Category Archives: Native Speaker

705. Kate Billington Returns (and she brought cake)

Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.

You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to. 

But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes. 

You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available). 

The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.

In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do. 

Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.

So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress. 

Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.

Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.

Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.

OK? Alright. 

So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.


JINGLE

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


Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington. 

Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.

There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today. 

The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment. 

After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.

Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself. 

Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.  

Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation

I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.

Tinnitus

  • What is tinnitus?
  • Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
  • Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?

Maelstrom

  • My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes. 
  • What is a maelstrom?

Violent

  • We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
  • I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way) 

Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)

  • Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older? 
  • Why would this be the case?

Cake & Eating Cake

  • What kind of cake did Kate bring this time? 
  • What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.

Grooming

  • What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
  • Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word? 
  • Why did I use it? 
  • Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.

Derren Brown (hypnotist)

How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?

That’s it for the questions.

As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.

Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington. 

OK, here we go! 


Links & Comments

Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show

Some Listener Comments from Episode 689

Tang Qiongyu

Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.

However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财(gōng xǐ fā cái)means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”(xīn nián kuài lè).

By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋

IcyFlame 

Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.

Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!

Reda Zaouiri

If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)

There you go luke !

Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)

Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”

Ps 2 : Hooray for becoming a Chef !

All the best !

Alexandr Suvorov (Friend of the podcast)

Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere. 

Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.


Ending

Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.

Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆

Some other vocabulary to clarify

To flatter someone / flattery

This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.

“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.

Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)

But

Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:

“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”

Or
“Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.

Savour / savoury

To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.

Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)

I think that will probably do for now!

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

More episodes coming soon, including some conversations with WISBOLEP runners-up, and other things in the pipeline.

Thank you for listening!

Leave your comments in the comment section below 👇

704. The Rick Thompson Report: Brexit Update (February 2021)

Talking again to my dad about UK politics and current affairs, focusing on the latest developments in Brexit, plus a bit of weather and sport. What does Rick think of the government’s trade deal with the EU? How does it affect Northern Ireland? And where are all the benefits promised by Boris Johnson & co? Listen to hear my dad explain complex things in plain English. Full transcript and text video available.

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702. Emergency Questions (with James)

Listen to Luke and James talking about various topics as we answer questions from the book “Emergency Questions” by comedian Richard Herring. Text video and full transcript available.

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LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Song – The Urban Spaceman by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858579321/

700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)

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My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

We’ve Got Johnny Wells by Booker T & The MGs

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

Full Spotify Playlist including loads of music I couldn’t choose as part of my 8 pieces

699. Welcome (back) to Luke’s English Podcast / FAQ (January 2021)

Wishing everyone a happy new year and taking stock of the main aims and methods of this podcast, plus some frequently asked questions. Video version available on YouTube.

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Episode Notes & Transcript

In this episode the plan is to wish you a happy new year, welcome back all my regular listeners (and maybe some irregular listeners too) and also say a big hello to any new listeners who might have just discovered this podcast and are wondering what it’s all about. I normally do episodes like this at the start of the year because at this time, during the new year period, it’s normal to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, perhaps make some new year’s resolutions and generally try to pick up some good habits for the year to come – and that often includes working on your English and trying to find good listening resources to help you do that. 

So, in this episode I’d like to welcome you to LEP or welcome you back to LEP, just summarise what this podcast is all about, restate my objectives for doing this and generally make sure we are all on-track for a good year of podcasting and learning English in 2021.

I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions. These are the questions people typically ask me when they find out that I have a podcast for learning English and they want to know more. 

So during the episode, you’ll learn or be reminded of what the main ideas are for this podcast, what teaching principles this is based on, what my methods are, what you can expect from my episodes in general, how you can use them to improve your English and also some info about me too, because it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re listening to, isn’t it? I have always found, as a teacher, that it really helps when I put my personality into my English lessons. It just seems to make things more enjoyable and effective for the learners. Not because I have an award-winning personality or anything, but just that I think learning a language is a deeply personal process and so it makes sense to have a more personal approach to teaching it as well as learning it. It helps if you know who I am. It gives you context, it brings the language to life and it’s just more fun too, isn’t it. If you like, as you listen to this, you can imagine we’re in a cafe or something (even though I’m doing all the talking – but you can pause me at any time and put your thoughts into words if you want. I can’t hear or respond to you, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it? That’s the least you can say about my podcast , haha, “Well, it’s better than listening to nothing”)

By the way, other podcasts are available of course. As you probably know, there are quite a lot of podcasts for learners of English including ones by the BBC and other ones by other people, and they’re great, but obviously I hope you listen to my podcast, don’t I?

