Category Archives: Pronunciation

495. Australian Stereotypes and Cliches (with Oliver Gee) ~didgeridoo sounds~

Discussing stereotypes and clichés about Australia with podcaster Oliver Gee who comes from a land down under. Learn about Australian English, Aussie accent, Aussie slang and exactly what you should say whenever you meet a true blue Aussie, mate! Vocabulary list available. Hooroo.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Oliver Gee who comes from Australia.

Oliver lives in Paris these days and is a journalist and podcaster – he does a podcast about Paris for World Radio Paris, which is a sort of radio network in English, based in Paris.

Oliver’s podcast is called The Earful Tower – and it’s available from all good podcasting apps and online at theearfultower.com/ 

Click here to listen to Oli’s podcast The Earful Tower

If you are a subscriber to my email list then you’ll know that earlier this year Oliver invited me onto The Earful Tower to talk about French people learning English. You can find conversation on the Earful Tower in the episode archive.

This time I thought I’d invite Oliver on to LEP in order to talk about all things Australian.

Australia is of course a country where English is the first language and Australian English is a thing. It’s definitely a thing. I mean, it’s a major type of English in its own right. Everyone always talks about American English and British English as the two types, but of course there are plenty of other types of English – with their own accents, particular words and so on. Australian English, New Zealand English, Irish English, South African English, Canadian English and more…

But let’s turn our attention in this episode to Australia.

Australian English is it’s own thing basically. Originally it was a form of British English, but like American English it has evolved into its own form of the language, with a distinctive accent and vocabulary that reflects the things you might see, experience or feel if you were living in this place which is very far removed from life in the UK. Australian English is also undoubtedly influenced by American English as well to a certain extent.

Now, let’s consider the land down under before listening to this conversation. I want you to think about Australia.

What do you know about Australia?
Have you ever met an Australian? Or been to Australia itself?
Can you recognise or understand Australian accents?
What does an Aussie accent sound like?
What should you say to an Australian when you meet them, in order to impress them?
What are the stereotypes of Australia? Are they true?
And what are Vegemite, Tim Tams and Thongs anyway?

You can now look for answers to those questions as we now talk to Oliver Gee from Australia… (didgeridoo sounds)

Australian Words, Phrases and Reference Points

  • G’day
  • Mate
  • How ya going?
  • Arvo
  • Bail – to cancel plans
  • Barbie – Barbecue
  • Brekky – Breakfast
  • Brolly – Umbrella
  • Choccy Biccy – Chocolate Biscuit
  • Chrissie – Christmas
  • Ciggy – a Cigarette
  • Dunny – Toilet
  • Good On Ya – Good work
  • Heaps – loads, lots, many
  • Maccas – McDonalds
  • No Worries – it’s Ok
  • Servo Service Station
  • Sickie – a sick day off work
  • Stoked – Happy, Pleased
  • Straya – Australia
  • Thongs – Flip Flops. Do not be alarmed if your new found Australian friend asks you to wear thongs to the beach. They are most likely expressing their concern of the hot sand on your delicate feet.

Other references (some clichés)

  • Crocodiles
  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Ugg boots
  • Didgeridoos
  • Boomerangs
  • Flip flops (thongs)
  • Relaxed people
  • Beer drinking
  • Vegemite
  • Selfies
  • Baz Lurhman making a film
  • AC/DC
  • Sydney Opera house
  • Heath Ledger
  • Kylie
  • Koala bears
  • The outback
  • Steve Irwin
  • Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth
  • WI FI
  • Black box recorders
  • Polymer banknotes
  • Wine
  • BBQs
  • Cricket
  • Tim tams
  • Aborigines
  • The spork
  • Coffee

Outtro

So that was Oli Gee from Australia mate.

I hope you enjoyed listening to our conversation.

Remember you can listen to Oli’s episodes of The Earful Tower on iTunes or any other good podcasting service. Find the earful tower episode with me talking about French people learning English by dipping into the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk and search for Earful Tower.

That brings us to the end of this episode.

Thank you for listening .

Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll find transcriptions of the intro and outtro and some notes for my conversation with Oli including some of the Australian slang and other specific words.

Join the mailing list.

Episode 500 is coming up and I’m thinking of things to do for it.

Please send me your voice messages for episode 500 – luketeacher@hotmail.com

One idea I had was to collect audio messages from you the audience – short ones, and then put them all up in episode 500. So if you have any messages for me, please send them to luketeacher@hotmail.com

What I’d like you to say is:

  • Your name
  • Where you’re from
  • Something else, like:
    • If you’d like to say something to the audience
    • If you’d like to say something to me
    • If you’d like to ask me a question
    • How you first discovered the podcast
    • How you learn English with the podcast
    • Anything else you’d like to say

Make it no more than 30 seconds. I know that’s short but it’s going to be a montage of all the recordings and it’ll be really cool if they’re all pretty short.

So about 30 seconds and don’t forget to say your name and where you’re from. It’s not a competition this time but more of a celebration. I can’t believe I’ve done 500 episodes and they’re all about an hour each or more.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m very happy to have reached 500 episodes. Why don’t you celebrate with me and send a voice message to luketeacher@hotmail.com

Thanks for listening!

Bye!

Luke

494. Who Wants to be Good at English? (The Rematch) with Rick Thompson

Testing my Dad on his knowledge of English, using words that are frequently confused by native English speakers. Will my dad be able to identify the words, spell them and explain the differences? Listen to learn 20 words and phrases which native English speakers often get wrong. You will also hear Dad and me discussing topics such as catching a squirrel, what he would say to Donald Trump and Paul McCartney if he met them, stories of police drug busts at university, how my dad would deal with a zombie apocalypse, and which one is worse – Brexit or Yoko Ono’s ‘singing’? Vocabulary list with definitions and examples available.

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Introduction Transcript

About 18 months ago my Dad tested me with his evil gameshow, called “Who wants to be good at English”. I say it was an evil gameshow because I think it was designed for me to fail (although arguably, I didn’t fail, OK!?) It was basically a quiz he created in order to highlight some common mistakes that people make (especially journalists) with certain English words.

You can listen to that, and take the test as well, by finding episode 373 in the archive – or just click here teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/10/373-who-wants-to-be-good-at-english/

So I thought we’d play another game of “Who Wants to be Good at English” but this time I’m asking the questions. My questions are based on an article I found on the Indy100 (an online magazine) written by Paul Anthony Jones  which is all about some of the most commonly confused words in English (for native English speakers). Apparently these are some of the words that many English native speakers confuse – meaning they use one word when they should be using another. I wonder if my Dad is able to tell the difference between all of these pairs of words. Let’s see if he really is that clever and articulate. I think he probably is, but let’s see.

As we are playing the game I invite you to join in. Can you guess which words we’re talking about here?

If you don’t know the words, listen carefully because we will define them and then also have a little chat using the words so you can hear them in context.

Also, you’ll hear us talking a little bit about the origin of some of these words, which is quite interesting because it shows how many English words come from latin and in some cases words from other origins like old English and even Turkish.

Check the page for the episode on the website too, where you will see all the words listed with definitions.

www.indy100.com/article/ten-of-the-most-commonly-confused-words-in-the-english-language–bJRDKGNwlZ


  • Dad, how are you?
  • Are you confident that you know English better than most other Brits?
  • Did you study latin at school?
  • Does a knowledge of latin help with English?
  • Do you think it will help you in this test?

10 rounds – 10 pairs of words which are commonly confused.

I will ask you questions – you have to tell me the word I am looking for. I will also ask you for the spelling and pronunciation.

ROUND 1

  1. If you’re waiting for something with great anticipation, literally to the point that you are having some trouble breathing – for example you’re desperately waiting for the next episode of Luke’s English Podcast – what expression would you use?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. If you go fishing, what do you need in order to catch a fish?
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. How are they pronounced?

Answers:

Bate (verb) = abate = become less strong, to suppress. Formal, old fashioned.
The storms had abated by the time they rounded Cape Horn. [VERB]
…a crime wave that shows no sign of abating. [VERB]
To wait with bated breath = to wait eagerly and impatiently

Bait = (noun) – food you put on the end of a fishing line or in a trap in order to catch something

Also – figuratively something which is used in order to catch someone. E.g. ‘clickbait’

(verb) – to put food on a line or in a trap

(verb) If you bait someone, you deliberately try to make them angry by teasing them.

He delighted in baiting his mother. [VERB noun]

Synonyms: tease, provoke, annoy, irritate

According to Oxford Dictionaries, around 1 in every 3 records of the phrase “bated breath” in the Oxford Corpus is spelled incorrectly, as “baited.”
Baited with an I is the same bait that you use when going fishing.
Bated without an I is totally unrelated, and comes from an ancient English word, bate, meaning “to beat down,” “restrain” or “suppress” – it’s the same word we use when we say that a storm has abated – which makes “bated breath” literally “held breath.” (Indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • Are you currently waiting for anything with bated breath?
  • What is the best way to catch a squirrel? How about a crab? What kind of bait should you use?

ROUND 2

  1. If you see someone that you don’t want to meet or talk to – perhaps a person who you don’t like, or imagine a drunk man in the street who might bother you or even attack you. You’d walk around him, putting space between you and him. What would you give him?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. What word is this often confused with? It’s something that generally happens at the beginning of someone’s life.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. How are they pronounced?

Answers:

Berth (noun) = (nautical term) originally means “sea room” – the room that a boat needs for mooring, but also generally room or space for ships. So, to give a wide berth in terms of shipping – you can imagine needing to go around a rocky point or perhaps another ship with lots of space, to avoid any possible collision.

Give something a wide berth = avoid it, go around it, put distance between you and it.

Birth / Give birth (to someone) = have a baby

Quick Discussion Questions

  • If you saw these people in the street, would you give them a wide berth or would you go up to them?
    • Donald Trump
    • Harvey Weinstein
    • Kim Jong Un
    • Madonna
    • Boris Johnson
    • Paul McCartney
  • Were you there when Mum gave birth to me? What was it like for you?

ROUND 3

  1. What word is a synonym of advice – for example legal advice? It can also be a verb, meaning to give advice. (also another noun – it can mean the lawyer too)
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. What about a group of people brought together to make decisions? E.g. a local administrative group who make decisions about how the local town should be run.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. How are they pronounced?

Answers:

counsel (noun) = advice
[formal]
He had always been able to count on her wise counsel.
The community requested his counsel on various matters.

counsel (noun – person) = a lawyer
The defence counsel warned that the judge should stop the trial.

counsel (verb) – to give advice

[formal]
If you counsel someone to take a course of action, or if you counsel a course of action, you advise that course of action. 
My advisers counselled me to do nothing. [VERB noun to-infinitive]
The prime minister was right to counsel caution about military intervention.

Council and counsel can both be used as nouns (in the sense of “an assembly of people” and “good advice or direction”) but only counsel with an SE can be used as a verb (“to give advice or direction”).

Both are derived ultimately from Latin, but while council comes from the Latin word calare, meaning “to call or proclaim officially” (which makes it an etymological cousin of calendar), counsel with an S comes from the same root as consult. So while a council is “called” together, you might “consult” someone for their good counsel. (Indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever needed to take legal counsel for anything work related?
  • Have you ever been asked to provide counsel on any local matters?
  • Is there a local council where you live?

ROUND 4

  1. As a teacher, sometimes it’s necessary to draw out certain language from my students. Often if I’m teaching some words, or doing an introduction, rather than just lecturing them about a subject, it’s a good idea to get them to give me certain words – it tends to keep the students involved and makes them a bit more productive, and it also allows you to see which words they know and don’t know. What verb means to get a piece of information, a word or a reaction from people by asking certain questions?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. What adjective is a synonym of ‘illegal’ and means ‘not allowed or approved by a rule’.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. How are they pronounced?

