Fabio has written a book about language learning, based on his own personal experiences of learning English. Each chapter ends with the same sentence: “This is how to learn a language”. But each chapter disagrees with the next. There are many ways to learn a language, and none of them is the only right way to do it. In this episode, we talk all about this and Fabio shares some of his stories. Fabio is the host of “Stolariod Stories” a self-development podcast which includes lots of lessons about learning English, and learning about life in general.
A conversation with accent coach Luke Nicholson, including lots of insights, advice and conclusions about improving your pronunciation in English.
☝️The audio version contains 20+ extra minutes
Questions to consider before listening
- In your language learning, how important is pronunciation for you?
- How much time do you put into practising it or researching it, compared to other things like grammar or vocabulary?
- How much do you know about the physical ways that we make sounds, and also the ways that we express pronunciation in writing – the phonetic alphabet?
- Think about your mouth, throat, tongue, teeth, nose or other parts. Do you know which parts are responsible for making different sounds in English?
- Try saying different vowel and consonant sounds, and see which parts are involved. Perhaps try counting to 20 and just notice the different parts of your mouth and areas near your mouth that you use, the shape of your lips and so on.
- Does English use sounds that you don’t use in your language? Which ones?
- Are there certain words which always seem to cause you trouble when you speak English? Which specific parts of those words cause the problem?
- How many different accents can you identify in English? Which one do you want to sound like? Why?
- Which accent would you like to have in English? What is that accent called? Why do you want that accent?
- Does it matter if, when you speak, people can tell which part of the world you are from, or that they can tell English isn’t your first language? To what extent does that matter to you, and why?
- What do you think is more important in pronunciation – intelligibility (being clear), or identity (expressing a certain identity with the way you speak).
- How can you actually go about improving your pronunciation? What steps can you take, and what resources can you use?
- What does it mean to have “good pronunciation” or a “good accent”?
- If you are an English teacher, how do you teach pronunciation? What place does it have in your lessons? What are your experiences of teaching it?
Summary of the main conclusions in the conversation
- Improving your pronunciation. According to Luke, it all boils down to these things.
- English is diverse in its pronunciation and accents, and the written word doesn’t always match how it sounds.
- You just have to accept things that seem inconsistent, irregular or complex in English pronunciation, and move forward. Those ‘irregularities’ will seem relatively normal when you get familiar with the language.
- Study pronunciation, but don’t look for “one rule to explain it all”. Instead find little patterns and other ways to help you remember English pronunciation bit by bit.
- Determine your pronunciation priorities and choose a target accent which you can aim for.
- Balance intelligibility (being clear) with expressing your identity through your accent.
- Familiarise yourself with the vocal tract and the sounds of English.
- Learn the phonemic chart and explore stress and intonation patterns.
- Don’t be put off by the phonemic chart. You probably have most of those sounds in your language. Look out for the ones which you don’t have.
- Identify which sounds in English you find difficult, or which cause people to misunderstand you, and focus on them.
- Practice making different sounds and think outside the box to find approaches that work for you.
Luke Nicholson’s Websites
A conversation with Hadar Shemesh, a non-native speaker who has improved her English to a very high level, and who now shares her knowledge and experience with the world through her podcast and YouTube channel. Hadar describes her own experiences of learning English and mastering pronunciation. This episode is all about the voyage of discovery that is learning a language.
👉 Hadar’s website https://hadarshemesh.com/
👉 Hadar’s podcast (InFluency Podcast) https://hadarshemesh.com/influency-podcast/
👉 Hadar’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClPyOwXLnSMejFdLvJXjA5A
👉 Hadar’s episode with Luke 👇
Audio & podcast links 👉 https://hadarshemesh.com/magazine/interview-with-luke-from-lukes-english-podcast/
Video version 👇
In this final part of the series I’m going to evaluate ChatGPT’s ability to work as a dictionary with definitions, example sentences, synonyms, phonetic transcriptions, etc. I test its ability to convert texts into British English or other varieties, see if it can help with sentence stress and word stress, and check its ability to create grammar and vocabulary quizzes and other useful exercises.
