing the street in Hanoi as a tourist.
Climbing to the top of the mountain involves great peril as you have to walk along very narrow paths and climb up vertical cliffs

On their way, they encountered those who guarded the simulation, and who had been watching them

To encounter someone or something = meet, come across
On our walk through the forest we encountered a bear with its cubs.
The bear saw us as a threat and attacked us, and we died. 🤷
Those” = the people / those people
Again – literary style
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious
anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers
And you will know
My name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee! (Pulp Fiction / The Bible)

There are those who disapprove of all forms of gambling.
Those who saw the performance thought it memorable.

Formidable adversaries programmed to maintain the illusion of reality.

Formidable – strong, big, powerful – inspires fear, respect, awe – like a big, powerful warrior which you have to fight against
An adversary = someone you have to fight against, an opponent or enemy
Not just used for battles – could be for legal cases, sporting competitions etc
Adversarial (adj)
Strong enemies

Fierce battles ensued, sometimes beyond the confines of normal life, blending the lines between digital hallucination and tangible reality.

Fierce = very aggressive, intense, violent
Often for dangerous wild animals “The fierce lion roared, displaying its dominance over the territory.”
But other things too “Fierce winds battered the ship throughout the night”, or “Fierce battles took place”
Ensued = happened after, followed – happened as a result
Beyond the confines = outside the limits – in this case (on the edge of normal life, or on the edge of reality/the normal world)
Blending the lines = making the lines less clear (the lines between reality and a digital simulation)
A hallucination = things that you see or har which aren’t there – like if someone has taken a drug or is mentally ill
Digital hallucinations = somehow caused by digital code (I don’t understand how that could work)
Tangible = something that can be touched, felt and is therefore real and not imaginary or abstract
Tangible evidence of fraud
Tangible improvements in productivity
Tangible assets = physical assets that a company owns – e.g. buildings or machinery (as opposed to intangible things like debt owed to the company)

One moonlit night, Edward and Seraphina faced their most formidable adversary yet,

Moonlit = lit by the moon (to light – lit – lit)

a towering figure cloaked in shimmering pixels and black light, barring their way.

Towering = very tall, like the Tower of Westminster
Cloaked = wrapped in some kind of large material (a cloak) synonym of “shrouded”
Shimmering = shining and glittering
Pixels = individual units of light used in computer displays
Black light = a kind of ultraviolet light which is invisible to the human eye
Barring – to bar – barred – barred = to block someone from going somewhere
He was barred from entering
A car barred the way.
They were barred from the competition for cheating.

Edward activated the disruptor.

The world around them trembled, and the guardian faltered.

Trembled – shook slightly
Faltered – hesitated or stumbled (he lost his balance, fell slightly, stopped, was disrupted)

Seraphina seized the moment and struck a decisive blow, shattering the guardian’s code into fragments.

Seized = grabbed / took (normally take or grab with your hands, but you can also seize a moment, seize the day)
Strike a blow = strike = hit, a blow = an impact (she hit him or kicked him)
Shattering = breakinging into many little pieces (fragments)
Like if you drop a pint glass out of a window, or if you drop a big piece of glass on the ground, or if you do a roundhouse kick to a formidable warrior made of pixels in a digital simulation

With the guardian defeated, they pressed on, beyond the city limits, following a faint signal emanating from the disruptor in Edward’s hands.

Press on = keep going with some difficulty, like on a tough journey
Faint = weak (faint signal, faint sound, faint writing)
Emanating = coming from, coming out from (coming from a point of origin)
Resonate = vibrating through (the chimes of big ben resonated through the streets, the sound emanated from the bell in the tower)

It led them deep into the industrial wastelands on the far outskirts of the city, to a seemingly ordinary building.

Wastelands = areas where things used to happen but not any more – there are old things lying around, everything is old and damaged and wasted
Industrial wastelands = areas that used to be used for industrial activity (factories, warehouses) but now are unused
The outskirts = the areas on the edge of the city
Outskirts vs suburbs
Suburbs = residential areas around the outside the city (often nice places where there’s a bit more space and lots of homes)
Outskirts = also areas around the city, but the very edge, where the city becomes more rural – less populated, might include unpopulated areas

Inside, they found an unassuming room with one single computer terminal.

Unassuming = looks normal, not special, ordinary no reason to believe there’s any danger

A single cursor blinked on the screen.

