Category Archives: Social English

669. How to Learn English

Giving you as advice about learning English across the four skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking. Full transcript available.

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Transcript

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Right, let’s get started.

Hello, welcome to my podcast. 

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.

Click here for information about LEP Premium

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.

Receptive Skills / Input

Prof. Stephen Krashen 

This from Wikipedia

Stephen Krashen has a PhD. in Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles.[2] He has more than 486 publications, contributing to the fields of second-language acquisition, bilingual education, and reading.[3] He is known for introducing various hypotheses related to second-language acquisition, including the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the input hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the affective filter, and the natural order hypothesis.[4] Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second-language acquisition, which he says “is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second.”

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.

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Anyway, what Krashen is saying I suppose is:

Input is vital. This is like your food.

Receptive skills / input

Language has to go in before it comes out.

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.

Reading

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.

Just check Amazon bestsellers or Waterstones.com www.waterstones.com/books/bestsellers for their current lists.

Graded Readers

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. 

So, just read and enjoy it!

Here are some more book recommendations

Book of email correspondence

www.amazon.co.uk/Executive-Guide-mail-Correspondence-Including-ebook/dp/B07J1XGRZ6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=email+correspondence&qid=1592316807&sr=8-1

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.

David Crystal 

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.

Biography

Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny By Nile Rodgers

Fiction

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?

Writing

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

  • Anything
  • A diary
  • 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

Email English by Paul Emmerson

Worksheets www.businessenglishonline.net/resources/email-english-worksheets/

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. 

Other ideas

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.

Vocabulary Notes

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.

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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.

Speaking

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.

The 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.

Thanks for listening.

To sign up to lep premium go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for all the details.

Click here for information about LEP Premium

667. Four Way Call (with Alex, Moz & Paul)

A lockdown Zoom call with my friends Alex, Paul and Moz which should be a fun but challenging listening exercise. Intro & ending transcripts available.

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Transcript (Intro & Ending)

Hello dear listeners and welcome back to the podcast. This episode features a 4-way conversation between three of my friends and me, recorded on Zoom recently (other video conferencing platforms are available), and it’s basically us asking each other questions in a sort of 4-way interview scenario. I think it should be a fun conversation to listen to but I also think it will probably be a challenge for your listening skills. That is what I expect but I will let you find out for yourself.

Upcoming YouTube Live Stream

Before we get started on that, I just want to remind you about the YouTube live stream I’m doing on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM CET.

Did you hear the announcement episode I published at the weekend? Well, if you did, then you’ll know all about this.

I’m doing another YouTube Live Stream on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM Paris time, and you are invited to join me. I’m going to be messing around, answering questions from listeners in the chat, maybe singing a couple of songs with the guitar, and generally just hanging out with my audience on YouTube.

If you can’t make it, the video (and audio) will be published later so you will still be able to watch it or hear it. I’m doing it at 3PM on a Wednesday because my daughter will be in the nursery (or creche as they call it in France – the daycare centre) and so I’m free to get up to some online antics, and at the weekend it’s family time – so, midweek and in the afternoon (my time) is just the right time for me to do it.

Anyway, join me on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM for a YouTube Live “Ask Me Anything / Hang Out with Luke”. To find the specific location on YouTube, check the show notes for this episode and you’ll find a YouTube link or just subscribe to my YouTube channel – that’s Luke’s English Podcast and click the bell icon to receive a notification when I go live.

OK, so that’s that…

This is number 667, and here is my introduction…

This intro is quite long but I’ve done that on purpose to help you understand what I think will be a difficult episode, but if you really prefer, you can skip forward to approximately 22mins but of course if you skip forward you won’t know what you’ve missed and you’ll live the rest of your life thinking “I wonder what Luke said in that introduction to episode 667? What did I miss? And when you’re old and grey and near the end of your life and you’re asked by a grandchild one day, “Do you have any regrets?” you might manage to say “If I have one regret, it’s that I skipped that introduction to episode 667, that’s …that is my only regret in life. I skipped the introduction and I didn’t fully understand that conversation with his friends. I didn’t have sufficient context. A lot of jokes went over my head. Oh, it was confusing and I just gave up on learning English. And that’s when it all went wrong for me. I’m sorry children. It still haunts me to this day. What did he say? What did I miss…? I suppose I’ll never know.” So, if you want that to be you, just skip ahead to 22mins now.

Ok so you’re still with me. You didn’t skip ahead. Excellent choice. You’ll be fine now, for the rest of your life. Everything in your life is just going to slot into place now, just right. It’s going to be perfect from now on. You’ll have no regrets and it’s all going to be roses. Just remember though, when you are sipping cocktails on your own private yacht somewhere in the future. Just remember to thank me, OK.

Introduction

One of the only good things about the coronavirus pandemic lockdown confinement social distancing isolation situation is that it has encouraged people to get in contact with each other more than they normally would. Maybe this is because we’re unable to get together physically (if you know what I mean), so we’re making up for it by calling each other more, or we’re just aware that it’s important to stay connected during this weird time, in order to make ourselves feel a bit better.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you but I’ve been in touch with friends and family more than usual during this time, including my mates Paul Langton, Alex Love and Moz. We’ve had a few Zoom calls together recently just to have fun chatting and also to generally keep our spirits up. Paul, Alex and Moz have all been on the podcast before so I thought it might be fun during one of our Zoom calls for us to reunite on the podcast again, for the first time in years. And that’s what you’re going to hear today. This episode was recorded during the lockdown with me in Paris and the others in their homes in England.

This was recorded 2 or 3 weeks ago when the lockdown was fully in place both in France and the UK.

The four of us first recorded podcasts together at the Brighton Fringe Festival in episodes 104, 105 and 106, then there was the Slightly Drunk Episode (ep 109) and On a Boat (ep226), recorded on Moz’s narrow boat. I wonder if you’ve heard those episodes? Let me know if you remember Paul, Alex, Moz and me sitting on the beach in Brighton and the creation of Luke Johnson, my evil clone. Do you remember us sharing beers inside Moz’s boat one summer evening and talking nonsense in my flat and other weird moments from deep in the episode archive?

Super-duper long term listeners will remember those episodes, but for those that don’t know here is a quick summary of some background context to help you understand this episode a lot more.

Forgive me for rambling on in this introduction (as usual). I know this is long but this kind of context is essential to help language learners understand a conversation between four friends, and listening to a group of friends chatting can be really hard in another language.

So this is all necessary context to help you piece together what you’re going to hear in this episode which will help you enjoy it more and learn more from listening to it.

Background Context

We all first met each other doing comedy in London in 2009 when we did the Amused Moose stand up comedy course run by Logan Murray, which I have mentioned before. That was a series of comedy workshops designed to help us develop basic skills for doing stand up comedy.

After doing that course, we did various comedy gigs together in London and also shows at the Brighton Fringe Festival from 2010 to 2012. That’s a comedy festival in Brighton, a bit like the Edinburgh Fringe but smaller, and in Brighton. Paul, Alex and I were in a show together called Snigger Happy, and Moz did his own shows, in the same venue as us.

Here’s some intel on each person in this conversation.

Paul Langton
Paul was born and brought up in central London and has a London accent. As a stand up comedian in London, Paul used to regularly MC one of London’s best open mic comedy shows, called “Comedy Virgins” at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, South London, and he was also the host of one of the first live-streamed comedy/music shows that I know of, which was called Teaserama (and that was at least 10 years ago), but more recently Paul decided to stop doing stand up comedy. He made a fairly big career move and became a police officer for London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is what he now does on a full time basis, working on London’s streets, fighting crime, a bit like Robocop, if Robocop was actually an Irish man called Rob O’Cop who liked drinking lots of Guinness during his time off.

Paul was on the podcast on his own in episode 349 talking about Marvel and DC superheroes, as he is something of an expert in that kind of thing – basically, he’s a tall police geek with a London accent and a penchant for Guinness.

Alex Love
Alex grew up near Stroud, which is in Gloucestershire, which is in The Cotswolds, which is in the south west midlands, in England. As well as working as a freelance journalist writing articles for newspapers, Alex continues to do stand-up comedy (although not during the lockdown of course). Recently he has been doing a successful show called “How to Win a Pub Quiz” which he has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sold out rooms in recent years. Unfortunately Edinburgh is cancelled this year, leaving Alex with a huge August sized gap in his summer. I say Edinburgh is cancelled. I mean the festival, not the city. The city still exists as far as I’m aware. Alex has also brought his pub quiz show to various other places including a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. He managed to get back home to Stroud in England just before New Zealand closed its borders because of the coronavirus outbreak. This sounded like quite a dramatic escape, which I imagine was pretty much as exciting as that moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo manages to escape from the belly of a huge space worm just before it closes its mouth. Remember that scene? I’m sure taking off in a plane from New Zealand in the nick of time, was exactly like that.

