Hello folks and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing fine on this particular day. This episode features a conversation, recorded a couple of weeks ago now, with a comedian and writer from the UK about various things, as you’ll see. Your task is to follow along and see what you can pick up and what bits of language learning wisdom you can glean from this conversation.
I don’t really know James that well. I’ve only actually met him once in fact.
He’s a comedian and a writer, he speaks several languages and his twitter feed is good value. He tweets about politics, learning languages, the issues of the day, comedy and various other things. We share a mutual friend – that’s Dharmander Singh from Birmingham, who I used to be in a band with and who is now a stand up comedian in Berlin. The time I met James was in Berlin when I was there on holiday, and I did some stand up on the same show as him.
So why have I invited him on the podcast? Well, it’s mainly because of Twitter. As I said his Twitter feed is interesting. He takes a moderate and balanced view of things, and his interests are pretty wide-ranging, including the fact that he’s very international. He’s married to a Chinese girl, he’s lived abroad, he used to work as a tour guide in several countries, he used to be an English teacher like me, he speaks very good German and French, he’s working on his Chinese, he works as a translator and he’s generally an articulate and interesting guy and so I just thought that he could be worth talking on the podcast.
The language learning thing is obviously very appropriate and I’m always interested in finding out as much as possible about how someone has learned a second language to a very decent level in adulthood, and that is something that we talk about for at least 50% of this conversation. The first half of our chat is basically me getting to know James properly, talking about his work, his studies, his experiences of going to Oxford University, why he chose to move to Germany, being married to a Chinese girl. Then we get into the details of how he learned German mainly, but also French and now how he’s working on his Chinese.
No need to say much more except that I hope you manage to follow the conversation clearly all the way through. Let me know how it was for you and I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation, probably with some background music going over the top.
Long thread about languages (1/24): One of the most frequent ambitions I've seen for people during the lockdown is to learn a foreign language. I'm something of an exception, an Anglophone person who's managed to do this as an adult, and I have some thoughts on the matter.
Did you pick up any useful nuggets from that conversation? I think there was some pretty good advice there especially the stuff about reading and noting down certain words, being a bit rigorous about your studying and believing that you can do it, really helps.
Hello and welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. This episode is number 669 and it’s called How To Learn English.
That’s quite a bold title but this really is a lot of what I have to say about learning English. If you really want to learn this language, this is my advice.
I’ve been teaching for about 20 years, podcasting for over 11 years now and I keep finding out more about learning a language through teaching it, getting feedback from listeners and also through my experiences of trying to learn French.
This episode is a distillation of many of my thoughts and advice on how to learn English. It’s not going to cover absolutely every aspect of it, because language learning is a huge subject that encompasses so many different things and you could talk about it all day, but I have decided to talk about learning English, breaking it down into the 4 skills, and giving you as much advice as I can in this single podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
For those of you who are not so familiar with me and my work. My name is Luke Thompson, I think I am the 4th most famous Luke Thompson in the world. I’m an English teacher, a podcaster, a comedian, a husband and a dad. I am from England but these days I live in France. My podcast is free and is downloaded all over the world. I also have a premium subscription in which I focus specifically on improving your vocab, grammar and pronunciation. To find out more about that go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
I expect you want to learn English, right? That’s the main reason you’re listening to this I expect. You want to learn English.
Well, good news! It’s definitely possible. You can learn English and you will if you put in the time and the effort. It’s important to remember that.
What do I mean by “learn English”, though? I mean that you can learn to speak English fluently, clearly and with confidence, expressing yourself with shades of meaning, adapting your English for the situation both in speaking and in writing, knowing and being able to use a wide variety of vocabulary and accurate grammar and ultimately being yourself in the language and developing beneficial relationships with others based on effective communication. Yes, you can. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
That’s it, just a positive and encouraging message at the start. It’s important to always remember that making progress in your learning is a realistic prospect and will happen when you put in the time and effort, and more good news: the more you enjoy it, the easier it is.
I hope this podcast helps you to enjoy getting English into your life on a regular basis, which is a key part of learning the language effectively.
But what else should you be doing in order to improve your English overall?
In this episode I’d like to talk in some detail about learning English and how you can do it.
This episode is a sort of “come to Jesus moment”, which I feel I should do regularly, just to remind everyone listening that there is a method or approach at work here and that it’s not just you listening to people talking.
A “come to Jesus moment” in the world of business is when someone does a passionate speech or event in which fundamental priorities and/or beliefs are reassessed, or reaffirmed. It’s like when Jesus gathers his disciples around him in order to reaffirm their belief in what he’s preaching or to say some deep stuff which strengthens their faith.
This is a come to Jesus moment for me.
Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus. No, not at all. Not even a little bit, and anyway that’s not for me to say, that’s for other people to point out isn’t it, not me. Anyway…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a method to the madness.
In my podcast episodes, I’m always teaching you, using my particular set of professional skills, but rather than presenting it all as a lesson I usually try to present it more like a radio show or a comedy show even.
So, amidst the episodes about music, comedy, interviews and so on, I thought it would be worth restating the core values of LEP, which I seem to do about once every 6 months or so.
I’m going to give loads of advice here, and this is all based on what I’ve learned from:
Teaching for about 20 years
Meeting thousands of learners of English, some of them successful, some of them not, working directly with them as their teacher and listening to them talk about their studying habits and experiences
The academic studies I’ve done, especially the DELTA which involved extensive reading and writing on various aspects of how people learn and teach English
Doing my podcast and getting testimonies over the years from many listeners who told me about how they’ve used it to improve their English
There’s also my own personal experience of working on my French
Anyway, the plan is to talk about learning English with a focus on the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
I have talked about these points quite a few times before on this podcast, and have given tons of specific advice about working on your English, including in episodes like 174 (and others)
So I will probably repeat myself a bit. But I still get asked to talk about “how to learn English” very regularly and I think it’s important for me to talk about learning English on this podcast on a regular basis. Obviously, that is what this podcast is about, first and foremost, even though a lot of the time in my episodes you’ll hear me and my guests talking about all sorts of other things.
Learning English is the main aim of this podcast
Essentially the thinking is that you should listen to natural conversation on a variety of topics and it’s simply listening to things in English (not just listening to things about English) that’s going to help you learn this language, especially if you enjoy the content.
I’ll probably talk about this again in a bit, but let’s say that ultimately the plan with the free episodes is to help you listen to English regularly, for longer periods of time, long term. The more, the better. If the content is enjoyable, that should just make it easier for you to achieve that. In fact, if you’re really into what you’re listening to, you don’t really even notice the time passing.
Then there’s the premium content, which is an effort to push your learning beyond the gains you get from all the exposure and input you get from just listening. The premium content is designed to let you get the benefit of my experience and teaching skills in order to cut out a lot of work that you would otherwise have to do yourself, so I can essentially take you by the hand and lead you through some intensive practice to work on your English more directly.
So that’s my content, but let’s talk now about learning English as a whole then.
Learning English is a holistic thing. It encompasses many aspects and skills that are connected as a whole.
There are receptive skills like listening and reading, productive skills like speaking and writing, language systems like grammar, spelling, vocabulary and phonology, social and psychological factors that come into play when we use language when interacting with others, then there are other factors that come into play like identity issues, body language, culture, literature, pragmatics and all sorts of other things. It’s hard to know where to start when talking about it.
You need to learn it to the point where you don’t even think about it any more.
The more you talk and think about it, the more it starts to sound like the force from Star Wars.
Stretch out with your feelings.
Do or do not, there is no try.
Do not think, feel.
Let go, let the English flow through you.
