Category Archives: Reading

880. Is Paris ready for the Olympic Games 2024? (Article + Vocabulary)

I read an article about Paris’ preparations for the 2024 Olympic Games 🏊, discuss the issues, summarise the article and explain plenty of vocabulary. Is Paris ready for the games? What are the attitudes, complaints, expectations and fears ahead of this potentially controversial event.

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https://youtu.be/wayMKFFUFB4

Notes

880. Is Paris ready for the Olympic Games 2024? 🏊 (Article + Vocabulary)


Intro

I’m in Paris and it’s less than 100 days until the Olympic Games begin here. 

Is the city ready? 

Let’s read an article on the subject. 

I found this article on www.TheWeek.com  

I’ll read the article to you, then explain and discuss what is written. 

I’ll also go through vocabulary from the article – and there is plenty.

Topic → Reading/Listening → Vocabulary → Discussion

Before we read the article, here are some questions to get you thinking.

  • If you like you can stop the podcast and discuss these questions for some speaking practice. 
  • What are the benefits and costs for a city hosting the Olympic Games?
  • Has the Olympics ever been held in your city or country?
  • How did people feel before, during and after the games?
  • Were people positive about it?
  • Did it have a positive effect on the city?
  • 100 days before the Olympics are due to happen, what do you think people are worrying about?

Article link 👇 https://theweek.com/sports/olympics-2024-is-paris-ready-to-party 

Vocabulary

  1. The build-up to this summer’s Games is being ‘marred’ by rows over national identity, security and pollution
  2. The lighting of the Olympic torch today comes amid a “dampening” of enthusiasm for the Paris Games in an increasingly “fractious” France, commentators warn.

    Light – lit – lit
    To light something
    To light something up

    Lighting
    Lightening (lighten)
    Lightning ⚡
  3. “We’re ready for this final straight,” said Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet
  4. to mark the 100-day countdown
  5. With the clock ticking down until the Games kick off on 26 July
  6. France’s “bitter politics and gloomy mindset are dampening the mood” among a “fractious” public, said The Japan Times.
     
  7. The build-up has been “marred by rows” that go to “the heart of a bitter national debate about identity and race”.
  8. Herve Le Bras, a sociologist, told the paper that the Games threaten to “underline the major fractures in France – notably the fracture between Paris and the rest of the country”.
  9. An Odoxa poll of more than 1,200 Paris region residents last November found that 44% thought the Games were a “bad thing”, and that 52% were planning to leave the city during the 16-day event.
  10. One Parisian told the BBC that staying would be “unbearable“, with the Games making it “impossible to park, impossible to move around, impossible to do anything”.
  11. Security fears are also growing amid mounting global tensions.
  12. In a break from the tradition of opening the Games in the main stadium, the organisers have devised a “grandiose” ceremony centred around a parade of barges on the River Seine, said Le Monde.
  13. The original plan was for as many as 600,000 spectators to watch from the riverbanks, but security and logistical concerns have led the government to “progressively scale back” the plan, with the spectator numbers reduced to 300,000.
  14. And President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that the ceremony might be moved to a new location if the authorities decide that the risk of an attack, potentially by drones, is too great.
  15. “There are Plan Bs and Plan Cs”, including holding the opening at the city’s Stade de France, he told television interviewers. Asked if the Kremlin would seek to disrupt the Olympics, Macron said that he had “no doubt“.
  16. Another potential threat is sewage pollution in the Seine, where swimming events are due to take place.
  17. Bacteria, including “pollution of faecal origin”, remains dangerously high in the river.
  18. Games boss Estanguet said last week that if water quality levels worsen, “there could be a final decision where we could not swim”.
  19. The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee has “mountains of scepticism to dispel” in France and beyond, said The Associated Press.
  20. The $13 billion cost of the 2021 Tokyo Games and the “unfulfilled promises of beneficial change” for 2016 host Rio de Janeiro triggered widespread anger, and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi were “tarnished by Russian doping“.
  21. But some previous predictions of Olympics doom have proved incorrect.
  22. In the run-up to the London 2012 Games, the Army was drafted in to bolster the security presence provided by private firm G4S, amid fears of a repeat of the riots that had broken out in the city in 2011.
  23. Journalists emitcyclical loud buzzing noises before every set of Summer Games”, said George Vecsey in The New York Times in 2004.
  24. Reporters will “continue to fret on schedule”, because it’s “in our job description“.

Estanguet acknowledged last week that “before this kind of big event, there are always many questions, many concerns“. But the Paris edition would make his nation “proud”, he said.

