Category Archives: Science

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 👇 

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

843. The Birth of Our Son

Talking to my wife (and daughter) about the birth of our son, who came into the world just a few weeks ago. We describe what happened, and explain how it feels to become parents for the second time. This is a very personal, first-hand account of childbirth and the experience of bringing a child into the world. Watch out for the language of childbirth and children which has previously been explained in episodes 162, 491, 492 and 814.

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Previous episodes on this subject, including specific vocabulary explanations:

161. She’s Having a Baby (with Amber Minogue) | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast 

162. Having Babies: Vocabulary / A Male Perspective | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast (Vocabulary Explanations included)

491. Becoming a Dad (with Andy & Ben) Part 1 (Vocabulary Explanations included)

492. Becoming a Dad (with Andy & Ben) Part 2 (Vocabulary Explanations included)

502. The Birth of My Daughter | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

515. Becoming “Maman” with Amber & Sarah – Bringing Up Children The French Way

597. Growing Up / Getting Older / Becoming a Father (with Paul Taylor) 

814. The Language of Children & Parenting (with Anna Tyrie / English Like a Native) (Vocabulary Explanations included)

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 👇

799. The True Story of a LEPster’s Waking Nightmare (and how LEP came to the rescue) Email Story

Sharing a disturbing true story sent in by a LEPster by email. This episode contains some slightly scary and graphic descriptions of nightmare scenarios, visions, hallucinations and bad dreams, but there is a happy ending. Video version also available.

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Video Version with text on screen

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Episode Transcript

Iñaki’s Nightmare (and how LEP came to the rescue)

Hello listeners, welcome back to the podcast. In this episode I’m going to tell you the terrifying true story of a LEPster who went through a horrible nightmare but was rescued thanks to LEP. 

This episode is based on an email I received a while ago (quite a long time ago now). I have been meaning to read this out on the podcast for some time now and I am glad to say that today is the day I am doing it. 

I feel compelled to share this story with you and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

LEP Ninjas

I often talk about LEP Ninjas on this podcast and complain that the vast majority of my listeners never get in touch with me, and I wonder who you are, what you’re doing while you’re listening and what this all means to you. 

I often say that, but in fact I must say that I do get a lot of correspondence from listeners in various forms – episode comments, tweets, YouTube comments and emails. I love receiving your messages because it really helps me to know that there are people on the other end of this podcast – not just numbers but people, receiving my words and connecting with what I say. 

Every now and then I receive a message that I simply have to stop and respond to there and then, even if I’m in the street or something, and there are also some emails which I feel I must share on the podcast with my audience. This is one of those emails. 

I absolutely felt compelled to share this particular email with you, and felt it had to be in an episode of its own. So here we go.

It’s a compelling story which you might find fascinating, stories are good for learning English, as we know, I’m sure little bits of language teaching will come up here, and in this particular story I emerge as the hero who saves the day! So, naturally I am delighted to let the world hear it! (haha)

A slightly disturbing story

Some people might find this story a bit disturbing because it involves descriptions of surgery. So this is a heads up about that. 

There are references to some physical, body related stuff, but also some slightly disturbing mental images too – some nightmarish visions and bad dreams, let’s say. 

You’ll just have to listen to the story to understand what I’m referring to, but FYI the story has some slightly disturbing moments.

I should also say that this story has a happy ending. Things turn out fine in the end. So, if this makes you anxious, then don’t worry, the story ends in a happy place. 

So, without any further ado, let’s just get straight to the email which I received from a listener called Iñaki.

I’m going to read it out as it was sent to me. It’s very well-written, but I might make a few changes here and there – I will correct one or two little errors relating to vocabulary or grammar.

Also I will comment on certain words in this story to help you learn some things as we go.

Inaki’s Email

Email
Message: Hi Luke:
How are you doing? My name is Iñaki and I am writing from San Sebastian, in the north of Spain.

First of all I’d like to thank you for your podcast. I started listening to it some six months ago because my wife recommended it to me (she’s been a premium subscriber for a year or so). 
I have been listening to you ever since because I think what you do is very entertaining and interesting and I think that my English gets better too.

I know what I am about to tell you looks a bit boring in the beginning but please keep on reading because you show up in the middle of the story.

On the 29th of March I got a surgery operation to cure my apnea. 

For your information, this operation took around 6 hours while I had general anesthesia. 

They cut both sides of my jaw. Also they cut below my nose to move the position of my palate. Then they put everything together again in another (slightly different) position by using some screws. 

All of this sounds a big frightening but it is a very usual operation with very low risk. All the surgery is done from inside your mouth so it doesn’t leave scars. 

I took the decision to go ahead and everything went OK, and now I am fine at home and getting recovered but it is also true that when I woke up I felt a bit lost and my mind was not thinking straight and this was the most difficult part of my recovery.

So my operation was on a Monday at 08:00 and I woke up on Tuesday at 13:00. The doctor told me that the operation went fine. After, when my wife came to visit me she also said that the operation had gone right. 

So why did I think that this was not true? Why did I start to suspect that something very bad had occurred during the operation? 

I can’t quite explain since I don’t think I am such a negative person or I am not so hypochondriac. 

