Category Archives: Messages from Listeners

525. Ninja August / Podcast Corrections / Useful Japanese Cat (Listener Comments & Questions)

Responding to more comments and questions from listeners, including some rambling about public holidays in France, why May is like ‘ninja August’, some corrections to what I said about bats and Stephen Hawking on the podcast and the story of an amazing useful cat from Japan.

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Transcript (not 100% complete – listen to the episode to hear everything, including improvised moments)

In this episode I’m going to continue going through a list of comments and questions from listeners, while using those comments and questions as a springboard to ramble about this and that. Some of the questions are related to language, others are related to topics I’ve covered on the podcast recently.

I’ve got one hour before I have to go and pick up my daughter from day care, so let’s see what I can do in an hour. Let’s go!

LEP Premium is coming soon, but it’s not ready yet. Please don’t register until I announce it.

LEP Premium is not ready yet – I’ve had a few questions about this. Some listeners have found a sign-up form for it, but there’s not content available yet – so don’t sign up until I have made a proper announcement.
I have not uploaded any premium content yet – I’m working on the first episodes at the moment, but it’s coming soon.
So, wait until I say “GO” before you sign up.

I’ve got loads of work to do and I’m hoping to produce quite a lot of content this month, but it’s proving to be quite hard to get work done so far this month.

Public Holidays in France – “May is like the ninja August”

It’s May and in France and there are loads of public holidays – 4 in total, which is wonderful but it also makes things a bit complicated. It’s hard to get things done.

Doing the bridge, or “Le Pont”.

When public holidays land on a Tuesday or a Thursday it can really break up the week, and you have to squeeze all your work into just a few days. The first 2 weeks of May contain 4 holidays and this year the’ve all landed mid-week.

In the UK all our public holidays are moved to the nearest Monday.

In France they just land on the same dates every year and stay there.

This can work in your favour or against you. It’s a gamble!

In France people are very protective of public holidays and workers’ rights. In the past people had to fight very hard to get public holidays and they hold that right very seriously and protect it. Holidays have become an important part of French life (although people work very hard here too, despite the myth that people are lazy).

But the culture is different to, let’s say Japan, where people are given fewer holidays than France.

For example, it’s pretty normal for many people here to take the entire month of August off.

It’s difficult to get anything done, business wise, unless you’re a tourism company or you run a hotel for tourists or something.

So, in August nothing happens (it feels like). Back in the UK people still work – the kids are on holiday and you might take 2 weeks off during the summer but you still work during August. Things slow down a bit, but in France it’s much more noticeable. Certainly Paris changes a lot.

May in France is like ninja August.


I’m going to carry on responding to some questions and comments from listeners, like I started in the last one and we’ll see where this takes us.

So let’s carry on.

British Podcast Awards

First of all, I’d like to remind you to please consider voting for Luke’s English Podcast in the British Podcast Awards. I need as many votes as I can get if I’m going to stand a chance of competing with some of the big names in UK podcasting. I’ve been a UK podcaster for ages and ages and it would be cool to get some recognition from the UK podcast community. It would also be ace to get a TEFL podcast into a winning position in order to represent the learning English community and the teaching community. So, please vote!
www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote or click the vote button on my website :)

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote

Shout out to Jack

Thanks Jack for adding lists of vocab under episodes, including many of the episodes in the archive. Check the comment section for Jack’s lists.

Jack always pesters me for a gift, sometimes for no apparent reason, but I suppose this time he deserves something for adding these useful vocab lists to the pages.

So Jack, on my recent trip back to the UK I picked something up for you. I know you’re into cars, so let me hand you the keys to a 1975 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. This is the ultimate in classic British luxury motoring, at the time it was released this was absolutely the top of the range in terms of comfort, style and quality and remains to this day a symbol of British class and sophistication. It doesn’t get better than this. With its massive V8 engine delivering 190BHP , steel frame, vacuum assisted brakes, power steering, manual 3 speed gearbox and top speed of 106mph this is a precision machine from the golden age of British motoring. Admittedly this 43 year old vehicle is no longer top of the range and can’t compete with modern day equivalents such as the high performance luxury models produced by Bentley, but for a leisurely drive through the British countryside in the most quintessentially British manner this has to be the number 1 choice. They don’t make them like this any more. The engine delivers a powerful, stately and commanding sense of control and the ride is so utterly smooth and poised that you can enjoy afternoon tea and cake with guests in the back without spilling a drop on the leather upholstery. It oozes charm, it breathes refinery, it is the epitome of retro British eccentricity. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.
Here are the keys Jack… just the keys I’m afraid. I can’t actually pin down the car itself… It’s somewhere… it’s definitely somewhere…

Podcast Corrections

As Blind as a Bat

Message:

Hi Luke,

In episode 516 with Beatle Paul you explain the following idiom:
as blind as a bat = totally blind
I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses!
(Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes.)

That’s not quite true:
The following two phrases are from the English Wikipedia and explain the vision of bats
1. The eyes of most microbat species are small and poorly developed, leading to poor visual acuity, but no species is blind.
2. Megabat species often have eyesight as good as, if not better than, human vision. Their eyesight is adapted to both night and daylight vision, including some colour vision.[84]

So what you state is true only for the subspecies megabat, whereas microbats are nearly as blind as a bat, but not quite.

Greetings from good old Germany, Heiner

Ah, thanks for the clarification. In my defence we don’t have many megabats in the UK. The majority of our bats are microbats, so perhaps that explains how the phrase entered common parlance, because in our experience our bats usually have poor eyesight, although to say that they are blind is actually not true.
But the correction still stands.

I said bats actually have good eyesight. But that only applies to megabats, whereas microbats actually do have relatively poor eyesight (although they aren’t actually blind).

Apologies to the microbat or megabat community for getting that one wrong!

No, but seriously, it’s good to get corrections like this in order to prevent the spread of misinformation, which happens every day.

Stephen Hawking

ALSO a correction about Stephen Hawking from FB, probably more important than the bat one to be honest!

Hi, Luke, how are you? How’s your family?

I’m fine, thanks for asking. :)
I’m a med student in Brazil and as I was listening to the episode you did on Stephen Hawking, I couldn’t help but clarify some things you said about his disease. I hope you don’t mind, but since I know you are curious about almost anything, I’m sure you won’t.
You said that his kind of motor neurone disease affects the brain. It actually affects neurons outside the brain. These neurons are responsible for making our muscles produce movements (that’s why it is called a motor neurone disease). This disease is also known as ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
You also said that his disease affected his central nervous system, but it actually affected his peripheral motor system. We have neurons throughout our bodies. Everything in the brain and in the spinal cord is our central nervous systems. Neurons outside these structures belong to the peripheral nervous system.
Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was created to increase the awareness of ALS. And it worked! Donations coming from the challenge helped researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to find out one gene that is involved in the disease. This finding can help in future therapy development.
I hope my explanation was useful and not too boring. Thank you so much for all your work in making this podcast.

Cheers,
Klenisson

Useful Japanese Cat

Dear Luke, how are you? This is Yuko, a Japanese expatriate living in New York,
and suffering from an incurable condition – “anglophilia” (Luke: an obsession or fondness for all things English).
In the episode “talking about pets”, your brother repeatedly mentioned the unusefulness of cats as opposed to dogs. (Luke: Yes, I was wondering if people would be bothered by the things that were said in that episode. James seemed to pick on small dog breeds and also vegan dog owners for some reason, and we also suggested that cats were essentially self-interested animals who somehow have managed to make us their slaves, suggesting that dogs perform far more useful roles in society in general… but…)

I just wanted to show you the exceptions.
There are some cats who worked as a station master in a Japanese train station.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tama_(cat)

Are they not amazing?
Yuko

 

Thanks for listening!!

LEPSTERS – ASSEMBLE!

524. Tricky Pronunciation Debates / “Either” “Neither” / Song + Comedy Sketch

Talking about words which can be pronounced several ways, words which are often pronounced incorrectly by native speakers and the debates, arguments and frustration that arises between native speakers as a result. Includes the “You Say Tomato…” song and the Grammar Nazi sketch, explained. Transcript & notes available.

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Transcript

Welcome to episode 524 of this podcast for learners of English. You know what, I’m going to start this one with a poem that I’ve just written. Anyone who’s heard my so-called poetry before will know that I’m no Bill Shakespeare ok? Anyway, here is my work of genius to kick off this episode.

Here’s a new episode, 1, 2, 3
I’ve got no idea how long this will be
It could be one or two episodes. Let’s see.
I suggest you make a nice cup of tea
Put your feet up on the settee
Get your headphones on your head and when you’re ready
You can focus your attention like it’s a master’s degree
Or simply drift off and relax like you’re floating on the sea
The main thing, for me
Is that you listen carefully
And enjoy this episode of Luke’s English Podcast
Which is completely free.

Moving on…

Coming up in this episode

You can expect a rambling monologue from me which is recorded and presented for you to listen to as part of your ongoing mission to improve your English based on the principle that listening regularly, and for longer periods, is a good way to learn the language, pick up vocabulary, become more familiar with features of pronunciation, develop your instinct for correct grammar and natural English usage while maintaining a strong connection to English as a living and breathing communicative force which exists within us and without us, through us and between us, binding the galaxy together across borders, distinctions, barriers, obstacles and through various dimensions of time and space, leading to rising levels of value, status and quality in diverse and mutually beneficial ways. Basically, listening to this is good for your English, and that helps you to communicate with people from different countries, and that’s good.

Here’s an overview of the things I’d like to cover in this episode, which might become several episodes in fact…

Overview

  • Tricky Pronunciation Debates (arguments about words that people seem to pronounce differently, and also words that people pronounce wrong)
  • Podcast corrections (some comments from listeners with a few corrections)
  • A useful Japanese cat
  • The odd meaning of “Yeah, right”
  • How to actually answer the question “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”
  • Doing impressions of accents from different countries, and whether this is unacceptable or even considered racist in some cases – for example, I can copy the accent of a cockney, I can copy the accent of an American guy, but can I copy the accent of an Indian or Nigerian person? It’s a bit of a cultural minefield… let’s investigate.
  • The benefits of repeat listens – listening to episodes more than once
  • What does the word “podcast” actually mean?
  • Why you need to take extra care while listening to LEP.
  • The phrase, “Don’t be shy, give it a try”

And maybe some more comments about this and that, depending on the time available…

This is all based on comments and questions I’ve had from listeners through various channels…

Unexpected vocabulary question – among / between

What’s the difference between ‘between‘ and ‘among‘?dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/between-or-among
Mingling among the people
Let’s mingle and socialise!
To mingle = to move around among a group of people in order to socialise and talk to everyone

British Podcast Awards

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Before we go any further, I need to tell you that I’m in the running for the British Podcast Awards Listener’s Choice Award this year. Someone informed me on Twitter that they found my podcast listed. OK then, so this is where I implore you to vote for me in the award.

Now, I have an army of Ninjas ready, primed to do my bidding. I have tens of thousands of you, by my reckoning, although I only ever hear from a tiny slice of that audience – a small percentage of you visit the website, leave messages, leave iTunes reviews, actually get in contact with me, download the app, join the mailing list etc… But if I could just mobilise you all and turn you into an international army or something, then I could take over the world!!! Assuming that you’re all capable people of course.

But the thing is, I don’t want to take over the world. What I want to do is to make podcasts, help you learn English, make you laugh on the bus sometimes, tell you stories, talk to guests, pay the bills, raise my family, put food on the table – AND WIN THE LISTENERS’ CHOICE AWARD AT THE BRITISH PODCAST AWARDS.

Last year, we got close. We got into the top 3. You did me proud. #TeamLEP got this podcast into 3rd place- the bronze medal position. Legions of LEpsters came out of the woodwork and voted for the podcast, and I actually got into the top 3. I know I was in bronze position because the BPA tweeted about it on the awards night and I have a screenshot of the tweet.

They have never since said it was a bronze medal. Ever since they’ve just put me in the runner’s up category with load of other podcasts. I don’t know why they dropped my bronze medal status – maybe they wanted to promote the other podcasts who they put in the runners up category, but anyway I was v proud to be a runner up, especially considering the other podcasts that were also runners up and especially the winning podcast, which is my fave podcast, Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review, produced by the BBC. #SoProud

Anyway, let’s see if we can do it again.

So, LEPsters of the world, unite and take to your computers and mobile devices – go to www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/ and search for Luke’s English Podcast. Fill in the details and submit your vote. Voting closes on 17 May 2018. So we have 2 weeks to kick this into overdrive.

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Let’s make history people.

LEP Premium – Coming Soon

Still before we start, I just want to mention: Premium – coming soon.
LEP Premium is all about me making LEP work as a proper service beyond it being a free podcast.

You might be wondering when this is going to “drop”. I’ve had a couple of questions about it. App users might have noticed that a little “Premium Sign In” option has appeared in the settings menu.

I’m not going to talk about it at length now, but it’s in the pipeline like I said before.
Essentially, the premium subscription will be a way for you to support LEP with a monthly or annual subscription while allowing me to deliver more language and teaching-oriented content (episodes will be specifically about teaching you language, rather than the diverse topics, conversations and rambling that you get in normal episodes) direct to your phone or computer.
I’m doing this using a platform provided by my host – Libsyn, the biggest podcast host in the world. They’ve basically finished setting up my platform now and I am going to produce some premium content before launching it properly, probably later this month.