Cursor = the little thing that blinks on a screen, showing where you can type. You move it with the mouse or trackpad, or with the keyboard

Edward approached the terminal, his hands trembling with anticipation.

Trembling = shaking slightly
Anticipation = with expectation of what’s going to come, getting ready for what’s coming

As he connected the disruptor, the room seemed to ripple, revealing its true nature.

Ripple = move in waves, like the surface of water (e.g. a calm pond if you throw in a small stone – the pond ripples)

It was a control centre, the hub of the simulation.

Hub = central point where things are all connected together
An internet hub = a kind of router where all the computers are connected to the internet
A transport hub = a place where lots of transport systems all meet (like Heathrow Airport or St Pancras station)
In this case – it was the central control centre for the simulation, and where all branches of the simulation were connected (or something)

The screen displayed a message:

“Welcome, Edward Wilson. You have come far. But do you really want to know the truth?”

Edward hesitated, his mind racing with doubts and fears.

He glanced at Seraphina who nodded encouragingly.

With determination, he typed a single word, “Yes.”

Instantly, the simulation began to unravel.

Unravel = come apart into different strands
If you have a woolen sweater, with one loose piece of wool. Pull it and the whole sweater will unravel.
The strands of the fabric will come apart.
If you have wound up some string and it all comes apart.

The cityscape dissolved into streams of code, and Edward and Seraphina found themselves standing in a vast, featureless void.

Dissolved = something solid turned into lots of tiny particles and disappeared
Dissolve some aspirin in water
The cityscape = the landscape of the city – turned into lots of tiny streams and disappeared
Vast – huge, massive, enormous, gigantic
Featureless = with no features, blank, empty
Void = a space with nothing in it at all (like a vacuum)
The world around them slowly disappeared leaving them in a completely blank, empty space

Edward looked at Seraphina.
“That was too easy”, he said.

Suddenly, the sound of a voice echoed around them, a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

Echoed = The sound bounced around and repeated (like when you shout in a tall stairwell or in a large stone room with a high ceiling, or a cave)
To echo / an echo
There’s an echo on the line. Your voice is echoing.

“Congratulations, Edward Wilson. You have chosen the path of truth.

But remember, reality is a complex tapestry,
and the threads of your existence are intertwined with the lives of countless others.”

A complex tapestry
A tapestry is a kind of work of art made from many threads of material – often making a large picture (a bit like a curtain or a carpet)
You start with a kind of mesh, and attach lots of threads of cotton or wool of different colours, making designs or a picture
Reality is a complex tapestry with many threads of existence all woven together.
Intertwined = the threads are all attached or wrapped up together – all connected
(like the cables of your headphones when you leave them in your pocket – tangled, but intertwined suggests something more organised)
Countless others = so many other people that you can’t count them
In real life your existence is connected very closely to millions of other people – you don’t live alone, but everything you do affects people around you.
Edward lived a sort of convenient isolated life in the simulation, but it’s not like that in the real world. It’s more complicated.

“Life in reality is neither simple nor easy. You must always choose, and choose wisely, for yourself, and for others.”

“What’s he talking about?” said Edward, turning to Seraphina.

But all of a sudden Seraphina seemed to slip away from him.

Slip away – move away gradually, as if she was standing on an icy hill and started sliding back

In the next few moments, Edward felt a profound sense of disorientation as his memories and experiences shifted and merged with the things around him.

Profound = deep and strong
Disorientation = confusion – not knowing where you are, which direction you are in, up, down, left, right – lost and confused.
Shifted = moved, changed position
Merged = combined or mixed together
(mergers and acquisitions)

(he’s coming out of the simulation)

He saw glimpses of different lives, different choices, all part of the intricate tapestry of the simulation.

Glimpses = quick looks
Catch a glimpse of something
To glimpse something
To glance at something
To glance around, etc

He saw himself and Seraphina living different, separate lives, never meeting, never knowing each other.

Panicking, Edward shouted for it to stop.

Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the void collapsed, and Edward and Seraphina finally found themselves back in the real world, or so it seemed.

They stood on a hill overlooking the city, bathed in the warm light of dawn.

Overlooking = above, in a higher position where you can see the whole thing
My apartment overlooks a junction
My balcony overlooks the park
This hill overlooks the city (Primrose Hill in London)
Bathed – covered in light (bathe means lie in water, but also cover something in a warm light)
Dawn – the sunrise
Dusk – the sunset

The cityscape was familiar, yet subtly different.