So, what’s this podcast? How can it help your English? Who are you listening to? Those are the sorts of questions we’ll be covering, but also plenty of other random bits and pieces.

JINGLE

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to the podcast! I hope you had a fairly good holiday period – as good as it can be during this mad mad time that we are all living in. When’s the world going to go back to normal? When’s that going to happen? We don’t know. Was it even normal in the first place? Probably not. In any case – I hope you’re well and that you’ve started 2021 in a reasonably positive frame of mind and that you’re ready to embark on some new audio adventures with me and my podcast.

If you are a brand new listener – then welcome. I really hope you simply enjoy listening to me talking to you, or talking with my guests in English in these episodes. I hope that this will help you to get regular English listening practise into your life, and that you enjoy it too.

Because enjoying your listening practise is so important. This will help you to listen regularly, listen for longer periods of time and listen long-term in your life as well. 

We all know that it is very important and useful to listen to plenty of clear, natural English, spoken at a fairly normal speed, focusing on a variety of topics. 

Reading is good. Studying grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation – that’s good. Doing plenty of speaking practice is really important. Watching videos in English is helpful. But do not underestimate the importance of just listening to English – for as long as possible each time. That’s what this podcast aims to help you do – at a very minimum. There is more to it than that of course. A lot more. But basically – I want you to do more listening in English.

The first and most basic aim of this podcast is just to help you to get more English in your life through listening to the spoken word – listening to English as it is spoken naturally, by me in this case, and my guests.

Let’s go through my list of frequently asked questions, which will form the backbone of this episode, which is probably quite long.

  • What is this podcast?
  • Is it for me?
    • It’s for everyone, but it might be difficult if → You’re lower than an intermediate level (intermediate might be hard – you’ll have to be extra motivated) or you are a really visual learner. (My wife doesn’t listen to podcasts – even in French. She can’t really do it. She feels she has to close her eyes or do nothing else, whereas I love just listening to audio and it works really well for me – better than watching videos because I can multi task)
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • Why did you start doing this podcast?
  • Who are you Luke? I mean, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your career so that we can feel totally confident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re just some guy who can speak English?
  • Will it really help my English to listen to this? 
    • Yes.
  • How do you know?
    First-hand accounts from listeners.

Common sense. Of course. It’s about a billion times more effective than listening to nothing at all. Plus, what else are you going to do? Watch Netflix with subtitles (yes, do that too, but switch the subs off sometimes) REad books (yes definitely – both graded and non-graded ones if you’re ready) Speak English with people you know who speak English (yes) Take English classes (good idea as long as you take part properly and take responsibility for your learning too). You can do all of those things. But I don’t want to make this complicated. Listen to my podcast regularly and it will help with your English. 

Academic studies I’ve done – while preparing my teaching qualifications I read a lot of books and other texts based on proper academic studies into how people learn languages. 

Professional experience after having met many thousands of learners of English from many places, and working with them closely to help their English. Observing what works for them, what people respond to, the realities of learning a language. 

All of that has shown me that regularly listening to something like my podcast can help your English a lot. I could go into that more (and I have in previous episodes) but that’s all I will say at this point.

  • Will it help me improve my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?
    • Yes, both directly (when I teach language) and indirectly (through exposure). I can also help you think about the way that you learn, which can make you a more skillful and effective learner.
  • What’s your method then, Professor Thompson?
    • 5 Ls, 5 Ss, 5 Ps, being a smart-learner, the 5 Ms, DISCIPLINE, commitment.
      There are many ways to approach language learning. You have to choose one that works for you and that helps you to keep doing it even when it’s tough.
      Basic: Get as much English into your life as possible and make it meaningful. Hopefully I can help by giving you something you enjoy and want to listen to.
      More complex: Be a conscious learner too → notice structures and phrases, notice pronunciation (how I say things), try to record them, understand them in context, remember them, record them and repeat them. My premium content is designed specifically to help you do that. I cut out a lot of the annoying work and put it all on a plate for you. Just listen, follow the PDFs and do what I tell you to do – memory tests, repeat after me etc.
  • Can I really learn English on my own, only by listening to you Luke? 