Answers:

Elicit (verb)
Illicit (adjective)

The E of elicit is the prefix ex–, which is here used to form a word bearing some sense of “out” or “from”, like exhale and exterior. The –licit in both words is also entirely unrelated: in illicit it comes from the Latin verb licere, meaning “to allow” (as in licence), whereas in elicit it derives from the Latin lacere, meaning “to lure” (which is also where the word delicious comes from). (indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • When you were growing up in the 60s, were you ever given information about illicit drugs? Did many people use illicit substances at that time?
  • The Shakespeare play “Macbeth” – what feelings do you think it elicits in its audience? What’s the main feeling that it elicits?
  • How about films. How do they elicit reactions from the audience? Think of a horror film for example.

ROUND 5

  1. What is the difference between the word ‘affect’ (with an ‘a’) and ‘effect’ (with an ‘e’)?
  2. How are they pronounced?

Answers:

Affect (verb)
Effect (noun)

The root of both is the Latin facere, meaning “to make”, but while the E of effect comes from the same prefix as elicit, ex–, the A of affect comes from the prefix ad–, which is used to form words bearing some sense of “towards”, “on” or “a coming together” like adjoin or ashore. To affect ultimately means to have an effect on something, while an effect is an outcome. (indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • How does wine affect you? Does it affect you in the same was as it affects other people?
  • What are the good and bad effects of wine?

ROUND 6

  1. How would you describe someone whose hair is going grey, making them look quite cool and perhaps even quite tough. It’s the sort of word you might use to describe a police detective or a cowboy who is getting older and has had some tough experiences, which you can see in his greying hair – but he’s not really old yet, just experienced.
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. What’s another word for a brown bear? They type of bear you might come across in Yellowstone National Park in the USA. They’re brown but they have some grey-ish hair around the shoulders, head and ears.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. What adjective would you use to describe the disgusting or explicit details of a murder. Something which is very unpleasant and that would be horrible to look at.
  6. How do you spell that?

Answers:

Grizzled (adj) = going grey (usually used in a literary context)
Grizzly (adj) = also going grey, like ‘grizzled’ but usually ‘grizzly’ is just the word for a type of brown bear
Grisly (adj) = extremely unpleasant and horrible

If something is horrible to look at then it’s grisly, not grizzly. Grizzly with two Zs is a descendent of the French word for “grey”, gris, and comes from the older use of grizzled to mean “grey-haired” (despite grizzly being another name for a brown bear, of course).
Grisly with an S is a descendent of grise, a Middle English word meaning “to shudder with fear”. (Indy100.com)

  • What kind of movie star would you rather watch in a film – a fresh faced young-looking hero or a grizzled hero? Can you think of any examples?
  • Have you ever seen a grizzly bear?
  • Do you think the news should report all the grisly details of a story?

ROUND 7

  1. Imagine there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse. It’s a terrifying thought. It would be a good idea to collect and store lots of food, drink and supplies. To stockpile things, and hide them so that nobody else can find and use them, but you’ll be able to keep them and survive. What verb am I thinking of?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. Now imagine loads of zombies in a huge group, or in fact many large groups of zombies surrounding your house or out in the street. What noun could you use to describe these groups of the undead. Of course this word could also be used to describe groups of ordinary people too, but it sounds a bit negative – frightening or unpleasant, perhaps.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. Pronunciation?

Answers:

To hoard something (verb) = If you hoard things such as food or money, you save or store them, often in secret, because they are valuable or important to you.
They’ve begun to hoard food and gasoline and save their money. [VERB noun]
The tea was sweetened with a hoarded tin of condensed milk. [VERB-ed]

A horde of something (noun) = a large group of people, usually considered quite threatening or scary.

This attracts hordes of tourists to Las Vegas. [+ of]
…a horde of people was screaming for tickets.

Around a quarter of all the citations of the word hoard (a noun meaning a store of valuables, or a verb meaning “to accumulate” or “stockpile”) in the Oxford English Corpus are incorrect, and should really be horde (a large group of people).
In English, hoard is the older of the two and derives from an Old English word for treasure – wordhoard was an Old English word for a person’s vocabulary. Horde is completely unrelated, and has an E on the end of it because it comes from an old Turkish word, ordu, for an encampment. (Indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • What would you do if you found out that there would be a zombie outbreak? What kinds of things would you hoard?
  • What would you do if your house was surrounded by a horde of zombies?

ROUND 8

  1. Imagine a road which is full of twists and turns. How would you describe it? How about a piece of writing or perhaps a process which is really complicated and time consuming. Which word would you use to describe those things?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. Which adjective could you use to describe something that causes great pain and suffering?
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. Pronunciation?

Answers:

Tortuous = twisting and turning (road), complex and time consuming (process, writing)
The only road access is a tortuous mountain route.
…these long and tortuous negotiations aimed at ending the conflict.
The parties must now go through the tortuous process of picking their candidates.
Torturous = like torture – very painful and agonising.
This is a torturous, agonizing way to kill someone.

Confusion often arises between these two not only because of their similar spellings, but because something that’s tortuous can often seem torturous.
Tortuous without the extra R means “full of twists and turns”, and is derived from a Latin word, tortus, for a twist, or a twisting, winding route. If something is torturous then it’s akin to torture, hence the extra R. (Indy100.com)

Quick Discussion Questions

  • Would you like to be involved in the Brexit negotiations? Why not?
  • You wrote a book once. How was that experience? Was it tortuous? (complicated) Was it torturous? (painful)
  • How would you describe Yoko Ono’s singing?
  • What about the experience of having your teeth pulled out, by Yoko Ono, while she’s singing? (Torturous, right?)


ROUND 9

  1. Imagine your wife is pregnant (I know!) and you go to a doctor for a scan. You and your wife are very worried about the health of the baby because a previous test suggested that there might be a problem. So, you’re both feeling very worried and nervous, and you really want the doctor to put your worries at rest, but the doctor seems completely insensitive to this and doesn’t even seem to realise that you’re worried. You think, is he being deliberately like this? This word means slow to understand something and also insensitive.
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. How would you describe something that was really complex to understand, abstract, deep, highly intellectual. E.g. a book about abstract existential philosophy, or the rules of cricket.
  4. How do you spell that?
  5. Pronunciation?

Answers:

Obtuse (adj) = mentally slow or emotionally insensitive
“How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?”
Abstruse (adj) = hard to understand because of being extremely complex, intellectually demanding, highly abstract, etc.; deep; recondite
[formal disapproval…fruitless discussions about abstruse resolutions.

How can you be so obtuse? The Shawshank Redemption – Andy discovers evidence that proves he is innocent. The warden seems to choose not to realise how this could get Andy out of prison. Andy says “How can you be so obtuse? (slow to realise the significance of this) Is it deliberate?

No questions, your honour.


ROUND 10

  1. Imagine a long summer evening, long shadows, golden sunlight, a pleasant temperature. You can just relax in a chair and take your time, soaking up the pleasant rays of deep golden light. How would you describe that weather?
  2. How do you spell that?
  3. What about someone who’s a bit crazy and foolish?
  4. Spelling?
  5. Pronunciation?

Answers:

Balmy (adj) = Balmy weather is fairly warm and pleasant.
…a balmy summer evening.

Barmy (adj) = If you say that someone or something is barmy, you mean that they are slightly crazy or very foolish.
[British , informal , disapproval]
Bill used to say I was barmy, and that would really get to me.
This policy is absolutely barmy.
UNITED! BARMY ARMY! UNITED! BARMY ARMY! (football chant)

Is the weather balmy or barmy? It’s balmy with an L if you’re talking about something pleasantly warm—literally, something as pleasant as balm, in the sense of an aromatic, healing lotion or salve.
It’s barmy with an R when you’re talking about something (or someone) foolish or crazy—literally, someone as frothy and as flighty as barm, which is the froth that forms the head of a pint of beer. (Indy100.com)

  • How was the weather in the UK this summer? Did you have any balmy summer evenings?
  • At what time of the year is the weather at its balmiest? What do you like to do when the weather is balmy?
  • What do you think of Brexiteers? Are they a bit barmy or is there something else going on?

 

Thank you for listening!

Don’t forget to join the mailing list on the website to get an email with every new publication on the website.

Luke

485. & 486. Difficult Words to Pronounce in English (with Paul Taylor) (Parts 1 & 2) + video

This is a double episode with two audio episodes on one page, and it’s going to be really useful for you because it’s all about difficult pronunciation in English. Listen to Paul Taylor and me discussing the tricky relationship between spelling and pronunciation. There are lots of jokes, impressions, funny accents and useful comments about this important area of the English language. Use this episode to avoid some very common mistakes in English pronunciation, and try not to laugh on the bus while you’re listening! Check this episode page for word lists, transcriptions and my video of 40+ difficult words to pronounce in English.

Part 1

Part 2

[DOWNLOAD PART 1] [DOWNLOAD PART 2]


british humour posterLuke’s British Council Teacher Talk – “What is this, British Humour?”

I’m doing another talk on the topic of humour at the British Council in Paris on 19 October. It is also being live-streamed on Facebook. Details below.

Click here to reserve (free) tickets if you’re in Paris.

Click here for the British Council France Facebook Page for the live stream – Thursday 19 October at 19:00 Paris time (CET).


Difficult Words to Pronounce in English: Notes, Word Lists and That Useful Video (below)

  • Focus /fəʊkəs/
  • Fuck us /fʌkʌs/
  • Sting /stɪŋ/
  • Boy George /bɔɪ ʤɔːʤ/
  • Spandau Ballet /spændɑː bæleɪ/

What problems do French people have with pronunciation in English?

  • /h/ sounds
  • /th/ sounds

Part 1 ends here… Part 2 continues below!


  • /r/ sounds
  • Some vowel sounds, particularly certain ‘long’ and ‘short’ sounds, such as…
  • bitch” /i/ and “beach” /i:/
  • shit” /i/  and “sheet” /i:/
  • voiced and unvoiced sounds
  • Paul’s “how to beatbox” with boots and cats

The words & phrases from the TOPITO article – “The Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English – the hell of /th/ sounds

1. I have a sore throat
2. Squirrel
3. Throughout
4. Bewildered
5. Hierarchy
6. Anaesthetize
7. Threshold
8. Worthlessly
9. Worcestershire
10. William Wordsworth

The TOPITO article (it’s in French by the way) www.topito.com/top-trucs-durs-dire-anglais

An academic “focus” on French people speaking English, from Frankfurt University

Phonology
There are some differences in the sound systems of the two languages that can cause French learners problems of comprehension and speech production. Spelling errors may result from the frequent lack of correspondence between the pronunciation of English words and their spelling.

A typical pronunciation problem is the inability to correctly articulate the vowel sounds in minimal pairs such as ship / sheep, live / leave, full / fool. Because the tip of the tongue is not used in speaking French, learners often have problems with words containing the letters th (/θ/ /ð/), such as then, think and clothes.

Another common feature of English spoken by French learners is the omission of the /h/ sound at the beginning of words. This sound does not exist in French and leads to problems such as ‘Ave you ‘eard about ‘arry?, or overcompensation by pronouncing the /h/ in words like hour, honour.
French learners typically have problems with the unpredictable stress patterns of English words, particularly of cognates. (Word stress in French is regular.) Learners may also be unwilling to engage in the prevalent vowel reduction of unstressed syllables in English. Consider, for example, the way that English native speakers swallow the first syllable of the word tomorrow (t’morrow). These problems result in the stereotypical staccato French accent of beginning learners.

From Frankfurt International School Website esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/french.htm

TH sounds

/th/ can be voiced [ð] or unvoiced [θ]

A quick guide to producing TH sounds:

  • Stick tongue out slightly
  • Let air pass under/through teeth and over the tongue
  • You don’t need your lips!
  • It’s not /f/ /s/ /d/ /v/ or /z/
  • It’s [ð] (voiced) or [θ] (unvoiced)

Watch my video (below) for more help with /th/ sounds.