The cityscape = the Landscape of the city
Subtle = with very slight details, nuanced
Subtly different → different in ways which are not completely obvious, small differences

Seraphina turned to Edward, a knowing smile on her lips.

A knowing smile = a smile which shows that the person knows something
In this case – she knows that they did it. They escaped the simulation, or ended it.

“Welcome to the real world, Edward,” she said. “We made it”.

We made it (doesn’t mean we created it) it means “We did it!”
“We were successful – we managed to arrive somewhere”
We’re late, but we made it! It took a long time but we made it in the end.
We’ll never make it at this rate.

Edward gazed at the transformed city, a sense of awe and wonder filling his heart.

Gazed = Looked at something with wonder (differnt to just “stare” – gaze is with a look of wonder or amazement)
A sense of awe (wow – this is awesome) when something is breathtaking, incredible,
A sense of wonder

The love he felt for Seraphina was real, and the truth they had uncovered was the most exhilarating adventure of his life.

Uncovered = Revealed
Exhilerating = Exciting and intense (like a rollercoaster ride)

As they embraced, the sun rose over the horizon, casting its golden rays upon a world that was now truly their own.

Embraced = held each other in their arms (hug, cuddle, difference?)
Embraced is more formal, literary, dramatic sounding. Hug sounds like what you do when you see your grandma.
Cuddle is what you do with a teddy bear on the sofa – lasts longer.

“You see?” said Seraphina.

“See what?” said Edward.

“I am real”

She said.

A smile arrived on Edward’s face.

And as Seraphina smiled too, he kissed her lips, and she kissed him back.

And that was when the explosions began.

What does the ending of the story mean to you?

886. Networking in English (with Rob from The Business English Podcast)

Talking with Rob from The Business English Podcast about networking in English. 🗣️ Networking is when you speak to other people, probably in a professional context, in order to build relationships, expand your social circle and make work contacts that can lead to business opportunities in the future. This is all about socialising, speaking spontaneously, active listening and being aware of cultural factors which can affect everything. Listen to the episode to hear plenty of comments, anecdotes, advice and language tips relating to networking in English in a professional context.


Listen to Part 2 👇

👉 The Business English Podcast – Networking part 2 – links here

👉 Rob’s website

👉 Luke’s stand-up comedy show

Luke & Charles “Same Difference” 19 July 2024, Au Soleil de la Butte, 32 rue Muller at 8PM. More details here

👉 My other YouTube channel where I play bass, guitar & ukulele

885. Still Raining, Still Rambling (News, Comments, Questions, Guitars & Music)

Hang out with me while the rain pours down outside 🌧️ and in this episode I’ll talk about the problem of “faffing around” 😵‍💫 , podcast news & updates 📲, some stand-up comedy dates 🎤, comments on recent episodes 💬, some common questions from listeners 🙋, a lot of rambling about how I learned to play music 🎵, a tour of all the guitars in my podcast room 🎸 and a song at the end 🎶, with lyrics explained 👨‍🏫.


📄 Get the PDF for this episode 👇

882. 47 “Funny” Country Jokes, Explained | Learn English with Humour

Here’s a list of jokes about different countries which I found on the website Bored Panda. I’ll tell you the jokes and then explain them all (dissecting the frog), including any homophones, double meanings or specific cultural references. Can you “get” the jokes? Do you find any of them funny, or are they all just terrible dad jokes? And, what vocabulary can you learn in the process? Includes a vocabulary review at the end of the episode.



In this episode we’re going to read some jokes about different countries in the world, and I’m going to use them to help you learn English.

They’re not really jokes about countries. They’re mainly just jokes based on the country names. So I won’t be making fun of specific countries or anything.

I’ve found a list of 100 jokes.

Jokes like these…



Which country’s capital city is growing the fastest?


Because every day it’s Dublin.


  • Some of these jokes are very stupid.
  • Some of them are terrible.
  • But some of them are actually pretty funny 😅

This is all just a bit of fun, but also it’s a chance to learn some vocabulary.

Before we continue, I need to make several jokes about my country: The UK

A map of the UK

It’s just there, under that huge rain storm.

More specifically, England


What do you call an English man in the World Cup final?

The referee.

British Food

Well, this is how our biscuits are sold in France  

C’est Anglais, mais c’est bon !


It’s English, but it’s good.

*Actually they’re Scottish

*Actually the company is owned by a Turkish confectionery conglomerate

And I’m sure you could write plenty of jokes about our Royal Family…

But you don’t really need to

Subtext: They’re already quite funny aren’t they?

