This episode is called CONSPIRACIES / UFOs / LIFE HACKS with James and I’m going for the full Joe Rogan clickbait title here, as you will see later.
I’ve said before that I wonder if clickbait titles actually work (I think they do) and whether I should use them (still not sure). I guess we will find out with this episode, which is a rambling conversation with my brother.
Clickbait, by the way, is any content on the internet which is designed just to get you to click it – usually with some sensational title or a promise of amazing exclusive information which is often not actually included. Usually they’re there as bait for clicks which ultimately will be turned into advertising revenue.
E.g. (for example) “Dermatologists hate her new skin care routine that will save you thousands” “Why Jabba The Hutt is the key to the Skywalker bloodline in ways you couldn’t imagine” “10 Life Hacks guaranteed to change the way you live forever” “Proof that aliens have already landed, and are living among us” “7 Secrets about COVID-19 that the government don’t want you to know” “These simple Language Hacks will help you speak like a native OVERNIGHT”
I hate clickbait but as an online content creator I am drawn to and fascinated by the impact of attention grabbing, wildly sensational titles. They obviously work, that’s the thing, because they’re everywhere. But a lot of the time I find clickbait titles annoying and even depressing because it’s so devious and also hackneyed. Anyway…
I’ve gone with the simple: “Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks” as a title. It’s clickbait-ish, with certain buzzwords that seem to attract attention. But really this is just a bit of a joke as you will hear in the episode.
Let’s see if it makes any difference.
What are you going to listen to in this episode then?
The other evening I called my brother James and I started recording our conversation before he answered the call, which I probably shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t expecting a podcast recording this time. But I pressed record before he’d picked up and what resulted was a spontaneous chat that ended up going all Joe Rogan as we talked about UFOs, conspiracy theories and life hacks.
First of all there’s a bit of a catch up and a chat about the COVID situation and how James has been handling it, and then we get on to some of the major topics of our time, including whether we are alone in the universe, how to cook poached eggs, how to walk up stairs, how not to make “British Tea”, The Beatles meeting Elvis, some sketchy impressions of celebrities, a dodgy chair and what you should do with overripe bananas.
I hope you enjoy it. I will be back at the end to chat to you again with some music going in the background as usual.
But now, let’s call my brother and see what happens…
I hope you enjoyed that. It was really silly in the most fun way possible. I’m glad I recorded it.
This tune in the background is one of James’ own, made on the Akai MPC2000. Those of you who work for the Akai consumer electronics company – James’ MPC2000 is currently on the floor of his living room, with the top off and all the circuits and boards visible. It’s not looking good. There’s something wrong with it and he needs a new one. So, if you’re in a position to provide him with an Akai MPC1 that would definitely help him to help the podcast by providing more background music. Just get in touch with the show if you’d like to help out and we will dedicate a special episode just to the wonderful Akai company and their delightful music making machines!
If you like James’ stuff check out his Soundcloud page where you can hear most of them
As you may know, James is also a DJ and since his MPC broke, he did a brand new LEP DJ set using his record decks and some new vinyl that he got recently. That special, exclusive DJ mix is now available on the page for this episode, it’s also available on the Music Mixes page on my website. Check it out there and have a listen. You’ll hear James introducing the tunes, speaking to you and DJing some music. Alternatively, get the Mixcloud app for your phone and listen to it there.
Here’s a link to James’ Mixcloud page with music mixes across various genres, including Drum & Bass, dub, punk, hip hop and so on
Music and comedy mixes (mostly done by me) on my website
Moto Mix (with plenty of silly improvisations, characters and voices by James and me)
Leave your comments below
Have you heard any conspiracies about COVID-19? Have you ever seen a UFO? Do you believe aliens exist? Do you think they’ve made contact with us yet? Who do you think might be posing as an alien in the world? Do you think I might be an alien? Do you have any good life hacks?
More Life Hacks (to justify the title)
OK, here are a few more life hacks. 5 fairly good ones I just found online, just in case you feel there weren’t enough life hacks in this episode.
This meaning of “hack” is something that makes your life easier – it’s like a solution to a problem in life. We talk about life hacks, learning hacks for language learners – simple little tricks you can apply that make your learning more successful.
I think you know what life hacks are then, so here are 5 more half-decent ones just to make sure you don’t feel undersold by the title of the episode, which is not a sentence that many internet content creator feel the need to say very often is it. “Oh yes, after all this video doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, sorry about that” – something you never hear. But I like to be different, so here we go.
Use a pillow case from a sheet set to keep the sheets in
When You Have To Hang Something With Exact Holes, Photocopy The Back And Use As A Template
Put a post it note on the wall when you’re drilling a hole
The Pomodoro Technique (dunno why it’s called that) Work for 25 mins then take a 5 min break. After doing this 4 times, take a 30 minute break. This will dramatically increase your productivity. (I definitely agree – when I was marking exams – 200 or more – I would set the clock for 10 minutes, blast as many as possible in 10 minutes and then perhaps mess around for a few minutes, then do it again. It made a huge difference, compared to just trying to sit and work constantly. Just focus for 10 minutes at a time.
Put your phone on airplane mode to charge it faster (but you knew that one already)
Dangle a fork into an opened bottle of champagne to keep it fizzy (This is an old myth I think. Apparently it makes no difference).
Noel Gallagher story about champagne “Arr kid” means his brother Liam
(Liam had a fork in a pint of milk because he thought it would keep it fresh)
That’s the end of this episode, have a lovely morning, day, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you next time!
Hello dear listeners, how are you? I hope that you are well, wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, whatever situation you currently find yourself in at this moment in time.
Because we do often just find ourselves in situations, don’t we? I do, anyway. Oh, I’m living in France, and I’m married and I have a daughter now… wow, how did that happen? Now I’m in a French bakery ordering a baguette. Now I’m walking down the street with the baguette under my arm and I’m stopping to say “Bonjour” to a shop owner that I am on speaking terms with. Not something I really planned to be doing a few years ago before I moved here. That’s just life, isn’t it? Wwe just find ourselves in different situations, unless of course your life only contains moments which you have prepared, expected, planned for and constructed. In which case, congratulations. How did you manage that?
And then last Wednesday I found myself sitting in front of my computer about to start live streaming on YouTube, the tube of you – a tube full of you. I was about to start talking into a camera to who knows how many people, to talk about who knows what. I did it. It went fine, I had lots of fun, it was cool to talk so directly to my listeners (or viewers as they were on Wednesday) – maybe you were there – if you were, then hello! I hope you enjoyed it too… and now, in this episode in fact you can listen to the audio of that recent live stream I did on YouTube. That’s what this episode is.
Obviously, this was a video live stream and I was talking to viewers who could see me and send messages and questions to me via the chat and I was responding to those messages and questions during the live stream and because this was a video live stream, some of this might come across a little bit weirdly in the audio version because you’ll be missing certain visual clues like the expressions on my face, body language, objects I’m showing you on the screen, the text in the chat and so on, but if you prefer to consume your LEP content with your ears rather than your eyes, then here is the audio track of the live stream for your listening pleasure, and I hope it is pleasant to listen to, even if it is a bit different to a normal audio episode.
The experience of doing YouTube lives is a bit odd for me because it’s hard to do anything other than respond to the comments coming in from the chat, which is different to the way I usually record audio episodes, because normally I get to prepare myself more in advance and I know that people aren’t watching me, and it’s not live so I can edit afterwards, in case I say something that, on reflction, I probably shouldn’t say, and that sort of thing. This means that doing live videos is a bit intense, it’s quite hard to think straight and I found myself saying stuff off the top of my head that I might not have said if I had had time to really think about it. But I did find it fun. It’s just a bit different and takes some getting used to.
You’ll hear me jump from one topic to the next quite quickly. Some of the questions that came in were quite serious, and others were a bit more silly. Also, I sang 3 songs. You can find links to the lyrics to those songs on the page for this episode on my website. There are some crap jokes and In terms of the other stuff it’s a mix of questions related to learning English, some fairly personal questions, slightly bizarre questions and some funny questions.
Anyway, I will let you discover it for yourself. If you haven’t seen the video and would like to, you’ll see the video embedded on the page for this episode on my website. Also you can see it on my YouTube channel (search for Luke’s English Podcast on YouTube – and subscribe / hit the bell icon to get notified if I do more live streams in the future).
If you watch it on my youtube channel you’ll be able to watch the live comment feed as well, so you can see the comments I was reading at the time. I might upload the video to the LEP App as well, but it’s a large file and so it would be a bit costly for me to do so (I get a certain amount of uploading data per month).
Anyway, enough rambling. I’ll now let you listen to the audio from the slightly chaotic but fun YouTube live stream from last Wednesday, 10 June 2020. I’ll speak to you a bit on the other side of this recording.