I’m calling it Premium content because that’s what Libsyn call it. Honestly, I’ve always tried to make all my content “premium” but there it is. In any case, I will as ever, try my best to make the content as good and useful as possible, but with these episodes the plan is to really get down to the business of language teaching. There will be fun and all that too – like in the examples I can improvise to demonstrate the language I’m teaching, but the focus will be on the language primarily – and I think that will go really well with the normal episodes. In many cases it will be a close-up look at the language that’s come up naturally in episodes.

Anyway, that’s enough about that for now. Let’s move on.

How do you pronounce “either”?

Language question – I’d normally leave this for a language episode, like the sort of thing you’ll get in LEPP episodes, but I’ll deal with it here anyway.

Benedikt from Austria, living in Switzerland

Either or either

How do you pronounce them?
Are they the same word?
Are there some times when you say it one way or the other way?
E.g. either we stay or we go (eye-thur) – two different options
I haven’t done it either (eee-thur) – other uses

Luke
They’re both correct.
Same word, same thing.
There’s no difference.
It doesn’t change depending on the situation. It’s exactly the same word with two possible pronunciations.
Everyone will understand you, however you say it.
Eye-thur or ee-thur
Some say that “eye-thur” is more British
And “eeee-thur” is more American.
I often say “eye-thur” but honestly I think I also say eeeethur too and I’m really British.
In fact, thinking about it I probably say eeether just as often as either. (often – that’s another one!)
I think it’s also possible for one person to say them both and there’s no rhyme or reason why it comes out one way or the other. (no rhyme or reason = with no obvious explanation)

Yes, this also applies to “neither”.

It’s a very common issue. English is a very diverse language, and there are some words that culturally we pronounce differently (e.g. American and British English or smaller regions like areas of the UK) and sometimes these are even at an individual level. Some people say “either” others say “either”. It’s no big deal actually.

More words with several pronunciations

Some more examples:
Neither and neither
Potato (US vs UK, but also around the UK)
Tomato (US vs UK)
I’ve chosen ‘tomato’ and ‘potato’ specifically, because they’re in a famous song about this subject.
Often (no difference – just two ways, “offen” is perhaps the original version but with a ‘t’ is fine too)
February
Loads of examples from UK & US English, e.g. “schedule” – another story for another time.
Situations where the word stress seems debatable or people get the word stress wrong (sometimes this is just Brits saying words with American word stress, and other Brits getting pissed off… e.g. my parents)
Harassment (first syllable UK, second syllable US)
Controversy (conTROversy in the UK, CONtroversy in the US – but the Cambridge Dictionary site lists both as being standard to the UK – and lots of Brits still get annoyed when they hear other brits say CONtroversy)
Vulnerable (my Mum insists that it’s only pronounced with the “l” but Cambridge Dictionary says it’s ok without too)
Mischievous (Correct = “mischivus”, not – “mischeevious”, although we do say the noun “mischief”)
**NOTE: “mischivus” is the only correct way to pronounce mischievous. **
**ALSO NOTE: I’m not using phonetic symbols on the website here because I don’t have time and this is an audio podcast not a blog, remember! Listen to the episode to hear how I am pronouncing the words
GIF (moving images which are easily shared on the internet)
Is it “gif” or “jif”?
www.11points.com says:
11 | GIF
Pronunciations: gif, jif
The Internet had come to a decent consensus on the pronunciation of GIF, which is remarkable, of course, since the Internet has never come to a consensus on anything. Everyone was cool with the hard G pronunciation. It sounded better, wouldn’t lead to confusion, and was logical, since GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. And that’s where the debate SHOULD have ended.
But earlier this year, Steve Wilhite, the man who invented the GIF format for CompuServe, talked. And he said, with conviction: “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

You say tomato and I say tomato (song)

Going back to “either” “neither” “tomato” “potato” and this whole subject – there is a famous song about it, from back in the 1930s.

“Shall We Dance” (1937) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

00:44 seconds

Lyrics
Things have come to a pretty pass (come to a pass = happened, come to a certain situation)
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that,

Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don’t know where I’m at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:

You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let’s call the whole thing off. (call it off = cancel it)

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off

In most of those cases both words are probably right, but perhaps with some regional differences.

Then there are examples of words that some people say differently, but are generally considered wrong and are worth watching out for. These are the ones that will annoy people – but to be honest if you’re a non-native speaker you’ll probably be forgiven.

The biggest ‘crime’ is when a Brit says these and another Brit hears it, and their blood pressure rises.

Examples: (listen to the audio to hear the pronunciation)
Pronunciation
H
Nuclear” (new-cue-lur) should be new-clee-uh
ETC
Espresso
Prescription
Specific
Arctic
Ask” (this might have racial connotations but I’m not sure)

Some people (who are very particular about this kind of thing) get very upset about it, a bit too much probably…

The Grammar Nazi Sketch – from BBC comedy series “That Mitchell & Webb Look”

How do you say your acronym again? (H H H)

As you can see I didn’t talk about the other points in the overview at the beginning of the episode, but you’ll hear that stuff in forthcoming episodes of the podcast.

Thanks for listening!

Luke

518. Grammar Questions (Part 1) Present Perfect Continuous / Future Continuous / Language of Newspaper Headlines

Answering grammar questions from listeners, with details about verb tenses (including present continuous vs present perfect continuous & future continuous vs going to) and the language of newspaper headlines. Includes references to The QueenThe Legend of Zelda and a lot of pizza. Transcriptions & grammar notes available below.

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Transcript & Grammar Notes

This episode is all about grammar and I’m going to respond to questions and comments that I’ve received mainly in the comment section on my website.

I don’t often teach grammar on the podcast directly but I still think studying grammar is worthwhile.

I do grammar all the time in my language classes and it is often very interesting. My students get into it even though they’re sometimes quite confused by it, and generally I find that learners do see the value of studying grammar sometimes because ultimately it is the foundation of the language.

I think that a certain amount of grammar work is really useful and important, depending on your situation of course. It shouldn’t all be grammar – you’ve also got to focus on general communication skills, building and remembering vocabulary and so on, but it does pay to take a proper look at the way the language works on a structural level. There may be certain big differences in the way English works and your language works, and you might need a helping hand in understanding those differences and it can help you to correct certain common errors that you might be making in English.

So, let’s “take a deep dive” into some grammar here on the podcast today.

Overview of the Episode

There is information in this episode about:

  • Verb tenses
    • future continuous vs going to (what’s the difference?)
    • present perfect continuous vs present continuous (what’s the difference?)
  • The Grammar of Newspaper Headlines
    • Why is it “STEPHEN HAWKING DIES” and not “STEPHEN HAWKING DIED”?
  • Relative clauses (or WTF is up with relative clauses?) – Will be in part 2 in the App
  • A question about prepositions – Will be in part 2 in the App
  • Have got vs have vs get – Will be in part 2 in the App

Also a couple of other selected comments from the website recently.

Some of these questions were sent to me bloody ages ago, and who knows, the people who originally sent them might not even be listening to this podcast any more – they might have given up on English (since their questions were left unanswered for so long), or maybe they’ve given up on life in general and perhaps they’ve just moved to Florida or something, where they run a modestly priced leather goods store… Or maybe they just died. I don’t know! I don’t know what you’re all doing with your lives! Anyway, grammar questions from listeners who may or may not still be alive, or running a small business somewhere in Florida.

Let’s get straight into it.

VERB TENSES

Present Continuous vs Present Perfect Continuous

Alessandro (via Facebook)
Hi Luke. I don’t know if this is the right way to interact with you.
[Luke: Generally, the right way to interact with me is to give me tea and cake]
I just need an info some info. Could you please tell me in which of your podcast episodes you explained the difference between the present continuous and the present perfect continuous? [I can’t remember for the life of me!]
If you didn’t yet, please consider this message as an idea for a new episode. I think that we learners usually use these two forms in the incorrect way.

Present continuous – e.g. “I am eating a cake”
Present perfect continuous – e.g. “I have been eating a cake”

Typical wrong sentence – can you correct it?
“I am learning English since 10 years ago”

A few issues:
Present continuous
Present perfect continuous (and simple)
Time expressions with present perfect for saying how long you have been doing something.

Present continuous (be + -ing)

  • Things happening right now
    I am sitting on a chair. We are learning English. What are you doing? I’m just watching Neflix, what about you? Nothing. I am literally doing nothing. How is that possible? I don’t know, I’m just bored. No, I mean how is it physically possible for you to be doing nothing? I don’t know, there’s nothing going on. No you don’t understand, I’m asking a metaphysical question, like you have to be doing something – you’re breathing, you’re staring into space, you’re just lying there. Never mind, I shouldn’t have called you… CLICK
  • Temporary situations at the moment
    I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment. I’m working on a new project at the moment. I’m not sleeping very well these days.
  • Fixed future plans (like going to)
    What are you doing tomorrow? I don’t know. Nothing. Well, I’m going to the cinema to see Avengers: Infinity War. Do you want to come? Yeah!! Wait, is your girlfriend going? Yes, she is. Well, in that case – ahhh, ooooh, I’ve just realised – something’s come up, I’m not going to be able to make it. I’ve just realised I’m looking after my neighbour’s pet fish, cat, catfish, tomorrow. Can’t come.
    Weird situation in which someone doesn’t like someone’s girlfriend. No funny ending to that story, just a bit of intriguing drama…

Anyway… That’s present continuous.

Things happening now, temporary situations happening now, future plans.

We don’t use present continuous to talk about how long a present action has been happening.

In some languages you do. You just use a present tense and add a time expression.

E.g. “I am waiting here since 3 hours!”

In English it should be:
I’ve been waiting here for 3 hours.

That’s present perfect continuous.

It’s used for a few things – a few different functions, but a big one is to describe how long a present action or situation has been happening.

I’ve been recording this podcast episode for xxx minutes.

You can do a simple kind of dialogue.

Hey, what are you doing?
I’m just -ing.
How long have you been doing it?
About xxx time.
Sorry?
I said I’ve been doing it for about xxx time. Why do you ask?
No reason.
OK.
Good conversation.

Imagine the village idiot going around town asking people what they’re doing and how long they’ve been doing it. The town is a very sleepy village where nothing happens and everyone is unemployed. ( A bit like side missions in The Legend of Zelda?)

Hey what are you doing?
I’m just throwing stones into a lake.
How long have you been doing it?
About 4 hours.
What?
I said I’ve been throwing stones into this lake for about 4 hours. What’s it to you?
Nothing.

Present perfect continuous is like what happens when present perfect simple and present continuous have sex. The result is present perfect continuous. (Not what you learn in the grammar books)

Have (from p.p.s.) been (the past participle of “be” from present continuous) and then –ing (from present continuous)

Present perfect is all about actions in the past that are connected to now in some way

  • They happened in an unfinished time period (So, how are you getting on? What have you done so far in this episode? How many grammar questions have you answered?)
  • They have an effect on the present (I’ve just dropped my iPhone into the toilet, what am I going to do? Just flush it away maaan)
  • They’re not finished (You’ve been talking for XXX minutes and you haven’t even answered one question yet?)
  • They’re very recent (I’ve literally just started this question, give me a break man)

There are simple and continuous forms.

Present Perfect Continuous? (have/has + been + -ing)

  • Things that started in the past and are still going on now
    “I’ve been living in Paris for 5 years”
    In some cases, it’s the same as present perfect simple – depending on the verb you’re using. E.g. “I’ve lived in Paris for 5 years” = “I’ve been living in Paris for 5 years” but “I’ve lost my keys” isn’t the same as “I’ve been losing my keys”.
  • Emphasising that the action is repeated or long – not just one single action but repeated actions, or a long action
    I’ve lost my keys (once – I don’t have them now)
    I’ve been losing my keys for years now.” (repeated)
  • Emphasising the process of the action, rather than the result
    “I’ve been working on my grammar” – process
    “I’ve worked on my grammar” – result/completed/finished
    “I’ve been painting my kitchen” – process
    “I’ve painted my kitchen” – result/completed/finished
    “I’ve dropped my phone in the toilet” – just once
  • To talk about how long for a present action (for/since)
    “I’ve been reading this book for 3 weeks.”
    For how many times it’s present perfect
    “I’ve read this book 3 times”

A dialogue to compare the tenses

I’ll read through the dialogue. You can notice instances of the different tenses. Then I’ll go through it again to clarify.

A: I’m reading this book. It’s massive. It’s called Tune In and it’s all about the Beatles and it’s in massive detail. It’s amazing.
B: So you’re reading Tune In. Yes, that’s brilliant. Long, isn’t it? How long have you been reading it?
A: Ages. I’ve been reading it for weeks and weeks and I’m not even halfway through it yet. Have you read it?
B: Yes, I’ve read it twice actually.
A: Twice??
B: Yep.
A: How long did it take you to read it?
B: A couple of days.
A: Just a couple of days!! Bloody hell, you read quickly! What are you reading now?
B: I’m reading The Lord of the Rings.
A: Another long one. How long have you been reading that?
B: I started this morning.
A: OK, and how much have you read?
B: I’ve nearly finished it. I’ve read almost the whole thing.
A: Bloody hell you read quickly! What’s your favourite part of the book?
B: Umm, I… I can’t remember! I haven’t been paying attention really.

