Category Archives: Sport

539. World Cup 2018 [3] Is It Coming Home?

Another football episode – but it won’t last forever! In this one I’m in England talking to my Dad and my brother about the world cup including England’s performances, penalties, World Cup songs, diving, VAR and predictions for the semi finals. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD

Please leave your comments in the comment section. I might read them out on the podcast next time.

Football Songs

3 Lions (It’s coming home) – Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds

Lyrics genius.com/Baddiel-skinner-and-the-lightning-seeds-three-lions-lyrics

World In Motion – New Order

Lyrics genius.com/New-order-world-in-motion-lyrics

Vindaloo – Fat Les

Lyrics genius.com/Fat-les-vindaloo-lyrics

England’s Irie – Black Grape

Lyrics www.metrolyrics.com/englands-irie-lyrics-various-artists.html

Back Home – England team 1970

Lyrics genius.com/England-national-football-team-back-home-lyrics

538. World Cup 2018 [2] The Second Round / Listener Comments

Talking about the second round of the World Cup in Russia, including comments about the teams, the games, the issues, England’s penalties vs Colombia and the way football commentators speak. Listener comments are read out. Notes available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Notes & Scripts

Not very much planned here. I’m just going to spill my thoughts into the microphone. Some comments from the comment section.

Sorry if I miss anything! I’m bound to miss a few things because there are lots of details in this World Cup and it’s hard to cover them all. I’m just going to look at the wallchart and see what I can say, while also reading out some comments.

One of the highlights of this competition so far has been listening to English TV presenters and commentators say “Nizhny Novgorod”. The other day one of them said “Nizzy novgarad”. I feel vindicated. It’s not just me.

My World Cup Wall Chart

Comments

Zdenek Lukas • 8 days ago
I have managed to see about 80 percent of the games so far. What a fantastic world cup this has been. Loved the way it panned out for Argentina going through in the end, very impressed by performances of Croatia, Belgium, and Colombia. No idea who will win, but my personal favourites are Belgium, Spain, pretty much any South American team that gets to the knock out stages, and of course Germany. Lineker would say that football is a beautiful game, and at the end Germany always win. And we are probably gonna see one surprising team in the semis. Of course seeing England lift the trophy would be luketastic! Also I am gonna be in England when this would potentially be happening. Fingers crossed. As an Arsenal fan though, I must say I am hoping Kane doesn’t get the golden boot. Just kidding, I wish him all the best and then he could join a new much more decent club in new season as a world cup winner.

Sergio Téllez Pinilla • 8 days ago
Neymar is a clown.

Francisco Espínola • 8 days ago
I´ve always thought of that…but now the truth has been revealed…¡Luka Modric is your secret brother!! hahaha very funny of you to comment on that.

Maxim
Don’t you know we are living in Matrix?Just some malfunction in multivariate imposing reveals the fact that we are all connected to sole upper identity. When we look at Luke and Luka our brain computers gets glitching and …Boom,Bob’s your uncle,we see what we see.

Zielak 146 • 8 days ago
Hi Luke, first of all I am Polish and I am disappointed about Poland team. I expected more after what they achieved on Euro 2016 in France and now we are going home :) In my opinion the best team is Belgium, I think they can reach final but we will see what they show against England :) I also appreciate Croatia who play nice football :)
There aren’t clear favourites. Argentina, Germany, France, Brazil, they don’t play as well as we expected.

I’d like to know what do you think about Maradona’s behaviour at the match against Nigeria? :) I’m looking forward to next episode about World Cup :) Sorry if I made any mistakes :)

Timur Sivakov • 8 days ago
Hi Luke,
I think Belgium has a big chance to win the World Cup.
They have very strong midfield, and also Lukaku is an amazing player. Croatia are good too. I have a question to you: Have you ever wanted to work as a sports commentator? I mean, the way you speak is pretty much like english commentators do.

aulo Henrique Oliveira • 7 days ago
I´m Brazilian and, apart from thinking that the team is playing slightly better than in the last Cup, I´m not sure we´ll make it to the finals. Really like how Belgium and Sweden have been playing.
Just for the record, everybody here dislikes the way Neymar has been acting up in the first matches.
Finally, I´m sorry for Germany getting out so soon but we had our little revenge If you sum up their game scores you get 7×1 ha-ha (sarcastic laughs)

Aslan Oguzbay • 6 days ago
Brazil are going to take the trophy, mark my words!