More words which learners often find difficult to pronounce

  • Architecture /ˈɑː.kɪ.tek.tʃər/
  • architectural /ˌɑː.kɪˈtek.tʃər.əl/
  • Drawer /drɔː/
  • Colonel /ˈkəːn(ə)l/
  • Comfortable /ˈkʌmftəbəl/
  • Pronunciation /prənʌnsɪˈeɪʃən/
  • Recipe /ˈresɪpi:/
  • Scissors /ˈsɪzəz/
  • Strengths /streŋkθs/
  • Clothes /kləʊðz/
  • Eighth /eɪtθs/
  • Queue /kjuː/
  • Fruit /fruːt/
  • Sixteenth /sɪkˈstiːnθ/
  • Eighteenth /eɪˈtiːnθ/

“Ghoti” is pronounced “fish” (is it?)

This is an old attempt to prove that English spelling makes no sense. Note: David Crystal doesn’t agree.

ghoti

www.neatorama.com/trivia/2012/09/09/Ghoti-is-Pronounced-Fish-in-the-English-Language/

David Crystal disagrees with this “ghoti” (See below)

Some Words with Silent Letters

  • bomb
  • climb
  • comb
  • crumb
  • debt
  • doubt
  • government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4)

More here: mywords.cle.ust.hk/sir/silent_words.php

Also

  • Business /ˈbɪznɪs/ or /ˈbɪznəs/
  • Busy /ˈbɪzi:/
  • Derby (place and a horse race) /ˈdɑːbi:/

L/R (Often difficult for Japanese speakers, or people from East Asia in general)

  • Roller coaster
  • Rarely
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry

My name

  • Luke (correct) /lu:k/
  • not:
  • Look
  • Luck
  • Mr Luck (the most common wrong version, especially in writing)
  • Teacher luck pot cat? (teacher luke podcast)
  • Ruke
  • Ruku
  • Rook
  • Duck??
  • Mr Luke (still not correct – it’s just “Luke” or “Mr Thompson”, although Moz called me Mr Luke as a sort of joke)

Thompson /tɒmpsən/

  • Often pronounced “Tom-sun” in France
  • and pronounced “Tom-pu-son” in Japan

Some rude or funny tongue twisters read by Paul and me

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
(not rude)

Red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry…
(not rude)

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.
(don’t say “fucker“)
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
(don’t say “shit“)
One smart fellow; he felt smart.
Two smart fellows; they felt smart.
Three smart fellows; they all felt smart.
(don’t say “fart”)
I’m not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig pluckers’ son,
But I’ll pluck figs
Till the fig plucker comes.
(don’t say “pig fucker“)
Fire truck tyres
(repeat it – don’t say “I fuck tyres”)
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Not a punt cut square,
Just a square cut punt.
It’s round in the stern and blunt in the front.
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Six stick shifts stuck shut.
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.

(don’t say “cunt” – really, don’t say that word, it is extremely rude)

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
(not rude)
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
(not rude)
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
(not rude)
 

Betty Botta bought some butter;
“But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So it was better Betty Botta
Bought a bit o’ better butter.

(not rude)

www.fun-with-words.com/tong_rude.html


Pronunciation practice – repeat after me!

There’s no quiz for this episode – instead I thought I’d make a video so you can practise your pronunciation by repeating after me. Word list with definitions below.

Word List + examples [The definitions are in brackets]

  1. Sore throat – I’ve got a sore throat today [a painful throat, because you have a cold]
  2. Squirrel – I saw three squirrels in the park [cute little animals with bushy tails that live in the park]
  3. Throughout – Squirrels live in this park throughout the year [all the way through]
  4. Bewildered – I was bewildered by all the options [confused]
  5. Hierarchy – There’s a flat hierarchy in our company [a system of levels]
  6. Anaesthetist/Anaesthetise – It’s the job of the anaesthetist  to anaesthetise the patients with an anaesthetic [to give someone an anaesthetic – something which stops you feeling pain]
  7. Threshold – If you earn more than £70,000 you enter the next tax threshold [a level or point where something ends and something else begins]
  8. Worthlessly – I was worthlessly trying to impress her by showing off [in a worthless way – with no worth or no point]
  9. Pass the Worcestershire sauce, would you? [a kind of brown sauce for giving flavour to food]
  10. William Wordsworth was a wonderful writer
  11. live / leave – You have to live a little before you leave this world
  12. ship / sheep – we put all the sheep onto the ship, so the ship was full of sheep
  13. full / fool – The room is full you fool!
  14. Architecture – I love the architecture
  15. Architectural – The architectural style is fascinating
  16. Drawer – The knives and forks are in the top drawer on the left [for example, where you keep the knives and forks in the kitchen]
  17. Colonel – Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken [a senior officer in the army]
  18. Kernel – Pine kernels can be a delicious addition to a salad [a nut]
  19. Comfortable – Are you comfortable? Would you like a pillow?
  20. Pronunciation is important. You have to pronounce words properly.
  21. Recipe – Can you give me that delicious cake recipe? /  This is a recipe for disaster! [the instructions for how to make certain food]
  22. Scissors – Do you know where the scissors are? [a tool for cutting paper or fabric]
  23. Strengths – What are your strengths and weaknesses? [strong points]
  24. Clothes – I bought some new clothes today.
  25. Months – She’s 18 months old now.
  26. Eighth – Henry the Eighth was a Tudor king of England
  27. Queue – Sorry, are you in the queue? Are you skipping the queue? Sorry, the end of the queue is back there. Yes, we’re all queueing up, we’re not just standing here. Unbelievable. [a line of people waiting for something]
  28. Fruit – Do you have any fresh fruit?
  29. Sixteenth – It’s the sixteenth of October
  30. Eighteenth – It’s the eighteenth of November
  31. Thirteenth – it’s Friday the thirteenth
  32. Thirtieth – it’s the thirtieth of December
  33. Bomb – There was a bomb scare in the station. People were talking about a bombing. I remember when the IRA bombed Oxford Street. [an explosive device]
  34. Climb – Do you want to go climbing with me next weekend? I’m going to climb that mountain on Saturday. You climbed it last year didn’t you? [to go up something steep like a ladder,  a hill or a mountain]
  35. Comb – I’m just combing my hair with a comb. [something that you use to make your hair straight]
  36. Crumb – Why are there lots of bread crumbs on the table? Have you been cutting bread here? There are lots of crumbs everywhere. Can you clean them up please? [little bits of bread or other food]
  37. Debt – (Many students leave university with) thousands of pounds of debt. [money which you have to pay back to someone after you borrow it]
  38. Doubt – There’s no doubt about it. It’s a brilliant film. [something you’re unsure about]
  39. Government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4) The government is yet to make a statement.
  40. My name is Luke  (not Mr Luck) Thompson
  41. This is a podcast – not a postcard, or potcard, or pot cast or pot cat. It’s podcast.

 See Paul’s One Man Show #Franglais – http://paultaylorcomedy.com/

By the way, if you’re in France, you really should see Paul’s one man show called #Franglais because it is back in theatres for another run. A lot of the comedy in his show is based around pronunciation differences, including the way people say his name, the way French people say funny things without realising it and more. Check out paultaylorcomedy.com for more information.

Here’s David Crystal’s response to “GHOTI” = FISH

Remember that thing that goes around the internet about how “Fish” should be spelled GHOTI?

Basically David Crystal believes that English spelling is not actually senseless, chaotic or mad. It is complex but it’s not completely random. In fact it is the end result of a fascinating process of development that can tell us a lot about the rich history of the English language.

From a Guardian review of his book “Spell It Out”

‘Crystal shows a brisk impatience with the tradition that likes to pretend that English spelling is senseless. The famous suggestion that you could spell “fish” “ghoti” (gh as in “rough”, o as in “women” and ti as in “motion”) is a witticism often ascribed to George Bernard Shaw but, Crystal says witheringly, has been doing the rounds since the middle of the 19th century. It is, he argues “complete naughtiness. The spelling ti is NEVER used with this sound at the end of a word in English, and the spelling gh is NEVER used with this sound at the beginning of a word.” It doesn’t do, then, to simply throw your hands up and say: “Isn’t our language mad?” The real story is much more interesting than that.’ www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/14/spell-it-out-david-crystal-review

You can read more about the interesting story of English spelling and what it can teach us about the history of the English language by reading David Crystal’s book “Spell It Out”, which I expect is available from any half-decent book shop.

454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

455. David Crystal Interview (Part 2) Questions from Listeners

So, that’s it for this double episode then, thanks for listening!

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  • Be excellent to each other and party on!

Luke

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

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

[DOWNLOAD]

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

uk accents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do we have so many accents in the UK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This could explain:

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

The tendency is to unconsciously adapt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey Barton’s weird French accent

Who is Joey Barton? What was the situation?

Joey Barton speaking with this weird French voice

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

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

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

(Joey Barton talks about the French accent incident)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why are there so many accents in the UK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

469. British Comedy: John Bishop

Helping you to understand a comedian with a Liverpool accent – learn vocabulary, culture and accents in English.

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London LEPsters MeetUp

There’s going to be a meetup of some London-based LEPsters this coming Sunday 30th July at 7pm at the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. It’s just north of Soho and to the west of Tottenham Court Road. There should also be a Facebook link soon.

The Fitzroy Tavern
6 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY, UK
Sunday 30th July 7pm Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street.

Zdenek Lukas of Zdenek’s English podcast will be there with any other London-based LEPsters that choose to come out. The plan is to have conversation, a beer or two and perhaps play some board games, because Zdenek is bringing some board games too. So head on down to practise your English, meet some like-minded people in a cool part of central London.

Episode Notes & Transcripts

Introduction

Hello dear listeners, welcome to the podcast. This is one of those episodes in which I go through some British comedy and help you to understand it. We will cover some vocabulary and also some cultural stuff too.

This is also chance to for you to listen to some Scouse English – the kind of English you might hear in Liverpool.

Scouse – that means from Liverpool. A Scouser is a person from Liverpool, and in that area people speak with a Scouse accent. In fact you find that accent in many parts of Merseyside – which means, Liverpool and its surrounding areas.

I’m going to tell you briefly about a popular stand up comedian from Merseyside (the Liverpool area) called John Bishop, who is often on the TV and on stage across the UK. I think he’s probably one of the most famous scousers in the UK these days. We’re going to listen to one or two of his routines which you can find on YouTube, we’ll understand them and notice some features of his Liverpool accent.

By the end of this episode I expect that you’ll have broadened your vocabulary, you’ll have become more familiar with the way people speak English in Liverpool and you’ll have learned some cultural details about family life in the UK. Also, you’re going to be introduced to the comedy of John Bishop, who you might enjoy. There are various John Bishop videos on YouTube and you can can buy his comedy DVDs which are very popular in the UK. If you like what you hear in this episode, you could get one of those DVDs and use it for both learning English and for your own general amusement.

John Bishop – some info on him

To cut a long story short, he was born in Liverpool and has lived in the Merseyside area for most of his life.

Where is Liverpool? Why is it called Merseyside?

People in Liverpool – amongst other things they are known for having a particular accent which people say is a kind of mix between Irish, Welsh (a lot of Irish and Welsh workers moved into the city during it’s time as a major industrial port in the 19th century), Lancashire and even Scandinavian influences. The accent is instantly recognisable to anyone in the UK.

So, John Bishop was born in Liverpool and has lived in the area for most of his life.

In his 20s he had what seems to have been a fairly boring and ordinary career selling pharmaceuticals. By the age of 30 he was married and had a baby son but he wasn’t particularly happy. He ended up getting separated from his wife and they were going to get divorced. He started doing stand-up during this period because he says it stopped him staying at home on his own in the evenings and drinking. It got him out of the house. The thing is, he found that he was good at it and eventually he quit his job to do stand-up full-time. Basically stand-up saved him and it rescued his marriage too – because one day his wife (who was divorcing him at the time) happened to see him on stage during a show and she went up to him afterwards and said “that was the man I fell in love with years ago” and they got back together. Since then his stand-up comedy career has taken off, and how he’s one of the most popular and well-known comedians in the UK. He’s often on the TV and his stand-up comedy DVDs are very popular.

