This episode of Luke’s English Podcast is sponsored by Luke’s English Podcast Premium. Premium LEPlanders, did you know that in the LEP App, as well as the category for premium audio episodes, there’s a category called Pronunciation Videos? Did you know that? There are currently 13 pronunciation videos in there with drills for you to repeat after me with annotations on the screen, plus a new video which I created and uploaded just the other day – a set of pronunciation drills for present perfect simple and continuous. I just thought I would let you know. I’m also working on a new premium audio series which is coming soon, so keep checking the premium category in your LEP App and also on my website. If you’d like to become a premium listener, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Hello listeners, how are you today? I hope you’re basically doing alright.
Sometimes I get messages from people who say things like this:
“Luke, when you talk on the podcast, are you talking at your normal speed, because I can understand everything you say” and “Can you speak at your normal speaking speed on the podcast please? Because we want to hear natural, fast speech – like the way native speakers usually speak.”
OK then. Actually, I think I do speak at my normal speed on this podcast more or less, most of the time, but as I’ve said before it’s probably easier for you to understand me when I’m talking on my own than when I’m talking to a guest. My conversations with guests tend to speed up. As you may have noticed.
But if you are one of those listeners who is looking for English listening at a fast, natural speed, then this kind of episode (that’s this one, that you’re listening to right now) is for you, because the conversation I’m presenting this time goes at a really rapid pace.
My guest and I got quite carried away during this conversation, which does happen when I speak to guests. We didn’t see the time passing and we covered a lot of different little topics with some bits of humour thrown in and we weren’t simplifying our English throughout. It’s just like when you’re talking to your friends in your native language I expect.
Basically, listeners – are you up for another English listening challenge? If the answer is “yes” then, great. Here you are. Here is this episode.
But it might be difficult, so brace yourself. It depends on your level of English of course. Maybe you’ll have no problem understanding this at all. But I think for some people, it might be a challenge.
Nevertheless, I’m not going to explain all the main points you are going to hear in advance, like I do sometimes at the start of episodes – that kind of explaining can be very helpful, but I’m not doing it this time, mainly because I want to keep the episode length under control – I don’t want it to end up being tooooo long. In fact, I’m going to stop this introduction in a moment and just let you listen to the conversation in full without loads of support from me. You’ll be alright. You’ll be fine.
My guest this time is Kate Billington, who you haven’t heard on this podcast before – so another new voice for you to get to know.
Kate does a lot of different things – she speaks multiple languages. British English is her mother tongue but she also speaks Chinese, French, Spanish too I believe. She is an English teacher like me. She makes cakes at a professional level (unlike me – I’m not great at making cakes but I’m very good at eating them) But Kate is a pro. I mean she is a professionally-qualified cake maker. She has a particular set of skills as you will hear – and watch out for some descriptions of some classic British cake recipes. Kate is a stand-up comedian (yes, another one), and she is interested in lots of other things too, as you will hear.
Kate and I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do too and that you just get really involved in listening to us and that you don’t see the time passing. If you do lose track of what we’re talking about at any point, which is quite possible, maybe use your podcasting app to skip back a bit and listen again.
If it is difficult, all I can do now is just encourage you to complete the episode from start to finish, even if you don’t get 100% of what we’re saying. It’s important when learning a language to persevere. It’s worth it. Anyway, if you simply enjoy the atmosphere and the things we say, hopefully that will make things much more pleasant for you.
Remember you don’t have to listen to the whole thing in one go. If you need to stop at any point, your podcast app will remember where you were and you can just carry on again later, which is one of the great things about podcasts.
The icing on the cake
Juuuust before we start, I feel I should explain one idiom in English which comes up near the beginning. “The icing on the cake”
I was thinking of calling this episode “The Icing on the Cake with Kate Billingon” but then I thought “no, people don’t know what that means”. But I want to explain it anyway because it does come up and you’re here to learn English, right?
If you say that something is “the icing on the cake” it means that it is something extra that is added to an already good situation, which makes it even better.
You have a situation which is already good, and then you add a little extra something to make that situation even better.
“The episode was good – but that joke that Kate told at the end was the icing on the cake”.
This is an idiom in English of course. It’s not only used to refer to cakes.
Icing is a sugary frosting which is added as a thin layer on top of a cake. So, the icing on top of a cake is an extra little layer of yummy sweet stuff which is added, making it even better. A cake is already amazing, right? Well, adding icing on top makes it even more amazing.
For exmaple: “It was incredible seeing Neil Young doing a concert in Hyde Park but Paul McCartney arriving on stage at the end of the show was the icing on the cake.”
This idiom comes up at the start. Watch out for it.
OK, I’m going to stop this introduction now. So let’s meet Kate Billington for the first time on Luke’s English Podcast, and here we go…
So, that was Kate Billington in an epically long conversation. Thanks again to Kate.
Hello you! You made it until the end. Nice one. How was that for you? I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
If this episode was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?
Maybe a long fruit cake – rich, quite heavy, fruity, made in the run up to Christmas, very British and best enjoyed with copious amounts of brandy.
Or maybe you found it more like a Victoria sponge cake – light, fluffy, sweet and moreish.
Or perhaps a battenburg cake – it looks like one solid whole, but when you get into it you realise that it’s made up of different sections.
Anyway, thank you for listening all the way up to this point.
Let us know any thoughts or reactions you have by writing something in the comment section on the website.
How was this episode for you?
Did you learn anything from it?
Do you have any specific questions about vocab that came up?
Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share?
Do you have any thoughts in your head, generally? (I hope so)
Check out the page for this episode on my website where you will see things like transcriptions for my introduction and this ending bit, plus pictures of most of the cake types and pastry types that we talked about → Victoria sponge, fruit cake, Battenberg cake (aka window cake) plus some lovely French things like croissants, pain au chocolate and more.
Kate Billington on Instagram
Check out Kate’s Instagram to see lots of lovely pictures of lovely delicious cakes that she has made – yum yum yum and indeed, yum.
Also you can check out Comedy Croissant on Instagram & Facebook, especially if you are in the Paris area and you’d like to come to one of the shows when they eventually come back. And as I record this ending bit France is again under strict lockdown measures, which means the comedy shows are not happening for the foreseeable future, but when they’re back, which they will be one day, you’ll know about it if you follow Comedy Croissant on Facebook.
LEP App users – There is a little outtake in the app (extra audio – just in case you didn’t get enough from this episode) – tap the gift icon while listening to the episode and you’ll hear a couple of bonus minutes of Kate and me talking about some blue bookends that I have in my pod-room. Bookends are things you put on the end of shelves to stop the books falling off. Usually they are rectangular in shape, but also L shaped – because part of the bookend has to go under the books. My blue bookends, which you might have seen in my videos, look like the Tardis from the TV show Doctor Who. The Tardis looks like a blue telephone box. Doctor Who fans will know. If you’d like to hear us talking about my Tardis-shaped bookends and whether I am a proper Whovian (Doctor Who fan) or not, then find the gift icon for this episode in the LEP app and tap it!
Posh, or not posh? Gap yah, etc…
Another thing is, if you are wondering about posh people – how to know if someone is posh, what a posh accent sounds like, and that whole “Gap Yah” thing, then go to the episode archive and find the “Posh or not posh” episodes – 581, 582 and 584. They should explain everything relating to poshness and how posh people speak.
Thank you again to Kate for this episode. Thanks Kate.
Dear listener, I will speak to you again soon on the podcast in either a free episode or a premium one (I’m working on more content for you), and yes the next part of the WISBOLEP competition is on it’s way. I am working on that too.
Thank you for choosing to listen to my podcast.
If you are feeling up for it you could leave a nice review for LEP on iTunes – it helps the podcast appear in those recommended lists and things. Like and subscribe and leave a comment if you’re listening on YouTube. Consider donating to support the podcast by clicking a donate button on my website. Download the Luke’s English Podcast app from the app store and consider becoming a premium lepster by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
And finally, please remember to be excellent to each other, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive.