This is the 3rd and final part of this little series of episodes I’ve done about using ChatGPT to learn English.
I’m experimenting with lots of different prompts to see if it can do things like:
- Create study plans for you
- Simulate natural conversations
- Correct your errors
- Provide role play practice for specific situations like job interviews
- Help you with Cambridge exam tasks and practice
In this part I’m going to try to answer these questions:
- Can you use ChatGPT like a dictionary?
- Can it give us correct definitions, information about parts of speech, pronunciation, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, collocations?
- Can it provide information about the etymology of words and phrase?
- Can it transcribe things into phonemic script?
- Does it accurately transcribe things into British English pronunciation?
- Can it convert between different dialects of English, e.g. will it convert American English into British English, or into specific dialects of British English?
- Is it able to help us to practise reading texts or presentation scripts with the right sentence stress, word stress, pausing and intonation?
- Can it help us practise grammar by creating quizzes or tests? Are those tests reliable?
- Can it help you to remember vocabulary with tests?
- Can it help you remember words and spelling with mnemonic memory devices?
- Can it create text adventure games?
- Can it adapt its English to different levels?
- What are my overall thoughts and conclusions about ChatGPT?
You can get a PDF of the script for this episode which includes all the prompts I am using to get ChatGPT to do specific things.
Check the episode description and you will find a link to my website page where you can get the PDF scripts for parts 1,2 and 3 of this series.
If you are watching on YouTube I recommend using full screen mode so you can read the on-screen text more easily.
OK, so without further ado, let’s play around with ChatGPT a bit more and see how it can help you learn English.
Ask it to define words
What does “rambling” mean?
It gave pretty good definitions I have to say.
Arguably it’s not as good as a proper dictionary.
Just type the words into a dictionary and you’ll get way more info, including parts of speech, pronunciation, example sentences, related phrasal verbs etc.
But having said that you can ask ChatGPT for more specific details about words, including:
- Can you give me some example sentences with the verb “ramble” in different tenses?
- What are common collocations with the word ramble?
- What are some synonyms of the word “ramble”? (I had to specify for ways of talking)
- Can you transcribe the word “ramble” in phonemic script?
What is the origin of the expression “break a leg?”
Create mnemonics to help you remember vocabulary
Can you create some mnemonics to help me remember these words and phrases?
ramble, waffle, meander, go off on a tangent, get sidetracked
It did it, and I must say this is pretty impressive.
You still need to use your imagination a bit, but these mnemonics are certainly a good starting point.
Ask it to transcribe things into phonemic script
But only in standard American?
Is it good at transcribing things in British English?
Can you transcribe this sentence into phonemic script?
I’d like a hot dog with lots of tomato sauce.
Different versions of the language
Can you convert this story into (insert dialect here)?
This is a paragraph I came up with which contains loads of words that are different between US and UK English.
Let’s see if it can convert this UK version into US English.
First I’ll read it out. See if you can identify the words which will probably be different between US and UK English.
|I just popped out of my flat to get some post from the postman when I realised I had locked myself out. |
I was stuck outside with only a pair of slippers on and it was the middle of autumn. To make matters worse I really needed the toilet.
My car was there but of course I’d left the car keys in the house as well, although I couldn’t see where they were because my curtains were closed.
Then I noticed that some bloody yob had put a big scratch across the bonnet of my car. That made me really angry I can tell you. “You’ll be hearing from my solicitor” I said to myself.
Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse the TV aerial on the roof of my house fell off and crashed into the windscreen of my car, smashing it to pieces.
I thought “I’ll need to make a trip to the chemist for some medicine to help me recover from this!” I walked along the main road and on the way I stopped to get some chips from the fish & chip shop at the main crossroads near my house.
When I had finished, I put the paper bag in the rubbish bin and walked under the flyover to the chemist’s.
I got my medicine and headed home.