Now he’s got quite a big family with 3 kids – all of them boys. In his comedy he talks a lot about family life and being a father – the typical frustrations, difficulties and experiences that many parents go through.

He’s definitely a mainstream comedian. I mean, his routines are not political, they’re not particularly challenging or controversial. They’re not super intellectual. It’s just straight forward observational comedy and storytelling. He’s not my #1 favourite, but I just love stand-up and I definitely enjoy his work even if he’s not my absolute favourite. But he is very successful. I think his appeal is that he’s an ordinary guy and his stories and routines are very relatable – people enjoy them because they can relate to them.

Scousers have a reputation in the UK for a few things – one of them is for being funny. This maybe a cliché or a stereotype, but I do think it’s quite true, having lived in Liverpool for 4 years. I met lots of Scousers who were very funny – just characters with stories to tell and who had the gift of the gab and good comic timing.

John Bishop is a good example of that. Partly it’s to do with the Liverpool accent which has so much character and I think helps the delivery of his routines. He tells endearing stories in a relaxed way. He wears a suit and tie so he’s well-presented. He is quite handsome and charming, but in an average kind of way. He’s like the ‘boy next door’ kind of guy. Just a normal bloke. His delivery is quite casual and easy-going, he keeps it pretty short and simple with pauses in the right places which is always a good approach to storytelling.

His attitude on stage is quite dry or deadpan (Wikipedia defines “dry” or “deadpan” like this: Deadpan or dry humor/wit describes the deliberate display of a lack of or no emotion, commonly as a form of comedic delivery to contrast with the ridiculousness of the subject matter. The delivery is meant to be blunt, sarcastic or apparently unintentional).

~

Usually his stories allow us to see that his life is actually quite frustrating and ridiculous – just like normal life is for everyone from time to time. Watching observational comedy like this makes you feel good because you totally understand what he’s going through because in fact your life is quite frustrating and ridiculous too. So it’s therapeutic – that’s what’s great about comedy. It lets you laugh at life and realise that you’re not alone and that we all experience these frustrating things.

Let’s listen to John Bishop, with his Liverpool accent, telling a couple of stories of family life from some of the videos on YouTube and let’s pick up some English in the process.

I’m going to play the first clip to you in just a moment.

As you listen, I wonder what you will be thinking. We’ve done this before, listening to English with different regional accents. You might feel that you can’t understand him completely – I think he speaks pretty clearly, delivering stories in a slow but punctuated way, but the accent might be hard for you to understand. You might think “Oh his accent is too strong”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised. But remember, English is a very diverse language. You might not want to speak like John Bishop (or maybe you do I don’t know) but you certainly should try to understand him. English comes in many different forms – many different accents – and even if you’re not familiar with those accents, they are normal and perfectly valid forms of the language which everyone can not only understand but appreciate.

It would be a pity for you to only understand one standard form of English. It would mean your English was limited. Anyone with a decent sense of English should be exposed to different accents. David Crystal said it, we all know it’s true. So let’s listen to some Scouse English. And please, do not think “Oh god his English is bad”. That’s not fair and it’s simply not true. I understand all of it, so do his audiences. British people do not struggle to understand him at all, quite the opposite – he’s very understandable and relatable. He draws in very large crowds of people to his shows all across the country. All those people understand and enjoy the things he says. His Liverpool accent is a very important part of his charm. If it’s hard to understand him I think it would be wise to consider that maybe you’re just not familiar with his accent, and that you just need to broaden your exposure to English a bit, and that this is a chance for you to do that.

Anyway, maybe you won’t have trouble understanding him at all and you’ll just enjoy listening to his story. Let’s see.

Video

Here’s John talking about going on holiday with teenage kids (I wonder what teenagers are like in your country.)
You’re going to hear him say that he had a massive tour one year and he was away from home a lot so he wanted to spend some quality time with his kids – in a kind of nostalgic way – like he imagines it used to be when he was a kid – go somewhere in the countryside where there’s no internet so he can spend some quality time with his teenage sons, spending a sort of idyllic Christmas and New Year’s Eve sitting around the fireplace playing board games, like it was in the good old days. But, his kids are modern British teenage boys who are addicted to the internet – so that might make things difficult…

You’ll also hear a few sound effects from the video, which you can see on the page for this episode.

 

Holidays with the kids (video 1)

White trainers, growing up, puberty, hormones and getting your head kicked in by your own son. (video 2)

John Bishop gets a new fridge and takes his old one to the dump (video 3)

Language Learned

Here is some of the vocabulary you could learn from this episode.

Going on holiday with the kids (video 1)
Scouse
Scouser
Nostalgic
Quality time
Idyllic christmas
Sitting around a log fire playing board games
Teenagers
Addicted to the internet
Sound effects
A reconstruction
A cottage
It’s on the border between Scotland, england and Narnia
Internet, it’s Berwick son, we haven’t even got ceefax
We turned up at the cottage
In the middle of nowhere
Youse three, go in the living room, put the telly on
Looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses
In the middle of nowhere

White trainers (video 2)
You don’t realise how much of a cock you are
They do your (bleedin) head in don’t they?
Going through puberty
You have a week off school for half term (holiday)
You do P.E. (physical education)
You walk into the showers all self-conscious
Some kid walks in with a beard and bollocks by his knees!
Your voice breaks and that’s when you don’t get control over your voice
The hormones just come flying in and you’ve got no control over them
It’s the funniest thing on the planet bar none
I’m not asking you, I’m telling you!
Get up them (those) stairs and take them off.
Make me
It’s like the little lion is taking on the big line and all the other lions are running around going “it’s kicking off here!”
We’re stood toe to toe
I can take you!
There’s a chance he can take me here.
Thinking you’re going to get your head kicked in with your shoes

Taking the fridge to the dump (video 3)
The fridge
The freezer
The dump
To get rid of some stuff
It’s health and safety gone mad
It’s political correctness gone mad
A silver fridge that’s the size of a bungalow
A bungalow
That hasn’t half changed our lives (that has changed our lives a lot)
Put it next to the sink
I’m saving meself (myself) a yard of walking
We had a spare fridge
I turned up at the dump
There’s a fella there with a yellow vest and a clipboard
He’s done an NVQ in clipboard management
You can’t just dump a fridge now
You’ll have to phone us up
Then we come and get it
Who do I ring?
The phone in his hut rang
A hut
I’m outside dickhead!

466. Get this word into your life

Highlighting and clarifying vocabulary that you heard in episodes 464 and 465, with a focus on phrases and uses of the word get.

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The plan in this episode is to go through some of the language that you heard during the last two episodes.

If you listened to episodes 464 and 465 you will have heard me telling you to watch out for certain language that I would be explaining later.

Well, it is now ‘later’ – later has arrived. This is later. So let’s check out some of that language, shall we?

Check the page for this episode to see the words, phrases and some example sentences written for you to look at with your eyes and then remember with your brains (your brain – you’ve only got one, right?)

So, how much stuff did you notice? How many phrasal verbs, collocations and instances of ‘get’?

I’ve been through the episodes and have picked out some of that language that I thought was worth highlighting, and there was loads of it, tons of it, considerable amounts, too much for one episode. So in this one I’m just going to focus on the uses of get, which is one of the most common verbs in the English language. Let’s consider all the uses of ‘get’ which came up in the last two episodes.

GET the word ‘get’ into your life

Open a dictionary and look up this little word. You’ll see pages and pages of entries. Different meanings, grammatical functions, uses, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and so on.

*actually read out loads of uses of get…*

You can’t underestimate the importance and usefulness of this little word. Native English speakers use get an awful lot. It’s one of the features of native level English.

Now, actually I should point out that it’s not just this one word on its own. That’s slightly misleading. Instead you realise that you’re not learning ‘get’ over and over again, you’re learning all the many different phrases in which it occurs. So, don’t focus on what ‘get’ really means – on its own it doesn’t mean that much, that’s why it’s a delexical verb. The meaning is to be found in the whole phrase – so that means you need to pay particular attention to how the word collocates with prepositions like ‘in’ or ‘on’ and auxiliary verbs like ‘have’ and also how these phrases affect the grammar of the sentence (e.g. if they’re followed by a gerund or an infinitive).

Sounds difficult? That’s because it is. In fact, I think ‘get’ is an example of exactly how English can be extremely tricky for learners of English.

Some aspects of English are easier than other aspects.

Some of the ‘easier’ things about our language are – there are not so many verb forms (e.g. with ‘go’ – to go, go, goes, going, went, gone, been) or verb endings (-ed, s or es) , no gender – so no need to change the gender of the adjective or pronoun and so on. Obviously I would say English was easy because it’s easy for me and I know that, admittedly, there are some tricky bits like some adjective and adverb morphology (with comparatives and superlatives – er, ier, est, iest), our irregular verbs and spelling are an irregular nightmare, we have lots of vocabulary with many synonyms, indirect language is hard to deal with, modal verbs are hard to get to grips with and there’s massive diversity in the way the language is spoken with many different accents around the world and so on, but compared to something like French or German there is less grammar to deal with, like the number of verb forms for example is quite limited.

I guess this is why it’s fairly common for people to get to a certain level of functional English (intermediate level) quite quickly but then get stuck at the intermediate plateau. Many people get to that level where they can basically say what they want to say and hold down a basic conversation but then that’s it, they stay there or they get stuck there because they hit a wall when it comes to the more complex stuff – the really nitty-gritty of native level English usage – the stuff that allows you to communicate shades of grey, subtlety, nuance and humour.

This is where English becomes particularly tough stuff. It’s the sheer diversity of little phrases which are created by combining certain ‘delexical verbs’ with prepositions, pronouns, gerunds and infinitives.

‘Delexical verbs’ are verbs which don’t carry much meaning on their own. Often they are little verbs. E.g. get, have, keep, put, take, make, give. They combine with other words in phrases. It’s the phrase as a whole that carries the specific meaning.

We end up with sentences like: “I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.” or “I just can’t get used to being out of the loop.” or “I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”

“I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.”

to have got to do something = to have to do it, to need to do it

to get in on something = to become involved in something, take part in something from which you will benefit.

  1. Is the meaning obvious from the words? Not really. The only big word there is “action”. All the others are little ‘grammar words’. The whole thing is quite idiomatic.
  2. Is it easy to spot all the words being used when someone says it? Not really
  3. You might eventually understand it, but can you use and pronounce it quickly and confidently?

Jim: Do you want to get in on some of this action? *points to chips and salsa*

Pete: No thanks, I’m Good.

(from the Urban Dictionary – which isn’t always reliable by the way, there’s a lot of stupid, rude slang in there)

“I can’t get used to being out of the loop” = I’m in a really difficult position because I don’t know what’s going on and I haven’t known what’s going on for a while. This position is not getting easier for me.” e.g. you’ve got no internet connection and life just doesn’t seem normal.

“I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”

to get round to doing something = to finally do something you should have done before

to get someone back for doing something = to get revenge on someone

This is where English gets really quite difficult. It’s a nightmare, I know.

A lot of these ‘bits of English’ with get are phrasal verbs, others are just fixed expressions. They are difficult, right? But what are you going to do? Ignore them? Pretend they don’t exist? Bad move. You’ll end up speaking an unnatural form of English. You’ll end up not really understanding what native speakers are talking about or getting at.

So, don’t underestimate the importance of little verbs like ‘get’ or ‘make’ or ‘put’. They’ve very common and this is the real English that is used all the time every day, but which is hard to learn because it’s probably quite different from your native language and because they’re not the ‘big heavy latin words’ that are more noticeable. These delexical words are like the ninjas of English. Yes, more ninjas on the podcast. I am obsessed with ninjas.

There are actually about 29 different uses or different phrases with ‘get’ in this episode. Maybe more.

