Category Archives: Learning

732. Christian from Canguro English returns

Talking to Christian again about some of the themes and controversial opinions he talks about in his YouTube videos, plus some bits about men wearing thongs on the beach, an obsession with rabbits and if Christian was the Donald Trump of English teaching. Video version available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? You are now listening to episode 732, and in this one I am talking again to Christian Saunders from Canguro English.

This is the second time I’m talking to him on the podcast. I previously interviewed Christian in episode 686 last year and got to know him a bit, but I wanted to talk to him again after having seen some of his most recent videos on YouTube about language and language learning.

In his videos Christian often challenges certain assumptions and myths about language learning, and so I thought it might be interesting to talk to him about those things, so I came up with some questions about language, learning language and teaching English on the internet.

There is a video version of this conversation on my YouTube channel too, so don’t forget to check it out and of course to like and subscribe while you’re there.

There’s no more for me to add here in the introduction. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get some good things from it. Once again, Christian’s YouTube channel is called Canguro English and his website is canguroenglish.com

Let’s get started.


So that was Christian from Canguro English. Thanks again to Christian.

And here we are, at the end of yet another episode. I wonder what you thought of the points which came up in that conversation? Feel free to let us know in the comment section or perhaps under the YouTUbe version of this. Where do you stand on things like comprehensible input, workbooks and clickbait titles? Let us know.

For me, this is one of the last episodes I’m recording before officially starting my summer holiday. As usual I have loads of stuff to record and publish before I go away, and I might end up recording some of it while I am back in the UK. But here’s a little overview of what’s in the pipeline right now.

  • A Summer Ramble
  • War of the Worlds
  • P31

So I have my work cut out.

In terms of holiday – we’re going back to the UK to stay at my parents’ place and we will have to deal with the whole quarantine thing, and the day 2 and day 8 testing process and all that. It’s quite annoying. But after we quarantine we will be going to a posh camp site for some “glamping” and generally spending a couple of weeks in the UK.

Meanwhile our new flat in Paris is being demolished (on the inside) and remade to our specifications. Let’s hope that all goes according to plan.

I’ll talk more about this stuff in that rambling episode which is coming up.

In any case, I will speak to you again soon.

But for now, it’s time to say, good bye bye bye…

731. Beatles Song Lyrics / Idioms & Expressions (with Antony Rotunno)

Learn English with The Beatles as we explore lyrics from Beatles songs and pick out some idioms, descriptive language and other vocabulary for you to learn. Featuring Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion: On John Lennon podcast.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everyone,

In this episode you can learn English with The Beatles as we look at specific bits of English which appear in the lyrics of their songs.

I’m joined again by Antony Rotunno from the Glass Onion on John Lennon Podcast. Antony is also an English teacher and something of a John Lennon expert. He is also a musician, and a lot of the credit for this episode goes to him, because he did most of the preparation, going through lyrics of Beatles songs and picking out specific use of English, including certain phrases and idioms.

This is like a quiz actually. Can you name the songs when Antony plays them? 

Can you beat me?

Can you name the songs from the lyrics and from the music?

There are a few references to The Rutles and Neil Innes of course, but for us those songs are all part of The Beatles extended universe.

I’ll chat to you again at the end of the episode and will sum up some of the bits of language that come up, but now let’s get started.


Phrases / Vocabualry

  • Using lots of pronouns, me, you, us, I etc
  • Using more imagery in the lyrics
  • I’m going to love her until the cows come home
  • A chip on my shoulder
  • My heart went boom when I crossed that room
  • Buzz, hum, boom (Onomatopoeia)
  • It won’t be long ‘til I belong to you
  • I don’t know why she’s riding so high
  • To be on your high horse
  • I’ll make a point of taking her away from you
  • I sat on her rug biding my time, drinking her wine
  • This bird has flown
  • Please don’t spoil my day, I’m miles away, and after all, I’m only sleeping
  • If she’s gone I can’t go on, feeling two foot small
  • Feeling 10 foot tall
  • Ouch, you’re breaking my heart
  • To upset the applecart
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way
  • He was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • Or an iron hand in a velvet glove
  • Working like a dog
  • Sleeping like a log
  • Sleeping like a baby
  • If you need a shoulder to cry on
  • To give someone a shoulder to cry on
  • To open up the doors
  • My independence seems to vanish in the haze
  • It was another string to their bow

Colours

  • There is a place, where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue
  • To feel blue
  • Everybody’s green because I’m the one who won your love
  • Green = 1. Jealous 2. inexperienced 
  • Oh dear what can I do, baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue

Imagery

  • When the sun shines they slip into the shade, and sip their lemonade
  • With tangerine trees and marmalade skies, cellophane flowers of yellow and green
  • No-one I think is in my tree
  • Nobody is on my wavelength
  • Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
  • The clouds will be a daisy chain, so let me see you smile again
  • Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering, in the sun
  • My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth but I am of the universe and you know what it’s worth
  • Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
  • Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
  • Don’t need a gun to blow your mind
  • No longer riding on the merry go round, I just had to let it go
  • Mother, you had me, but I never had you

Links to Antony’s Podcasts

Glass Onion: On John Lennon

Film Gold

Life and Life Only

729. TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test (with Josh MacPherson from TSTPrep.com)

Talking to Josh MacPherson about tips and advice for taking TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test. YouTube version also available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, here is an episode about English Tests like TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test which I hope will still be an interesting episode even for those who have no plans to take one of these tests. I’m joined by online English teacher Josh MacPherson. I guess you have heard of TOEFL, and the Duolingo English Test is a test made by Duolingo, that company which helps you learn languages on your phone, and which seems to be managed by a green cartoon owl, who is some kind of master of learning English. They make a test now, and it’s getting really big.

Some time is spent describing the tests but we don’t just spend an hour describing TOEFL. Most of the time we are doing samples from the test, commenting on my performance in a TOEFL speaking task, discussing testing methods in general and giving comments on ways to perform well, particularly in the speaking parts of a test like TOEFL and IELTS.

Also, tests should be reliable and having genuinely good English skills should (of course) cause you to get decent results, so a lot of the tips relating to getting a better score are also generally good tips for improving your level of English, so even if you’re not planning to take one of these tests, the tips and advice here should be applicable to your English anyway.

There is a video version of this episode on YouTube and you can see Josh’s screen and can observe our conversation as if you are taking part in a Zoom call with us. You can find the video on the page for this episode or on my YouTube channel.

Again, the audio is not tip top this time round and that was caused by things like microphone echo, which I have managed to fix, but in any case I think you can still hear everything clearly.

That’s it, I hope you enjoy it and you will find all the links you need on the page for this episode on my website.

Let’s get started

I am joined today by Josh MacPherson from TSTPrep.com and the TST Prep YouTube channel.

Josh is an English teacher who specialises in helping learners of English prepare for English tests, particularly TOEFL and also the fairly new DuoLingo English Test.

I thought I’d interview Josh to find out more about these tests and to get some tips from him about how to get the best result that you can.

Also, we’re going to do some test questions during this interview, so we can see how well I perform in these tests too.

Links

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Josh for his contribution to this episode.

Don’t forget, links are available on the page for this episode for all the things Josh mentioned there including test practice, sample answers, tips and videos.

Thank you as ever for listening all the way up to this point.

There’s not much more for me to add here. I haven’t played the guitar on the podcast lately, but I will be coming back to that soon, but for now I will just wish you a fond farewell and until next time, good bye bye bye bye bye

725. Fun & Games for Learning English with Vickie Kelty

Playing word games with English teacher Vickie Kelty and talking about how to use these games in learning and teaching English.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to Vickie Kelty from vickiekelty.com about playing games for learning and teaching English.

