Category Archives: Personal

716. Interview with a Pop Star from the 1960s – Megan Brady from The Applejacks

An interview with Megan Brady, who was the bass player in The Applejacks – a pop band from Birmingham in the 1960s who had a top 5 record, met The Beatles and performed on TV shows and at concerts in the UK.

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Introduction (After the main LEP Jingle)

Hello listeners. In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Megan Brady who was a pop star in the 1960s. Yes, a proper pop star. She was in a band which had a top 10 single, she was on the radio, she appeared on a lot of the music TV shows, she met loads of other pop stars of the moment including the Beatles – yes she met The Beatles, and in fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave her band a song which they recorded – their second single actually, the band were featured in the music magazines and no doubt many teenagers all over the country had her photo on their bedroom walls. Yeah, proper pop star stuff. So this is the story of Megan’s career in music in the 1960s.

You might be thinking – which band was Megan in? Well the band was called The Applejacks – you might not have heard of them. They’re not one of the big bands that we now think of when we look back at the 1960s, and they didn’t really reach fame on an international level but they were certainly part of the scene, and were well known at the time. My mum was a fan of The Applejacks, for example. 

Of course we know about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but there was a whole wave of other groups from all over the UK who were playing a new form of music and so many young people were really into it, and that includes The Applejacks who were from the Birmingham area. 

The 1960s was a really fruitful period in terms of modern British culture and I am proud of that part of our history. I find it fascinating, I like the music and I like the stories of the people involved, and I hope you do too.

My guest is Megan Brady (although she was known as Megan Davies in those days) Megan was the bass guitar player in the band, and at the time it was quite uncommon to have a female musician in a group. We’re talking about the early to mid 1960s. There were female singers, but you hardly ever saw girls actually playing instruments in bands, and so that was one of the unique things about The Applejacks. 

So, yes, you’re going to hear Megan talking about all of this, as well as other details like her other career as a clinical physiologist in neurophysiology in the National Health Service (that basically involves studying people’s brain waves) and just stuff about playing the bass guitar, how she’s still working on her technique and things like that.

I know Megan because I’m mates with one of her sons, Jake – or Jacob as she calls him. I met Jake at sixth form college and we played music together in bands over the years.

I was always really impressed by the fact that his parents were both professional musicians, or had been professional musicians at various times because I was so into music from the 60s and 70s including a lot of the artists that Jake’s Mum and Dad had worked with or brushed shoulders with over the years. 

For example, I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was 16 or 17 and I remember talking to Jake about Hendrix and he told me that they actually had Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at their home somewhere. A wah-wah pedal is a kind of guitar pedal. Jake wasn’t bragging really, he thought it was cool too, and he just wanted to share it with me and I believed him! “Hey, you like Jimi Hendrix – check this out, we’ve got Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at home! Come over I’ll show it to you!” Whaaat? Etc. 

Also, I went to Jake’s house one day and I was hanging out in his bedroom listening to some of his music, and his mum’s bass guitar was sitting there – a nice Fender Jazz bass – and I picked it up and played it a little bit, and Jake said to me “Oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix played that bass once!” I couldn’t believe it! Hendrix played the same bass that was actually in my hands. It turned out that Jake’s mum knew Hendrix a bit, back in the old days and he once had a little go on her bass guitar – the same one that was in Jake’s bedroom that time.

Eventually I learned more and my parents told me more about Megan and that she had played bass in The Applejacks in the 60s and they were one of the popular groups of the time. 

So that’s how I know Megan. I am friends with her son, and now I’ve finally taken the initiative to interview her on this podcast. Megan is lovely and she was happy to do this, which I really appreciate.

Vocabulary

Before we start, I need to just explain a few words that you’ll hear but you might now know. 