This is a weird period of history in which we are living? I hope you’re getting on ok. Here in France the government has just put some new lockdown restrictions in place and we’re all trying to work out what they really mean. I don’t want to go on about covid on this podcast too much, except to say “hang in there everyone” and keep calm and carry on. Check out my episode from earlier this year which is all about language for talking about lockdown and dealing with lockdown, including the word lockdown, if you’re wondering what that is.
Here’s an episode in which I’m on my own, doing a bit of housekeeping – general podcast admin. I’m mainly going to talk about the WISBOLEP competition (as you can see from the title of the episode), but also I’m going to ramble about a few other things too including teaching you a bit of English – just some simple advice about making polite requests, also an inspiring message from a listener and maybe a song on the guitar at the end, we will see.
I’m publishing this episode hot on the heels of the last episode, which was my conversation with Christian from Canguro English (LEP686). Have you heard that? I only published it a few days ago and conventional podcasting wisdom says that you shouldn’t publish another episode so quickly after the last one, because the last one will sort of get ignored, lost, forgotten or sidelined as people won’t notice it and it won’t get as many listens as it should.
I think it’s a good episode, so if you haven’t heard it – be sure to listen to episode 686 with Christian. There’s also a video version of it on YouTube. It’s had a great response with people saying generally positive things, which is nice. Some people are requesting more video content. My position on this is that most of my content will always be audio, because that’s what I do – I make audio content, but every now and then I’ll do video versions of episodes and stick them on YouTube as well. OK. So subscribe to LEP on YouTube to make sure you get notified when I publish a video episode. I’ll probably tell you on the podcast too.
Also the episode before last has had some really interesting comments on the website. That was the episode about bilingual children in which we heard Alex in Moscow and his daughter Alice. Very interesting to read the comments from LEPsters or LEPlanders who are also bringing up their kids to speak English. Go to the episode archive and find 685 and read the comments. It’s all interesting stuff. I will do more of those bilingual kids episodes at some point. It’s a bit hard to mentally keep track of everything. There are a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous – a lot strands in this old dude’s head, man.
The deadline for sending in your entries was 15 October, so that’s long gone. One person is now freaking out.
The results aren’t ready yet or anything. You still have to vote for your favourites and all that – “how can we vote?” Steady on, the voting’s not ready yet either. All in good time.
All the recordings are sitting there in my inbox and I haven’t had a proper chance to work on the next stage of the competition yet. Things take time around here, you know how it is.
First of all I should say that it was great to get all the entries. I’ve managed to listen to almost all of them. I should say that it’s amazing to hear the voices of some of my listeners (some of them – obviously only a tiny portion of you sent in recordings because the vast majority of you are ninjas as we know, and that’s fine). It’s inspiring to hear little snippets of people’s stories of learning English, with the help of this podcast in many cases. That’s also quite flattering – that’s not the point of it all of course – just to flatter me or something. The point was to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone a little bit and record something and send it in, to celebrate my audience a bit and also to just find a new guest with an interesting story to tell in an episode of the podcast. I want to say well done for everyone who plucked up the courage to record a sincere entry into the competition. Some of them are particularly inventive and… well, you will see.
It’s going to be very difficult to choose a winner, because there are quite a lot of really interesting people and I’m sure you are going to want to hear more from many of them.
But the thing is, I have a bit of a problem. We have a bit of a problem with this competition. It’s a logistical issue. Logistical refers to the organisation of something complicated.
It’s not a major problem. It’s not like a Tom Cruise jump out of a plane to save-the-world Mission Impossible to problem or anything – no explosions. It’s quite a good problem really, but still, I’ve been scratching my head and wondering what to do about it.
What’s the problem Luke?
The problem is… I’ve had 100 entries – each one 2 minutes in length – that’s about 200 minutes in total, and that’s about 3 and a half hours if I play all the entries back to back without any pause or comment from me between them and without any introduction from me, and I will have to do some kind of introduction at the start, and it will also be necessary for me to say the names of each person again plus maybe one or two other things to help you remember them.
So, 200 minutes or 3.5 hours, plus an introduction in which I explain the voting rules etc, and little comments from me – that’s at least 4 hours of audio.
It’s too much, isn’t it? It’s too much audio for me to expect everyone to listen to. And I need everyone to listen to it all because I want to do some kind of fair voting process for this. Hmmm.
I like doing long episodes, but this goes beyond that, especially since I would like every single two-minute entry to be heard and you’ll need to remember which one or ones are your favourites in order to vote for them on my website.
Imagine a presidential election with 100 candidates, all presenting themselves to you one after the other. You’d never remember who they were, even if they were all extraordinary.
So this is the issue. Too many entries. It’s become a bit of a logistical nightmare.
It’s my fault. I take full responsibility of course. I set the 2-minute time limit for each recording because I thought you’d need that long to say something meaningful.
What did I expect though? For some reason I thought not many people would enter, but I don’t know why I thought that. I should have known that I’d get at least 100 entries!
Anyway, what’s the problem? You might think.
Let’s go through the options I have ahead of me now and we’ll see.
Why am I telling you this?
Transparency – I want everyone to know what’s going on, so that I don’t get loads of messages from people asking my why I’m doing it this way, and not that way and why didn’t you do this, and I thought you would do that, and I’m disappointed with this and why didn’t you play my recording, and I thought you’d play them all, and I was disappointed by the last Star Wars film and English is too complicated because the spelling and pronunciation are weird and there are too many accents and why can I understand you Luke but I don’t understand other native speakers and can you explain the Russian Joke and why why why and all that kind of stuff.
To avoid confusion and questions, I want you to know the situation like I do.
Also I’m curious to see what you think and I would like you to tell me your thoughts because it can help me make the right decision. (although to be honest I think I’ve already made up my mind)
I’d like to have some input from you but ultimately, I do maintain supreme executive power, so I will still do what I personally think is best, but nevertheless, I am interested in your ideas and I want you to know my decision making process.
Some of you will think this is all unnecessary and that I’m overthinking it, but I disagree. I think it’s necessary and I’m applying the appropriate amount of thinking and talking time to this. So there.
The main things we need to do are:
I want you, the audience, to be able to hear all the entries that have been sent to me (because I think people sent them to me with the understanding that they would be published for public scrutiny) and I want you to be able to vote for your favourites, rather than it just being a solo decision from me.
I would like to give an introduction before playing all the entries, because there are things I need to say about the voting process and stuff like that. Also I would like to make one or two little comments after some or all of the entries, as well as repeating the names of the contestants. All those things will increase the time this will all take, of course – so we’re looking at 4hours plus in total.
Then, based on the voting by you the audience, I will interview the winner. There might be a couple of runners up too, we will see.
I want to do this in a way which is fair, and which gives everyone an equal chance (because I am committed to maintaining some democratic standards in this world!)
Here are the different options which I’m considering. None of them are perfect, because of the whole “too many entries” issue. (by the way, saying “too many” does sound negative, but like I said before, this is quite a good problem in a sense. It’s a bit like having too much chocolate in your cupboard or something, or too much cake. Oh we’ve got too much cake! When and how will we eat it all? We can’t throw it away can we?) You see? Yes, you see. The cake metaphor is good.
So, the options I’m considering. And I’ll say right now that I think I’m going to choose option 4. Anyway, here we go.
I play all the entries (in alphabetical order, or chronological order) in one single epically long episode – probably about 4 hours long or more.
Problem: This is obviously far too long and just not a practical length for one single episode of the podcast. The chances are, people will not listen to the whole thing and most of the entries will not be heard and so the voting will be unfair.
I play all the entries, but in a series of episodes (that all get uploaded on the same day). It would probably be 5 or 6 episodes → Introduction, WISBOLEP 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. 20 entries in each episode. Each episode is about 45 minutes long.
Problem: It’s more or less the same as option 1. Will people listen to all the entries? The people in parts 4 and 5 might not get as much attention as the ones in the first part.
Also, I have to say that I have to be a bit careful about what I publish to my podcast feed.
Dropping 5 episodes of only competition entries into my podcast feed is not the greatest idea – and I say that as a podcaster and podcasters must be fairly careful about what they publish. I have to be honest, I think that the majority of my audience aren’t that invested in the competition and the entries.