Yaron
Wow! Germany are out. As “Die Mannschaft” supporter I’m very disappointed… I hope that it will be a wake up call for “Die Mannschaft”, and that they will come back stronger and “hungrier” to win in the next world cup.

Good luck for the teams that still in the tournament…

Maxim 4 days ago
Ok.Messi is packing for home,as well as Ronaldo.Let’s look forward for tomorrow’s matches.I hope Luca Modric will crack Denmark’s defense lines😉.Absolutely spectacular championship heralding that the era of young players has finally come. And Mbappe is definitely one of them.

Pierre 4 days ago
Yep ! Mbape did a great game and he’s only 19 years old.

Nick3 days ago
Spanish players were pressing very hard and our players were struggling to stand that pressure. And the duel at the end was absolutely spectacular!!! So, of course big thanks to the both teams for the game.

Zdenek Lukas 2 days ago
Nick I will be honest with you, I saw the match and I a bit am conflicted. On the one hand, I really don’t like if team defend 90 minutes with 11 men win matches like that, but on the other hand, I am happy for Russia because they are the host and this is always great for the atmosphere of the entire tournament and because you guys fought really hard. Besides Span didn’t deserve this match because they didn’t take enough risks. So overall, a big surprise, but as a neutral I will take it :)

Nick2 days ago
I think it was the only way to win the game. And they did it. It was a smart move, more chess than football :)

Sebastián Juambeltz yesterday
Hi Luke!!
Uruguay passed the exam. What do you say about this? I am from uruguay and i am very proud of this. URUGUAY NO MA!!!.
Do you know that Uruguay is the team that won more international championships? It is alway an understimated team. We won 2 olympic 2 word cup 15 american cup.
Know the history about this great selection team from Uruguay!!
Thank you for all your work here!! It is almost great than uruguayan team.
See you..

Yaron yesterday
Oh Luke…. what a pressure… finally England wins a penalty shootout in the world cup. Happy for you. Good luck in the quarter-final.

Syntropy yesterday
Luke, congratulations on the England football team’s victory!!
They finally broke their penalty shootout curse :D

Zdenek Lukas22 hours ago
Dier scoring that penalty was the most emotional moment of the World Cup for me so far :)

Elena Konyukhova10 hours ago
World Cup in Russia seems to be lucky for England, they are doing really well. They might have more fans here.

Guardian Article

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/03/world-cup-russia-england-fans

535. World Cup 2018 [1]

Talking about the World Cup 2018 in Russia, including comments about the teams, players, groups, VAR and England’s performances. Notes & transcripts available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript & Notes

App tips

There are controls on a tab at the bottom. When you’re playing an episode, swipe up and you’ll reveal little controls, including skip forwards and back. You can also set the length of the skip in settings.
Check the Categories – side menu, Categories and then you can see everything, including normal LEP episodes, phrasal verbs, videos, music & jingles, premium etc.
Listen to the Tour of the LEP App to get the full guide on how to use the app properly.

World Cup 2018 (1)

The basics
Where is it? Russia
How many teams? 32 teams – 64 games!
Schedule – 15 July Final

Now entering the second round, knockout stage.

It’s been great so far. Lots of goals. Lots of amazing goals too. Some upsets. A few controversies with VAR.

I’ve been watching as many games as I can, sometimes online because French TV doesn’t show all the England games, for example.

tvcatchup.com

The opening ceremony

The usual stuff – vague “peace & love” imagery. Odd costumes and a dance routine. We’ve seen it loads of times before.

Famous Russian singer Robbie Williams opened the ceremony with a medley of his hits.