  • The Scouts / The Scout Association / Cub Scouts / Girl Guides / Brownies – The Scouts is a worldwide movement for young people (it used to be just boys, but these days it’s for boys and girls I think), founded as the Boy Scouts in England in 1908 by Lord Baden-Powell with the aim of developing character and responsibility. My brother and I used to be Scouts and so did my dad. What kinds of things did we do?Megan was in the Scouts and so were most of the other members of The Applejacks. That’s how they met.
  • Gang show
  • Cub mistress
  • Scout hut
  • Skiffle
  • Skiffle numbers (songs)
  • The Shadows
  • A cruise / a cruise ship / Cunard Cruises
  • The Queen Mary and the QE2
  • Top of the Pops
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital – a famous hospital in London specialising in pediatric care (medical care for children) Where Megan has worked since the late 1990s.
  • Bass guitar stuff – Just a heads up – things will get a bit geeky and specific sometimes in this conversation as we talk about playing the bass guitar, different types of bass guitar and Megan’s bass playing technique. During lockdown she’s been practising with an online bass guitar teacher called Scott Divine from Scott’s Bass Lessons. I didn’t want to cut those parts out of the conversation because I personally find those things really interesting, Megan was enthusiastic about them and so who’s to say that you won’t find them interesting too?
  • Parts of a guitar – The head, the machine heads & tuning pegs, the neck, the body, the pickups, the scratchplate (or pickguard), the pick, the bridge.
  • Fender Jazz Bass vs Fender Precision Bass

Right, without any further ado then, let’s listen to Megan Brady talking about playing the bass guitar and her story of being a pop star in the 1960s. 

And to lead us into this I’m going to play a little sample of The Applejack’s first and most successful single which was called Tell Me When, released in 1964…


Ending

Ending song – Baby Jane by The Applejacks

Thanks again to Megan for taking the time to talk to us about all of that.

You might be wondering why I didn’t get Megan to play some bass for us, which would have been really nice of course.

I didn’t want to put her on the spot, plus for us to hear it properly she’d need to plug it into something like an amplifier and connecting an electric guitar to a computer and playing the sound during a call is a bit tricky too, so it wasn’t really possible at that particular moment.

But you can hear songs by The Applejacks on Spotify and YouTube.

I’ll be sharing some bits and pieces on the page for this episode, including a video filmed in 1964 I think, of Megan performing with The Applejacks, which is a great little sample of the time and you can see her playing I think her Hohner semi-acoustic bass.

The super-long introduction that I recorded but didn’t use – you’ll find it as bonus audio in the app. I go into more details about how I first met Megan’s son Jake and also some other ramblings about The Applejacks…

Tell Me When (Their biggest hit)

Like Dreamers Do (by Lennon/McCartney)

I Go To Sleep (by Ray Davies of The Kinks)

Baby Jane

The Applejacks on Spotify

715. Catching up with Craig Wealand [LEP/AIRC Swapcast]

Exchanging questions with English teacher Craig Wealand from “Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig” about COVID-19, living in Europe post-Brexit, my daughter’s English, getting proper tea in France and Spain, teaching English on Zoom, the worst jobs we’ve ever had + more, with a song on the guitar at the end.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

I hope you are doing well today. Here’s another new episode of my podcast for you to get stuck into as part of your regular English listening practice.

This is episode number 715 and this is the very first swapcast I’ve ever done. After over 12 years of this podcast, here is the first swapcast  and I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “But Luke, what is a swapcast?”

You might be wondering what a swapcast is. A swapcast, in the world of podcasting, is when two podcasters get together to record one episode which is then published, often simultaneously, on the two respective podcast feeds. So, that’s one recording that’s published on both podcasts. It can be a good way to introduce audiences to new podcasts that they might want to listen to, and it’s just a way for podcasters to collaborate with each other. A swapcast. 

And that brings me to the guest I have on this podcast today.

Over 5 years ago now, in early 2016, I spoke to Craig Wealand in episode 334 of this podcast. He also interviewed me on his show as well … and then just recently we decided to do it again, this time in the form of a swapcast.

I feel like using the word swapcast is unnecessary but it’s one of those podcast things. Podcast people kind of like (often say) “OK guys we’re going to do a swapcast this week” and so I feel like “Ooh, I’d like to use the word swapcast too please.” So that’s why I’m saying it! Anyway… Craig Wealand. 

Now some of you will know Craig, not only because you might have heard episode 334, but also because you might listen to his podcast. You’ll hear us talking about it a bit in this conversation, but here are some basic Craig facts.