I have a survey on my website asking people to vote for their favourite types of episode (find it in the CONTANT section) and this kind of episode – competition entries from listeners – is actually the least popular type of episode that I do. I like doing them, but I have to make sure I do it right. I think the reason this type of episode got low votes in my survey is because the last time I did this (YEP competition) I published all the entries from round 1 (8 episodes in total, all in a row) and it probably wasn’t what a lot of people wanted in their podcast feed. I shouldn’t really do that again.
I choose what I think are the best entries and create a shortlist of something like 20 entries, and play them in one episode, and let people vote on just those 20.
Problem: 80 people’s entries just get rejected and never get played or published in any way, which is a pity and I think that would disappoint about 80 people who took the time to record something thinking that it would appear on LEP. I don’t think I ever said that all the entries were guaranteed to be played on the podcast, but I may have given that impression.
This would essentially solve the main problem of there being too many entries, but I don’t really want to just just chuck 80 recordings in the bin. Those people recorded them expecting them to be heard by more than just me.
I create two rounds of voting.
The first round is done on the website only, meaning that all the entries are posted on my website but not played in an episode of the podcast.
That way, the people who really want to listen to all the entries and vote for them, can do it by going to the website and listening there. I would probably post all the audio as an unlisted YouTube video because I can create time stamps for each entry, making it easier for you to find them and hear them.
So, the episodes would all be available for listening on the website (so they are made publically available) and people can vote for their favourites there. The winners of the first round could be decided by a combination of votes from listeners and my own choices.
Round 2 would be something like the most popular 20 entries from round 1 and all of them would be played in an episode of the podcast.
This would make it much easier for the whole audience to vote.
The winner of round 2 would be interviewed on the podcast.
It might be possible for some runners up to be featured too.
So, which option do you prefer?
To be honest, I’m leaning towards option 4. I think I’m going to choose option 4 but I’d also like to run it by you to see what you all think.
The chances are, you’ll all have different opinions and different advice, which is fine.
I get the final say and you’ll just have to trust me on that.
Let me just recap
Option 1 – one mammoth 4 hour episode with all the entries. No.
Option 2 – one mammoth 5-part WISBOLEP series. I don’t fancy it.
Option 3 – I choose the top 20 entries and publish them, and just bin the rest, never to be heard by the public.
Option 4 – Put all the entries on the website and those people who want to listen to every single one, can do it, and they can vote too.The most popular 20 (let’s say) will then be published in a single WISBOLEP episode for the second round of voting. The selection process will be based on a combination of the listener voting and my own judgement (which will probably be more or less the same I expect).
Again, some of you might say I’m overthinking this whole thing. But I’m just trying to do it properly and fairly.
I think I’m going to choose option 4, but as I said, let me know your thoughts.
You might have an idea for an option 5 for example, so feel free to share that.
But do bear in mind that I also have to limit the time and cost that is involved on my side for this.
For example, if your idea for Option 5 could be for me to do a YouTube live stream in which I play all the entries one by one, with some comments from me… well, that could be fun, but it would also mean me live streaming on YouTube for a lot more than 4 hours probably, and it’s rare that I ever get 4 free consecutive hours in my life these days! So, that would just not be practical from my side. [Do it at night!] No, sorry. I need my beauty sleep.
My name is Luke not Luck / look / Mr Luke / luke (lower case L) or Luke’s
I’ve been doing this for 11.5 years, nearly 700 episodes (a lot more in fact) and I’m still talking about how to spell my name (I remember saying this in episode 1 of the podcast).
People often spell my name Luck → but maybe it’s autocorrect!
Proofread your emails and comments before you send them! (advice for us all)
So this whole “Luck English Postcard” thing might just be a conspiracy by computers and phones that are “just trying to make the world a better place” by helping us with our spelling (and yes, “postcard” is often what people type when they mean podcast – maybe that’s because they think the word is postcard – it is the sort of word people learn in lower-level English classes, or it’s because your computer doesn’t have very good English and it’s “helpfully” autocorrecting podcast to postcard. I don’t know.)
Having said that, I remember many many times when I was actually called Luck, look, ruku or rook or whatever by learners from around the world that I have met, but again that’s probably because it’s hard to pronounce Luke, or people don’t realise that Luke is a name and they think my name is Luck.
For example, if I was learning Chinese or Russian or any other language with words that look different to English I am sure I would make similar errors and worse probably. I do it in French.
Basically, what I’m saying is I forgive you. But please do remember to proofread your emails and comments. ;)
Making Polite Requests
Another language point here with reference to people getting in touch with me: making requests.
People often request certain things from me. Like for example they’re very keen to hear me talk about a certain topic.
Luke, make an episode about Peaky Blinders.
Luke, do more videos.
Luke, publish an episode about Ricky Gervais.
Honestly, when I read that, probably in the queue at the supermarket or something, my first reaction is “no”. “No-one tells me what to do! … well, except maybe my daughter, and my wife, and my boss at work, and the government, and.. well ok fine, some people tell me what to do, but you get the point.”
Even though I would quite like to do an episode about Peaky Blinders, or Ricky Gervais and I like doing videos when I can.
My first, stressed out, overloaded mind, trying to not catch COVID reaction is “no – don’t tell me what to do!”
I think this is just because of the way the request has been presented to me.
In most cases, when people request things from me, I am sure they are being very well-meaning and there is no malice behind it at all, quite the opposite. They’re showing their enthusiasm and it’s motivated by positive feelings. They like the podcast and would love to hear something about Peaky Blinders or whatever it is.
What I’m saying is, think about how you word your requests.
Think of the difference between a request and an order (or an imperative).
Requests are polite (they should be), orders are not really polite. Orders are what the police do, for example. “Get in the back of the van!”
I could get into the fine details and all the linguistic specifics, but this is not LEP Premium, so let’s just keep it simple.
Order / imperative
Make an episode about Ricky Gervais.
Even your boss at work doesn’t use imperatives.
“Write this report and send it to me by 5pm Friday, and also come in to work on Sunday, we need you.” –> if you work in a horrible place with a boss who doesn’t care about your feelings even a little bit.
Usually bosses will at least sugarcoat their requests a little bit, to help the medicine go down.
“If you could wrap up this report and ping it to me by end of play on Friday, that would be great, and I’m afraid you’re going to have to come in on Sunday – there’s nothing we can do about it – I’ll see if I can get you a day off later in the year maybe.”
Let’s consider how to turn an imperative into a simple and polite request.
Luke, make a new video with Amber and Paul.
You could add a “please” to that, because we all know that adding please makes it more polite, right?
Luke, please make a new video with Amber and Paul.
That’s better, but adding please to an order isn’t enough. It is still an order, and it just sounds like you are a rich person giving commands to a member of staff or something.
Also, adding thanks at the end makes it sound a bit dismissive and a little bit rude even.
Luke, please reunite the Beatles on the podcast. Thanks.
Saying thanks for something before it’s been done, I think, sounds a bit pushy. It’s like assuming it’s going to be done.
We sometimes write “Thanks in advance” at the end of an email with a request, but it can still come across as a bit pushy. [Thinks: I need to do an online course about writing emails…]
The issue is with the structure. Any imperative structure still sounds quite rude even if you add lots of stuff at the start or end, because it is still an imperative. It’s still an order.
Luke, please consider making an episode about James Bond. [good, you’ve added “please consider” – a nice bit of hedging but you’re still ordering me to do it.]
Luke, if you have time, please consider making an episode about James Bond. [“If you have time” is a thoughtful thing to add, but again this is still an order.]
Both those things are better, but this is still not what I’m looking for.
What are you looking for Luke?
You need to make your request into a question. To cut a long story short I just recommend that you add “Could you” at the start and “please” at the end. That’s it. That’s probably enough, probably. Don’t forget the question mark.
Luke, could you make an episode about Ricky Gervais please?
This is much better. It just comes across as much more polite and nice and I don’t feel like I’m being ordered to do something. I’m more willing to have an instantly positive response to that.
Even better would be a bit more hedging (adding things before or after the main statement), just to show more respect.
You don’t have to go too far.
