Category Archives: Pragmatics

747. Social Awkwardness / Very British Problems (with Michael Lavers from Level Up English)

Talking to Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast about learning Japanese, embarrassing moments in language learning, social awkwardness and some “very British problems”. Are you as socially awkward as a British person? Let’s see how you and Michael would respond to some quiz questions that will test your British awkwardness to the max. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and video viewers,

Today on the podcast I am talking to Michael Lavers who is an English teacher from Cornwall in the South West of England. Michael also has a podcast for learners of English. It’s called The Level Up English Podcast – you might want to check it out if you haven’t already done so. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.

As well as being an English teacher, Michael is also a language learner himself and in his podcast episodes he often talks with guests about experiences of learning other languages, including those embarrassing or awkward moments that happen when you feel shy or you make mistakes. Also, Michael has described himself as a socially awkward person who lacks a certain amount of confidence in himself. In fact, he says that one of the reasons he started his podcast was to try and gain some confidence by going out of his comfort zone.

So this is what I thought I would ask Michael about: his language learning experiences and those awkward and embarrassing moments, and then I’d like to chat about social awkwardness and whether this is a uniquely British thing. And we’re going to go into some specific examples of how this so-called British awkwardness manifests itself.

That’s the plan, so now, let’s meet Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast.


Awkward Situations – Very British Problems

Here are some questions based on some tweets by the popular Twitter account, Very British Problems. Each one describes a specific problem that British people typically experience in social situations. They seem to sum up the experience of being a British person. We’re socially awkward – I don’t know why.

Let’s see how you respond to these questions. And listeners, I want you to consider your answers to these questions too, then we’ll see what Michael says, and then we’ll see the original tweets and we can see if they match up.

Questions & Tweets

How do you feel when you walk through the “nothing to declare” gate at an airport?

You’re sitting with a group of people. It’s time for you to leave. What do you say as you kind of slap your hands on your knees and stand up?

If someone says something to you but you don’t hear it, how many times are you willing to ask them to repeat themselves?

What do you say to your taxi driver as they approach the point where you want to get out of the cab?

If you’re on a train, sitting in the window seat with a passenger next to you, and your stop is approaching, what do you do to signal to the passenger in the aisle seat that you will need to get up?

You’re standing at the exit door of the train as it is pulling into the station, slowly coming to a stop, and there is a crowd of other passengers right behind you, eager to get off the train. The “Open door” button isn’t yet illuminated. What do you do? Do you press the button?

How do you feel when the ticket inspector inspects your perfectly valid ticket?

What do you say, modestly, to guests arriving in your home, even though you spent some time before their arrival, tidying things up?

There’s one last roast potato on the table at Sunday lunch. You want to eat it. How do you achieve this?

  1. Just take it and eat it
  2. Ask if you can eat it
  3. Offer it to everyone else first

Do you ever tell your housemates or family that you are “off to bed” but then just stare at your phone in bed for an hour?

Imagine you are walking through a hallway with lots of doors in it, like in a library or something and you’re walking just behind a stranger who keeps having to hold the doors for you. How many different ways of saying “thanks” can you think of?

How do you end an email? Is there a subtly less friendly difference between kind regards and just regards?

What do you do when you get an incoming call from an unknown number?

How good are you at overtaking someone on foot?

Do you feel it necessary to speed up at all, when walking over a zebra crossing?

If you pay for something with exactly the right change, and you know it’s exactly the right change, do you wait for the cashier to count the money?

Links

www.ewmichael.com

www.levelupenglish.school

A reminder of the LEP Design Competition

I have had some entries already. If you’ve sent me something, then thank you. Please send your designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com and my brother and I will review the entries we receive, talk about them on the podcast and pick at least one to be featured in the LEP Merch store.

  • Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
  • PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
  • SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi.  Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
  • CLOSING DATE: 22 October 2021
  • Send your t-shirt designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com

743. Give me Tea, Please – Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language (with Natasha V Broodie) + ramble / song

Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.

Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.

So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.

It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.

“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.

Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.


Give Me Tea, Please on Amazon


Ending

So that was Natasha V Broodie, talking about her book Give me tea, please – available from all good bookstores. Go ahead and pick up a copy and if you like it, leave a review on Amazon.

Thanks again to Natasha for her contribution in this episode.

A Short Ramble

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Design comp – link here for details teacherluke.co.uk/2021/09/22/742-new-lep-t-shirts-merch-lep-design-competition-2021-with-james/
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Sneezing caused me to take a trip to tangent town…

Song – “Trouble” by Coldplay

tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/coldplay/trouble-chords-16491

740. Are native English speakers bad communicators? (The Travel Adapter with Matt Halsdorff)

Talking to English teacher Matt Halsdorff about a project to train native English speakers how to communicate better with non-natives. We talk about the reasons why native speakers are often bad at communicating with non-natives, what they should do to fix this and the wider issues relating to this project. Video version available.

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Episode Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and video viewers, how are you doing today?