Craig is originally from England, but for over a decade now he’s been living in Spain, in Valencia, to be more specific … Craig is an English teacher with loads of experience, and he also has a podcast, called Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig, which he does with his friend Resa, who is also an English teacher. That’s in Spanish. Basically it means Learn English with Resa and Craig.

I really want to recommend AIRC (let’s call it that – as an acronym). I really want to recommend Craig’s podcast – AIRC, as it is also known, to any LEPsters out there who speak Spanish as a first language, because Craig and Resa often focus specifically on teaching English to speakers of Spanish as a first language. They focus on themes and language issues that are relevant to the Spanish speaking world. I think it can also be really interesting for non-Spanish speaking people too, and I think in their audience they have people from various other places as well that don’t have Spanish as a first language, but it is especially useful for Spanish speakers from all over the world. You can find Craig’s podcast in all the usual places, but his website is inglespodcast.com

So for this swapcast we decided to catch up with each other after not having spoken for 5 years. I won’t say much more, but we kind of take turns asking each other questions and our conversation covers things like living in Spain or France post-Brexit, my daughter’s English, teaching English in the post COVID-19 world both in classrooms and on Zoom, and plenty of other things. I’ll let you discover them all as you listen.

One thing I should say is that our interview was plagued by a few interruptions and background noises (on my side of my conversation – for some reason everything was very noisy on this particular day) including the sound of a vacuum cleaner (a Hoover), air-raid sirens in Paris (which make a similarly distracting noise) and also the postman arriving at my door to deliver a package.

*Luke rambles and rants for a few minutes about his postman, who doesn’t want to climb the stairs in the building.

Sorry about all the noises and interruptions that you might hear, but I think I’ve managed to remove most of the noises, so it’s probably not a big issue, and I didn’t even need to say this! But apologies in advance for any distracting noises, and also when you hear Craig and me referring to those interruptions, at least now you’ll know what we’re talking about.

OK, that’s enough for this introduction. I’ll let you now listen to this swapcast conversation which will also be published on the AIRC podcast, between me in Paris and Craig in Valencia. I will chat to you again on the other side of the conversation. But now, let’s get started!

Links for Craig’s podcast and website

Podcast links for Apprender Ingles con Resa 7 Craig

Website link for InglesPodcast.com

Ending Transcript

So that was me talking to Craig Wealand from the Apprender Ingles con Resa y Craig podcast, which is available at inglespodcast.com and wherever you get your podcasts. It was nice to talk to Craig again. It’s always nice to talk to Craig. 

Let’s see. I’m going to ramble a little bit at the end and maybe sing a song right at the end of the episode with my guitar, but I will leave it until the end. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of my singing, that’s fine.

So, what shall I say? I should say that links to our previous conversations are available on the page for this episode. You can find them easily☝️. That includes Episode 334, and also episode 335 which is a language review of the vocabulary that came up in episode 334, and Episode 335 is similar to the kind of thing I do in LEP Premium episodes these days – going through a conversation, picking out bits of language, highlighting them, demonstrating them, giving more examples, collocations, synonyms, that kind of thing. So episode 335 is a bit similar to the sort of thing I do in premium episodes these days but with a bit less detail and no pronunciation drills. But still, I do recommend that you listen to episode 335 either before or after hearing episode 334.

334. Interview with Craig Wealand (from InglesPodcast)

335. VOCABULARY REVIEW: Phrases & Expressions from Episode 334.

So – 334 and 335. Also you’ll find a link to Craig’s interview with me which actually was published in early 2015.

www.inglespodcast.com

And of course there’s Craig’s version of this conversation which will be published to all his AIRCoholics. You might want to check it out too because it might be slightly different to this one, depending on how Craig chooses to edit it.

I’m quite curious to see how Craig has managed to deal with the various audio issues that we had during this conversation, but Craig is a bit of an audio maestro so he should know what he’s doing. But, the vacuum cleaner, the air raid sirens, the delivery of my Herbie Hancock book and so on. I wonder how Craig’s managed to deal with those bits.

I actually had to cut out entire sections of our conversation due to the high-pitched sound made by the vacuum cleaner in the next room. I thought it was just too distracting. I thought, “No, I’m not going to publish that. There’s, like, EEEEEEEEEE. An EEE sound.” We don’t want that, do we? EEE sounds.