Again, to actually watch that video, go to my youtube channel. You’ll also find various other videos there, including last year’s YouTube live for episode 600, plus some videos of me recording a few other episodes from the archive, including a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul and more…
I had fun with this but, to be honest (and don’t tell YouTube) I still prefer doing normal audio episodes of the podcast. This is what I do. I make audio podcasts. I’ll do more YouTube stuff and live streams in the future, but I’m still going to focus my main energy on these audio episodes. I love doing audio content.
If you’re wondering when the next YouTube live will be. Honestly, I don’t know yet. I might even just randomly go live like I did the week before.
Anyway, if I do another proper live stream I will let you know in advance.
Coming up on the podcast I have some more interview episodes, plus some more episodes with funny stuff like some comedy, plus some more specific content about learning English and plenty of other things.
Thank you to those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement on social media, on my website and by email. It’s great to get your messages, especially when they are basically first hand accounts of how regularly listening to my content has helped with your English. That’s really encouraging. I am always very happy to find out that people enjoy the podcast, but I am especially pleased when people tell me that it has made a genuine difference to their English. I actually find that I am becoming more and more convinced of the value of podcasting for people’s English, so that this is probably the most rewarding teaching experience I have – more rewarding than classroom teaching in many ways.
Anyway, the point is – thank you for your messages and I apologise if I haven’t got back to all of you.
Also, thank you sincerely for donations. You are keeping the project alive.
And thank you to my premium subscribers. I hope you’ve been enjoying the premium content, including P23 which I uploaded recently. I’ve had some great comments about the pronunciation drills in particular recently, proving to me that I am doing the right thing and so I will keep pushing on with that kind of content, so stay tuned for more premium content coming soon, with specific language teaching from me to you.
OK, enough rambling! Thank you for listening and for being a stakeholder in LEP.
This is episode 666 and the plan is to talk about all things evil, satanic, demonic, wicked, unholy, malevolent, hellish and scary, focusing on pop culture – music and films and a few anecdotes and rambles.
This is part 1 and this one deals mainly with the musical side of things after we talk about the significance of the number 666.
Just in case you don’t know, the number 666 is associated with the devil, satan, lucifer and generally frightening things like that.
A DISCLAIMER: We’re not trying to offend or upset anyone!
Before we begin, here is a disclaimer of sorts.
I know people are very superstitious out there.
Just talking about this subject will probably make some people a bit uneasy or uncomfortable. Some people take this sort of thing quite seriously.
But, don’t worry, we don’t believe in numerology, the occult or satanism.
It is interesting but we don’t really believe in it.
Also some of you might suffer from hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia
…which is the fear of the number 666.
Yes, there is a phobia of this number. In the same way that some people have claustrophobia, arachnophobia or glossophobia, there are people out there who have hexakosioihexekkontahexaphobia.
So, if you are one of those people, if you are very superstitious about this stuff, or if you are of a particularly sensitive nature then this might not be for you.
Also, you should know that during this episode we will be playing some extracts of fairly loud and scary music, and also you will hear some clips from scary horror films – including weird and creepy background noises, maybe some screaming, maybe the sound of a chainsaw… you know, stuff like that.
So if you’re listening on headphones or something and you hear some scary noises, those scary noises will probably be coming from the podcast, rather from the world around you…
But just bear in mind that there will be scary noises and some heavy-ish music during the episode, I hope it doesn’t give you a shock or freak you out too much.
OK, I feel I should say that stuff before we start just to give some of you a little warning.
My companion in this episode is my brother James, naturally. He is the scariest person I could think of to invite onto episode 666. (just joking, he’s lovely)
Actually, ages ago James claimed episode 666. He bagsied it.
Also, listeners have been asking me about this since they realised that I’d make it to 666 episodes. Typically comments are like this: Luke, Episode 666 is coming up. I hope you are planning something special for it, like maybe an episode on heavy metal or horror films or something.
Heavy Metal Britannia BBC Documentary (recommended!)
END OF PART 1 – Parts 2 & 3 coming soon…
Hello everyone, this is actually the end of part 1, we will continue the theme in part 2 and as you heard just at the end there we are going to tell some true stories about frightening things we’ve really experienced in our lives.
So, some anecdotes are coming in part 2.
I hope you have enjoyed part 1 and that you’re not feeling too disturbed or anything.
Just to recap, we talked about the origin of the idea that 666 is the number of the devil, and how it turns out that it’s not quite as satanic as people often think. Then we talked about the devil’s interval in music – the augmented 4th or diminished 5th depending on your outlook on life (augmented means raised – to augment means to increase the value of something or to go up, and diminished is the opposite – to diminish means to make something less – so when you go up one semitone from a fourth you get the augmented 4th, and when you go down from a 5th you get the diminished 5th, but they’re actually the same exact note – just two ways of describing it). We talked about that, which is a feature of so-called unholy music, and then we had a good old ramble about Black Sabbath, heavy metal and other scary forms of music.
Still to come we have our scary stories and then in part 3 we turn to the topic of scary films.
Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy getting involved.
Thanks again to Kate Arnold for her input in this episode.
App users – you will find a bit of bonus audio for this episode. It’s Kate talking more about The Wheel of Fortune, which is the name of her album, but it’s also an image which appeared in a lot of medieval art and culture. So if you’d like to hear Kate talking for a couple of minutes about the wheel of fortune, then tap the gift icon for this episode in the LEP App. The icon can be found when you’re playing this episode, it’s next to the share, favourite and download icons in the app. If you don’t have the app, you can get it free from the app store on your phone, just search for Luke’s English Podcast App.
If you’d like to hear Kate’s music properly, without it being faded out by me, then check out the page for this episode on the website where you will find links to her album on Bandcamp and also some YouTube videos of her stuff.
Also on the page for this episode on the website you’ll see a video from Numberphile, explaining in more detail how the number 666 is a code which refers to Emperor Nero rather than the devil, plus some footage of Black Sabbath and the Heavy Metal Britannia documentary which is well worth a watch.
That’s it for this part then and we will speak to you again in part 2, but for now… good bye!
This is part 2 of a double episode exploring the question of why British people often change their accent when they sing. This episode contains more examples, including some (dodgy) singing from me in order to hear how it sounds when different songs are sung in different accents. Notes, lyrics and transcriptions available on the page below.
Hello, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re doing ok out there in podcastland during this difficult period.
It’s necessary to say that isn’t it these days. You have to acknowledge the fact that everyone’s struggling, or you have to explain that things are perhaps not happening normally because of the coronavirus and there are various ways of saying it – both informal and formal, perhaps in a work email or something. I saw something on Twitter which made me laugh and I retweeted it. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen that. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast by the way. So the thing I saw on Twitter was just a little meme about how in normal English we say “because of the coronavirus” but in formal writing (like in a work email) we have to dress that up in more fancy language, like “due to the ongoing situation regarding covid-19”.
So I hope that you are not having too much of a bad time because of the coronavirus, or perhaps I should say “I trust that you are managing to maintain your working routines effectively in the context of the current situation regarding covid-19.”
This is episode 658 and it’s part 2 of a double episode. This is part 2. Don’t listen to this, until you’ve heard part 1. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but I just want to make it clear. Part 1 contains loads of context and details which I think you should hear before listening to this.
In part 1 I started answering a question from a listener, and the question is “Why do British people sound American when they sing?” It’s actually a bit complicated. It’s all about the conventions of modern pop music which has its roots in the USA. But there are also plenty of examples of British singers singing in British accents. It’s a mix of language, identity, music and phonology. In part 1 I answer the question in some detail and also point out some features of what I’m calling the American Singing Accent, including things like the way certain words which I pronounce with diphthongs (that’s double vowel sounds) become ‘flattened’ to single long vowel sounds, like in the words I, find, time, mine in the line “I need to find my time to get what’s mine”.
So let’s continue and in this part, which is part 2 I’m going to continue to explore this whole area by singing some songs in different accents and by listening to some samples of music. I hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section or perhaps links to YouTube videos with other examples that you can think of – examples of British artists singing with American accents, or perhaps British artists singing with British accents, or artists from anywhere else for that matter, singing in any other accent. It’s not just British and American of course, there are so many other accents that you might hear in English language songs. Reggae music from Jamaica for example is usually sung with a Jamaican accent of course.
Anyway, let’s carry on with part 2 and here we go…
Singing songs in different accents
I want to experiment with this by singing some well-known songs in either an American accent (The American Singing Accent as defined above) or a British accent (again, which one? Probably my own standard British RP but also I might try some cockney or maybe Liverpool or something).
Brits singing with American accents
What happens when you sing certain American songs in a British accent (let’s be more specific, let’s say my British RP)
If you sing some songs in a British accent they usually sound weird and wrong. You might disagree, because you might have a soft spot for British accents (and in fact more recently there have been some very successful artists who seem to sing in British RP as a stylistic choice) but I think overall, most people would think it sounded wrong, like my previous example with “Shallow”.
My Girl by The Temptations
Tell the story (briefly) of someone who sang “My girl” at a party once. It was ridiculous.