Of course, I was still locked out so in the end I had to jump over the fence into my back garden and climbed into a window which I had left open.
Luckily I lived on the ground floor so I didn’t actually need to climb up the wall or anything, but unfortunately I broke a mug which was on the window sill. I used my hoover to clean up the broken pieces.
Suddenly I heard a siren and someone knocked at the door.
“Oh no, it’s the old bill!” I thought. “They think I’m burgling my own house!”
I went to answer the door, but I didn’t realise that I’d ripped my trousers climbing in the window. I opened the door and stood there with my trousers hanging open. They could see my pants and everything! How embarrassing!
Make a funny dialogue between two friends in a pub in London speaking British English. Include a joke at the end of the dialogue.
Generate the same response but the two friends are from Belfast, in Northern Ireland.
Sentence stress, pausing and intonation
Ask it to help you read out a text with the right pausing, stress and intonation.
Can you help me to read out this paragraph, showing where the pauses, stress and intonation should be?
Chat GPT or chat-based generative pre-trained transformer models, is a type of artificial intelligence that allows users to interact with a virtual assistant using natural language. This technology is based on the principles of GPT-3, the third generation of the popular generative pre-trained transformer model.
One of the key features of chat GPT is its ability to generate responses in real-time, based on the user’s input.
That is from an article about ChatGPT which I found on medium.com 👇
It’s good at showing where the pauses should be,
but it’s bad at showing word stress or sentence stress.
☝️bad bad bad bad bad! ☝️
Grammar or vocab quizzes or tests
Let’s ask it to create a grammar review test for upper-intermediate level.
Create a 10-question grammar test to help me practise English at an upper-intermediate level.
10 questions isn’t really enough to cover all areas of grammar but you would expect it to cover at least 10 different grammar points. Did it?
What happens if I ask it to make a 20-question grammar test for B2 level? Does it use a wide variety of forms? Does it require the test taker do demonstrate control over the language or is it just multiple choice?
The results are not as rigorous, complete, reliable or detailed as similar tests in published materials such as the diagnostic test at the back of English Grammar in Use by Murphy.
It’s also not focused on language that you have been studying in your course.
It always uses multiple choice.
Basically – it doesn’t produce a very reliable test.
Vocabulary review tests, to help you remember words and phrases
Create a vocabulary test to help me remember and use these words and phrases.
ramble, waffle, meander, go off on a tangent, crack on, Get away with, get by, get on with, get off on, get through to, get around to
The test it created was multiple choice and only contained definitions.
Definitions are good but not the best way to help you remember vocabulary. You need example sentences and it’s best if you have to use the words in a meaningful and contextualised way. At least give us example sentences with the words and phrases removed and ask us to put the correct words in the correct place, perhaps in the correct form.
But it’s better than nothing, and I think this could be useful if you have a list of words or phrases that you’re trying to remember.
Text adventure games to practise grammar
I’ve always wanted to create one of these but have never got round to it. One of the reasons is because it’s quite a time consuming task and requires a lot of patience to make sure I’m using plenty of good grammar questions and combining that with an interesting story with engaging choices. Maybe ChatGPT can cut out a lot of the work.
Create a 5 minute text adventure game to help me practise English grammar
Nice idea but it did a bad job. It ended up creating a game with virtually no grammar questions and then it played the game itself.
I’m sure there are other language practice exercises or activities which ChatGPT could do.
If you can think of some other things, put them in the comment section.
Ask it to adapt its English level to yours
You can write things like “please adapt your English to B1 level” or something similar.
Actually I just tested this with this prompt:
Give me some advice on how to set up a podcast studio. Please use A2 level English.
Can you adapt this passage from Hamlet by Shakespeare into elementary level (A2) English?
So you can ask it to use simple English at your level.
You can also prompt it in your first language of course, but you have to request that it responds in English.
Overview / Comments / Conclusions
It’s definitely way better than any chatbots I’ve ever seen before.
There’s no denying how impressive it is in many ways. I only scratched the surface here. It can do lots of other things including creating legal contracts, writing song lyrics, writing short stories, movie plots, essay plans, essays etc.