Luke, your podcast is a work of genius unrivalled in all forms of art, culture and human endeavor, and I am certain that in your infinite wisdom have you have considered all possible topics for an episode of your esteemed podcast. Having said that, and I pose this most humble of requests to you with the deepest level of respect, sir, would it be at all possible if you could consider spending even a tiny speck of your most valuable time on the consideration of an episode devoted to the subject of Richard Gervais. I am certain that you would bring new insights and depth to this topic, and that all other commentary on it would pale in comparison to the profound work that you would undoubtedly produce.
That’s obviously too much.
But you could do this:
Hi Luke, thanks for your episodes. I particularly enjoy the ones about comedy, especially the one you did about Karl Pilkington. Could you do an episode about Ricky Gervais at some point, please? I’d really like to hear your thoughts on his stand up and TV shows. Don’t know if you’ve already considered that, but it would be really interesting to hear your thoughts.
Or, more simply – Luke, could you do an episode about Ricky Gervais please?
I know online culture is to just put things in the simplest and quickest way possible, but let’s not abandon the pragmatics of politeness in the process.
This is not just me by the way – I’m not just ultrasensitive or anything – this is a cultural thing and I think it’s true across the English speaking world.
Some of you might think that my comments here are waaaay too much and that it’s completely mad, unnecessary and over-sensitive to phrase your requests like this, but if you want my professional opinion I’d say → this is the right way to do it.
And that’s it.
Just to recap. If you are requesting something from me, just add “Could you…” at the start and “please?” at the end. Nice one.
Inspiring message from Daniel ER on Facebook
Dear luke, [actually it should be Luke with a captal L :) ]
I´m not sure whether you will have time to read this comment but here it goes anyway.
Three years ago, I got a ticket to Australia. With no English at all, I was determined to have an amazing adventure, live in another country, and obviously, learn English.
To be honest, it was really hard at the beginning. I had to play music in the street to earn some cash and I felt bad when I couldn´t say what I thought to the kind people of Australia.
Six months went by like nothing so I grabbed my backpack and accordion and took a road trip towards the north of Australia (Queensland).
I could [was able to] get a job in a resort as maintenance and although I [‘ve] gotta say that Australian English “is a thing”, all of them helped with my English, they were really patient with me.
Most of the time I was sad: People speak too fast, where is that accent from? What do you mean by “smoko” mate? It was then when I found your podcast. I had lots of time to listen to Spotify while I was fixing something at the resort so I took advantage of that. This really helped me a lot, I couldn´t be more grateful. I won´t forget episode 297 called “be positive” as I listened to it just on time, just when I was feeling that this fight wasn´t worth it.
Now, being fully aware that my English is not the best one, it is at least functional and that´s the point of all this, isn´t it? We must keep improving but at the end of the day you should be nicer to yourself, I mean that we have to recognize the achievements done so far.
I am back in my country (Chile) and I could [was able to] get an amazing job in which I speak English all day long, and you don´t know how awesome that is to me.
I honestly believe that maybe you are not fully aware of what do you actually do… you help people to achieve their dreams so be proud of all your efforts because we – your listeners- will be eternally grateful.
If someone out there is reading this comment and you are feeling frustrated and sad, just keep going! You can do this, it is not impossible and you have everything you need to learn this beautiful language. The key, in my opinion, you must be willing to go through the tough and uncomfortable moments that are on this path. You will remember them since they are the ones that teach us most. (quite sure I wrote that badly hahaha)
Thanks a lot for everything and I´ll certainly be listening to the podcast.
A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!
This podcast is made possible thanks to donations from lovely listeners (click a yellow PayPal button on the website if you’re feeling generous) and also the premium subscription, which costs, per month, slightly less than a pack of 80 Yorkshire Gold Teabags from Sainsbury’s. So if you would like to make sure I never run out of tea, then consider signing up.
There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.
Shall we start the episode? OK.
Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)
I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.
The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.
This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.
Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.
Explaining this episode’s title
The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.
The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!
It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.
What is “a tangent”? Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.
In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.
It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.
“To go off on a tangent”
There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.
I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.
Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.
My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.
What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.
So you’ll have to focus.
Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.
So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.
The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)
We talk about
Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state”
If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.
Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.
Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.
Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.
Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)
Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).
How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.
I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?
I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).
I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many. Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).
Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?
I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.
In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.
I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.
Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.
I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…
Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.
Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.
Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)
OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.
I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.
Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…
Marie Connolly is an Australian stand-up comedian and TEFL teacher who has written a book of short stories about times when men (from various countries) have flirted with her. In this episode Marie shares some of those stories, tells us about English men vs French men vs Australian men and much more.
Transcripts & Vocabulary Notes for this episode (promos, introduction, ending)⤵
LEP Premium Promo
Before we start – a quick mention about LEP Premium. Premium LEPsters, I just want to let you know that P24 is now finished and uploaded. It is an epic series – homophones, jokes, building your vocabulary (which is so important) and also working on your pronunciation. I’ve also uploaded P25 which contains pronunciation drills for the previous free episode (LEP682) which was all about English accents. I said I’d do a pronunciation episode for that, and I’ve done it. You can practise saying the sentences with my normal accent, and also with several regional accents too. The aim being to strengthen both your listening skills and your speaking skills.
Second thing – the WISBOLEP competition deadline is 15 October. Is that clear? Originally I said 31 October but the date has changed! The deadline is now the 15 October 2020. If you don’t know what the competition is, check out episode 681.
But this is episode 683, and I’m keen to get started, so let’s go…
Hello and welcome back to LEP. It’s new episode time again!
This is an episode with a guest. So you’re going to be listening to another authentic conversation at natural speed in English which can be difficult to follow but is good training for your English.
Before going any further, let me explain the title of this episode. “683. Feelgood Stories of Flirting with Marie Connolly”
Feelgood is an adjective (one word) which we use to describe anything that makes you feel good! For example we can say a feelgood film, feelgood food and or feelgood stories, which would be stories that will make you feel good.
Feelgood stories of flirtingFlirting means interacting with someone in a way that shows that you fancy them, find them attractive, and are probably interested in perhaps getting ‘romantically involved’ with them, let’s say. Synonyms include ‘chatting someone up’ , ‘hitting on someone’ or perhaps ‘trying to pick someone up’. A person can be a flirt, and the adjective is flirtatious.
Feelgood stories of flirting with Marie Connolly
And Marie Connolly is my guest in this episode.
Marie is a stand-up comedian, a ski-instructor, an English teacher and writer. Her latest book is full of short stories about flirting with the opposite sex.
Before we meet Marie, let me give you some context to help you understand this conversation, which can ultimately help you learn more English from it.
Marie is from Australia but she has lived in a few different countries. It’s a bit of a stereotype that Aussies like to travel away from Australia (this is called Going on Walkabout), but in this case it’s true. Marie has spent time in various places including Brisbane, Syndey, London, Liverpool, The French Alps and now Paris.
Marie was born in Australia but her dad was from Liverpool and her mum was from El Savlador in central America, which is quite an interesting combination.
For those of you who are interested in accents and pronunciation – Marie has a slight Australian accent because that’s where she grew up. It’s not super strong, but you should be able to notice it a bit.
Here are the main things you’re going to hear us talking about:
As you might expect we chat a bit about stand-up comedy, what it’s like dealing with tough moments on stage and reasons why it can be hard to do stand-up in front of audiences of non-native speakers.
I’m afraid to say that the infamous Russian Joke story makes yet another appearance, which is my fault because as you’ll hear, I’m the one who brings it up. I know, I know. I can’t believe I’m still talking about the Russian Joke, and some of you are now saying “Wait, what’s the Russian Joke?” Long-term listeners will know all about this. Clearly I have deep mental scars from this experience which still haven’t healed. Either that or I secretly love telling this story.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep listening because I am going to tell the story once more. Yes, I know.
Marie gives some thoughts on Liverpool where some of her cousins live, and her favourite English shops for buying clothes, which leads to some chat about Marks & Spencer – the quintessentially English clothing and food shop, which also has branches in Paris where you can buy proper tea. (not property, no – they don’t sell flats and houses, no I mean “proper tea” good quality tea)
….I’m now pausing for laughter…
Marie tells us about her time living and partying hard in London, and then her decision to move to France to work as a ski instructor at a ski resort in the Alps, while making trips to Paris to perform comedy gigs.