876. Thoughts & comments on recent episodes / A Spring Equinox Ramble 2024

Listen to me rambling about Daylight Saving Time, weird AI generated images for Luke’s English Podcast, and lots of comments and responses to recent episodes including the Birthday Party story 🎂 , the MBTI Personality Test 🙇 and the Walk & Talk in Paris 📹🚶.

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🔖 The Advanced English Summit – book your place for Luke’s Zoom talk (free) 👇

https://english-at-home.com/summit/


📄 Get the PDF 👇

Those Strange AI-generated Images 👇

875. Aepyornis Island by HG Wells (Learn English with a Short Story)

Learn English with another short story. I’ll read the entire story to you, and then go through the text again explaining and clarifying the main events and plenty of vocabulary. This is a wonderful adventure story written by HG Wells, a very influential and imaginative English writer from the late 19th century. The story is full of vivid descriptive language, action, adventure and extraordinary moments. I hope it captures your imagination and lets the English come alive in memorable ways. PDF available below.

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Get the full episode PDF here 👇 

872. The Birthday Party (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. This is a story about people watching and what you can notice about people’s relationships if you are observant enough.

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📄 Click here to read the story text 👈

Luke’s Vocabulary Notes

  • In your early / late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties
  • To look married (look good, look tired, look happy, look married, look bored)
  • Unmistakably married
  • They were married. It was unmistakable.
  • Mistakable = easily confused for something else
  • Unmistakable = not easily confused for something else – you can immediately identify it
  • The unmistakable smell of fresh bread in the air
  • They looked unmistakably French / unmistakably English / unmistakably yours/hers/his (this handwriting is unmistakably his)
  • Why are they unmistakably married? What does she mean? She’s alluding to subtle behaviour. When a couple are unmarried or perhaps in the early stages of a relationship they tend to give each other a lot more attention. They might be still trying to seduce each other somehow, or to attract each other. There’s still mystery and interest. Brand new couples can hardly take their eyes off each other. I imagine this couple is unmistakably married because they show signs of the relationship suffering from over familiarity. They mystery is gone, maybe. Perhaps they seem very familiar with each other, or very comfortable with each other. Marriage can make people feel stuck (not always!) especially if the marriage is based on the wrong things. 
  • A banquette = a long, fitted seat or bench, typically found in restaurants
  • Narrow – opposite of wide – a long narrow corridor 
  • We get the sense this is a small, intimate space. It’s also uncomfortable, painfully so. 
  • The couple and other guests in the restaurant are all so close and this makes the man’s humiliation and the woman’s heartbreak even more painful. 
  • The narrator is unable to stop “people watching” here – observing this couple opposite.
  • Also the couple sit side by side, not facing each other, which suggests that they’re not all that interested in each other. 
  • You start to speculate – what does this woman mean to this man? Is she there just to sit by his side and look glamorous? 
  • A round face
  • Self-satisfied (definitely a negative word) smug, arrogant, not charming
  • Fadingly pretty 
  • Fading  = gradually becoming less clear, less bright, less colourful. Her prettiness was fading. 
  • A big hat – I imagine it was one of those hats with a big brim, which can be very glamorous but also hides the face. 
  • Conspicuous = noticeable, easy to notice, eye-catching (apparently in those days big hats were not uncommon in New York restaurants)
  • Basically, they looked quite ordinary really, and weren’t trying to grab/attract everyone’s attention.
  • An occasion – a particular event, a birthday, an anniversary, something to celebrate
  • The wife had planned a surprise for him (past perfect because she planned this before any of the events in this story) without past perfect it could mean that the wife planned the surprise there at the table
  • A surprise in the form of a cake – “in the form of” here means that this is how the surprise was actually manifested. I mean, what was the surprise, how did this surprise take shape? The surprised arrived in the form of a cake.
  • The gift came in the form of a beautifully wrapped package.
  • Their support came in the form of encouraging words during a difficult time.
  • The solution to the problem arrived in the form of an innovative new technology.
  • Help arrived in the form of my wife who came to rescue me (from an awkward conversation for example)
  • A glossy birthday cake = shiny & smooth, so the light reflects off the top. It’s one of those smart, fancy cakes that you see in good quality cake shops. 
  • One pink candle burning in the center (American English spelling) – this is a little bit sad, isn’t it? Also, if this guy takes himself quite seriously, he might find that a tiny bit embarrassing – bringing attention to him, and this little cake with a pink candle might make him feel a bit ridiculous, especially if he is full of himself and takes himself seriously. But it is a lovely, sweet gesture and we just want him to be embarrassed but also touched and it would be a great moment for him to blush and smile and kiss his wife and maybe acknowledge the other diners with a smile, but he doesn’t.
  • The head waiter – so the wife probably asked the restaurant to make a special effort here, which again shows how much care she put into this.
  • He placed it before the husband. This means he carefully put it down.
  • Meanwhile = at the same time
  • The wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise
  • Beamed = her face glowed, she smiled, she seemed proud. To “beam” means that light comes out – like a torch, or a light house. In this case the woman’s face beamed with a certain emotion or an expression. 
  • Pride – to feel proud = she’s happy and satisfied with what she has done. She’s put a lot of effort into this and expects it to go well. She’s trying.
  • It became clear (obvious) at once (immediately) that help was needed (passive voice – needed by who?) We feel that the narrator suddenly sees that this woman is helpless in this situation. She’s in trouble. But nobody can help her without making it worse. 
  • The husband was not pleased.
  • He was hotly embarrassed. – not a common collocation but it tells us that his face probably went red and he was angry.
  • He was indignant = angry, annoyed, frustrated with his wife because of what she’s done. 
  • Don’t be like that = don’t be that way
  • As soon as the little cake had been deposited  on the table = quite formal and impersonal language, meaning put in a certain place. Money is deposited in an account. It’s quite cold, transactional language.
  • The birthday piece – a piece of music
  • The general attention had shifted = moved
  • I saw him say something to her under his breath  = in a very quiet voice, in a whisper, so other people can’t hear
  • Some punishing thing  = a comment which was designed to punish her, to make her feel bad
  • Quick (just a few words) and curt (rudely brief – rude because it is so short) and unkind (cruel).
  • I couldn’t bear to look
  • Can’t bear to do something
  • Can’t stand doing it
  • Can’t bring myself to do something
  • When I finally glanced over there = looked quickly
  • This is heartbreaking!
  • Adverbs
  • Crying quietly 
  • Crying heartbrokenly
  • Crying hopelessly
  • All to herself (she was doing it all by herself, but also crying to herself – a very lonely feeling where you are the only one witnessing your crying – the husband doesn’t care it seems)
  • All to herself / all by herself
  • Under the big gay brim of her best hat. (Gay in it’s original meaning, “carefree” “happy”)
  • The brim of the hat = the wide edge
  • This is a particularly sad image because of the contrast between this lovely hat that should be worn on a happy and carefree occasion, but under it this poor woman is crying. 