But I think we still need to be a bit sceptical or critical about it at this stage. It’s impressive at first, but working closely with it shows us its limitations.
Don’t assume that it is answering your questions correctly or reliably. It seems to miss things, and contradict itself sometime and also it lacks the overall vision and emotional intelligence that a good teacher can have.
There are also questions about things like how it could encourage cheating, and also other criticisms (I’ll explore some more in a few minutes).
They’ve done wonders with the marketing – allowing us all to use it freely, which has caused us all to talk about it and as a result it’s gone viral with everyone talking about it. This is helping them to make money now (by selling it as a service which people can incorporate into their websites etc, and charging people for the PRO version of it) and also it’s allowed them to get a lot more data (as millions of people have been using it) which is allowing them to develop it further. In fact it is improving and changing all the time, becoming more and more accurate and sophisticated.
For learning English, there are definitely ways it can help, including taking out some of the time-consuming things like creating little memory tests, creating sample texts and dialogues which you can use, having some limited conversation practise.
One of its main strengths is error correction. It can quickly correct errors in your writing and even explain the reasons, although the explaining is a bit limited.
It can correct your English, but don’t rely on it too much. Try to use this as a tool to help you improve your English, not just something that you rely on at the expense of making progress on your own. Learn from it, but don’t let it do all the work.
You need to have a pretty good level of English to prompt ChatGPT properly. Sometimes you need to find “clever” ways to get it to do exactly what you want and I think this requires a lot of control over your language.
As I mentioned before you often need to find different ways to ask your question or to give your prompt before you get what you’re looking for.
Remember you can tell it *exactly* what to do. So keep getting specific.
It’s still a bit early for us to completely rely on it as a personal language teacher or a conversation partner, but it can be a convenient tool for certain basic tasks that can be time consuming.
Chat GPT has no emotional intelligence. It isn’t great at working out what you really want it to do, which is something I have to do as a teacher all the time. I’m always interpreting my students intentions and what they want to say, and then helping them find the right words or sentences to do that, and then helping them produce that again and again, adapting and reacting all the time and also managing the students feelings and emotional responses. It’s a special kind of dance that you have to do with the student and this is extremely complicated and requires a lot of sensitivity and also plenty of teaching experience to allow you to pinpoint exactly what is needed of you as a teacher.
ChatGPT has a long way to go before it can do that.
For the time being it is no replacement for the interaction you can have with a real human and this is still one of the best ways to practise and develop proper communication skills in English. It is definitely better to practise interacting in English with a real human, preferably one who is able to help you with your English learning because they have skills and experience in this area.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of those emotional aspects of communication with people. ChatGPT is no replacement for that, at the moment.
Maybe one day it will be so good that talking to it will be indistinguishable from talking to a real person, which is quite an unnerving prospect somehow.
But anyway, it’s important to continue practising your English by interacting with real people in social scenarios.
Talking to people can be a bit intimidating if you are shy or introverted, but it is essential to practise doing it because interpersonal skills are vital in communication.
ChatGPT doesn’t speak or listen yet, so no listening or speaking practice is possible, but no doubt that’ll come eventually.
What does ChatGPT say about its limitations as a language learning tool?
What are some possible problems with using ChatGPT for learning English?
I wonder if it will be free forever. They’ve made it free now to get our attention but eventually we’ll probably have to pay to use it fully. In fact, already the free version is quite limited. It’s slow and stops performing after about 1 hour of interaction.
I wonder if later this year ChatGPT will still be as accessible as it is now. I expect they let us all use it for a while in order to get our attention and now they’re monetising the product and limiting free access to it.
I wonder how ChatGPT will develop. It will certainly get better and better.
Perhaps one day (soon) it will flawlessly do all the things we want it to do.
There are also some frightening aspects to this when we imagine the impact this might have on the world.
Despite what I said about it being no replacement for human interaction, it is remarkably advanced and sophisticated and that is only the current version of the software.