I am your father (oh wait)
It’s about learning how to do something which goes right to the core of who you are in fact.
It’s a holistic thing. It incorporates many aspects as part of a whole process and so it’s quite tricky to know where to start.
Let’s put it like this. Language goes in, and language comes out. (I told you it sounds like The Force)
Language is within you and language is without you. It flows through you. It binds the galaxy together.
There are receptive skills (this is how language goes in)
And there are productive skills (this is how language goes out)
There’s the written language
And there’s the spoken language
This is our system.
Think of it like a table with two categories on the horizontal axis and two on the vertical axis, so it’s like a grid with 4 squares in it.
On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.
On the vertical we have written and spoken English.
Within the table we have 4 skills – the 4 squares.
So in the box marked “written” and “receptive” we have reading.
Below that in the “spoken” and “receptive” categoriy we have listening.
On the right in the “written” and “productive” side we have writing.
And then in the “spoken” and “productive” side we have speaking.
Those are your four skills. Reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The 4 skills are connected in various ways.
Reading and writing deal with the written word of course.
Reading helps you to write. It helps you to see how the language is built, how words are spelled and how sentences, paragraphs and texts are put together with grammar and textual conventions.
Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word.
Listening helps you to learn how English actually sounds, how words join together in sentences or longer utterances, it helps you get familiar with the speed, rhythm, flow and intonation of the language. It helps you get used to natural pronunciation which in turn helps you produce English in the same way.
Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form.
But reading and listening are connected too because they’re both receptive skills. They provide us with input which is the essential foundation of language learning.
And speaking and writing are connected because they’re productive skills.
These are the skills you need to use when using language for various purposes. This is where you are more active in the sense that you are constructing language and putting it down visually in the form of writing, or using your body to produce it orally.
Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.
The reading thing there is something we’ll come back to in the section about reading.
This is the academic who is always mentioned in this context, when talking about how to learn English these days. Krashen was one in a long line of linguists who came up with theories about how language is learned and should be taught.
Arguably, we still don’t really know how people learn languages, but various academics over the years have put forward different hypotheses to explain it and these have been the backbone of our understanding of language learning that has informed the way we all learn and teach languages over the years.
Krashen though is the one that people often talk about today, including all the many YouTubers who regularly post videos about the best ways to learn, the only ways to learn, the secrets of learning and all that sort of thing. Krashen is usually brought up because his ideas fit in quite nicely to a model of language learning for today. I mean, it involves a lot of consumption of content in English – plenty of listening and reading and that sort of content is in plentiful supply online, like for example episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.
In his input hypothesis in which he makes the case for the importance of comprehensible input for language learning, he states that in fact the only way we can successfully increase our underlying linguistic competence. This is our system of linguistic knowledge or let’s say that “language instinct” that you have, which even subconsciously gives us a sense of when language is right or wrong. I suppose it could be active in that you know a certain grammar rule and can see when it’s been broken, or passive in that you just feel that something is right or wrong but can’t necessarily explain it.
I would say the passive knowledge is the vital one because ultimately you just want to be able to feel that language is right or wrong without thinking about it.
But that being said, your active knowledge can be really useful when doing things like avoiding common errors as a result of your first language, or consciously pushing yourself to create language which is normal.
Anyway, Krashen says the only way to increase your linguistic competence is through comprehensible input, meaning reading and listening to things that we mostly understand and that with the context of what you do understand, you are able to work out the bits that you don’t know. This is how we acquire new languages.
So basically, we learn a language when we understand it. So, naturally, according to Krashen, the receptive skills come first.
I think this makes a lot of sense to me. I think it’s bound to be true that we learn language by listening to it and reading it. But what about those moments when you have to speak or write, what about learning the grammar and all the rest of it?
Krashen would say that we learn the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of a language by listening to it or reading it, and that it’s a natural process and part of how we decode language through comprehensible input.
So, don’t worry about grammar rules and all the rest of it, just listen and do your best to keep up and work out what’s going on, and do it regularly.
Again, I am sure this is true but I also think it’s worth studying the language a bit too, breaking it down a bit, seeing how it works, actively trying to learn more vocabulary, checking up on the rules of grammar and doing some controlled practice. Working on your pronunciation by copying and training your mouth and brain to cooperate with each other, like the way we practise certain movements in sport or musical parts on an instrument.
I do believe that controlled practice and conscious learning like that must also be beneficial because I’ve seen it happen. Doing some active studying can be like a fast track of English learning. It can cut out a lot of time by helping you realise certain things about the language quickly, and I think if you then notice it again while listening and reading that only reinforces what you’ve learned.
Of course, you shouldn’t get blinded by grammar or pronunciation rules and so on, to the point that you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Try not to get hung up on grammar, because it can make you process language in an unnatural and contrived way. It can get stuck in your head and block you a bit. Instead, try to notice patterns and incorporate them into your use of English. Try to see grammar study as a way of confirming things you’ve already noticed, or a way of consulting with a reference book as you also just absorb English more naturally. If you only study English with the grammar, it’s going to be a weird abstract process for learning the language. It’s better to focus on consuming English in the form of messages which you are trying to understand, and then perhaps check your grammar later to straighten things out.
The premium subscription is where I help you with that sort of thing, hopefully combining with the free content to give you all the stuff you need to attack English from several angles.
How can you learn this language if you haven’t heard it and read it a lot?
Read and listen to things that are slightly above your level, so you can understand 60-80%. You need to be able to understand that much for your brain to work out the remaining 20-40% that you don’t know. Meaningful context is vital.
Basically, listen x5 and read x5.
It’s largely a question of finding the right stuff to listen to.
There’s this podcast of course. Others are available.
Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.
Hopefully you’ll find content that you actually want to listen to, not just for studying English. So if you do get addicted to a Netflix series and you can’t wait to find out what happens next, that’s good! That means you will get more comprehensible input and you will be much more focused and involved in it, which is great for your English. Or maybe you want to hear another stupid and funny conversation with my friends just because it makes you laugh and you feel some sort of connection to it. All of that is great because it will help you listen more, listen longer and listen long term.
This one is also a pleasure to talk about because it’s a pleasure to do and there are lots of great things to read.
Let’s hear from Krashen again as he is the master of the whole input model.
This is again from Wikipedia, which I think is fine usually for the basics like this.
Extensive reading, free reading, book flood, or reading for pleasure is a way of language learning, including foreign language learning, through large amounts of reading. As well as facilitating acquisition of vocabulary, it is believed to increase motivation through positive affective benefits. It is believed that extensive reading is an important factor in education. Proponents such as Stephen Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings.
Of course that system is disputed because this is the academic arena we’re dealing with and people are always putting forward ideas, defending them, disputing them and so on. It’s how we move forwards and learn about this stuff.
So this is extensive reading which is different to the sort of intensive reading you do in English lessons, where you spend ages on just one page of text, break it down into tiny chunks, understanding every single morsel. With extensive reading it’s all about just getting as much English into your head as you can by reading as much as you can, and you focus on reading enjoyable things, especially stories and you don’t stop too much to analyse the language or even check words, you just keep trying to follow what you’re reading. The more involved in it you are, the better.
Again, this point about input is that it feeds your instinct for the language. You get a subconscious sense of what is right or wrong, which comes in very handy for when you’re doing those nasty sentence transformations and use of English tasks in a Cambridge exam like CAE. What you really want in those situations is to know exactly which preposition or auxiliary verb is missing, or to be able to manipulate sentences in a variety of forms. I reckon it helps to do a bit of language practice as well, with a few controlled exercises but the idea is that it should all go in naturally giving you this sense of language competence.