But the truth is that my mind freaked out quite seriously and my paranoia was that the doctor had committed a fatal mistake during surgery and now all the doctors and nurses were backing one another up to hide this mistake. 

Since this idea was on my mind I couldn’t let it go and it only went bigger and bigger. All of the things I heard or saw fitted perfectly in MY reality. For example, a nurse said to me “Iñaki, why are you so sad? The operation has been v… successful”. So my head went: “why successful? Why not VERY successful? Why did she start the word VERY but she didn’t finish it?”

And this went on and on without control. My wife was with me all the time and she did a great job but still she didn’t manage to get these ideas out of my head.
Monday night I was totally sedated with the anesthesia. 
Tuesday night I couldn’t sleep (and I mean not even a minute) because I was so frightened…
Tuesday and Wednesday I couldn’t eat anything.

So by Wednesday evening I was exhausted due to the lack of rest and food. This didn’t help my mind get stronger. So on Wednesday evening I was quite certain that their plan was to let me die on medication. 

I could feel that my wife had taken part in that decision. I thought that the idea was that since my life was not going to be worth living it onward, they decided to let me go. 
Of course, now I see that it didn’t make any sense at all but my mind was not able to work better than that on Wednesday evening.

I accepted this idea and I decided to be collaborative in the process. They gave me medication to calm me down and I could feel that my mind was even more clumsy. My wife told me once and again that the most important thing was to rest, to sleep. In this way the next day I would feel stronger. 

For me this was a soft way of saying: “If you calm down and you get to sleep soon, then your death will be more pleasant”. 

This sounds terrible to me now but I also think: in some situations in your life you need to lie to the ones you love in order to protect them, don’t you? 

I mean, what would my girl tell me in a situation where I really was about to die? Would she clearly say it? Would she tell me straight? I don’t know…

I tried to sleep but this was very difficult because when I closed my eyes I could see some horrible images. 

These images were not dreams. 

All the time I knew that I was in the hospital and my wife was beside me. So I guess the images were a result of the medication and also my lack of strength.

The images were really terrifying. All the scenarios were dark, humid and steamy. In many of these images there were thick fluids (black, brown, dark grey…) flowing in different directions. 

Among these ugly liquids there were macabre things floating: a pig’s mask, the face of my son in the 3D radiography when he was still in his mum’s belly, bones, parts of bodies…. 
I could also see parts of machinery like gears or parts of motors. These metal parts were broken and I was looking at them from very close and I had the feeling that they were looking at me, judging me… and it didn’t feel good. 

Also crazy things like a kid crawling on the ceiling (clearly inspired by the film Trainspotting) or even me crawling on the ceiling. In another moment I was like a video camera up in space and suddenly I went down to the earth, to England and I ended up inside Brian Jones’ swimming pool and I could see his corpse from the inside of the water. 

I also had to say no to entering inside tunnels with a light in the end. A couple of times I was brave enough to go inside the tunnels because I thought“OK, this must be it, let’s end it all now”. But then nothing happened….

With all these images in my mind I was not getting calmer, my breathing was out of control and I couldn’t sleep. This took like 2 or 3 hours, I think.

Then my wife came up with a new idea. She said: “Iñaki, what about listening to that episode of Luke’s podcast that you liked a lot? That one in which he read the short story by Roald Dahl? Maybe that’s going to calm you down….”. 

Honestly, I didn’t believe that this would work but at least it was something different and since I was desperate I agreed that it was worth giving it a try.

When I heard your voice, the images automatically changed to something different. I started listening to your words, but since the images where suddenly very nice I was paying more and more attention to them and even if I could hear your voice in the background I wasn’t listening to your words anymore. 

Now the images where very colourful ones. For example I saw some based on cartoons that my kids see on the TV. 

I remember seeing characters of the series “True and the Rainbow Kingdom” and “The Octonauts”. I also saw some very nice cartoons in the style of Sgt. Pepper’s artwork and the Yellow Submarine film. 

Among these “visions” I remember one in particular. It was very pleasant and it stayed for a while: there where some magic carpets with stripes of very beautiful colours. They were floating in the air and my 6 year old twins were jumping on them and using them as slides.

They were laughing and having so much fun. 

Mixed up with this action I could see pictures floating around in the air. These were pictures of the 4 members of the family together: my wife, the kids and me…..
When your voice stopped because the chapter ended I noticed it. I was conscious for the first time that my breathing was very calm. I also was conscious that I was thinking in a more positive way. I was thinking: “OK, maybe I don’t have to die tonight”. Since my breathing was calmer and my mind was calmer too I got more relaxed and I finally managed to get to sleep. 

That night I slept and woke up many times but I think I got to sleep a total of around 3 hours.
Early next morning, at around 6:00 am I listened to birds singing. It made me feel good because by then I was totally convinced that I would hear that sound many times in the future. 

I was also a bit ashamed that my mind had been so confused and I made my wife suffer so much. I thought a lot about you too and I felt grateful that you helped me in my recovery. 
I was also grateful that my wife came up with this great idea which really made the difference. 