I expect this current iteration of ChatGPT is just the tip of the iceberg and eventually it will be almost impossible to differentiate between the chatbot and a real human.
And when this is combined with life-like speech generation and real life visuals (deepfakes) as well – a video version talking and responding naturally with a lifelike face and voice, in fact so lifelike that we won’t be able to work out if we’re dealing with a human or not, that will be quite frightening because suddenly then we’re living in the film Bladerunner, ExMachina or A.I. with all the ethical and social ramifications explored by those films.
By the way, those films seem to explore questions of whether it is ethical for us to create highly intellilgent AI capable of human-like emotions, and whether it is ethical for us to treat them like slaves or as sub-human. They are like us, even better than us in many ways, but they don’t have the same rights as us.
Other films have explored the threat to humankind of artificial intelligence. This includes things like The Terminator series and The Matrix which show a world in which AI becomes self-aware and decides to fight against humans or to enslave us.
A more immediate and realistic problem with something like ChatGPT is how it can affect the job market and whether it will make lots of people redundant.
What will we do when so much of our work can be done by AI that doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or take breaks? What will happen to us? Will people still be employable? What happens when the human population continues to rise, but the number of jobs we can do in order to earn money, decreases?
I have no idea.
And will AI eventually make it completely unnecessary to even learn another language? Will we simply have simultaneous automatic translations? Will AI augment our reality completely? Will we somehow be connected in the most intimate and integral way with technology, which will mean we won’t need to learn languages any more?
I’m not sure to be honest. What people usually say in response to that question is that we will always want to learn languages because there can be no replacement for the experience of communicating with people naturally using language and no technology can replace or replicate this experience sufficiently.
Let’s ask ChatGPT some more questions about itself, relating to things like people’s fears about it and if it will cause more cheating
What are people’s fears about how ChatGPT will change the world for the worse?
How might AI become a threat to humans?
Will ChatGPT help people to cheat?
Yes, probably. I can’t see how this won’t be a problem. I mean, this will almost certainly be a problem. Surely, students will just take the easy route and get ChatGPT to write essays for them, or other assignments. That’s obviously bad, because these students will not actually learn the skills and knowledge they’re supposed to learn during their studies and also it could compromise the effectiveness of education in general.
I don’t know how this problem is going to be solved. I don’t know how OpenAI have responded to this.
Let’s see what ChatGPT says about people using it to cheat in their homework.
Will ChatGPT help people to cheat in homework and academic essay tasks?
Will there be more cheating as a result of ChatGPT?
So it encourages people to cheat and it doesn’t know how people will use its services, but let’s be honest – it’s definitely going to result in more cheating.
It will be very interesting to see how ChatGPT and other software (because it’s not just OpenAI – there are loads of other competing companies also developing similar systems all over the world) It’ll be very interesting to see how this changes the world and of course we all hope that it changes things for the better and that it ultimately improves the human experience, making our lives better, allowing us to thrive.
That’s it – thanks for listening!
Leave your comments in the comment section.
I’m probably going to do another episode about ChatGPT just because it is fun to mess around with it and really see what it can do, including asking it to plan a podcast episode for me, write an introduction to an episode, have funny conversations, write jokes and short stories and lots of other things.
Santiago has a top job in the English teaching industry. He is the managing director of English teaching at Oxford University Press. But English is not his first language. He learned it as an adult when he moved to London in his twenties. This conversation explores how he progressed in his English learning and in his career, while dealing with daily challenges and failures in English.
The conclusions are that motivation and positivity are vital, you have to keep going through the difficult times, and you can achieve great things in your career in English even if you’re not perfect. This episode should be a boost for the confidence of all English learners! Keep an open mind, keep your eyes on the prize, keep going and your English WILL improve!
The audio version contains extra content, including my thoughts and conclusions after speaking to Santi
Some thoughts about language learning 👇
- (To borrow a catchphrase from All Ears English Podcast) “It’s about connection not perfection“.
- Use English today – what are you waiting for?