Alex has been on the podcast a few times before, talking about his Edinburgh show, doing a pub quiz with me, and talking about Queen the rock band.

Moz 
Moz used to work for the BBC as a producer of comedy TV shows, and he worked on various shows including one memorable flop called Horne and Corden, a sketch show with James Corden who you might know these days as the presenter of The Late Late Show with James Corden on TV in America. A few years ago Moz changed career a bit and became a writer, podcaster and tour guide, setting up Murder Mile Walks and the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast, both of which are about real murders which occurred in various parts of London. On his tours he takes people round various parts of the city and tells them true stories of grisly murders that happened there in the past. You might remember his previous appearances on this podcast telling the gruesome stories of some of those killings. Moz does loads of research into these crimes using court and police records, in order to describe what really happened in proper detail. This level of research is one of the things that makes Moz’s work unique. The other things are of course Moz’s animal magnetism and his captivating storytelling abilities.

You can hear these stories by listening to the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast (link in the show notes) or by going on one of Moz’s walking tours of London (link also in the show notes). More recently Moz started doing storytelling shows on stage in front of live audiences (rather than dead audiences) that’s until COVID-19 came along of course, putting a stop to those live shows, but his podcast continues. Moz also used to do stand-up comedy with Alex, Paul and me, but his performances were a bit different. In stand up it is normal to be yourself on stage. But Moz always performed in character. He also used a lot of pre-recorded audio. He would record an audio track beforehand and then while the audio played through speakers he would stand on stage in costume and mime his performance without speaking, except maybe for a few noises here and there. One of the characters he used to do was called Sloppy Party Bottom, who was a sort of surreal clown (in the proper French clowning tradition) but that description doesn’t really do it justice at all. It was very funny and very weird. These days Moz lives on a narrow boat on London’s canal network, and yes, he does have a toilet and a shower on his boat, which I assume he uses. I hope he uses them anyway.

Luke
I think you know who I am, but I should remind you that I also do stand-up comedy, although not as regularly as I should and not at all since COVID-19 came along of course. I performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival 3 years running with Alex and Paul in a show that we called Snigger Happy. In 2010 our show was reviewed by Steve Bennet, who is probably the UK’s most well-known comedy reviewer, certainly among comedians. I had a good gig and got quite a good review. Bennet said I had a promising future. Ooh, exciting. 2 years later Bennet unexpectedly reviewed our show again, but I had a truly awful gig that day and died on my arse in front of him and the rest of the audience. Naturally, his 2nd review was not positive at all, quite the opposite. This still stings to this day, when I think about. I promised Steve Bennet that I would have a bright future as a stand up comedian, and I then two years later when the future arrived I spectacularly failed to deliver on that promise. I think I have told the story of what happened during that awful performance before, so I won’t explain it now. Perhaps I’ll tell the story again some time. Suffice to say, it was bad, and I will never really live it down, meaning, it is an embarrassing comedy failure that may haunt me for years to come, especially if Alex, Paul and Moz keep reminding me of it, which they often do, because it amuses them.

I wanted to interview Alex, Paul and Moz all at the same time so what we’re going to do in this episode is take turns to be interviewed by each other. We’re all going to be cross examined by each other one by one. It’s a bit hard to explain this idea, but you’ll see.

Basically you’ll hear us talking about a variety of topics like our lives, our comedy stuff, how our careers have been affected by coronavirus, regrets we have about our pasts, little anecdotes, criticisms we’ve faced over the years and of course the occasional bit of toilet humour.

What’s the purpose for learning English, you might ask? Well, just the usual thing, which is that it’s vital to regularly listen to authentic conversations in English. It’s this kind of immersion, exposure and input which can make a crucial difference to your learning of English. Obviously the episode is long but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t have to listen to this in one go. Pause, take a break, come back and your podcast app will remember where you stopped.

One issue – audio quality

This episode was recorded online via Zoom and despite my best efforts I couldn’t get any of the others to use proper USB microphones. I even sent one by international post to Alex, but unfortunately his laptop is basically kaput so he had to use his phone. Not everyone is a teched up podcaster with a plethora of microphones at his disposal you know. So if you struggle to understand this conversation, then you can blame them for not having state of the art microphones, or blame me for choosing to do this whole project in the first place, or blame your old English teachers at school who didn’t give you enough listening practice, or blame yourself, or just don’t blame anyone. Probably the last one would be best.

Anyway, the main difficulty that I expect you will have with this is the sound quality. It’s going to sound like it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and that’s because it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and because there are 4 of us and you might not know Alex, Paul and Moz that well, and because nobody is speaking super slowly to help you understand them, this could definitely be a challenging episode. So, brace yourself. But then again, for all I know, this will be fine for you.

Some of you will be fine with that, but others will find it tricky. But, rarely in the real world do we get the luxury of perfect sound conditions, especially when doing video conferencing which is becoming more and more commonplace during these times.

OK, I don’t want to waffle on any longer. Instead I will say now that it’s time to join me as I chat with my friends. I hope you enjoy it.

Your tasks are:

  • a) to be able to identify who is talking (basically, can you differentiate between Paul, Moz and Alex’s voices and
  • b) can you actually understand what we’re all talking about?
  • c) Can you use your imagination a little bit and imagine that the whole coronavirus thing isn’t actually happening and that we’re all in fact all sitting around a table sharing a beer or soft drink in the pub and you’re there with us and everything is fine in the world.

OK, that is all. Now let’s get started, and here we go!


Questions

Round 1

  • What is your name?
  • What do you do? 
  • How has that been affected by the coronavirus?

Round 2

Questions for Paul

  • Luke: When questioning a suspect in the police station, have you ever thrown a chair against a wall or slapped a cigarette out of someone’s mouth?
  • Alex: What is your biggest regret from your time doing comedy?
  • Moz: Why do you love Rick Mayall?

Questions for Alex

  • Luke: In the episode we recorded together about the rock band Queen, one listener said “I don’t understand any words in this conversation. This guy speaks like alien.” How do you respond to this claim?
  • Moz: What advice would you give to 8-year old Alex Love?
  • Paul: As the only one of us who regularly still gigs, what advice would you give to your younger self just before you got on stage many moons ago?

Questions for Luke

  • Paul: What do you most miss about London?
  • Moz: What part of your body annoys you the most and why?
  • Alex: You were once predicted a bright future in comedy? What happened?

Questions for Moz

  • Luke: You live on a narrowboat on the canal network. What’s the most annoying behaviour that you’ve observed and experienced from others on the canal network?
  • Alex: In your time at the BBC, what’s the worst TV show you worked on and why?
  • Paul: Have you ever been tempted to get back on stage as one of your old characters?

Round 3

Questions for Paul

  • Alex: How close have you been to pooing your pants on duty as a police officer?
  • Moz: If you had to go shopping at the supermarket right now, what would you buy?
  • Luke: What’s the best way to talk to a police officer, to avoid being arrested? (inspired by this Adam & Joe video – below)

Questions for Moz

  • Alex: You did a lot of pre-taped audio tracks with your comedy. Why did you never do stand up as yourself?
  • Paul: You do your murder mile walks in London. What is the funniest crack-head story you have from your tours?
  • Luke: What’s the wettest you’ve ever been?

Questions for Luke

  • Alex: When you were young, what job did you want to do when you grew up?
  • Paul: What is the most surreal review or comment you’ve received in the 10 years you’ve been doing this podcast?

Questions for Alex

  • Moz: Why would you make a great or a shit astronaut?
  • Luke: What is the worst or best gig you’ve ever had?
  • Paul: What’s the worst heckle you’ve received on stage?

At the end: Some stories of awful gigs, including stories of weird audience members – a woman with a glass eye, a deaf man, a poor man who had a seizure during a show, another poor man who was a burns victim, a scouser who just didn’t like me and more…


Ending

OK everyone, that’s it. I would just like to thank Paul, Moz and Alex for being on the podcast today. I hope you enjoyed joining us on our Zoom call. I know the audio quality might have made it a bit tricky for you to follow all of it. Let me know. I expect someone will comment that my friends sound like alien or something. But they don’t to me.