I’m now going to sing the songs in their normal American voice, then in a British accent.
Songs by British artists sung in an American accent
I could pick almost any song by a British pop artist and the chances are that it’ll be sung in an American singing accent.
Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
We Are the Champions by Queen
Weirdly, Freddie seems to drift from an English sounding voice in the verse to an American one in the chorus. Listen to how he sings “time” (Time after time) in the verse and then “time” in the chorus (No time for losers).
This is so tricky! The accents seem to drift around while people sing.
Ultimately, I think this shows that when people sing they change their voice to suit the music. Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a rock singer, he was also quite operatic and theatrical and I think he probably chose to sing in different ways depending on the feeling he was choosing, including some bits where he sings with a more English sounding voice and some bits where he’s in full-on rock mode and sounds American.
British bands/singers singing with British accents
Let’s consider some songs which are clearly sung in British accents, or moments where British accents are more obvious.
There will be billions of examples of great British bands who sing in British accents. Here are some ones which I can think of right now.
They’re a difficult case because it’s quite hard to tell when they’re singing with American accents, when they’re singing with Liverpool accents but there are definitely times when their Liverpool accents came through.
It seems to me that their accents became a bit more English as they went on because in the early days they were (to an extent) imitating American artists they loved like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry & so on (especially when doing cover versions like “Long Tall Sally” (“Oh baby, some fun tonight”) and “Twist & Shout” (“And let me know that you’re mine”).
But later as they wrote more of their own music and became more original, their own accents came in. They also used to make a point of singing in a Liverpool accent sometimes.
Penny Lane by The Beatles
“In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer” 2:00
Lennon singing Polythene Pam (intentionally putting on a strong Scouse accent)
John Lennon – Norwegian Wood “I once had a girl” – the “I” is rounded like Lennon would say it.
Paul McCartney – I’m Looking Through You
Paul McCartney’s English accent is quite recognisable in “I’m Looking Through You” “I thought I knew you… what did I know?” “Why tell me why did you not treat me right?”
Although some bits still sound a bit American – “You’re naaat the same”
Steve Earle – I’m Looking Through You
But when US country singer Steve Earle did a cover version of it, he did it in a Southern sounding American accent.
“Aaah thought aaah knew yewwww whut did aaaaah know?” “Yurrr voice eis soootheuyin , but the wrrrrrds arrrrnt clearrrr” “Whaaaaa tell me whaaa did you naaat treat me right?”
The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
“Why do I give valuable time” –all with rounded diphthongs
The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
The Undertones were from Northern Ireland and you could hear it in some of their songs, like this one.
“He’s sure to go to heaven” “He thinks that I’m a cabbage because I hate university challenge”
A lot of Britpop bands sang with British accents, because it was Britpop. BRITpop, you see.
Blur – Parklife (they were making a point of singing in a British accent)
There are billions of other examples, I’m sure.
But it’s weird and not black and white.
It’s not like all punk bands or all Britpop bands sang with their local accents. Sometimes they did, sometimes it was definitely American.
There’s no escaping that rock & roll is basically American.
Singing in an American accent when it should be British, and people get annoyed
Alesha Dixon sings the national anthem in a “soul” voice. Basically, she sang the word “god” in an American accent, which pissed off the Daily Mail readers.
She got quite harshly criticised for this. She said she did it on purpose because it was a “soul” version of the anthem. Naturally a lot of Brits were triggered by this.
What’s the conclusion?
Singing is different to speaking.
Accents change to suit the music and the social rules are a bit different when people sing.
Singing is a more open and free form of expression than speaking. Our accent when we speak is completely tied to our identity. But when we sing it’s more tied to the feeling we are trying to create or express.
Some types of music or some songs just have to be sung in an American accent and it’s usually not a big deal.
Some artists sing with British accents because they are expressing something uniquely British, like a folk singer such as Billy Bragg or a rapper like Stormzy.
It’s also interesting to note that a lot of non-native speakers of English can sing in a native-like accent, but when they speak English it’s not the same story.
For example: Paul Taylor’s bit about his wife saying “Hello how are you?” –> His wife can sing “Hello” when she’s singing along with Adele’s song but when she has to say it, she says “‘ello ‘ow ‘are you?”
Leave your comments, thoughts and video suggestions below
Have you ever wondered why British people sometimes change their accent when they sing? This episode explores the question of why this happens, with various examples and some (dodgy) singing by me. Notes, videos and transcripts available on the page below.
This is episode 657 and it’s called “Why do Brits sing with American accents?”
Essentially this episode is about accents in English, and how our accents sometimes change when we sing.
This is all based on an email I got from a listener recently. Here is that email. I’m curious to see if you have ever wondered the same thing.
An email from a listener, with a question about accents
Name: János Bernhardt /jænɒʃ bɜːnhɑːt//
Janos gave me the OK to read this out, and I’ll make some corrections as we go.
I have just watched this video (attached) and one question came to my mind about the british english accent.
A couple of corrections from Luke
“British English” should have a capital B and a capital E (British English) because we capitalise the first letters of nationality adjectives and the names of languages in English. Also, I’d avoid saying “The British accent” or “The British English accent” because there are lots of British accents, and this often annoys British people, who often get a bit offended by other people writing “the British accent” and they say “There’s no such thing as The British Accent!”. So, I suggest that instead you should say “British accents”, just “British English” or maybe “a British accent”.
Let’s rephrase Janos’s sentence like this:
I’ve just watched this video and one question came to my mind about British accents…
The video in question is of a British singer called Charlotte Awbery who became a sensation (in February) due to a viral Instagram and YouTube video in which she was randomly asked to sing in a Tube station in London.
In the video sent by Janos, we see that she sings Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” from the film A Star Is Born really well, just like Lady Gaga, but when she speaks she does so in a completely different accent to the one she was singing in.
We’ll listen to the video in a moment, but let’s continue Janos’ email.
In the video Charlotte clearly loses her accent when she sings, but when she speaks I can hear her beautiful british accent. Is this a normal thing or she has to pay close attention to this during singing? Does she have to…
Sorry for disturbing you if it is a stupid question and also sorry for my bad english.
By the way I love your podcast. I just discovered it recently but I really try to relisten as much episodes as I can.
I am really trying to relisten to as many episodes as I can.
Thanks a lot Luke! Kind Regards, János Bernhardt
This is an example of an email from a listener which immediately sent me down a huge rabbit hole (a complicated journey in which you get lost looking for an answer).
That doesn’t always happen when listeners send me questions, but it did with this one. To be honest, I should have been working on other things but when I received this email it caught my attention and then I got sucked in! I thought it would make a perfect episode of the podcast because it’s about accents in English, it’s about American and British English, it’s about music, it’s about culture, it’s about identity and I am certain this is a question that a lot of you have thought of → Why is it that British singers often sing with American accents?
Brits don’t always sing with American accents (there are plenty of cases when this doesn’t happen, as we will see later in the episode), but they often do.
This is the stuff I’m interested in. Also it gives me a chance to play a bit of guitar and do some singing on the podcast too, which I will probably do a bit later when we get stuck into this properly.
God knows how long this episode will be, because there’s a lot to unpack here. It might be a double episode. We’ll see.
Before we go any further, we should check out that clip that Janos sent to me, so we know what he was talking about.
Let’s listen to the video that he mentioned.
Charlotte Awbrey on The Ellen Show
This is a clip from the Ellen show (an American chat show), and you’ll hear various people speaking including chat show host Ellen Degeneres, and also some other people. I won’t explain any more. Let’s just listen to the clip and your job is to work out what is going on, who is speaking and where they are from.
Who is talking?
Where are they from?
What accent does Charlotte have? Don’t just say “British”. Can you be more specific?
“Charlotte Awbery is an internet sensation after a video of her showcasing her incredible singing voice went viral on February 20. Just four days prior, a content creator named Kevin Freshwater shared a video of a segment he hosted called, “Finish the Lyrics.” In the video, Freshwater can be seen traveling through the streets and subways, asking random people to finish the lyrics of popular songs. And, that’s where he came across Charlotte, who was making her way to a train in the subway. [The Underground!]
Freshwater approached Charlotte who was visibly caught off guard, and began singing the lyrics to “Shallow” — Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper‘s Oscar-winning hit from the film, A Star Is Born. Charlotte began singing the lyrics quietly, but just enough for Freshwater to recognize how talented she is. When he kept asking her to sing more, Charlotte went all out and it took the internet by storm.“
Then she was invited onto the Ellen show with Ellen Degeneres, to sing the song and then be interviewed.
The thing is, she sang with an American accent but then spoke with a really broad Estuary English accent (some call it cockney, some call it Essex – basically it’s a strong local accent from the area to the east of London.)
So, going back to Janos’ original question then:
Why did Charlotte Awbery switch from an American accent when singing, to a British accent when talking?
Is this normal? Do British people normally do that when they sing? Do they/we have to make special effort to do it? What’s going on?