It’s important though to choose texts which are not too difficult for you. You need to be able to understand enough to be able to get a grip on the rest of the language.
So which books do you choose?
We’ve talked about the importance of choosing stuff that’s interesting to you, that reflects the type of English you might need.
Genre isn’t an issue. People assume you need to read or listen to the news but as we’ve already established they don’t really talk like normal people on the news, and they also write in a certain “newsy” style. Funnily enough it might be more useful to read the tabloid papers as they write in a more conversational style, but I think it’s worthwhile looking beyond the news.
Basically, read whatever you want.
Even comic books or graphic novels as they’re known for adults.
Graphic novels can be brilliant because they support your understanding with the images and often the English is in the form of speech so you learn really directly how to apply that stuff to real life. I love graphic novels in French. It’s my favourite way to work on the language.
You could consider the current bestsellers. If other people like the books then why shouldn’t you? Look in the fiction and non-fiction categories.
Or try graded readers, which are an excellent and underused resource. I really recommend them if you’re not a strong reader. They’re previously published books, and often some of the great classics and modern classics in English, but they’re republished with English that is graded for certain levels. The number of words is reduced, it’s truncated and essentially it’s a way to increase the percentage you do understand, and decrease the amount you don’t understand, getting to that 80/20 spot where you can maximise your language learning.
There are lots of titles to choose from and various publishers. Check these ones out
But your English may well be good enough now to have a go at a book for native speakers. So go for it. You have loads of options. Just make sure you enjoy reading on a regular basis.
I would also add that it’s important to choose texts which are written in modern style and perhaps about an area that you are particularly interested in. Perhaps think of it like this – what is the kind of English you want printed on the back of your head (on the inside)? Odd question, but I mean, what is your target English. Perhaps it’s the involving and descriptive storytelling of fiction, or it’s the matter-of-fact world of non-fiction. I reckon non-fiction is probably better because it reflects the kind of English you are more likely to be writing, especially if it’s things like academic work or reports at work, because they’re all about presenting you with information, data, commenting on what’s going on, describing how to do things and that’s probably the sort of thing you’ll need to use English for, especially in writing.
This might be a bit dry but it will really show you loads of examples of emails with full explanations, so you can read and learn.
The Story of English in 100 Words
Anything by David Crystal is fantastic, but this non-fiction book will teach you the entire story of the English language through 100 words and there are some great words in there like
Loaf, Street, Riddle, Arse, Jail, Wicked, Matrix and Skunk, to name but a few.
So you’re bound to learn tons from that.
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny By Nile Rodgers
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The writing is a bit old fashioned. I have to be honest, but it’s mostly modern in style and I think it’s worth it because the story is amazing and it’s not too long. It’s wonderfully descriptive and much better than any movie version could be. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time.
Productive skills / output
This is where we get to the more nebulous world of productive skills. It’s like an alien land where monsters roam, a bit like war of the worlds maybe.
OK I’m exaggerating here but I mean that productive skills are a bit harder to pin down because even more psychological and social factors come into play. You have the public aspect of it, the fact that you’re trying to manipulate the language and get your ideas across in the right way, being coherent and cohesive and in the right style with the right level of politeness with the correct conventional replies and requests and on and on it goes!
Again, I’m making it sound tricky, but I mean that you are involved so much more because you’re making the language and actually using it. This is exciting because you get to express yourself which is the most wonderful and gratifying thing you can do in another language, and when it slides out quite fluidly and you’re not too blocked by who knows what, then it’s all gravy. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and you get mixed up and it doesn’t come out right at all. There’s a sense of performance in productive skills, and a sense that you have to be aware of the right way to conduct yourself, and to be able to utter things in English instantly, following what the other person is saying, it’s all done in a sort of unconscious blur and thinking about grammar in that situation is a killer.
So it’s about getting a level of ease, a level of comfort, a platform from which you can bob and weave your way through the conversation, finding other ways to say things and switching correctly between tenses and situations. I think you get what I mean.
So how do you work on these things?
Ease – a voice, fluency
Control – grammar, vocab, pronunciation
Range – a wide range of language for a wide range of things
Coherence – does it all make sense? Can people follow you easily?
Cohesion – particularly in writing, how does the whole text make sense as a whole?
Social factors – knowing how to put things and how to manage relationships through language
Again, the idea is that this language is just built into you from all that exposure and input.
I would say that there’s a great deal of other stuff you can do to improve your productive skills beyond reading and listening a lot, of course.
In both writing and speaking the first thing to remember is you need to engage in it as much as possible. Real writing and real speaking.
Ultimately this means trying to use language to communicate a message in some way and that’s what you should be focusing on. Meaningful interactions, especially ones in which you have something to offer or something to gain, such as negotiations or even information gap situations in which you’re telling someone something they don’t know. Also social interactions involving being polite or building relations with people. Ultimately, doing it for real is the best workshop in which you can work, rolling with the punches and trying to keep track of what you’re learning.
This is why people learn English best when they’re forced to do it because of their surroundings. They learn by being a waiter in London for a year or working in an office with native speakers, or being plunged into a foreign university for a year, or moving to a new country and having to cope with all the challenges that brings and in a second language. I suppose this is immersion, but it;s more than that. I recommend actually conversing with people to just practise. It’s the 5 Ps.
It’s like going to the gym. Fluency is like physical fitness in your mind and also in your body because you’re using your mouth, your breathing and your head and hands to communicate too.
It applies to writing too. You can observe the way other people write their emails and kind of copy their style, you have to really think about what you’re saying and doubtless you will end up writing emails with requests, with information, with questions and with complaints and so on, so you will have to learn on the job. Being thrown in at the deep end, or if you just have to use English at work it could either be a big stress for you or a huge opportunity to just go for it.
Anyway, let’s talk about specific productive skills – writing and reading, and how to work on them.
Let’s say you’re not actually in a situation where you can talk to people or have correspondence with people, or have to write things which other people will ultimately have to read. Unless you find a tutor on italki for example then that person could be your practice point for speaking and writing, giving you feedback as you go. But let’s say for the purposes of this episode, it’s just you and the English language, facing each other off in a kind of wild west fashion.
How can you practise on your own?
Obviously you need to write. But what are you going to write and who is going to read it?
Firstly – just write, write regularly, write meaningfully and write with a reader in mind, even if nobody reads it. This is important because it will help you get used to simply putting your ideas into words. It’s a creative process and also a mechanical process to an extent. Building sentences is a sort of art or a craft. You have to practise it in order to get some level of comfort with it. Let’s imagine there’s a muscle in your head (this is not scientific at all) which, if you never exercise it, will be quite weak and underdeveloped. But if you exercise that muscle regularly it will be strong, reactive and quick. I expect there is a part of the brain responsible for creating written language, and a sub-section for creating written English. Keep that part of your brain fresh by writing English as much as you can. That’s as scientific as I can get here.
So, here are some things you could write
What to write
Email an imaginary person (spooky?) or yourself (think outside the box here ok?)
Academic writing – text types
Emails – email types and conventions
Reports – same!
Formal and informal letters – same!
Applications – same same!
Basically – Whatever you have to write, you should try to find some samples of these texts and aim to copy them. Copy the style, the arrangement, the language they use and reproduce it yourself. Texts that you write will invariably be very practical so it’s about reporting information and asking questions. Look at the sample texts and copy them.
It helps if you have a specific workbook. I recommend Email English by Paul Emmerson. It’s a simple workbook that helps you work on almost all those things and I’m not even sponsored by Macmillan or anything, it’s genuinely a great book.