By the way, as you know I normally don’t record with other noises in the background, I try and make sure there aren’t noises around although long-term listeners will remember the sounds in previous episodes. I have been interrupted by different noises in the past, like for example the sounds of police sirens, sounds of police cars in the background when I lived in London and I recorded my podcast in my flat there, also the sound of my washing machine spinning like mad in the background, the sound of breaking glass and the bottle bins being emptied in the street below my sky-pod where I used to record episodes where I used to live, and the sounds of angry drivers beeping their horns and arguing in the streets below me and other things. So there have been noises in the past.

But in this particular case, we had a guy round to our flat to do a spring clean … and he was the one doing the hoovering, the vacuuming and there was just no other time he could do it.

I’m not apologising, in this instance anyway. I just thought you might be wondering who was doing the vacuuming, and if it was my wife. I just got this idea that some of you imagined that my wife was downstairs doing the vacuuming. But here’s a revelation for you – I’m normally the one who operates the hoover in our flat, so there. I do hoovering, washing up, dishwasher stuff, and my wife handles laundry, and we share everything else pretty much.

I’m actually not allowed to do laundry because of all the times I’ve ruined items of my wife’s clothing by washing them on the wrong settings … I’ve shrunk sweaters and spoiled other items of clothing … I’m oversharing now, but anyway, there was a glimpse into my domestic life. Talking of my domestic life – my wife and my daughter, I must get them back onto the podcast at some point, in fact.

As you may know, my wife is like the Royal correspondent for LEP. She’s just slightly obsessed with the royal family in the UK and we might record a royal family update at some point, in which we chat about Prince Philip, who sadly passed away recently, and of course the whole Meghan and Harry thing.

I say “might” because it’s not certain. I’m not completely sure that I want to weigh in on the Meghan and Harry vs Buckingham Palace controversy. I’m not sure what to think about it, and anyway, I feel like the world has moved on from the story recently. Anyway, it would be nice to talk to my wife on the podcast again soon, and it’s encouraging to know that the citizens of LEPland enjoy listening to her contributions.

Also, it’s probably time to do another recording with my daughter in order to observe the progress of her English. As I said to Craig, she does speak quite a lot of French, which is great of course, but for this English podcast we want her to speak English, right? As I said, she still uses a mix of French and English in her sentences, often switching between the two languages mid-sentence.

For example “Can I have some rigolo fromage, please Daddy cherie? Parce-que je like that, me.

That means, “Can I have some funny cheese please Daddy, darling? Because I like that, me.”

… Luke rambles briefly about being judged for his dodgy French…

We’re still waiting for the languages to diverge. They will, eventually, in time. 

Anyway, this is pretty much it now for this episode. Thanks for listening all the way up to this point.

I think I will do a song on the guitar now, so if that’s not your cup of tea then feel free to hit the ejector seat at this point. You can eject at this point if you don’t want to hear my song.

Otherwise, if you carry on listening I’m assuming you’re happy to hear me sing, and so I don’t need to be concerned about you losing your hearing or anything as a result of this.

OK, so I will say bye bye bye bye bye to you now, but stick around for the song if you want.

Thank you for listening as ever, take care, be excellent to each other, good luck with your English. I will speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now – bye bye bye bye bye.

Song

Tired of Waiting For You by The Kinks

Chords and Lyrics here tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-kinks/tired-of-waiting-for-you-chords-1055168

709. The Stoicism of Groundhog Day (with Mum)

This is a conversation with my mum about philosophy, how the film Groundhog Day can help us understand the principles of stoicism, and how this can all help us to feel a bit better about the world.

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Links & Videos

More information from experts on stoicism modernstoicism.com/

The Stoicism of Groundhog Day by Tim LeBon modernstoicism.com/the-stoicism-of-groundhog-dayby-tim-lebon/

Derren Brown talking about stoicism on the Joe Rogan Experience

Groundhog Day Clips

708. Tasha Liu from China (WISBOLEP Runner-Up) 🇨🇳

This conversation with competition runner-up Tasha Liu is a way to get to know Chinese culture in a more personal way including the story of how Tasha’s father gave up drinking alcohol, and other interesting details about real life in the world’s most populated country.