You’ll hear some details of Marie’s comedy shows in English and French in Paris.
At the moment she is doing her own one-woman show in English called “Sydney, London, Paris, Darling”. You can see it if you’re in town, COVID permitting of course. At the moment, in France, Theatres are still allowed to open and Marie’s show is in a theatre so it’s still on. If you’re in town why not come and check it out? She is very funny and has some great stories to share.
Then we move on to talk about the latest book that Marie has written, called “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. It contains 40 short stories. This is yet another book recommendation on the podcast. I think it could be a really good thing to read, if this is your cup of tea. Short stories are perfect for learners of English, because they’re short – do I need to say more?
It’s chick-lit, which means books primarily for women that usually include romantic themes.
The stories in Marie’s book are all cute anecdotes about times when men have flirted with her, hit on her, or chatted her up. There’s no explicit sexual stuff in Marie’s book. As Marie says it’s just innocent fun. So it’s less “40 Shades of Grey” and more “40 Shades of Hey, How are you doing?”
— I’m now pausing for more laughter and applause, thank you —
The rest of the episode is mainly Marie sharing some of her stories of flirty moments with men who she has encountered.
She also talks a bit about how French men are different to Australian or English men.
What do you think the differences might be? What do you think Marie is going to say about the way a French man will approach her, compared to an English or Australian man?
Hmmm, have I piqued your interest? I hope so. Listen on to find out the details.
Vocab hunters – Here is some language which you can simply notice as you listen. When you hear these things, take a mental note.
I know you are keen to get to the conversation, but bear with me. This will be useful for your English, and that’s what this is all about at the end of the day (and the beginning of the day, and the middle of the day, etc) Trust me, I am a professional.
I’m not explaining this all now, I’m just saying it so you can notice it yourself when it comes up naturally. If you don’t understand these phrases, don’t worry. I will explain it later in the episode. But you might be able to work it out from context as you listen.
*There is some swearing*
To backtrack – “You can’t backtrack” [this one comes up twice]
To stick in someone’s craw – “It stuck in my craw. It bothered me.”
To be over it – “Maybe I’m not over it”
Deep scars – “Maybe there are deep scars”
To wilt – “I wilted in front of them”
To be sick to your stomach – “I was sick to my stomach”
To be swallowed up – “Can I please be swallowed up?”
A halterneck top (an item of women’s clothing that is quite revealing) “I was wearing a halterneck top”
To snuggle under the duvet – “If I could have, I would have snuggled under the duvet and just stayed in bed for a year.”
______ by name, ______ by nature – “Alex Love, our mutual friend; lovely by name and lovely by nature.”
A coping strategy – “Every comedian has their own coping strategy”
To rectify – “Get back on stage as soon as possible and rectify”
Dainty / pastries – “I’m not used to French dainty pastries, I prefer the big fat Australian ones”
To pay through the nose – “I will pay through the nose. I just want the best tea I can get.”
A hub / antipodeans – “It was a hub for antipodeans”
To be up shit creek (without a paddle) – “Because of Brexit I’m up shit creek.”
A snapshot of something – “It’s a snapshot of life in France”
To be hit on / to be picked up / to be complimented – “40 times I’ve been hit on, picked up or complimented by men”
Abs – “One was very white but he had super-fit abs”
White vs Pale (to describe a person)
A sand castle
To blush – “He would blush and I would feel amazing.”
The contents (of a book) / to pique someone’s interest – “Can I read through the contents to pique people’s interest?”
To mime – “He started swimming with his hands. He was miming and I was laughing.”
A man bun – “He had long hair up in a man bun. I called him Mr Man bun.”
Ok so try to notice those things, maybe try to guess what they mean and I’ll be explaining them on the other side of the conversation.
But mainly, I hope you just enjoy listening to this chat.
Now, get ready because things are going to speed up a bit, as we meet Marie Connolly…
Thank you again to Marie. After finishing the recording, we realised there were other stories we’d forgotten to tell, including the time Jerry Seinfeld turned up at one of our little comedy shows in Paris and performed in front of about 20 people including Marie and me, and how it was just a little bit awkward, but still amazing and quite surreal. Jerry Seinfeld at one of our shows? What are the odds? So Marie will have to come back for another episode in which we can describe that experience for you.
Just a reminder about Marie’s comedy show (if you’re in Paris) and her books (which you can get anywhere in both paperback and Kindle versions).
The One-Woman Comedy Show
“Sydney Paris London Darling” you need to check her Facebook page – Marie Connolly Comedy.
www.facebook.com/marieconnollycomedy/Marie’s books, including “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”
Marie’s page on Amazon where you can find her books. The main one we talked about is “40 Frenchie Feelgood Flirts”. She writes under the pseudonym Muddy Frank (read the titles of the books available)
Explaining the Vocabulary
Let’s go through that vocabulary again, from the beginning of the episode.
Did you notice any of the words and phrases I listed before? Did you get a sense of what they mean?
Let me go through them again, and I’m going to clarify them as quickly as possible. I’m not giving these phrases the full LEP Premium treatment (because I like to go into lots of detail in those episodes) I might put them into an upcoming episode of LEP Premium so I can make sure you learn the vocabulary properly and we can do the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills as well. But now, this is the sort of quick version. Let’s call it the 10 peso version.
The vocabulary is already listed above ⤴️
Still not sure about the meanings? Try using www.oxforddictionaries.com to check them out. Other online dictionaries are available.
And that is the end of this episode.
What’s coming up in the future? Who knows – nobody can predict the future, except weather forecasters.
As usual I have more episode ideas than time, but I do have a few interviews lined up, including some more friends you might not have heard on the podcast before, and some regular guests that you’re probably waiting to hear from too [yes episodes with Amber & Paul are in the pipeline, it’s just a bit tricky to find times when we are all free].
Basically – more conversations with guests are coming up as well as the usual episodes on my own on various topics. So, it’s going to be more of what you normally get with LEP!
Right, I will let you go now.
Thank you for listening.
Check the episode page on my website where you’ll find transcripts for 95% of what I’m saying in the introduction and ending parts of this episode, plus other things like a photo of Marie and me (oh Luke, a photo!?) plus the comment section and things like that. I often put other things on the website page for you to check out as well, including little YouTube videos relating to the episode or other bits and pieces.
I look forward to reading your comments on the website.
Follow me on Twitter @englishpodcast which is where I am also quite active.
Tweets by EnglishPodcast
Sign up to LEP Premium to access all the other episodes I make, all focused on helping you build your English in various ways. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
Have a good one. Be excellent to each other, and party on in your own sweet way.
Professor David Crystal returns to talk about his latest books, and more. The first book is all about the art of conversation in English, and the second one is a spy thriller inspired by real events. David Crystal is one of the world’s leading linguists and an expert on the English language. He is also a national treasure and it’s a treat to be able to talk to him in this episode. Video version also available on the Luke’s English Podcast YouTube channel.
Hello and welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. This episode is number 669 and it’s called How To Learn English.
That’s quite a bold title but this really is a lot of what I have to say about learning English. If you really want to learn this language, this is my advice.
I’ve been teaching for about 20 years, podcasting for over 11 years now and I keep finding out more about learning a language through teaching it, getting feedback from listeners and also through my experiences of trying to learn French.
This episode is a distillation of many of my thoughts and advice on how to learn English. It’s not going to cover absolutely every aspect of it, because language learning is a huge subject that encompasses so many different things and you could talk about it all day, but I have decided to talk about learning English, breaking it down into the 4 skills, and giving you as much advice as I can in this single podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
For those of you who are not so familiar with me and my work. My name is Luke Thompson, I think I am the 4th most famous Luke Thompson in the world. I’m an English teacher, a podcaster, a comedian, a husband and a dad. I am from England but these days I live in France. My podcast is free and is downloaded all over the world. I also have a premium subscription in which I focus specifically on improving your vocab, grammar and pronunciation. To find out more about that go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
I expect you want to learn English, right? That’s the main reason you’re listening to this I expect. You want to learn English.
Well, good news! It’s definitely possible. You can learn English and you will if you put in the time and the effort. It’s important to remember that.