While I was watching, I kept having to remind myself that this is World Cup 2018, not 1998.

Robbie Williams – a gallant effort to raise the atmosphere in the stadium.

What’s the atmosphere at the start of this world cup? It’s hard to say from my sofa.

England and Russia have had a troubled relationship recently, and generally there’s a sort of cold war feeling going on between Russia and the west, not to mention what’s going on in Syria, and allegations of Russian involvement in the US election and Brexit. This is the climate of the world cup, or was the climate. When people look east to Moscow this is what they see or think about.

That and crazy Russian people doing funny things in online videos, but plenty of other things too – a fascinating history, architecture, culture, the arts, old stories, rich millionaires and the mystery of what we don’t really know about Russia, wrapped up in a weird atmosphere of media manipulation both on TV and online.

All that political stuff.

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided that as far as I’m concerned, that’s some stuff that’s going on between our governments.

On an individual level – if I got the chance to hang around with a bunch of Russians, or people from anywhere for that matter, that we would have a good time watching the football, having a beer, and just making each other laugh! God knows what our governments are doing.

I find all of that stuff quite scary, quite depressing, quite confusing and since the WC is all about peace & love and some guys kicking a ball around, I’d rather just leave that stuff in the background – but we’ll see.

Some people say that you should mention these things because of corruption and the real purpose of the World Cup – as PR for a country, various dodgy investment deals and covering up the negative things, putting on an acceptable face while distracting away from other things.

I’m not saying this is just Russia, I’m saying it’s every world cup, or at least the recent ones. A lot of cosying up and getting in to bed with each other.

Now, I really don’t want to get caught up in a political minefield here. I’m certain there will be Russian people listening to me say those things just then – all things which I’m reporting, not actually saying myself – this is just the way people in general think about this, not my opinion – just reporting. I’m just the messenger, so don’t shoot the messenger. I’m also not saying I even know what’s going on.

In any case, this atmosphere also includes England, and our fans are not known for their good behaviour. In Marseille two years ago there was a big fight, and the Russians got involved. Ugly scenes. English fans are often terrible thugs who love fighting and probably being a bit racist. In fact, a lot of hardcore football fans are racist – you’d expect them to get on with each other.

So, anyway, English fans can be troublesome, but I think Russia has been pretty careful with the security – I just hope that no English fans get arrested for bad behaviour, just because it might stoke up tensions between our countries.

Hopefully there won’t be any violence between football fans.
Hopefully the atmosphere will be peaceful, friendly, celebratory.
Hopefully we will see the passion, the drama and the sort of action that great World Cups are made of.

As I write this, Putin is addressing the audience and pretty much saying the same thing as me – “Football is all about the world coming together in the spirit of love, transcending barriers, language barriers – it’s a force that unites people!” and all that kind of thing.

To me it seems like he’s saying “The world cup is a great symbol of friendly international sporting competition, and this year we are proud to say that through this world cup held in Russia you will join together in the spirit of love, or we will kill you.”

I’m just kidding guys!

Now the FIFA spokesman is saying “Welcome to the FIFA world cup held here in Russia where they are very generous, very generous indeed. You should have seen the welcome package that was part of their original bid to host these games. Whoo! Hopefully the world will profit from this competition as much as FIFA already has!” etc.

Note to self: Do not be cynical. Instead, choose to echo cliched world cup platitudes about football uniting the world.

Sorry for missing any details! Please get into the comment section with your thoughts about anything in the WC. I can read them out in the next WC episode. So, please put your thoughts into writing in the comment section and get some discussion going.

What do you think so far? Best teams? Best players? Best goal? Predictions?

The groups
www.bbc.com/sport/football/world-cup/schedule/group-stage

Favourite teams to win
Argentina
Brazil
Germany
Belgium
Portugal
Spain
England
France
Colombia
Uruguay
Mexico
Croatia

VAR

Designed to make refereeing decisions more accurate, fair and transparent.

Putin has volunteered to personally be in control of the VAR during the championship, which should be interesting.

A team of people studying video replays, a video replay at the side of the pitch.