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Introduction Transcript (after the jingle)

Hello everybody,

How are you doing? Thanks for choosing to listen to my podcast today. I hope you enjoy it.

In this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with Tasha Liu from China, the listener of this podcast who came 2nd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Let me explain quickly what the WISBOLEP competition is, for that one person who doesn’t know.

If that’s you, and you don’t know what WISBOLEP is → Hello! I’m now going to explain it to you in one single sentence. You’re welcome.

Here it is. The competition, summarised in one single sentence.

WISBOLEP stands for Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and is a competition I ran at the end of last year in which the prize was to be interviewed by me in an episode, the winner of the competition being the one who received the most votes from listeners after I played all of the 2-minute recordings sent in by the competitors in episode 692 of this podcast.

There you go.

Walaa Mouma from Syria was the overall winner. You may have heard her episode. It was published last month. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you do so! It’s episode 703 and Walaa explained in some detail how she improved her English to a good level, despite the hardships that she faced in her life. It was an inspiring episode, to say the least. We focused on Walaa’s approach to learning English – both her attitude and specific things she has done and continues to do to improve her skills. So the focus was definitely on learning English.

The conversation in this episode though, focuses mostly on cross cultural understanding.

Walaa is quite a hard act to follow, but we’re not comparing here. It’s not a competition you know! Wait, it is a competition, isn’t it? It totally is competition, isn’t it. It was a competition anyway. But for me, the competition part is done, and now it’s just a case of listening to LEPsters who were chosen by the people who voted in this competition.

And the spirit of this competition was always about this: Finding some interesting guests to talk to on the podcast and letting some LEPsters speak a bit and share their experiences. Let’s see what insights we can learn from other learners of English around the world. And let’s celebrate the citizens of LEPland! Everyone has a story to tell. We can all learn things from each other. All we have to do is just listen.

So, now that I have said that, here’s a brief overview of the content of this chat.

  • There’s a bit of “getting to know you”, as this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to Tasha, so we talk a bit about her studies, where she lives and so on.
  • Then we move onto the things she hinted at during her competition recording – and overall these things are ways to get to know China and Chinese culture a little bit more, in a personal way. So this is a cross-cultural exchange here and a chance to get beyond the stereotypes and cliches and find out some real things about life in the most populated country in the world.
  • There’s the story of how her father managed to stop drinking, which might tell us some things about family life in China.
  • Then we talk about some of the commonly-held beliefs about China (particularly beliefs held in the west) such as the way Chinese people eat (do they, as the saying goes, “eat anything with 4 legs except the table, and everything that flies except planes”? (and helicopters I suppose), or are they more discerning in their eating habits than that? Another assumption that people might have is that China is quite undeveloped in certain ways compared to the west, or how it could be ahead of the west in various ways too, like the way technology is used – payment systems for example, and the idea of the cashless society.

And there’s more detail about what it’s really like living in China today.

Just a heads up: There were some technical difficulties during the recording, due to a slightly poor internet connection between the two of us. This meant that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other properly or the connection just failed. I think I’ve saved it in the edit, but there may be a few moments where the bad connection affects our conversation. It shouldn’t be too bad, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

OK, now I’ve done my introduction, let’s get started properly, and here we go!


Ending Transcript

So that was Tasha Liu from China. It was really interesting to talk to her and I got that amazing feeling that you get when you actually talk to someone who lives in a completely different part of the world and in a different culture but you just connect as human beings.

That’s always special – talking to people from other places and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives and the fact that although we’re different in many ways, we’re also really similar in the fact that we’re still having human experiences ultimately.

It’s easy to forget but I feel like as humans we have many more things in common than differences. We’re all humans living on earth (as far as I know – you might be an alien on another planet as far as I know) but we’re all having a human experience ultimately, and so there are many more things that unite us than divide us, aren’t there?

I’m sounding a bit pretentious there, possibly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Here are some reflections – just things that I thought about after having that conversation.

These are reflections about cross cultural understanding.

When we think about other cultures or experience them, there is a tendency to not fully understand those other cultures, and as a result we jump to conclusions about them, probably based on the fact that we’ve never had proper experiences of those cultures, never met or talked to those people properly and never observed things from their point of view. This is normal I suppose because we can’t always be everywhere and see everything.