What do I mean by “learn English”, though? I mean that you can learn to speak English fluently, clearly and with confidence, expressing yourself with shades of meaning, adapting your English for the situation both in speaking and in writing, knowing and being able to use a wide variety of vocabulary and accurate grammar and ultimately being yourself in the language and developing beneficial relationships with others based on effective communication. Yes, you can. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
That’s it, just a positive and encouraging message at the start. It’s important to always remember that making progress in your learning is a realistic prospect and will happen when you put in the time and effort, and more good news: the more you enjoy it, the easier it is.
I hope this podcast helps you to enjoy getting English into your life on a regular basis, which is a key part of learning the language effectively.
But what else should you be doing in order to improve your English overall?
In this episode I’d like to talk in some detail about learning English and how you can do it.
This episode is a sort of “come to Jesus moment”, which I feel I should do regularly, just to remind everyone listening that there is a method or approach at work here and that it’s not just you listening to people talking.
A “come to Jesus moment” in the world of business is when someone does a passionate speech or event in which fundamental priorities and/or beliefs are reassessed, or reaffirmed. It’s like when Jesus gathers his disciples around him in order to reaffirm their belief in what he’s preaching or to say some deep stuff which strengthens their faith.
This is a come to Jesus moment for me.
Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus. No, not at all. Not even a little bit, and anyway that’s not for me to say, that’s for other people to point out isn’t it, not me. Anyway…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a method to the madness.
In my podcast episodes, I’m always teaching you, using my particular set of professional skills, but rather than presenting it all as a lesson I usually try to present it more like a radio show or a comedy show even.
So, amidst the episodes about music, comedy, interviews and so on, I thought it would be worth restating the core values of LEP, which I seem to do about once every 6 months or so.
I’m going to give loads of advice here, and this is all based on what I’ve learned from:
Teaching for about 20 years
Meeting thousands of learners of English, some of them successful, some of them not, working directly with them as their teacher and listening to them talk about their studying habits and experiences
The academic studies I’ve done, especially the DELTA which involved extensive reading and writing on various aspects of how people learn and teach English
Doing my podcast and getting testimonies over the years from many listeners who told me about how they’ve used it to improve their English
There’s also my own personal experience of working on my French
Anyway, the plan is to talk about learning English with a focus on the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
I have talked about these points quite a few times before on this podcast, and have given tons of specific advice about working on your English, including in episodes like 174 (and others)
So I will probably repeat myself a bit. But I still get asked to talk about “how to learn English” very regularly and I think it’s important for me to talk about learning English on this podcast on a regular basis. Obviously, that is what this podcast is about, first and foremost, even though a lot of the time in my episodes you’ll hear me and my guests talking about all sorts of other things.
Learning English is the main aim of this podcast
Essentially the thinking is that you should listen to natural conversation on a variety of topics and it’s simply listening to things in English (not just listening to things about English) that’s going to help you learn this language, especially if you enjoy the content.
I’ll probably talk about this again in a bit, but let’s say that ultimately the plan with the free episodes is to help you listen to English regularly, for longer periods of time, long term. The more, the better. If the content is enjoyable, that should just make it easier for you to achieve that. In fact, if you’re really into what you’re listening to, you don’t really even notice the time passing.
Then there’s the premium content, which is an effort to push your learning beyond the gains you get from all the exposure and input you get from just listening. The premium content is designed to let you get the benefit of my experience and teaching skills in order to cut out a lot of work that you would otherwise have to do yourself, so I can essentially take you by the hand and lead you through some intensive practice to work on your English more directly.
So that’s my content, but let’s talk now about learning English as a whole then.
Learning English is a holistic thing. It encompasses many aspects and skills that are connected as a whole.
There are receptive skills like listening and reading, productive skills like speaking and writing, language systems like grammar, spelling, vocabulary and phonology, social and psychological factors that come into play when we use language when interacting with others, then there are other factors that come into play like identity issues, body language, culture, literature, pragmatics and all sorts of other things. It’s hard to know where to start when talking about it.
You need to learn it to the point where you don’t even think about it any more.
The more you talk and think about it, the more it starts to sound like the force from Star Wars.
Stretch out with your feelings.
Do or do not, there is no try.
Do not think, feel.
Let go, let the English flow through you.
I am your father (oh wait)
It’s about learning how to do something which goes right to the core of who you are in fact.
It’s a holistic thing. It incorporates many aspects as part of a whole process and so it’s quite tricky to know where to start.
Let’s put it like this. Language goes in, and language comes out. (I told you it sounds like The Force)
Language is within you and language is without you. It flows through you. It binds the galaxy together.
There are receptive skills (this is how language goes in)
And there are productive skills (this is how language goes out)
There’s the written language
And there’s the spoken language
This is our system.
Think of it like a table with two categories on the horizontal axis and two on the vertical axis, so it’s like a grid with 4 squares in it.
On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.
On the vertical we have written and spoken English.
Within the table we have 4 skills – the 4 squares.
So in the box marked “written” and “receptive” we have reading.
Below that in the “spoken” and “receptive” categoriy we have listening.
On the right in the “written” and “productive” side we have writing.
And then in the “spoken” and “productive” side we have speaking.
Those are your four skills. Reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The 4 skills are connected in various ways.
Reading and writing deal with the written word of course.
Reading helps you to write. It helps you to see how the language is built, how words are spelled and how sentences, paragraphs and texts are put together with grammar and textual conventions.
Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word.
Listening helps you to learn how English actually sounds, how words join together in sentences or longer utterances, it helps you get familiar with the speed, rhythm, flow and intonation of the language. It helps you get used to natural pronunciation which in turn helps you produce English in the same way.
Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form.
But reading and listening are connected too because they’re both receptive skills. They provide us with input which is the essential foundation of language learning.
And speaking and writing are connected because they’re productive skills.
These are the skills you need to use when using language for various purposes. This is where you are more active in the sense that you are constructing language and putting it down visually in the form of writing, or using your body to produce it orally.
Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.
The reading thing there is something we’ll come back to in the section about reading.
This is the academic who is always mentioned in this context, when talking about how to learn English these days. Krashen was one in a long line of linguists who came up with theories about how language is learned and should be taught.
Arguably, we still don’t really know how people learn languages, but various academics over the years have put forward different hypotheses to explain it and these have been the backbone of our understanding of language learning that has informed the way we all learn and teach languages over the years.
Krashen though is the one that people often talk about today, including all the many YouTubers who regularly post videos about the best ways to learn, the only ways to learn, the secrets of learning and all that sort of thing. Krashen is usually brought up because his ideas fit in quite nicely to a model of language learning for today. I mean, it involves a lot of consumption of content in English – plenty of listening and reading and that sort of content is in plentiful supply online, like for example episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.
In his input hypothesis in which he makes the case for the importance of comprehensible input for language learning, he states that in fact the only way we can successfully increase our underlying linguistic competence. This is our system of linguistic knowledge or let’s say that “language instinct” that you have, which even subconsciously gives us a sense of when language is right or wrong. I suppose it could be active in that you know a certain grammar rule and can see when it’s been broken, or passive in that you just feel that something is right or wrong but can’t necessarily explain it.
I would say the passive knowledge is the vital one because ultimately you just want to be able to feel that language is right or wrong without thinking about it.
But that being said, your active knowledge can be really useful when doing things like avoiding common errors as a result of your first language, or consciously pushing yourself to create language which is normal.
Anyway, Krashen says the only way to increase your linguistic competence is through comprehensible input, meaning reading and listening to things that we mostly understand and that with the context of what you do understand, you are able to work out the bits that you don’t know. This is how we acquire new languages.
So basically, we learn a language when we understand it. So, naturally, according to Krashen, the receptive skills come first.
I think this makes a lot of sense to me. I think it’s bound to be true that we learn language by listening to it and reading it. But what about those moments when you have to speak or write, what about learning the grammar and all the rest of it?
Krashen would say that we learn the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of a language by listening to it or reading it, and that it’s a natural process and part of how we decode language through comprehensible input.
So, don’t worry about grammar rules and all the rest of it, just listen and do your best to keep up and work out what’s going on, and do it regularly.