They also have downloadable email writing tasks on the Macmillan website or here
Ideally you’ll have a teacher to proofread your work, correct you and give you feedback.
If this isn’t possible, it’s still a good idea to write.
A diary (just describe things that happened, or make it more personal and really explore your thoughts and feelings. If the words don’t come, just use basic words. If you feel unable to express yourself perfectly, express yourself imperfectly but try to express yourself.
Writing is not just sentences, it’s paragraphs and pages. The thing you are writing will define how you write it. This means – conventions of certain texts, formality level of the language.
Specific exam tasks → IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC higher and vantage
These will often push you to learn the conventions of different types of text, so it could be a good idea to take a Cambridge exam if you want to work on your writing.
You might write some notes on vocab and I would recommend here that you take a more extensive approach to doing this. Don’t just have one word per line. I want to see one word or phrase at the top of the page, and then loads of text underneath full of examples and your own examples with the language. You can then come back and cover up some of the words and try to remember. Alternatively you can use my PDFs with the notes and memory tests if you’re a premium subscriber. Little plug there for my other podcast.
But making more extensive vocabulary notes with plenty of examples means that not only are you recording vocabulary, you’re practising using it in writing too.
I mentioned italki before and you can find tutors, teachers and conversation partners there for regular practice and I do recommend doing that.
Otherwise, let’s look at some ways you can work on your speaking other than in actual spoken practice with others. Developing your speaking on your own.
This is quite a tricky thing to do because normally speaking is an instantly interactive form of communication. It also involves a lot of listening and then being able to produce English instantly and without hesitating too much.
It’s also quite physical as it involves using your mouth to produce words and sentences in the right way.
And of course there are all those cultural things to think about too.
But really speaking should just be your attempt to find your own voice in English, with fluency and with a specific tone. Of course it comes through a lot of practice, of having conversations in which you’re not really thinking about what you’re saying on a grammatical level but it’s pouring out of you due to necessity and not being able to really think a lot. Doing that regularly helps your brain map out the extent of the English you have and increase it, keeping it sort of fresh. That’s not scientific but more a metaphor of what I think speaking can do. It activates something in you that you have to maintain and keep active or those parts of the brain go dull.
So practice x5
But with who?
The fact is, it just helps to talk to other people and that’s the best and most basic advice I can give. Outside of that, you have to manipulate your surroundings and use your imagination to practise speaking on your own.
Talking on your own (and even in your head)
This might sound a bit odd, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to activate English that is in your head. You essentially talk to yourself, out loud, in English, describing what’s going on, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, say it all in English. Alternatively you can just do it in your own head and just think the sentences. This also keeps that system of language production in your head fresh.
Listen and repeat
You can use certain audio and play a bit, pause, repeat what you heard, rewind, repeat again and keep going until you’ve got it, and then check the transcript or subtitles to see if you’re correct, check any new words and carry on. Always find ways to vocalise the things you are learning and that means saying them out loud even to yourself.
You can also practise different speaking scenarios.
Preparing for a Cambridge exam you can find past papers with speaking part preparation and practise. Find out what’s required in the different parts, watch videos of people taking the speaking part on YouTube, practise answering common questions about yourself, practise speaking on a topic for a minute or two, practise discussing your opinion on the issues of the day. Those are all specific speaking skills that you can practise on your own. I particularly recommend listen and repeat, especially when you have to take quite a long utterance in English, hold it in your head and repeat it like it’s one word? It’s like going to the gym in English. It involves a lot of things: Understanding the clip, identifying the words and grammar, being able to remember it all, being able to produce it in a similar way. That’s a whole punch of different kinds of practice. And if you repeat the sentence straight away, and again, you might notice certain little errors you’re making and correct them. So repeat over and over again, a bit like practising boxing combinations in the ring before the big fight.
In reality, the 4 skills are often mashed up together and you find you are doing things like listening and speaking at the same time, while also taking notes, looking at visuals and so on. It all gets very messy when language is actually applied to real communication in the real world.
A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.
I think there are probably plenty of other things I have not mentioned in this episode, such as not talking about specific memory techniques (done that) or specific features of pronunciation (done that) or exactly how to read a book to learn English (done) or plenty of other things probably. To be honest this is just a podcast episode that I wanted to make about the 4 skills and it expanded into an episode all about learning English as a holistic process.
Anyway, the note about pronunciation
It is worth learning the phonemic script
It is worth getting the sounds app on your phone
It is worth doing drills and practising different features
It’s worth getting a book called Ship or Sheep or other books of that nature.
It’s worth remembering that if you have an accent when you speak that is fine and it’s part of who you are, the main thing is that you speak clearly, not which regional accent you have. Clarity is the thing to achieve. Also, it’s extremely difficult to “lose” your accent in English. Hardly anyone does it. But you can still be fine with your accent. English is quite open like that. Everyone’s welcome.
But there you have it. That was quite a comprehensive look at how I think learning English is best when you combine two things: comprehensible input, and a clever studying routine.
I think it can work wonders for your English.
And that’s what I try to do with this podcast. Give you all the input in the free episodes and then do some more focused studying in the premium content. Hopefully, together those two channels can boost your English to the max.
Talking to my mum about a good book she read recently; a social history about 5 women who had one thing in common – they were all murdered by Jack The Ripper in 1888. Also includes some advice and comments about reading books to learn English.
Hello everyone, How are you doing out there in podcastland, or should I not ask?
We all know that the dreaded coronavirus is making life difficult for everyone and I very much hope that you are basically well and that you’re keeping your spirits up despite the many difficulties that you might be facing during this tricky period. I expect you will either be extremely busy looking after children, or perhaps trying to solve work-related problems, or perhaps you’re growing increasingly bored and lonely if you’re just stuck at home in self-isolation. I am also attempting to adjust to a new routine as we are looking after our daughter, trying to keep her busy, while also trying to get work done. But really, things are not too bad for us at this stage. We’re quite lucky.
I just want to wish everyone all the best and I hope you’re managing to stay positive. I won’t talk a lot more about this situation right now. I’m thinking of doing one or two episodes about self-isolation and associated vocabulary in the coming days or weeks.
In any case, this can be a good opportunity, if you have the time, to focus on things like listening to podcasts or reading books to improve your English and in fact that is what this episode is all about. It’s a podcast conversation with my mum about books, well, about one book in particular.
That’s right, this is the first episode of Gill’s Book Club, which I mentioned on the podcast a while ago, I think in my mum’s episode about Quintessentially British Things from January in which she chose to talk about 3 of her favourite books. I suggested that that might make a good regular feature for episodes of this podcast. Lots of LEPsters agreed and my mum is happy to do it and so here it is. Gill’s Book Club.
The concept is pretty simple. I talk to my mum about books that she has read. She describes them, tells us what they are about and what she found interesting about them. We can also read some samples from the books too if possible.
It could be any book or books she wants → an old favourite, a recent discovery or just something she thinks will be interesting to talk about. Hopefully it will just be a pleasant listening experience for you, but it could also give you some inspiration if you’re looking for a book to read in English.
Briefly, before we start. Here is some advice on how to use these episodes of the podcast.
How to use these episodes of Gill’s Book Club
You can either
a) Just listen to the episode, try to follow what my mum and I are saying and hopefully find it pleasant to listen to without feeling the need to actually read the book being described. As I’ve said before, it is very important and beneficial for your English to listen to things like this on a regular basis, equally it is important to read regularly.
So, your other option could be this:
b) Having heard us talk about this book, you can then get your own copy and then read it yourself. Alternatively you could get the audiobook version.