Remember, check out Moz’s podcast. It’s called The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast and it’s available on all good podcast apps.

Alex doesn’t have a podcast but he is still writing a blog, which you can find at alexlove.co.uk

If you want to find Paul, just commit a crime in the London area and he will probably find you and then you might end up having a one on one sit down interview with him in a police station. There’s an interesting approach to finding ways to talk to native speakers – just get arrested! The police will ask you lots of questions, and you’ll have lots of people to talk to in prison too! Yey!

By the way, I did have a lovely birthday, thank you for asking. I’m recording this bit about a week after doing the call, so yes I had a nice birthday and thank you for those of you who sent me birthday wishes. That was very nice of you. Those of you who didn’t, I will still accept your birthday messages quite gladly, and I am still open to gifts, flowers, chocolate, gold bullion and cash donations in most currencies but especially pounds sterling. If you don’t know my age, I wonder how old you think I am, perhaps just based on the sound of my voice.

If you’re wondering about my gifts, I got some new trainers from my wife and also I got a multi-track recorder for making music. If I actually have any time, I plan to record some music so I got a digital muti-track which will allow me to record guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals. Now, all I need is some actual musical talent and I might be able to create something half-decent. We will see.

I was also treated to a birthday cake of pancakes in bed – that’s a cake made of pancakes, with honey – a pancake cake, with candles and decorations and the candles set the decorations on fire and so they were fully ablaze by the time the cake got to me, so essentially my wife brought me a fire hazard directly to my bed first thing in the morning, which was actually very funny and not as dangerous as it sounds. Anyway I had a nice birthday, if you’re interested.

How about you? Are you ok? I sincerely wonder how this episode was for you. I really enjoyed getting together with Paul, Moz and Alex again on the podcast, and I hope you did too, but I expect it was difficult to follow. Let me know in the comment section.

You know, difficult to follow isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s the sort of episode that challenges you a bit and pushes your English skills a bit further, in theory anyway.

Well, in any case, it’s time to draw this all to a close. Thanks for listening and speak to you soon, but for now — good bye!


Links

The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast 

Murder Mile Walks

Alex Love’s Blog

666. [Part 2] Frightening Experiences (with James)

James and I share some stories of genuinely scary and disturbing experiences which we’ve had in our lives.

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Introduction

Hello, are you a learner of English? Would you like something to listen to to develop your listening skills and by extension all other aspects of your English and your life? Well, you could listen to this. That’s the idea. Learning English through listening. Learning through listening. Listening through learning. Listening while learning. Listening and learning. Living and learning.

Anyway, welcome to this episode of my podcast.

This is part 2 of episode 666 in which my brother James and I are talking about scary things, horror, evil and general moodiness.

I uploaded part 1 of this a few days ago and so far there has almost been radio silence from the LEPsters. Just the sound of crickets in the comment section and on social media, despite the fact that I was regularly receiving messages from people before publishing episode 666 asking about what I was planning to do for this episode with an apparently significant number. There have been one or two comments, but I feel it’s less than usual. What’s going on. Have you been spooked by the subject matter? Are you all freaked out by the number 666? It’s possibly because the episode got blocked on YouTube and YouTube is normally where the first comments come in because it’s easier to comment on YouTube. So nothing from YouTube. I don’t know. The download numbers have been good. Maybe you’re just superstitious but like Stevie Wonder once said “Superstition ain’t the way”.

In any case, let me introduce this properly. This is part 2 and there are 3 parts to this episode. James and I recorded all this a couple of weeks ago – him in London, me in Paris (we did it online of course, we didn’t just shout really loud) and we chatted for about 4 hours I think. I’ve edited that down, but still, this was a marathon recording, just because we had a lot of stuff we wanted to talk about.

In part 1 we talked about why the number 666 is associated with the devil, and then we talked about the devil in music with a little history lesson from James’ friend Kate Arnold who is an expert in medieval music and then there was some rambling from James and me about some of our favourite scary music – mostly the band Black Sabbath who are probably the first band to really make a name for themselves by being quite frightening, but also some death metal, some hip hop and some Aphex Twin. Apologies to those of you who were expecting us to talk more about Iron Maiden and also other genres like black metal and so on.

So that was part 1, but here in part 2 James and I are going to move on from music and instead share a few anecdotes of genuinely scary experiences we’ve had in our lives, scary things that have actually happened to us. So, a bit of storytelling in this one.

Then in part 3 of this we’re going to talk about scary films and horror movies, and then that will be it for episode 666.

I recorded this conversation with James remotely over video conferencing software and for some reason James’ microphone kept cutting out at various times. You might be able to hear it sometimes. He talks and then some of his sentences get cut in half or he suddenly goes silent a bit. I managed to fix this in most cases, but sometimes you will hear his voice cutting out and some words are missing or half pronounced. It was quite frustrating at the time, because of course I want you to be able to hear everything. It becomes a bit more obvious in the second half of this episode, and I hope you don’t find it too distracting. Hopefully you won’t even notice, although obviously you will now because I’ve mentioned it.

OK, so without any further ado, let’s jump back into episode 666 with some scary stories of real-life experiences from James and me, and here we go!


What is sleep paralysis?

www.nhs.uk/conditions/Sleep-paralysis/

Sleep paralysis (32 scary experiences from Reddit users)

32 INSANELY SCARY SLEEP PARALYSIS STORIES


Ending

OK listeners, that is where we are going to stop part 2, but this marathon episode will continue in part 3 in which James and I are going to talk about scary films and some other bits and pieces on this theme.

If you liked hearing our stories, you could check out some other episodes from the archive, which are similar. Here they are (just two of them).

Episode 140 is the one I mentioned earlier. That’s the ghost stories episode in which I tell 4 weird and disturbing stories from my life. Just a heads up: There’s quite a long and waffling introduction to that episode (what a surprise), so if you’d like to skip that and get straight to the stories, you should fast forward to about 17 minutes into the episode. Start listening from 17 minutes in if you want to get straight to the stories. You’ll hear The Scary Clock story again, plus 3 other weird anecdotes. That’s episode 140, starting 17 minutes into the episode.

140. Ghost Stories – True Tales of Really Creepy Experiences

Also there’s episode 372 which was called The Importance of Anecdotes in English, and that one contains 4 true stories told by my mum, my dad, James and me. At least 3 of them are quite frightening, including the time James got stranded in Hastings and ended up sleeping on a stranger’s sofa and it got a bit weird. My dad had a confrontation with a taxi driver in Greece when he was a student and I had a taste of the violent underworld crime scene in Liverpool when I used to live there. That perhaps sounds worse than it is – basically one evening a poor guy who had been kidnapped by drug dealers ended up at our front door and my housemates and I took him in without really realising what was happening, and the next thing we knew we had a bleeding traumatised stranger in our house and potentially some armed drug dealers outside looking for him. That was fun. Oh such lovely days as a student in Liverpool in the 90s.

Anyway, that’s an episode with 4 anecdotes told by my family and it is episode 372. There’s some language teaching about narrative tenses and how to tell anecdotes in that one, but if you want to skip straight to the stories again you’ll need to jump ahead to the 34 minute mark. Episode 372, 34 minutes in.

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

But that’s it for this episode. As I said earlier, I’d be curious to know if you’ve ever had similar experiences to us.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’ve been through much more frightening and dangerous things than us, and I’m sure you have stories to tell.

  • Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis like I described earlier?
  • Have you ever had a really scary ride on a motorbike or perhaps something even more dangerous?
  • Have you ever had a near-death experience or just been freaked out by something you can’t really explain?

Leave your comments in the comment section if you fancy sharing your story with the LEPsters.

The final part of this unnerving trilogy will be arriving soon.

In the meantime, please stay safe, stay happy and stay healthy if at all possible and I will speak to you next time.

But for now, goodbye…

665. A Chinwag with Sebastian Marx / 18+ British slang phrases that Americans don’t understand

Chatting to Sebastian Marx from New York and testing his knowledge of British English slang phrases. Slang vocabulary list available below.

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Introduction

This episode features a chinwag (that’s a conversation by the way) with Sebastian Marx – a friend of mine who is originally from New York (he’s an American) but who has been living in France for the last 15 years. Long term listeners might remember him from his past appearances on this podcast. You’ll see links to those episodes on the page for this episode.

Sebastian is a stand up comedian who performs both in English and French, and he was the one who first started doing stand up in English in Paris. So all of us comedians who perform on stage here in English, including Amber, Paul, Sarah Donnelly and others – we all have Sebastian to thank for originally giving us that opportunity as he is the one who got the whole scene started in the first place with the New York Comedy Night which he set up years ago.