Is this normal? Do Brits normally do this when they sing? Yes, lots of Brits suddenly change their accent and sound American when they sing. (Why? We’ll see). I’m talking about singing pop music, which sort of covers various forms of modern music that largely originate in the USA, like jazz, blues, soul, country, rock & roll, rock, gospel –> all the main ingredients of modern pop music.
It’s not just Brits. Irish people, Australian people, people from New Zealand, people from South Africa, any English speaker, including non-native speakers of English in France, Germany, Japan, wherever! Everyone does this.
I’m sticking with Brits though because that’s what I am and that’s what I know.
Yes it is very normal and very common. There are various degrees of it – sometimes it’s just a slight American accent, sometimes it’s really strong. We’ll be looking at some examples later.
But it doesn’t happen every time. There are plenty of examples of British singers singing in their own accent too (again, more on this later).
Do British people have to make a special effort to sing in an American accent? I would say “no”, it normally happens completely effortlessly but it does depend on the song, or the style of the song. In fact, in many cases it would take a lot of effort to sing some songs in a British accent even if that is your native accent. I’ll hopefully demonstrate this later when I try to sing some songs myself.
What’s going on? Various things! This is a complex question to answer and that’s what the rest of this episode is about. I’m going to explore the answer to the question, although I’m not a linguist or a sociologist or anything so I’m kind of working it out myself. One thing that can help is to listen to some samples of music and also it might help if I try and sing in different accents myself and we can see what happens.
Basically, singing and speaking are different. Let’s talk about why.
Social, linguistic and musical conventions
American accents are conventional in music which has its roots in the USA.
Certain genres of music were born in the USA, including most pop music, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, funk, hip hop → this goes back to the roots of modern pop music, American blues, gospel and country music.
Therefore, when singing pop songs an American accent is the standard and is therefore easier, more normal and more natural.
Singing those songs with an obvious RP accent (or other) just ends up being weird, unnatural and wrong sounding, mainly because it would be unconventional. It just doesn’t sound right to sing certain songs with a British accent like mine.
But there are plenty of exceptions to this too, and that’s songs, genres or bands that have something authentically British about them.
In the case of this song (Shallow) Charlotte is singing a Lady Gaga song, and Lady Gaga sings it with an American accent because she is American. It’s a cover version and it would be a bit weird if she made it sound different to the original. Also the song is in a country-rock style, and in country music it’s normal to sing with a really pronounced accent – probably a southern or mid-western drawl. “Shallow” is a song from the film “A Star is Born” which is about a country singer.
Singing “Shallow” in a British accent
Let’s play “Shallow” on the guitar and first sing it in an American accent and then in a British accent.
How does it sound in my accent?
What’s your accent Luke? Just a reminder (and because people often ask me questions about this) My accent is basically standard RP, which is said to be not specific to any region of the UK, but to be honest it’s usually associated with educated, middle-class people, probably from the South East of England. I’m not trying to say I’m educated (and of course you can be highly-educated and everything and have a regional accent), but I’m definitely middle class and from the south east of England, but I also spent time growing up in the midlands as well as west London, so you might hear a bit of west-midlands Brummie in my voice or a bit of a London accent – if you’re listening very carefully. But basically, I speak with standard British RP from the south east of England but I’m not posh.
I don’t know what you think. There’s bound to be some people who prefer my British version. It’s a question of taste, but I think overall my British RP version wouldn’t really be accepted by most audiences. It would be weird, different, unconventional. Most people in the USA would think it was weird and wrong, I reckon.
But some songs and genres are definitely British and British voices are more obvious → things like folk music, UK hip hop (does Rapping count? It’s basically talking), Britpop, merseybeat, punk – in fact any music which is uniquely or authentically British in some way, or in which the local identity is being emphasised.
Brits sing in a British accent when they’re really being themselves, when it’s traditional British folk music, or when they’re pushing the British identity in the music.
Some British musicians make an effort not to sound American. You can hear that in some of the Beatles’ output (although sometimes they’re a bit American sounding too) and definitely in punk bands, new wave bands, britpop bands and so on → any musical movements in which a British identity gets pushed to the forefront.
Some examples of British music sung in a British accent
Madness – My Girl
Me singing it with an American accent (sounds wrong!)
So, in summary, I’d say that although this seems a bit weird, it’s common for Brits to sing with American accents because of the conventions of pop music which has its roots in the USA, but there are also examples of Brits singing in their own accents.
There’s a lot more to talk about and to investigate here, so let’s go into a bit more detail.
This article from thrillist.com has some more comments (read some extracts)
I might be re-emphasising what I just said, but I think it’s worth reading these extracts from an article I found on a website called Thrillist.com
One of the most prominent academics on this case is Peter Trudgill. In 1983, the man published an oft-cited study that examined the disconnect between how so many British pop singers talk in real life and how they perform. He concluded that acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones incorporated American phonetics because they were so influenced by Yankee musicians — particularly blues acts. (Remember, the Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters track.) It was an attempt to ape their idols and break into the U.S. market.
Rolling Stones singing “Not Fade Away”
Trudgill noted the American-ness got less aggressive as time wore on, and the British Invasion acts became more comfortable with their native speaking voices. By the time the ’70s arrived, punk bands like The Clash were turning away from American affectations.
So, basically –> In the beginning, UK singers were copying their American idols, but later this influence lessened.
Here are a couple of examples of UK punk bands singing in obvious British accents, to illustrate what Peter Tudgill said.
Sham 69 – Hurry Up Harry
Peter & The Test Tube Babies – Banned from the Pubs
That’s one explanation, but seeing as we still have modern fakers like Adele, it’s incomplete.
Adele speaks with a cockney accent like Charlotte Awbrey but sings in an American accent.
Some people argue that the phenomenon is more a matter of technique. Billy Bragg, who’s normally pretty cool with singing like a Brit, once said, “You can’t sing something like ‘Tracks of My Tears’ in a London accent… the cadences are all wrong.”
Billy Bragg singing normally
Billy Bragg singing Tracks of My Tears by Smokey and the Miracles.
So the point here is that it is just easier to sing in an American accent and sometimes an American accent is just appropriate for the song.
A recent study by Andy Gibson, a sociologist in New Zealand, would appear to back Bragg up. Gibson found that Kiwis defaulted to an American singing voice across the board, and it wasn’t a conscious choice. He surmised it was just easier to sing in that accent. That’s partially because of the way we round off certain words when we sing, and partially because the world is so used to hearing American accents in pop songs, it requires more effort and concentration to sing in a different accent. Even if that “different accent” is your default speaking voice.
Clearly, researchers are still working on a definitive answer. But people do “lose” their accents through song, and it’s not some weird conspiracy. It’s just linguistics! Or Mick Jagger’s fault. You decide.
What are the phonetic features of this “American Singing Accent”?
Let’s break down “the American singing accent” vs my British accent
I’ve decided called it “the American singing accent” because it might not match perfectly with General American or with all American accents.
America is a diverse place and there are many diverse accents there. But it seems that there is a certain kind of American accent that we can hear in a lot of music.
I get the feeling that this accent comes from the people who sang the blues and gospel (basically that means black communities in southern states) and from people who sang country (mostly white singers from southern or midwestern states) but I’m not a musicologist.
Features of The American Singing Accent (my own made-up term)
Diphthongs are flattened to long single vowel sounds. This can help in singing, because it allows you to hold one note for a long time.
Common examples: I (often) sounds like aaaa My (often) sounds like maaa Try sounds like traaaaa Life sounds like Laaaaaaaf Time “Out” sounds like “aaaat” “Sight” sounds like “saaaaat”
/r/ sounds are often more rounded “Now you’re out of sight here” “Now yurrrraaaaatu saaaaat heRe”
It’s generally a bit more nasal “Tell me something girl. Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more?” “Tell me something boy. Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?”
“Baby” sounds like “Baybeeee”
I’m sure there are other features. Let me know in the comment section if you can think of others.
To be honest, the best way I can demonstrate this is to try and sing some more songs in different accents and see what happens.
That’s where we’re going to pause. This is the end of part 1, and we will continue in part 2, which will be available soon, possibly already.
In part 2 the plan is to explore this question further by doing some more singing. I’m going to take some songs which are normally sung in that American singing voice, sing them normally and then sing them in my accent and we’ll see how it sounds.
We’ll also hear some more examples of British singers singing in American accents, and also British singers singing in British accents.
So, a lot more examples in part 2 to illustrate what I’ve been talking about in this episode.
As ever, I’m interested in your comments. Perhaps you have examples of British singers singing in American accents, or British singers singing in British accents.
Or maybe there’s a song which you like, but you don’t really know what the accent is?
In any case, you can share your thoughts and YouTube videos in the comment section.