Vickie is an English teacher from the USA, currently living in Spain, and she absolutely loves games. She loves playing word games, speaking games, card games, board games. She is nuts about games and she really enjoys using various games in her English lessons.

So in this episode Vickie and I are going to talk about games that you can play that can be a fun way to practise your speaking, or practise different bits of grammar or vocabulary.

You could consider using these games both for learning and teaching English, and Vickie and I are going to be playing the games during this episode, so you’ll hear how they work and you’ll be able to play along too.

The theme for this episode is celebrities, or famous people, so as well as us playing these guessing and describing games, you will hear plenty of celebrity and movie star rambling and gossip too.

Here’s a list of the games we play and mention.

Games to mention

  • Uno
  • Scattergories

Games we played

  • 20 Questions
  • Password
  • Catchphrase
  • Taboo
  • The Lying Game (which is why this episode is so long)

If you want to find out more about Vickie, including some of the online courses she has to offer, just go to vickiekelty.com

OK, so this episode is long so I don’t want to add anything else here, except that I really hope you enjoy this episode and find it fun. I will talk to you again briefly at the end, but now let’s meet Vickie and play some fun games for learning English.

Vickiekelty.com

Ending

Thanks again to Vickie. I hope you enjoyed that one. There were quite a lot of funny moments.

Again, check out www.vickiekelty.com to find more about Vickie’s work.

Consider using some of these games in your speaking practice or in your lessons if you are a teacher. They can be a great way to add some fun and some communicative incentives to your learning or teaching.

There’s nothing more for me to add here, except to say that I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s time to say, goodbye bye bye bye bye.

723. Bahar from Iran 🇮🇷 (WISBOLEP Runner-Up)

This is the final episode in the WISBOLEP competition series, speaking to Bahar from Iran about the 7-step method she used to improve her English and develop a British-sounding accent. Bahar used to be a terrible student who hated English, but then she made a decision to focus on her English in her own way. Listen to her explain how she did it.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, this is the final episode in the WISBOLEP series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast. As you probably know, this was a competition I launched last year in which listeners chose other listeners who they would like to be interviewed in an episode of the podcast, and so far we’ve had 5 people, all of whom have managed to improve their English to a proficient level, while living in a non-English speaking environment for the most part, without having English speaking people in their family or close friends. So these have been stories of English learning success, which I seriously hope have been inspiring and interesting for you to listen to.

This conversation is with Bahar from Iran. Bahar actually came 5th in the competition, but she happened to be the last person I interviewed.

As you will hear, Bahar’s English is excellent but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, according to her she used to be a terrible student who hated English and who couldn’t string a sentence together. But now it’s a completely different story. She is proficient in English, she has a lovely clear accent and is confident and talkative, and loves this language. So how did she do it?

That is the main focus of this episode. Bahar tells us the story of her English journey, and she outlines her 7-step method for improving her English, especially her pronunciation. 

Yes, she has come up with a 7-step method. To be clear, she defined this method in retrospect, meaning that having improved her English to a good level she then looked back at what she had done and consolidated her approach into 7 clear steps, and she’s going to go through the entire thing in this episode.

Now, you can try to follow Bahar’s method, but one of the main points here is that you can actually come up with your own method for improving your English as long as you maintain certain key principles in your learning. 

There’s no need for me to add much more here really, except that you will find links to the various resources Bahar mentions during this conversation. Those are resources that she has found to be especially useful. You’ll find links to those things on the page for this episode on my website.

So now I will let you meet Bahar from Iran, currently living in Italy and here we go.


Ending Transcript

So that was Bahar from Iran. Thanks again to Bahar for her contribution. She definitely put a lot of effort into preparing herself for this conversation, coming up with some clearly defined steps and thinking about how she could go into some specific details about the things that worked for her. So, thanks Bahar for doing that.

You will see the hand drawn infographic that Bahar created to show her 7 steps – you’ll see it on the page for this episode on my website, and as the image for this episode on YouTube.

Perhaps the main point is that you can create your own method for learning English. Just go with whatever works for you. There isn’t one single best approach. You just have to make sure you are working with English on a regular basis, that you do things which bring you some joy (there’s no point slogging away with something that you just don’t like doing), you should attempt to maintain a positive and beneficial cycle in your approach to English, try to find your own personal motivation for learning the language, say to yourself “I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it my way” and then just put the time in. 

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of just spending plenty of time listening and don’t apply too much pressure to yourself. Let it happen naturally and in its own time. I hope my podcast helps to make this easier.

Again, check the page for this episode on my website where you’ll find links to things that Bahar mentioned, including the BBC Sounds of English pronunciation course, British Council Elementary Podcasts and so on.

That’s for this episode. Thank you for listening. Leave your comments and feedback in the comment section and have a fantastic day, night, morning, afternoon or evening and I will speak to you soon.

But now it’s time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye.

Useful Links

The Sounds of English (BBC Pronunciation Course) www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/oromo/features/the-sounds-of-english

On YouTube www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD6B222E02447DC07

British Council Podcasts and Listening Resources at Different Levels learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening

Pearson graded readers www.pearson.com/english/catalogue/readers.html

721. Collins Dictionary Word Quizzes / Confusing Words with Fred Eyangoh

This is the second part of my recent conversation with Fred Eyangoh about learning new vocabulary. This one includes a word quiz with homophones and commonly confused words from the Collins Dictionary website.

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Hello listeners, how are you doing today? I trust that all is well in podcastland.

This is the second part of a double episode about learning vocabulary with one of my friends Fred Eyangoh. 

In the last episode you heard about how Fred has been using a spelling game to discover new words, and this led to a discussion about what to do when you come across new bits of vocabulary, including how using online dictionaries can be a really good way to expand your knowledge of words, and also about how just staying curious about new words is very beneficial, and how learning one word leads you to another word and before you know it your vocabulary has expanded exponentially. It certainly works for Fred, whose vocabulary is really strong.

And at the end of the last episode, Fred and I were on the Collins Dictionary website and we were about to do one of the word quizzes that you can find there. The one we chose was about easily confused words. Words that sound the same but are in fact different.

So that’s what happening in this episode. Listen to Fred and me doing a quiz about some homophones – words which have different spelling, different meanings and yet the same pronunciation. So there’s vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling to learn here as we go through various words, but also there are the usual tangents, little jokes and things like that. I hope you learn some things from it and that you have fun while listening.

I will recap the various bits of vocabulary you’ll hear on the other side of this conversation, and it’s a list of at least 30 vocabulary items. I’ll go through that list at the end of the episode to make sure you’ve got it. You’ll see the word list on the page for this episode on my website.

But now, I will let you rejoin my chat with Fred about learning vocabulary, using online dictionaries and a word quiz about homophones.


Click here for Collins Dictionary word quizzes www.collinsdictionary.com/quiz/en


Ending Transcript & Vocabulary List

OK so that was Fred and me doing a word quiz about easily confused words on the Collins Dictionary website.

I certainly hope you found that useful, and perhaps you could consider checking out those word quizzes as well on the Collins Dictionary website – again, they don’t sponsor this podcast, but maybe they should. I’ve even got the perfect line for the advert, “Are you confused about which word to use? Just think, ‘What would Colin say?’ and go to collinsdictionary.com

It’s not actually Colin’s dictionary by the way, a dictionary owned by a man named Colin. “Hello, I’m Colin. This is my dictionary. It’s got lots of words in it.” No, I think that Collins is a surname (double L), like Phil Collins. In fact, the name comes from William Collins, an industrialist from Glasgow who set up a printing press in the 1820s, and in the early 1840s he started printing illustrated dictionaries, and the rest, as they say, is history. The publishing company is now known as HarperCollins, and in fact they are based in Hammersmith in the W6 postcode of London, which is where I was living when I first started my podcast. That’s why there’s a W6 on my logo by the way. It’s because that’s my London postcode. 