I invited Seb onto the podcast just for a bit of a chat, but also to test his knowledge of British English slang. I’m always interested to see how much my American friends know about my version of English.

The Chinwag

In terms of the general chinwag – we talk for the first 25 minutes or so about a few topics, including:

  • What he thinks of the Trump presidency
  • His learning of French
  • Speaking French or English to French people, like waiters in cafes

Then, after about 25 minutes of jibber-jabber, we decide to focus on language and you’ll hear me testing Seb’s knowledge of British English slang – informal spoken English phrases that most Brits know but which Americans are probably unfamiliar with.

This is slang so you should know that things get a bit rude later in the episode with some references to sexual acts – you know, sexual stuff, and also a few other fairly lewd and crude things like bodily functions and so on.

Some of you are probably delighted to hear that and have no problem with it at all but I feel I should give you a heads up about rude content, just in case you’re a teacher listening to this in class or something (I can imagine getting a message from a teacher who’s heard it, or perhaps even having a conversation, like this: Luke, I used an episode of your podcast in my young learners’ class the other day and oh, you started talking about… arseholes and chests, it was quite awkward — Oh dear I’m terribly sorry Mrs Crawly, I should have provided a warning of some kind. I trust that this will not affect my daughter’s entry into the Royal Academy in September. Perhaps you should come for tea and we can discuss it at length. I have one or two things to say to you about your conduct and how this is affecting your reputation among the staff at Downton. Oh, I’m terribly sorry to put you out Lady Crawley… etc… Sorry, I accidentally slipped into an episode of Downton Abbey there. Papa and Mama would be awfully disappointed, and we’ve just received a telegram that the first world war has started and we’re all terribly worried about how this might affect life at Downton and blah blah blah).

I dunno, maybe you’re a teacher or you’re listening to this with children, or maybe you just don’t like rude things of that nature. Basically – there’s some rude stuff in the second half of this episode. Alright? No big deal.

*it’s ok Luke – we fucking love rude stuff, don’t worry*

Alright, steady on…

OK, I promised myself I wouldn’t ramble too much at the start of this one so let’s crack on now, and here is the jingle….

The Slang you can hear in the episode

(listen to hear the full descriptions, examples and American English equivalents)

✔️= Sebastian knew it or guessed it correctly
❌= Sebastian didn’t know it or guessed it wrong

❌“Pants” (adjective) “That film was pants” = not great, rubbish
✔️“Knackered” (adjective”) “I’m absolutely knackered today” = exhausted, really tired / American English equivalent: “beat”
❌”Gobsmacked” (adjective) “I was absolutely gobsmacked” = shocked, surprised
Also: “shut your gob” = shut up, stop talking (gob = mouth)
✔️“a slash” (noun) “Hold on, I’m going for a slash” = I’m going to go and urinate
❌“On the lash” (prepositional phrase) “I’m going out on the lash tonight” = to go out drinking alcohol
✔️“To pull” (verb) “Hopefully I’m going to pull” = to score, get lucky, to get laid, to have sex with someone
On the pull” = trying to ‘get lucky’ with someone
To go out on the pull
To chat someone up” = to talk to someone to make them like you (sexually) to try to pull someone by talking
❌“To get off with someone” (phrasal verb) “I got off with her” = to kiss passionately on the lips (USA: to make out with someone)
To get on with someone” = to have a good relationship with someone, to “hit it off with someone”
✔️“A plonker” (noun) “You are such a plonker” (not a swear word) = an idiot
❌”A tosser” (noun) “Stop being such a tosser” (synonym of “wanker” but less rude) an idiot, a person you don’t like
a wanker” is a mean nasty unpleasant man that you’re angry with
To wank” = to masturbate
Asshole” (US English)
Arsehole” (UK English)
✔️“A fag” (noun) “I’m just having a fag” = a cigarette (in US English it’s a very rude term of abuse meaning a homosexual)
❌“A wind up” (noun) “He’s a wind up merchant” “Is this a wind up?” = a joke, a piss-take, teasing, making fun of someone, playing a trick on someone, a con, a prank, lying to someone as a joke
To wind someone up” = to annoy someone
❌“whingeing / to whinge” (verb) “Stop whingeing! You’re always whingeing.” = to complain, to moan, to whine, in an annoying way
✔️“Smart” (adjective) “You’re looking smart today. What’s the big occasion?” = to be well dressed, to be wearing formal clothing, to look clean and tidy (opposite = casual) (USA: smart = intelligent)
❌“Lush” (adjective) “Oh that’s lush” “Those trainers are lush” “Oh she is lush isn’t she?” = good, attractive (for a person), cool, great, awesome
❌“Grotty” (adjective) “I smoked a cigarette earlier and I’m feeling dead grotty now.” = unpleasant, dirty, feeling a bit unwell or under the weather
❌“Ta” (exclamation) “Could you pass me the sugar? Ta.” = thanks
✔️”A chinwag” (noun) “We’ve had a good chinwag” = conversation
❌“It’s all gone pear shaped” (idiom) “We did a Zoom call but everything went pear shaped because of technical problems” = to go wrong

Schlep (verb – US slang, from Yiddish) to carry something with difficulty, to carry something heavy – “I’ve been schlepping this bag around all day”
Schlep (noun – US slang, from Yiddish) a long and arduous journey – “I work on the other side of town and getting there is a real schlep!”

50 British phrases that Americans just don’t understand (MatadorNetwork)
matadornetwork.com/notebook/50-british-phrases-americans-just-dont-understand/

Ending

Music: Sippin’ Gin by Jim Thompson

Righty-ho, that was Sebastian Marx (thanks Sebastian) and 18 bits of British English slang.

How many did he get right? He predicted 50% I think. Well, out of 18 he identified 7. And my criteria for getting it right was whether he knew the word or phrase already or if he worked it out correctly, first guess, from my example. 7 out of 18. What’s that as a percentage? Some of the mathematicians are already on that, but I need a calculator to work that one out, unless you want to listen to me working that out in my head. Trust me, you don’t want to listen to that. I don’t think I can do it. Anyway, the result is… 38.88888888889 Let’s round that up to 39% which is a clear fail I think everyone can agree.

What does this mean? I’m not sure, except that it proves something about American and British culture and language. Sebastian made the point during the episode and I think I’ve said it before previously, like in that slang game I did with Jennifer from English Across the Pond last year.

Brits are way more familiar with American English than Americans (and of course I mean people from the USA) are with British English because we are exposed to a lot more American culture through TV and film than Americans are exposed to British culture.

America produces tons of TV and film of course and exports a massive amount too, but it doesn’t import as much TV and film as it exports. Basically, most Americans don’t get exposed to that much British English, certainly not the kind of local informal slang stuff that we touched on in this episode. Big surprise eh! Not really! We know this about the USA – big place, quite loud on the world’s stage, exports a lot of stuff, but to a large extent doesn’t look beyond its own borders all that much, relatively speaking. We all knew that though didn’t we!

Anyway, never mind all that geo-political stuff. I just enjoyed chatting with Sebastian in this episode and sharing some of my version of English with him. That is more interesting and fun for me.

What about you? How much of the slang in this episode did you know? I’ve definitely talked about some of those things before, but I bet there were one or two new things in there too.
But how much of it did you know and how much did you learn from me in previous episodes? And if you didn’t get it from me, where have you learned British slang? Let us know in the comment section!

Also, feel free to add other bits of British slang that you think is especially, quintessentially British in the comment section.

All the slang I tested Seb on is listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check it out. That’s where you can see specific spellings of words and phrases, and you can check some example sentences and definitions that I’ve given for you.

Talking of British English expressions – I must finish that series I started last autumn – 88 English expressions that will confuse everyone. Remember that? I still have about 25 expressions left to cover I think! I must get round to doing that.

My podcast is a bit like a big, slow moving ship. Sometimes I miss something or forget something and kind of sail past it, but for some reason it’s very hard to stop the ship or turn it round and go back. So, if I don’t do a specific episode I was planning to do at one point, general momentum keeps pushing me forwards and it’s difficult to turn the ship around and go back. I’m not sure why this is.

Stuff to mention at the end

Lovely comments from listeners on the last episode (in different locations like YouTube, website, twitter, email) My wife said that the comments were cute and lovely.

Something evil this way comes… Episode 666 is next.

666 → often described as the number of the beast. The mark of the devil.

Lots of people have been asking if I’m planning anything special for that.