How has VAR affected games?
Stoppage time, more penalties, some moments when it’s not being used, moments when it’s not right (some offsides) perhaps players will stop cheating

Players cheating
Diving, play acting – holding face, rolling around on the ground, just being brushed by someone’s fingers means you fall to the ground clawing at your face.

Predictions
What the past tells us about who will win
www.bbc.com/sport/football/44431262

532. A History of The World Cup

This episode is a history of The World Cup. You’ll see that it’s very long! I didn’t expect it to be this long. I hope you enjoy it! I covers all the World Cups we’ve had since 1930, focusing on the key events with a few dodgy jokes along the way. You can read 99% of the transcript on the page for this episode.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript – A History of The World Cup

You’ve probably noticed that the World Cup is starting on 14th June. I’ve received a few requests to talk about it, so here we go.

I’d like to do a few episodes about the world cup over the next few weeks, if I can, because I’m sure many of you around the world will be watching the games and getting into it. On the other hand, I’m sure some of you couldn’t give a monkey’s about football. I hope you listen anyway, and don’t throw your phone into a lake or indeed any body of water. Or anywhere. Don’t throw your phone. Just listen to this episode, you might actually enjoy it because football isn’t just about kicking a ball. It’s also about other things like scandals, corruption and geo-political maneuvering … and of course the people of the world coming together over a shared love of goals.
The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world as well as the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games; the cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match, a ninth of the entire population of the planet.
20 World Cups so far in 16 countries and that doesn’t include this year’s tournament which is the 21st World Cup so far and is, of course, taking place in Russia.
2309 goals in total so far
More stats, including teams with most victories and all-time rankings www.fifa.com/fifa-tournaments/statistics-and-records/worldcup/index.html

This year it is being hosted in Russia. It all kicks off on 14 June. But what’s the story so far? Let’s go back in time to 1930 when the first World Cup ever happened, and then go through each competition one by one and talk about some of the highlights.
I’m attempting to deal with the main points, like who won and where the competition took place, but also I’m hoping to cover some of the more interesting events, scandals, shocks, surprises and also my own personal memories of world cups too.

1930
The first World Cup took place in 1930 and was hosted by Uruguay. The first goal in World Cup history was scored by Lucien Laurent of France. Four days later, the first World Cup hat-trick was achieved by Bert Patenaude of the USA in the Americans’ 3–0 win against Paraguay, which just doesn’t seem right somehow – America taking part in the original tournament and a yank scoring a hat-trick? I mean, they call it soccer for goodness sake!

In the final, Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in front of a crowd of 93,000 people in Montevideo, and became the first nation to win a World Cup. Well done Uruguay.

The 1934 World Cup was hosted by Italy. Uruguay, the title holders from 1930 boycotted the 1934 World Cup because they were upset that so many European teams hadn’t attended their original world cup in 1930. Obviously, I have no idea what I’m talking about but that does sounds a bit like a teenager’s temper tantrum. Nobody came to my party so I’m not going to yours.

Italy won the tournament, beating Czechoslovakia to become the first European team to win the tournament.

1938
The 1938 World Cup competition was also held in Europe, much to the consternation of many South Americans, with Uruguay and Argentina both boycotting. The temper tantrums continued. To be fair though, it was probably a huge pain in the neck for South American teams to travel to Europe and I bet that FIFA was already following the smell of cash. Cynical? France hosted, but for the first time the hosts did not win the competition, as Italy retained their title, beating Hungary in the final by four goals to two.

Up until about 1950 the World Cup was beset by political disagreements, boycotts and of course WW2, which sort of got in the way. WW2 was a bit like the World Cup in a weird way, but a world cup of blowing each other up and dying, so not as good as the world cup at all, not even a little bit. WW2 had many many downsides, not least of which was the fact that the 1942 and 1946 World Cup football tournaments were cancelled. Everyone was too busy trying to shoot each other, let alone shoot a ball into a goal with their foot. It wasn’t until later that the World Cup managed to unite the world as it is known for doing today.