I always recommend my podcast as “part of a balanced diet” and that does include doing other things, especially plenty of speaking practise with real people, probably qualified teachers who can help give you bits of feedback and correct your errors, but also just speaking with people helps you develop the social side of using in English for communication. 

I should also mention writing and reading of course, but since this is an audio podcast we focus mainly on the spoken version of English.

  • What level is it for?
  • Should I do anything else, other than just listening? 
    • Share your thoughts in the comment section on my website – practise little bits of writing there and chat with other listeners.
  • Your episodes are quite long. Aren’t they too long, in fact?
  • How should I listen? (the technology you can use, what you can do while listening, where you listen, how often you listen)
  • Are there transcripts for these episodes?
  • What’s your accent Luke?
  • Do you only have native speakers on your podcast?
    Most of the time my guests have English as a first language, but sometimes I talk to people who have learned English in adulthood because these people are extremely inspiring as they have done what so many people want to do, and they have great insights into the process of learning English and it’s also really important for you to listen to non-native English speakers speaking English too because it’s vital to hear a variety of English being spoken in your life. English is a diverse language. There are many people around the world using it and speaking it in slightly different ways. It’s important for you to be able to understand all those different varieties. This is true for the different accents and dialects in native English speakers too – you should become accustomed to hearing English spoken with various regional accents. If you only ever listen to my standard RP which is probably very clear to your ears, you might not be able to understand others. Also I really want to encourage you to love the different regional accents and to see their value. Sometimes learners of English will say that they only want RP and they see other accents as somehow being “lower forms of English” with less value. I don’t agree with this of course. The idea that a regional accent makes you sound uneducated or even lazy or something – that idea deserves to stay in the 1950s where it belongs. 

Having said that – let me put my cards on the table and be as clear as possible.

What accent should you develop in English?

The first thing is that you need to be clear. People need to understand you. Work on that.

It’s a good idea to pick a certain accent which you can use as a model. This is the accent/pronunciation you can aim for or try to copy. Why not choose RP? It’s a perfectly good choice as most people will be familiar with it. If you have a particular reason for wanting to copy a regional accent, then go for it. Perhaps you live in the north of England and you want to do things like your neighbours. Or maybe you just love a certain regional accent for personal reasons and you’ve decided that this is the one for you. That’s fine too. Go for it. Try to keep things natural. I could talk about this more but I won’t go on about it too much.

Basically – I love all the accents in English. I really do. But I would probably recommend RP as the one to go for, just because it’s still a standard form. I know someone is thinking “but only about 5% of English speakers use RP” yes – but I can’t think of another accent which is more common. Think of British accents in a pie chart. There isn’t one accent that really dominates that chart, I expect. Each segment in the chart is probably around the same size. So which one do you pick? Again, I think RP is fine and makes sense because it’s a standard. I don’t mean you should speak like a posh person, like The Queen or something, because that would be weird. 

  • Listening for understanding others 
    Listening in order to develop your pronunciation
  • How do I pronounce your name, actually?
  • How do I pronounce the name of the podcast?
  • What sort of episodes can we expect?
  • What are your favourite episodes?
  • You’re on episode 699 of LEP. Do you have anything special planned for episode 700? No, I don’t! I think it will just be another episode this time. I can’t think of anything specific I can do. Maybe I will do a YouTube livestream “Ask Me Anything” kind of thing. I’ll see. I know that if I do a YouTube live stream then you will all want to know about it in advance. This isn’t always possible. You’ll just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel. 
  • What are LEPsters?
  • Where are your listeners? 
    • In many places around the world! All over the world.
  • Why do you talk about ninjas sometimes? What are LEP Ninjas?
  • Can you explain the Russian Joke please? No. 
  • What do you think of Brexit? It’s a bad idea. I think it was an opportunity for a bunch of nutters to take control of my country and push it in a different direction. I think it’s the wrong direction, but now we have to live with it and make it work. I am not a fan of Boris Johnson and his gang. I feel they’re doing a bad job. That’s probably enough politics isn’t it. Oops, nearly slipped on politics there. Watch out everyone, there’s some politics on the floor. Don’t step in it. “Can someone clean that up please?”  (I have made that joke before)
  • Do you have a team of people helping you to do this? No, it’s just me. 
  • Can we see you perform stand-up comedy on stage?
  • Are you married and do you have kids and stuff?
  • What’s your favourite football team?
  • Do you like music? Do you play music? Do you have any songs stuck in your head today?
  • Can you sing songs for us on the podcast sometimes?
    Yes, I do that occasionally, when I feel inspired to do it. I’m not the greatest singer or the greatest guitarist. I’m just learning. But I love it and I feel moved to do it. If I do sing in an episode, most of the time, I do it right at the end of the episode so that people who might not like it don’t feel obliged to listen to it. But the ones who like hearing my versions of other people’s songs (I usually sing cover versions of songs) those people can listen and hopefully enjoy hearing me. I always make an effort to sing clearly so you can hear all the words of the song. I also don’t use any reverb to cover up the imperfections in my voice or guitar playing. I just get the guitar on my lap, point the microphone somewhere between the guitar and my mouth and do my best.
  • Are you on YouTube?