860. Charles Dickens’ Christmas Ghost Story (Learn English with a Short Story)

Listen to me telling this classic Christmas ghost story – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. I have read this story on the podcast before (in episode 320) but it’s a good one so let’s do it again, shall we? 🎅

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PDF Transcript 👇

854. The Invitation (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. 📄 I found this story in answer to a post on Quora.com asking about true scary stories. I thought I could use it to help you learn English. Can you understand the story, and predict the twist at the end?

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Story Script

The Invitation

About 7 years ago I got an invitation to attend a dinner party at my cousin’s house. I have a pretty large family and I had never actually seen this particular cousin before.  I had only ever spoken to him on the phone. I was surprised that his family unexpectedly invited me over, but I was curious to finally meet them.

The invitation had an address that I didn’t know and the GPS was unfamiliar with it too. It was in one of those areas where Google Maps doesn’t work properly because of poor phone reception, 

so I had to use an old fashioned paper map. I marked the location on the map, tried to get a sense of where I was headed, and set off in my car.

As I was driving I started to notice how far I’d travelled into the countryside, away from civilization. I saw trees, farms and fields passing by. Just trees, farms, and fields, and more trees, more farms and more fields. 

“Where the hell am I going?” I thought to myself. I’d never ventured out so far in that direction before.

I drove for quite a long time, trying to locate the address I had marked on the map. 

The thing is, in this area, a lot of the roads don’t have names, or the names aren’t clearly marked by road signs. I just had to try to match the layout of the streets, to the layout I could see on the map.

I finally found a place at a location that looked like the one I had noted on my map. I was pretty sure this was the right spot, so I parked and got out of the car. 

Approaching the house I noticed how dull and dreary it looked. It was completely covered in leaves, branches and overgrown trees. 

“This can’t be it.” I said to myself.

But as soon as I walked onto the rocky driveway my aunt and uncle came out to greet me. They seemed excited and welcoming. 

“Hello! Hello! Come in! Come in!” they said, beckoning me inside. 