I hope you’re keeping well, that you’re not climbing the walls or going stir crazy if you are currently in self-isolation at home. If you’re cooped up with members of your family I hope you’re managing to make it work and that you’re not at each other’s throats. Maybe you’re a lovely lovely time, in which case I am happy for you. If you’re struggling then hang in there, this won’t last forever. And if you or anyone else you know is currently unwell, then I wish you a speedy recovery and what else can I say –> may the force be with you? Actually, that’s when the lockdown is supposed to be lifted here. May the 4th (although I suspect it will be extended) but anyway, “May the 4th be with you”.
Alright, that’s enough. I hope you have found this interesting and part 2 should be available now or very soon, so you can get stuck into that.
So, speak to you again in part 2 but for now –> bye bye bye!
An in-depth episode all about an innovative British form of dance music from the 90s: Jungle (aka Drum & Bass). Includes discussion with James about the origins of the music, how it sounds, its position in UK culture and a few anecdotes too. Notes & music playlists available on the website.
Hello dear listeners, how are you today? I hope you are well. Here is another episode about British Music with James. This one is about jungle – a form of dance music.
We did this one in response to a request from a listener who wrote a comment on the website. While recording the episode we couldn’t remember the name of that listener but I have checked and found his name and his message and it goes like this.
Kirill Hannolainen • 2 months ago (January 2020) Dear Luke, I have already told you how amazing your podcast is in general and how particularly moving those episodes are in which you speak to James about music. They are just brilliant. That’s when the magic happens.
Is there any chance I could suggest a new topic for discussion with James – Electronic music developed in England. I mean your country brought the world irreplaceable genres of music, such as jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, big beat, ambient and stuff like that, and I think these ones are just a few examples. I grew up in the nineties in Saint Petersburg listening to jungle music made by DJ Aphrodite and drum ‘n’ bass provided by Goldie. We had some good times.
Now I’m really into ambient music from the early 1990s – artists such as the Orb, Aphex Twin and the KLF.
I would be over the moon if you could make an episode on this subject. I’m more than sure James and you know a thing or two to tell us about. Thank you in advance.
I’d also like to wish you and your beautiful family Happy New Year! Best wishes for peace and prosperity in 2020.
We’d been meaning to make an episode about jungle music for a while, even before we got this comment, and James has lots of the old tunes on vinyl. So here it is. This is our attempt to explain this music, where it comes from, what influenced it and more. You’ll also hear little bits of music during this episode, not just jungle music but also other types of music that have inspired it.
You’ll see that this episode is long, but it’s as long as it needed to be for us to cover the subject properly.
The music won’t be for everyone. It’s not to everybody’s taste. I know this is quite a specific topic, but hopefully you can learn things from it and even if you don’t like the music, I hope you can still enjoy listening to the two of us explaining and describing this subject.
This episode is accompanied by detailed notes, links and music on the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk, including YouTube videos for almost all the tunes that we talk about, a Spotify playlist and a special jungle mix done by James, especially for you, on his decks using vinyl records in his collection.
We hope you enjoy it. Here we go.
James & Luke start talking together (about 4m30seconds into the episode)
Episode notes used while recording this conversation
Hello, we’re going to talk about a British genre of music called Jungle.
What follows is a music documentary of sorts. We will be dipping into James’ vinyl collection as we go through this in order to play you little samples of the music we’re talking about as we continue.
So this is a history of a certain musical genre from England in the 90s: Jungle. Both James and I were really into jungle at that time and it’s also a good example of a uniquely form of British music that doesn’t get talked about much.
The period of time we’re talking about is from around the mid to late eighties to the mid to late nineties, so while the Berlin wall was coming down and so many other changes were going on in the world, this is one of the things that was happening in the UK at the time.
It won’t be for everyone! But I have had requests for this I promise! UK jungle or drum & bass, like UK EDM is pretty big around the world. We usually talk about guitar music on this podcast but this is uniquely British music from a different genre and background.
What is jungle music?
Jungle is a form of dance music that evolved out of the rave scene in the UK (more in a bit) which is personified by fast, intense, looped breakbeats over the top of deep reggae style bass lines with atmospheric sound effects, some vocals (often sampled) and maybe MCing over the top.
Complex drum patterns, and sub bass.
It evolved in the UK in the early to mid 1990s.
It was a really interesting and original new kind of music that was exciting because it kept changing and became really sophisticated and original quite quickly, and went from being a form of music that was considered the lowest of the low to being much more critically accepted by the mainstream.
The music is really intense. We’ll play you some. Listen to this, it’ll blow your socks off.
An example of a jungle track from James’ collection
River Niger – Nookie
When did you get this record? How did it get that scratch? Why have we chosen this one? – Atmosphere – Nice stuff – Heavy stuff – Not an obvious anthem
Why do you want to talk about this on LEP? – Personal connection to it (LEP has always been personal) – Uniquely British (we always talk about British stuff)
It’s not the kind of thing that usually gets talked about and analysed – when you talk about British music from the 90s it’s always Britpop, Blur and Oasis but we weren’t really listening to that. Jungle gets overlooked.
Not understood by the music press originally, which was into guitar music.
They didn’t know how to review it.
Do all British people listen to jungle music? – No
Underground music Criminal music Black music (to an extent)
How did you first get into it? Can you tell the story?
Mystery track (1993/4)
Luke: I heard jungle or rave stuff and always thought it was not for me. It was overheard from cars driven by very dodgy geezers. The compilations were on sale in record shops. It was associated with the slightly scary underground rave scene.
But I was into electronic music like ambient and stuff.
We listened to guitar music and funk from the 70s and Stone Roses and some hip hop.
Matt and Eggy – our friends who were into heavy metal and stuff like that. They were in a car and listened to this tape for a laugh and decided it was amazing and played it to us.
How did we used to get jungle music? How did we have access to it?
Tapes found in small record shops or handed round and copied.
It was mysterious – it was word of mouth, or by discovering them on tapes. You didn’t know what they were called. They were anonymous. It wasn’t like in pop music where there was an image and press, there was really no information about it beyond maybe a weird name.
When/how do you listen to jungle music? – Clubs (although we never really went to the proper jungle and hardcore raves in the early to mid nineties) – Walkman – Travelling – Listening in different contexts (You’re listening to a big rave and you’re on the bus in the countryside, listening in a car with big bass speakers) – DJing – Mixing at home (You need speakers with good bass)
What is the origin of this music?
American stuff – techno and hip hop (1980s)
Chicago and Detroit techno, based on Kraftwerk and other influences.
Can you feel it? – Mr Fingers (aka Larry Heard) – Chicago (86)
Rhythim is Rhythim (the dance) – Derrick May – Detroit – 1987
NYC hip hop (samples) Run DMC 1990 House Euro techno
DJs in the UK were mixing up everything – techno, hip hop, breakbeats, other obscure stuff, diverse influences
UK hip hop / breaks
20 Seconds to Comply – Silver Bullet (1990) ~including samples from Robocop
Bring Forth The Guillotine – Silver Bullet (B side)
Breakbeats (what are they?) – Luke’s Breakbeat Lecture
A break in the music where the drummer plays alone for a bit – maybe does a solo but probably just keeps the music going. James Brown used them, lots of others too.
Also, musically they are dance beats played with some syncopation.
The drummer uses ghost notes to add extra little beats to help it skip along in a way that you can dance to. I suppose the origins of that skipping breakbeat in funk music goes back to things like jazz, latin influences, R&B and the general shift towards syncopated dance beats that have a pattern which starts and concludes on the first beat of the bar.
Apache – Incredible Bongo Band
Think About It – Lynn Collins
Amen Brother – The Winstons
Hip Hop DJs sampled these drum breaks, often looping them in crude ways with tape machines, or mixing them on decks.
Jungle DJs also created their own breakbeats by chopping them up, and often creating amazingly complex beats that sometimes sound like a jazz drummer chopping it up.
This was the great change that happened in hip hop – where anything and everything became fair game, as long as it had the kind of break that you could rap and dance to, it was ok, with weird stuff being sampled that you wouldn’t expect.
But new music was being made directly using old music. A weird post-modern form of inward cultural appropriation.
V cheap, naive, basic, simple, unsophisticated! (but also great in its own way)
Using samples, early computers like Ataris and Amigas, some hardware like bassline generators or drum machines.
Considered the nasties, lowest, crappiest, low class music listened to by criminals and low level scumbags in cars.
The breakbeat samples get all mixed up – several generations of people sampling and then being sampled.
The sound becomes more and more compressed, The texture changes from speeding it up and adding other drum samples on the top. This was heard in a lot of hip hop and dance music at the time. The same samples being used by everyone and often several samples at the same time.
So in the UK also had a sort of hip hop dance craze that involved sampling breakbeats.
There was also this very nasty music called acid house, rave or hardcore which was very electronic, fast, had some nasty synth sounds and bleepy squidgy noises and stuff. It had an awful reputation. More on that later.
Also in the UK because of the carribean communities particularly around London and the West Midlands.
Reggae / Dub – deep sub bass, atmospheric sound effects, echo, delay, reverb.