Yes, I have a YouTube channel as you may know. 

I post my audio episodes there, usually with a single static image. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the best way to listen to my content, but I guess if you are sitting at your computer, perhaps doing something else (like gaming or working or something) then it’s convenient to have one of my episodes running in the background. But also, YouTube’s automatically generated subtitles are usually pretty accurate. When I’m talking on my own, the accuracy is about 95% but when I’m with guests that accuracy can drop to about 85-90% I think. That’s not 100 perfect, but it’s pretty good. 

I’m always working on ways to deliver 100% correct transcripts to you because I know how useful and important they are. To an extent I’m just waiting for the technology to catch up. I think it won’t be long before automatic transcriptions are basically perfect but we’ll see.

I’ve been working with some new software which is quite mind-blowing. I don’t want to make any promises about it because I’m just experimenting with it at the moment, but basically it allows me to generate transcripts for episodes in a really convenient way, then edit those transcripts quite easily while also editing the audio. This is too complicated to get into now.

  • Have you forgotten anything? 

Yes, I am certain that I have forgotten to mention something really important, and someone is going to think “Hey you forgot to mention this specific thing! Or You didn’t mention this specific person!” Sorry about that.

You ramble quite a lot Luke, you sometimes talk too much and repeat yourself a bit. 

Yes, I do. Sue me. To paraphrase Shakespeare: There is a method in my madness.

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. The actual line from the play is ‘Though this be madness yet there is method in it’.

The main message I want to give you here is this: 

  • Listen to my episodes regularly and enjoy doing it.
  • Download my app to get easy access to all the episodes on your phone. (more than in Spotify and anywhere else)
  • Become a premium listener if you want to go further in your learning with me.
  • Don’t be a ninja – come out of the shadows and write a comment from time to time.

That’s it.

Thanks for listening. 

Happy new year.

Take care and be excellent to each other.

Speak to you next time.

Bye bye bye bye bye

698. Paul is on the Podcast / Random Questions with Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor joins me for some random questions and challenges, including various little discussion points, accents, citizenship test questions, idioms, jokes and more.

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Links, Notes, etc

Happy Hour Live with Paul Taylor (with Luke Thompson)

UK Swearing / Road Rage compilation

691. Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach

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

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Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa www.alisoncohenrosa.com/

Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

Jingle —

Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can you change your accent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me repeat it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————–

Ending Transcript

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

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

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

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

Summarising Advice from this conversation

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

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

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

Vowel sounds would be good. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practise practise practise.

Have fun with it too.

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

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

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

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

A Few Expressions in the Episode

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

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

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

Links

Here are some of those useful links again

690. Urban vs Rural / Living Abroad / Cultural Differences (with Cara Leopold)

A conversation with Cara Leopold about the differences between life in Paris and life in provincial France, plus how it feels to live abroad away from your home country.

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Ending Transcript (The last part of the episode)

That was Cara Leopold from leo-listening.com. Thanks again to Cara.

I’m curious to read your comments and responses to this conversation in light of the things I said in the introduction.

I would like to say again – if you have ANY questions about behaviour, customs or culture in the UK which you don’t understand or find frustrating – please write them in the comment section. I would be glad to try and answer your questions both in the comment section and potentially in a whole podcast episode.

Actually, I have done episodes about culture shock in the UK before, because I think, to be honest, I’ve probably heard all the comments, complaints, grumbles, gripes, questions and criticisms before – and so I have dealt with a lot of that stuff in previous episodes, but nevertheless I am very curious to see if I have any listeners who have experienced British culture shock. Ask me your questions and I will try my best to explain my country and my culture. This is my job, to an extent! So go ahead.