So, wow! That’s interesting isn’t it!? In any case, you can find more of those word quizzes and things at www.collinsdictionary.com 

Vocabulary Re-cap

Right, so just like the previous episode about the New York Times spelling bee, there are a few words that I feel I should re-cap at the end here. 

Let me just quickly go through some of those words again, just to make sure you got them.

Words

  • A miner
  • To mine
  • A coal miner
  • A minor (person)
  • Minor key
  • Major key
  • Bleak
  • Evocative – “The minor key is so much more evocative”
  • Seller / Buyer
  • Cellar  (a room below the house for storage)
  • Basement (an underground floor which could be furnished – more common in US English)
  • Attic
  • Loft
  • Steaks
  • Stakes
  • The stakes are high
  • That terrible joke:
A man walks into a butcher’s shop and inquires of the butcher: “Are you a gambling man?” The butcher says yes, so the man says: “I bet you £50 that you can’t reach up and touch that meat hanging on the hooks up there.” The butcher says “I’m not betting on that”, “But I thought you were a gambling man” the man retorts. “Yes I am” says the butcher “but the steaks are too high!”.
  • Bridal
  • Bridle
  • Baby shower
  • Hen do
  • Hen party
  • Bachelorette party
  • Bridal shower
  • Mussels
  • Muscles
  • Molluscs
  • Shellfish (molluscs and crustaceans that we eat)
  • Seafood (food that includes fish, octopus, squid, crab, lobster, shellfish etc)
  • Moolah (a slang word meaning cash)
  • Herbs
  • Thyme / Time

You also heard us talking briefly about Wandavision at the end there. Wandavision is a new-ish TV series by Marvel Studios. We also mentioned The Madalorian, which is a Star Wars TV series. I really must talk about all this new pop culture at some point on the podcast. There’s new Star Wars TV stuff, Marvel TV stuff (like Falcon & The Winter Soldier which I’ve also been watching) and even Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but it’s all going to have to wait I’m afraid. There are so many things to talk about and do on this podcast but there are only so many hours in the day. Also, I have quite a big backlog of episodes in the pipeline at the moment, so I’ll have to publish all of those before I can think about new stuff.

New episodes arriving soon…

720. How Fred Learns Vocabulary with the New York Times Spelling Bee (with Fred Eyangoh)

Fred often plays spelling games on his phone during his lunch break, and he has discovered lots of new words as a result. In this episode I talk to Fred about his process of discovering and understanding new words and I talk about learning vocabulary with online dictionaries.

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Hello listeners, 

I hope you are doing well out there in all the various parts of LEPland. Are you ready for a new episode? Yes, you are? That’s why you’re listening to this? Yes, that makes sense. It would be pretty weird if you had pressed play on this episode and thought “Wait wait! I’m not ready! I must immediately reasses my life choices. What am I doing?” I’m assuming you’re ready for this episode, and that you are fully on-board and prepared mentally, physically and spiritually for another dose of English.

This episode is called How Fred Learns Vocabulary with the New York Times Spelling Bee.

Fred Eyangoh is my guest for this one and he is a returning guest, as some longer-term listeners might remember. Fred has been on the podcast a few times before. Basically, I know Fred from doing stand-up comedy at English language comedy shows in Paris. He’s a stand up comedian, like me. Fred is also a bit of a movie geek and he loves to talk about films of various kinds. His last appearance on this podcast was when we talked about Avengers Endgame a couple of years ago.

But this episode is not about films. We decided instead to talk about how Fred expands his vocabulary in English using the New York Times Spelling Bee. 

Do you know what a spelling bee is? It’s not an insect that is good at spelling words and making honey. No. A spelling bee is basically a spelling competition. Often spelling bees are done in the USA in schools. 

But the New York Times Spelling Bee is basically just a spelling game that they publish in their daily newspaper, and it’s for adults or students, not children. It’s the sort of thing you can do on your lunch break or while commuting to work or college or something and it involves trying to spell as many words as possible from a limited number of letters.

In case you’re wondering, the ‘bee’ part in ‘spelling bee’ is nothing to do with the insects that make honey. The word bee here is actually derived from the middle-English word ‘bene’ (spelled B E N E, and middle-English is not used any more of course) which basically meant when neighbours get together to do an activity that helps someone. A sort of group activity in which everyone gets together to help someone in the community. Somehow along the way this word became associated only with these competitions designed to help kids improve their spelling, and the word ended up being spelled “bee”. As far as I know, there are no other uses of the word “bee” like this. So, you can just learn the phrase “spelling bee” to mean a spelling competition.

So, this episode is all about ways to expand your vocabulary. Recently Fred has found that this little spelling game has introduced him to various new words, and this has been an inroad into English for him, so we decided to talk about it on the podcast.

The overall point here is that there are many ways to expand your vocabulary. You can come across words while reading books or articles, you can find them by listening to podcasts, you can find them by checking transcripts and by using subtitles, by playing computer games, by checking song lyrics, or by playing word games. There are probably other ways that you can think of. There are many ways to come across new words.

I should say that as well as doing these word games, Fred is also a big reader of books and a film nerd. He watches loads of films and TV series in English and investigates the English he hears (or sees if he has the subtitles on) and when he came to the flat to record this episode he had a copy of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Caroll which he had been reading, and that book is full of word play, poetry and little jokes. So, there are many ways that Fred gets English into his life, but in this episode we’re focusing on how Fred uses this particular little spelling game.

This leads to some discussion about the steps I think you should take when discovering new words, and this relates to one of the recommendations made by Michael from Poland which was to use certain online monolingual English/English dictionaries because they help you to find not only definitions of new words, examples and correct pronunciation but also plenty of synonyms and as you explore the definitions of words you end up discovering other words and it all expands outwards like the branches of a tree.

So this is the overall point – find words in whichever way that you enjoy, but try to go a bit further and explore those words using good English/English dictionaries. Notice how one word leads to another, notice what kind of words they are (nouns, adjectives, verbs etc) and how they fit into a sentence (including which other words they usually go with or collocate with, like certain prepositions, and if they are followed by certain forms like -ing verbs or infinitive verbs), notice how the words are pronounced and if there are several acceptable ways to say them, make note of the spelling and watch out for discrepancies between the spelling and pronunciation, consider if the words are from a specific register (e.g. medical language, legal language, old-fashioned literary language or just general English), if they tend to be from American English or British English. All that information is available from a good dictionary. Also, perhaps consider recording your new words in a notebook or a flashcard app like anki, try to use new words yourself and then try to notice the words again and again as you keep listening and reading. That’s the overall point of this episode.

This is a conversation between two people and so you are going to hear the usual moments when we get sidetracked and there are various conversational tangents, little jokes and things as we make each other laugh. So, it might be a bit tricky to keep up with it all, so just bear that in mind and get ready. 

As you will notice, quite a lot of specific items of vocabulary come up during this conversation and it might be a little difficult for you to keep track of them all, but I will be repeating them at the end of the episode, and they’re also written on the episode page on my website if you’d like to take a look.

Right, so I hope you can keep up with all of this. There will be a part 2 of this conversation, where we explore some word quizzes about commonly confused words in English, but now let’s listen to Fred talking about how he uses the New York Times Spelling Bee to expand his vocabulary, and here we go.