Now go through the dialogue again and clarify.

Now test yourself

Here’s a gap fill version. See if you can fill the gaps.

A: I _____________ (read) this book. It’s massive. It’s called Tune In and it’s all about the Beatles but it’s in massive detail. It’s amazing.
B: So you _____________ (read) Tune In. Yes, that’s brilliant. Long, isn’t it? How long _____________ (you read) it?
A: Ages. I _____________ (read) it for weeks and weeks and I’m not even halfway through it yet. _____________ (you read) it?
B: Yes, I _____________ (read) it twice actually.
A: Twice??
B: Yep.
A: How long _____________ (take) you to read it?
B: A couple of days.
A: Just a couple of days!! Bloody hell, you read quickly! What _____________ (you read) now?
B: I _____________ (read) The Lord of the Rings.
A: Another long one. How long _____________ (you read) that?
B: I started this morning.
A: OK, and how much ______________ (you read)?
B: I _____________ (nearly finish) it. I _____________ (read) almost the whole thing.
A: Bloody hell you read quickly! What’s your favourite part of the book?
B: Umm, I… I can’t remember! I_____________ (not pay attention) really.

Check the complete version above for the answers.

Transcription Project

ptholome/Antonio
I want to say something I think is interesting. There is two years I am involved in the transcription project (I’ve been involved in the TP for two years) and although I can’t measure how much I’ve learned or how much my understanding skills have grown up, when I was listening to this movie, finally, I could see the great result of my collaboration in the transcription project.
In fact, watching this movie I can see how much I still have to learn, but I am glad to say that I feel I understand enough to enjoy the movie as I never was able to do before.
So, this result is fuelling my motivation to continue working on this project and I hope to see coming back even once in a while a lot of the people who have done such great work transcribing the 135 episodes we’ve done since we started working as a team.
That’s all what I wanted to say so far. back to the second part of the movie which is not as interesting the book but that’s what movies are, aren’t they?
Which movie and book is Antonio talking about? We’ll find out later.

And now… more tenses…

Future continuous vs going to

The Future …future…future…future…future…

Who wrote this comment? Don’t know.
Great! Thanks, Jilmani for the lesson about English tenses! (Luke: Last summer Jilmani did a really cool challenge where she picked some episodes of LEP and then posed some questions – mostly about grammar – verb tenses – all done in a teaching app called Remind)
Now I have one question, what is the difference between these two sentences:
1) I will be eating pizza when you arrive.
2) I’m going to eat pizza when you arrive.

1 = action in progress at a moment in the future
2 = planned action which will start when you arrive

But *cough*

Sometimes we use will + be + ing (future continuous) to talk about planned actions in the future which are part of your normal routine – which is pretty much exactly the same as how we use going to. So future continuous and going to actually ‘cross over’ here.

Will you be eating here today or in the canteen? / Are you going to eat here today or in the canteen?

Welcome to the Murder Tour of London. Today we will be visiting the sites of 30 murders which all occurred in this 1 square mile. / Today we’re going to visit the sites of 30 murders.
And at each location one of you, will get murdered… 

Our verb tenses are used for a variety of functions and sometimes those functions overlap, like for example “I have lived here for 5 years” and “I’ve been living here for 5 years.” – yes, that is possible.

Future continuous is used for:

  • Actions in progress at a point in the future
  • Actions in the future as part of a planned routine (a bit like going to)

Going to is used for: (amongst other things)

  • Planned actions in the future

How about?
I’ll be eating pizza when you arrive
I’ll eat pizza when you arrive
I’m going to be eating pizza when you arrive
I’m going to eat pizza when you arrive

Listen to the episode to get all my comments and clarifications. This is a podcast, not a blog!

The Language of Newspaper Headlines

Roland Varga
Thanks for this episode! I’ve been meaning to ask you the following grammar question for quite a while [🏆] and now Prof. Hawking’s death has given me the reason. Every time when someone dies (obviously a well-known person) all the headlines in newspapers come up in present time like “Stephen Hawking dies at age 76” or ” XY dies at age 80“. Should not they be in past time?

The language of newspaper headlines

Newspaper headlines (and online news websites) have a grammar of their own.

“Oh no, you mean there’s another grammar I have to learn now?”

The main thing is that headlines have to be punchy, short, and “in the here and now” – in order to grab your attention.

It can be summarised by a few points

  • Past simple or present perfect often become present simple
    “England have just won the World Cup!”
    “ENGLAND WIN WORLD CUP”
    The subtitle might develop it in more detail. “The England football team have won the world cup in a dramatic victory over all other countries, proving inconclusively that England is the best country – not just at football, but at everything, and that English people are the best people in the world, especially the ones who were actually playing the football match.”
  • Future forms become ‘infinitive with to’
    The Queen is going to eat a pizza. “QUEEN TO EAT PIZZA”
    Facebook is going to stop being a bit evil “FACEBOOK TO STOP BEING A BIT EVIL” “FACEBOOK IN EVIL STOP SHOCK”
  • Auxiliary verbs are often removed, especially in passive constructions
    LEP has been voted the best podcast in the world.
    “LEP VOTED BEST PODCAST”
  • Long noun phrases
    BOMB THREAT SHOCK HITS PALACE
  • Prepositional phrases are sometimes used to mean that something is involved in something else, or something happened because of something else.
    Paul McCartney is going to face criminal charges because he killed a couple of spiders when he was a teenager.
    “MACCA JAILED OVER SPIDER KILLING SPREE”
    “MACCA IN SPIDER KILLING FRENZY”

Before we carry on…

Comment of the Week!

It’s not really about grammar, but it is a very clear and well-written comment about the challenge of learning a language, in response to my episodes about my problems with French.

Tian Joshua
Learning a language is really an arduous task. My two cents: something like language learning can only possibly go either of two ways, a virtuous circle or a vicious circle.
In my mind, a typical virtuous cycle goes like this: something about a foreign culture or language sparks your interest, you reach out to find more of the culture via the language or the language itself, you either dip your toe in it or dive into it. Either way, luckily enough, you encounter some good people who are very friendly and helpful in your language learning journey. Your confidence gets boosted. You feel motivated to do more. They give you the initial momentum to send you on your trajectory. Once you have applied what you have recently learned in some personally significant real life scenarios, like making a particularly witty and fitting comment in front of your secret crush or crushes, you get further positive feedback, which drives you to learn more so you can “flaunt” more in the next opportunity of using the language. As such, a rewarding positive feedback loop is forged and you are on your way to solid mastery of this language.

Conversely, a typical vicious cycle starts to take shape when the first a couple of people you use this language with are not helpful or patient. That way, your confidence gets bruised and your desire to learn the language gets curbed. You are hesitant to speak up even when you should. You do not get to put your language command into use as often as you should. More importantly, you are not self-assured, which definitely makes you less convincing and communicative even in your first language.

Based on what I said, maybe the main focus in language learning, and perhaps in everything else in life, should be breaking out of the vicious circle, if you are trapped in one. To that end, we need to keep a positive and robust state of mind. In other words, we need to come to the realization that we should not let the people that we get in contact with influence us too much. They may or may not be brought to our life by fate. The encounters may or may not be part of a grand plan. I want to learn this language. I will not let “language dickheads” get in my way. At the end of the day, I am the one in control of my mind. I choose to stay positive. People cannot discourage me. May the (mental) force be with you.

I want to learn this language. I will not let “language dickheads” get in my way. At the end of the day, I am the one in control of my mind. I choose to stay positive. People cannot discourage me. May the (mental) force be with you.

Shout out to Jack 🏆

Shout out to Jack in the comment section for making vocabulary lists which are being featured as top comments. Nice one Jack.

This is very helpful for visitors to my website.

There are three things people can do:

  • Check the list (you’ll find it as a featured comment at the top of the comment section, or maybe in the show notes) after you’ve listened. If there are some phrases you don’t know, perhaps check them in an online dictionary, try to remember how they were used in the episode, perhaps try to make sentences using the phrases.
  • Listen again while checking the list and notice how the phrases are used. You can listen and repeat too if you like.
  • Add some of the phrases to your own vocabulary lists, which I hope you’re keeping! Then revisit them and remember – if you don’t use it you lose it – just talk to yourself about the phrases, or talk with a language partner. E.g. if the phrase is “I’ve been meaning to do an episode about this for ages”, which is in episode 497 – the one about Withnail and I. You could just personalise that phrase to make it about you. E.g. “I’ve been meaning to get the bathroom door fixed for ages” or “I’ve been meaning to read that book for ages”. Something you’ve had vague plans to do for a long time, but you haven’t done it yet.

So, it’s up to you how you use the list but all it takes is a little motivation and ingenuity and you can use vocabulary lists to your advantage. Check the pages for each episode, and check the comment section too for Jack’s lists, which are checked by me and then featured at the top of the comment section. He’s done lots of the recent episodes and some early ones too.

Part 2 is available in the LEP App now – in the App-only Episodes category.

Click here to get the LEP APP

🎧

513. General Ramble / News / Comments

A general ramble about things like: dishwasher sounds, online clickbait, updates to the LEP app, my recent appearances on some OPP (other people’s podcasts), LEPster meetups and some responses to recent comments on the website. Notes, links & videos available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

Notes, Links & Videos etc

First, some stuff about clickbait and dishwashers… and then…

News, etc

This will be the last episode I upload until March.

Actually, that’s not such a big deal is it because February is short and so March is less than a week away… anyway…

Why is it the last episode until March?

Upload limit reached!

Why?

The LEP App

 iPhone/iPad – APPLE APP STORE |ANDROID – GOOGLE PLAY STORE 📱

I’ve been filling up the LEP app, with:

  • Videos (some stuff from my YouTube channel including some videos from nearly 10 years ago when I was younger, single and living in my London flat and I had a terrible haircut) and some more recent videos that are not on YouTube and are only available in the app.
  • A Phrasal Verb a Day (40 episodes uploaded so far)
  • App-only episodes (a recent new one with Lindsay from AEE – more info in a moment)

Check out the app if you haven’t done so already. I’m going to be adding more stuff there all the time. It’s more than just a place to listen to LEP. It’s a place to get loads of content from me straight to your phone.

APP CATEGORIES – ANDROID?

Other stuff

I’ve been on some other people’s podcasts recently

I was on All Ears English in their app 

Search the app store for All Ears English Listening, or click the link below.

All Ears English Listening for iOS

I was on Becoming Maman – Amber & Sarah’s new podcast.

Search iTunes and all other podcast places for Becoming Maman, or check the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk – I posted it there too.

[Website-only] I was on the “Becoming Maman” podcast with Amber Minogue & Sarah Donnelly

In December I was on The Earful Tower talking about the Paris Metro, on the Paris Metro.

Search iTunes and all other podcast places for The Earful Tower – but also it’s in the episode archive.

Observations on the Paris Metro… from Inside the Metro (Listen to my appearance on Oliver Gee’s podcast “The Earful Tower”)

Upcoming episodes of LEP

  • A chat with Amber & Sarah about the complications of raising kids in another country
  • A chat with comedian friends about a bunch of things
  • Planning an episode about raising bilingual kids because people keep asking “Which language will your daughter speak? Are you going to speak French to her or English? How do kids learn two languages at the same time?

Also I really want to just have some stupid fun on the podcast.

I haven’t been doing a lot of comedy recently, because of the baby. I’ve taken a step back because of lack of time etc, except for opening Paul’s show sometimes.

I miss doing comedy – when a show goes well it is an amazing feeling, but also I feel like I’d like to refresh my material.

One of the things I love about doing comedy is coming up with new stuff, improvising.

Also, on the podcast – I’ve always enjoyed just messing around being a bit stupid and having some fun doing voices, or just improvising some nonsense. Haven’t done that for a while.

So, I should, right? OK then.

LEPSTER Meetups

LEPSTERS IN Nizhniy Novgorod

There’s a Meetup happening on Sunday 11 March 18:00 Time Cafe Geronimo in the centre of Nizhniy Novgorod.

Everyone is welcome!!

FB page: The “Nizhniy Novgorod LEP Club” on Facebook

From Nick Wooster

Hi Luke!

How are you? I can’t even imagine how busy you are now with all those parent activities! You must be very happy, anyway :))

It’s been more than a year since we first established the LEP Club in Moscow. Also, last spring we launched our second Club in Saint Petersburg. Both clubs have become very popular and are now visited by a lot of people. For example, in January we had 9 meet ups and in each one there were 5 to 25 people!

Luke, do you remember we also tried to arrange a LEP Club in Nizhniy Novgorod last Summer?
(Note: In English, this means “Lower Newtown”)
We failed then because of the huge flood. Anyway, our LEP Nizhniy Novgorod page on Facebook has been quite popular recently. So, we are going to try again to organize the first meetup of LEPsters there.

The meeting will take place on March 11 at the time cafe Geronimo right in the center of Nizhniy Novgorod.

WOULD YOU PLEASE ANNOUNCE IT ON THE PODCAST? it would be great if you also shared it on FB (here is the link www.facebook.com/Conversational-English-for-Free-Nizhniy-Novgorod-LEP-Club-1929010714048755/?fref=ts)

BTW, Luke, we are wondering if it is possible to place a link to all your Meet-Up groups (Tokyo, MSC, SPB) in the Podcast – it would help LEP ninjas to find like-minded friends easier!
Thank you, Luke!