King Tubby – Good Time Dub
White Rum – Sly & The Revolutionaries
Scientist mix (1980)
Reggae sound systems, toasting, MCing, ragga
This was actually hip hop before hip hop. – Big sound systems – Sub bass – MCs toasting over the top of music – People dancing
2nd gen black/carribean kids
Not American – a uniquely UK thing (a multicultural mix)
Eclectic rather than purist
Led by DJs trying to get the right reaction on the dancefloor
Acid / Rave / Hardcore
Jungle came out of a scene called hardcore, which came from rave, which came from acid.
What were raves? Warehouse raves Moral panic Drugs
Generally it was seen as a lawless threat and a disturbance to public peace, and maybe they had a point to an extent.
Before it gained any acceptability it was on the fringes and underground.
Later the raves became legal and took place in clubs and this was all part of how the music became more accepted, ultimately.
1993/1994 – Jungle
Inner City Life – Goldie
This is when jungle started appearing in the mainstream and fully established itself as a genre of music in its own right.
Also there were other forms of music coming from the same origins. It wasn’t a single narrative. (Techno continued, happy hardcore, big beat, “trip hop”, ambient, etc)
Musical differences & features compared to acid, rave, hardcore…
What does jungle actually sound like?
What are the distinguishing features, musically?
– 150-170 BPM (James says 168BPM specifically!) – No 4×4 bass drum – Sampled drums from funk records looped and sped up, sometimes re-sequenced and chopped up – Multiple break beats from different samples layered over the top – Gives a sort of jungle feel because – Everything is v compressed, sped up which raises the tone of the drum track – this emphasises the higher frequencies and leaves the mid range quite open and empty and then there are deep sub basslines a bit like reggae basslines – This feeling of space and echo with a deep soft layer at the bottom and a canopy of sound at the top creates this feeling of being in a tropical jungle – quiet a deep and heated atmosphere – like in a rainforest. Sometimes there are the sounds of tropical birds or a drop of water. – Then spacey sounds like synth pads, possibly piano lines, some soulful vocals but plenty of space and sparseness – a bit like in dub reggae – Fast but slow – Fast upper rhythm in double time to a reggae bassline played at half speed – Things come in more slowly with slower patterns – Losing the beat – It can sound like a drum kit falling down the stairs – It might sound like total chaos
What would our Mum think if she listened to it?
Dead Dred – Dred Bass (1994)
Babylon – Splash (1994)
The Spectrum – Wax Doctor (1995)
The Lighter – Sound of the Future
LTJ BUKEM & MC CONRAD “Chrome” Live in Leamington Spa 1995 (this is the tape I used to listen to all the time)
Different types of Jungle
A lot of people disagree about the names etc
Luke: two types → Harder, darker stuff and then the lighter more atmospheric stuff.
Started appearing in adverts and other people’s music
Roni Size win the Mercury Music Prize in 1997 (but it should have been won by Goldie who wasn’t even nominated in 1994)
Heroes – Roni Size (1997)
Little Wonder – David Bowie (1997)
Big DJs and names
– Dillinga – Goldie (didn’t win the Mercury prize in 94) – Grooverider – LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad – Fabio – DJ Rap – Jumping Jack Frost – DJ Hype – DJ Randall – DJ SS – Kenny Ken – Aphrodite Tons of others
Source Direct interview
I won’t add anything else here really. I don’t want this to be ridiculously long.
All I’ll say is that I sincerely hope you enjoyed this episode. James and I put our heart and soul into this episode so I hope it comes across. It’s a bit ambitious because this music is never going to appeal to everyone, but I hope you’ve got something from this in any case.
If you like some of the things you’ve heard and you’d like to hear more, or if you’d just like to listen again to any of the stuff we’ve been talking about then you should head over to the page for this episode on teacherluke.co.uk where you will find a plethora of music for your ears, including…
YouTube videos or Soundcloud links for almost all the music in this episode – all the tracks, and even some full length mixes
A jungle mix by James, with actual vinyl records (scratches and all) made especially for listeners of this episode (includes some pirate radio MCing by James) uploaded to my Mixcloud page
A Spotify playlist that I’ve made featuring some of the tunes in this episode (it’s called LEP Jungle if you want to find it on Spotify on your phone)
All the notes we used while recording (so you can check some words that you might want to spell)
Thank you for listening, and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.
Spotify playlist for this episode
James’ LEP Jungle mix
For more music mixes (various genres), check out James’ Mixcloud page here
Luke talks on his own without stopping, restarting or editing, including responses to comments about recent episodes, thoughts on the methodology behind this podcast, some vocabulary teaching, a few songs on the guitar and more. This is no-stress episode, and a chance for me to just check in on you and make sure you’re all doing ok out there in the world! 😉
These are just notes and not a full transcript. Some chunks of target vocabulary are highlighted in bold.
In this episode you’re going to hear me talking on my own, which probably means it’s going to be easier to understand and follow what I’m saying than some of the episodes I’ve uploaded recently, because I’ve uploaded some pretty challenging episodes over the last few weeks and months, and years… I try to mix it up a bit, with some challenging ones and some easier ones. Let’s say the easier ones are when I’m on my own and the more challenging ones are when I’m with other people or when we are breaking down recordings of other people.
But this one is just me, and you, because you’re involved. You’re listening aren’t you?
I hope this will come as something of a relief to you, at least to those of you who are pushing yourselves by listening to my podcast, and who might have quite a tough time understanding the more challenging episodes.
I know that some episodes are difficult to follow sometimes, because of the speed of English you’re hearing from my guests and me, and because we might be talking about subjects that you aren’t so familiar with.
Anyway, no stress today, there’s enough stress in the world. The plan here is just to chat to you, have a good old-fashioned ramble on LEP.
So you can have a bit of a breather today and just enjoy listening to this. And I hope you listen to all of it, from start to the finish. If it makes any difference to you, I will sing you a song or two with my guitar at the end. So if you’d like to hear me singing again, as I do at the end of episodes sometimes, then stick with it and keep listening until the end. Don’t be tempted to skip forward. That’s cheating.
Two words: deferred gratification.
It’s important to have a bit of self-discipline and I’m talking to myself there as much as I’m talking to you.
When I decided to do this episode I thought (and it’s always like this, with these rambling episodes as I’ve come to call them) I decided initially to just talk without preparing anything in advance. Just no pressure, no specific agenda, just speak my mind and try to express the ideas which have been building up in my head since the last time I spoke to you like this.
The idea is that I can keep it authentic, in the moment and I don’t have to spend ages working on it before I even start recording. That’s what I think when I decide to do an episode like this.
But that’s easier said than done, because…. (What happens Luke? How do you end up writing so much in advance?)
Basically: I want to talk with no preparation, but then I have to write some things down or I won’t remember to mention them, but then I end up starting to type out everything in advance.
It’s hard to know when to stop preparing and when to start recording.
So I’ve decided to just get started here without worrying too much about having every single detail prepared in advance.
I know it’s probably not an issue for you, but I’m just giving you bit of insight into what goes through my mind when I prepare and record an episode.
So → No more preparing, it’s time to start talking, which might mean there is some rambling here, which is fine and great.
The main aim of this episode is to check in on you (make sure you’re doing alright) but not check up on you (to investigate, gather information, spy on someone)
And just chat to you about various things on my mind, things that I think are of interest to you as a member of my audience.
Talk a bit about recent episodes, just to establish where we are.
Give a few bits of news.
Respond to a couple of comments I’ve received
Have a bit of a laugh → just have some fun on the podcast because that is one of my favourite things about doing this. Just messing about and having fun, with no stress involved!
Sing one, two or maybe three songs on the guitar, which I will leave until the end.
As we go through all of this, I am sure that there will be various expressions, vocabulary and other language points that will come up. [A lot of it is highlighted for you here]
When I talk in episodes of this podcast I am sure that some people don’t notice what the method is. Most people like to think there is a specific pedagogical method at work and in my experience it is necessary to tell people (my students for example) exactly what the method is in order to put their minds at rest so they know they’re in safe hands.
What I will say is this – it might not be obvious all the time, but there is method to the madness I can assure you. I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years now and to an extent I am now just always teaching. I’m always in teaching mode. This means that I’m always thinking about what you while I am talking. I’m always thinking about the listener not because I’m so selfless and wonderful but because I know what I’m doing.
*You don’t need to justify it Luke*
Let’s just say this → Even when it’s not obvious that I am teaching you, I am teaching you. Every minute you listen to this (and indeed most other things you could listen to, but the difference here is that I am doing this specifically for you as a learner of English and even more specifically as a LEPster) … every minute you listen to this is a minute in the bank of your English.
I’ll talk more about methodology and this podcast in a bit. I’m still technically in the introduction here.
I have no idea how long this will take, but it usually takes longer than I expect, so this could easily be two episodes.
But seriously, let’s forget about the clock for a while, ok? Don’t worry about how much time is passing. If you need to stop for some reason, just stop. Your podcasting app will remember where you were when you stopped and you can carry on again when you’re ready.