I don’t mean to be rude about our king, but apparently he has a sense of humour, so I’m sure he doesn’t mind. 


Can you understand these jokes? 

If you understand a joke you can say 

“I get it”

If you don’t understand why it’s supposed to be funny, you’d say

“I don’t get it”

If you understand it, but you think it isn’t funny, you can just groan


There will be VOCABULARY

I will explain every joke that you hear in this episode, including

  • any double meanings 
  • any homophones (words which sound the same but which are different) 
  • or any other little cultural details  

I have only had 

a very quick look 

at this list of jokes. 

I found this joke list on the website There are 100 jokes in the list, but I’ve only seen about the first 15 jokes.

I haven’t seen the rest.  

So I am going to be reading most of these for the first time, so let’s discover these jokes together. 


This might not be funny 

at all 😐

It’s necessary to say this again…

I will dissect these jokes. You might learn some English, 

but the jokes will probably die in the process. 

Sorry jokes, and sorry frogs. 


But don’t worry. No actual frogs will be harmed during the making of this episode.

And when I say “frogs” I’m not talking about French people 🇫🇷

“Dissecting the frog” or explaining jokes is something I’ve been doing on this podcast for years. 

by a listener called Evgenia

a T-shirt design by a listener called Adel (available in my merch store 

– the t-shirt I mean) 

Click here to see this design in my merch store.

Let’s keep reading jokes until nobody can take it any more.

I’ll tell about 5 jokes, then I’ll explain them, and then I’ll continue with more jokes…

Click here for the joke list👇👇👇👇👇

100 Country Jokes To Kindle Your Wanderlust | Bored Panda

The Jokes (it’s a mixed bag)

  1. England doesn’t have a kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  2. A slice of apple pie is $2.50 in Jamaica and $3.00 in the Bahamas.
    These are the pie rates of the Caribbean.
  3. A British man is visiting Australia. The customs agent asks him, “Do you have a criminal record?” The British man replies, “I didn’t think you needed one to get into Australia anymore.”
  4. One day Canada will rule the world…
    Then you’ll all be sorry.
  5. What’s the best thing about Switzerland?
    I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.
  6. Why do the French eat snails?
    They don’t like fast food.
  7. Amsterdam is a lot like the Tour de France. Just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.
  8. I asked my friend in North Korea how he was.
    He said he can’t complain.
  9. Germany and France go to war. Who loses?
  10. What do you call a vegan Viking?
    A Norvegan!
  11. How do you get a Canadian to apologize?
    Step on their foot.
  12. Which country’s capital is growing the fastest?
    Ireland. Every day it’s Dublin.
  13. What does the Loch Ness monster eat?
    Fish and ships.
  14. Want to hear a Swedish joke?
    Never mind. There’s Norway I could Finnish it.
  15. What do frogs eat in Paris?
    French flies.
  16. An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman enter a bar.
    The Englishmen wanted to go, so they all had to leave.
  17. What do you call a bee that lives in America?
    A USB.
  18. Why haven’t Americans changed their weighing method from pounds to kilograms?
    Because they don’t want mass confusion!
  19. How does every Russian joke start?
    By looking over your shoulder.
  20. I have a Russian friend who’s a sound technician.
    And a Czech one too. A Czech one too.
  21. What kind of birds can you find in Portugal?
  22. What was the most popular kids’ movie in Ancient Greece?
    Troy Story.
  23. What is the most common scam in Egypt?
    Pyramid schemes.
  24. What happened to the American who went to the hospital with a broken leg?
    He went broke.
  25. In which country is Prague located?
    Hold on let me Czech.
  26. Is “Africa” by Toto a country song?
    No, it’s a continent song.
  27. What did the Kiwi say to the Rabbi?
    Hee Broo.
  28. Did you hear about the Italian chef that died?
    He pasta way.
  29. Germany once organized the International Fun Conference.
    It wasn’t funny but it was indeed well organized.
  30. Two very old men of European nationality meet
    While talking, one asks: “You watching the football game?”
    The other says: “Who’s playing?”
    “Austria-Hungary”, says the first.
    “Against whom?”
  31. An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes.
  32. Why do bagpipe players walk while they play?
    To get away from the noise.
  33. Why do all Swedish military ships have bar codes on them?
    So when the come to port, they can just Scan da navy in!
  34. How was copper wire invented?
    Two Scotsmen fighting over a penny.
  35. What are Greek houses made out of?
    Greeks and con-Crete!
  36. Why is it hard to make friends in Antarctica?
    Because you can’t break the ice.
  37. What pan is the best to make sushi in?
  38. What will an Australian chess player say to a Czech person while making the winning move?
    Czech mate.
  39. A friend in Germany tells me everyone’s panic buying sausages and cheese.
    It’s the Wurst Käse scenario.
  40. What do you call a bunch of bullies from Malta?
  41. Ever since my girlfriend moved to Siberia things haven’t been the same.
    She’s so cold and distant.
  42. The Sahara Desert drifts into a bar and the bartender says…
    “Long time no sea.”
  43. Did you hear about the Pole who thought his wife was trying to kill him? On her dressing table, he found a bottle of “Polish Remover.”
  44. I’ve heard that Argentina is starting to get a little colder…
    In fact, it’s bordering on Chile.
  45. What’s Santa’s nationality?
    North Polish.
  46. What genre are national anthems?
  47. Did you hear McDonalds will stop serving fries in Switzerland?
    The Swiss don’t take sides.