New LEP Meetup page in the website

LEPSTER MEETUPS

Some recent comments

About “The Birth of my Daughter”

Kristina Fadeeva • a month ago
Hi Luke, congratulations to your lovely family! And thank you for sharing this wonderful story, for your genuine emotions and authenticity, for being brave enough to talk about something so private.
I absolutele love the ideas of comprehensible input and storytelling in language learning that you mentioned. I was listening to that episode of Olly Richards’ podcast with Stephen Krashen a couple of weeks ago thinking “If only we had a Luke’s English podcast for every language!” I think, content like this is why I enjoy learning languages in the first place – it’s a door to a different world where you can meet people, learn what they are thinking and feeling, how they live their lives and what they value. It’s an endless world of stories that you can experience. With every language you learn, you are getting a glimpse into another life, another point of view, another culture, and that is priceless.
Have the best of luck, joy and happiness in your new journey! And please invite your wife more often, she has the loveliest voice :)

About my frustrations with French

Sebestyén Balázs
The longer I learn English, the more I think that this whole problem is more about psychology and social skills rather than grammar or vocabulary. We need more a good therapist than a teacher. My therapist is you, Luke, and this episode was a pretty successful session.
My understanding and speaking have improved over the years, but very slowly. More importantly, my attitude has changed. I don’t care anymore if I don’t understand something, or can’t express something accurately. If I can avoid high expectations from others and from myself, language learning is just learning anything else, like chemistry, literature or math. You would never say that you are frustrated because of your lack of knowledge in chemistry. So why should I frustrate myself because of the language? Yes, my English is rubbish, but my chemistry also, and on the other hand, I have a lot of other skills and values that can base my self-esteem.

Wesley
Hello Luke,
Are you doing all right? It’s been a long time since I last commented on your website. I listened to the reasons you’ve listed to explain why you’ve not reached a level of French where you would feel comfortable to get by and I believe they make sense.
As I see it, with all due respect, you’re another victim of the sway that the English language holds worldwide. English has developed to become such a powerful language that it is a no-brainer which language non-native speakers should learn other than their own. Non-native speakers have clearly a lot to gain, both professionally and culturally, from learning English. That decision has already been made for them.
However, when it comes to its monolingual native speakers, English is both a blessing and a curse. Native speakers don’t have to spend years of their lives worrying about getting very good at another language if they want to succeed in business, entertainment or academia. They’ve got the grammar, the vocabulary, the pronunciation, basically the whole package by a strike of what many English learners think is luck.
English speakers are just as good language learners as everyone else, but they carry a curse that is often overlooked. This curse is their own language. For a start, I don’t believe it is that straightforward for most teenagers living in the UK, the US or any other English speaking country which second language they should choose to learn. Is it Spanish, French, German or Mandarin? There’s enough research in psychology that backs the idea that when confronted with too many options, people will make poor decisions. After making their choice, people feel they have to stay motivated and overcome all the challenges that the new language poses: difficult grammar, tricky phonemes, unintelligible sounds. When any of those barriers makes itself seem insurmountable, there’s often the option to switch back to English. So, why learn another language if English enables them to get by?
Another factor is that the cultural industry in English floods the whole world with its productions. By doing so, it is the richest worldwide and, consequently, they have the money available to invest in expensive projects and sell them afterwards. This is a vicious circle that stifles low-budget local productions and makes them unattractive. Take Hollywood as an example. Although people all over the globe can be creative enough to match (and surpass) the quality of Hollywood, the sheer output of expensive blockbusters guarantees that there is little to no competition from films in other languages. Why would any native-English speaker learn another language if the biggest hits of the moment are in English?
Among other things, the answers to both questions I raised in the two last paragraphs constitute what motivates any English speaker to learn a second language: So, why learn another language if English enables them to get by? Why would any native-English speaker learn another language if the biggest hits of the moment are in English? While there’s good cause for some, for others there might be none.
Luke, I believe there are only two ways for you to overcome the frustration of learning French and to stop making (your very good) excuses. The first is to drop the idea of learning it entirely and face the consequences. I know it seems quite harsh, but we cannot deliberately motivate ourselves to do something we don’t feel like doing. We either feel it or we don’t, that’s the way it is.
The other way is to learn French once and for all. Even though I said in the previous paragraph that we cannot pretend to be motivated, sometimes we have to do things with no motivation at all. Humankind would be under serious threat if parents had to feel eager every time they woke up at night to check on the crying baby. And they recognise afterwards that the effort paid off. We will never do anything if we wait for the perfect conditions to fall into place – we live in a imperfect world after all.
I would also consider whether the material you’re using is suitable for your needs. I know you’re an English teacher with many years of experience, but I think we should take every material we use with a pinch of salt. Do the books you have meet your current needs? I’m saying this because most beginner materials I’ve used to learn English and other languages seem to hinder conversation. They postpone far too much things like conditionals, subordinate clauses, how to use ‘but’ and ‘because’. If I do not learn those things early on, I’ll not be able to show reasoning and, consequently, I’ll the dumbest person there can be speaking that language. Feeling dumb is one of the biggest confidence killers for language learners.
By the look of what you have told us, I would go for improving my conversation skills if I were you. This is what will give you the confidence boost you need to soldier on. You need to find someone who takes a professional approach to teaching conversational French and allows you to speak freely. Maybe a teacher on Italki, I don’t know, but definitely someone outside your social sphere. That way, you’ll be able to keep French learning issues and personal matters apart. The last thing you need here is to listen to judgemental people who don’t know what they are talking about. Please make as many mistakes as you can because Luke version 2.0 will not develop without them. Do a 30-day challenge of learning French and record yourself speaking every day to keep track of your progress.
I hope I might have been helpful somehow.
Best wishes for the whole family,
Wesley

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

506. One of Britain’s Favourite Poems

Elena • a month ago
I absolutely loved and enjoyed it! Thank you, Luke! And I do feel like an imposter now. I’ve decided to take a CAE preparation course. I passed the test which gave me the right to take the course but I can’t stop feeling that l’m much worse than others who is doing it🙈 but I hope that I’ll survive and get better!

507. UK comedy shows

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows


Hi Luke and everybody else,

that was another really good subject for an episode and I imagine that many of the listeners are comedy fans as well.
You mentioned some of my favourite British comedy characters, like David Brent and Alan Partridge. Only last year I discovered and particularly enjoyed some actors (and writers) from the IT Crowd’s cast, like Chris Morris, Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade, who I found out is also a quite talented director – I recommend ‘Submarine’.
I hope you’ll make a similar episode about interesting not-necessarily-comedy British radio shows, because I’m having some trouble finding any.

Also, I’d like to listen to you talk about the Flight of the Conchords and the kiwi accent sometime.

(About “Life’s Too Short” with Ricky Gervais) I’ve never watched a full episode of the show but I’ve seen this video an infinite number of times over the last 2 weeks and I can’t help laughing really hard every single time.

That clip of Liam Neeson on Life’s Too Short

508. 6 True Crime Stories from Victorian England (with Dad)

508. Six True Crime Stories from Victorian England, Told by My Dad

Jack
King, convey my regards to uncle Rick, please. And tell him that he is a very consummate and eloquent speaker and presenter.

509. What’s it all about? Philosophy & Language Learning

509. What’s it all about? (Philosophy and Language Learning)

Jose Miguel Carrizo • 20 days ago
I´m glad you chose philosophy as subjet of your podcast. Besides, you made it really amusing. Basically you talked about “how should we live?”. I prefer another topic: “know yourself”. Maybe it could be interesting for another podcast in the future. Cheers from Spain!
By the way, if you could hear my neighbour´s laugh, I bet it would change your mind about the most annoying laugh in the world. And besides he is actually crazy.

510. Philosophy Quiz with Amber & Paul

510. Philosophy Quiz (with Amber & Paul)

Eri
No episode is boring,Luke.
Thank you PodPALs, I enjoyed listening and playing same test with you.
I ended up with the same philosophical school of thought, “scepticism”.
When I first listened the episode 509, I was confused and I felt even if it was Japanese, I think I would struggle to understand.
But after the episode 510, 509 is more interesting to listen and I feel easier to understand.
WE NEED both FUN and SERIOUS episodes!

512. My Experiences of (not) Learning French [Part 2] Learning Language in a Classroom vs Learning On Your Own

Talking more about my experiences as a student of French, this time reading from notes I took during my French lessons (when I should have been focusing on the class!) and some considerations about learning a language in a classroom and learning on your own. Notes & transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript & Notes

Here’s part 2 of this episode about my experiences of (not) learning French. In the last one I talked about how I learned some French as a child and how I feel I’m not learning it as an adult, despite living in Paris and I made a load of excuses about it, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do of course – because excuses are no substitute for taking action.

In this episode the plan is to talk about some more experiences I had while learning French, specifically some lessons I took at a language school a few years ago in Paris. I wrote some thoughts in a diary while taking those lessons and I’m going to read out those thoughts and then discuss the relative benefits and drawbacks of learning a language in a classroom vs learning on your own using self-guided methods. There will also be some comments and reflections on teaching a foreign language to groups in a classroom environment.

First, some comments from listeners after the previous episode. My listeners are being very kind and understanding, as usual. I received quite a few messages – I can’t read them all out here but this is a selection. On the subject of receiving messages – I’m sorry if you have written to me and I haven’t got back to you. Please know that I do read everything I receive and I appreciate your thoughts and comments very much.

Cat

Luke, I find your lack of French disturbing. 😸

Just kidding.

It must be utterly difficult for you if everyone wants to make use of you as the best known English teacher on the Internet. :) Also your head is busy with all these millions of ideas for your podcast, the gigs and so on. There is almost no room in your brain left free for other languages. You are totally absorbed with creating quality content for your audiences. You shouldn’t be judging yourself too hard. You have your priorities and are doing great job. Now with raising your child bilingually you have the task to pass on to her the exquisite English you have. 👍
We should be doing things we enjoy and not do things that other people expect from us. That guy at the party had been downright rude, he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. 😸

Jack

C’mon King ! Don’t beat yourself (up) too much. Your French is much better than my English.

Nick

I’ve realized after listening to this ep. that I want to see a French beach!

Mj Moreno 
Funny title! 😂 I’m wishing to listen to the episode. [I’m hoping to listen to it / I’m looking forward to listening to it]

Cesar San Vicente Viñez 
Faut pas se décourager (don’t get discouraged)

Hi Luke,
Ne sois pas si dur avec toi !
I’m pretty sure that you can improve it ;)
Bon courage!
From a Parisian girl

Luke from Poland (?)

Hi Luke. Your story about drilling has inspired me to write a poem for you.
—————————————————
What about my neighbour’s drilling?
I have rather mixed feelings.
I know he just needs some holes
in his floor and in his walls
He needs even lots of drilling
In his ceiling.
But the next sound of a drill
makes me fight , makes me kill
and like a bloody beast
with bare hands, with clenched fists
I will enter his own flat
And I kill him with cold blood.
No !!! I’d rather stop this talk
and I am going for a walk….
—————————————————–
You may read it on the air and for sure it is going to save some lives of innocent neighbours. :-)

Some words & phrases

  • to beat yourself up
  • don’t be too hard on yourself
  • don’t get discouraged
  • self-flagellation (technically means whipping yourself as an act of self-punishment – but also a way to talk about excessive self criticism)

My experience of learning French in a classroom as an adult

The classroom experiences at Alliance Francaise. It’s a bit like the British Council but for French. They promote French culture and also offer French lessons.

So, a few years ago I went to Alliance Francaise to take some French lessons for a couple of weeks.

My wife bought me the lessons as a birthday present, and as an effort to get my French off the ground.

I wrote some notes while I was there. I recently found those notes. I have them here and I thought I’d just talk to you about them now, and try to remember what was running through my head in those classes.

I guess the point here is that I can reflect on my personal experience and generally make a few comments about learning a language in different contexts – paying particular focus to the classroom vs self-directed learning.

Being a student again.

Trying not to fall into all the typical student behaviour: not listening, arriving late, not doing homework and having rubbish excuses, asking unrelated questions, not paying attention to other classmates or listening to them, not really giving a crap about what’s going on, letting the teacher do all the work, not showing enthusiasm for work the teacher has clearly spent time and effort on preparing, not actually speaking French in the classroom, being shy with the other students and not wanting to talk to them, forgetting the book, not really going with activities that the teacher is attempting to set up, looking at my watch, yawning, complaining, judging the teacher on her appearance, etc.

Going for the level check

Got put in an A2 class. Probably because of accuracy, but I’m not really sure. I was never given a summary of my skills and problems.

Bought the book.

This is exactly like my normal experiences as a teacher, but from the other point of view.

Day 1

Joined a class that had already been studying together for a while.

Don’t remember doing much “getting to know you” at the start. I think it was just a quick introduction and then off we went. There were some people in the class I never spoke to at all.

Didn’t catch the teacher’s name at the start, and therefore it was lost forever. Why didn’t I just ask her?

What the class looked like.

Being late!!

Notes I wrote down during classes (when I should have been studying)

Good to see she’s keen. She makes excuses for being 2 minutes late and seems stressed.