The main thing is: just listen, just try to follow everything. If you can follow it all without trouble, then fantastic, give yourself a little pat on the back. If you can’t follow it all, just do your best, keep going, don’t give up, rewind and listen to certain bits again if you need to.
And this is where your podcasting app will help once more because you should have those helpful buttons which let you skip back by a few seconds. I use them a lot when I’m listening to podcasts, including ones in French (Any good french podcasts to recommend Luke? I’ll add that to the list for this episode – see below)
You will see various notes on the page for this episode. This is all the stuff I wrote down before recording. It’s not a transcript, but if you hear me saying something and you’re wondering what it is, check out the page and you might see it written there.
I understand that checking a website isn’t all that convenient, even when you have a smartphone to hand.
But anyway, it is there. If you’re listening in an app (including the LEP app) check the show notes → There is a link there that takes you right to the relevant page each time. That’s one of the fastest ways to get straight to the correct page. Otherwise, join the mailing list to have the link sent to your inbox, or just check out the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk where you can find everything.
Is everyone ok out there? Let’s be honest, this is a pretty crazy time. I hope you’re doing ok. Hang in there, stay positive!
Ian Moore → It’s interesting that Jack in the comment section mentioned that he found it waaaay easier to understand Ian this time compared to last time. This could well mean that his English listening skills have improved in that period – considering there are about 300 episodes between Ian’s first appearance and his second. So, I’m very happy to hear that, basically.
I’m also happy to have had Ian on the podcast again. He really is a very witty man, not to mention well-dressed. There are a few videos of him online, doing comedy, being interviewed on TV and so on, and he is very good.
Alan Partridge episodes
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. (or so they say)
“You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”(and you shouldn’t try to) ~originally attributed to John Lydgate and then Abraham Lincoln.
Slightly puzzling stats for the AP episodes. Part 4 and 6 have a similar number of listens, but episode 5 has about 25% fewer listens. What’s that all about?
The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming → The main point is, focus on the message, not how the message has been delivered to you. I would also add: be thoughtful, be respectful, think about the other person, listen to them and pay attention to them, adapt your style accordingly. Ultimately it comes down to compassion. Be compassionate. Think about the other person, think about their situation, be less self-involved. Thinking about the other person, what they want and what they are really trying to say → this helps a lot. It helps you avoid conflict and it helps to bring more respect to you. In theory.
RecentAmber & PaulEpisodes
It was fantastic to speak to them on the podcast recently. I think it’s best when the three of us have a specific aim for an episode, especially if it is a game of some kind.
Amber had her baby! It’s a girl. Mum and baby are both doing fine. I’m hoping to speak to Amber soon about it, with Paul there too. Congratulations to Amber, her husband, and their little boy who now is the brother to a little baby sister.
Quintessentially British Things
James – A few people going Hmmm. Some saying how fun it is to listen to the two of us, a couple of people saying they found James to be a bit rude because he kept cutting me off. We have a close relationship, but like all brothers we fight sometimes etc… conditions for recording, we both had a lot to say, etc. We mention it at the end of an upcoming episode we’ve done about music.
Hi people, sorry if I came across as rude / impatient. It was late, we were tired, and I’m afraid to say I was very, very drunk. ; )
Ones with Mum and Dad – all positive saying they found them interesting and lovely and I’m lucky to have a family like that, and I am. Episodes of Gill’s Book Club (which it will probably be called) should arrive this year. RT report too, when we feel like it!
A lot of conversations with native speakers at normal speed. What is your method, Luke?
Upcoming music episode with James
Thoughts about the challenge of listening to some of my episodes.
I like to consider the thoughts of my listeners but ultimately I have to go with my gut and use my own judgement
The majority of comments come from LEPsters with pretty good English. So I don’t hear from lower-level listeners so much.
Comments on the website → More people came out of the woodwork and that’s great. I’m not concerned. People need to go out of their way to visit the website, find the episode page, find the comment section, possibly sign into the comment section (Disqus) and write a comment in English. Most people just end up being ninjas often because there are various little barriers in the way. I get it!
People comment in various ways → comment section, email, twitter, facebook, Youtube. The LEPsters’ comments are spread out all over the place. So they’re not all consolidated in one place. Maybe I should just stick to ONE platform, but I think this would ultimately make it more complicated for people to listen.
Premium → I am working on new stuff all the time. I say it’s about grammar, vocab & pron, and it is, but that sounds a bit dry doesn’t it? Remember – it’s still me, I’m still trying to do it in the LEP way, which means I make efforts to keep it entertaining at all times, as well as clear. Upcoming episodes will be about common errors I’ve noticed in comments and emails and things.
You’re reading a book, right? What are you reading?
Message: Hello there Luke, it is a great pleasure to be one of your thousands of listeners. Must admit that I am on the ninja´s listener side…Just a quick question, What kind of book would you suggest I should read in order to improve my english comprehension? I am going for the c1 advanced by the way and the big deal for me is the huge amount of sources offered on the Internet…
Thanks in advance my friend, carry on the good work!
To be honest Miguel, you should just pick a book that you really want to read and that you will probably enjoy. You could pick the English version of one of your favourite books or perhaps a book of a film you like.
You can also get graded books at the C1 level, which would also be a good idea.
I’m assuming you mean reading novels rather than grammar/vocab books.
Hope that helps.
Check these episodes from the archive
French podcasts (difficult to find the right one for me, I must be quite picky)
Un Cafe Au Lot 7 → Louis Dubourg chats with French stand-up comedians, including some of my friends and acquaintances. Paul is interviewed there, so is Seb Marx and also some other big names like Fary and Gad Elmaleh.
French Voices → Conversations with interesting people with some things to look out for in English at the start)
French Your Way Podcast –> Specifically about teaching us French, making things clear and memorable, correcting certain mistakes, a lot of it is in English. Jessica is on maternity leave, starting in June. She’s probably fully involved with her baby. I hope she comes back soon when she is able to.
This comment is sponsored by LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Message: Hello Luke,
I have been a regular listener of your fantastic podcasts since 2018 and I am the one who requested an episode on the topic of “articles” a couple of weeks ago.
I just finished the fifth episode of this series this morning and I must say that it is the most brilliant episode that you have ever recorded. I didn’t not think you were capable of doing that in 2009 because this requires a lot of experience. I do not know if the Lepsters realize the amount of work that you have performed to complete this series. During the last 20 years, I have often searched for such a lesson focused on the right use of articles but I have never found it. There are so many rules but also exceptions that it drives me nuts. As a neuroradiologist at Lille University hospital, I regularlly write scientific papers on neurovascular diseases in international journals and I am frustrated to systematically see the editorial office of the journal change my sentences by adding or removing articles. I feel more confident now even if it takes a long time to master the correct use of articles.
I don’t know if I have correctly used the articles in this message but I am very happy to get a comprehensive document on this topic.
Thanks a lot Luke and keep it up. You are such a lovely person who is very inspiring to me.
Oh what a wonderful email, thank you very much Xavier.
Yes, you used all the articles correctly in this email. I’m glad to see my episode has helped you!
I’m also very glad to receive emails such as this, from interesting and intelligent people who actually use my content to actively improve their English. It’s very inspiring.
This is a community effort in which LEPsters can transcribe episodes of the podcast.
I’ve mentioned it before, now I’m mentioning it again.
The transcription project is one of the most powerful options we have in this podcast.
Since I started learning English, I’ve always heard the same piece of advice from teachers I’ve been listening to, which is: “We must read, listen and write to have better English skills.”
Well, the transcription project is the perfect example and could allow us to reach this goal entirely.
The transcription project does not only involve transcribing but also proofreading episodes. That’s why I created two teams. The Orion team makes the transcriptions, and the Andromeda team proofreads and corrects the texts done by the Orion team.
And I want to tell to people, asking to join the project, that we can fulfil our goals staying in this project longer than one or two episodes. Nobody is going to encourage us or give a hug or give a kiss. Still, the joy of seeing this project growing up and becoming better than when we started participating in it is immense. Staying for an extended period allows you to see your real improvement.
When you proofread the episodes you did one year before, you are going to find a lot of mistakes and misheard words. That means that you can hear sounds and terms you couldn’t hear previously. That also means that you are becoming a better English speaker.
As I’ve often said, the transcription project is a hard task to do, sometimes we can feel bored, but we can not forget why we are doing it and what goal we want to reach. Mastering a language when you don’t live with native speakers is very hard. This project and Luke’s English Podcast episodes allow us to fill the gap. However, we need something more to stay in this project longer. We need to have another goal. A different goal than learning English. A goal which means giving back something to others.
Yes! Learning plus giving back is something much more powerful. We learn English for free, and we transcribe episodes and correct them for free.
Doing that we fulfil another goal: We help everyone coming to LEP to learn faster with our transcripts. The number of them is close to 342. (probably more since this was done – because 618. The Climate Crisis is also finished now and needs to be proofread).