And perhaps if the particular book we’re talking about isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, listening to my mum talking about reading could just encourage you to read more in English yourself even if it’s not the book we’re describing.
If you do want to read a book to improve your English then I have some advice for you, but I’m going to tell you that advice after you’ve heard my conversation with Mum because I don’t want to go on and on too much here at the start.
So listen all the way until the end of this episode to hear specific advice from me regarding how to choose a book to read in English.
Anyway, let’s now talk to my mum. We decided to talk about just one book in this conversation in order to be able to focus our attention more clearly.
Don’t forget to check the page for this episode on my website, where you will find all the details of the book plus some other notes, transcripts of my intro and ending and so on.
So, without any further ado, let’s talk to my mum.
OK so there you are, that was the very first episode of Gill’s Book Club. Let us know what you think by leaving your comments in the comment section on my website. You’ll find this episode in the archive, or just click the link in the show notes in your podcasting app.
I said at the beginning that I had a few tips to help you choose a book in English.
I’ve talked about this on the podcast before in quite a lot of detail, but here’s some of my advice just distilled into a few brief points.
Tips for choosing and reading books in English
Choose a book you want to read. You’ve got to be motivated to read the book. Would you choose to read that book in your first language? People often say to me things like this, “I thought of reading Harry Potter, what do you think?” and I ask them if they would read it in their language and they kind of say “No”. I wonder then why they would choose to read it in English. Choose a book that you actually want to read, not only because you think it might be good for your English. Don’t choose to impose a boring and ‘homework-style’ reading experience on yourself. It is possible to read in English for pleasure and improve your language skills as a result.
Pick a book which contains the right kind of language. Pick something modern if possible. Older books (including really popular stuff like Sherlock Holmes Jane Austen and Charles Dickens) tend to be written in a fairly old-fashioned style which can be really difficult for learners of English (and me too – I love Sherlock Holmes but I often struggle to understand what is actually happening because it’s all so dense and detailed). Try to find something in a plain, modern style. Obviously, if point 1 is more important to you (i.e. you just really really want to read that book) then point 2 is less of a concern. Ultimately it’s good to be exposed to all types of English and if you’re motivated that’s the best thing. But to be on the safe side, pick a modern book in plain English. Harry Potter for example is not a bad choice in this case. It’s not perfect, because a lot of the words are made up words in the HP universe, but mostly it is written in a modern way, similar to how people actually speak now. You heard Mum and me mention Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I think would be a great choice actually, because it’s a good book and it’s written in the sort of English that people actually use these days.
Pick a book which you will be able to finish. Finishing a book is great isn’t it? It gives you a sense of success and closure, literally. That’s important! So, consider a shorter book, or even a book which has been graded for your level (Check: Macmillan Readers, Penguin Readers, Pearson English Readers – they all have some excellent books graded for different levels – choose a book you want to read and something appropriate to your level, probably B1 intermediate, B2 upper-intermediate or C1 advanced). Also consider buying the sort of book that is quite easy to read, like a page turner (The Da Vinci Code is an example of a page turner – it’s quite easy to read and you just want to know what happens next. Page turners usually contain mystery, romance or horror). An advantage of page turners is that you can fly through them quite quickly, which is one of your aims – get as much English into your head as possible. A disadvantage of page turners is that they can be a bit meaningless and of poor quality. For example, I found the 5th HP book to be a good example of a page turner. I couldn’t wait to get onto the next page to find out what was going to happen next. I read it incredibly fast, but at the end I realised that nothing really happened in the book. Somehow JK Rowling wrote it so that I felt something interesting was always around the corner, but then when I finished it I realised that it was mostly nothing. Someone dies at the end and that’s it really. But I read it extremely quickly. And that is actually a good thing for learning English. You want something that will allow you to read more and more and more.
So, overall you need to strike a balance between
A book which you want to read
A book which contains the right kind of English (today’s English, basically)
A book which you will be able to read
But the most important one is #1 → Pick a book you want to read, because motivation will carry you through points 2 and 3, and if you enjoy something the language is more likely to stick with you.
You can also choose to stop and check words in a dictionary, note them down, perhaps note the extract in which they appear, or just carry on and focus on continuing the book and only check new words when you think they’re really important. If literally every other word is new to you, then it might be better to choose a graded reader as I said before. In those graded books, the range of vocabulary is narrower and they’re easier to read. And remember, it’s not about being able to understand the most difficult books. It’s about reading as much as possible, as regularly as possible and enjoying the experience.
I think The Five is certainly an interesting sounding book which I can imagine many of you would like. The reviews for it are great. It has a rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon.co.uk. Although the English can be quite dense (which is normal for books like this), it is written in a modern style and there is definitely a lot of vocabulary which you would pick up from it. So if you’d like to learn more about these 5 women and their lives, then get yourself a copy of The Five by Hallie Rubenhold.
It’s available in Kindle version, Audiobook version and normal paperback and hardback versions.
Basically there are two approaches. Oh, I’ve already mentioned these things. Forgive me now as I repeat myself a bit.
1. Have a dictionary and check words as you discover them, noting little definitions or other things that might help you remember the words, possibly keeping a vocabulary notebook as you go.
2. Just focus on reading for pleasure and try to tolerate or guess the words and phrases you don’t know. Keep going and try not to be distracted by bits you don’t understand. It might make more and more sense as you continue.
I do strongly suggest that you persevere through the first 25% of the book. Often it takes a while to get used to a new book and it might not grab you until you get through a certain number of pages.
Resist the temptation to give up. Keep reading! Don’t stop! Push through the difficult or boring bits. From time to time, stop to think about the book and try to form some opinions on it as you go. What do you think of the characters? What’s actually going on? What is the writer’s point of view? What is this really about? What does the world of the book actually look like, feel like and even smell like? All of that can help you to get into the book more as you read it.
That’s it! Leave your comments below and tell us what you think of Gill’s Book Club.
Luke talks on his own without stopping, restarting or editing, including responses to comments about recent episodes, thoughts on the methodology behind this podcast, some vocabulary teaching, a few songs on the guitar and more. This is no-stress episode, and a chance for me to just check in on you and make sure you’re all doing ok out there in the world! 😉
These are just notes and not a full transcript. Some chunks of target vocabulary are highlighted in bold.
In this episode you’re going to hear me talking on my own, which probably means it’s going to be easier to understand and follow what I’m saying than some of the episodes I’ve uploaded recently, because I’ve uploaded some pretty challenging episodes over the last few weeks and months, and years… I try to mix it up a bit, with some challenging ones and some easier ones. Let’s say the easier ones are when I’m on my own and the more challenging ones are when I’m with other people or when we are breaking down recordings of other people.
But this one is just me, and you, because you’re involved. You’re listening aren’t you?
I hope this will come as something of a relief to you, at least to those of you who are pushing yourselves by listening to my podcast, and who might have quite a tough time understanding the more challenging episodes.
I know that some episodes are difficult to follow sometimes, because of the speed of English you’re hearing from my guests and me, and because we might be talking about subjects that you aren’t so familiar with.
Anyway, no stress today, there’s enough stress in the world. The plan here is just to chat to you, have a good old-fashioned ramble on LEP.
So you can have a bit of a breather today and just enjoy listening to this. And I hope you listen to all of it, from start to the finish. If it makes any difference to you, I will sing you a song or two with my guitar at the end. So if you’d like to hear me singing again, as I do at the end of episodes sometimes, then stick with it and keep listening until the end. Don’t be tempted to skip forward. That’s cheating.
Two words: deferred gratification.
It’s important to have a bit of self-discipline and I’m talking to myself there as much as I’m talking to you.