Lots of photocopies. It’s very easy to get disorganised. It really helps if the photocopies are hole punched. I don’t mind if they’re not beautifully presented. They should be functional.

I wish she’d just let us talk freely, or try to talk freely!

Too much TTT. I’m very aware of this as a teacher in my own classes. A lot of her talking time is just lost on me. It feels very teacher oriented. She’s explaining a lot and spending a lot of time setting up activities, but I still don’t know what’s going on!

Teach the students, not the plan.

1 hour of pronunciation at the start of the class, with us trying in vain to pronounce certain vowel sounds. I suppose this is really important because mastering these different sounds can make a huge difference to your intelligibility in French. But we spend an awful lot of time on it and I wonder how useful it is. I wonder if perhaps it’s more important to develop fluency in the language, and to perhaps get some remedial correction. I’d like her to let us talk and perhaps listen to us and correct us a bit, and give us some much-needed encouragement. I desperately need encouragement. I really really need someone to tell me “Yes, that’s good! Well done, keep it up!” I can’t remember the last time anyone actually gave me positive feedback about my French. I’m in such a negative rut. I’d love it if she gave me more freedom, some praise and also some remedial correction.

She always expects perfection, but we need encouragement. Sometimes I’d like her to let us talk without interruption and perhaps correct us later. She won’t let us utter anything without it being perfect. I just feel like I’m slamming against a brick wall all the time. Maybe I’m too soft and I expect to just be great all the time. I’m too intolerant of failure. I’m too sensitive. Some of the best language learners I know can tolerate a lot of failure and just keep coming back for more, perhaps out of stubbornness or sheer bloody-mindedness. I need to toughen up a bit.

—— recording had to be abandoned at this point due to crying baby!

[Continuing the next day…]

I wonder which one is better: Loading all the grammar, vocab and pronunciation into the learner and then expecting them to produce correct language as a result, or letting the learner just struggle through with a focus on communication and then helping out in a remedial way.

I’m beginning to prefer the second option. I find it’s more responsive and even natural to emphasise the learner’s personal production of English and work from there, rather than inputting so much. I’m not here to gather information, I’m here to do things, to experiment, to make mistakes and do it my own way. Sometimes the classroom environment and teacher don’t let you own your English. But again, perhaps I’m expecting too much too soon and I might need to stop being so egotistical about it and accept my role as a learner in this situation and just get down to some good old-fashioned studying, and learn those verb conjugations. It’s quite humbling.

But back to the idea of the teacher controlling the class and using quite a rigid programme – being teacher-centred. You could argue that this is a problem from two different angles. Firstly, the teacher might rob the students of their independence, their natural tendency to just try to be understood and to communicate and to discover the language and make mistakes but to essentially “find their voice” in the target language. But also, learners might give up these things as they hand over responsibility to the teacher. In my experience, the best language learners are fiercely self-motivated and take full responsibility for their learning, but the language classroom situation tends to subconsciously cause learners to give up that responsibility to the teacher – so that if no progress is made, it’s the teacher’s fault, and if lots of progress is made – the teacher is a hero. But that ignores the fact that personal motivation might be the most important factor. So, perhaps the whole classroom situation encourages bad habits in learners, by taking personal responsibility away from the learners. Unless the teacher is particularly good, and knows this, and is always making sure that learners take responsibility for themselves while also giving them a structure and framework for learning. It’s hard to be a good teacher – you have to know when to be in charge of the class and be in control, and when to just get out of the way completely.

But then again, perhaps the classroom provides a space in which learners can basically get all the answers that they wouldn’t get if they were just out in the wild west of the real world, where nobody is there to lend a hand and it’s all just a question of survival. (sounds tough)

Anyway, the debate in my head here is about whether the teacher gets in the way of the learners, or is a vital agent in providing the learners with a moment-by-moment study plan.

All too often the teacher isn’t able to just get out of the way, and so you plough through more and more activities, being presented with language that you have to take on – which often leads to that feeling that as a student you’re kind of drowning. It might be nice to just spend some time asking the class some questions, seeing how the students answer them, and then take it from there, doing remedial work, allowing all the students to take part, giving us some discussion time with the corrected language, questions and phrases on the board. Going round, listening to us, gathering feedback to correct us afterwards. There’s not a lot of this happening, so I feel like the classroom situation is not being fully exploited.

This does require a particularly nimble teacher – one who is able to adapt on the spot and come up with feedback, drills, little practice exercises and questions that identify the specific problem the student has, how to remedy it and how to let the students practise it correctly. It also requires that the learners are able to go with the flow too. It’s often more practical to write a plan in advance and just stick to it rigidly regardless of whether the students are really on-board.

They have IWBs, which is nice.

The teacher is sweet, and she got hotter as the course went on.

Her efforts are very admirable. She intends to do an hour of pronunciation at the beginning of each class, and that has to be set up in quite a careful way, involving certain important stages in the exercises. So, she’s made an effort and has obviously spent time preparing this lesson. But a lot of her efforts are just torpedoed by late-comers or just students who seem a bit slow.

I’m aware of how it’s hard to be charming, funny or just yourself in another language. I think I must come across as quite different to my real personality, which is annoying, because I think my teacher and possibly other classmates don’t really understand what I’m saying and therefore who I am. I might give an example of what she’s saying but she doesn’t think it’s related – because I’m unable to specify what I’m talking about because of my poor French. It must seem like I’m not concentrating at all and I’m just rambling or trying to change the topic. I can see how easy it is to seem like a dickhead or a problematic student. Note: for my teaching I have to remember to always give my students a chance. Sometimes somebody will say or do something that I will find strange or perhaps rude. I have to remember that the language barrier often distorts people’s personalities. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t and you find people are the same in both languages. So, maybe I really am someone who doesn’t focus and talks without thinking and rarely makes sense, and perhaps even enjoys derailing things. I hope not.

But I find that I’m a bit weird. I have to explain myself a lot. My head goes faster than my mouth. I have a tendency to ramble and that’s because I;’m afraid that people don’t understand me so I repeat myself, so I must be pretty weird in class. I probably am a bit weird, but in English I’m quick enough to be able to flip that into being funny – I’m fast enough with the language to be able to manage my weirdness and make it humourous instead. In French, I’m just weird.

We do gap fills – paper exercises that are so common in language learning, but paper exercises don’t necessarily help in production of the language because you use different strategies for solving a gap fill exercise than producing fluent spontaneous speech.

Teacher has to be very patient and intuitive. Listening is so important for a teacher. We have to listen to our students, work out what they’re trying to say, and then give them the English they need to say that. Also, good activities are ones that present the students with a need to say certain things, so that they have to use the target language to complete the task. Then the teacher needs to pay attention to how we are completing the task, and give us the right feedback.

Sometimes the teacher thinks I don’t understand, or misunderstands me, but it’s just because I can’t explain myself properly. I feel like talking about what we’re talking about means that we’re communicating on some metaphysical level where you need meta-language to discuss the language you’re learning. It all gets terribly complicated.

U and OO sound – Imagine you’re being punched in the stomach. Imagine that your mouth is a chicken’s arse. These things totally don’t help me! It shows me how so much of our explanations are wasted if they aren’t truly clear. We have to always think from the students’ point of view. This is more about teaching than learning French isn’t it!

As a learner I get the impression I’m being told one thing about French, and then I go out and hear something different. I wonder “Are they lying or just unaware of how their own language is being used in the real world? Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.”

A lot of the time I have no idea what’s going on or what the teacher is talking about. I’m just constantly spinning in space. No idea what’s going on. I’m always right on the edge of understanding things. On the edge of my comfort zone.

It’s a humbling experience, and quite sweet too because everyone’s a bit shy and just trying to do their best, but I feel very stupid indeed.

Sometimes I just can’t explain why I don’t understand. I don’t have the ‘meta language’ to do describe what I don’t understand.

Organisation is vital in language learning. Keeping a good record of vocabulary and other learning notes – but it’s hard to stay organised when you have a busy life. Learning a language is a full-time thing. You really have to devote yourself to it. It can feel overwhelming, but with step by step practice you can do it.

Slow students in the class bring the whole level of the class down. Sometimes I think “Just leave them behind they’re dead to us!” But obviously the teacher can’t do that.

In a classroom environment everyone has a lot of responsibility to work with each other. You need quite a tight team to make the whole thing work.

I felt a weird sense of camaraderie with the teacher, because I’m a teacher too. She didn’t know this until the end. It was funny to be on the other side for a change.

At the end of the course I felt a weird emotional pull. It was a bit sad or something to be finishing the course. It was all too brief.

Learning English in the classroom vs Learning English on your own

In the Classroom

Positives:
Safe space
Teacher
Actual speaking and writing practice
Group means more varied activities and a chance to practise real communication, not just book work
Method
Programme
Text books
Tests
You can ask questions
Experiment
Other students
Learn with others / peer group / Community
Expert explanation of grammar
Correction
Exam classes
Learn from the mistakes of others – Hearing other people’s English can be a good thing
Competition
Teacher’s own material
Social life
Friends and memories
Nothing is stopping you from studying on your own as well – you can combine your private study routine with classroom study – and use the classroom as a safe space, a place to test yourself and have your questions answered
A way to ringfence several hours in the week for exclusive language practice. For some people it’s too hard to build it into the routine, so they just take classes so someone else can manage it.

Negatives:
Slower or faster than others – held back or confused. Weaker students drag you down to their level (but often these are opportunities to learn – they don’t have to be wasted moments)
Level difference (is it really a problem? The assumption is that you need to be with people who are higher than you, but this is a class, not just a social situation)
Personalities in class – sometimes the wrong balance of personalities means that nothing gets done properly
Class sizes – too big? Hard for the teacher to manage effectively, less STT
You have no control over various factors, like the topic or study point of the lesson, who speaks, what the interaction will be etc. You might get to influence that a bit, but you simply can’t expect it all to be done the way you want – it’s a group
Tendency to sit back and be spoon fed
Reduced responsibility
Reverting to the old mindset of being a pupil at school
Hearing other people’s English can be a bad thing, unless it is being corrected
TTT
Possibly annoying teacher!
Expensive & time-consuming
Choosing the right school
In your own country the students will probably be from your country – this can be an advantage in that you will share things more closely, but this can be a disadvantage in that there’s less variety and a lack of an ‘international mindset’ which is helpful in developing a broad mind and to practice speaking to other non-natives from around the world (and the chances are that these are the people you’ll be talking to anyway)

On your own

Positives:
You can use all the things I’ve ever mentioned on the podcast to create your own personalised study plan, or any other techniques or materials that you know. The world of language learning is your oyster.
There’s plenty of free stuff for learning English now
You can work out what’s best for you
Set your own schedule
You don’t have to go at someone else’s pace
You don’t have to go to someone else’s place!
If you’re organised, you can build a study plan that is tailored to you specifically
Massive amount of online stuff available including 1-2-1 lessons, e.g. with italki
Plenty of grammar practice and explanation online
You can surround yourself with English by using things like podcasts, books, italki etc
Take all the responsibility yourself
Cheap
Ultimately, this is the only way because nobody can learn a language for you. Whatever approach you choose you’ll always have to be responsible for your own learning.

Negatives:
There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders because you’ve got to do it all yourself and keep yourself motivated
You have to be extremely organised and devoted
You have to be able to manage your time and your workflow yourself, and let’s face it most of us need a helping hand
It’s hard to build learning English into everything you do even though that’s probably what you need to get to the higher levels
There’s no teacher to correct your mistakes and give you a plan
It can be lonely
Nobody to actually talk to unless you go online
Materials – which ones?
No guidance or advice from teacher or others – or at least it’s difficult to find – support network

In the end – the classroom is a resource which you have to learn to use. It can be a convenient way to get English practice into your life.

But ultimately, whatever the situation – personal motivation and your approach to what you do – these are the most important things. If you have the right level of motivation, you can use the classroom to your advantage, but it is limited. Outside of class you’ve got more freedom, but that can often result in you doing nothing. Classroom situations give you a bit more focus.

Learning in a classroom is just part of what you can do.

It works really well for lots of people, but not well for others.

It’s all about how you approach it.

In the end – you have to get to know yourself and your own ways of learning.

If classroom learning suits you, go for it – but make sure you use that classroom as a resource and get the most from it.

If classroom learning doesn’t work for you – that’s ok but you need to be very motivated, disciplined so you develop habits in your own time, but you have to be quite organised for that.

I could go on…

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this. It has helped me to reflect on my French a bit. I feel a bit better now actually. I think my French is improving, just very slowly indeed – not as quickly as I’d like and it feels overwhelming, but I must remember the example of the elephant. How do you eat an elephant? Just one spoon at a time – but you do have to eat regular spoons – one spoon at a time, as often as you can and enjoy it too! I’ve no idea how an elephant tastes, but since this is just a metaphor, let’s say the elephant is made of the finest Belgian chocolate, shall we?