- Learning a language can be painful, but we have to persevere. Keep going through the bad times. Good times are just around the corner.
- Keep your chin up!
- Keep calm and carry on!
- Perseverance, positivity, practice.
- Exposure is so important for learning English – reading a lot, listening a lot, socialising a lot in English.
- Lean into failure, don’t hide from it.
- But if you do hide from it, that’s ok – you’re only human.
- English is a broad church – there’s a lot of diversity in it.
- Your version of English is part of it too, so don’t worry about your accent too much. Work on it, practice being clear, listen & repeat, but at the same time, keep it real – don’t worry if you don’t sound exactly like me. It hasn’t stopped Santi – he’s a success in English and you can do it too.
That’s it! Thanks for listening!
Special Guest Mark Steel joins me to discuss cultural and linguistic differences between the UK and France, plus accents in the UK and a little tour of some places in the UK that you don’t know about. Also includes a discussion of swearing and rude language in Britain. What is the R word which you should never say in a specific part of the UK? Listen on to find out. Video version available.
Video Version (shorter, with automatic subtitles)
Learn English with another short story. In fact, this episode contains two stories. Listen until the end for the 2nd one. Repeat after me to practise your pronunciation. Learn some vocabulary & grammar in the second half of the episode, with an explanation of modal verbs of deduction in the past and present. Video version available.
Video Version (with on-screen text)
Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing out there in podcast land? Surviving?
Here’s a new episode. It’s time to do some more English learning with a story.
In this episode, I’m going to read another short story to you, and use it to teach you some English.
I recommend that as well as listening to me read the story out loud to you today, that you read this story out loud too, and I will give you a chance to do that by repeating after me.
We’ll also look at some vocabulary and grammar from the story during the episode. And if you listen until the end, I will tell you another story too.
That’s all going to come later in the episode. If you’re watching the video version – hello. Don’t forget to like & subscribe.
If you are listening to the audio version. Click the link in the description to visit the page for this episode where you will be able to read a transcript for the whole things. You’re welcome.
Recently I have been looking for short stories to help me teach English, the shorter the better, and I found lots of 100-word stories on several websites. A 100-word story is a story with no more than 100 words.
Anyone can submit a story to these sites. The stories are then checked by the website editors and then published for everyone to read.
The only rule for the writers, is that the stories have a 100-word limit. I think the minimum is 75 words, but the maximum is 100. So, a story with no more than 100 words.
That’s quite a challenge.
The writers need to be very disciplined. They have to choose their words carefully, and as a result these stories are very minimal and manage to convey descriptions and emotions using only a few words.
As a teacher of English, I think these stories are great because it gives us compelling and concise samples of English to work with.
Get the book
I want to just point out that there is a book full of these very short stories, which you could buy.
It’s called Nothing Short of 100: Selected tales from 100 Word Story
It is a collection of stories from the https://100wordstory.org/ website.
There’s a Kindle version or a print version.
It is published by OUTPOST 19 and it was put together by the team behind the website, including Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell and Joshua Michael Stewart.
It is available for you to purchase and I recommend it if you are looking for bite size stories to use for learning or teaching English.
OK so let’s start with a story which I’ve selected from the Nothing Short of 100 book.
This story is called DOPPELGÄNGER
By the way, we don’t usually use an umlaut in English → ä
What is a doppleganger?
A doppelganger is someone who looks exactly like someone else, but it’s creepy and scary, like a ghostly copy of someone.
I think the word has its origins in German (hence the umlaut in the title), and translates directly as “double goer”. So your doppelganger is your double, a copy of you, who looks exactly like you and who goes around, walking the earth.
In my case, that would be Luka Modric, the Croatian footballer. That’s what people say anyway, that Luka Modric is my doppelganger.
Yes, he is my doppelganger. I’m not his doppelganger, ok? He’s my doppelganger. I was here first!
We do use the word in conversational English.