That’s a lot, I know. Normally in lessons we don’t teach more than about 12 words at a time. There’s a good chance not every phrase will stick.

It can feel overwhelming. There are so many usages and phrases. It feels like you’ll never learn them all. But don’t worry about it all too much. It does take a while to pick up these difficult aspects of English but it’s not impossible. It helps if you stay positive.

Tips for dealing with all this tricky vocabulary

Here are some tips that I hope will help:

  1. Remember – it feels like there’s an infinite number of these little phrases. There isn’t. It’s a finite number. You can learn them all if you try. It is achievable. You can do it. Yes, you can.
  2. OK, so you might not learn them all, it’s quite difficult. But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn them all. Just learn some and the ones you do learn properly will stick with you forever as long as you keep noticing and using them. That’s better than just going “Oh to hell with it!” and learning nothing. Something is better than nothing, even if it is not everything. So, don’t worry if you don’t get all of these expressions. Just learn some now and get the others later.
  3. You could check a phrasal verbs dictionary like the Cambridge Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs to see the frequency of expressions, which might help you see which expressions are more common than others.
  4. When you’ve learned a phrase, or started learning some phrases. Listen out for them, watch out for them. You’ll find you start noticing them more and more. This will help you remember them a bit. The ones you notice a lot are the really useful ones worth remembering.
  5. Watch out for tricky little details such as whether the expression is followed by an -ing form or an infinitive form (with or without to) or if there are sneaky little prepositions, auxiliaries or pronouns. Don’t just learn the big solo verbs or words, train yourself to be on the lookout for vocabulary in phrases, or chunks. E.g. “to get used to doing something” or “be used to doing something” – both of those expressions with ‘used to’ have 4 parts, not just ‘used to’.
  6. Always study vocabulary with real examples, not just definitions. Beware of translating everything directly from or into your language, this might not work. English is a different language, remember.
  7. Try to use expressions with your own examples. Own the language. Personalise it. Use examples that mean something to you. This will help it stick in your mind, especially if your examples are visual or spatial – e.g. involving you in a particular space.
  8. Listen back to episodes 464 and 465 and focus on spotting the uses of ‘get’ either in phrasal verbs or other uses. You could play ‘vocab hunter’ if it makes you feel more excited.
  9. These phrases can be difficult to notice because of connected speech – the way certain sounds are cut, or even added in order to say the phrase quickly. All the words in the phrase run into each other and it ends up sounding like one word or even just a noise. E.g. “things might get a bit technical” (try it with and without the /t/ sounds)
  10. Check out my series called “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. It’s currently on hiatus, but there are about 130 phrasal verbs explained in individual episodes with their own examples. Each episode is just a few minutes long and there’s not much rambling. I just get straight to the point each time. It might help.

So, let’s carry on and look at the ways in which ‘get’ is used with some examples from episodes 464 and 465.

Uses of GET

Get on its own can mean a few things. See below for examples.

The list below is in order of frequency from episodes 464 and 465. The most frequent uses in those episodes are at the top of the list.

Get = receive (get a letter), obtain (get permission to do something), achieve (get a good result)

e.g. (to get an idea, to get the giggles, get the motivation to do something)

  • here’s a message I got not long ago
  • I do get quite a lot of messages like that
  • I get messages like this quite a lot
  • where I get the inspiration for episodes
  • getting the giggles
  • Zdenek got a teaching job off the back of his podcast
  • Get some inspiration to record something
  • get the right results
  • getting a sense of what works with learners of English
  • some things that I’m sure will be a hit seem to get a muted response
  • trying to get their approval
  • it’s great to get your feedback
  • you can’t get that lovely close sound with the laptop mic

Get = become (get + adjective)

e.g. get old, get hot, get dark, get famous, get bored

  • This might get a bit technical later on
  • which could get quite geeky
  • if you get too focused on controlling everything
  • I think she gets distracted at work
  • I have to get myself pumped up
  • That’s how a British person gets pumped up
  • Come on, let’s get pumped!
  • Let’s get pumped up!
  • things get a bit more fun in the second half of the episode
  • Ooh, suddenly this has got way more exciting, hasn’t it. Hasn’t it?

Get =  the auxiliary verb in passive forms (sometimes)
e.g. to get paid, to get downloaded, to get noticed, get caught, get arrested, get involved in something

  • if you get too focused on controlling everything you might stifle the conversation
  • I think she gets distracted at work
  • Let’s get pumped up!

Get = understand 

e.g. to get the message, get a joke, to get the idea

  • nobody gets the joke
  • you get the idea
  • Do you get what I’m trying to say?
  • I just don’t get it

have got = have (possessive)

  • I’ve got two Shure SM58s and a Shure SM7B
  • Send out a search team for Carlos. Sweep the area, we’ve got a missing LEPster. (actually he’s not missing, he got in touch)
  • Imagine you’re a presenter and you’ve got your own radio show

Watch out for:
*we don’t use it in the past (I had)
*auxiliary verbs in negatives and questions
(+) I have an idea / I have got an idea
(-) I don’t have an idea / I haven’t got an idea
(Q) Do you have any ideas? / Have you got any ideas?

Have got to = have to (obligation)

  • I’ve just got to get through this work
  • “I’ve got to concentrate!”

Watch out for:
*not in the past (I had to)
*negatives and questions
I have to do it / I have got to do it
I don’t have to do it / I haven’t got to do it
Do you have to do it? / Have you got to do it?

Get = reach/arrive at a place/stage

e.g. to get home, to get to work, to get to where you want to be

  • to get to where I need to be to start recording something about it

Get = manage to put something somewhere

e.g. to get it on the table, to get the ball in the hole

  • get it online, get those files online

 

Phrasal verbs and other expressions with get

To get through something = to finish something, to pass from the start to the finish

e.g. We need to get through the woods before the sun goes down.

Things got a little bit difficult in the middle of the marathon but I got through it.

  • try to get through the bits about how I make the podcast

To get your head around something = to understand it

  • I’ll explain the vocab later, which should help you to get your head around it all

To get round to doing something = to do something you have intended to do for a long time

  • I’m glad to have actually got round to doing it
  • I wonder if I’ll ever get round to making all those episodes

To get into something (literal) = to enter something (e.g. get into the car please sir) or change into a particular state (e.g. get into the right mood to do something)

  • I just try to get into the right frame of mind to record an episode

To get into something (idiomatic – ish) = become interested or involved in something

  • You might want to get into it too

To get back (to something) = to return to a place, or return to something you were doing before

e.g. “Get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged. Get back Jo Jo!”

  • Let’s get back to the topic of this episode

To get something across = to communicate something to someone, to make someone understand something

  • I have to come up with ideas and get them (my ideas) across to my audience
  • How to actually get the message across

To get on with someone = to have a good, friendly relationship with someone

  • Listen to people who know each other and get on well

To get rid of something = to throw something away, to discard it

  • Sometimes I have to get rid of what I recorded and start again

Other expressions and uses of ‘get’

To get going / to get started = to start

  • So let’s get going.
  • Let’s get started properly.

To get on with it = Start doing something that you should be doing.

e.g. Come on, stop wasting time! Get on with it!

  • Let’s get on with it.

To get down to business = to start talking about the subject which is to be discussed

  • Let’s get down to business.

To get something done = do it, finish it – ‘get’ is a causative verb here – either you do it or someone else does it

  • Control the podcast settings and get it published to iTunes
  • I need to get this finished by the end of the day
  • I need to get my teeth looked at

To get someone to do something = another causative verb – it means to make someone do something, to persuade someone to do something  – someone else does it (in USA they might say “have it done”

  • getting people to download it
  • How I get people to know about what I’m doing, how to get people to listen.

To get someone doing something = to put someone in a state, to make someone do something over and over

  • Here are just a few questions to get you thinking.

What’s the difference between ‘get someone to do something’ and ‘get someone doing something’?

The first one means persuade someone to do it, and it might only be once. (e.g. I got him to give me the money)

The second one means that you make someone do something over and over again, or put them in a state, not just do one single thing. (e.g. “now you’ve got me worrying” or “I really want to get you running every day”)

To get used to doing something = to become accustomed to doing something, to become familiar with something

  • I want you to get used to noticing different bits of language

To get the hang of doing something = like ‘get used to -ing’ but more informal, to learn how to do something

  • I want you to get the hang of noticing language

To get the most out of something = to achieve the most from something that is possible, to take advantage of something

  • I want you to be able to get the most out of these episodes
  • to get the most out of the people you’re listening to

Also: to make the most of something

To get in touch (with someone)  = to contact someone by phone, text, email etc

  • Get in touch

Also: keep in touch, stay in touch

To get it right/wrong = do something correctly or incorrectly

  • I’m sure I don’t get it right every time
  • I try to get it right

To get together = meet socially

  • Get people together
  • Get together with someone
  • If you get the right people together

Also – (n) a ‘get together’
Let’s have a get together at the weekend

to get something into your life

  • I’ve got to get you into my life
  • Get this word into your life

The Beatles – Got To Get you Into My Life (Lyrics) www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/gottogetyouintomylife.html

Background music from www.Jukedeck.com

 

461. 25 Deceptively Difficult Questions (with Amber, Paul & Sarah)

An episode about the tricky little questions that we use when socialising. What are the appropriate answers? What are the subtle differences? How do native speakers use these questions? Can you take the test and get all the right responses to my list of deceptively difficult questions?

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25 Deceptively Difficult Questions – Proper Introduction Transcript!

Hi everyone,

This is an episode about social English, the kind of English you use when you’re socialising, particularly the little things you say when you greet someone or at the beginning of a conversation.

There are many ways to say “hi” and also lots of ways to say “how are you?” or “what are you doing?” The tricky thing is being able to judge the subtle differences in the questions with the presence of auxiliary verbs or modals which change the meaning slightly from the past, to the present to the future or with slightly different levels of formality.

I’d like to do a test in this episode today. I am going to test you, so get ready.

A Test

Here’s what’s going to happen.

I’ve prepared a list of 25 questions. I’m going to read them to you in a moment.

As I say each question, what I want you to do is to think really quickly and really naturally about the first thing you would normally say when you hear that question. What’s the first answer that comes into your mind?

Let’s see if you answer correctly.

To find out the proper answers we’re going to listen to me directing those questions at Amber, Paul and Sarah. Then you can listen out for how they answer them and the comments we make afterwards, which should explain these tricky little bits of English.

Not only can you learn some essential social English in this episode, you can also hear plenty of humorous conversation between the four of us.

Sarah’s baby is also there in the background. I’m sorry if this bothers anyone. I’ve removed some of those noises but a few are still there. I think it sounds fine and adds a bit of atmosphere and after all she is a very cute baby.

So, the test. Let’s get started.

Are you ready? Just give the first answer that comes to mind.

Also, you should know that some of the questions are intentionally incorrect. So, if you hear a question which is grammatically wrong or just not used ever, you can say “wrong”.

Ok, so, your quick answer to the question, or “wrong” if it’s incorrect.

I’ll say the question once quickly, once slowly and once again quickly.

Some of these questions may seem extremely simple – the point of this is the pragmatics of social English and how you should give certain stock answers to some questions. They get a bit harder as they go along.

Also, you can try to repeat the questions too.

They’re going to come pretty quick, so use the pause button if you want.

Here we go. You might think these are easy, but that’s why this is called ‘deceptively’ difficult questions.

*4 questions are intentionally incorrect. Can you spot them?

  1. What are you doing?
  2. How are you doing?
  3. How’s it going?
  4. How are you going?
  5. What’s happening?
  6. What’s going on?
  7. What’s going down?
  8. What’s going up?
  9. What’s up?
  10. How do you do?
  11. How are you?
  12. How have you been?
  13. How have you been up to?
  14. What are you up to?
  15. What have you been up to?
  16. How long has it been?
  17. Can I use your phone?
  18. I can’t use your phone, can I?
  19. Do you mind if I open the window?
  20. You don’t mind if I open the window, do you?
  21. What are your plans for later?
  22. What are you up to later?
  23. Can you tell me where is the best bar in town?
  24. Do you know how long is it going to be?
  25. Would you be prepared to give me a 5% discount?