Vocabulary List (listen to the episode for my explanations)

  1. A kidney bank
  2. Liver
  3. A criminal record
  4. A (big) plus
  5. Snails
  6. I can’t complain
  7. To double in size
  8. The Loch Ness monster
  9. Bees, flies
  10. Mass confusion
  11. “Check one two, check one two”
  12. One goose, two geese
  13. A scam
  14. A pyramid scheme
  15. To go broke
  16. To pass away
  17. Barcodes
  18. A pan
  19. A worst-case scenario
  20. To bully/tease someone
  21. To be cold and distant
  22. Nail polish remover
  23. It’s bordering on chilly
  24. A side of french fries

881. Reading the news with a foreign accent (with Barbara Serra)

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


Intro Transcript

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

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

LEPster meet-up in Da Nang Vietnam

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

Send Zdenek an email if you’re interested –

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

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

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

So what has Barbara’s experience been? 

What is the story of her English? 

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

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

Let’s get into it.


👉 Barbara’s email newsletter “News with a foreign accent”

👉 Barbara’s website with course info

Luke on a couple of other shows recently

Take Acast’s podcast survey here

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

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



Elena’s website

Elena’s Instagram

Elena’s podcast

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

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

👉 Sign up for the Advanced English Summit here


👉 Sign up for the Advanced English Summit here

876. Thoughts & comments on recent episodes / A Spring Equinox Ramble 2024

Listen to me rambling about Daylight Saving Time, weird AI generated images for Luke’s English Podcast, and lots of comments and responses to recent episodes including the Birthday Party story 🎂 , the MBTI Personality Test 🙇 and the Walk & Talk in Paris 📹🚶.


🔖 The Advanced English Summit – book your place for Luke’s Zoom talk (free) 👇

📄 Get the PDF 👇

Those Strange AI-generated Images 👇

872. The Birthday Party (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. This is a story about people watching and what you can notice about people’s relationships if you are observant enough.