We say things like “Oh, I saw your doppelganger in the street today!” (meaning, “I saw someone who looked just like you”)
or “It’s amazing, he’s your complete doppelganger!” etc.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever seen someone who looks exactly like someone you know? Have you ever done a double take and been confused for a split second? Has anyone told you that they’d seen your doppelganger?
OK, I’m now going to read the story
Just one question 👇
- How did the person feel at the end of the story? Why?
Answer: She felt shocked, upset, sad, surprised and possibly heartbroken. Maybe she couldn’t believe her eyes, because she saw her lover with another woman, or she saw someone who looked exactly like her lover with another woman.
Listen to the episode to hear me summarise and explain the story.
Let me give my comments and explanations, line by line (listen to get my comments)
I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.
I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café, and just at the last second, I caught a familiar hand gesture, and looked again.
It couldn’t have been you though, my love, because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.
Your heads were too close.
She was laughing, that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment, totally in love.
I walked on, heels tapping out a staccato rhythm, as I no longer wanted to look at the you who wasn’t you.
- It was her husband/boyfriend, cheating on her, having an affair with another woman.
- It wasn’t her husband/boyfriend. It was just someone who looked like him, but it still disturbed her because she’s terrified that he could cheat on her.
- It was her ex, someone she is still in love with. They’re not together any more. He’s moved on, but she hasn’t.
- It was a guy who she loves but they’re not together and she can’t bear the fact that he’s with someone else.
- Perhaps she lost her husband (he died) and she just saw someone who reminded her of him.
- Something else?
Vocabulary & Grammar
- The you who wasn’t you
(Although you normally takes are/were, it is not plural, and so the relative pronoun who is singular)
- Just at the last second
- on time
- in time
- A gesture
- To catch (a look at) something (to get a glimpse of something)
- Clasping her hand
- Abandoned laughing
- To be totally in the moment
- To walk on
- A staccato rhythm
- It couldn’t have been you, my love 👇
Modal Verbs of Deduction
Who is that?
|I’m sure/certain it’s Dave||It must be Dave|
|It’s possible (that) it’s Dave-not sure||It could be DaveIt might be DaveIt may be Dave|
|It’s impossible (that) it’s Dave||It can’t be DaveIt couldn’t be Dave|
Who was that?
|I’m sure/certain it was Dave||It must have been Dave|
|It’s possible (that) it was Dave-not sure||It could have been DaveIt might have been DaveIt may have been Dave|
|It’s impossible (that) it was Dave||It can’t have been DaveIt couldn’t have been Dave|
- Repeat the story after me, line by line.
- Try to say each line with no pauses between words.
- Notice which word has the main emphasis (stress) in each line.
- Don’t sound like a robot! 🤖
I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.
I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café,
and just at the last second,
I caught a familiar hand gesture,
and looked again.
It couldn’t have been you though, my love,
because your other hand
was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.
Your heads were too close.
She was laughing,
that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment,
totally in love.
I walked on,
tapping out a staccato rhythm,
as I no longer wanted to look
at the you
who wasn’t you.
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How about another story?
We’re not finished yet.
I’m going to read you another story. This one is also about a doppelganger.
I’ll just read the story to you, and then I’m going to do language work in a premium episode which is coming soon to the premium subscription.
OK, I am trying to persuade you to sign up to my premium subscription, but I think it’s worth it, and if you do you’ll be supporting the podcast. No pressure though.
If you don’t want to sign up or you can’t, no worries.
I’m still going to read the story to you in this free episode, now.
I hope you enjoy it.
I’ll quickly summarise it at the end (in case you don’t understand), but I’ll do the detailed language teaching in premium series, coming soon.
|Doppelganger, by Sue Clayton |
From → www.FridayFlashFiction.com and adapted slightly by me.
“This book says everyone has a doppelganger, a mirror image, and if you meet yours face to face, you’ll die.”
Janice, my flatmate, closed the book, finished her tea and toast, and slammed out of the door for her A&E shift at St. Margaret’s hospital just down the road. She loved any kind of fantasy literature, always immersed in some supernatural genre book. Not my cup of tea at all. Give me a good Nordic Noir mystery anytime.