Try the New York Times Spelling Bee here (although you need to register to keep playing) www.nytimes.com/puzzles/spelling-bee

Ending Transcript

So, that was Fred Eyangoh talking about how the New York Times Spelling Bee has helped with his vocabulary, which in turn helps with things like pronunciation and improving your pronunciation helps with your speaking and also your listening skills, and improving your listening skills helps to improve your ability to understand people, and the more you understand people the more you’re able to notice more language that people are using and the cycle continues, and all the while your confidence is improving. This is the idea anyway. Certain habits or at least certain mindsets can help to put you in a positive cycle of language acquisition.

You also heard at the end there how we were about to start a word quiz on the Collins Dictionary website. In part 2 of this conversation we will continue where we stopped. So the next episode will be another one with Fred, exploring some commonly confused words, most of which are homophones – words which sound the same but are spelled differently. So check out that episode too when it arrives. There should be more learning opportunities for you there, and also some silly jokes and tangents too from Fred and me.

Let me now recap some specific things from the conversation you’ve just heard.

My 5 favourite dictionaries again

Look beyond just the definition. These are resources designed specifically to help you build your vocabulary.

Some of them have other resources too, like vocabulary quizzes based on things like idioms, synonyms and commonly confused words, and you’ll hear more about that in part 2 of this conversation as I just said.

Macmillan Sounds App – helps you learn the phonemic script. Download it from the Macmillan website www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/ 

Words & phrases mentioned

Repeat the word stress and give an example of each.

Admittedly (adv) (use this when you are saying something that weakens the importance or force of what you have just said) “Daily practice is so important in language learning, although admittedly, I don’t follow my own advice when it comes to working on my French”

Horrendous (adj) (something unpleasant or shocking, horrific, appalling, awful, ghastly) “Getting sick in a foreign country can be an absolutely horrendous experience”

Severe (adj) (very intense or serious) “I had to stop working because I had a severe headache”

Word stress

  • Embarrassed 
  • Important 
  • Necessary
  • Accessory

Umbrella terms (all these ones are nouns)

  • Invertebrate
  • Arthropod (invertebrates that include arachnids, insects and crustaceans)
  • Insect (types of arthropod)
  • Flea (types of insect)
  • Arachnid (aka spiders – types of arthropod, but not insects)
  • Crustacean (also types of arthropod which are neither insects or spiders – includes crabs, lobsters, shrimp)

Chitin (what insects’ exoskeletons are made of)

Worms 

Elated (adj) (synonyms – joyful, delighted, excited, proud)

Heart bypass (noun)  – According to the NHS A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is a surgical procedure used to treat coronary heart disease. It diverts blood around narrowed or clogged parts of the major arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart. We laughed about the fact that the guy in the example had two heart bypasses, but of course this is a serious procedure that a lot of people have to have. 

To take something with a pinch of salt (UK) – this means to be sceptical about something, or to not completely believe everything that someone says. “Take online medical advice with a pinch of salt. Sometimes it’s not completely accurate.”

To take something with a grain of salt (US)
Allele (noun) (a specific scientific term from genetic biology, pronounced “uh leal” – I remember this word coming up in my biology A level lessons when I was 17, but I haven’t heard it since, until this conversation. I failed that A level by the way.)

Pelf (noun) (money, especially if it has been illegally obtained – this word is hardly ever used today, so don’t worry about it. Collins is the only dictionary that lists it) Synonyms might be swag, booty – but those words aren’t really used either, unless it’s some pirate adventure story set in the 18th century)  

Pilfer (verb) (a slang word meaning to steal – it’s still used but I would probably go for the words “nick” or “pinch” instead) “Someone’s nicked my wallet!” “I pilfered some biscuits from my flatmate’s cupboard.” “Someone’s pinched my mobile phone”.

Quid (noun) (slang word meaning pounds, it’s both the singular and plural form) “A pint of beer in a pub can cost over 7 quid these days. It’s daylight robbery!”

That’s it for this episode then. Part 2 should arrive soon, and it will be called something like Learning Vocabulary with Collins Dictionary Word Quizzes (with Fred Eyangoh) Commonly Confused Words.

So, sit tight until that one arrives!

I hope all is well in LEPland. Don’t be a ninja – write something in the comment section, and by the way, writing one comment like “I’m writing a comment, so I’m not a ninja any more” this doesn’t completely revoke your ninja status, because you have to stay out of the shadows you know!

Speak to you soon, but for now – bye bye bye bye bye

718. Michael the Shaman 🇵🇱 (WISBLOEP Runner-Up)

Talking to competition runner-up Michael from Poland about two top English learning tips, scary hitch-hiking stories and the practice of shamanism using psychoactive substances.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you today? I hope you’re doing well as you listen to this, wherever you are in the world at this particular moment in time.

This is the 5th in the WISBOLEP competition series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast, talking to winners and runner ups from the listener competition I did at the end of last year. 

So far I have spoken to Walaa from Syria, Tasha from China, William from France and Robin from Germany. Now it’s the turn of Michael from Poland, also known as Michael the Shaman (this is the nickname that he often uses, for reasons which will become clear later in this episode). Michael actually came sixth, and Bahar from Iran was fifth, but at the time of recording this I haven’t spoken to Bahar yet. Her interview is coming soon though.

So, let me tell you a little bit about Michael the Shaman, from Poland.

Michael, who for the record is not an English teacher, has a lot to offer both in terms of language-learning tips that have worked for him and some very interesting stories and insights into some pretty deep and fascinating things, and I think this should be a great episode. So, listen closely.

Here’s a quick overview of the things we cover.

First we talk about language learning and those specific tips from Michael. These are resources and approaches that he has used to work on his English, especially his vocabulary and pronunciation, with some success I would say. I won’t go into them now, but pay attention so you can hear him describe these things, how he uses them and how they have helped him make some significant improvements to his English. I will summarise them again at the end and give a few extra comments.

Secondly, Michael tells us some of his hitch-hiking stories. Michael has spent lots of time travelling around in neighbouring countries near Poland and doing it by hitch-hiking, which basically means getting picked up by drivers who are going in the direction he wants to go, and hitching a ride with them as a way of travelling around. Now, this sounds adventurous and possibly a bit risky, because it does involve travelling in the cars of strangers, and Michael has some genuinely frightening and incredible stories of doing this. Again, listen closely to hear the specifics of the edgy situations that Michael has found himself in. 

Then, thirdly we have the topic of shamanism, or being a shaman. Michael is probably better placed to describe this than me, but being a shaman basically refers to the use of certain rituals and practices to enter different states of consciousness, which can lead to new discoveries, new perspectives, new ways of thinking and different ways of seeing the world, or the universe in fact, and our place within it. This is something that Michael has explored and for him it has been very beneficial to his life in various ways. So let’s listen to what Michael has to say about shamanism and the use of psychedelics.

At this point I feel I need to say something about the use of psychedelic substances, which is part of what Michael describes as being a shaman, and we’re talking about using substances that occur in nature, like certain magic mushrooms and ayahuasca as well as the synthetic chemical LSD or acid as it is also known. 

So I would like to just say one or two things about this topic as a sort of disclaimer or preface to our conversation.

First of all, the substances I just mentioned are controlled substances in most countries, which means that they are illegal to some extent. So, we are certainly not suggesting that people go out and start using them. 

By the way, I’m referring to these things here as controlled substances, but in many cases they are also called drugs, and they’re not just prohibited by law, but also in the general culture. For a lot of people drugs are a serious taboo and people often have quite strong and negative feelings towards this subject. I am aware of this, and I hope that you are comfortable listening to us talking about it on this podcast. I think it’s alright, but I am aware that for some people drugs are just not ok, and that’s fine.

I feel it’s necessary to say that in talking about psychedelic drugs here we are not condoning their use in any kind of flippant way, and “condoning” means promoting or supporting something. We take this seriously and as you will hear Michael is very articulate and quite serious about the subject. He’s very well-read and knowledgeable, and we are just talking about his personal experiences and knowledge, which I do think are interesting as well as being new as a subject on this podcast. I’ve never really talked about this kind of thing in depth before on the podcast.