But, of course, my mind was mainly with my kids. Can you imagine the infinite happiness of knowing that I would be able to hug them again when only a few hours back I thought the opposite?

All of these words are only to explain to you how I went through a very rough situation and how you helped me get out of it. The moment I heard your voice is the exact moment that I started to get out of this horrible hole I was locked up in. So in the end all of this is only to say thank you. Just because it makes me feel good to do so.
Thanks Luke!!!
Iñaki

Luke: Summarise the story in your own way, in your own words.

Iñaki and I exchanged a couple of emails after this and he said he was happy for me to read this out on the podcast. 

Here is my response.

Hi Iñaki,

I’m glad you’re ok with me reading out your story on the podcast. I think it’s absolutely fascinating, and of course I’m always happy to tell the world any story in which I emerge as the hero!! 

Joking aside, your experience must have been absolutely terrifying and horrendous and I am genuinely amazed and pleased that the sound of my voice was reassuring for you in those moments.

I don’t know if you’ve heard my Sick In Japan episode (episode 118 – I think). I ended up in hospital in Japan once. I felt dreadful and I didn’t really know why I was there because I didn’t really understand what the doctor was saying. Thankfully it turned out that I was not seriously ill, but the first couple of nights were very frightening because I felt very bad and my diagnosis was lost in translation. \

I thought I was seriously ill and was afraid that I might die. I felt very paranoid and had to work hard to keep my mind calm. Like I mentioned – my experience wasn’t quite as bad as yours, but still – I have a slight sense of what your experience must have been like, and it’s incredible to me that the sound of my voice helped you to get through it. It’s flattering to know that, but also very reassuring and encouraging that my podcast can bring comfort to someone.

I also think your story is very compelling and well-described, so I think it should be fascinating for the LEPsters to hear it. 

And, I truly believe that bad experiences become a little better in our minds when we turn them into stories which we can share. 

You certainly have a great story there, and I think my audience are the perfect people to appreciate it.

So, I’m very glad you’re happy to let me share it. Hopefully it will provide something gripping for the audience and I really hope you enjoy hearing me read it out on the podcast.
Congratulations on your English too by the way. You described the story very specifically and clearly. 

In any case, I’m glad to hear that you’re basically back to normal again.
Thank you for sharing your story with me. I read it again this morning and I found it very moving – especially the moments when the joy and colour came back into your mind when you listened to my episode, particularly the visions of your happy family. 

Have a great week, and all the best to you.

Some words & phrases to review

  • A compelling story
  • A waking nightmare
  • A vivid dream
  • To have surgery
  • To have an operation
  • To have a local anaesthetic
  • To have a general anaesthetic
  • An anaesthetist
  • To anaesthetise 
  • Jaw
  • Palate
  • Hypochondriac
  • Sedated
  • To (not) think straight
  • To suspect that something is happening/has happened
  • Paranoia / paranoid
  • To back someone up 
  • To manage to do something
  • To tell something/someone straight
  • Macabre
  • Breathing / breath

Ending

Thanks again to Inaki for providing that story.

Quite a scary one!

I often wonder where you are and what you’re doing while you’re listening to this podcast, and if you have a similar story, don’t be a ninja – let me know in the comment section.

But for now, it’s time to say bye bye bye bye bye

794. The Surprising Power of Reading Aloud (Article) 📖🗣️

Reading out loud can have lots of surprising benefits for our memory and our mental health. How can it also help with your English? In this episode I read an article to you, help you understand it and give comments on the importance of reading, both quietly in your head, and out loud. Video version and full transcript available.

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Video Version (with on-screen text)

https://youtu.be/JLaeBWgodhA

Read the article on the BBC Future website here https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200917-the-surprising-power-of-reading-aloud


Download the full PDF transcript for this episode


Full Episode Transcript 👇

Hello listeners,

Welcome to this new episode. This one is about reading and the power of reading aloud (reading out loud) and I think it can definitely help you with your English in various ways. Stick with me, there’s a lot to discover here.

I found an article the other day on the BBC’s website and I thought it was really interesting and definitely something I could turn into an episode of this podcast. 

I am going to read the article to you in this episode. You can read it with me if you like. The link for the article is in the description, or if you are watching the video version you will see the text on the screen. 

I’ll help you understand it all, we’ll consider the main points being made by the writer, I’ll give my thoughts on how this all relates to learning English and I’ll point out some bits of vocabulary for you to learn along the way.

Reading out loud ← what does this mean?

Normally when we read, we read silently. We read in our heads. 📖👀

But when we read out loud we actually say the words we are reading with our voice so that other people can hear you. 🗣️ That’s what out loud means.

Aloud and out loud are synonyms.

  • To read out loud (I had to read out loud in front of my class during my French lesson and it was a bit embarrassing)
  • To say something out loud (Don’t say that out loud, it’s supposed be a secret!)
  • To think out loud (What are you talking about? Oh, sorry, never mind, I’m just thinking out loud really)
  • To laugh out loud (LOL)

The Article

The title of the article I found is The Surprising Power of Reading Aloud, and I found it in the “Future” section of the BBC’s website. 