Well, you’ll have to wait and see…

Previous episodes with Sebastian

130. A Cup of Tea with… Sebastian Marx

183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)

247. Understanding The USA

298. The Bank Robbery (Part 1)

299. The Bank Robbery (Part 2)

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

664. Lockdown Ramble with My Wife

Chatting to my wife late one evening last week about what it’s like to be with an English guy, raising our daughter to be bilingual and more…

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Introduction

Hello listeners, how are you doing out there in podcastland? What’s going on with you then, eh? Where are you? Who are you? What are you doing right now? Where are you listening to this? How are you listening to this? Have you got headphones on? Are you in a car or something? In public? Are you allowed out at the moment? Have you got a mask on? I mean, a medical face mask, not a metaphorical mask, but maybe you’re wearing one of them too, hmmm….?

Anyway, enough weird nonsense. I just want to give you a hearty welcome at the start here and to make sure you’re really with me here as you listen to this episode of my podcast, which is designed to help you with your English. You see, it helps if you’re fully engaged and listening carefully. It helps with your English, if you’re really paying attention while you listen.

On the podcast today, you’re going to listen to a conversation between me and my wife. Yep, my wife is back on the podcast for the third time now. The 1st time was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502 (just to be clear: my daughter wasn’t born in episode 502 of course, I mean that was the first time my wife was on the podcast and it was just after our daughter was born) The 1st time my wife was on the podcast was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502, and the 2nd appearance by Mrs Thompson was in a premium episode series in which we taught you loads of phrases that my wife has learned from me and that we use all the time (That’s P08 by the way – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium )

The conversation you’re about to hear took place in our living room late in the evening last week, after we’d finally got our daughter to sleep and had eaten our dinner. We’d been talking about doing another podcast for a while and then finally we managed to record ourselves chatting about our experiences of living in lockdown and also to respond to some questions that listeners asked in the past.

Here are some of those questions…

  1. What is it like to be with an English guy?
    Some people have wondered about this and asked me to talk to my wife about it. What about the differences in culture between us? How does this affect our relationship? We mainly talk about communication style here, and I’d like to refer back to a recent episode – #643, called The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming, as it touches on some similar points.
    So, what does my wife like or dislike about being with an English bloke? That’s what we deal with first.
  2. What have you been doing on lockdown with your daughter?
    Then we talk about living in lockdown with our daughter, including what we’ve been doing to keep her busy and how we’ve been able to observe her development more closely during this period. I should say, there’s quite a lot of conversation about our daughter in this episode. After the recording we both were concerned that it’s just two parents going on about their child. Again, if you have children, you’ll probably relate to what we’re saying. If you don’t have kids, I don’t know what you’ll think. You might not be into that stuff. Often, parents talking about children bores the pants of single people. But this has always been quite a personal podcast and a conversation with my wife is bound to include stuff about our daughter – I mean we’ve been locked up with her for about 7 or 8 weeks, so there you go. Just a little heads up – there’s more kid-chat in this episode.
  3. How are we raising our daughter to be bilingual?
    The third main thing we talk about is the bilingualism of our daughter and our approach to that. How are we making sure that she learns English as well as French? What are the main ways of doing this and what are the main factors to bear in mind when raising a child to speak two languages?

There’s also some chat about other things, like some comments from listeners, going to visit the castle near where my parents live, and whether my wife likes Star Wars and The Beatles.

Listening back, I noticed that sometimes I was speaking really fast during this episode, especially in the second half. I have mixed feelings about this, about fast speech on this podcast. For some listeners, this will be great news because some of you want to listen to fast natural conversation. For others this will be challenging.

I think I speak quickly in this conversation because my wife and I are very close (we’re married, you see) and she has no qualms about interrupting me and so I have to raise my speaking speed in order to prevent that happening. It’s a bit like when I’m with my brother. There’s this feeling that we’re going to talk over each other so we end up speaking more quickly as we try to get our ideas out before we get cut off.

I suppose ultimately this is good for you to listen to, because this is how people really speak to each other. They interrupt, they finish each other’s sentences, they make false starts and correct themselves and they don’t always finish the points they are making. It is good to listen to that kind of speaking because it’s how people really speak, unlike the kind of contrived listening you get in textbooks where everything is written in advance and read out fairly awkwardly by actors. I’m not having a go at English course books – they can be incredibly useful, but at the same time they aren’t very realistic.

My Wife’s English (actually she’s French)

You might be curious about my wife’s English, and her background with English.

Just in case you don’t know, my wife is French, and English is not her first language. She had some lessons at school and at university like most French kids but mostly she learned her English in adulthood. We speak English at home together. Sometimes we speak in French together, but as anyone with experience of this will tell you, it’s quite hard to shift the language of your couple once it has been set, and our relationship definitely started in English and my wife’s English is better than my French, so English is the language of our couple. We sometimes speak French together, but in French I am quite incompetent – I am a lot like Mr Bean, and when she married me, that’s not what she signed up, so, English is how we communicate, and there it is.

Ok then so now I would like to invite you into the living room of our flat in Paris. Would you like a glass of wine? Maybe a cup of tea? Take a seat. Don’t speak, you can’t actually speak, you can only listen (this is a bit weird), but you can write some notes to us after we’ve finished  – I mean, you can share your thoughts in the comment section under this episode if you wish. Otherwise, can just sit in the corner there and listen to us talking, if it’s not too awkward.

All right, that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get on with it, here is my lovely wife, here is her lovely voice and here we go!


Ending

So here is that bit at the end where I talk to you for a while before the episode finishes.

I hope you liked that conversation. Did you think I was talking a bit quickly at some points or did you not notice? I wonder what you think of my wife? It’s a bit weird publishing these conversations with my family sometimes. I wonder if I’m giving away too much of my personal life, but it’s not like I’m doing a reality show or anything is it? Maybe I’m being precious about it. Who knows.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a bit of time in our flat during this episode, but I’m afraid we’ve got to go to bed now, so err…. would you like me to call you a taxi or…?

Nah, I’m joking of course hahaha, but please do leave now, thank you.

Actually I do have a couple of things to say.

Push notifications for the app are not currently working, which is a drag. Sometimes things take ages to get done around here, but I’m working on fixing the issue. As a result, app users and premium users might not know that I’ve been uploading premium episodes. I’m now onto premium series 22 and I recently uploaded parts 4, 5, 6 in that series. Check them out, they’re in the app in the premium category. You can also get them online at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium That’s just a heads up in case you didn’t realise they were there.

663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul

Listen to three more stories told by Amber, Paul and Luke – can you guess if they are true or lies?

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Introduction Transcript

Hello ladies and gents, welcome back to the podcast. Are you ready for your regular dose of English listening practice? Here we go.

This is episode number 663 and it is another Lying Game with Amber & Paul, this time recorded remotely during the lockdown, fairly late in the evening, recently.

The Lying Game is something Amber, Paul and I have been playing for years on this podcast. Basically it involves us telling each other stories about our lives, but we can choose to either tell the truth or tell a lie. The others then have to ask questions about those stories and then try to guess if they are made up or not. Points can be won or lost accordingly.

Before we start I just want to point out some bits of language for you to notice while you listen.

Grammar: Watch out for the narrative Tenses

Essentially this game is about storytelling and most of the time the stories take place in the past, so there are lots of descriptions of past events and questions in past tenses. If you wanted to, you could look out for things like the grammatical tenses being used.

Past simple tense is definitely the most common one (“I jumped into the water” “I didn’t jump into the water” or “Did you jump into the water?” or “Why did you jump into the water?” ) , but also watch out for instances of the other narrative tenses that we know and love – past continuous and past perfect and how they’re used in combination with past simple to build a narrative.

Past perfect (had + past participle –> I was going to Ireland because Alice had invited me to stay) is used to show that certain things happened before the main events of the story. It doesn’t just mean “things that happened a long time ago” (a common mistake) but rather it’s used to show background events – things that happened before the main events of the story. It’s not as common as past simple or past continuous but it is definitely used, although it can be quite hard to hear the ‘had’ part.

Also, we use past continuous (was/were +ing –> I was living in Brighton at the time) to show the situation or context at the time the main events happened, or to show things that happened over and over again.

For example, watch out for these sentences in the episode. (these ones mainly contain past perfect) Watch out also for the pronunciation. Can you hear the “had” in these sentences?