Also I think it’s worth making a distinction between different types of drug or substance.

There are many different types of drug, and they are extremely different to each other. 

People often just say “drugs” without making any distinction between them. They just lump them all together as if they are all the same, basically. But I think it is worth making a distinction. Despite that fact that controlled substances are often grouped together as drugs, they are not really the same as they have very different effects and different levels of risk and we are certainly not talking about things like cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin, which are obviously very dangerous substances and very serious substances. We are not talking about those things here.  

So, I thought it would be worth making that distinction and I’m trying to be responsible about this topic, but I’m also attempting to manage your expectations here because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression or to be shocked or to have a knee-jerk reaction while listening to us mention psychoactive substances in the latter part of this conversation. For many of you, these words are not really necessary, you’re fine with it, but there it is. I felt I should make those points. We’re not promoting any kind of illegal behaviour, we are not talking about those damaging and addictive things that ultimately will destroy a person’s life, instead we are taking what I hope is a more reasonable and rational approach here and discussing the more intellectual and spiritual aspects of shamanism and how certain psychoactive substances are part of that.

Right, now before we get to the talk of psychedelics in the second half of our conversation, you can first hear Michael’s specific language learning tips, which I think are really useful, and then his crazy hitch-hiking stories, which are pretty mind-blowing and entertaining.

Right, no need for me to add anything else here. I really hope you enjoy this conversation. I’ll be recapping and summarising some details later but let’s now meet Michael the Shaman from Poland, another runner up in the WISBOLEP competition. 

Are you ready? Listening carefully? OK, here we go.

Bruce Parry’s short film about Ayahuasca

Ending Transcript

So that was Michael from Poland, and wow, that was awesome stuff, wasn’t it? It got very deep there, and cosmic, didn’t it? I hope you liked it. As usual, I’m very interested to read your responses to the things that Michael said. 

I’m going to sum up some of the things Michael said at the start of the conversation about learning English, because after all that mind-expanding talk of psychedelic trips and also the hitch-hiking stories, it seems like we talked about his language learning methods ages ago, and I think he made some really great recommendations that you could find really useful for your English.

Now, considering Michael’s English again. I think it’s fair to say that it’s good, right? 

I do want to repeat a couple of points.

Don’t compare yourself to others too much

Don’t compare yourself to other people too much. This can lead you to judge yourself a bit harshly, which is totally normal. Whenever we listen to other language learners, the tendency is to either judge their language level, or judge our own level in comparison to theirs, but this isn’t a very healthy thing to do in terms of language learning, and what I’d encourage you to do is only judge yourself by your own success, and rather than comparing yourself to others, try to notice how your English is better than it was before. 

Just compare yourself to yourself at earlier points in your language learning journey. Notice improvements you’ve made, and celebrate them. This is more likely to put you in a better mental space than comparing yourself with others. 

Just think how far you’ve come as a learner of English and take note of your progress. That’s probably healthier than falling into any kind of negative thinking which can happen if we compare ourselves unfavourably to other language learners.

So, try not to judge others too harshly, and don’t compare yourself to others too much. 

And hopefully listening to other language learners can give you some inspiration and some practical ideas which you can use to work on your English in ways you hadn’t considered before. Even little things like changing certain habits can make a big difference to your learning of English. 

And with that in mind, let me quickly just go over the tips Michael had for learning English, which worked for him. Have you tried these things or used these resources?

Michael’s Language Learning Resources

There were two things really:

  • Use English/English dictionaries to expand your vocabulary with correct definitions, examples, phonemic transcriptions and synonyms. My 5 favourites are www.collinsdictionary.com  www.cambridge.dictionary.org  www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ www.macmillandictionary.com and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English www.ldoceonline.com/
    I have been planning to do a full episode on using online dictionaries to improve your English (in fact I’ll be touching on this a bit in a couple of upcoming episodes), but I will just say that these dictionaries are fantastic resources not just for getting definitions, but getting synonyms, examples, phonemic transcriptions and more – all of which are really important ways of really getting to know new words. Bookmark the dictionaries, use them all (because they have slightly different examples and details which you can cross reference) and get into the habit of checking words in them and exploring the information they can give you. Never before have we had access to so many wonderful language learning resources, completely free of charge, and at our fingertips at all hours of the day. It’s like living in a massive library. So, use those online dictionaries to explore new words.
  • The second resource Michael mentioned was the website www.dialectsarchive.com  – a website full of voice recordings used by actors and voice coaches trying to learn different accents, and especially the text Comma Gets a Cure, which is designed to reveal a huge variety of pronunciation features in English. You can hear the text being read in different accents, you can shadow the text, repeat it, record yourself repeating it and more. I plan to do some premium episodes using this text and other similar texts too. There is a lot to explore and use there, including some podcast episodes by the creators. www.dialectsarchive.com 

OK, so just two tips there, but they are solid ones.

And returning to the hitch-hiking stories. I just want to sum up the main one, just to be sure you got it. I think it was probably clear, but I want to retell that story just because I think it was such an exciting story, and maybe you didn’t catch the specifics.

Michael’s Hitch-hiking Story – recap

So Michael and his friend Kuba were hitchhiking from Poland to Amsterdam and they got picked up by a couple of very dodgy guys in a van. They didn’t realise it when they first got in the van but these guys were drinking alcohol and smoking some kind of crystal – perhaps crystal meth, like in the TV series Breaking Bad. Meth is a pretty nasty drug.

Michael is an intuitive person and he picked up on a very bad vibe from these guys and became convinced they were planning to do something very nasty with Kuba and him. Like I said, it sounds like something from a horror film. Listening to their comments, watching their demeanour and generally reading between the lines, Michael became convinced these guys were organ traffickers, who are people that kidnap healthy people in order to steal their internal organs and sell them on the black market. Certainly these guys seemed to be very dodgy and probably involved in organised crime.

Michael decided he would subtly let the guys know that he and Kuba were actually not that healthy and therefore their organs were not worth taking, which would convince them to just let them go.

It’s crazy I know, but I kind of know what Michael is talking about when he said he just knew something wasn’t right and that they were in danger. I feel like I’ve been in similar situations before, where you realise that the people you are with are dangerous and up to something, and so you just have to get out. It’s a weird feeling. I can’t remember any specific stories from my own life, but I’ve met guys in pubs before who just seemed dangerous and untrustworthy, even though there were no specific things that would give me that impression. It’s more of a vibe that certain people give off.

Anyway, Michael said that he heard the guys making jokes about stealing their organs, which appeared to be jokes, but there was a sinister undercurrent which suggested that perhaps they were not really joking. Michael’s friend Kuba was not quite as observant maybe and he didn’t seem to realise something was wrong, but anyway Michael sent him text messages to convince him that something wasn’t right. They managed to persuade the drivers to stop the van at a petrol station because Michael needed to be sick or had diarrhea and then they escaped at a petrol station.

They then decided to continue their hitchhiking trip to The Netherlands, but decided they would not accept lifts from any more Polish people, nobody drinking or using drugs and no vans. This is because they didn’t want to risk running into any similar people or perhaps their friends who they suspected were also on the road, but somehow the next car that picked them up, by coincidence maybe, contained the friends of the dodgy guys they had just escaped from. So, it was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”.

Michael said that these other guys seemed more intelligent and perhaps were the bosses of the other two they had met previously, and the only way Michael and Kuba got away without being taken, was because the guys ended up liking them, as they played along with their jokes and generally tried not to antagonise them at all. So, phew! What a lucky escape! 

And Michael said that hitchhiking was not that dangerous! 