When I decided to do this episode I thought (and it’s always like this, with these rambling episodes as I’ve come to call them) I decided initially to just talk without preparing anything in advance. Just no pressure, no specific agenda, just speak my mind and try to express the ideas which have been building up in my head since the last time I spoke to you like this.
The idea is that I can keep it authentic, in the moment and I don’t have to spend ages working on it before I even start recording. That’s what I think when I decide to do an episode like this.
But that’s easier said than done, because…. (What happens Luke? How do you end up writing so much in advance?)
Basically: I want to talk with no preparation, but then I have to write some things down or I won’t remember to mention them, but then I end up starting to type out everything in advance.
It’s hard to know when to stop preparing and when to start recording.
So I’ve decided to just get started here without worrying too much about having every single detail prepared in advance.
I know it’s probably not an issue for you, but I’m just giving you bit of insight into what goes through my mind when I prepare and record an episode.
So → No more preparing, it’s time to start talking, which might mean there is some rambling here, which is fine and great.
The main aim of this episode is to check in on you (make sure you’re doing alright) but not check up on you (to investigate, gather information, spy on someone)
And just chat to you about various things on my mind, things that I think are of interest to you as a member of my audience.
Talk a bit about recent episodes, just to establish where we are.
Give a few bits of news.
Respond to a couple of comments I’ve received
Have a bit of a laugh → just have some fun on the podcast because that is one of my favourite things about doing this. Just messing about and having fun, with no stress involved!
Sing one, two or maybe three songs on the guitar, which I will leave until the end.
As we go through all of this, I am sure that there will be various expressions, vocabulary and other language points that will come up. [A lot of it is highlighted for you here]
When I talk in episodes of this podcast I am sure that some people don’t notice what the method is. Most people like to think there is a specific pedagogical method at work and in my experience it is necessary to tell people (my students for example) exactly what the method is in order to put their minds at rest so they know they’re in safe hands.
What I will say is this – it might not be obvious all the time, but there is method to the madness I can assure you. I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years now and to an extent I am now just always teaching. I’m always in teaching mode. This means that I’m always thinking about what you while I am talking. I’m always thinking about the listener not because I’m so selfless and wonderful but because I know what I’m doing.
*You don’t need to justify it Luke*
Let’s just say this → Even when it’s not obvious that I am teaching you, I am teaching you. Every minute you listen to this (and indeed most other things you could listen to, but the difference here is that I am doing this specifically for you as a learner of English and even more specifically as a LEPster) … every minute you listen to this is a minute in the bank of your English.
I’ll talk more about methodology and this podcast in a bit. I’m still technically in the introduction here.
I have no idea how long this will take, but it usually takes longer than I expect, so this could easily be two episodes.
But seriously, let’s forget about the clock for a while, ok? Don’t worry about how much time is passing. If you need to stop for some reason, just stop. Your podcasting app will remember where you were when you stopped and you can carry on again when you’re ready.
The main thing is: just listen, just try to follow everything. If you can follow it all without trouble, then fantastic, give yourself a little pat on the back. If you can’t follow it all, just do your best, keep going, don’t give up, rewind and listen to certain bits again if you need to.
And this is where your podcasting app will help once more because you should have those helpful buttons which let you skip back by a few seconds. I use them a lot when I’m listening to podcasts, including ones in French (Any good french podcasts to recommend Luke? I’ll add that to the list for this episode – see below)
You will see various notes on the page for this episode. This is all the stuff I wrote down before recording. It’s not a transcript, but if you hear me saying something and you’re wondering what it is, check out the page and you might see it written there.
I understand that checking a website isn’t all that convenient, even when you have a smartphone to hand.
But anyway, it is there. If you’re listening in an app (including the LEP app) check the show notes → There is a link there that takes you right to the relevant page each time. That’s one of the fastest ways to get straight to the correct page. Otherwise, join the mailing list to have the link sent to your inbox, or just check out the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk where you can find everything.
Is everyone ok out there? Let’s be honest, this is a pretty crazy time. I hope you’re doing ok. Hang in there, stay positive!
Ian Moore → It’s interesting that Jack in the comment section mentioned that he found it waaaay easier to understand Ian this time compared to last time. This could well mean that his English listening skills have improved in that period – considering there are about 300 episodes between Ian’s first appearance and his second. So, I’m very happy to hear that, basically.
I’m also happy to have had Ian on the podcast again. He really is a very witty man, not to mention well-dressed. There are a few videos of him online, doing comedy, being interviewed on TV and so on, and he is very good.
Alan Partridge episodes
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. (or so they say)
“You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”(and you shouldn’t try to) ~originally attributed to John Lydgate and then Abraham Lincoln.
Slightly puzzling stats for the AP episodes. Part 4 and 6 have a similar number of listens, but episode 5 has about 25% fewer listens. What’s that all about?
The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming → The main point is, focus on the message, not how the message has been delivered to you. I would also add: be thoughtful, be respectful, think about the other person, listen to them and pay attention to them, adapt your style accordingly. Ultimately it comes down to compassion. Be compassionate. Think about the other person, think about their situation, be less self-involved. Thinking about the other person, what they want and what they are really trying to say → this helps a lot. It helps you avoid conflict and it helps to bring more respect to you. In theory.
RecentAmber & PaulEpisodes
It was fantastic to speak to them on the podcast recently. I think it’s best when the three of us have a specific aim for an episode, especially if it is a game of some kind.
Amber had her baby! It’s a girl. Mum and baby are both doing fine. I’m hoping to speak to Amber soon about it, with Paul there too. Congratulations to Amber, her husband, and their little boy who now is the brother to a little baby sister.
Quintessentially British Things
James – A few people going Hmmm. Some saying how fun it is to listen to the two of us, a couple of people saying they found James to be a bit rude because he kept cutting me off. We have a close relationship, but like all brothers we fight sometimes etc… conditions for recording, we both had a lot to say, etc. We mention it at the end of an upcoming episode we’ve done about music.
Hi people, sorry if I came across as rude / impatient. It was late, we were tired, and I’m afraid to say I was very, very drunk. ; )
Ones with Mum and Dad – all positive saying they found them interesting and lovely and I’m lucky to have a family like that, and I am. Episodes of Gill’s Book Club (which it will probably be called) should arrive this year. RT report too, when we feel like it!
A lot of conversations with native speakers at normal speed. What is your method, Luke?
Upcoming music episode with James
Thoughts about the challenge of listening to some of my episodes.
I like to consider the thoughts of my listeners but ultimately I have to go with my gut and use my own judgement
The majority of comments come from LEPsters with pretty good English. So I don’t hear from lower-level listeners so much.
Comments on the website → More people came out of the woodwork and that’s great. I’m not concerned. People need to go out of their way to visit the website, find the episode page, find the comment section, possibly sign into the comment section (Disqus) and write a comment in English. Most people just end up being ninjas often because there are various little barriers in the way. I get it!
People comment in various ways → comment section, email, twitter, facebook, Youtube. The LEPsters’ comments are spread out all over the place. So they’re not all consolidated in one place. Maybe I should just stick to ONE platform, but I think this would ultimately make it more complicated for people to listen.
Premium → I am working on new stuff all the time. I say it’s about grammar, vocab & pron, and it is, but that sounds a bit dry doesn’t it? Remember – it’s still me, I’m still trying to do it in the LEP way, which means I make efforts to keep it entertaining at all times, as well as clear. Upcoming episodes will be about common errors I’ve noticed in comments and emails and things.
You’re reading a book, right? What are you reading?