BBC Future https://www.bbc.com/future/ 

BBC Future is a section of the BBC website where you can read some really interesting articles about lots of different subjects. 

The articles are written in an academic style (so we are looking at academic English here to an extent), but these articles are very readable and they are exactly the type of reading text that you might find in an IELTS reading test. You often find academic texts about scientific subjects, or history, or psychology in IELTS tests.

So, it would be really good practice for you to read articles like this on a regular basis, whether you are preparing for IELTS or you’re just interested in developing your English generally. The articles on BBC Future are quite advanced – they are for native English speakers, but with a good dictionary and a bit of motivation, they could really help your English. 

I’m going to help you do that in this episode with this particular article. I’ll take you through it and will explain things.

Let’s get started.

Before we start reading, I’ve got two tasks for you (and they’re important)

1st task: Consider some questions

Here are some questions to get you thinking 🧐🤔💭

I want you to consider these questions because this will get you in the right mental space to understand the article we’re going to read. It’s important to do this because this is how you get your mind ready before you read. So, consider these questions (below).

If you like you can pause this episode after I say these questions in order to actually answer them, in your own head or out loud. 

Saying your answers out loud would be the best thing to do – to practise your speaking and putting your thoughts into words. So, if you can do that, do that, right now, with these questions.

Questions to consider before reading

  1. When was the last time you read something in English? What was it, and why did you read it?
  2. When you read in English or in your first language, do you usually read silently in your head or do you read out loud? Why?
  3. In what situations do people sometimes read out loud? 
  4. Do you think reading out loud is more or less common these days than it used to be?
    Do people read out loud more these days, or did they do that more in the past?
    Why could this be?
  5. Can you remember a time when someone read something out loud to you?
    What was the situation? How did it make you feel?
  6. How about when you were a child? Can you remember any moments when someone read out loud to you? How do you feel about those memories?
  7. What do you think is better for your English – reading texts silently in your head, reading texts out loud, or listening to other people read out loud to you? Why?

2nd task: Read the text 📖

Here’s a reading task for you 

Before I read this article to you, I want you to read it yourself. Twice

🔗 link in the description 🔗

First, read the text silently, then try reading it out loud.

You don’t have to read the whole thing. Maybe just do the first few paragraphs if you prefer. 

But try it. Go on.

Read it silently first, then read it out loud.

Try not to sound like a robot 🤖

Put some life into the reading ❤️‍🔥

If/When you read it out loud, consider these questions. you .

  • Where are the pauses? Where should you pause when you read? 
  • Which words in each line should be stressed (emphasised)?
  • Where does the voice go up and where does the voice go down? 
  • How would you read it out like a TV presenter or a university lecturer?

Imagine you are reading this out for an audience. 

It might affect the way you read it. 🗣️

You can do that now. The link to the article is in the description. 

Read it – first silently, and then out loud like a presenter.

I’ll let you pause the episode right now and do that. I’ll continue speaking to you again in a moment.

– – – –  

This is where you pause to read the article

 – – – –

OK, welcome back. I know some of you didn’t pause the episode and read the text, which is totally fine.

But some of you did. Nice one.

I wonder how it was for you. 

Was difficult or not? 

Was it difficult to read the text?

It’s a different experience isn’t it, reading it out loud. 

It has its own challenges. 

Unknown vocabulary, difficult pronunciation, understanding the overall flow and structure of the text.

Now, let me read the article to you. You can read it with me too, or just listen. It’s up to you. 

I’ve broken the text into sections. I’ll read a section of the article, then paraphrase what I read, add my comments and explain some words. Then we’ll move to the next section.

Whenever there’s a break in the text like this, it’s the end of a section.

– – – – – – – – –

When that happens, I’ll stop and explain things, then we’ll move on to the next section.

You’ll see some words highlighted in bold. These are words that you might not know, so I’ll explain them as we go. 

Try reading aloud with me to work on your pronunciation if you like.

BBC FUTURE: NEUROSCIENCE

Why you should read this out loud

By Sophie Hardach /ˈhædək/ 18th September 2020

Most adults retreat into a personal, quiet world inside their heads when they are reading, but we may be missing out on some vital benefits when we do this.

For much of history, reading was a fairly noisy activity. On clay tablets written in ancient Iraq and Syria some 4,000 years ago, the commonly used words for “to read” literally meant “to cry out” or “to listen”. 

“I am sending a very urgent message,” says one letter from this period. “Listen to this tablet. If it is appropriate, have the king listen to it.”

Only occasionally, a different technique was mentioned: to “see” a tablet – to read it silently.

Today, silent reading is the norm. The majority of us bottle the words in our heads as if sitting in the hushed confines of a library. Reading out loud is largely reserved for bedtime stories and performances.

But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds. The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. And far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Many of us intuitively use it as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word, and are just not aware of it.

– – – – – 1/10 – – – – –

Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has extensively researched the impact of reading aloud on memory. He and his collaborators have shown that people consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This memory-boosting effect of reading aloud is particularly strong in children, but it works for older people, too. “It’s beneficial throughout the age range,” he says.

MacLeod has named this phenomenon the “production effect”. It means that producing written words – that’s to say, reading them out loud – improves our memory of them.