In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Matt Halsdorff who is an English teacher with many years of teaching experience, and we’re going to be discussing the question of whether native English speakers are in fact the worst communicators in an international English environment.

Matt is currently working on a project with Christian Saunders from Canguro English. I think the project sounds really interesting and raises a few good questions about how native speakers of English and non-native speakers communicate with each other, what non-natives really struggle with in this language, and whether native speakers can do anything to help.

If you saw my latest video interview with Christian from Canguro English and you watched until the end you might remember us discussing this project briefly. If you remember, Christian mentioned a training course in communication in English – but the twist is that it’s for native speakers – more specifically it is for native English speakers who need to communicate internationally.

Because, It’s not just learners of English who need training in this language. Apparently – It’s native speakers too.

English is a global language, and everyone is using it for business and also for travel purposes. Everyone needs to use this language to communicate successfully so the world can continue spinning.

Everyone uses English, and everyone has to work on the way they use it, in the same way that we all have to work on our email writing and IT skills to make them as efficient and effective as possible.

As a non-native speaker of English, of course you’ve got to work on the entire system – you need vocabulary, you need correct grammar, you need clear pronunciation, fluency, confidence and so on – obviously, that’s what’s involved in trying to use another language.

You learn as you go and try to do your best and you almost certainly feel a great deal of responsibility, pressure, and challenge when communicating in English. You are probably keenly aware of your performance in English and sensitive about any kind of failure in communication and how that might be your fault.

But do native speakers share a similar sense of responsibility?

In fact here are a number of other questions which arise when thinking about this topic.

  • Do native English speakers do all they can in international situations to make sure they are understood clearly, just like everyone else does?
  • Are native speakers aware of what it is like to operate in a second language?
  • Might there be other reasons why native English speakers don’t adapt the way they speak in order to improve shared communication?
  • Who is responsible for the success of any act of communication? Just one side, or both?
  • Should native speakers adapt their English? Or is it up to the non-natives to do all the heavy lifting in this situation?
  • And if native speakers should adapt their English, how should they do it?
  • What kind of English should they avoid and what kind is likely to be the most successful?
  • And what about other considerations and questions, such as what happens to the English language when it is being adapted in this way?

Well, I am interviewing Matt today in order to discuss these things and find out about this project in general. First we’re just going to take a few minutes to get to know him, and then we’re going to dive into this training project for native speakers, which is called The Travel Adaptor by the way. We’re going to find out about the project, about what native speakers do and say which can be so confusing, how native speakers can facilitate communication with non-natives, and the wider issue of global English and successful international communication.

As well as getting into the specifics of this conversation, you can certainly learn about some of the major obstacles that non-native speakers have when understanding natives.

So there’s plenty to pick up from this. There is a YouTube version too just in case you need to see our faces as well as listen to us.

Let’s get started!

Links

Download the PDF about The Travel Adapter

www.canguroenglish.com

www.coyoteenglish.com

*This is a conversation about language*

Ending

Well, that was Matt Halsdorff talking about The Travel Adapter – a training course for native-speakers of English, to help them communicate better globally.

So, what do you think? I’m very keen to read your comments and I am sure you had things popping into your head during this conversation. Why not express them in English here in the comment section?

  • Do you have experiences of communicating with native speakers in English? What was it like? Did they adapt their speech? What was difficult?
  • Do you think native speakers should adapt their speech when talking to non-natives, or not? Why?

But that’s it for now. Thank you for listening and I will speak to you again soon. I’ve got a little announcement coming in the next few weeks that’s pretty cool, plus the usual free episodes and premium episodes on their way as usual.

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


695. Pronunciation, Pragmatics & Procrastination with Emma

Talking to Emma from YouTube channel Pronunciation with Emma about accents, improving your pronunciation, understanding pragmatics in English, and learning English through video games.

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Introduction & Ending Transcripts

Hi listeners, welcome to the podcast. It’s mid December and Christmas is coming very soon. I hope I find you well and in good spirits. You might be wondering about the competition results after having voted for your favourite candidates. Thank you if you did vote, that’s fantastic. I’ll be revealing the results on the podcast soon when I’ve worked out the specifics of how to proceed with the competition. Once I have worked out the details of the next step I will let you know all the results. 

This episode is sponsored by LEP Premium. Go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo to get the details. Regular lessons with language teaching, memory tests for target language and pronunciation drills to work on your speaking, with plenty of stupid examples, nonsense fun and impressions too. Series 27 is currently being produced and you can expect to get episodes 3-8 in the next few weeks. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for all the details.

697. Pronunciation, Pragmatics & Procrastination with Emma

Hello listeners,

Welcome to episode 695 which is called “Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination with Emma” which is quite a mouthful isn’t it? 

Can you say it? Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination. 

What does this mean exactly? I’m going to tell you in this introduction.

What you’re going to hear is another conversation with a new guest on the podcast. I’ve had lots of guests on the podcast in the last few months. Here’s another one.

This time it’s Emma from the YouTube channel Pronunciation with Emma.

So, what can I say now to set up this conversation for you, and help you to enjoy it and learn from it as much as possible?