Actually I do believe that on balance his experiences of hitch hiking have been much more positive than negative, but what a scary story! And I do believe it is true. I find it very believable. There are dodgy people in the world.

And finally, a few more words on the topic of psychedelics like magic mushrooms.

A final note on Magic Mushrooms

All the things Michael mentioned about Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) are definitely worth researching. In his words (from a recent email exchange we had) “I think I talked about maybe 1% of things you can do with this mushroom. I’d like to stress once again that I don’t recommend everybody uses this mushroom. I’m all about education and knowledge. The mushroom can have medical, therapeutic and spiritual effects, but only if one does it correctly. It is not easy to work with this mushroom.

An excellent resource for Amanita muscaria is Amanita Dreamer on YouTube and her website www.AmanitaDreamer.net. Also, a recently published book: ‘Fly Agaric: A compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology & Exploration’ by Kevin Feeney is also great.

These resources are essential as there are many dangerous myths regarding Amanita muscaria. Remember, it’s important to make sure that you are fully knowledgeable about this mushroom. You can’t just pick the caps and eat them. 

I think the same goes for all kinds of psychedelic substance that Michael talked about. Please remember that we’re not condoning the use of these things in any kind of casual way. You must be very careful, very well-read and personally very prepared before going any further.

Right then, what did you think of this episode?

Any thoughts on Michael’s language learning resources, his hitchhiking tales or his comments on the use of psychedelics? If you have things to say, just express your thoughts in English, ideally in the comment section on my website.

That’s all from me. Have a good morning, afternoon, evening or night. Be excellent to each other, good luck with your English and do take care.

Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

714. Robin from Hamburg 🇩🇪 (WISBOLEP Runner-Up)

Talking to another runner-up from last year’s listener competition. Robin from Hamburg had a big setback in his learning of English, but worked hard to overcome it. We talk about his English learning trajectory, and ramble about German language & culture, his podcast for learners of German, podcasting microphones and then Robin teaches me some German words which are difficult to pronounce.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing alright today, wherever you are and whatever you are doing as you listen to this.

Here is a new episode, and we are returning to the WISBOLEP series with this one – talking to winners of the competition I did at the end of last year in which listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

LEPland – that’s Luke’s English Podcast land, you see, L E P land – LEPland. Not LAPland, no, that’s Lapland – a real place, somewhere in the north of Finland. But no, I’m not talking about Lapland. I say this because sometimes people write to me and they say “Another listener here from Lapland” really? Are you from Lapland? Or do you mean LEPland. Maybe you are from Lapland, I don’t know. There are people there. If you are in Lapland, then hello to you too. Maybe you are Santa Claus (because Santa comes from Lapland) Maybe Father Christmas listens to this podcast  during the year, just relaxing, taking a break. Anyway, if you are Father Chrismtas then welcome, “welcome” to everyone. But anyway, where was I? So… The competition, last year, Listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.

This episode now is the 4th in that series and the spirit of this whole competition is to let some LEPsters talk on the podcast so we can learn some things from them including insights into how they learned English, perhaps some things about the countries they come from and whatever else they can talk to us about. 

This time it is the turn of Robin who comes from Hamburg in Germany.

Robin came joint 3rd in the competition with William from France. So William and Robin both received exactly the same number of votes and in fact their stories are not dissimilar (which is another way of saying that their stories are quite similar). Yes, their stories are not dissimilar in the sense that they both first learned English at school in their neighbouring countries, and then both chose to pursue English in higher education, both decided to become teachers of English and both spent time as teaching assistants in English schools in the South East of England, helping English schoolkids and students learn French or German in the case of Robin. So, funnily enough, Robin and William both have many things in common, including the fact that they both got exactly the same number of votes, so joint 3rd position, but anyway, this is Robin.

And yes, Robin is also an English teacher, just like the other WISBOLEP winners that we have had so far.

Now I would like to address something at this point and that is the fact that all the winners of this competition so far have been English teachers. Obviously they’ve been, let’s say, non-native speakers from different countries, but yes, the four people I’ve spoken to so far – they have all been English teachers, and I get the impression from reading one or two comments that some people might think it’s a bit unfair, for some reason, that the winners all seem to be English teachers, right? 

Here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell, and actually I should also say, the vast majority of comments on these episodes so far have been really positive. People have loved listening to the guests that we’ve had so far and I think people have found them to be interesting and inspiring and thought-provoking and so on. But anyway, I do get the sense that there is maybe this feeling of “All the winners are English teachers. What’s going on?” and so here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell. Something like this…

“Hmm, so you can only win this competition if you’re an English teacher. What about the rest of us who don’t have that advantage?”

This sort of comment seems to suggest that non-native speakers of English who are English teachers have improved their level of English as a result of being teachers, that their English improved because they became teachers or as a consequence of being English teachers, and so being an English teacher gave them an unfair advantage in this competition. 

But I think it’s probably the other way round, isn’t it? Surely they reached a proficient level of English before they became teachers, and then became teachers as a consequence of having a good enough level of English. You can’t qualify as a teacher without having a fairly decent level of English first, can you? 

So, I think their progress and achievements in English proficiency are still thanks to their own merit just like anyone else who has got good at English, and so I think this still counts. 

Sure, perhaps their teaching work has meant that they’ve had to do more language study than most people, and that they get to use English in their work on a fairly regular basis. That’s true. So the job has probably tweaked their English that bit further than many other people, but again, I’m sure the majority of their English progress was made before becoming English teachers.

So, I just wanted to point that out in case some people listening felt there was something amiss about the results of the competition. Personally, I think it’s fine and you probably think so too, right? 

But bear with me as I say just one or two other things about this.

Of course there are loads of people who achieve great things in English and who don’t choose to become teachers, and that’s great too. I really don’t mind what people do, as long as they have something to offer to my audience, and I suppose ultimately this is why listeners voted for these people in this competition, because they felt that they would have interesting things to say on the podcast, and probably some insights into improving your English, and I think those things are definitely true. I feel that the 3 interviews we’ve had so far have been very insightful and interesting, and I think that this also applies to the other interviews that you haven’t heard yet. There are three more interviews to listen to. There’s Robin, Michal and Bahar as well.

And I’m sure that even now some people are going “This is unnecessary Luke. You don’t need to justify yourself”. Ok I won’t (as I whack the microphone). 

Anyway, so, after this one with Robin, the next one will be Michal from Poland and he has achieved a decent level of English and he’s not an English teacher. Not yet anyway! I don’t know what he will choose to do in the future, but so far he has not qualified as a teacher. 

Anyway, I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, even though I have just devoted a number of minutes to talking about it. I think ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Essentially we are listening to LEPsters who other LEPsters wanted to hear on this podcast and you know what – I am really enjoying these episodes, I think that the LEPsters who voted in the competition made some really good choices, and this series has been very well-received overall, which is great.

And this brings us to our 4th WISBOLEP guest – Robin from Hamburg in Germany (just in case you weren’t sure where Hamburg was. That’s right, it’s in Germany) so here we go. 

So I spoke to a few weeks ago. Robin is someone who learned English at school like most people, and liked it, and then chose to pursue his English studies and broaden his English skills while still living in Germany. There were challenges and setbacks, as you will hear, but ultimately he managed to immerse himself in the language and get his English to a good enough level to be able to train to become a teacher of the language in Germany. Later on he went to England to get some work experience as a teaching assistant in German classes at a posh school in the South East.

Along the way Robin also chose to start a podcast for learners of German. So Robin is a podcaster too, just like me. Robin’s podcast is called Auf Deutsch Gesagt, which I hope I’m pronouncing correctly. Speakers of German, indeed Robin, in fact, you could get in the comments section and tell me if I’ve pronounced that correctly. Auf Deutsch Gesagt!