📄 Click here to read the story text 👈

Luke’s Vocabulary Notes

  • In your early / late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties
  • To look married (look good, look tired, look happy, look married, look bored)
  • Unmistakably married
  • They were married. It was unmistakable.
  • Mistakable = easily confused for something else
  • Unmistakable = not easily confused for something else – you can immediately identify it
  • The unmistakable smell of fresh bread in the air
  • They looked unmistakably French / unmistakably English / unmistakably yours/hers/his (this handwriting is unmistakably his)
  • Why are they unmistakably married? What does she mean? She’s alluding to subtle behaviour. When a couple are unmarried or perhaps in the early stages of a relationship they tend to give each other a lot more attention. They might be still trying to seduce each other somehow, or to attract each other. There’s still mystery and interest. Brand new couples can hardly take their eyes off each other. I imagine this couple is unmistakably married because they show signs of the relationship suffering from over familiarity. They mystery is gone, maybe. Perhaps they seem very familiar with each other, or very comfortable with each other. Marriage can make people feel stuck (not always!) especially if the marriage is based on the wrong things. 
  • A banquette = a long, fitted seat or bench, typically found in restaurants
  • Narrow – opposite of wide – a long narrow corridor 
  • We get the sense this is a small, intimate space. It’s also uncomfortable, painfully so. 
  • The couple and other guests in the restaurant are all so close and this makes the man’s humiliation and the woman’s heartbreak even more painful. 
  • The narrator is unable to stop “people watching” here – observing this couple opposite.
  • Also the couple sit side by side, not facing each other, which suggests that they’re not all that interested in each other. 
  • You start to speculate – what does this woman mean to this man? Is she there just to sit by his side and look glamorous? 
  • A round face
  • Self-satisfied (definitely a negative word) smug, arrogant, not charming
  • Fadingly pretty 
  • Fading  = gradually becoming less clear, less bright, less colourful. Her prettiness was fading. 
  • A big hat – I imagine it was one of those hats with a big brim, which can be very glamorous but also hides the face. 
  • Conspicuous = noticeable, easy to notice, eye-catching (apparently in those days big hats were not uncommon in New York restaurants)
  • Basically, they looked quite ordinary really, and weren’t trying to grab/attract everyone’s attention.
  • An occasion – a particular event, a birthday, an anniversary, something to celebrate
  • The wife had planned a surprise for him (past perfect because she planned this before any of the events in this story) without past perfect it could mean that the wife planned the surprise there at the table
  • A surprise in the form of a cake – “in the form of” here means that this is how the surprise was actually manifested. I mean, what was the surprise, how did this surprise take shape? The surprised arrived in the form of a cake.
  • The gift came in the form of a beautifully wrapped package.
  • Their support came in the form of encouraging words during a difficult time.
  • The solution to the problem arrived in the form of an innovative new technology.
  • Help arrived in the form of my wife who came to rescue me (from an awkward conversation for example)
  • A glossy birthday cake = shiny & smooth, so the light reflects off the top. It’s one of those smart, fancy cakes that you see in good quality cake shops. 
  • One pink candle burning in the center (American English spelling) – this is a little bit sad, isn’t it? Also, if this guy takes himself quite seriously, he might find that a tiny bit embarrassing – bringing attention to him, and this little cake with a pink candle might make him feel a bit ridiculous, especially if he is full of himself and takes himself seriously. But it is a lovely, sweet gesture and we just want him to be embarrassed but also touched and it would be a great moment for him to blush and smile and kiss his wife and maybe acknowledge the other diners with a smile, but he doesn’t.
  • The head waiter – so the wife probably asked the restaurant to make a special effort here, which again shows how much care she put into this.
  • He placed it before the husband. This means he carefully put it down.
  • Meanwhile = at the same time
  • The wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise
  • Beamed = her face glowed, she smiled, she seemed proud. To “beam” means that light comes out – like a torch, or a light house. In this case the woman’s face beamed with a certain emotion or an expression. 
  • Pride – to feel proud = she’s happy and satisfied with what she has done. She’s put a lot of effort into this and expects it to go well. She’s trying.
  • It became clear (obvious) at once (immediately) that help was needed (passive voice – needed by who?) We feel that the narrator suddenly sees that this woman is helpless in this situation. She’s in trouble. But nobody can help her without making it worse. 
  • The husband was not pleased.
  • He was hotly embarrassed. – not a common collocation but it tells us that his face probably went red and he was angry.
  • He was indignant = angry, annoyed, frustrated with his wife because of what she’s done. 
  • Don’t be like that = don’t be that way
  • As soon as the little cake had been deposited  on the table = quite formal and impersonal language, meaning put in a certain place. Money is deposited in an account. It’s quite cold, transactional language.
  • The birthday piece – a piece of music
  • The general attention had shifted = moved
  • I saw him say something to her under his breath  = in a very quiet voice, in a whisper, so other people can’t hear
  • Some punishing thing  = a comment which was designed to punish her, to make her feel bad
  • Quick (just a few words) and curt (rudely brief – rude because it is so short) and unkind (cruel).
  • I couldn’t bear to look
  • Can’t bear to do something
  • Can’t stand doing it
  • Can’t bring myself to do something
  • When I finally glanced over there = looked quickly
  • This is heartbreaking!
  • Adverbs
  • Crying quietly 
  • Crying heartbrokenly
  • Crying hopelessly
  • All to herself (she was doing it all by herself, but also crying to herself – a very lonely feeling where you are the only one witnessing your crying – the husband doesn’t care it seems)
  • All to herself / all by herself
  • Under the big gay brim of her best hat. (Gay in it’s original meaning, “carefree” “happy”)
  • The brim of the hat = the wide edge
  • This is a particularly sad image because of the contrast between this lovely hat that should be worn on a happy and carefree occasion, but under it this poor woman is crying.