Emma is an English teacher with lots of qualifications – in language teaching and linguistics, as you will hear. 

Pronunciation

The pronunciation part is that in her YouTube videos she focuses on helping learners of English improve their knowledge and use of natural English pronunciation – you know, all the different features that make up natural English speech, including things like the specific vowel sounds & consonant sounds, sentence stress, word stress, intonation, elision, connected speech, and so on. 

Emma is particularly interested in pronunciation as it is one of the things that she focused on during her university studies.

So we talk about pronunciation as you might expect, with some bits about different accents and the question of what kind of pronunciation learners of English should aim for, and what kind of accent teachers should present to learners of English. 

Pragmatics

Another thing Emma focused on at university was the linguistic area of pragmatics. When we think about language, we usually analyse it in terms of grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation, but pragmatics is also a very important thing to consider. 

David Crystal says it’s actually the most important factor to consider when looking at how language works. 

According to David Crystal, pragmatics is the study of the choices you make when you use language, the reasons for those choices and effects that those choices convey. That’s a bit abstract at this point, but we do get into some examples during the conversation, examples like how to phrase requests in English, and how different types of requests can give a different impression on the people you are talking to. Or more simply, how certain requests can make you seem more or less rude. 

For example, what’s the difference between these things? And let’s imagine you’re on an aeroplane and the flight attendant wants you to put your bag under your chair. What’s the difference between making that request in these different ways? 

Put your bag under your chair” and “Please put your bag under your chair” and “Can you put your bag under your chair?” and “Could you put your bag under your chair, please?” and “Could you just pop your bag under your chair for me please, thanks.” 

That could also apply to the way people use English when requesting things from me, in comments or emails, for example, as I discussed in a recent episode, if you remember, and if you don’t remember too.

So that’s the bit about pragmatics. 

But this episode is called “Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination with Emma”. I’ve mentioned the pronunciation and the pragmatics, so what about the procrastination part? 

Procrastination

Well, this relates to Emma’s other online English teaching channel – Procrastination with Emma, which is on Twitch.tv. Basically, Emma also does Twitch live-streams in which she plays computer games and helps people with their English while she’s doing it.

As you may know, procrastination means putting off doing other things which you have to do by wasting time doing something else. Like, for example if you have some important work to do, but you don’t want to do it for some reason, so you end up telling yourself you’ll do it later and then doing something else instead, essentially wasting your time. How do you procrastinate? Let’s say you’ve got English homework to do, but you end up spending your time playing computer games instead. Is playing computer games a waste of time? Maybe not. Maybe it can help you learn English. That’s the spirit behind Emma’s Twitch.tv gaming channel “Procrastination with Emma”.

So, stuff about accents & pronunciation, stuff about the pragmatics of how we make requests in English, and some stuff about improving your English through computer games. 

Actually those things mostly come up in the second half of this conversation. The first half is spent mainly getting to know Emma, finding out the usual things like where she’s from, what her accent sounds like, how she approaches language learning (because she speaks Spanish and also enjoys learning other languages from scratch) and any tips she has about learning English.

I won’t say much more here, except that I really enjoyed talking to Emma and you should certainly check out her YouTube videos and her live streams on Twitch.

Keep listening all the way through and I will chat to you again at the end of the episode, but now, let’s get started!


Links

Pronunciation with Emma on YouTube (Pronunciation videos) – www.youtube.com/channel/UCNfm92h83W2i2ijc5Xwp_IA

Emma’s website (Classes & Courses) – pronunciationwithemma.com/

Procrastination with Emma on Twitch (Live streaming/Gaming/English) – www.twitch.tv/procrastinationwithemma


Ending

So that was pronunciation, pragmatics and procrastination with Emma from Pronunciation with Emma on YouTube and procrastination with Emma on Twitch. That’s quite a mouthful isn’t it, again!

Right, well I hope you got a lot out of that conversation in various ways including just general knowledge, linguistic knowledge and not to mention specific vocabulary and phrases you might have noticed.

Thanks again to Emma for being a great guest on the show.

So Christmas time is approaching fast.

Normally at Christmas I take a break for a couple of weeks, but since I’m not going back to the UK this year I might continue podcasting. I certainly have a few episodes in the pipeline and they’ll drop over the coming weeks. I might take a break in the new year but we will see.

So, episodes in the pipeline include more conversations with guests on different topics and a returning guest who is a friend of the podcast who we haven’t heard from in a while.

Also P27 parts 3-8 are coming with the usual language practise and pronunciation work. Remember all my premium series have a lot of pronunciation drills so you can improve your speaking by simply repeating after me, paying attention to certain little language features as we go. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

In terms of the competition. Thank you to those of you who voted. As I said before, voting is closed now and I am working on the next stage in which I will announce the winner or winners and then the next steps for things like interviews, which will probably happen in the new year.

So hold tight for the results of the competition, and thanks for voting.

That’s all I have to say at this point except that I hope you are well. Please stay safe, stay positive, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again soon, but for now, goodbye…