Again, I am sure this is true but I also think it’s worth studying the language a bit too, breaking it down a bit, seeing how it works, actively trying to learn more vocabulary, checking up on the rules of grammar and doing some controlled practice. Working on your pronunciation by copying and training your mouth and brain to cooperate with each other, like the way we practise certain movements in sport or musical parts on an instrument.
I do believe that controlled practice and conscious learning like that must also be beneficial because I’ve seen it happen. Doing some active studying can be like a fast track of English learning. It can cut out a lot of time by helping you realise certain things about the language quickly, and I think if you then notice it again while listening and reading that only reinforces what you’ve learned.
Of course, you shouldn’t get blinded by grammar or pronunciation rules and so on, to the point that you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Try not to get hung up on grammar, because it can make you process language in an unnatural and contrived way. It can get stuck in your head and block you a bit. Instead, try to notice patterns and incorporate them into your use of English. Try to see grammar study as a way of confirming things you’ve already noticed, or a way of consulting with a reference book as you also just absorb English more naturally. If you only study English with the grammar, it’s going to be a weird abstract process for learning the language. It’s better to focus on consuming English in the form of messages which you are trying to understand, and then perhaps check your grammar later to straighten things out.
The premium subscription is where I help you with that sort of thing, hopefully combining with the free content to give you all the stuff you need to attack English from several angles.
How can you learn this language if you haven’t heard it and read it a lot?
Read and listen to things that are slightly above your level, so you can understand 60-80%. You need to be able to understand that much for your brain to work out the remaining 20-40% that you don’t know. Meaningful context is vital.
Basically, listen x5 and read x5.
It’s largely a question of finding the right stuff to listen to.
There’s this podcast of course. Others are available.
Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.
Hopefully you’ll find content that you actually want to listen to, not just for studying English. So if you do get addicted to a Netflix series and you can’t wait to find out what happens next, that’s good! That means you will get more comprehensible input and you will be much more focused and involved in it, which is great for your English. Or maybe you want to hear another stupid and funny conversation with my friends just because it makes you laugh and you feel some sort of connection to it. All of that is great because it will help you listen more, listen longer and listen long term.
This one is also a pleasure to talk about because it’s a pleasure to do and there are lots of great things to read.
Let’s hear from Krashen again as he is the master of the whole input model.
This is again from Wikipedia, which I think is fine usually for the basics like this.
Extensive reading, free reading, book flood, or reading for pleasure is a way of language learning, including foreign language learning, through large amounts of reading. As well as facilitating acquisition of vocabulary, it is believed to increase motivation through positive affective benefits. It is believed that extensive reading is an important factor in education. Proponents such as Stephen Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings.
Of course that system is disputed because this is the academic arena we’re dealing with and people are always putting forward ideas, defending them, disputing them and so on. It’s how we move forwards and learn about this stuff.
So this is extensive reading which is different to the sort of intensive reading you do in English lessons, where you spend ages on just one page of text, break it down into tiny chunks, understanding every single morsel. With extensive reading it’s all about just getting as much English into your head as you can by reading as much as you can, and you focus on reading enjoyable things, especially stories and you don’t stop too much to analyse the language or even check words, you just keep trying to follow what you’re reading. The more involved in it you are, the better.
Again, this point about input is that it feeds your instinct for the language. You get a subconscious sense of what is right or wrong, which comes in very handy for when you’re doing those nasty sentence transformations and use of English tasks in a Cambridge exam like CAE. What you really want in those situations is to know exactly which preposition or auxiliary verb is missing, or to be able to manipulate sentences in a variety of forms. I reckon it helps to do a bit of language practice as well, with a few controlled exercises but the idea is that it should all go in naturally giving you this sense of language competence.
It’s important though to choose texts which are not too difficult for you. You need to be able to understand enough to be able to get a grip on the rest of the language.
So which books do you choose?
We’ve talked about the importance of choosing stuff that’s interesting to you, that reflects the type of English you might need.
Genre isn’t an issue. People assume you need to read or listen to the news but as we’ve already established they don’t really talk like normal people on the news, and they also write in a certain “newsy” style. Funnily enough it might be more useful to read the tabloid papers as they write in a more conversational style, but I think it’s worthwhile looking beyond the news.
Basically, read whatever you want.
Even comic books or graphic novels as they’re known for adults.
Graphic novels can be brilliant because they support your understanding with the images and often the English is in the form of speech so you learn really directly how to apply that stuff to real life. I love graphic novels in French. It’s my favourite way to work on the language.
You could consider the current bestsellers. If other people like the books then why shouldn’t you? Look in the fiction and non-fiction categories.
Or try graded readers, which are an excellent and underused resource. I really recommend them if you’re not a strong reader. They’re previously published books, and often some of the great classics and modern classics in English, but they’re republished with English that is graded for certain levels. The number of words is reduced, it’s truncated and essentially it’s a way to increase the percentage you do understand, and decrease the amount you don’t understand, getting to that 80/20 spot where you can maximise your language learning.
There are lots of titles to choose from and various publishers. Check these ones out
But your English may well be good enough now to have a go at a book for native speakers. So go for it. You have loads of options. Just make sure you enjoy reading on a regular basis.
I would also add that it’s important to choose texts which are written in modern style and perhaps about an area that you are particularly interested in. Perhaps think of it like this – what is the kind of English you want printed on the back of your head (on the inside)? Odd question, but I mean, what is your target English. Perhaps it’s the involving and descriptive storytelling of fiction, or it’s the matter-of-fact world of non-fiction. I reckon non-fiction is probably better because it reflects the kind of English you are more likely to be writing, especially if it’s things like academic work or reports at work, because they’re all about presenting you with information, data, commenting on what’s going on, describing how to do things and that’s probably the sort of thing you’ll need to use English for, especially in writing.
This might be a bit dry but it will really show you loads of examples of emails with full explanations, so you can read and learn.
The Story of English in 100 Words
Anything by David Crystal is fantastic, but this non-fiction book will teach you the entire story of the English language through 100 words and there are some great words in there like
Loaf, Street, Riddle, Arse, Jail, Wicked, Matrix and Skunk, to name but a few.
So you’re bound to learn tons from that.
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny By Nile Rodgers
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The writing is a bit old fashioned. I have to be honest, but it’s mostly modern in style and I think it’s worth it because the story is amazing and it’s not too long. It’s wonderfully descriptive and much better than any movie version could be. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time.
Productive skills / output
This is where we get to the more nebulous world of productive skills. It’s like an alien land where monsters roam, a bit like war of the worlds maybe.
OK I’m exaggerating here but I mean that productive skills are a bit harder to pin down because even more psychological and social factors come into play. You have the public aspect of it, the fact that you’re trying to manipulate the language and get your ideas across in the right way, being coherent and cohesive and in the right style with the right level of politeness with the correct conventional replies and requests and on and on it goes!
Again, I’m making it sound tricky, but I mean that you are involved so much more because you’re making the language and actually using it. This is exciting because you get to express yourself which is the most wonderful and gratifying thing you can do in another language, and when it slides out quite fluidly and you’re not too blocked by who knows what, then it’s all gravy. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and you get mixed up and it doesn’t come out right at all. There’s a sense of performance in productive skills, and a sense that you have to be aware of the right way to conduct yourself, and to be able to utter things in English instantly, following what the other person is saying, it’s all done in a sort of unconscious blur and thinking about grammar in that situation is a killer.
So it’s about getting a level of ease, a level of comfort, a platform from which you can bob and weave your way through the conversation, finding other ways to say things and switching correctly between tenses and situations. I think you get what I mean.
So how do you work on these things?
Ease – a voice, fluency
Control – grammar, vocab, pronunciation
Range – a wide range of language for a wide range of things
Coherence – does it all make sense? Can people follow you easily?
Cohesion – particularly in writing, how does the whole text make sense as a whole?
Social factors – knowing how to put things and how to manage relationships through language
Again, the idea is that this language is just built into you from all that exposure and input.
I would say that there’s a great deal of other stuff you can do to improve your productive skills beyond reading and listening a lot, of course.
In both writing and speaking the first thing to remember is you need to engage in it as much as possible. Real writing and real speaking.