By the way, the specific episodes I did in the past about culture shock in England are episodes 192 and 193 – entitled “Culture Shock London” (focusing mainly on life in the capital city actually) and to give you an idea of the things I talked about in those episodes, here’s a little list. This is a list of some of the most common questions and complaints I have heard from foreign visitors in my country.

Questions / Complaints I have heard about London/The UK

  • Why do you have two separate taps in the bathroom rather than one single mixer tap? (This question has haunted me for many years actually)
  • Why don’t you have electrical sockets in the bathroom? I want to dry my hair with my hair dryer or use my hair straighteners but there’s no plug in the bathroom. How do British people manage this? How do you live like this??
  • Why is your food so plain and unhealthy?
  • Why is your weather quite miserable?
  • Why do you drive on the left? It’s like you do everything differently here.
  • Your trains are often late, delayed, overcrowded and too expensive. Why is this?
  • Why are there so many foreigners in London? I haven’t met a “real English person” yet.
  • Why are the houses and flats in London so old and draughty, with windows that don’t keep out the cold and yet the rent is so expensive?
  • Why don’t people talk to each other on the Underground, it’s like everyone’s ashamed or something, and it’s really hard to make friends with people. English people are so reserved. It’s like they’re impossible to make friends with.
  • Why don’t people carry umbrellas all the time, even when it’s raining?
  • The internet is too slow here.
  • You just don’t make any effort to speak other languages here. It’s just ENGLISH, and that’s it. Also, people don’t make any effort to help me when I’m trying my best to talk to them in their language. 
  • Why oh why do the pubs close at 11PM!?? I’m just getting ready to go out at 11!
  • Why do you eat dinner so early?
  • Why do English people go to the pub after work and just drink and drink and drink, standing up, without eating. It’s not very civilised.
  • Cigarettes are ridiculously expensive.
  • When English people do the washing up (the dishes), they use too much soap and then don’t rinse the soap off when they’ve finished. That’s like leaving chemicals all over your plates.
  • Why do you have carpet everywhere – even in the toilet sometimes, that seems unhygienic.
  • Why don’t you take your shoes off when you enter a house? That’s like bringing the dirt from the street into your home!
  • The British have a weird sense of humour. “What is this? British humour?” 

If those are some of the complaints or questions in your head, then you might want to listen to episodes 192 and 193 to hear my full responses.

But also, feel free to write new questions or indeed any responses you have in the comment section.

That’s pretty much it for this episode.

Cara’s chat with a Spanish friend attempting to adapt to life in the USA

Some reminders

New LEP Premium content is coming soon – I keep saying this, but I just want to reassure you. If you want to unlock all the premium episodes and also help me pay the rent, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Download my app to get the entire episode archive on your phone, including loads of bonus content and access to LEP Premium episodes – search for Luke’s English Podcast App in the app store – you can do it right now! It’s completely free!

If you are listening to this on YouTube don’t forget to like and subscribe and leave a comment, it helps the algorithm to promote my episodes. Also, if I reach 100,000 subscribers YouTube will send me a nice glass thing which would be lovely, wouldn’t it. I am currently on about 76,000 so do subscribe to the channel to help that happen.

Follow me on Twitter @EnglishPodcast, and like the page on Facebook

Tell your friends about Luke’s English Podcast and also 

be excellent to each other, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive and keep working on your English.

I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s time to say goodbye!

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

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

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


Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The icing on the cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ending Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Billington on Instagram

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

www.instagram.com/cake_by_cake_paris 

See stand up comedy in Paris (covid-permitting)

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

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

Bonus Audio in the LEP App

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

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

Posh, or not posh? Gap yah, etc…

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

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

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

Thank you for choosing to listen to my podcast.

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

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

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

English Cakes

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

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

French Viennoiserie

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

684. Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth Graty

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

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

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

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

Shall we start the episode? OK.

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

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

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

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

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

Explaining this episode’s title

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To go off on a tangent”

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

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

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

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

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

So you’ll have to focus.

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

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

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

We talk about

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

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

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

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


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

Ending Transcript

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

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

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

Elspeth on Instagram

www.instagram.com/elslostinfrance/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.

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

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

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

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

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