So if you are learning German and you want a podcast that is similar to mine but in German, you could listen to Robin’s podcast Auf Deutsch Gesagt! Which translates as “In plain German” or “In plain language” which I guess means that the German that you can hear in his episodes is the sort of natural German that people use on a daily basis. As Robin has said, he was quite inspired by my approach to LEP, and so I guess Auf Deutsch Gesagt is along similar lines. So that’s Robin’s podcast for people learning German. It’s on Spotify and is available where you normally get your podcasts. 

There are links for his podcast on the page for this episode too. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

So this conversation ended up being a bit longer than some of the other interviews with WISBOLEP winners, but that’s partly because we found that there were quite a lot of things for us to talk about including Robin’s learning of English after being told by one of his university teachers that he should just give up because he wasn’t good enough, his experience as a teaching assistant at a school in England, some comparisons between English and German language and culture, some slightly geeky stuff about the recording setups and microphones that we use for our podcasts, and then finally we thought it could be fun for Robin to try and teach me a bit of German, so you will hear me struggling to pronounce a few words in German near the end of the conversation, which should give you a bit of a laugh.

So that’s it then for this introduction. I will chat to you again briefly on the other side of this conversation but let’s now meet WISBOLEP runner up Robin from Hamburg, and here we go.


Ending Transcript

So that was Robin from Hamburg, teaching me a bit of German there, which was a bit of fun wasn’t it? I think it was. I hope you enjoyed it, listening to me struggle with another language for a change. 

Again, if you’re learning German and you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, why not check out Auf Deutsch gesagt! (Spell it) So, again, you can just check the page for this episode on my website and you’ll see all of this stuff written. My introduction and this ending part here. It’s all written and you’ll find links to Auf Deutsch gesagt! If you want to listen to it. 

Auf Deutsch Gesagt! (Robin’s German Podcast)

Podcast page aufdeutschgesagt.libsyn.com/ 

Podcast links plinkhq.com/i/1455018378?to=page 

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you will find links on the website to help you find it. (I’ve just said that!) 

As you heard Robin say there, his approach is pretty similar to mine so it might be what you are looking for if you are learning German.

Also, I think it was very interesting to note the trajectory of Robin’s English learning. 

Ooh “Trajectory” – there’s a nice word. (spell it)

Trajectory

Let me just talk about it a little bit. Firstly, it refers to the path that an object takes as it flies through the air. Now we’re talking about the trajectory of Robin’s English journey, but I think the first use or meaning of the word trajectory normally refers to objects flying through the air, and the path that they take as they fly through the air. 

For example the trajectory of a plane from take off to landing. Imagine a line going up from the ground soaring into the air, over distance, then going back down to the ground. Trajectory – it doesn’t always mean it goes down, up and then back down again. It could just be from down to up.  

Also you’ve got the trajectory of a rocket, or the trajectory of a golf ball flying from the ground, up into the air, over the grass and maybe landing on the green, hopefully, if you’re a golfer. The path that an object takes as it moves through the air. That’s the trajectory. 

The second use of the word is metaphorical or idiomatic and it’s used to describe the movement or path of other things, like for example someone’s career trajectory, or the growth trajectory of a company, upward trajectory or downward trajectory. Imagine a line showing the movement of something making a curved line going up and over. It could be a line on a graph. 

So, it is interesting to follow the trajectory of Robin’s English learning, especially that moment when he was told he wasn’t good enough to pursue his studies, and then he kind of doubled down on his English, and the results kind of spoke for themselves. 

Arguably, being told “Oh you’re not good enough, I think you should give up” that is a very damaging thing to say to a learner of English, you would have thought, although not in the case of Robin, because this is the sort of kick up the bum that he needed. This is the kick up the arse that Robin needed apparently. I don’t know, I guess it could go either way. For some people, being told that would just destroy your confidence and you’d never achieve anything as a language learner after being told that. Or it might give you a wake up call and if you’re determined, well, this is the slap in the face that I needed – metaphorical slap in the face that I needed to kind of actually get me going.

Anyway, in the case of Robin it was the thing that kind of made him grasp the challenge. 

So, thankfully Robin took it as a challenge and seriously started to immerse himself in English all the time, and probably did self study from grammar books and other things but basically he just put a lot of time and effort into his English and it paid off, and just listen to him now. 

It seemed to make a lot of difference, right? Then he was able to qualify as a teacher and help other people with their English learning trajectory too, but the key thing is that he took the bull by the horns and took control of his learning himself [There’s a nice phrase! + some rambling about how you shouldn’t actually take a real bull by the horns because you’ll probably get gored in the stomach…] 

The thing is that Robin took the bull by the horns, metaphorically speaking, and took control of his learning himself, realising it was all down to him and he did it in his own way.

Again, I hope you agree that this has been quite inspiring – basically as a way to say, you can do it too if you put your mind to it and you put the time in. 

Again, I will echo my statements from the last of these episodes – I often tell you about the importance of motivation and the importance of doing certain types of practice, but also I just want to say, equally don’t worry about doing anything really. Don’t worry about it too much. Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things I often say. At the very least, just listen, enjoy listening, be happy, stay positive and enjoy spending time with English in any way that you like. This is probably the most important thing, that you have to maintain a good and positive feel-good relationship with the language, and when the time is right, you can take more control and really apply yourself by doing different kinds of practice, but don’t worry if you just like listening to English and that’s all you do. That’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good in the hood.

But if you’re always looking for specific tips on ways to improve your English, if you want to take the bull by the horns and you want to improve your English in more applied ways including your pronunciation and your accent then pay attention to some things that Michal from Poland is going to say in the next WISBOLEP episode, which will arrive in a few weeks. Little sneak preview there of the episode with Michal from Poland.

And of course there’s the ongoing LEP Premium project which is designed to be a service that can help you make sure your English is on the right trajectory. Parts 3 & 4 of P29 are coming very soon – and they are going to cover more solid vocabulary, collocations, synonyms and phrases based on things my dad said in episode 704 of the podcast, with listen & repeat pronunciation exercises in part 2 as well. So if you want to hear that, access the PDFs for it and all the other premium content visit www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

But in any case, I hope you enjoyed this episode and thanks again to Robin for his contribution. It was great to talk to him. It was really nice to listen to him and just hear about his story and so on. I apologise if I spoke too much during the conversation, but it was a conversation after all, and that’s fine isn’t it?

As ever, let us know your thoughts in response to this episode in the comments section for this episode, right? 

If you’re looking for the episode page where you can write your comments and also read transcripts for the introduction and ending of episodes like this, you will find the link in the description for this, wherever you are listening. [Luke rambles a bit about the Apple podcasts app] or just go to teacherluke.co.uk and then click EPISODES in the menu.

Well, it’s time to finish, isn’t it? It’s time to end.

Thank you for listening to my podcast again. Good luck with your English and I will speak to you soon, but now it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.

711. William from France 🇫🇷 (WISBOLEP Runner-UP)

William started learning English at 12 years old and continued at university and beyond, spending a couple of years in England as a teaching assistant and then returning to France to work as a school teacher, in some pretty tough classrooms and less-than-perfect teaching conditions. William talks about how he continues to maintain his English, the importance of finding good language exchange partners, and more.

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Notes for the Introduction and Ending Monologues (not a 100% complete transcript)

Hello listeners, I hope you’re doing well. In this episode you’re going to listen to a conversation with another LEPster picked by other LEPsters for an appearance on this podcast. This time it’s the turn of William from France who came joint 3rd in the competition – it was a tie between William and Robin from Hamburg, and Robin will be on the podcast soon as well.