I also just want to say how impressed I am by those of you out there who have improved your English to a good degree. Many of my listeners – that’s you- you have developed your English really well, often starting from a very basic level and not living in an English-speaking environment and I’m really proud of you. This takes dedication, work, time and effort. I’m also impressed by those of you who have learned English using my podcast. Many of you listen until the end of episodes, you follow me banging on about stuff, you write carefully worded comments and emails, you send voice messages, and of course outside of podcast-related things I’m sure you do plenty of other things that I’m not aware of in order to push your English further and further, even when it’s difficult. You’ve done so well and I just want you to know that I’m really impressed and proud of you. I know the challenge – believe me – so I’m really impressed and proud of you and also flattered that you choose to listen to my episodes as part of your English language lifestyle. There must be moments when you’re listening to my episodes where you’re lost, confused you’ve kept going – and it’s bound to help and I’m sure it has. Well done.

Thanks for listening.

Additional notes (not used in the episode)

Let me remind you of those three things. Just consider how your learning involves these things:

Motivation
Just how motivated are you to learn the language you want to learn? Where does that motivation come from? Is it external (e.g. I feel I should learn it for other people or other reasons) or is it internal (I really want to learn it for myself). Motivation is like the driving force that you need to power your entire learning process. It’s probably the most important thing, because where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Habit
What are the things that you’re actually doing in English? Examine your habits. The main thing is that English practice is in your life as a habit. Habitual practice – regular things – every day probably. But think about those habits too. How many of those things are: Productive (involving you producing English in speaking or writing) Receptive (involving you just consuming English by listening or reading) Regular (on a regular basis – every day if possible) and long (longer than just a few minutes really). Habit is one of the most important things because it makes sure that language learning becomes a regular part of your day. It’s hard to change your lifestyle, so it’s important to try and get into the habit of doing things but little by little. That can mean just spending 10 minutes a day on English. When that has become a fixed habit, you can build on it and push towards longer periods. If you’re already maxing out your English in terms of time, think about pushing towards more intensive productive practice, like writing and speaking.

Resources
What are the things you’re using to learn English? Are there any other things you could get into your life? How can you really exploit them fully? Some simple examples:
LEP – you’re listening, but do you check the episode pages, take the vocab in the lists, read the transcriptions, check out the videos and other links I recommend?
Books – are you reading books at all? If you never finish the books you read in English – consider buying shorter books or graded books (E.g. Penguin Readers) which are appropriate for your level. Do you note certain words or phrases that you discover in the books you read? Are you choosing books that really interest you, or books that you think you should read? Are you choosing books filled with complex old-fashioned language, or books that contain more normal every day English?
Films and TV – do you sometimes watch an episode several times with and without the subtitles? Do you ever repeat the things you hear? Do you make note of new bits of language? Do you go back to those notes and test yourself? Do you record yourself saying things?
italki – get some lessons or conversations. This can be a good way to get proper, real-life communicative practice into your routine. Don’t be shy – give it a try.

501. Merry Christmas! / Listener Correspondence

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, giving some news and responding to some messages from listeners about vocabulary lists, pronouncing “can’t” without sounding rude and more…


Pic (c) Jairo

[DOWNLOAD]

Episode Notes

Hello! Merry Christmas!
Seasons Greetings
Happy Holidays
All the best for the festive season

Here’s episode 501 and really the point of this is that I just want to say “Hi”, wish you all the best, share a bit of news and read through some listener correspondence.

Baby news – still nothing. Both the baby and my wife are fine and in good health, but no signs of labour yet. Apparently this is quite common for a first child. Fingers crossed in any case.

Also, this probably means that our daughter will have her birthday on Christmas Day or boxing day or later, which is not ideal for her (because people don’t care after Christmas, Christmas will overshadow the birthday etc, but it’s possible to make up for it by perhaps having an “official birthday” like the Queen – later in the year).

Listener correspondence

Another message from Jesus. (Not that one)

Original message (read out in episode 500)

Name: Jesus

Message: Hi Luke, I´m one of your ninjas who has decided to come out of the shadows.

My name is Jesus and I´ve been listening regularly to your podcast for three years. I´ve never written something like this before, and forgive me, because I´m not much of a writer.

Your podcast has been the soundtrack of many of my trips, running sessions, moments of ironing, cleaning, and especially cooking. I put my earphones on, and the magic flows in the kitchen.

In a way, you´ve been there in the good moments and also in the bad moments, sadly I´ve been through those lately. Listen to you during that time helped me to move on, and also to improve my understanding of your language and culture.

Now it has also inspired me to work on a new project, it´s something related with cooking. I´m not going to tell you more because the project is still in diapers (got it? pfff I know, it sucks…) I promise you´ll have more news if it gets to something real.

In any case I just want to thank you a lot for all the effort that you put into the podcast and wish you and your wife nothing but the best for the new challenge that you have ahead. You are a great guy, and great people deserve the best.

May the force be with you. Jesus.

Response from Jesus

Name: Jesus

Message: Hi Luke, this is Jesus again.
First off all, I didn’t mind that you read my message. I wasn´t sure that you would read it, since you are very busy these days, but what I wasn´t expecting was you giving me a few minutes in such a special episode.
I know that for you it may be a little thing but it meant a lot to me, in fact, today is my birthday ( that´s right, it´s not the 24th…hehehe), so I´ve considered your gesture as THE birthday present.

I´d like to share something with your audience that it may interest them. You were saying that there are some topics ,like religion, were you have to be careful in order to not offend anybody. Well I think that as long as you are respectful and don´t cross the line with your jokes it´s all right.

Once, I was living in Edinburgh, I went there to learn english, I thought if I go for the hard one the rest would be easy.

Let me tell you that it wasn´t easy but I love the Scots.

In there, everybody had the same reaction that you had when hearing my name, or reading it, because most of the times I had to show my ID for them to believe it.

Thanks to that I wasn´t so nervous when english speakers were talking to me, they were always joking, making me feel more confident and suddenly I was speaking with them.

If you are nervous and trembly when speaking a different language, try to find something funny in common with the other person, if you don´t find anything, whisky helps.
Luke, as I told you before, it´s my birthday. I´m 32, may this be the last one? who knows…just in case I will live it to the maximum.

You said, you don´t get an email from Jesus everyday, well you don´t get to be heard by such an audience like yours everyday either.

I don´t know if you are going to read this, but if you do, this is my birthday present for the world…

Forget your f*cking ego, and use the energy that you use to think of yourself to empathize a little bit with the person next to you. We need to stop all the b*llshit, and work together because the resources are not inexhaustible ( the last part is a message from a friend called Esther, it´s a message inside a message, she also wanted to say something to the world…).

I guess that this is what rumble feels like Luke, I´m kidding, of course.

Merry Christmas, Jesus.

Huxi – Vocabulary Lists

Hi, it’s Huxi.

I absolutely love your Podcast. Thank you for sharing all this info through transcripts and vocab lists.

Talking about lists, Would it be possible to keep posting them? I personally find them incredibly valuable for reviewing, by placing them in Anki as flashcards.

Thanks a lot!

Kristin – Vocabulary Lists

Name: Kristin

Message: Dear Luke,

Before asking a question, I want to give you a big Thank You for providing us learners of English such helpful and valuable material! :-)

I want to relate to episode 496 “Ramblecast”, in which you talk about methods of learning a language and emphasise that just repeating word lists does not make a lot of sense.

Weeell, in fact I have known that, but the problem is that, during the last 2 years, I gathered 117 lists containing 100 words respectively, so about 12,000 words. Until a year or so I managed to revise the words I had until then regularly, but now it’s become too much. To cut a long story short, I am sort of obsessed with learning words, because I just wish to get better, as I love English so so much. Whenever I read an article or a book or watch something on Youtube I kind of feel obliged to look up new words and write down on my lists. It’s depressing, though, that I realize after a few weeks that I just haven’t remembered them.

My question is: Do you know if it’s somehow scientifically confirmed (or what do you personally think about it?) that people learn a language and become more fluent by reading books, listening to audiobooks and watching films without writing down and learning and repeating all the words? I just can’t imagine that I could ever memorise all the new words I pick up by dealing with English material.

Sorry for this long text, but I think I’m going to send it now anyway, because I’m currently at work and have no more time to write it once again in a shorter version.

I would be very grateful and happy if you could send me a little answer whenever you have time.

Thank you so much in advance!

Kristin

Luke’s response

Hi Kristin,

This is a great question. Please don’t think that your efforts in collecting vocabulary has been a waste of time. I’m sure it hasn’t been. I think that your approach to saving words is probably evidence of your motivation to learn and your mindfulness of language while reading and listening. Perhaps just the act of recording the words in a list (words you’ve already encountered in context) could help you acquire them.

But there are other things you could and perhaps should be doing with the words, for example adding meaningful sentences in your list for each word. This can help you remember them. Also consider how you’re revising the word lists. What are you doing as you go through the list? Are you testing yourself and trying to reproduce those words in meaningful ways?

Also, it might be wise to take a selective approach. Instead of recording all the new words you encounter, you could just pick ones that you think are more useful or common. Don’t try to consume too much. Let some words go. You’ll remember more if you try to remember less. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

Also you could try googling those words and looking at the way they are used in the news (select the news tab in google results). That can reinforce the words for you.

As for the scientific studies you asked about. I don’t think there is 100% reliable scientific proof that one particular method works better than another. There are theories, like Language Acquisition Theory by Stephen Krashen and other theories too.

I think the best source of info on this probably comes from successful language learners. You could check out Olly Richard’s Podcast and blog at iwillteachyoualanguage.com He has some good methods and advice for remembering vocabulary. That might help. You could also ask him your question and he might answer it on his Podcast. I would also like to tackle your question on the podcast if I manage to fit it into my upcoming episodes! Your mail is now saved in my to-do list.

I hope my answer helps a bit although I haven’t given a fully fleshed-out response with specific steps you can take.

As a final thought, it seems that your English is really good, with a wide range of vocabulary. So perhaps your method has worked well despite what I said on the Podcast.

In the end, applying yourself to language learning, being motivated and having some kind of system – these are the things that make the difference regardless of what form they take. It doesn’t matter – in language learning all roads lead to Rome. You just have to make sure you’re always moving.

All the best,

Luke

Kristin’s response

Dear Luke,

Thank you so much for your detailed e-mail! I was very blown away by your deep thoughts about my question and I really appreciate your tips. You are probably right, it depends on HOW one tries to learn new words – just by provided lists in a book for students or by self-made lists containing words from specific contexts that one is able to relate to. I also realised that through writing down almost every new word my listening skills have improved a lot, as I’m able to recognise words better. On the other hand, I really SHOULD select at least a little bit, you’re very right in that. Since it is just frustrating to realise that after a few weeks I can’t remember anymore what I learnt.

Olly Richard’s podcast and googling are good tips, thanks for these!
Also, my English language exchange partner from England learns with Memrise nd finds it quite enriching, maybe I’m gonna have a look into it when I find the time (Christmas holidays are approaching ;-) ).

Thank you for the compliment about my English. My written English is quite good I guess, but my spoken English is sadly another story, as the little additional moment to think about the words is missing and I can’t often remember the words in the particular moments.

My dream is to go to England next year in summer for a few months. My New Year’s Resolution let’s say ;-)

Have a great Christmas and all the best to you, your wife and your almost-born baby!

Cheers,

Kristin

Serdar – Becoming a Dad

Name: Serdar

Message: Hello Luke.

I had once contacted you via this form but you didn’t reply. Hope you see this one this time. I have been listening to your podcasts over a year and really enjoying it a lot as well as learning many new vocab. So thanks for your contribution to those who thrive by learning. Recently I listened to a podcast of yours titled becoming dad and found out that you would become dad quite soon. Don’t know when you recorded it so you may even be holding your lovely baby now.

I know you have been told so many times that how difficult parenting is. As a father of 3 year old,I bet you all of it is true but i would like to emphasise how wonderful being a dad is. They used to tell me that my life would completely change after becoming dad and they’d say this change would be positive. Now I totally agree with my friends that there is no such feeling compared to being a dad. It is the greatest thing to happen to a man. I can’t even believe that there are words to express this. I couldn’t do it in my native language either. you must experience it ( maybe you have just started to ) At first weeks you really don’t know what’s happening. You look at a baby but still don’t have any idea about how it feels like a dad. It gradually starts, and this magnificent feeling gets extensive day by day and you finally find yourself and your toddler talking to each other one day. you start enjoying every single day, you rush back home to see them as soon as possible.

I even remember untying my shoe lashes in elevator just to gain few seconds! you look at their pictures when you are away. you keep thinking about them. I don’t know if you have ever fallen in love truly like mad but this overshadows it without doubt. It is much more intense than love. there is no word describing your love for your child. Although some days, especially when you are exhausted, or sleep deprived you will face to the hardest part of parenting, you will still stand up and go for it. even when you have %1 battery left :)
I hope you share your experience in a podcast. If you reply me letting me know about it, I’d be so happy.
Thanks again and good luck :)
Serdar, Istanbul

Message from Kei – Pronouncing “can’t”

Gleidson from Brazil

I’d like to see you online in video conference, would be really interesting. And I suggest you give some links to us practice grammar in sites as British Council, BBC English learning or so on related to the current episode podcast. It’s a great chance for us to practice grammar.

Your accent is really clear for us students. Don’t fear about share something about your personal life, for me, it makes your podcast quite personal and friendly.
This is the positive point for your podcast and a good way to share some vocabulary to a specific occasion, as wedding ceremony, childbirth, baptism, Christmas celebrations and so on

I am living in Ireland for 4 months, but I listen to you since as was living in my country (I have to thanks to a Brazilian friend of mine that shows me your podcast).