Ta = thanks

You’re now going to hear all those questions and how Amber, Paul and Sarah will respond to them. See if you got them right or wrong!

I’ll go through them again quickly at the end.

Listen to the whole episode for all the correct answers and explanations.

Don’t be a ninja! Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Cheers!

Luke

457. Conclusions about Language Learning from the David Crystal Interview (Part 2)

A follow-up to episode 455 consolidating the insights of Professor David Crystal including various pearls of wisdom about language learning.

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Notes & Transcriptions

Hamid
If English keeps taking on words from other languages, will it stop being English?
This is the story of English.
English is a vacuum cleaner of a language.
Something like 300-600 languages have influenced English with words. If you look at English today. Where are the germanic words? They’re only about 20%. The other 80% is from French, Spanish, latin and others.
There is no single dominating influence on English today.
How many Urdu words have gone into English? Maybe 100. But English has over 1,000,000 words. No new cluster of words coming in is going to come in all at once (tidal wave) they come in drip drip drip.
New words are assimilated to reflect a need – e.g. for new types of food.
This is no threat to English.
In fact it’s evidence of the power of English, that it absorbs so many other influences from other languages and cultures. It’s like the blob!

Jilmani
What’s the future of English?
Unpredictable! Absolutely an unanswerable question. You should never try to predict the future of a language. It’s all about events which just happen, e.g. the Norman invasion, Trump or Brexit.
Will Brexit reduce the influence of English in EU?
Not much. But it will change its character because it won’t be used by so many native speakers, so there will be more developments “Euro English” (I think it has emerged a bit).
But English will continue to change and diversify.

Jairo wants help managing the workload of studies.
Learning about language is a huge burden.
Learning about a language you have to learn about the history, society and events of the time to understand why people were using language in those particular ways.
What was it like to be an old norse speaker?
But most philologists don’t have a psycholinguistic background to their studies.
Philology can be a bit dry.
David prefers the socially aware approach to the history of language which doesn’t just ask “what happened and when” but “why?” – let’s explore the nature of the people who made it happen. This should ease the process.

Cat
English syntax – can you explain it?
Come on you’re asking for a book here!
English has a simple morphology compared with German (or French).
How many possible word endings are there for a verb in English?
The difference between English and German is morphological but also syntactic.
English and German are quite close. They only diverged 2000 years ago.
Word order is a bit different.
Everyone understood David when he went to Germany and spoke German with the wrong word order.
There aren’t that many differences, although the few differences are noticeable.
Cat, why are you worried about local areas of syntactic difference between English and German. Why has this become an issue?
It usually comes down to identity. German English (used by people who have learned it really well) still is distinctively German English.
The point is, don’t be too concerned about micro differences in syntax between your language and English. As long as we understand you that’s the main thing, although obviously style is important so I imagine you want to write in the style of a native speaker (but which one though!) You might have to accept that it’s important to find your own voice in English, which might be influenced a bit by who you are (it is your own voice after all) – which is someone who lives in Germany. That’s not to say your English can be totally different and like German with English words – that would probably be unintelligible and a bit ridiculous. But micro differences aren’t such a big deal.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s just small stuff.

Wesley
Do people who speak different languages think differently?
It’s difficult to translate words sometimes because there are some words which don’t directly translate because there isn’t an equivalent word. 10-15% of the words might be untranslateable. But in Chinese it’s a lot more.
But when you do psycholinguistic experiments we discover that people can see the different concepts, but having those specific words makes it easier to talk about those things. You can see the colours but you might not have the language for describing it.
Different languages might not have the same word for something but it doesn’t mean they think about them any differently.
E.g. in English we don’t have a word for a certain thing in Japanese – natsukashii for example. But we find other ways of describing it. Ah, it takes me back or “good old” or “it feels nostalgic” or “it’s good to be back”.
So it doesn’t seem to be the case that languages affect or reflect different perception of the world.
*But I reckon there might be something to it Wesley. E.g. sense of humour, patterns of understatement, all contribute towards expressing a sardonic outlook on life (UK) rather than a direct attitude in the mediterranean for example.
The fallacy is that it’s words that translate, but it’s not it’s sentences. A group of words together are what hold meaning. So even if there’s no single word equivalent, you put some words together and make a sentence and that’s how the language transcribes.
“Snow that you use to build an igloo with” – he can still express that thing with a sentence and you can see that kind of snow.

Learn the vocabulary of a new language and you’ll see the cultural things that it reflects. It shows that to learn the language properly you should learn about the culture too – the mindset, the reference points and so on. You can see all those things too, but having certain words and expressions makes it easier to talk about them.
The result is that in languages it’s easier to talk about commonly occurring cultural phenomena because the language has the tools to do it, but people are all still basically the same, we might just take a bit longer to talk about a concept that in your language is very normal.

Mayumi
Why do Brits use indirect language?
It’s just a cultural difference. It’s the British temperament. The reason for that is hard to say. Maybe it’s because the UK is an island and the psychogeographic factors might affect that kind of language use.
Pragmatics – the study of why people are using specific bits of language.
Language norms reflect the cultural context – that’s the identity argument.
But why does the UK use this polite language? We don’t really know! You have to ask why British people want to be polite. (obviously it’s because we’re such nice people)
You just have to accept the cultural differences. Learn about them and accept them. “That’s who we are.” should be a good enough answer.
As ever, you must accept cultural differences. They’re not weird, they’re just different. It’s a good bit of advice for anyone coming into contact with another culture. You can speculate about why people behave the way they do, but ultimately you’ve just got to accept it and move on, like the way you often have to accept in English that “this is just what people say in this language” and that’s it.

Synchronic not diachronic method.

Wikipedia:
Synchrony and diachrony are two different and complementary viewpoints in linguistic analysis. A synchronic approach (from Greek συν- “together” and χρόνος “time”) considers a language at a moment in time without taking its history into account. Synchronic linguistics aims at describing a language at a specific point of time, usually the present. By contrast, a diachronic approach (from δια- “through” and χρόνος “time”) considers the development and evolution of a language through history. Historical linguistics is typically a diachronic study.

DC says we should use a synchronic approach to understanding these things – why is this particular person choosing to say it in this way, right now?
Some more modern dictionaries now contain essays about usage and pragmatics, which help us to identify how culture affects language. It’s worth reading the extra comments and information pages you find in many dictionaries.
Also, consider reading cultural guides as well as purely linguistic ones.

Antonio
Will AI replace the need for language learning?
Babel fish (Hitchhiker’s Guide)
In 100 years it’ll probably be perfect.
(I’ve seen auto subs have improved recently).
Imagine a situation where the babelfish is operating perfectly. It would solve lots of problems, but identity hasn’t been addressed. I still want to “be French” and the AI might not include those differences. People will still hold onto their languages in order to express their identity. It won’t affect language diversity.
But it might mean that AI might make the need for a global language redundant. Maybe AI will replace English. Why bother learning an international language?
But there are various answers to that – tech might let you down so people might not choose to constantly rely on it – some conditions in which there is no electricity.
Will AI manage to be perfect like a human, with the ability to translate with a view to expressing the culture?
Human translators choose between different competing nuances. I could say it this way, or this other way. We make those decisions based on complex social and psychological factors. A computer might not have that cultural sensitivity, maybe only in the long term.
The number of people learning languages might be reduced, but it’s also ignoring another factor in learning another language – the want to become aware of the culture, history and literature of the other language. There’s a personal satisfaction in learning another language and enjoy the pleasant things about it. People learn languages because they want to not because they need to. It’s a pleasure.
There are many reasons to want to continue to learn, it’s not just about intelligibility.
For the forseeable future he can’t see that it would be economically viable to create that technological solution for language when the traditional methods are the best way to foster relationships.

Jack – I don’t know where you come from.
First of all, David doesn’t mind being addressed in the Ali G dialect.
“Me” instead of “I”.
“Me wants to know…”
“I is well impressed…”
Subject verb agreement. “I is…”
“Booyakasha”
“It is a well big honour”
It’s quite a skill to be able to switch between registers. Sometimes we break the rules as a stylistic choice, like with the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s important to be able to switch between different styles and registers but you also have to know when it is appropriate to do it.
I’m not bothered by it in the comment section of my site, but you should be aware that some other people might find it weird or inappropriate, like for example if you write that in forums on other websites, in the comment section of Amber’s new podcast about Paris history, or in some business meeting. It’s going to seem really weird. So, you need to seriously think about the appropriacy of the things you’re doing and that means the style of English you’re using, or the decision to post dodgy pictures of cakes on my website.
Should the listeners learn the rules of grammar, or should they just focus on meaning, and let the rules look after themselves?
Both but in a structured sort of way.
In communicative teaching the structured side was a bit lost.
Just listening and working things out by being dropped in at the deep end is a bit of a big step – it takes a while.
It’s also important to do some structure work, but also to expose the learners to things that illustrate the language point being used in a functional way.
So it’s not just about form, but also about function and trying to balance the two.
So, as we’ve said before – do both. Some structured language work, combined with exposure in which you are really focused on following the meaning of what’s being communicated. Then probably some more reflection on the way it was done. Moving between grammar and pure meaning all the time. Juggling.

Back to the conversation with friends recently.

People get upset by failing standards in English.

Again, David doesn’t mind – as long as the language is intelligible then it’s a sign of changing identities – a sigh of the times.

Are we better at communicating than we used to be?

It is possible to measure, but not possible to give a simple answer. It depends on the situation.
Book: “The Gift of the Gab” How eloquence works.

Eloquence standards do vary from generation to generation, circumstances, individual to individual. E.g. Obama and Trump – differences in eloquence. Is Trump incoherent? Is Obama a better communicator? Some people say Trump is incoherent and inarticulate. But it’s not necessarily true considering Trump’s ability to communicate with his core voters.
People cite various things as examples of falling eloquence standards, e.g. using “like” but often these aren’t really examples of falling standards, it’s just a question of style.

How do we use “like”?
As long as it doesn’t get in the way, it’s just a question of style.
Again, people see language changes and they equate it with decline. It’s not.
Usually, people are giving examples of things that are just a different type of eloquence (again, change not death).

Trump’s English has a style with its own values. He avoids the rhetorical style of Obama with balanced, complex sentences. Trump uses everyday conversational strategies. “Look, believe me folks..” Every day conversational strategies. He doesn’t use carefully crafted sentences, he changes direction even mid sentence. These are all features of informal American speech.
Semantically it can be extremely difficult to understand what he really means. But adopting that style allows him to appeal to certain people.

These days he might have become a bit more formal, but during the campaign he was noticeably less formal and more colloquial than Clinton and the other candidates. As a result he clearly stood out from the crowd, during a climate of dissatisfaction with the traditional political class. People were fed up with the type of boring politician speaking in that boring old way. They thought they were out of touch with ordinary people, and part of a crooked system. Trump got in by presenting himself as an alternative to this established political system and the way he used English was a big part of that.

Thanks for listening! I hope that helps!

456. Conclusions about Language Learning from the David Crystal Interview (Part 1)

Discussing and clarifying what David Crystal said in episode 454. Conclusions about language learning and linguistics.

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Transcript

Here we are back once again with an episode of this podcast for learners of English. This one should contain insights about the English language and the process of learning that language, straight from the horse’s mouth.

That’s an expression, “straight from the horse’s mouth” which means you get information directly from a reliable and trusted source. In this case that source (or horse) is Professor David Crystal, who of course isn’t a horse – that would be very bizarre. No, he’s of course, he’s not a horse, he’s a great expert on the English language, the author of many books, known by anyone studying linguistics, he’s described as the world’s leading voice on language. I was very happy to have that leading voice on my podcast and there’s certainly a lot of good information to take in – whether you’re learning English or simply interested in languages and what makes them tick.