– – – – – 2/10 – – – – –

The production effect has been replicated in numerous studies spanning more than a decade.

In one study in Australia, a group of seven-to-10-year-olds were presented with a list of words and asked to read some silently, and others aloud. Afterwards, they correctly recognised 87% of the words they’d read aloud, but only 70% of the silent ones.

In another study, adults aged 67 to 88 were given the same task – reading words either silently or aloud – before then writing down all those they could remember. They were able to recall 27% of the words they had read aloud, but only 10% of those they’d read silently. When asked which ones they recognised, they were able to correctly identify 80% of the words they had read aloud, but only 60% of the silent ones. MacLeod and his team have found the effect can last up to a week after the reading task.

– – – – – 3/10 – – – – –

Even just silently mouthing the words makes them more memorable, though to a lesser extent.

Researchers at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank discovered that the memory-enhancing effect also works if the readers have speech difficulties, and cannot fully articulate the words they read aloud.

MacLeod says one reason why people remember the spoken words is that “they stand out, they’re distinctive, because they were done aloud, and this gives you an additional basis for memory”.

We are generally better at recalling distinct, unusual events, and also, events that require active involvement

For instance, generating a word in response to a question makes it more memorable, a phenomenon known as the generation effect

Similarly, if someone prompts you with the clue “a tiny infant, sleeps in a cradle, begins with b”, and you answer baby, you’re going to remember it better than if you simply read it, MacLeod says.

– – – – – 4/10 – – – – –

Another way of making words stick is to enact them, for instance by bouncing a ball (or imagining bouncing a ball) while saying “bounce a ball”. 

This is called the enactment effect. Both of these effects are closely related to the production effect: they allow our memory to associate the word with a distinct event, and thereby make it easier to retrieve later.

– – – – – 5/10 – – – – –

The production effect is strongest if we read aloud ourselves. But listening to someone else read can benefit memory in other ways. In a study led by researchers at the University of Perugia in Italy, students read extracts from novels to a group of elderly people with dementia over a total of 60 sessions. The listeners performed better in memory tests after the sessions than before, possibly because the stories made them draw on their own memories and imagination, and helped them sort past experiences into sequences. “It seems that actively listening to a story leads to more intense and deeper information processing,” the researchers concluded.

Reading aloud can also make certain memory problems more obvious, and could be helpful in detecting such issues early on. 

In one study, people with early Alzheimer’s disease were found to be more likely than others to make certain errors when reading aloud.

– – – – – 6/10 – – – – –

There is some evidence that many of us are intuitively aware of the benefits of reading aloud, and use the technique more than we might realise.

Sam Duncan, an adult literacy researcher at University College London, conducted a two-year study of more than 500 people all over Britain during 2017-2019 to find out if, when and how they read aloud. Often, her participants would start out by saying they didn’t read aloud – but then realised that actually, they did.

“Adult reading aloud is widespread,” she says. “It’s not something we only do with children, or something that only happened in the past.”

Some said they read out funny emails or messages to entertain others. Others read aloud prayers and blessings for spiritual reasons. Writers and translators read drafts to themselves to hear the rhythm and flow. People also read aloud to make sense of recipes, contracts and densely written texts.

“Some find it helps them unpack complicated, difficult texts, whether it’s legal, academic, or Ikea-style instructions,” Duncan says. “Maybe it’s about slowing down, saying it and hearing it.”

– – – – – 7/10 – – – – –

For many respondents, reading aloud brought joy, comfort and a sense of belonging. Some read to friends who were sick or dying, as “a way of escaping together somewhere”, Duncan says. One woman recalled her mother reading poems to her, and talking to her, in Welsh. After her mother died, the woman began reading Welsh poetry aloud to recreate those shared moments. A Tamil speaker living in London said he read Christian texts in Tamil to his wife. On Shetland, a poet read aloud poetry in the local dialect to herself and others.

“There were participants who talked about how when someone is reading aloud to you, you feel a bit like you’re given a gift of their time, of their attention, of their voice,” Duncan recalls. “We see this in the reading to children, that sense of closeness and bonding, but I don’t think we talk about it as much with adults.”

– – – – – 8/10 – – – – –

If reading aloud delivers such benefits, why did humans ever switch to silent reading? One clue may lie in those clay tablets from the ancient Near East, written by professional scribes in a script called cuneiform /ˈkjuːnɪˌfɔːm/.

Over time, the scribes developed an ever faster and more efficient way of writing this script. Such fast scribbling has a crucial advantage, according to Karenleigh Overmann, a cognitive archaeologist at the University of Bergen, Norway who studies how writing affected human brains and behaviour in the past. “It keeps up with the speed of thought much better,” she says.

Reading aloud, on the other hand, is relatively slow due to the extra step of producing a sound.

“The ability to read silently, while confined to highly proficient scribes, would have had distinct advantages, especially, speed,” says Overmann. “Reading aloud is a behaviour that would slow down your ability to read quickly.”