I wish all the best to you.
Keep posting your amazing podcasts and thanks again.

Send a warm Hello to all Brazilian that listening to you.

(sorry for English mistakes, I am learning, so I can not write in English as a write in my native language yet).

Kind regards,
See you.

VP – Withnail & I episode.
Hiya everyone! This is my first comment ever. #497 is so cool an episode I couldn’t keep a low profile anymore! First of all, I want to thank you tremendously, Luke, for all you’ve done for us lovers of English. Your podcast means a lot and it’s extremely helpful for me in my effort to keep learning the language all by myself now. I’ve been listening to LEP for quite a while, and it’s always ace but this time that was something special. The thing is, Withnail &I is one of the most hilarious and unique British films I’ve watched. Boy, was I chuffed when I saw the name of a new episode! I guess I found this film after I’d seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which perhaps has something in common with Withnail&I. Indeed, I failed to enjoy the film from the start, but its dialogues, humour and Richard E.Grant’s superb performance made me grow fond of it finally! By the way, I also like ‘How to Get Ahead in Advertising’ with this actor and am a huge fan of Mike Leigh’s works, ‘Naked’ featuring David Thewlis, for instance. Has any of you LEPsters seen any of those movies, by any chance? I wonder what British people think of Leigh’s films.
P.S. The description of a person who likes Withnail&I was merciless!

Marta KL • 19 days ago
I’ve just downloaded the film (with subtitles – I don’t think I’m able to make it without them) – looking forward to watch it in the next days.
Btw I have just noticed that James’s voice is quite similar to your dad’s voice :)
Thanks for the new episode, cheers!
Luke Thompson
Yep – he’s a chip off the old block
Hope you enjoy the film.
Cat
Could one say ‘He is a chop off the old wood’ as well?
Luke
Nope!

**UPDATE: Technical problems with the website :( **

I’m having some technical problems with my website at the moment. Some pages are not displaying properly and this is also affecting the Disqus comment system, so the comment section might be unavailable. Sorry! I hope to have it fixed soon.

500. EPISODE 500 CELEBRATION! (PARTS 1 & 2)

Celebrating 500 episodes of LEP with a mega-ramble featuring lots of messages from listeners, expressions of gratitude, a cool announcement for all my listeners, some singing, some talk of becoming a dad, the future of the podcast, Star Wars, and loads of fun and good times. Thank you for listening! Parts 1 & 2 are both available on this page.

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[DOWNLOAD PART 1] [DOWNLOAD PART 2]

Thank you to everyone who took part in episode 500 by sending me a message.

This became a massive celebration. I didn’t expect to receive so many messages. Thank you for all of your kind words, support, and joyful sentiments. I really appreciate it!

Thank you for listening to my podcast all these years. It means a lot to me. I’m looking forward to making more episodes in the future. Seasons greetings for the festive period and have a Happy New Year!

The Luke’s English Podcast APP is NOW AVAILABLE

Get the app on your phone. Download links below.

This is the best way to keep up with episodes of the podcast and get access to special app-only content.

All episodes of LEP are available in the app – every archived episode, all new releases and some exclusive app-only content. Also, check out the bonus gifts and easter eggs, pdfs and more…

Download Luke’s English Podcast App from the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store or the Microsoft App Store. Links below.

 iPhone/iPad – APPLE APP STORE |ANDROID – GOOGLE PLAY STORE 📱

Description

This is the most convenient way to access all episodes of Luke’s English Podcast on your iPhone, including special bonus episodes only available in the app.

This app gives you complete access to Luke’s English Podcast and if you’re a fan of the show you will not want to live without it!

The app contains the following features:
* Option to stream or download all episodes for offline listening
* Access to exclusive app-only episodes and pdfs
* Episode notes and transcripts available in the app
* Always updated with the latest episodes – and the full episode archive
* You can *star* your favourite episodes and save them to a list in order to easily enjoy them over and over again
* Speed control so you can listen faster or slower if you want
* Skip forwards or backwards by 30 seconds if you missed something
* Sleep timer so you can fall asleep to my voice without missing anything!
* Playback resume (when interrupted by a call or other distraction)
* Quick access to all the contact methods for Luke like email, website, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t be a ninja! Send me an email through the app whenever you want.

Thank you for downloading this app and supporting the show!

Luke

Luke’s English Podcast is a free audio podcast for learners of English as a foreign language, hosted by Luke Thompson – a comedian and English teacher from London, UK. Listen, learn and have fun while picking up natural British English as it really is spoken.

496. RAMBLECAST

Rambling about life, learning English, Star Wars, screwing up paper into a ball and more…

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Here’s a rambling episode with a few bits of news and some tangents.

Episode 500 – Please send me your voice messages

Please send me a 30 second voice message to luketeacher@hotmail.com

Tell me your name, where you’re from and something else.

Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Penguin Readers https://www.pearsonelt.com/tools/readers.html#productComponents

493. Catching Up with Amber & Paul #7 (Human Pollution)

Amber and Paul are back on the podcast as we catch up with their recent news and the conversation goes off on many tangents covering subjects such as: pollution and fog in Paris, a possible new word – ‘pog’, other potential new words of the year, Harvey Weinstein, wanking in the office, ‘human pollution in the swimming pool’, Paul’s recent showbiz news, seeing The Rolling Stones on stage and a slightly worrying email from a LEPster. Includes a cameo appearance by young Hugo, saying his first words on the podcast.

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Episode Notes

This is quite a disgusting episode at certain moments. There’s talk of masturbation and poo. Please prepare yourself accordingly.

  • The pollution and fog in Paris.
  • Potential new words of the year for 2017.
  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal.
  • The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast with Stuart Goldsmith (and Reginald D Hunter)
  • Wanking (masturbating) in the Office (Big Train) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKH9ECC_Qa4
  • What’s Amber been doing?
  • A play date
  • “Human pollution” in the swimming pool.
  • Having to wear “speedos” or “budgie smugglers” in the swimming pool in France
  • How to fix technical issues:
    • Blow on it
    • Take the batteries out and put them back in again
    • Turn it off and turn it back on again
    • Leave it for a bit
  • Blowing at a hairdryer (they do get a bit clogged up at the back)
  • “Poo-l-lution”
  • What’s Paul been doing?
  • Touring around different cities in France
  • Making episodes of What’s Up France?
  • PHOTO OF PAUL’S SOCK
  • Seeing The Rolling Stones on their European Tour

A slightly worrying email from a LEPster

iñaki Sanchez
I really hate you and your podcast lucky Luke. Let me explain it please. I usually listen to certain podcasts like culips, vaughan radio etc. Those are very good podcasts and I have lived happily with them for quite a long time. I do not know yet how it came to my mind to find something else and here you are. Finally I found you….. or I´d better say I found your podcast. It seemed to be nice and I started using it. After a while I got hooked and started downloading all your podcasts.
It was then that I became horrified by the fact that there are around 500 episodes. I have to recognize they are quite good, to be honest they are very good…. Let´s say the truth they are awesome and that is the bad thing. I discover myself listening your episodes from the very beginning. As I cannot listen to more than 1 episode a day I reckon I will be doing it for good….. or maybe for bad because you are going to be the cause of my divorce.
My wife has begun accusing me of a lack of attention. Even my cat is angry with me now.
My neighbours look at me strangely, and I don´t know if I have to say I hate you or I love you. What do you recommend me Luke? Tell me the truth, because I trust you. Should I get divorced or just keep on listening to your marvelous podcasts. In the meantime here I am on the fence waiting impatiently for your answer. Could I ask you please not to do so well so that I can hook off [unhook from, or just “get off” if it’s a drug or “clean up”] and come back to life?
I think I am going bananas and this letter is the evidence. Help me Si´l vous plait and do not do it so well, because your podcast is driving me mad.
Cheers
Iñaki from the Basque Country

Luke Thompson
Just get divorced.
Either that, or you try to convert your wife to the podcast. Have you tried that?
Try it, and if it doesn’t work – divorce.
;) :) :)

Why does the UK have so many accents? (Recorded February 2017)

This episode was originally recorded in February 2017 and is being uploaded in August 2017. In this episode I’m going to answer several questions from listeners about accents, including how regional accents occur in the UK and why there are so many accents there. Video available.

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Video – I’m not sick, I’m English, and it was winter. ;)

uk accents

There is a very wide variety of accents in the UK (not to mention the accents you find in other English-speaking countries like Ireland, Canada, the USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more. English is a hugely diverse language and in my experience foreign learners of English don’t usually know a lot about the different accents – particularly all the regional varieties in the UK, and they often just find it difficult to understand them, and as a result learners of English can’t enjoy the great variety of sounds in English and the sheer diversity of character and personality you get from the different varieties of English, and therefore it’s worth talking about on the podcast.

This is such a big subject that to do it justice would require me to write a whole book about it. Instead I just do episodes about accents fairly regularly in an effort to cover as much of the topic as possible. For example, I recently did some episodes about British accents that you hear in the Lord of the Rings films, which gave me a chance to talk about the different associations we have with different accents in the UK and how those associations were used to provide some colour and character to the movie versions of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings stories. I also did episodes about the accents you might hear in Glasgow and I spoke to Korean Billy about regional dialects and accents too.

Since uploading those episodes I’ve noticed a few comments from listeners wondering why there are so many accents in the UK, so I’ve prepared this episode which I hope will help you understand that a bit more.

The plan, in this episode (or episodes) is to talk about these things:

  • Why there are so many accents in the UK
  • How our accents develop as part of a natural psychological process
  • What this means for learners of English and teachers of English

Also, we’ll listen to someone speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you understand it

So, this episode is about the way people speak, but it’s also about history, psychology, how to learn English, what my friends sound like, and how to understand a football player from Liverpool.

How are all those things connected? Listen on and you’ll find out!

Why do we have so many accents in the UK? (Communication Accommodation Theory)

One of the things I said in those episodes about LOTR was that there is a really wide variety of accents in the UK, and that your accent reveals lots of things about you such as where in the country you’re from and what social background you come from.

Remember, when I say “Accent” this means simply the way that you pronounce the words you’re using.

If you remember, one of the things I mentioned in one of those episodes was a quote from George Bernard Shaw, which said “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”, George Bernard Shaw.

This gives the impression that we all hate each other of course, and I don’t agree. The point which is made by this quote is that we all have prejudices about each other’s accent and this is an expression of the class system probably. That middle class people probably look down on people with strong regional accents and resent people who speak with very posh accents and so on…

Here’s a comment from Nick in response to those episodes.

Nick 2 hours ago – [These bits in brackets are Luke’s comments]
What a complicated life there in the UK… Everybody resents each other because of their accents… [we don’t resent each other really, but we do judge each other a bit – we also love each others accents too] Wow I never thought that accents in the UK had such an important role in people’s lives. [Yes, they’re very important indicators of our identity – but they’re also a source of great fun, joy, amusement and celebration] Luke, thanks for this episode. You opened up the UK in a new way for me. Even though I knew about different accents in the UK (and from your podcast too) I somehow didn’t realize the deep meaning of accents in English life.
But I don’t really understand how it happened that you have so many accents in quite a small area. I can understand that different levels of society may have different words in their vocabulary, but why they should have SUCH different accents especially when they live in one city or region… maybe it was people’s desire to make something with the language, or at least with pronunciation in order to be somehow unique from others. Like different groups of people or subcultures dress in different clothes or different nations have their own folk costumes.

This is a really good question and there are so many interesting aspects to the answer. I’m now going to try and deal with that question.

Why do we have so many accents in the UK?

It could be explained by “Communication Accommodation Theory” or CAT for short.

Collins dictionary: “Accommodation” 3. countable noun
Accommodation is a kind of agreement between different people which enables them to exist together without trouble. (not a written agreement, but a social or psychological tendency to come closer to each other and form communities based on shared behaviour)

Communication Accommodation Theory suggests that the way we communicate is an expression of our desire or natural tendency to become part of a social group.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_accommodation_theory (Wikipedia)

E.g. When I was living in Japan I picked up a lot of the body language because I wanted to fit in, basically. I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

That’s non-verbal communication, but we’re talking about verbal communication.

Also, it’s not just limited to individuals. Imagine whole communities of people, over many many generations being affected by this process.

scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-is-for-accommodation/ (Thornbury)

This could explain:

  • Why there are so many different accents associated with different regions in the UK
    For example, why people in Liverpool speak differently to people in Manchester, or why the ‘cockney’ dialect came about (more on this kind of thing in a bit)
  • Why we naturally change the way we speak depending on the people around us
  • Why speaking to a diverse range of people is very good for your accent
  • Why native English speakers sometimes change the way they speak when talking to foreigners – e.g. when travelling or meeting a foreign person.

The tendency is to unconsciously adapt.

I’m going to try and deal with all these things, but not quite in that order!

Why native speakers sometimes adapt their language when talking to foreigners
According to Scott Thornbury (a well-known teacher and author of teaching materials and a bit of a legend in the world of English teaching) there are two versions – ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’.