  • “[We went to Greece.] It was the first time that we’d ever been on holiday together.” [First time in their lives at that point. No previous trip to Greece before then.]
  • “We’d never been together outside the UK or Paris.”
  • “[At the time] I was living in Brighton, it was the summer holidays and Alice had invited me to stay with her in Ireland which is where she is from.” [Alice invited Amber earlier than the main events of this story]
  • “Alice had already gone home for the holidays and I was joining her.” [Alice went home before the main events of this story]
  • “They were making us drink cocktails that I’d never heard of before” [Never before in our lives at that point]

So if you are up for it you can listen out for bits of grammar like that but you can also just listen to the stories without worrying about grammar and play the game with us. Do you think these stories are true or are they untrue? Are they fact or fiction? All real events, or completely made up? Try and work it out as you listen. You get one point for every story you guess correctly. That’s a maximum of 3 points for you. For us playing the game, the points system is equally simple for some reason we always manage to get a bit confused by it.

The stories this time all involve drunken nights out. There’s also some swearing in this, which you might want to bear in mind if you’re using this in class or something.

Vocabulary

I want to just highlight some vocab in advance, just to help you a bit. These are things you might not know but which are pretty important for understanding the stories.

  • a stag do / a stag party = a party a man has before he gets married, usually involving going out with best friends – one of whom will be the best man at the wedding, lots of drinking, a trip to another city or country, some humiliation of the groom-to-be, maybe a trip to a strip club. “I was on my cousin’s stag do” – you heard me mention my cousin’s stag do in a recent episode, when the two of us were dressed as a pantomime horse. It’s called a bachelor party in the USA.
  • a hen do / a hen party = (not mentioned in the story, but if you learn stag do you’ve got to learn hen do as well, they go together as a pair) basically a hen do is the same as a stag do but for girls – it usually involves going out with a big group of girls, including the bridesmaids, but they’ve got fancy dress on or they’re all wearing angel wings or something, or special T shirts with the bride’s face on, lots of drinking and fairly lewd behaviour, and maybe a male stripper. Stag dos and hen dos, that’s the kind of rich, deep cultural heritage which makes me proud to be an Englishman. “It’s Emma’s hen do at the weekend.” Bachelorette party in US English.
  • What the Fuck France! This a comedy TV show that Paul Taylor made on French TV, which made him quite famous among the French (French people).
  • Boxers / boxer shorts = a kind of men’s underwear, similar to those worn by boxers.
  • To get whacked – to get assassinated by the mafia (this is Italian American slang that you might hear in a Martin Scorsese film)
That's how it happens. That's how fast it takes for a guy to get whacked.
Goodfellas (1990)
  • Frolicking – playing, jumping, dancing around –> frolicking around in the water
  • Lax = not caring enough about security or rules, being lazy about security, a lax approach to air travel, very lax security at the hotel
  • A maze = Something you might find in the garden of an old English stately home. Imagine the garden of an English stately home – an old house in the countryside, like Downton Abbey or Hampton Court or something. In a maze there are hedges which have been grown to form a series of interconnected paths, and for fun you have to find your way from one end to the other or find the middle, without getting lost.


I will let you discover what actually happens in the stories and how all that language is actually featured.

So that’s it for the introduction and a little pre-teaching of language. Now you can just sit back and listen on as we let the game begin!


Outtro

So that was the late night lockdown lying game with Amber and Paul. I hope you enjoyed it.

I think I’ve found the cure for hiccups.

Happy Hour with Paul Taylor – 6PM CET weekdays on YouTube and Facebook.

There are lots of other lying game episodes in the archive. Head over to teacherluke.co.uk and do a search of the archive for “lying game”. You can also search in the app that way. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve done this on the podcast now. We’ve had stories about working on Keanu Reeves films, being bullied by members of Coldplay, meeting rock stars at buddhist temples, seeing famous French film stars on my roof, working as a pole dancer in Paris, stabbing yourself in the face accidentally, rolling cars on country roads, knocking down walls in Japanese apartments, getting offered threesomes, and all kinds of other things. It could be a whole podcast of its own.

662. Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10 (Surviving Lockdown with Kids)

Chatting to Amber Minogue & Paul Taylor about dealing with confinement at home with children, the birth of Amber’s baby, tongue twisters, weird children’s TV series and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello. Welcome back to LEP. I’m talking to you again as the rain falls on the roof above my head.

I hope you are surviving out there in Podcastland. There’s been a little delay since the last free episode, because I’ve been making and uploading content for the premium subscribers. Premium people will know that I am in the middle of premium series #22 which is a vocabulary builder series which also has examples from films and TV shows. I’m halfway through that series, and I’ll be uploading the remaining episodes after I’ve published this episode (this is 662) and the next episode (663) of LEP. If you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all those other episodes I publish, just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

But here we are. This is episode 662, called Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10, the first of two Amber and Paul episodes. The podpals Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor are back again, this time on Zoom – the lockdown videoconferencing software of choice.

Obviously we are social distancing and so we couldn’t record in the same room. The result is that the sound quality is not up to the usual standard. You’re probably used that now, I expect – talking to people online via Zoom and other software has become the new normal, so it’s probably no big deal really to hear a conversation recorded on Zoom, but you might find the audio quality makes things a bit more difficult to follow. For example, sometimes Paul in this episode sounds a bit like a robot alien or an Aphex Twin remix – you know they way people’s voices distort sometimes in videoconferences? Anyway…

The subtitle of the episode is “Surviving Lockdown with Kids”.

A bit of a heads up here at the start. This is quite a child-heavy episode because all three of us have got kids and so naturally this is dominating our experience during the lockdown. We couldn’t do a “catching up” episode without talking about our children. They’re there all the time, you see. We’re not complaining, it’s wonderful. But it is what it is.

Those of you with children will know exactly what this is like. Those of you with no children might not be fully on board with all the kid-chat. I don’t know. Anyway, you can expect quite a lot of conversation about being locked up with our children in this episode, including things like how to keep them busy all the time, how their languages are coming along, which childrens’ TV we choose to watch, and which shows we like, don’t like or find really weird, including programmes like Paw Patrol, Puffin Rock, Peppa Pig and Tellytubbies, which can be found on Netflix, YouTube or Cbeebies the childrens’ BBC channel.

There’s also other stuff, including a tangent about a French tongue twister which is “ton tonton tond ton thon” which translates as “Your uncle mows your tuna”, which doesn’t actually mean anything really. To mow is to cut grass with a mower, like you would mow the lawn in your garden or mow the grass on a cricket pitch or something. Tuna is a fish, as you know. So, if you say “Your uncle mows your tuna” in French, it sounds pretty funny – “Ton tonton tond ton thon”. The words sound the same but are spelled differently. It’s just one of those funny things in French.

I’m mentioning this because we talk about it for a few minutes and there’s a good chance that if you don’t speak French you’ll get lost at that point. So I’m just trying to prepare you.

Paul also mentions an English tongue twister, which is “English can be a difficult language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though”. When you see that written down, the words have very similar spelling – THROUGH TOUGH THOROUGH THOUGHT THOUGH, but  they are pronounced quite differently. You can see that written on the page for this episode on the website.

These tongue twisters came up in one of Paul’s recent YouTube live videos, because he’s doing YouTube Lives every day during the lockdown. He can’t do stand up shows at this time, so YouTube live is how he is keeping in touch with his audience. His YouTube lives are called “Happy Hour with Paul Taylor” and basically at 6PM CET every weekday Paul opens a beer and talks to his audience, answering questions and generally having a laugh for about an hour. Just search for Paul Taylor on YouTube and don’t forget to smash that like button and subscribe. Hit the bell icon to get the notifications for when Paul is going live, and represent the LEPsters in Paul’s comment section.

Anyway, as well as a few tangents and things, there is quite a lot of stuff about living in lockdown with kids, but this episode is not for kids, it’s not really suitable for children because there’s swearing. The F bomb gets dropped here and there, and some others, so you might want to bear that in mind if you’ve got kids in the room –> either because you don’t want your kids hearing those words, or because you do want your kids to hear those words in order to for them to learn them and you might want to turn up the volume. I don’t know, it’s up to you. The main thing is: There is swearing in the episode.

I’d like to just make a quick note about swearing on the podcast actually because I was having this conversation in the comment section today.

For me, swearing on its own isn’t always bad – it depends on the situation and the intention behind using swear words.

I include swear words on the podcast sometimes because I want the podcast to be authentic and when I am talking to my close friends and family, swear words do come up. But I’m not saying you should use them all the time.