In this episode the plan is to go through some of the ideas David talked about and see if I can point out some specific bits of relevance for learners of English.

Let’s unpick the wise words of Prof David Crystal and really clarify some truths, tips and general conclusions about language learning, and perhaps explain some of the vocabulary you heard as well.

Essentially, I am going to repeat the main points DC made here, but the aim is to clarify it all and make it a bit more digestible. I will constantly be attempting to answer the question – how is this useful for learners of English? So, you should be able to take away quite a lot from this episode, in combination with the other two.

Is grammar glamorous?

Glamour and grammar come from the same word – because grammar, language etc used to be considered like magic. But grammar seems to have lost its magic these days, in the way people think about it. These days its considered to be boring, prescriptive and all about rules you learned at school.

It’s not glamorous if you study it like they used to in school. Just parsing sentences and working out what the part of speech is.

It only works if you ask why people are using those forms.

Semantic (focusing on meaning) vs pragmatic (why people say the things they say).

Understanding the motivations of the people who use grammar (the pragmatic side) is the interesting part and that’s when grammar really comes alive and becomes glamorous in the old sense of the word.

For learners of English this means exploring not just the form of the language you’re studying but also the reasons why each different form is used. The challenge is to get the semantic side and the pragmatic side into your studies.

So, don’t just study grammar rules on their own in a list. You need to examine the living language and notice those forms and the way they are used to perform specific functions.

Can you learn English without studying grammar?

Children do it, and you can do it too but it takes a long time for all the language to be assimilated by exposure. You can cut out a lot of that time by studying the rules. As adults we can apply what we already know and take apart the language by studying. So, studying grammar is an essential part of the learning process and goes together with a more long-term process of acquiring English through exposure.

But it’s no good just learning the rules and being able to explain it all on paper, you have to know when and why and where all the grammar is used. So it’s about applying yourself to the pragmatic aspects of the language you’re using and letting that guide your choice of language.

So, as I’ve said before – listen a lot, read a lot – like this podcast or any other material you fancy, but it’s best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Do some grammar work too, like self-study exercises in English Grammar in Use or another decent workbook, but make sure you are always asking yourself – why are these people using this language like this? How are the motivations affecting the choice of words and structures? When you’re doing your listening try to notice bits of language which you’ve studied. Could you say the same thing another way? What would be the difference and how is language related to that. Try experimenting with different ways to put something and get used to the slight nuance it adds. E.g. using a passive structure or an active one.

I know you’re not actually an English teacher, but do you have any tips for learners of English who want to improve their grammar?

No! Not a teacher!
Some linguistic-y tips – basically to know what all the grammar is, but also to be aware of the English that’s being used in the real world and how all that applies to the grammar you’ve studied.

I would add:
don’t be afraid of it, it’s more interesting than you might think, you might need to learn some abstract terms but don’t be put off, the more you learn the more you can learn, always look for examples.

Learning about why certain grammar forms are used really opens up the way you can see language. For example, learning that passive forms are used when you don’t want to mention who did the action allows you to see all those situations. You might want to write an impersonal formal letter, or give a general notice, or describe a process or simply talk about something that happened to someone without constantly talking about who did it. E.g. imagine a story about a guy who is a victim. People keep doing things to him but you want the guy to be the centre of the story. Like, John was kidnapped. He was bound and gagged and thrown into the back of a taxi. It took two hours for him to be rescued.

You wrote a political history of grammar in the UK (published online at www.davidcrystal.com)
What relationship does the average Brit have with grammar today?

Essentially, Brits have an up and down relationship with grammar, based on the fact that grammar study came in and out of fashion and grammar was learned in a two-dimensional way. People are often a bit prescriptive about grammar as they think it should be about rules and regulations, but they’re really only attempting to impose controls over something which evolves over time.

Knowledge of Grammar in the UK
In the 50s kids all learned basic grammar at school, getting examined at 16. Told to identify parts of speech in a sentence.
Then it went out of fashion in the 70s.
Several generations of kids who didn’t study any grammar at all.
Now they’ve grown up and some of them are teachers.
They don’t know any grammar.
The ones who grew up in the old style had learned grammar.
The younger ones were teaching but had no knowledge of grammar.
“The baby had been thrown out with the bathwater”
A language awareness programme was brought back, with a modicum of grammar back in the syllabus/curriculum.
David had to do lots of basic grammar training for these teachers. He wrote “Rediscover Grammar”.
Now, it’s back again.
Kids are examined for their ability to recognise parts of speech and do sentence parsing.
But the semantics and pragmatics aren’t there – it’s just mechanical analysis of sentences. Some teachers are very unhappy.

Now there are 3 types of audience.
The oldies who are in their 60s who know about the old style grammar teaching,
The middle generation, some of whom know a lot about grammar and some who don’t.
Then the modern generation for whom grammar is back. They have to come to terms with it.

One positive thing for learners of English is that you probably know more grammar than the average native English speaker. You should feel quite good about that.

Questions about language from Amber & Paul

People complain about the decline of the English language. Are standards of English declining?

That Q comes from 2017 but you can see exactly the same question being raised at any time.
The English language is in a state of terminal decline. (according to people)
This also applies to spelling and pronunciation and punctuation, plus discourse politeness. Grammar gets more mentions because there’s less of it to complain about than say ‘vocabulary’. Grammar has only 3000 or so basic points of grammar to master.
So, people feel that if you can’t manage that then there’s something serious to worry about.
People look to contemporary examples to justify their complaints.
IN the 1860s it was because of Americans.
Today the internet gets a lot of the blame, especially texting, tweeting, SMS.
Uneducated people will blame what they sense to be a reason for what they perceive to be a decline.
But when you study it you realise there’s no correlation between the signs of decline and the features they mention.
Usually people cite old prescriptive rules.
You should never end a sentence with a prep. You should never split an infinitive.
The English language has survived very well even though people have been breaking these so-called rules for 200 years.
This is the man I was talking to. – Any modern person realises it’s a stylistic distinction. “To whom” is more formal.
The informal usage also has a history as old as the English language. It’s in Shakespeare. “To be or not to be, that is the question… Or fight others that we know not of.” (ending a sentence with a prep – Hamlet)
It’s a huge puzzle to understand why the old grammarians decided to be so prescriptive.
They were blinded by their views.

For learners of English – realise that the language is always in flux. Keep up with it. Remember also that some people have slightly traditional views about language. E.g. more people in the world say “schedule” with a /k/ sound, but I continue to say “Schedule” with a /sh/ sound because it annoys people to do it the American way. Similarly, I think there’s nothing too bad about splitting an infinitive, but I tend to avoid it because it makes people a bit annoyed too.

They’re grammar nazis who don’t know what they’re talking about, but as far as they’re concerned, they’re right.

It’s not such a big problem for learners of English really. You have your own issues with accuracy. But remember that everyone struggles a bit with the language, even native speakers. We should have a progressive view of how language rules evolve, but a lot of people don’t share those views.

If you encounter people who say “It’s the death of the English language”, they’re talking out of their bum. Remind them that English is alive and well and shows no signs of dying, quite the opposite. They’re just being reactionary and hyperbolic.

Language Death

Almost half the languages in the world are endangered.The reasons are many. It could be linguistic genocide – forbidding the use of the language, or opting not to use it for political reasons (e.g. because you want to side with a particular faction on your country), but when a language is endangered, when another language starts taking over the functions of that language, people no longer find themselves able to use that language for everything – certain facilities kind of disappear because people have got used to doing it in the other language.

Welsh is quite successful these days because of activism, but a few years ago English was taking over Welsh, and also some rules of Welsh grammar weren’t being used. You get a sense that the structure of the language is declining. Certain Welsh structures stopped being used. It looked like a kind of structural erosion of Welsh, because of the influence of English. Vocab is more common – many foreign languages contain English words. #Franglais

But there’s no hint of decline in relation to English which is actually going from strength to strength. Spoken by 2.3 billion people. It’s nowhere near death.

They just mean it’s changing, it’s not death.

Language change is difficult for lots of people to take and they talk about death but it’s irrelevant. The only languages that don’t change are dead ones. They go in very unexpected directions and you can’t predict them.

Petty language gripes don’t bother him. They don’t bother me either.

Partly it’s to do with identity – people are annoyed that British identity is changing or being influenced by American identity. But getting annoyed at the language usage, which is a symptom, is a bit redundant.

Some people don’t like change at all, but David sees it as a natural part of the way languages develop. Be like David.

My mate Paul often says that we’re actually using the language incorrectly because there are more non-native speakers than native speakers of English. Is he right or talking nonsense.

Error: Talking about right and wrong.
Correct: The perception that there are more non-natives than natives.

It’s a global situation now, not local (e.g. North vs South England). Global language differences are the same as local ones – equivalent – just different communities using English differently, on a global scale.

Now it’s Irish English, Indian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English, Singaporean English and many many more including French English, Japanese English and so on – all versions of English spoken by people who have learned it to a proficient level as a 1st or 2nd language.

It’s just different communities that are right in their circumstances.

Standard English and non-standard English.
Standard English is traditionally viewed as the correct version, but NSE has it’s own justification. There are reasons why non-standard English exists and they’re perfectly good ones. Non-standard English and standard English are equal in terms of their status.

A standard promotes intelligibility. Standard English has lots of users, but there’s also a huge number of dialects (international), many different kinds of English reflecting community backgrounds. You can’t say “right and wrong” in these circumstances. It’s just a number of different communities using English in a way that is appropriate for their conditions.

When you start looking at individual cases like a foreign learner is breaking a rule of standard English, then you’ve got a transitional situation. BrE and AmE. They coexist. It’s not possible to say “wrong” or “right” when millions of people are using both versions.

In China there are very fluent speakers of English, not learners but proficient speakers, who have developed a certain usage which is basically Chinese English. Local features of grammar and vocab don’t keep communities apart, we just learn to understand each other.
“Informations” vs “information” – no problem of intelligibility.
Anyway, Chaucer wrote “informations”.

These small differences are expressions of identity and rarely get in the way of intelligibility. This is one of the reasons the UK has proud diversity in its English accents. They’re all statements of local identity, and although we see the differences, we are able to communicate with each other.

It’s a Q of whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate for that circumstance and the two criteria are
Intelligibility – do we understand you. If we understand you, it’s appropriate.
Identity – differences are an expression of local identity. Lang is adapted to reflect the locale, especially the vocab – all the reference points to important things in culture. Local terms, idioms, expressions etc.
If the English you use is wrong for that context because of the way it expresses a certain identity then you have a problem of appropriacy.

If Ali G went to the Houses of Parliament to speak with politicians and civil servants, his English would be considered inappropriate (even if intelligible) because people would think it’s not the proper way to address people and so on. Similarly if Theresa May went to a skatepark and tried to talk to some locals, she’d have a hard time as well.

English is always in tension between intelligibility and identity (against global anonymity)

Local versions need to be different enough to express their identity, but not so different that nobody understands them.

My French students feel a bit bad about their pronunciation.
Do they need to worry?

This is perhaps the #1 concern of my French students who judge each other harshly for their accents and also feel bad about it. It may be the same in your country, but I find in France people are very disdainful of a strong French accent. I don’t mind that much.

The bottom line is, once upon a time they would have felt bad because people would have said “you’re speaking English badly” and that’s not so long ago.

Now, there is no such thing as a single version of universal English accent. RP is spoken by less than 2% of the population of England. It’s a minority accent but a powerful one.

Why should people be expected to speak this minority accent when other accents are now considered acceptable in their own right.

RP is important because of tradition but miniscule compared to American, Indian and so on. It’s no longer possible to condemn an accent because it doesn’t fit in with this small version of the language. You have to analyse it on its own terms, with its local identity. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the need for intelligibility.