1950
Competition resumed with the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, which was the first to include British participants. “Tally ho chaps! It’s us the bloody English! Pip pip and all that! We only invented the game of football and introduced it to the world to teach old Johnny Foreigner some good old British stiff upper lip discipline! Sorry we’re late by the way everyone, had a spot of bother over there on the continent with a rather naughty chap called Hitler. Silly sod thought he could take over the world, hahaha! Anyway, looks like the rest of you have finally learned how to play football by the proper rules. Right lads – time to show planet earth a thing or two about kicking an inflated pig’s bladder around a grass rectangle. Watch out world, here we come! Better fill that World Cup full of afternoon tea what? Hahahah” High hopes for the English entering their first world cup. And what happened? Did they beat everyone in a gentlemanly like way, while bringing values of fair play and democracy wherever they went? No. THey didn’t. The English failed to make the final group round in a campaign that included a 1–0 loss to the United States. Very humiliating, and very symbolic.
“Oh, jolly good America, right, of course, let the yanks have a crack at the old world domination so to speak – just, hand over the reigns there to old Dwight Eisenhower and his boys. Jolly good, carry on… yep, British Empire? What? No, we’re just clearing up a few things here, nothing to see. Carry on yes!”

Eastern European countries (such as Hungary, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia – yes, this Wikipedia article that I’ve adapted here does consider The Soviet Union to be “an Eastern European country”) did not enter. Title-holder Italy did take part, despite the Superga air disaster of 1949 in which the entire Grande Torino team (many who were national team players) were killed. Uruguay were surprise victors over hosts Brazil (in a match which would later be known as Maracanazo) and became champions for the second time. Another good result for Uruguay. If they keep up this level of form they might be in with a chance this year.

It must have been a nasty shock for Brazil, and the stadium must have been filled with Brazilian supporters.

When the match ended, people said the stadium was filled with “disturbing and traumatic absolute silence”,[10][11] except for the euphoria and celebration of the Uruguayan players and delegation.

Apparently the defeat still haunts Brazil to this day. The term “Phantom of ’50” was later used to refer to the fear that Brazilians and Brazil national football team feel of the Uruguay national football team due to this loss. Each time Brazil and Uruguay play at Maracanã Stadium, the theme resurfaces.

India were also supposed to play in the 1950 World Cup but apparently they had to withdraw because they weren’t allowed to play barefoot. They had no boots and actually expected to play with completely bare feet, which, presumably, was how they used to play in India back then.

1954
The 1954 World Cup, held in Switzerland, was the first to be televised. The Soviet Union did not participate because of their dismal performance at the 1952 Summer Olympics. I’m not sure why this meant that they couldn’t take part in the world cup. Maybe they briefly forgot how to run or something.

Scotland made their first appearance in the tournament, but were unable to register a win, going out after the group stage, setting a precedent for the rest of their international career, which is generally marked by nothing in particular except for a great goal by Archie Gemmill, but other than that Scotland’s international career has been quite crap, which is probably England’s fault somehow.

West Germany were the tournament winners, defeating Olympic champions Hungary 3–2 in the final, coming back from being 2-0 down. The match is known as the Miracle of Bern in Germany, although Bern actually is in Switzerland.

Well, I mean, in Germany it’s known as The Miracle of Bern.

1958
Brazil made up for their crushing defeat in 1950 and won the 1958 World Cup, held in Sweden, and became the first team to win a World Cup outside their home continent (only 3 teams have done this to date – Brazil in 1958, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Argentina in 1986, and Spain in 2010).

The Soviet Union participated this time, most likely due to their win at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. It seems they had learned how to run and kick again. For the first (and so far only) time, all four British teams qualified for the final round – that’s England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Only Northern Ireland got through to the quarter finals and got smashed 4-0 by France. The tournament also saw the emergence of Pelé, who scored two goals in the final. French striker Just Fontaine became the top scorer of the tournament with a still standing record of 13 goals. Yes, “just” was his first name.