We end up with limited views of other cultures, which might also be informed by other people’s attitudes, like “these people are just unsophisticated” or “it’s such a backward society” and this could be in any direction. It could be, in a broad sense – the west looking at the east, or the east looking at the west, and not just east and west, any culture thinking about another culture – we often don’t see the whole picture. We are all humans, but there are all sorts of complicated reasons why we behave or live slightly differently.

We are all the same, but our contexts are different.

That’s it really. I could ramble on more, but I think I’ve said enough.

I wonder what your thoughts are, now that you’ve listened to this conversation.
What reflections do you have?

I found it really interesting to talk to Tasha, and I just want to thank her again for telling us her stories, and for being willing to share her comments about her country. Also, congratulations to her! 2nd place is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Right then. More competition runners up will appear on the podcast in due course.

Next up in the WISBOLEP series will be William from France. That will probably arrive in a couple of episodes’ time. I had a really nice conversation with him, which I think was just as insightful as the other WISBOLEP conversations we’ve had so far. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Tasha and the one with Walaa, then I think you’ll like hearing William’s story as well.

That’s coming up on the podcast soon.

I’m working on new content all the time, including new Premium episodes which will arrive in the LEP app before too long.

LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

LEP App teacherluke.co.uk/how-to-download/get-the-lep-app/

703. Walaa from Syria – WISBOLEP Competition Winner 🏆

Walaa Mouma from Syria has an amazing and inspiring story for all learners of English around the world, and some specific tips on how to improve your English long-term. Listen to this episode to hear all about it. Transcript and text video available.

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Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

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

696. WISBOLEP Competition Results + RAMBLE

Join me as I potter around my flat and give the results of the WISBOLEP competition then make a cup of tea and have a ramble about things like listening to non-native English speakers, reducing clutter in your home, renting vs owning a property, what it must be like to have only one hand, Zatoichi the blind swordsman, The Mandalorian TV series, Christmas plans and more. Includes a song on the guitar at the end.

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Episode Notes

Here are the competition results in full. Congratulations to Walaa for taking the top spot!

I’ve decided to talk to the top 6 candidates on the podcast in order to find out their stories, ask for their comments on learning English and more. Walaa will get a full episode for herself, and the others might share several episodes. We’ll see. The episodes will probably be recorded and uploaded in January.

Those people are: Walaa, Bahar, Robin, William, Tasha Liu and Michał. I’ll be in touch by email 👍

WISBOLEP Results (in reverse order)

  • 16th place: Ksenia from LEPland – 29 
  • 15th place: Rasul from Ukraine – 92
  • Joint 13th place:  Patrick from LEPland – 113 -&- Leisan from Russia – 113
  • 12th place: Evgenia from Russia – 120
  • 11th place: Priscilla from Indonesia – 121
  • 10th place: Ezio from China – 137
  • 9th place: Vladimir in Moscow – 154
  • 8th place: Vadim from Russia – 173
  • 7th place: Jane from Russia, living in China – 178
  • 6th place: Michał from Poland – 300
  • 5th place: Bahar from Iran – 337
  • Joint 3rd place: Robin from Hamburg – 361 – William from France – 361
  • 2nd place: Tasha Liu from China – 391
  • 1st place: Walaa from Syria – 2,801

Other words, names and links mentioned in this episode

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

The Japanese art of decluttering (reducing clutter) and organizing.

Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman

All the WISBOLEP Recordings

In case you’d like to listen to all the competition entries again, including the 85 people who you didn’t hear in LEP#692.

Song Lyrics: “One of those People” by Neil Innes

I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
I don’t want no bad news messin’ with my mind
I don’t want no smart ass media clown
Wising me up and then dumbing me down
I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time

Not just ordinary crap
I’m talking about a constant stream here
Continually getting in my way
I’ve got crap in the workplace
Crap on TV
Crap in the global economy
I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time

I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
Oh Lord I ask you, is it such a crime?
The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt
When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts
I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid

Well who is and who isn’t these days, it’s hard to tell
When so many people have so many good reasons to feel more than just a little annoyed
What can you do when you’re sure somebody
Is fooling around with your reality
I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid

The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt
When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time

What can you do when you’re sure somebody
Is fooling around with your reality
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time