Message: Hello there Luke, it is a great pleasure to be one of your thousands of listeners. Must admit that I am on the ninja´s listener side…Just a quick question, What kind of book would you suggest I should read in order to improve my english comprehension? I am going for the c1 advanced by the way and the big deal for me is the huge amount of sources offered on the Internet…
Thanks in advance my friend, carry on the good work!
To be honest Miguel, you should just pick a book that you really want to read and that you will probably enjoy. You could pick the English version of one of your favourite books or perhaps a book of a film you like.
You can also get graded books at the C1 level, which would also be a good idea.
I’m assuming you mean reading novels rather than grammar/vocab books.
Hope that helps.
Check these episodes from the archive
French podcasts (difficult to find the right one for me, I must be quite picky)
Un Cafe Au Lot 7 → Louis Dubourg chats with French stand-up comedians, including some of my friends and acquaintances. Paul is interviewed there, so is Seb Marx and also some other big names like Fary and Gad Elmaleh.
French Voices → Conversations with interesting people with some things to look out for in English at the start)
French Your Way Podcast –> Specifically about teaching us French, making things clear and memorable, correcting certain mistakes, a lot of it is in English. Jessica is on maternity leave, starting in June. She’s probably fully involved with her baby. I hope she comes back soon when she is able to.
This comment is sponsored by LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Message: Hello Luke,
I have been a regular listener of your fantastic podcasts since 2018 and I am the one who requested an episode on the topic of “articles” a couple of weeks ago.
I just finished the fifth episode of this series this morning and I must say that it is the most brilliant episode that you have ever recorded. I didn’t not think you were capable of doing that in 2009 because this requires a lot of experience. I do not know if the Lepsters realize the amount of work that you have performed to complete this series. During the last 20 years, I have often searched for such a lesson focused on the right use of articles but I have never found it. There are so many rules but also exceptions that it drives me nuts. As a neuroradiologist at Lille University hospital, I regularlly write scientific papers on neurovascular diseases in international journals and I am frustrated to systematically see the editorial office of the journal change my sentences by adding or removing articles. I feel more confident now even if it takes a long time to master the correct use of articles.
I don’t know if I have correctly used the articles in this message but I am very happy to get a comprehensive document on this topic.
Thanks a lot Luke and keep it up. You are such a lovely person who is very inspiring to me.
Oh what a wonderful email, thank you very much Xavier.
Yes, you used all the articles correctly in this email. I’m glad to see my episode has helped you!
I’m also very glad to receive emails such as this, from interesting and intelligent people who actually use my content to actively improve their English. It’s very inspiring.
This is a community effort in which LEPsters can transcribe episodes of the podcast.
I’ve mentioned it before, now I’m mentioning it again.
The transcription project is one of the most powerful options we have in this podcast.
Since I started learning English, I’ve always heard the same piece of advice from teachers I’ve been listening to, which is: “We must read, listen and write to have better English skills.”
Well, the transcription project is the perfect example and could allow us to reach this goal entirely.
The transcription project does not only involve transcribing but also proofreading episodes. That’s why I created two teams. The Orion team makes the transcriptions, and the Andromeda team proofreads and corrects the texts done by the Orion team.
And I want to tell to people, asking to join the project, that we can fulfil our goals staying in this project longer than one or two episodes. Nobody is going to encourage us or give a hug or give a kiss. Still, the joy of seeing this project growing up and becoming better than when we started participating in it is immense. Staying for an extended period allows you to see your real improvement.
When you proofread the episodes you did one year before, you are going to find a lot of mistakes and misheard words. That means that you can hear sounds and terms you couldn’t hear previously. That also means that you are becoming a better English speaker.
As I’ve often said, the transcription project is a hard task to do, sometimes we can feel bored, but we can not forget why we are doing it and what goal we want to reach. Mastering a language when you don’t live with native speakers is very hard. This project and Luke’s English Podcast episodes allow us to fill the gap. However, we need something more to stay in this project longer. We need to have another goal. A different goal than learning English. A goal which means giving back something to others.
Yes! Learning plus giving back is something much more powerful. We learn English for free, and we transcribe episodes and correct them for free.
Doing that we fulfil another goal: We help everyone coming to LEP to learn faster with our transcripts. The number of them is close to 342. (probably more since this was done – because 618. The Climate Crisis is also finished now and needs to be proofread).
I started my collaboration in 2015, and even if I am not as good an English speaker as I want, I know I am much better than then.
Thanks to people joining the Orion and Andromeda teams, staying with me, and helping me to continue with this project.
I don’t think people realise how important it is to keep listening and coming back to the same material, instead of just moving on to the next thing. Your engagement becomes much deeper and you’re more likely to learn and remember the new words, as well as improve your listening skills. I also really like the fact that it’s collaborative and that the transcription improves over time as more people listen to it – a community effort!
Hello folks! Here is the last of this 3 part series I’ve been doing about quintessentially British things. I’m assuming now that you’ve heard the previous parts of this series and you know what this is all about.
If you haven’t heard those yet, may I gently suggest that you listen to them first? There’s one with my brother and then one with my dad too.
Now it’s my mum’s turn and since she is such a bookworm – she works in a bookshop, is a member of a book club and is a voracious reader, the three things she has chosen are all novels – books about British characters going through typically British experiences, mostly in the early part of the 20th century.
So if you’re looking for some interesting books to read in English, check out these ones which are some of my mum’s favourites.
Have a look at the page for this episode on the website where you will find the names of all the books we mention plus some other references and bits & pieces.
Remember you can sign up to my mailing list on my website to receive an email notification whenever I release a new episode, and that contains a link which will take you straight to the relevant page for that episode.
Now, without any further ado let me allow you to enjoy the nice tones of my mum’s voice as she talks to you about her quintessentially British things.
J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country”
R. F. Delderfield “To Serve Them All My Days“
R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September”
Withnail & I
Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff
The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff
The previous episode with my mum about books.
The Withnail & I episode
So that was my mum and her three books. Let me say the titles again. There was “A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr, “To Serve Them All My Days” by R. F. Delderfield and ““The Forgnight in September” by R.C. Sheriff.
It’s sort of a funny coincidence that all the writers of these books have initials at the start – J.L. Carr, R.F. Delderfield, R.C. Sheriff.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed listening to that and that you learnt a thing or two about the effects of the world wars on British people, and also that you might consider reading one of those novels yourself.
What do you think of my mum talking about books on this podcast? We did several episodes before together in which we talked a bit about books.
Both of which dealt with things like my mum’s favourite podcast, some favourite people and different books she’s been reading.
What would you think of a fairly regular podcast series with my mum in which she talks about books she’s read. It could be called Mum’s Book Club. If you like the sound of that, let me know. I might be able to make it a regular feature, a bit like The Rick Thompson Report (and yes I need to make new one of them).
So would you like to hear more episodes of Mum’s Book Club? If so, let me know.
But that’s it for this episode. What did you think, overall, of this series? Did you learn anything about the UK? Did you get some good recommendations? Did you enjoy listening to my family? Let me know in the comment section.
I’ll speak to you again soon. Don’t forget to download the LEP App from the app store to get loads of bonus episodes, and consider signing up to my premium service to get regular monthly grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Find out more at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
But for now, all that remains to be said is, good bye!
Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. This is your regular opportunity to practise your listening and develop your knowledge of British English culture.
This is episode 637 and this is the first of a three part series about Quintessentially British Things(that you might not know about).
You might be wondering what quintessential means.
It’s a word that’s often used in front of places, nationalities or cultures.