Ultimately this means trying to use language to communicate a message in some way and that’s what you should be focusing on. Meaningful interactions, especially ones in which you have something to offer or something to gain, such as negotiations or even information gap situations in which you’re telling someone something they don’t know. Also social interactions involving being polite or building relations with people. Ultimately, doing it for real is the best workshop in which you can work, rolling with the punches and trying to keep track of what you’re learning.
This is why people learn English best when they’re forced to do it because of their surroundings. They learn by being a waiter in London for a year or working in an office with native speakers, or being plunged into a foreign university for a year, or moving to a new country and having to cope with all the challenges that brings and in a second language. I suppose this is immersion, but it;s more than that. I recommend actually conversing with people to just practise. It’s the 5 Ps.
It’s like going to the gym. Fluency is like physical fitness in your mind and also in your body because you’re using your mouth, your breathing and your head and hands to communicate too.
It applies to writing too. You can observe the way other people write their emails and kind of copy their style, you have to really think about what you’re saying and doubtless you will end up writing emails with requests, with information, with questions and with complaints and so on, so you will have to learn on the job. Being thrown in at the deep end, or if you just have to use English at work it could either be a big stress for you or a huge opportunity to just go for it.
Anyway, let’s talk about specific productive skills – writing and reading, and how to work on them.
Let’s say you’re not actually in a situation where you can talk to people or have correspondence with people, or have to write things which other people will ultimately have to read. Unless you find a tutor on italki for example then that person could be your practice point for speaking and writing, giving you feedback as you go. But let’s say for the purposes of this episode, it’s just you and the English language, facing each other off in a kind of wild west fashion.
How can you practise on your own?
Obviously you need to write. But what are you going to write and who is going to read it?
Firstly – just write, write regularly, write meaningfully and write with a reader in mind, even if nobody reads it. This is important because it will help you get used to simply putting your ideas into words. It’s a creative process and also a mechanical process to an extent. Building sentences is a sort of art or a craft. You have to practise it in order to get some level of comfort with it. Let’s imagine there’s a muscle in your head (this is not scientific at all) which, if you never exercise it, will be quite weak and underdeveloped. But if you exercise that muscle regularly it will be strong, reactive and quick. I expect there is a part of the brain responsible for creating written language, and a sub-section for creating written English. Keep that part of your brain fresh by writing English as much as you can. That’s as scientific as I can get here.
So, here are some things you could write
What to write
Email an imaginary person (spooky?) or yourself (think outside the box here ok?)
Academic writing – text types
Emails – email types and conventions
Reports – same!
Formal and informal letters – same!
Applications – same same!
Basically – Whatever you have to write, you should try to find some samples of these texts and aim to copy them. Copy the style, the arrangement, the language they use and reproduce it yourself. Texts that you write will invariably be very practical so it’s about reporting information and asking questions. Look at the sample texts and copy them.
It helps if you have a specific workbook. I recommend Email English by Paul Emmerson. It’s a simple workbook that helps you work on almost all those things and I’m not even sponsored by Macmillan or anything, it’s genuinely a great book.
They also have downloadable email writing tasks on the Macmillan website or here
Ideally you’ll have a teacher to proofread your work, correct you and give you feedback.
If this isn’t possible, it’s still a good idea to write.
A diary (just describe things that happened, or make it more personal and really explore your thoughts and feelings. If the words don’t come, just use basic words. If you feel unable to express yourself perfectly, express yourself imperfectly but try to express yourself.
Writing is not just sentences, it’s paragraphs and pages. The thing you are writing will define how you write it. This means – conventions of certain texts, formality level of the language.
Specific exam tasks → IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC higher and vantage
These will often push you to learn the conventions of different types of text, so it could be a good idea to take a Cambridge exam if you want to work on your writing.
You might write some notes on vocab and I would recommend here that you take a more extensive approach to doing this. Don’t just have one word per line. I want to see one word or phrase at the top of the page, and then loads of text underneath full of examples and your own examples with the language. You can then come back and cover up some of the words and try to remember. Alternatively you can use my PDFs with the notes and memory tests if you’re a premium subscriber. Little plug there for my other podcast.
But making more extensive vocabulary notes with plenty of examples means that not only are you recording vocabulary, you’re practising using it in writing too.
I mentioned italki before and you can find tutors, teachers and conversation partners there for regular practice and I do recommend doing that.
Otherwise, let’s look at some ways you can work on your speaking other than in actual spoken practice with others. Developing your speaking on your own.
This is quite a tricky thing to do because normally speaking is an instantly interactive form of communication. It also involves a lot of listening and then being able to produce English instantly and without hesitating too much.
It’s also quite physical as it involves using your mouth to produce words and sentences in the right way.
And of course there are all those cultural things to think about too.
But really speaking should just be your attempt to find your own voice in English, with fluency and with a specific tone. Of course it comes through a lot of practice, of having conversations in which you’re not really thinking about what you’re saying on a grammatical level but it’s pouring out of you due to necessity and not being able to really think a lot. Doing that regularly helps your brain map out the extent of the English you have and increase it, keeping it sort of fresh. That’s not scientific but more a metaphor of what I think speaking can do. It activates something in you that you have to maintain and keep active or those parts of the brain go dull.
So practice x5
But with who?
The fact is, it just helps to talk to other people and that’s the best and most basic advice I can give. Outside of that, you have to manipulate your surroundings and use your imagination to practise speaking on your own.
Talking on your own (and even in your head)
This might sound a bit odd, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to activate English that is in your head. You essentially talk to yourself, out loud, in English, describing what’s going on, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, say it all in English. Alternatively you can just do it in your own head and just think the sentences. This also keeps that system of language production in your head fresh.
Listen and repeat
You can use certain audio and play a bit, pause, repeat what you heard, rewind, repeat again and keep going until you’ve got it, and then check the transcript or subtitles to see if you’re correct, check any new words and carry on. Always find ways to vocalise the things you are learning and that means saying them out loud even to yourself.
You can also practise different speaking scenarios.
Preparing for a Cambridge exam you can find past papers with speaking part preparation and practise. Find out what’s required in the different parts, watch videos of people taking the speaking part on YouTube, practise answering common questions about yourself, practise speaking on a topic for a minute or two, practise discussing your opinion on the issues of the day. Those are all specific speaking skills that you can practise on your own. I particularly recommend listen and repeat, especially when you have to take quite a long utterance in English, hold it in your head and repeat it like it’s one word? It’s like going to the gym in English. It involves a lot of things: Understanding the clip, identifying the words and grammar, being able to remember it all, being able to produce it in a similar way. That’s a whole punch of different kinds of practice. And if you repeat the sentence straight away, and again, you might notice certain little errors you’re making and correct them. So repeat over and over again, a bit like practising boxing combinations in the ring before the big fight.
In reality, the 4 skills are often mashed up together and you find you are doing things like listening and speaking at the same time, while also taking notes, looking at visuals and so on. It all gets very messy when language is actually applied to real communication in the real world.
A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.
I think there are probably plenty of other things I have not mentioned in this episode, such as not talking about specific memory techniques (done that) or specific features of pronunciation (done that) or exactly how to read a book to learn English (done) or plenty of other things probably. To be honest this is just a podcast episode that I wanted to make about the 4 skills and it expanded into an episode all about learning English as a holistic process.
Anyway, the note about pronunciation
It is worth learning the phonemic script
It is worth getting the sounds app on your phone
It is worth doing drills and practising different features
It’s worth getting a book called Ship or Sheep or other books of that nature.
It’s worth remembering that if you have an accent when you speak that is fine and it’s part of who you are, the main thing is that you speak clearly, not which regional accent you have. Clarity is the thing to achieve. Also, it’s extremely difficult to “lose” your accent in English. Hardly anyone does it. But you can still be fine with your accent. English is quite open like that. Everyone’s welcome.
But there you have it. That was quite a comprehensive look at how I think learning English is best when you combine two things: comprehensible input, and a clever studying routine.
I think it can work wonders for your English.
And that’s what I try to do with this podcast. Give you all the input in the free episodes and then do some more focused studying in the premium content. Hopefully, together those two channels can boost your English to the max.
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.
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.
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!
What is your name?
What do you do?
How has that been affected by the coronavirus?
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?
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…
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.