– – – – – 9/10 – – – – –

In his book on ancient literacy, Reading and Writing in Babylon, the French assyriologist Dominique Charpin quotes a letter by a scribe called Hulalum that hints at silent reading in a hurry. Apparently, Hulalum switched between “seeing” (ie, silent reading) and “saying/listening” (loud reading), depending on the situation. In his letter, he writes that he cracked open a clay envelopeMesopotamian tablets came encased inside a thin casing of clay to prevent prying eyes from reading them – thinking it contained a tablet for the king.

“I saw that it was written to [someone else] and therefore did not have the king listen to it,” writes Hulalum.

Perhaps the ancient scribes, just like us today, enjoyed having two reading modes at their disposal: one fast, convenient, silent and personal; the other slower, noisier, and at times more memorable.

In a time when our interactions with others and the barrage of information we take in are all too transient, perhaps it is worth making a bit more time for reading out loud. Perhaps you even gave it a try with this article, and enjoyed hearing it in your own voice?

– – – – – 10/10 – – – – –


Conclusion

As a language practice exercise, try reading texts out loud. 

You don’t have to do it all the time, but simply trying to read a text out loud as if you are reading it to some people, can be a good exercise. 

Research suggests that it could help you remember words more effectively. The production effect means – producing words (saying them out loud) makes a difference to your ability to remember them later. Even just mouthing words when you read them helps them to go into your brain.

So, read aloud and mouth words when you read them.

Also, being prompted with a clue helps you remember words. This is called the generation effect. This encourages me a lot, because it confirms things I have been doing as a teacher, including in LEP Premium episodes when I use little prompts to help you recall words. For you, you could always create your own clues to help you remember words or phrases, or play word games in English in which you define words and then have to guess which words they are. Do this with new vocabulary. Of course, you would need friends or language partners to play with.

Acting words out, or linking them to physical movements also helps you remember words. So, when trying to remember words, add a physical element somehow, even if it means imagining yourself doing the word or being in a certain physical space when thinking of new words. For example if the expression is “to be wary of doing something” – put your hand to your chin and pretend you are being nervous about something or reluctant to do it. Make a sound like “Naaaaaaah, I’m a bit wary of doing that”. Perhaps imagine yourself at the end of a dark street and say “I’m a bit wary of going down there on my own. I think I’ll take the main road.”

Listening to other people read to you also helps a lot. So, the conclusion here is just keep listening to LEP of course! I am sure this works when someone is just speaking to you as well, especially if you are involved and caught up in what they are saying. That’s what I’ve always thought and I am sure scientific research would suggest that it’s true. My hypothesis is that people will remember more L2 words when they are presented in a meaningful context. It’s pretty obvious really. 

Reading aloud might be good for your mental health. It seems that the exercise can reveal signs of dementia. Maybe reading aloud does require quite a lot of brain work – not only are you reading and decoding the words, but your brain is involved in some motor exercise too – meaning, muscle work, movement work. Surely, making your brain multi-task like this can only be good as a way of keeping it active. Brain training, basically. 

It’s a good way to keep your brain young.

Reading aloud also makes you feel quite good, especially if you do it with others. It could be a good exercise with other learners of English, or with your English teacher. Of course, don’t only read aloud, but include it as part of your regular English practice. It’s especially enjoyable if you are reading out some interesting texts, and try to mix it up – some non-fiction stuff and also some stories and so on.

When you read aloud, consider where you need to chunk the text, pause, emphasise and use intonation.

Reading texts out loud is something I often do with my students in class. I ask my students to work out where the pauses should be, which words to emphasise and where the voice goes up or down. 

This exercise reveals things about the text, including the structure and the real meanings and intentions of the writer.

Try reading aloud from time to time. Also try reading out loud with me, at the same time as me sometimes (if there is a transcript with the episode). It might help you notice more aspects of the language in the text, help you remember it more, and help you practice your pronunciation as well as your reading. It might also just make you feel good.

What do you think?

  • Leave your comments below. 
  • What have you been thinking while listening to this?
  • Has it given you any ideas about learning English?
  • Do you have anything to add?

Put your thoughts into English in the comment section.


A Premium Series 

I’m also publishing a 3-part premium series all about the language in this episode. It’ll be available soon or maybe it’s already available now. I’m going to record them right away in fact. They are the next things I’m going to record.

In those premium episodes I will go through the vocabulary which I highlighted in the text again, and I’ll expand things with slightly more detailed explanations and examples, then I’ll test your memory of those words and phrases (with some prompts and some sentences with missing words) and give you a chance to practise pronouncing all the words in sentences. 

There will also be an episode where we practise reading aloud some of the paragraphs from the text, with advice about where to pause, which words to emphasise and so on, with sentences to repeat after me.

To get those episodes, sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+. You can add the premium episodes to your podcasting app, and also access PDFs and video versions that way. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium for the premium series focusing on the language in this episode.


That’s it for this episode, but I will be back soon with more things for you to listen to, including more stories which I would like to read to you, and conversations with guests, and all the other types of episode I like to present to you on my show.

Thanks for listening, but for now – good bye bye bye!

746. Karl Pilkington’s 3-Minute Wonders / Manchester Accent

Understand English as it is spoken by native speakers. Let’s listen to Karl Pilkington rambling about life, the universe & everything, and see what we can understand and learn. Karl is from Manchester, so we’ll be looking at some features of his accent, picking up plenty of vocabulary and having a bit of a laugh along the way.