After taking a shower I went to brush my teeth. If you meet your doppelganger face to face you’ll die, my reflection in the bathroom mirror laughed as I recited the words, but they’d begun to worm their subliminal way into my subconscious, waiting to claw their way to the surface and pounce.
One day, a couple of weeks later, I headed for the front door ready to set off into town where I worked at a music store. Doppelganger, I froze as my mind hissed the insidious word. What if I saw me on the train? Or stood behind me in the line at the coffee place? What if I came into the shop to buy a record and had to serve myself? The words shot through my mind. I let go of the door handle as if I had been electrocuted, and phoned in sick.
“Do you fancy a night out at that new wine bar down the street?”
Janice bounced through the front door one afternoon, chirpy as a blue bird, her shift trauma-free for once.
“Not tonight, Janice, I’m still not feeling very good.” The image of my other self perched on a stool at the far end of the bar, possibly raising a toast, was too hard to stomach.
‘You haven’t been outside for ages, Natalie, not even for work…you’ll end up getting fired. What’s going on with you?” Janice pressed.
“I’ll meet my doppelganger and die if I go outside,” I burst into tears, knowing how ridiculous I sounded.
“You know there’s no such thing. You need to get help, Natalie. I’ve got a therapist friend who works at the hospital. I’ll fix you up an appointment.” She wrapped me in a comfort hug.
“You’re booked in for ten o’clock this morning.” Two days later Janice grabbed my arm and pulled me through the front door; I didn’t stand a chance.
“You won’t meet yourself between here and St. Margaret’s.” She smiled reassuringly and we set off down the street.
“Excuse me,” a hand tapped my shoulder as we waited to cross the busy main road. I turned around and my shriek froze the blood of everyone close by, before I stepped backwards off the footpath into the path of an articulated lorry.
“I didn’t mean to frighten her,” tears ran down the anguished face of one of the two men who’d been standing behind me. He was holding a large six-feet square mirror which they were carrying across to the framing workshop across the road. “I just wanted to ask her to step to one side.”
Summary of Story 2
The narrator, let’s call her Sue (although I realised after recording this that she’s actually called Nathalie in the story!) lives with her flatmate Janice.
One day Janice reads a line from a scary book she’s reading. It says that if you ever meet your doppelganger, you’ll die.
Sue doesn’t usually believe that kind of thing, but the idea gets into her head and as she is leaving the house one day, she suddenly gets scared that she might meet her doppelganger, and die.
So she decides to stay at home.
In fact she keeps staying at home, every day. The idea of meeting her doppelganger has made her too terrified to leave the house.
Janice gets worried about Sue and arranges for her to meet a therapist, and assures Sue that nothing can happen to her on the way.
Sue agrees to leave the house, but at the main road someone taps her on the shoulder.
Sue turns around and sees her own reflection.
The man who tapped her on the shoulder was trying to carry a mirror across the road.
He wanted to ask her to step to one side, to make space.
But Sue turned around and saw her doppelganger – her reflection in the mirror and screamed!
Then she stepped back, into the road, and was hit by a large lorry.
That’s the end of the episode, but check out LEP Premium.
I’m going to do a premium episode all about this second doppelganger story.
All the vocabulary (with a memory test), some grammar, some pronunciation practice.
I’ll go through the vocabulary and some grammar and I’ll do some pronunciation practice with it too, just like I did with the 100-word story.
This is a free sample of LEP Premium, available for everyone. In this episode I’ll tell you about my technique for learning English with stories and transcripts, with full details about how to improve your English with my stories. Then I’ll tell you a story about a time I had an encounter with a bear, and then I’ll give you some language practice exercises for your grammar and vocabulary, and some pronunciation drills to let you repeat after me. Full PDF transcript available + video version available too.
Video Version with on-screen transcript
Links, PDFS & Notes
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Learn English with 22 funny jokes with explanations of vocabulary, homophones, double meanings and pronunciation.