There’s a difference between saying a swear word to emphasise something, like for example (and I’m going to swear now) “That film was fucking awful” That is different to swearing at someone in order to insult them, like “You’re a fucking twat mate”, which is something I don’t really want to condone.

I’m saying that because I want it to be clear that although I have swearing on the podcast sometimes, I’m not saying that I’m a huge advocate for swearing all the time and I’m not trying to teaching people to swear at each other.

Was that a patronising thing to say? I’m not sure. I am a teacher after all so I feel I need to say things like that sometimes.

Anyway, we talk about children a bit in this episode, but it’s not really for children and after this one, there is another Amber & Paul episode coming (ep 663) with no conversation about our children at all, so there you go.

But the main thing is – Amber & Paul are back on the podcast, which is great. So let’s get started. I will talk to you again at the end of the episode but now – here is the jingle!

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TV shows

  • Tiger King
  • Better Call Saul
  • Puffin Rock (for children)

Podcasts

  • Phoebe Reads a Mystery
  • Criminal
  • This is Love

Paul’s YouTube channel – Happy Hour with Paul Taylor – Weekdays 6PM CET

www.youtube.com/user/paultaylorcomedy

648. Ian Moore Returns

Talking again to comedian Ian Moore about favourite films, a trip to New York, British & American audiences, how to iron a shirt, and funny stories about taking the language test to qualify for French citizenship.

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Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English and here is your regular dose of English conversation presented here to help you develop your listening skills and pick up grammar and vocabulary along the way.

In this episode of the podcast you can listen to me in conversation with Ian Moore who is back on the podcast after a 3 and a half year absence.

He first appeared in episodes 382 and 383 when we got to know him and talked about mod culture in the UK.

If you haven’t heard those episodes, or if you have heard them and you need me to jog your memory, here is some background info about Ian, just to bring you up to speed.

Ian Moore is a professional stand-up comedian from England. He moved around during his upbringing and is from a combination of places including the north, East Anglia and the London area as you will hear during the conversation.

He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the country’s top comedians” and he regularly performs in the best stand up comedy venues all around the UK, notably at London’s top stand up comedy club “The Comedy Store” which just off Leicester Square, where he is a frequent host.

He’s a mod – Mod is a British fashion subculture from the 1960s which involves a very particular style featuring certain clothing (like slim Italian suits, green parka coats – and a lot more besides), riding scooters and listening to American R&B music. Ian is definitely the best-dressed guest I have ever had on this podcast and came dressed in a 3-piece 60s Italian suit, gold watch chain, handkerchief in the pocket with a pin and everything.

Ian now lives in rural France on a farm, and has been living there for nearly 15 years, which is at odds with his mod style.

So he has been living a kind of double life – living on the farm in the French countryside, looking after various animals (his wife keeps introducing new animals into the family), making chutney, and commuting to the UK and other cities in Europe to perform stand up comedy.

He has written several books about his double life, which are available from all good book shops including Amazon.

A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France
C’est Modnifique!: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France

As well as writing these funny autobiographical stories, Ian has also branched out into writing fiction, and his first novel, called “Playing the Martyr” was published a couple of years ago. It’s a crime thriller about an English man who gets murdered in the Loire valley – I don’t know if this is based on Ian’s life at all. I have no idea if there have been attempts on his life for some reason. But anyway, the book is well-reviewed on Amazon and is available in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Ian is also a language learner – French in this instance. He actively works on his French and passed the language test to gain citizenship in France.

There are plenty of things to talk about – all that is just background context, and if you’d like to know more – listen to episodes 382 and 383 (both of which have transcripts written by the Orion Transcription team available in google documents. Just check the transcripts section of my website).

In those episodes you can hear:
A full explanation of the mod subculture including the clothing, the music and all the rest of it – and mod is very much a part of British youth culture today – especially the clothing, which influences many high-street British clothing brands.
Various stories of Ian’s rural French lifestyle including how his children were once threatened (rather shockingly) by a French hunter armed with a shotgun, some anecdotes about his experiences of performing comedy to audiences in cities all over the UK, accounts of his comedy triumphs and one or two comedy disasters and more ramblings of that nature.

So that’s all background context that you can hear more of in episode 382 and 383 –

This time, I decided to just see where the conversation takes us and the result was an extremely tangential and rambling conversation that takes in such things as

  • Ian’s favourite films
  • Ian’s recent trip to New York where he did comedy and spent time as a tourist
  • The complications of Woody Allen’s current public image
  • Differences between British and American audiences
  • Differences between Burlesque and stripping
  • Ian’s different accents as a child moving from Blackburn to Norfolk to London.
  • Details of Ian’s clothing
  • How to iron a shirt properly
  • Ian’s various health issues and physical complaints and what might be causing them
  • Comedy shows you can see at The Comedy Store in London
  • Ian’s stories about learning French and attempting to pass the language test for French citizenship

Watch out for various little jokes and funny stories along the way and try to keep up as the topic of the conversation veers from one thing to another.

But now, let’s listen to my conversation with Ian Moore and here we go…

Ian Moore Photo: Richard Wood @comictog twitter.com/comictog


Ending

I won’t talk a lot more here at the end because I don’t want the episode to be too long, but I would like to say thanks again to Ian for being on the podcast.

You can find out more about Ian on his website at ianmoore.info/

Well done for managing to follow this entire conversation. I wonder how much you understood, how many little jokes and funny moments you picked up on. It might be worth listening again and I wouldn’t be surprised if the transcription team chose to transcribe this episode like they did with episodes 382 and 383. You can find those transcriptions in the google documents by clicking transcripts in the menu on my website.

That’s it for now then, have a fantastic day, morning, lunch, afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid evening, late evening and night and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.

But for now,

Bye!

643. The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming

Talking to Sherwood Fleming, author of “Dance of Opinions” about intercultural communication, including common problems and the solutions to help us learn to communicate more effectively across cultures.

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Introduction

Hello you and you and you, welcome back to the podcast. I’m recording this on a very windy Tuesday morning. A storm passed by over the last few days, wreaking havoc across the UK and also here in France we’ve had some pretty strong winds and it’s still very blustery out there.

But here I am in the cosy confines of the Podcastle at LEP headquarters. A pre-lunch recording of this introduction today. I hope you are comfortable. Let’s get started.

Recently I was contacted by a listener called Inna with a suggestion for the podcast.

The message went like this:

Hi Luke,

I’m Inna, one of your regular listeners, as well as a Premium subscriber.

I would like to thank you for your podcast, which is always helpful and always interesting.

I would like to talk to you about my teacher Sherwood Fleming, her blog: sherwoodfleming.com/.

She is teaching me how to communicate better in English as a foreign language.  

Her lessons changed my vision of what communication is and helped me to understand how to communicate better not only with my foreign colleges but how to communicate better “tout court”. [full stop, period]

Some of my colleagues had the chance to work with her, and it was kind of “a revelation” for all of them every single time.

I strongly believe that this topic would be very useful to all your listeners.

So I got in touch with Sherwood and arranged a call for an interview and that is what you’re going to hear on the podcast today.

Sherwood Fleming

Here’s some intel on Sherwood, from her website.

Sherwood’s expertise is in improving the written and spoken communications of those who use English as a second language and work within intercultural business contexts. She has designed and led seminars for more than 25 years in both Canada and France, helping thousands of participants to communicate more effectively.

Sherwood is the creator of the five-step CLEAR method, which has established a new standard for expressing opinions interculturally. It forms the heart of her recent book, Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language, an easy to learn and apply method for intermediate and advanced ESL business people, designed to improve how they express their opinions. Her motto? “We build our futures together, in the words we exchange today.”

OK so this conversation is all about intercultural communication. What are the issues and obstacles that we face when communicating with people from different cultures? How do our different approaches to communication influence the relationships that we build with people? What are the solutions to some of the problems that can arise when communicating across cultures?

Sherwood talks about finding strategies to help you learn to dance to the same tune as the people you’re talking to, and this involves things like the pragmatics of looking beyond the words which are being used and towards the real intentions of communicative acts.

There are some examples of people in business contexts and also how I sometimes struggle with intercultural communication in my everyday life in France.

Our aim for this episode is to help you, the listeners, attain clarity about these issues that you may not even be fully aware of, and once you can see more clearly what these issues are then you’ll be ready to apply the proven solutions, which Sherwood shares during this episode and in her other work, including her book “Dance of Opinion” available on Amazon.

So let’s now listen to Sherwood Fleming and you can consider these questions

  • What are the typical problems people experience when communicating across cultures?
  • Can you find some examples?
  • What are some of the reasons behind those problems?
  • What are some solutions that we can apply to those problematic situations?