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Full Episode Transcript

Hello LEPsters,

Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing today? 

In this episode we’re going to do some intensive listening and use it as a chance to learn some vocabulary and pronunciation.

This episode should be a bit of a laugh as we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of Karl Pilkington and listen to his thoughts on some big issues like health, food, animals, holidays and just existence itself.

We’ll be looking at the different features of his Manchester accent, and there will be lots of vocabulary to pick up too as we are covering a range of different topics. You can also consider this as a little intensive listening test, as I will be setting questions that you have to find answers to, then going through each clip in detail and breaking it all down for language.

We last heard about Karl Pilkington on my podcast in episode 656 in which we listened to a couple of his Monkey News stories about a chimp that works on a building site and another chimp that pilots a space rocket. 

Do you remember that? If you don’t, then get the LEP app and listen to episode 656. It was a very popular episode and it should make you laugh out loud on a bus maybe. 

That was pretty funny stuff, and Karl is very funny even though he’s not actually a comedian.

Who is Karl Pilkington?

To be honest, Karl Pilkington was most well-known about 10 years ago
and these days he’s not in the public eye as much as he used to be,
but he’s still a fairly well-known person in the UK, especially for Ricky Gervais fans.

Karl is just an ordinary bloke from Manchester who met comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when he worked for them as a radio producer in London. 

Later, Ricky invited Karl to be on his podcast in order to broadcast his weird ideas and inane ramblings to the whole world, and the rest is history. 

The Ricky Gervais Podcast became a world record-breaker with over 300,000,000 downloads.

In episodes, Ricky, Steve & Karl would talk about big topics like religion, evolution, philosophy, nature, birth and death and Karl would often say some bizarre and hilarious things, apparently without intending to be funny.

Ricky was always slightly obsessed with Karl, and he always described him as “an idiot with a perfectly round head like an orange”. 

After being on Ricky’s podcast, Karl went on to become a fairly well-known figure in the UK, doing more podcasts with Ricky, then TV shows, books and documentaries like “An Idiot Abroad”.

Karl is known for his funny and slightly odd musings and observations about life. 

He comes from a working class background in the Manchester area, and his accent has many of the features that you would expect from that. 

Accent / Pronunciation

We will be going into the specific features of his accent in more detail as we go and this kind of follows on from episode 682 which was all about common features of pronunciation in England which are different to RP.

Which accent should you have?

So this episode is about one of the UK’s regional accents.

You might be thinking – Luke, by doing this episode are you saying that we should all learn to speak like Karl?

I’m not saying that. You can choose your accent, and many learners choose a neutral accent to learn, but it’s not all about learning an accent, it’s also about learning to understand different accents, and learning about the varieties of English that are out there.

So, you might not want to speak like Karl, but I certainly want you to understand Karl and the many millions of other people who speak English in a non-standard way.

So this episode is all about understanding an accent, rather than copying it. But of course you can copy Karl’s Mancunian accent if you like.

Vocabulary

There will also be plenty of vocabulary coming up too as we pick apart the things that Karl says and the way he says them.

You’ll find it listed on the screen on the video version and also presented in text form on the page for this episode on my website.

Video

We’re going to be using a series available on youtube in which Karl ponders certain big questions in just 3 minutes of video, originally broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK as part of their “3 Minute Wonders” series. 

These are short videos in which Karl talks about his fridge, health, food, animals and holidays, covering each topic with his usual ramblings, all delivered in that Manchester accent, know what I mean?

I have about 6 recordings, which are about 3 minutes each (this could become two episodes).

Before I play the recording I’ll give you a little bit of context and I’ll set some questions. 

Then you listen and try to get the answers. 

Then I’ll break it down – listening to each bit again, with some explanations if necessary.

We’ll also pay attention to pronunciation – specifically his Mancunian accent. I’m going to break that down too, exploring the main features of that particular accent.

And I’ll sum up some of the vocab from each clip before moving on to the next one.


#1 Karl on Life

Karl goes around a museum looking at meteorites, dinosaur skeletons and endangered animals (stuffed ones or models) and muses about life in general medical science.

  1. What does Karl wonder about the big bang?
  2. What makes the meteorite room a bit disappointing?
  3. What’s Karl’s main criticism of humanity today?
  4. What does Karl think would happen if a dinosaur got loose and started to “run riot”?
  5. What’s Karl’s main point?

Vocabulary

  • The big bang
  • Did it only seem big because there was no other noise to drown it out at the time?
  • Meteorites (on earth)
  • Meteors (flying in earth’s atmosphere)
  • Asteroids (flying in space)
  • The edge is taken off it because that isn’t the only one.
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • Enough’s enough. If your body is that done in, call it a day.
  • The more we know, the more we interfere.
  • Don’t interfere with nature and that.
  • Even if it was going round running riot they’d go “We don’t want it to go extinct
  • The panda is dying out.

Notes on Karl’s accent

Here’s a summary of the main points regarding Karl’s Manchester accent. 