I started my collaboration in 2015, and even if I am not as good an English speaker as I want, I know I am much better than then.
Thanks to people joining the Orion and Andromeda teams, staying with me, and helping me to continue with this project.
I don’t think people realise how important it is to keep listening and coming back to the same material, instead of just moving on to the next thing. Your engagement becomes much deeper and you’re more likely to learn and remember the new words, as well as improve your listening skills. I also really like the fact that it’s collaborative and that the transcription improves over time as more people listen to it – a community effort!
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. Here is the second part of this double episode I’m doing here at the beginning of this new decade.
In this episode I’ll be continuing to refresh the podcast for 2020 with this double-ramble in which I’m talking about the kinds of things you normally talk about in the new year period – what I did during my holiday, my new years resolutions, some of my plans for the future for the podcast and also a chance to reestablish some of the main aims for this show. Also I’ll be talking about my daughter’s English and our efforts to bring her up to be bilingual.
This is part 2, you should also listen to part 1 first.
Do you have any new year resolutions?
Luke rambles about motivation and attitude in learning English
Avoid comment sections on YT, Twitter etc
Work hard, get a good routine, eat well, don’t drink too much, be loving with my loved ones, organise things with my wife, get my bike fixed, keep working on the podcast and trying to make it better all the time.
Here’s something I saw Billy Bragg tweet the other day. It’s some New Year’s Rules by folk singer Woody Guthrie in the 50s or 60s. I thought it was quite good and I intend to follow some of these steps.
What did you get for Christmas?
Paul McCartney tickets
My second chance to see him live and my first opportunity to see him do a whole concert.
I’m very excited to see an actual Beatle doing a show and I understand that he puts on a really great show. I am very interested to see which songs he chooses to play, since I am a big fan and I know almost all of his work. I think he does a lot of Beatles songs these days and has a fantastic band that he’s been working with for ages.
Any other stories from your holiday?
Saw The Snowman with our daughter.
What’s The Snowman? In the local church with the stained glass windows and a live orchestra playing along and some singing. They put up a screen in there.
She is now obsessed by snowmen and said “sennan” whenever she sees one, woke up saying sennan sennan in the morning. Must have been dreaming about a snowman. Kept saying sennan! Sennan! When she spotted one in the street or at the airport.
My Daughter’s English
Is she bilingual? Are you raising her to be bilingual? How are you working on her two languages?
I am planning a whole series of podcast episodes about this, but let’s talk about it a bit now.
Kids need a reason to learn another language. French is obvious, I’m working on the English.
It seems to help if you do English in certain situations or always with a certain person. Major language and minor language. Outside, French is the major language and I’m not worried about her picking it up like a native. She goes to daycare in French, will go to school in French, will have French speaking friends going to French speaking parties. There’s no doubt that she’ll learn French. English is the minor language there because she will use it only sometimes, usually when I’m with her. Then in the house, English is the major language and French the minor one. I speak English with her, I speak English to my wife and my wife speaks a lot of English and some French. We have English books, listen to English songs and also i just play BBC Five Live, 6 Music or Radio 4 in the background quite a lot. She likes watching some cartoons in English and is quite obsessed by The Beatles and often demands to watch Beatle videos on YouTube, which I’m very happy about of course.
Also, when we go back to England she spends all her time in English, talking to my parents, my brother and just people in shops and stuff. Sometimes she sees her cousins and speaks English with them, but they live in the US these days.
In terms of her having a reason for learning English, hopefully it will be obvious but I expect at some point I will have to explain it. English is the language of her dad and all the dad’s side of her family. She is English as well as French and so this is a whole aspect of her personality and her family. Also if she wants to really get to know me she needs to do it in English. The other persuasive things are the fact that a lot of music, TV and films are in English and English can give her way more opportunities in the future. And, hopefully, I can convince her that it’s somehow cool to be able to speak English like an English person.
Her English is coming along. I think her French is a bit better at the moment, but the English is not far behind.
Bilingual kids take a bit longer to speak, but she’s doing fine. (Play recording)
Quintessentially British Things
This is a podcast series that’s coming soon. I think I’ve mentioned it so I won’t go on about it too much but…
Here’s a little preview of what’s to come for the next few episodes.
First there’s the Star Wars 9 megaramble with James, and then a series of 1 to 1 conversations with members of my family.
The idea was that I wanted them to pick a few typically British or English things and then talk about them on the podcast. They could be anything that they thought was interesting or worth talking about → quintessentially British, meaning very typical examples of Britishness, and not the usual cliches like tea, fish and chips, Mr Bean etc.
The result is three conversations about some interesting aspects of British culture, history and geography and also a good chance to get to know each member of my family a bit more, through the British things they like talking about.
So, coming soon to LEP → Quintessentially British Things
I interviewed James, Dad and Mum for that series, but nobody interviewed me. If they had, my QBT would be Neil Innes, who sadly died on 29 December. Neil was one of my favourite people in the world and I was really sad to know that he’d died as was everyone else in my family because we’re all big fans.
Basically, Neil Innes was a musician, song writer, comedian and a sort of absurdist as well as various other things.
He was a member of The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (later The Bonzo Dog Band). His song “Urban Spaceman” was produced by Paul McCartney and was a hit. Worked with Roger McGough and Mike McCartney. Worked with Monty Python (the 7th python) and provided music, sketches and performances. Worked with Eric Idle on Rutland Weekend Television, where they invented The Rutles, which later became a feature film. Innes wrote two albums worth of music for it. The whole thing was a Beatles parody, but perfectly done and the music was incredibly spot on. For me The Rutles music is up there with The Beatles. I find them to be as good as a lot of my favourite Beatles songs, and yet there is an added enjoyment in that they’re postmodern comedy songs commenting on the Beatles and their age, through a perfect musical parody of them.
Neil Innes went on to record several albums which had music videos too. The albums span many genres of music and there are a lot of really interesting, funny, and spellbinding songs in his discography.
Neil Innes was a brilliant songwriter, an excellent lyricist, and a very wise, aware man who seemed to live a fairly ordinary suburban life, while also writing psychedelic masterpieces. I think he’s a national treasure, but he’s still not that well known. Still, the papers published obituaries of him and there was a lot of stuff on twitter with various people announcing the sad news and wishing his family well.
But it’s sad knowing that he is not with us any more. I used to like the fact that he was in the world and now he isn’t, so it’s sad.
My mum announced the news when my dad, me and my daughter had been out to the park. She came in with a tear in her eye and said “Neil Innes has died”. We all used to listen to The Rutles songs at home and in the car and watched the film lots of times together. James and Dad even went to see The Rutles perform in London, which was mainly just Neil Innes and his band doing all the songs.
So, a long ramble about SW and then 3 episodes about QBT, which I think you should find interesting.
That’s what’s coming up next on LEP!
As ever, thank you for sticking with the podcast all the way to the end of the episode and for being a loyal listener! Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel, download the LEP App from the app store and consider becoming a premium subscriber in 2020!
My friend Emina Tuzovic has learned English to a proficient level as a non-native speaker of the language. She says it has been “a long journey”. Let’s find out all about that journey of English learning in this conversation, recorded in London just a couple of days ago.
Today on the podcast I am talking to my friend Emina Tuzovic, who is an English teacher.
For ages and ages I have been meaning to have Emina on this podcast for 3 main reasons:
1. Emina is absolutely lovely and it’s just nice to spend time talking with her, plus there’s plenty I’d like to find out from her that I’ve never really asked her before. That’s a benefit of the podcast, it gives me a chance to have in-depth conversations that often just don’t happen otherwise.
2. She is a non-native speaker of English who has learned the language to a proficient level – good enough to do a masters, a PhD, and to teach English at a very high level, to deliver workshops and seminars and just to live in the UK for a good length of time. So, she must have some valuable insights and experiences about learning English because she’s done it herself, but also about the cultural experience of moving to London and living there for what must be about 15 years at least I think.
3. She is a very well-qualified and experienced English teacher and so I am sure she has loads of insights into learning English from that point of view too, including certain areas of specialist knowledge as a result of her academic studies, including things like the challenges faced by native speakers of Arabic when they learn English. I’ve never talked about Arabic speakers of English on the podcast, so hello to all my Arabic speaking listeners (or should that be marhabaan.
As I said, it’s been quite hard to pin Emina down and interview her – mainly because our timetables are different, I live in Paris, she lives in London and she goes to bed so early in the evening. Thankfully the universe has finally allowed it to happen, here at the London School of English in Holland Park, London. This is where I used to work and where Emina still does work.
So the aim here is to have a long(ish) and natural conversation with Emina, touching on topics like learning English, cultural differences in the UK, teaching English and her academic studies in linguistics.
Rambling on my own about all sorts of things including Brexit news, describing my recording setup and microphones, a book recommendation for you, comments about the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary, the latest Star Wars Episode 9 trailer and Bill Bailey dissecting music in a brilliant way.