I’ll chat to you again briefly at the end, but now, let’s get started

sherwoodfleming.com

Ending

Thanks again to Sherwood Fleming for being on the podcast today. That was a very interesting conversation about the way we all communicate with each other in different ways.

Conclusions?

It sort of boils down to this I think.

Keep it simple!

Make it explicit what you want and what you’re offering. Dumb down your English in intercultural contexts.

Focus on the main message (the speech act) rather than the form of the message. Some cultures don’t emphasise things that other cultures expect, but the main thing is to focus on specifically what the other person wants, rather than how they are saying or writing it.

Thanks for all your recent comments and emails and stuff it’s great to hear from you, including some choice comments from the last few episodes.

Tatiana • 18 hours ago

Luke, I have just binged all three episodes with Quintessentially British things and I must say theyre brilliant! You are so blessed to have such an interesting and intellectual family of yours, all the three episodes are completely different and amazing to listen. it’s like I’ve looked at the Britain I’ve never known before.
Hats off to you and your beautiful kin!

By the way everyone, it’s mum not mom in British English.

There have been numerous requests for episodes of Gill’s Book Club as it might be called, or Gill’s Culture Club or something. So we’re looking at doing episodes of that sometimes.

There’s also a Rick Thompson report on the way soon.

I’ve had messages thanking me for the recent episode about IELTS with Keith O’Hare and have asked for more so I might do something in the near future.

Uswah • 4 hours ago

Hi Luke, I am Uswah from Indonesia.
I’ve been thinking about giving comment in each episode particularly everytime Amber and Paul are on the Podcast. However I always feel not sure untill today I heard the fact that there are fewer comments and responses from your listeners.

So here I’m now, I want you to know that I am a faithful listener, I get every joke you make (including Russian jokes and Lion king, LOL), I laugh out loud when three of you are laughing. I am an English teacher basically, but I spend most of my time for sewing, hahaha so I’m a tailor (not Taylor, LOL) at the same time. So I’ve been always listening your podcast when I’m sewing. It’s just sooo fun. So I feel my sewing project is much more fun since that’s the time I listen to your podcast.

Keep the good work Luke.

Looking forward to having Amber and Paul again .

Enrico Furlan • 21 hours ago

So, let me recap: last May, Luke published an episode titled “SLEEP with Amber and Paul”.
Now, eight months later, Amber is heavily pregnant.
These guys are bringing the concept of modern family to a whole new level…

That’s it for this episode.

I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.

Take care out there. Until next time. Bye!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


631. 29 Awful Christmas Jokes, Explained

The annual Christmas episode of LEP is here! Explaining 29 truly awful jokes that you might get in a Christmas cracker this year. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Introduction

Hello folks, welcome to this new episode.

Season’s Greetings

This is the traditional Christmas episode of LEP.

We’ve got a log fire burning in the background, just to create the right atmosphere. We’re feeling festive, we’re feeling Christmassy.

That’s right, it’s Christmas time again. This is the 11th Christmas that I have celebrated on LEP now.

I know that not all of you celebrate Christmas, but I hope you feel part of this anyway, because for me Christmas should be a season of goodwill to everyone, so – you’re all welcome to listen, enjoy and take part in this one.

The title of this episode is “29 Awful Christmas Jokes, Explained”.

Awful Christmas Jokes

This is Christmas so I’m using Christmas cracker jokes. Jokes that you find in Christmas crackers. So, this is an episode about Christmas Cracker Jokes, which are awful.

What are Christmas crackers, Luke?

Why do they have jokes in them? → They just do, ok?

Cracker jokes usually have some kind of Christmas theme, or at least some kind of seasonal theme like something involving snow or other festive images.

Christmas cracker jokes are almost always awful, cringeworthy puns, but I quite like that, personally.

Christmas cracker jokes are much more likely to make you groan than laugh, although if you are in the right mood, some of them might catch you by surprise and could make you LOL during your Christmas holiday or should I call that the Christmas LOLiday. Yep, that’s the level we’re operating at here.

Right, so in a moment I’m going to tell you the jokes, let’s see if you get them all. Afterwards I will explain them as well.

There is a lot of English to learn from this – vocabulary, or certain little features of pronunciation which form the centrepiece of the joke – the double meaning that makes your brain go BZZZ and then either you laugh or you just groan. Remember, if you don’t get the joke you have to say “I don’t get it”.

I got most of these jokes from a list I found on the Telegraph’s website.

Link here www.telegraph.co.uk/christmas/0/revealed-50-worst-christmas-cracker-jokes-ever/

This will actually be a good test of your general English comprehension skills, but also your knowledge of Christmas vocabulary. I’ve you’ve heard my previous Christmas episodes, like the A to Z of Christmas, then you’ll probably get these. But you definitely need to be on your toes regarding the Christmas vocabulary specifically. I’ll be going through all of that after I’ve told these jokes.

I’m going to play some generic Christmas background music in order to create a festive atmosphere.

Let’s see how many of these 29 awful jokes you can get.

Here we go.

Generic Christmas background music

29 Awful Christmas Jokes

  1. What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
    A Christmas quacker
  2. What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?
    Tinsillitis
  3. Did Rudolph go to school?
    No, he was elf-taught
  4. Who is Santa’s favourite singer?
    Elfis Presley
  5. What did Adam say the day before Christmas?
    It’s Christmas, Eve.
  6. How many letters are in the alphabet at Christmas?
    25 – there’s no-el
  7. Why are Christmas trees so bad at knitting?
    Because they always drop their needles
  8. What did the farmer get for Christmas?
    A cowculator
  9. Why did nobody bid for Rudolph and Blitzen on eBay?
    They were two deer
  10. What did one snowman say to the other snowman?
    “Can you smell carrots?”
  11. Which side of a turkey has the most feathers?
    The outside
  12. What do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party?
    Freeze a jolly good fellow
  13. What happened to Santa when he went speed dating?
    He pulled a cracker
  14. Who’s Rudolph’s favourite singer?
    Beyon-sleigh
  15. Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
    Santa Jaws
  16. What athlete is warmest in winter?
    A long jumper
  17. What’s the most popular Christmas wine?
    “I don’t like sprouts!”
  18. Why does your nose get tired in winter?
    It runs all day
  19. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
    Frostbite
  20. What kind of music do elves listen to?
    Wrap
  21. What kind of motorcycle does Santa ride?
    A Holly Davidson
  22. What do reindeer put on their Christmas trees?
    Hornaments
  23. What happened to the man who stole an Advent calendar?
    He got 25 days
  24. What does Santa do when his elves misbehave?
    He gives them the sack
  25. What happened when Santa got stuck in a chimney?
    He felt Claus-trophobic
  26. How do snowmen get around?
    By riding an icicle
  27. How did Scrooge win the football match?
    The ghost of Christmas passed
  28. Why is it getting so hard to buy Advent calendars?
    Their days are numbered
  29. How does Darth Vader like his Christmas turkey?
    On the dark side

So, how many did you get? Did you laugh? Did you groan? Did you say “I don’t get it”?

Let me now explain everything for you.

I said before that all these jokes rely on your knowledge of specific Christmas vocabulary, so to help you a little bit I’m going to say all the items of vocab, just as a reminder. Then I’ll go through the jokes one by one and you might get them.

Christmas Vocabulary

Here is all the Christmas vocab in those 29 jokes. Listen to hear me explain all the items.

  • A christmas cracker
  • Christmas decorations
  • Christmas trees (they have needles and usually drop their needles during the holiday period)
  • Tinsel
  • Holly
  • Ornaments
  • An advent calendar
  • Santa (Claus) aka Father Christmas
  • Reindeer
  • Rudolph
  • Blitzen
  • Horns
  • A sleigh
  • The chimney
  • Elf / elves
  • A sack (of presents)
  • Christmas eve
  • Noel
  • To get something for christmas
  • Presents
  • To wrap presents
  • A snowman
  • To freeze
  • Icicles
  • Frost
  • To get frostbite (not a typical Christmas thing, but it might happen if you’re exposed to sub-zero temperatures, which are also no-longer normal at Christmas)
  • A long jumper / sweater
  • A turkey (Do you like dark meat or white meat?)
  • Sprouts
  • Scrooge (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – read out by me in episode 320)

Now let’s go through those jokes again and break them down

Scroll back up to read the jokes again.

That’s it! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for 2020!

Thank you for listening to Luke’s English Podcast!!