A quintessentially English summer
He’s the quintessential New Yorker
5 signs that you’re quintessentially Canadian
Quintessentially British or English is a common one. There are lots of articles and quizzes online to work out if you are quintessentially British and they all contain typical examples of Britishness, like cups of tea, Mr Bean, social awkwardness, the weather and so on.
So quintessential means a typical example of something. A thing which seems to be a perfect, unique example of something specific. Like for example a food which is uniquely British and is a great example of Britishness, like, what fish and chips maybe?
As I said there are plenty of articles about quintessentially British things online, but they always deal with the same tired old stereotypes of Englishness or Britishness that we’ve heard a million times and don’t always just apply to the UK.
For example this one, from BT
Let’s go through it quickly just to get all the usual stereotypes and cliches out of the way first.
But in this series of episodes I wanted to scratch below the surface of British culture a bit, and talk about some perhaps less known things. We all know about the cliches, but what if we go a bit deeper and hear from some English people about their favourite aspects of their culture, be it modern pop stuff, history, literature or geography.
So I decided to ask my Mum, my Dad and my brother to think of some typically British things for us to talk about on the podcast. So that’s what you’re going to get. Hopefully some revealing conversation about a diverse range of British cultural items, but also some good recommendations of other stuff that you can check out in your own time, which could help with your English.
Let’s get started then with this episode with James, my brother. This is quite a long one but stick with it. I asked him to choose 5 quintessentially British things. The next two episodes are shorter as we deal with just 3 things each. But this time it’s 5 and this is what happened, and you should know there is sporadic swearing throughout this conversation, so bear that in mind depending on who you are listening to this with. Check out the page for this episode on the website to see loads of videos and links for the 5 things we talk about.
James’ 5 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about)
1. Alan Moore
Writing, publishing, creating, the business of creating and selling books and magazines. Magic, art, politics, religion and the ethical complexity of superheroes in the real world.
2. Viz Comics
3. The Harrington Jacket
4. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott
5. The Fast Show
There you go, plenty of stuff to check out including interviews with Alan Moore, Viz comics which you can get from the local shop if you’re in the UK, The Fast Show with some videos online, books by Jake Arnott,
All that remains to be said is thanks to James for appearing in another episode. The next one is going to be with my dad and he has picked 3 quintessentially British things, then my Mum will be on the podcast with her three choices.
Thanks as ever for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon!
638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad
639. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Mum
My friend Emina Tuzovic has learned English to a proficient level as a non-native speaker of the language. She says it has been “a long journey”. Let’s find out all about that journey of English learning in this conversation, recorded in London just a couple of days ago.
Today on the podcast I am talking to my friend Emina Tuzovic, who is an English teacher.
For ages and ages I have been meaning to have Emina on this podcast for 3 main reasons:
1. Emina is absolutely lovely and it’s just nice to spend time talking with her, plus there’s plenty I’d like to find out from her that I’ve never really asked her before. That’s a benefit of the podcast, it gives me a chance to have in-depth conversations that often just don’t happen otherwise.
2. She is a non-native speaker of English who has learned the language to a proficient level – good enough to do a masters, a PhD, and to teach English at a very high level, to deliver workshops and seminars and just to live in the UK for a good length of time. So, she must have some valuable insights and experiences about learning English because she’s done it herself, but also about the cultural experience of moving to London and living there for what must be about 15 years at least I think.
3. She is a very well-qualified and experienced English teacher and so I am sure she has loads of insights into learning English from that point of view too, including certain areas of specialist knowledge as a result of her academic studies, including things like the challenges faced by native speakers of Arabic when they learn English. I’ve never talked about Arabic speakers of English on the podcast, so hello to all my Arabic speaking listeners (or should that be marhabaan.
As I said, it’s been quite hard to pin Emina down and interview her – mainly because our timetables are different, I live in Paris, she lives in London and she goes to bed so early in the evening. Thankfully the universe has finally allowed it to happen, here at the London School of English in Holland Park, London. This is where I used to work and where Emina still does work.
So the aim here is to have a long(ish) and natural conversation with Emina, touching on topics like learning English, cultural differences in the UK, teaching English and her academic studies in linguistics.
Rambling on my own about all sorts of things including Brexit news, describing my recording setup and microphones, a book recommendation for you, comments about the Beatles Abbey Road 50th Anniversary, the latest Star Wars Episode 9 trailer and Bill Bailey dissecting music in a brilliant way.
Hello listeners and welcome to episode 614. In this episode I’m going to continue reading through this online text adventure that I started in episode 612. This should be the 3rd and final part of this murder mystery story.
You have to listen to parts 1 and 2 first before you listen to this. They are episodes 612 and 613. If you don’t listen to them first, none of this will make any sense, ok!
So I’m assuming you’ve heard those two parts.
Let’s just recap the story quickly.
We’re on the hunt for the killers of 3 prominent academics in London 1861. Intelligent and brilliant people keep turning up dead, completely naked and with their hearts torn out.
After lots of investigation by us (a brilliant Holmes-style detective) and our partner Mardler, we’ve worked out that the killings have been done by a weird religious cult that worships King Cobras and likes to eat the hearts of people as a way of absorbing their intelligence. So they’ve been preying on academics, scientists, surgeons, historians and so on.
We’ve managed to catch two of the principle murderers – a wealthy member of the upper-classes, a woman posing as a nurse in local hospital and now we are on the tracks of the main bad guy, an old man by the name of Lynch who we suspect is currently holding a French intellectual hostage with a plan to murder him and eat his heart in the next few hours. Earlier in the story we got shot and had to jump out of a window so we are nursing an injury and not at our full strength.
We’ve managed to track down Lynch to a house outside London and now we are about to enter the house and hopefully save the life of the French man and bring Lynch to justice. Let’s see what happens next and what kind of score I’m going to get at the end of this game!
I have a feeling that we’re getting close to the end of the story, based on how it’s going. I reckon this should be finished in the next 15-30 minutes, but we will see. If there is time in this episode I will go through a list of vocabulary items that I’ve picked up from the story.
By the way, there are videos for episodes 612, 613 and hopefully this one available for Premium subscribers. You can see me reading through the story, and there are also some bonus extras including a song in 613 part 2. Sign up to LEP premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Right, let’s carry on then!
an acclaimed historian
the odour of varnish
a furrowed brow
I thought I had you for a minute
bags under your eyes
gutted like an animal
She has blisters on her left fingertips from the strings
Gray rummagesthrough his desk drawer for a moment
Marilyn is taken aback
Marilyn hastily digs through her bag
her hand returns clutching two ticket stubs
This is a pretty good alibi, assuming we can hear from some witnesses that confirm her whereabouts
you don’t rule her out as a suspect entirely just yet
birch tree pollen
They got into a violent scuffle
scraping your palms on the hard road
You stumble back onto your feet and catch up with Mardler
sweat forming on your brow
sprint across the road
tripping on a discarded piece of garbage
Dilated pupils, bloody nose, hoarse voice
lurking at Hollowleaf Hospital, he’s trying to score some drugs
Dr Yates slumps down on the ground, defeated
Another dead end!
footprints on the floor
following the faintfootprints
a bruise on Julian’s face
The floorboards creak noisily as you walk over them
you tackle him to the ground
Most of the doctors and nurses have gone home for the night, but a few stragglers are left caring for the sick and wounded.
You wince in pain.
Your kneecap and head are throbbing.
Sorry I have to ambush you like this
Crisp morning air fills your nostrils
You feel winded by the time you reach Palomer’s door
a shard of glass
Mardler ponders your theory.
He was brushing up on German translations when we saw him last