“This is especially obvious in the way we talk to children and non-native speakers, [using] forms of talk called ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’, respectively. Both varieties are characterized by considerable simplification, although there are significant differences. Caretaker talk is often pitched higher and is slower than talk used with adults, but, while simpler, is nearly always grammatically well-formed. Foreigner talk, on the other hand, tolerates greater use of non-grammatical, pidgin-like forms, as in ‘me wait you here’, or ‘you like drink much, no?’”
I’ve seen this happening to some English teachers. They adapt their speech to the students, speaking this weird form of English that’s easy for foreigners to understand but might not be helping them learn.

It’s really difficult to judge it correctly as a teacher. How much do you grade your language, and how do you do it? It’s important to speak correctly – meaning in the sort of full English that you normally would use and in the same way that most native speakers talk to each other, while making sure it’s comprehensible. If you’re too ‘natural’ your students won’t understand you. But if you simplify your English too much, you end up doing this ‘foreigner talk’ which is just not a good model of the language.

I guess this is part of being a good teacher; knowing how to strike the balance between being comprehensible and yet also realistic and natural.

I always try to keep these things in mind when I speak. It’s probably why my voice becomes more and more like standard RP, which I think is just generally accepted to be clearest version of the language, and that’s how I was brought up to speak by my parents. That’s not to say other versions of the language aren’t correct of course, and as I’ve said many times before I love the different accents.

Do I accommodate when I talk to native speakers with different accents?

Yes I do – a bit – I mean, only to accents that are a part of me. I have a few slightly different accents in me and my speech slides in slightly different directions depending on who I am with. They’re not radical changes because I’m still being myself, but my speech does change a little bit. When I’m back in Birmingham my speech becomes a bit more Brummie. When I’m in London it does the same. Only a little bit of course. This is totally normal.

It’s also why it’s important to speak to other people on this podcast because it’s in the interaction with others that language really becomes most alive and natural. When I’m talking to you on my own I speak in my neutral voice, but when I’m in conversation with others you might hear my voice changing slightly. You might not notice to be honest because it’s a pretty mild change. Perhaps it doesn’t happen that much because I am still aware that I’m being listened to by my audience.

For example, when I spoke to Rob Ager from Liverpool about movies last year, my accent didn’t change that much. But maybe if I’d spent the weekend in Liverpool, just hanging out and talking, my accent might have changed a little bit.

When I lived in Japan I spent a lot of time working with people from Australia and apparently I picked up some of accent – particularly the rising intonation pattern. So, the conclusion – I do accommodate a bit, but usually to an accent that I have personal history with, and only if I’m exposed to it for fairly long periods of time and when I’m feeling self-conscious it happens less.
Certainly when I’m back in Birmingham my accent changes a bit, because that’s where I spent a lot time when I was younger.

Cat’s question: What are Paul and Amber’s accents?
Amber & I are pretty similar. It’s just RP. Paul speaks RP too but with a bit more local influence. He’s from Kent so he speaks with some traces of a Kentish accent – e.g. glottal stops. “Native speaker” “Excited” Maybe some “th” sounds sound a bit like “d” or “v” sounds.

Some people seem to think that his voice is influenced by French. It’s isn’t.

That kind of influence would only happen if French was Paul’s first language, and he’d learned English as a second language in adulthood. That’s not the case – in fact to an extent he learned both languages while growing up. He’s certainly native level in English, and he probably is native level in French too. He certainly sounds it. So, because he’s got, basically, two native level languages, they exist independently in his head and therefore don’t influence each other much in terms of accent. Every now and then it influences his vocabulary but he instantly recognises it and self-corrects. You might have heard him do it on the podcast sometimes.

Paul speaks very clearly, which is evident in the way people always tell him that they can understand what he’s saying. His English accent is influenced more by where he grew up in the south-east of England and by the wide variety of people he’s spoken to in his life. He spent many years travelling with Apple, studying and living in different parts of the UK. RP again is probably the default setting for someone like Paul, when trying to speak clearly, but those glottal stops and some dropped consonant sounds reveal that his most formative time for English was in Canterbury, and he is also not the sort of person to listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4.
Paul is also a natural mimic. He’s able to hold different accents in his head at the same time and switch between them. He’s something of a chameleon in that way. Put him in with a bunch of Scottish people for a long time and he’d probably emerge with traces of that accent I expect. Anyway, when he’s with Amber and me his accent is pretty much like ours but with traces of his Kentish background, which is why he says “Native speaker” like that.

So, that’s a bit about ‘accommodation theory’ in relation to my friends and me.
What about Nick’s original question about the diversity of accents in the UK. I’m going to talk more specifically about that in a moment.

But first let’s check out a funny example of a professional footballer from Liverpool who moved to France to play for Olympique de Marseille football club.

Now this is an example of an English person accommodating to French people around him, and we see that this is certainly not happening to Paul Taylor

Joey Barton’s weird French accent

Who is Joey Barton? What was the situation?

Joey Barton speaking with this weird French voice

He was heavily criticised for this – a lot of people mocked him and called him stupid.
He’s definitely not stupid. Maybe he wasn’t aware of the different ways he could have changed his voice – e.g. speaking with RP probably just wasn’t something that would occur to him. This lad is a scouser through and through. He’s not going to start speaking RP – he’s going to accommodate to the French instead.

The reason he’s doing it, as explained by accommodation theory is to make it easier for the French journalists to understand him. His scouse accent is difficult for the French to understand. He was just trying to be intelligible and he ended up accommodating to their speech.

Also he did it to win social approval. I imagine being the only English guy there, in front of all those French journalists, with the pressure of playing for this big club and not speaking French, he wanted to win their approval. This probably happens in Football quite a lot because of the emphasis on teamwork. I expect during training and while bantering with other players and staff, Barton had to very quickly adapt his speech to be part of the team. I imagine speaking Scouse English more clearly wouldn’t help the French.

(Joey Barton talks about the French accent incident)

It’s not just speech – it’s also non-verbal communication. Barton does a couple of typically French things, including the kind of ‘sigh’ or blowing of air through the lips which is really common.

According to research we are naturally wired to copy the speech and behavioural patterns of the people we’re talking to. It’s a natural, neurological process that humans engage in when they want to communicate, be understood and be accepted by others.

Significance for Learning English
For learning English this suggests some of the most important ways to improve your English pronunciation and your English in general are to a) actually communicate with people in real conversations about real things b) have the desire to understand others and really be understood by others c) have the desire to share things (info) with the people you’re communicating with d) have the desire to be socially accepted by the people you’re talking to.

So, spend time talking naturally with English speakers because you want to! Or at least, practise communicating in English not just because you think it’s important for your career or for your English, but because you are genuinely interested in sharing ideas, finding out about people and the world, and broadening the scope of your identity. The more motivated you are by these things, the more you’re opening yourself up to the natural neurological conditions for language learning.

Got it? Talking to different people with good English and who come from diverse origins about things you are interested in, really helps your English and your accent in particular!
Being engaged in genuine communication because you care about sharing ideas is going to help your brain in a natural process of language learning.

Other work helps too – like studying the phonemic chart, analysing the physical ways we pronounce different sounds, how speech is connected and all that stuff, and doing plenty and plenty of mechanical, physical practice – it’s important too, but certainly this theory suggests that our brains are wired to adapt our speech patterns in the right conditions as part of a social process.

But also, it may be vital for you to learn how to accommodate yourself to the English of the people you’re talking to. This from Scott Thornbury:

So, what are the implications for language teaching? In the interests both of intelligibility and establishing ‘comity’, Joey Barton’s adaptive accent strategy may be the way to go. For learners of English, whose interlocutors may not themselves be native speakers, this may mean learning to adapt to other non-native speaker accents. As Jenkins (2007: 238) argues, ‘in international communication, the ability to accommodate to interlocutors with other first languages than one’s own… is a far more important skill than the ability to imitate the English of a native speaker.’

So, when you’re chatting to other non native speakers in English, how should you make yourself more intelligible in order to establish good relations? Do you suddenly start sounding like Luke Thompson, or do you accommodate to their way of speaking, following the rule of accommodation theory?

What do you think? Feel free to either agree with accommodation theory here, or disagree with it, but do give a good reason why.

But why are there so many accents in the UK?

It’s a really complex question which probably needs to be answered by someone with a PhD on the subject, but here’s my answer!

It’s probably a big mix of geography, culture, politics, history and human nature.
Tribalism.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a small nation with quite a high population.

Geography. We’re an island (group of islands actually) so that creates a clear land border – meaning that we’re a bit more ‘penned in’ than some other cultures.

The class system. RP was the standardised version, but ordinary folk spoke in their own way and weren’t expected to speak RP because they knew their place. They could never break away from that. We never had a revolution proclaiming everyone as equal, so working people didn’t take on the standard form of English.

Irregular relationship between the written word (spelling) and the spoken version mean that the spoken version is perhaps more open to interpretation than others. Our written language is not phonetic, therefore the pronunciation is not tied down. There’s no solid rule book on how to pronounce English – there’s the phonetic chart, but that is based on RP and that’s where the class system comes into it. RP is associated with a certain class of people and then identity politics come into play.

Perhaps the multicultural ‘mongrel’ nature of the Brits has something to do with it. We’re a mongrel nation. Maybe the diversity of accents is the result of this patchwork or melting pot of different people and languages. E.g. celtic, nordic, germanic, norman French, gallic French, latin, Irish celtic, Scots celtic, commonwealth nations like Jamaica, India & Pakistan – especially Jamaica which has had a massive influence the way young people in London speak, and now media, like American and Australian English that we hear on a daily basis.

Our islands have been visited, invaded, populated and influenced by migrating people and their voices for many many years. This goes deep into the past and continues to this day, even though the official version of history will suggest that we have one unbroken family line (The Royal Family that we all learn about in school). There’s a lot more diversity than this narrative would suggest. This could result in a wide variety of influences, creating diversity which is not obvious just by looking at people. It’s also interesting to me that the narrative of the ‘unbroken line of history’ which we get from the monarchy, is also aligned with a certain way of speaking – this old-fashioned RP which is the standard form. Underneath that standard form, or next to it, there is a lot more variety and diversity.

There was a long period before the emergence of the single unifying monarchy in which the country was essentially split up into different, independent areas, ruled by competing monarchs. Tribalism was seriously important. Think: Game of Thrones. Community, loyalty, rejection of others – these were vitally important principles. It was the breeding ground for different local versions of a language. It must be the same in many other countries.

This relates to aspects of the accommodation theory. Convergence is when people pull together in a community and naturally speak in the same way to express this shared identity. At the same time there is divergence – pulling away from other communities which could be rivals or whatever. If you’re part of one community you’ll speak like them and you won’t speak like the others. Either you’re in one or the other. This could account for why people in Liverpool and Manchester speak differently even though the two cities are pretty close. Just look at the football fans to see how much of a rivalry there is between the two cities.

I expect a number of other factors have come together to cause the UK to have this wide diversity. But perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of the diversity because the place is really connected – it’s a pretty small island and we’re all squeezed in together with a clear natural border of the sea, and the industrial revolution happened there bringing the train – mass transport which suddenly brought everyone much closer together, making us a lot more aware of our different versions of English. I imagine if you examined other countries you would find similar differences in Accent. The USA for example has definite differences, and it’s quite a young country in comparison. So, I expect many countries have similar diversity in accent and dialect, perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of it in the UK.

We also have the class system which has added another dividing line – another factor which pushes communities together (convergence) or pushes them apart (divergence). Perhaps working class communities held onto their accents as a way of expressing their sense of local identity as a contrast to the less region specific upper classes, who seemed to be less fixed geographically. E.g. The Royal Family has it’s own geography, which moves between international borders and not just across domestic community borders. I mean, Prince Phillip for example was born in Greece. The QUeen’s ancestors were German. Despite the fact that they are the figureheads for the UK, they are not really fixed to local areas within the country.

This also would apply to the nobility – the proper upper classes, who probably owned land that perhaps their families hadn’t lived on for centuries. I expect one area of England for example was ruled by one family for a period, then another family became the rulers – either by conquest, trade, marriage etc. The ruling class probably were quite mobile. The people who lived and worked on the land, were of that land for generations. So, working class people have stronger regional accents than upper class people. It’s absolutely nothing to do with so-called “lazy pronunciation”, it’s more to do with identity – strengthening local communities by having their own version of the language. Power, identity and economics.

No governing body to standardise English. Just powerful people through their influence have guided the narrative that RP is the standard form – this also happens to be the English that the educated, wealthy class use.

So, that’s my fairly long and rambling answer Nick.

We’re not finished with accents though. I’ve just talked about how C.A.T. might explain why we have so many accents in the UK, and also what the theory can tell us about things like my accent, the accents of my friends and also how you can work on your accent too. I still plan to spend some more time focusing on specific accents and playing around.

Now, I would like to ask all of you a few questions

  • How many different accents can you identify in your country?
  • Are accents in your country related to geography?
  • Is there a standard accent? Is that accent associated with a particular region?
  • What attitudes to people have about accents where you come from?
  • In English, which accent do you prefer? If you don’t know a region, can you think of an individual person whose accent you like? Feel free to say Amber Minogue of course.
  • If you’ve been shipwrecked and you get washed up on a remote island populated by a local tribe of native people who seem to use English as their main language and yet look like they might be hostile, or hungry, or both, what’s the best way to get into their good books? Speak like me, or speak like them? Or get back in the sea and swim?