Right so this episode is the latest in the WISBOLEP series and WISBOLEP means Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and it was a competition I launched last year in which listeners sent in short recordings to persuade members of the audience to vote for them to be chosen for an interview on my podcast. So far I have spoken to the winner – Walaa from Syria and the 2nd place contender Tasha from China. Let’s now return to Europe and talk to William who lives in France. Shout out to all the French LEPsters. Salut les francais, et les francophone, ca va? 

I think these WISBOLEP interviews are really interesting and there is a lot to gain from listening to them.

Sure, there will be some people who will decide that they just can’t listen to another learner of English and only native speakers of English are worth listening to. I can understand that to an extent, but I do think that completely dismissing non-native speakers of English like that is a mistake. 

Learning English is a complex and personal process and I think there is a great deal to be gained from listening to other learners describe their experiences and methods of learning English. This can give you inspiration in terms of specific things you can do to improve your learning, and generally it can give you a lot of perspective about what it really means to be a learner of English or a speaker of English as a second language, what proficiency really is, what fluency really means, how important perfection is compared to having the initiative to just go out there and start using English. Also it can give you a sense of camaraderie with other fellow learners, and it’s very healthy to know that you are part of a community of similar language learners around the world, all of whom are trying to work on their English level in various ways. Some people are better than others, but everyone is going through a similar process.

We are all learners of English in a way, including me, and it’s wrong to think that learning English has a specific end point or conclusion to it. It’s a never ending process and there are always things to learn and ways to improve in terms of how we use this tool to communicate with people more effectively.

Perfection is not necessarily the thing to expect from yourself or others. It’s a high ideal to strive towards but if you only accept perfect English, then prepare to be disappointed, both by yourself and by others. Setting perfection as your ultimate goal is quite unrealistic and doesn’t really reflect the nature of English as a pragmatic language. When you’re using English in the real world, it’s not necessarily about having flawless English but about the results that you achieve with your English. It’s “connection not perfection” as the girls from AEE always say. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious or that you shouldn’t try to do your very best in English. It’s important to try to be better at English of course. But little mistakes are inevitable, holes in your knowledge of English are inevitable and you should not let these things stop you on your journey with this language. We have to try to accept that we will make mistakes and we have to learn from them. You have to be philosophical about it. 

Another idea that strikes me as I listen to these WISBOLEP episodes is that curiosity and a willingness to take a few risks are really important. It seems to help your progress in English if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone a bit and throw yourself into situations that will ultimately help your English to develop. Be curious all the time and keep moving forwards in your quest to know more, learn more and get more control over the language, even if you never really get to the end – in fact there isn’t really an end point. Be patient and don’t let little obstacles get in your way.

I could bang on about this kind of stuff all day, but I will conclude by saying that it’s up to you to find your own motivation to keep going with English. There is no “one perfect way”. Everyone has to find their own path, and I think it’s a long-term thing. At the very least, certainly for the next hour or so I hope you simply enjoy listening to William and me talking about his experiences, with an open mind and a sense of curiosity, and don’t underestimate the value of listening to fellow learners of English. 

I would say, try not to compare yourself to others too much, and equally, don’t judge others too harshly. Just try to take inspiration from other people’s stories and examples.

This brings us to William from France, and in fact this conversation demonstrates a lot of those ideas that I just mentioned. 

Just a little bit of background info on William before we start, just to give you a sense of the context from which he learned English.

William is from a town just outside Paris, called Combs de Ville. His parents are from the French West Indies and more specifically from an island called Guadeloupe, which is a French overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean. So his parents were from there originally and they moved to France in their twenties. William was born in France. He grew up learning French as his first language, but his parents did still speak Creole (the local language from Guadeloupe – but no English. In his own words “Creole and French were the main languages used at home but my parents didn’t want me to use Creole. We were in France so French was the only language I was allowed to use. So it was a bit strange to be able to understand a language without being able to use it.” 

As you’ll hear, English didn’t come into William’s life until he started learning it at school like everyone else in France at the time, at about the age of 12. But he took to it and liked it. I wonder if having several languages in the household growing up had anything to do with that. It’s possible. But in any case, William didn’t get a head start on his peers in terms of English.

I’m not going to explain in advance all the main points in our conversation. Instead, I will let you discover it as you go. What I will say is that I really enjoyed this chat, and you will find that it gets more focused, more specific and more insightful as it goes on. 

That’s it from me now. I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation with a few reflections and thoughts, but now, let’s hear from William from France, who came joint 3rd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Oh one other thing, before I forget. William wanted me to add something at the start of this episode – and that is to say a big thank you to all the people who voted for him in the competition, giving him the chance to be featured in an episode of the podcast. So, thanks from William.

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Ending

So that was William from France. I really enjoyed talking to him. He’s a lovely guy and here are some of the things I took away from this. Here are some thoughts and reflections.

  • English is a journey not a destination.
  • There’s no end point in terms of learning English. It’s like being a musician or a sports player. There’s always training to be done and room to improve in terms of technique, general fitness and fluency and so on. You have to practise all the time and there are always ways in which you can gain more control and more efficiency in how you use English to express ideas. This is true for native speakers of the language as well, including me. I see myself as a work in progress too, in terms of how effective I am as a speaker or writer of English.
  • Finding language partners for language exchanges can be a great way to get regular practice into your life, but you have to find the right person, and this can take a long time, but don’t let that stop you – keep searching, keep talking to different people until you find someone who is right for you. This could be true of one to one teachers as well. Sometimes you need to shop around a bit. Remember, like William you can find language exchange partners, conversation partners and English teachers on italki. Italki is both a sort of marketplace for online teachers, but also a social network which you can use to find other language learners, and that could include fluent English speakers who want to learn your language, and like William you could just informally set up conversations with these people and spend some time speaking English and some time speaking in your language, and if you get the right person that can be an invaluable source of practice for you. To sign up for italki you can still use my link, which is www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and if you access italki that way and then buy some lessons with a teacher, italki will send you a discount voucher worth 10 dollars which you can use next time.
  • BUt the point there is → be patient, be dedicated, keep searching, don’t give up and you could find someone who you can practise your English with on a regular basis in a mutually beneficial way. It could be a way to make new friends as well.
  • Finally – stay curious, about English – especially in terms of learning about how the language works in order to work on your grammar in a sort of organic way – just trying to work out how the language works, referring to grammar books (a tip could be Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – a good reference book for English grammar and usage) and also stay curious about other people, because this is really important in developing good communication skills. It’s not just about how well you can speak and express yourself, it’s about how well you interact with other people and listening to others is a big part of that. So, be curious about the language, but just be curious about people you meet and be interested in other people when you talk to them and you’ll find that your communication skills will thrive as a result of that. I feel that that’s something William does – he is interested in other people and that’s a strength of his. It’s one reason why he communicates well. 

OK, just some thoughts that occurred to me at the end of this episode here.

Feel free to share your thoughts too in the comment section.

I would also like to say that talking to William gave me a little boost. He said some nice and sincere things about this podcast, about how it has helped him and how I might be helping other people and I appreciated it. So good luck to you William and all the listeners who are still listening all the way up to this point in the episode. 

That’s it from me,

I will speak to you in the next episode. Again – a reminder that I am also working on Premium series 29 – What did Rick Say? And so premium subscribers – look out for new episodes in that series arriving very soon. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more details and to sign up.

Have a lovely day, morning, evening, night! Stay safe! Stay positive! Stay curious!

Speak to you soon.

Bye bye bye bye bye.

Song: Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles

Lyrics here www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/dontletmedown.html

Podcast Image: Cork Map by “Miss Woods” in Barcelona misswood.eu/fr/collections/mapas-de-corcho

P.S. I think I found my meme 👇