Walking into the house, I asked where my cousin was. Answering immediately one of them said, “Oh, he just went to run a few errands. He should be back later.”

I waited in their kitchen and we spent a couple of hours talking about my mother and my family. My aunt made a delicious homemade pot roast that I finished off in minutes. 

After dinner we played an enduring game of Uno. It was surprisingly fun and competitive. My aunt in particular seemed delighted to be playing.

When we finished the game of Uno it was almost dark and there was still no sign of my cousin. My aunt and uncle assured me that he’d be back any time soon. Despite what they said, I decided that I had to leave. 

It was almost dark outside and I knew it would be a nightmare to find my way out of this dreadful place after sunset, with no streetlights or road signs. As my GPS just wasn’t working, I asked my aunt and uncle the most efficient way to get to the highway.

They gave me a puzzled look. 

“But, we thought you were staying the night?” they said.

I told them I couldn’t because I had work the next day and couldn’t afford to miss another day. “It’s much better if you leave tomorrow morning. Trust us. You’ll get lost” they said.

I shrugged it off and told them not to worry, 

“Don’t worry. I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. I could find my way out of the Sahara desert.” I told them. 

Looking aggravated, they strongly advised me to stay the night for my own sake. Their body language was weird too as they became more serious and insistent. My uncle stood shaking his head, and my aunt began to move about the place, picking up a set of keys to unlock what I assume was a spare bedroom.

At this point I was getting annoyed and irritable. I sighed, “Fine I’ll stay the night then, but I have to get up very early for work.” I said. Both of them seemed strangely ecstatic that I was staying the night. 

As soon as they went out of the room to get bed sheets and pillows, 

I ran out of the door, got in my car and hastily pulled away. I know it was rude, but I suddenly felt the urge to get out of there, quickly. 

It seemed to take me ages, but I finally found my way back to the main highway and drove back through the night, wondering why my cousin had never turned up.

I got home several hours later than I expected. It was after midnight and I didn’t want to wake my parents up. Climbing over my fence and entering the back door, I noticed that the kitchen lights were on.

As soon as I took my first step through the door, I saw my mom sitting there looking impatient.

“Where have you been?” 

She asked.

“I was at aunt Debra’s. I told you.”

I replied.

“Then why did she call saying you never arrived?”

To this day, I still have no idea who I visited.

Read the original version on Quora.com

852. How does it feel to be blind? (Article & Vocabulary)

How does it feel to have a visual impairment? How do blind people navigate the world? How do other people treat you, if you are blind? And, how do we talk about blindness and other forms of disability in English? This episode is inspired by a listener called Hafid, who contacted me recently. I talk about the subject of blindness and disability in general, read an article written by a partially sighted person, and explain a list of words and phrases we should use when describing different forms of disability. Also includes various medical vocabulary such as the different parts of the eye and other related topics.

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Get the PDF 👇

Click here to read the article by Christina Hartmann on Slate.com

838. A 3-Hour Mega-Ramble / Reflecting on a Wonderful Spring Day in Paris

This is the longest episode of LEP so far, and it’s a solo ramble. Relax, follow my words, hang out with me for 3 hours, get stranded on a desert island of the imagination, and then get rescued. Includes a haircut, a sleep and a t-shirt change during the episode.

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PDF Script / Notes for this episode 👇

834. The best way to learn a language, according to research (Article) 📖

Reading an article by Gavin Lamb (PhD) about the conclusions of academic studies into language learning, and adding my own reflections and comments. What does research tell us about the best way to learn a language? What are the most important things to consider? What are the best methods? The article boils it all down to three main points.

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📖 Gavin Lamb’s article on Medium.com https://medium.com/the-faculty/what-does-the-research-say-about-the-best-way-to-learn-another-language-797882ee0b45

https://medium.com/the-faculty/what-does-the-research-say-about-the-best-way-to-learn-another-language-797882ee0b45

Some previous episodes which are also about how to learn English 👇

833. Text Adventure Story: Lemon Simulator (by Daniel Champion)

Join me as I read through a bizarre online game. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a lemon? No? Well, neither had I, until I played this game. Can I escape the kitchen, become human again and avoid being chopped up and turned into a juice! Watch out for some descriptive language and some funny moments along the way! Story by Daniel Champion on www.textadventures.co.uk

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🍋 Play “Lemon Simulator” by Daniel Champion and read the text https://textadventures.co.uk/games/view/6q7gsnm4oeyqsmou1artbw/lemon-simulator-2014