Many of these features are common in people from the Manchester area, although not all people from Manchester will speak like this, and there are different degrees of it. 

This is certainly Karl’s Manchester accent in any case. 

A lot of what I’m about to say will include things brought up in the episode I did about Key Features of English accents, episode 682.

PRONUNCIATION #1

H dropping

  • Look, how many do you need?
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • She’d had a new lung, a new heart
  • He puts his hand in and goes “Yep, it’s broke”
  • They weren’t doing anything. They weren’t jumping through hoops. (talking about animals in a zoo)
  • I don’t know if it’s cruel or not, to have them in there.
  • I’m 32, I think I’ve got the hang of it.

Glottal stops (/t/ sounds get replaced by /ʔ/ )

  • I’ll have a look at the meteorites.
  • If you’re going to eat a live animal, don’t eat one that’s got eight arms that can get hold of your neck.
  • Let me see them again when they’re better.

Go back to my episode called 682. Features of English Accents, Explained to find out more about glottal stops.


#2 Karl on Health

Karl recounts a conversation he had with a woman about going to the gym.

  1. Does Karl go to the gym?
  2. What does he think of the idea of breathing classes?
  3. What does he think of drinking 7 pints of water a day?
  4. What’s Karl’s argument for not going to the gym? Heart beats, tortoise

Vocabulary

  • I know what’s probably putting you off – the fact that it’s hard work.
  • Breathing classes – I’m 32 I think I’ve got the hang of it
  • My Dad’s like 60-odd. I’ve never seen him drink a pint of water, yet they’re telling us we should have, like, 7 pints a day or something, and then they wonder why there’s a water drought on.
  • They keep coming up with daft ways of keeping fit.
  • Chucking paint at each other. 

PRONUNCIATION #2

/æ/ not /ɑː/ (the “bath/trap split”, again)

Short A sound /æ/ in bath, podcast 

(gas and glass have the same vowel sound in Karl’s Manchester accent).

This is normal across all northern accents, and many accents in the midlands. I would use /ɑː/ because although I lived in the midlands for many years (half my childhood), my accent is mostly from the south because I’ve lived there more and my parents don’t have strong regional accents.

Come to my class. We do breathing classes.

/ʊ/ not /ʌ/

The U sound in but, enough and much.

I pronounce it /ʌ/ but Karl pronounces it more like /ʊ/

Do you go to the gym much? 


#3 Karl on Food

Karl talks about a new trend – eating things which shouldn’t be eaten. 

Coming from England, Karl thinks it’s weird to eat certain things that might be eaten in other cultures, like live octopus, insects, frogs, snails, probably raw meat, raw fish and sushi.

  1. What is the danger of eating a live octopus?
  2. What’s Karl’s issue with kids and food today?
  3. What does Karl think about eating dog?

Vocabulary

  • They choke you. Why would you want to eat that?
  • If we’re eating octopuses, why are dogs getting away with it?

END OF PART 1 – TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2

734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

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Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…

732. Christian from Canguro English returns

Talking to Christian again about some of the themes and controversial opinions he talks about in his YouTube videos, plus some bits about men wearing thongs on the beach, an obsession with rabbits and if Christian was the Donald Trump of English teaching. Video version available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? You are now listening to episode 732, and in this one I am talking again to Christian Saunders from Canguro English.

This is the second time I’m talking to him on the podcast. I previously interviewed Christian in episode 686 last year and got to know him a bit, but I wanted to talk to him again after having seen some of his most recent videos on YouTube about language and language learning.

In his videos Christian often challenges certain assumptions and myths about language learning, and so I thought it might be interesting to talk to him about those things, so I came up with some questions about language, learning language and teaching English on the internet.

There is a video version of this conversation on my YouTube channel too, so don’t forget to check it out and of course to like and subscribe while you’re there.

There’s no more for me to add here in the introduction. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get some good things from it. Once again, Christian’s YouTube channel is called Canguro English and his website is canguroenglish.com

Let’s get started.


So that was Christian from Canguro English. Thanks again to Christian.

And here we are, at the end of yet another episode. I wonder what you thought of the points which came up in that conversation? Feel free to let us know in the comment section or perhaps under the YouTUbe version of this. Where do you stand on things like comprehensible input, workbooks and clickbait titles? Let us know.

For me, this is one of the last episodes I’m recording before officially starting my summer holiday. As usual I have loads of stuff to record and publish before I go away, and I might end up recording some of it while I am back in the UK. But here’s a little overview of what’s in the pipeline right now.

  • A Summer Ramble
  • War of the Worlds
  • P31

So I have my work cut out.

In terms of holiday – we’re going back to the UK to stay at my parents’ place and we will have to deal with the whole quarantine thing, and the day 2 and day 8 testing process and all that. It’s quite annoying. But after we quarantine we will be going to a posh camp site for some “glamping” and generally spending a couple of weeks in the UK.

Meanwhile our new flat in Paris is being demolished (on the inside) and remade to our specifications. Let’s hope that all goes according to plan.

I’ll talk more about this stuff in that rambling episode which is coming up.

In any case, I will speak to you again soon.

But for now, it’s time to say, good bye bye bye…