So the main thing is – can we understand you? If “yes” then no worries. Does it matter if you sound a bit French? What’s wrong with sounding French?
I was very impressed by Emmanuel Macron who made a speech in English. It wasn’t perfect, but he got his message across and it showed him to be a really open, confident, modern person. Compare that to Francois Hollande who couldn’t string a sentence together. You don’t need to speak English perfectly in the traditional sense, but you do have to speak it. Stop worrying about being 100% accurate – concentrate on being 100% intelligible. The main criteria is “can you express what you want to say?” not “can you express this flawlessly?”

“But my accent isn’t good”
Well, develop a different mindset. Start thinking more positively about all this!
“I don’t speak received pronunciation” (french accent)
“Well nor do I!”
Mixed accents are the norm everywhere.
English accents are much more mixed than ever before.
There are now hundreds of millions of people who understand each other but have local accents as a reflection of their national pride.
Why are the French worried about sounding French?
There’s nothing wrong with sounding a bit French. (But it’s hard to convince them of this – French people can have very negative views about some things, especially their position on the world’s stage – they beat themselves up quite a lot, which is odd. In comedy, they seem ok about being insulted about their national character. They quite enjoy the masochistic approach it seems! Either that or their just happy to have a foreign comedian talking about French things during a show, even if it is criticism. Making fun or insulting people is quite normal in French comedy – I think this is linked to the way French people often beat themselves up about stuff like English.

The main job of the teacher is to expose the students to a wide range of accents. Let them hear the English in different accents, to prepare for the real world, to develop a sense and an awareness of diversity which inevitably will help to change their mindset.

*By hearing lots of different types you get more of an overall understanding of the entire language and how it can have a core structure which is changed slightly in different versions of English.

So – I should keep playing you extracts of English spoken in a variety of accents so that you can hear the whole range.

But also, don’t get hung up on your accent too much. It’s very hard to cut out the traces of your origins, and it’s unnecessary. Just focus on being intelligible – fix your pronunciation, vocab, grammar, punctuation etc following this criteria and you’ll be on the right path.

END OF PART 1 – PART 2 COMING SOON

432. British TV: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Part 1) [Video]

Talking about restaurant culture in the UK, an introduction to one of the UK’s most famous chefs and a chance to learn some authentic English from a popular British TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay. Video available. Includes swearing.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English. Here is a new episode for you to listen to and indeed watch, because I’m videoing this one. You’ll be able to find the video on the page for this episode on my website, or by visiting the YouTube channel for Luke’s English Podcast.

A lot of what I am saying here – particularly in this introduction is written on the page for this episode. So you can read it with me, or check it for certain words you hear me using. The best way to get access to these pages is to subscribe to the mailing list.

In the last episode of this podcast you heard me talking to Amber about restaurants and hotels and some crazy TripAdvisor reviews.

At one point in the episode we talked briefly about Gordon Ramsay – one of the UK’s most famous chefs, and his TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” which was a really popular show in the UK a few years ago, and I thought it could be interesting to do a whole episode about that.

So in this one I’m going to talk a little bit about Gordon Ramsay and then we’re going to listen to some YouTube clips from one of his TV shows and I will help you understand all the language that you’ll hear. No doubt there will be some new vocabulary in the process – probably on the subject of food, cooking, restaurants and kitchens but lots of other natural language that just comes up, including plenty of swearing, because Gordon Ramsay is known for his frequent use of swear words.

Yes, there will be quite a lot of swearing in this episode, and you know my position on this. I’m choosing to show you the language as it is really used and that includes the rude words, but don’t be tempted to start throwing swear words into your everyday English. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that swear words are a short cut to sounding exactly like a native speaker. Often it just gives people a bad impression of you. We’ll go into it more later, because there are quite a lot of unwritten social rules around swearing that you need to be aware of – the main one being, that with swearing it is much much easier to sound rude and inappropriate than it is to sound cool. Think of swearing as a motorbike – you might think it’s cool but unless you really know what you’re doing you’re likely to seriously injure yourself. Similarly, swearing can be cool when it’s done in movies or even by someone like Gordon Ramsay, but if you try and do it in your normal life there’s a good chance you’ll just offend people.

So anyway, we’ll listen to some of the English in these YouTube clips and analyse the things they’re saying so that in the end you can understand it all just like I do, which should help you learn some real English in the process. You’ll also learn a thing or two about restaurant culture in the UK and about Gordon Ramsay who is one of the most well-known people in Britain.

Who is Gordon Ramsay and what’s the TV show?

Gordon James Ramsay, is a British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and television personality.

*Difference between a chef and a cook? Basically, a chef is someone who’s had professional training – at least a culinary degree, but a cook is just someone who cooks food. Both might work in a kitchen, but mainly being a chef is about having the status of culinary qualifications and experience.

Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the UK and probably in the world too. He has a reputation for being an excellent restaurateur and chef, and also for his extremely strict and direct style. He’s often very rude, saying exactly what he thinks about the people he’s working with in the strongest most colourful language. Imagine an army captain shouting at a platoon of soldiers during military training, but with really good food.

Ramsay was born in Scotland, but he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is in fact not far from where I grew up in England). So, he is Scottish but doesn’t speak with a Scottish accent.
Ramsay now has restaurants all over the place – in London, in Paris and in New York. During his career he has trained at the highest level with French chefs in the UK and in Paris. He specialises in Italian, French and British recipes, and his cooking is known for being simple, unpretentious, high quality and delicious.

His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin stars are very difficult to win and restaurants around the world proudly promote their Michelin Star status if they have one. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001, which is a mark of extremely high quality in restaurant dining.

As well as being a top chef, Ramsay is also a TV presenter. He first appeared on TV in the UK in the late 1990s, and by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best known celebrity chefs in British popular culture, and, along with other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith, he has influenced viewers to become more culinarily adventurous.

As a reality TV personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their cooking abilities.

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on British TV a few years ago – probably around 10-15 years ago now. These days you can find most of the episodes on YouTube.

Local restaurants vs manufacturing companies and processed food

Ramsay is actually very passionate about local restaurants in the UK.

In the UK our eating out culture is vibrant and successful but it is being undermined by a number of factors. One is the industrialisation of food culture. THis means that big businesses are involved in preparing food at an industrial level and then selling it to restaurants as part of a large corporate chain.

These chains might be restaurants which are all owned by one company, or food manufacturers who dominate the wholesale market, driving down their prices and pushing out competition such as local producers who sell fresh products.

In these industrial food manufacturing companies, the food is prepared in high quantities and then sold off to other companies and restaurants as part of a corporate supply chain for food.

There’s a big infrastructure for food purchasing in the UK which is dominated by these big food manufacturers. As a result, many smaller restaurants are forced to buy industrialised and mass-produced food because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food which you can buy direct from farms or markets.

If you were a struggling restaurant owner in a town in the UK, what would you do? Buy your food fresh from a local producer and then make sure you sell it in a short-term period, or buy similar products from a mass producer but at a lower price, and it’s food which you can store for longer because it has been processed to stay fresh.

In the end, people choose to eat at home, especially during an economic crisis.

So, economic factors are having a negative effect on the restaurant culture in the UK to an extent. Family owned restaurants should be where you get proper traditional and delicious local food, but these restaurants are being squeezed economically and forced to go along with the industrialised food manufacturing process.

Also, there are many chain restaurants which you find on high streets in the UK. These are not locally run, but are owned by big companies who have a single business model which they apply to all their restaurants. The fact that these places are part of a big corporate chain means that they can drive down their prices, making it very hard for local restaurants to be competitive. As a result, these smaller places suffer, struggle and often close down.

Gordon Ramsay believes that these local restaurants are the backbone of our restaurant culture in the UK, and he strongly believes that they need to be supported so they can compete with the corporate chains, and given training so they can serve the best food possible. Essentially that’s the concept behind Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but also it’s just entertaining watching him shouting at incompetent chefs. You sort of let him get away with the way he bullies people because you believe that really he’s just trying to help them to learn the discipline you need to run a really good restaurant.

But he does seem really passionate about proper restaurant culture in the UK and I like that about him. Even though he’s making this reality show and he’s making money from doing it, I think he really does care about improving restaurant culture in the UK.

On the other hand, he is very good at TV. He knows how to make entertaining TV, and he’s got a good formula for it. Basically, this means that he takes the harsh discipline and the no-nonsense brutally honest approach that he applies to his kitchen management, and uses it when giving feedback to the restaurants which he visits.

Let’s listen to a few scenes and I’m going to make sure you understand everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.

Let’s learn English with Gordon Ramsay

The TV Show

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on UK TV about 10-15 years ago.
The format is this – Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant somewhere in the UK. So, restaurants that are failing – e.g. losing money, getting terrible reviews etc. He goes into the restaurant and spends a week there, observing the way the owners run the kitchen, how the business works and what’s going on at all levels. Usually he starts by sitting down to eat the chef’s speciality dish, and it’s nearly always disgusting, and Ramsay comments on how it tastes, how it looks, and also the decor of the restaurant and the service from the staff.

Then Ramsay gives his feedback to the owner and the chef, and it’s always a massive reality check, and it usually involves very strong words and lots of swearing. This is what happens when a top-level chef enters the world of a crappy low-level restaurant.

Then over the course of the week, Gordon helps the managers turn the restaurant around. It’s almost always a huge challenge and often the most difficult part is dealing with the psychological aspects – the stubborn chefs, the relationship issues in the kitchen, the fact that these people have personal issues which are causing the business to go horribly wrong.

It is car-crash TV. We see arguments, meltdowns, unhappy customers and so on.
In almost every episode Gordon seems to go hopping mad as he can’t believe the incompetence or shockingly low standards of service shown by the people in the restaurant. He then tries to help them change everything and turn the business around. It all makes really great telly.

And by the end of the episode, with Gordon’s help they have usually turned the restaurant into a successful business again.

There’s a UK version and a US version.

If you search for Kitchen Nightmares on YouTube you will probably find the US version first, but I think the UK version is better!

But really, it is better because the US version is horrible. It’s full of really fast editing and there’s loads of music which is added in order to tell you how you should be feeling about what’s happening. It’s distracting and patronising.

Example of the US version (just listen to all the distracting sound effects and music)

The UK version just has some rock music in the background at the start, but then during the show it’s more simple and you can just focus on what’s happening without constant sweeping sounds and tense music.

Let’s listen to some scenes from one of the episodes.

These scenes actually come from an episode called “Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmares” which was shown on TV between series 5 and 6 of Kitchen Nightmares. It’s basically the same as any other episode of the series.

Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare – Dovecote Bistro

Summary
Gordon goes to visit a restaurant in Devon called Dovecote Bistro, which is run by a guy called Mick.
Mick is a former truck driver and burger van operator who has opened this bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper decorating the restaurant, and then his attention turns to the food and the way it is cooked. While Ramsay is impressed with the simple menu, he is furious to find that Mick has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and using vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks in a microwave bag. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay solves the crisis by taking the business matters out of Mick’s hands and kicks him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.
Months later, Ramsay returns to find that the restaurant is making profit. He sent Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses Ramsay with freshly cooked food.
The restaurant was renamed Martins’ Bistro during production.

Video 1 – Flourescent duck cooked in orange squash

Vocabulary

Let’s see what this ex-trucker can do
Lamb shanks
Fuck me! (surprise / shock)
Your blouse matches the wallpaper
I feel like I’m tripping out!
I’ve never touched the stuff but I feel like I just swallowed an E.
The hideous wallpaper
On paper it looks delicious
Orange squash
A spoonful of gravy
Fuck me do I need sunglasses!
That’s worse than fucking Benylin
They’re actually vacuum packed
They can last for about a year
They’re bought in, they’re vacuum packed
They’ve got a shelf life of about a year
Well, fuck me!
That might be the worst food I’ve ever come across
He might be beyond my help
It doesn’t need refrigerating
How in the fuck could you charge 11 pounds for that?
E numbers, like Tartrazine
Do you feel like having a shit?
Thank fuck I didn’t eat it.
I’m surprised you haven’t killed off half the population of Okehampton

End of part 1 – part 2 available very soon!