Who scored 13 goals in the 1958 world cup? It was Just Fontaine. What nobody else? No, Just Fontaine on his own.

Sounds a bit disappointing. So who was the top scorer?? It was just Fontaine. Oh… that’s a pity.

No, no. That’s his name. Just Fontaine.

1962
Chile hosted the 1962 World Cup. Before play began, an earthquake struck, the largest ever recorded at 9.5 magnitude, prompting officials to rebuild due to major damage to infrastructure. It’s hard to play football when there’s no floor to play on.

It must be tough living in a country where the earth shakes every now and then. It would be scary. Honestly, that’s one of the things I like about living in England and in Northern France. OK, the weather isn’t great, but the earth pretty much stays in one place.

When the 1962 competition began, two of the best players were in poor form as Pelé was injured in Brazil’s second group match vs Czechoslovakia.

Also, USSR saw their goalkeeper Lev Yashin show poor form including a 2–1 loss to hosts Chile as that team, inspired by team spirit captured third place. The competition was also marred by overly defensive and often violent tactics.

This poisonous atmosphere culminated in what was known as the Battle of Santiago first round match between Italy and Chile in which Chile won 2–0. Prior to the match, two Italian journalists wrote unflattering articles about the host country. In the match, players on both sides made deliberate attempts to harm opponents though only two players from Italy were sent off by English referee Ken Aston.

What happened in more detail. (Come on, we want a blow-by-blow account don’t we?)
Summary[edit] (Wikipedia)
The first foul occurred within 12 seconds of kick-off. 12 SECONDS. Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the twelfth minute after a foul on Honorino Landa, but refused to leave the pitch and had to be dragged off by policemen. HE HAD TO BE DRAGGED OFF BY POLICEMEN.
English referee Ken Aston did not see a punch by Chilean Leonel Sánchez to Italian Mario David, which had come in retaliation for being fouled seconds earlier. BRUCE LEE? When David attempted to kick Sánchez in the head a few minutes later (he missed), he was sent off. [Was he sent off for being pathetic?]
In the violence that continued, Sánchez broke Humberto Maschio’s nose with a left hook, but Aston did not send him off. [Right, because kicking the air is obviously worse than breaking a man’s nose with your fist! Although maybe at this point the referee decided that staying on the pitch was the greater punishment! “You broke this man’s nose with your fist. This kind of violence will not be tolerated. I’m sorry but I’m forced to make you stay on the pitch until the end of the game.” “No no!” etc) The two teams engaged in scuffles and spitting, and police had to intervene three more times. Chile won the match 2–0. But if it had been a boxing match, Italy would have won.
When highlights from the match were shown on British television a couple of days later (not the same night, because film of matches still had to be flown back), the match was introduced by BBC sports commentator David Coleman as “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”
In the end, the Italian team needed police protection to leave the field in safety.

When the final whistle blew in the final, Brazil beat Czechoslovakia for the second World Cup in a row by a final score of 3–1 led by Garrincha and Amarildo, in Pelé’s absence, and retained the Jules Rimet trophy. In this tournament, Colombia’s Marcos Coll made World Cup history when he scored a goal direct from a corner kick (called an Olympic Goal in Latin America) the only one ever made in a World Cup and against the mythical goalkeeper Lev Yashin. [Mythical goalkeeper – I think he actually did exist, didn’t he?]

1966
The 1966 World Cup, hosted by England (UK), was the first to embrace marketing, featuring a mascot and official logo for the first time. Yes, that’s what England brought to The World Cup – annoying marketing. We (arguably) invented the game – or at least wrote a lot of the rules or something, and probably gave football to the world (or so we like to believe) and then decades later, we gave another precious gift to the world – irritating World Cup mascots! The World Cup was never the same again.

The trophy was actually stolen in the run-up to the tournament but was found a week later by a dog named “Pickles”. North Korea, became the first Asian team to reach the quarter-finals, eliminating Italy in the process. It says “Eliminating” – I think this just means they knocked Italy out of the tournament. They didn’t blow the country up and kill all Italian people or anything. Eliminated… just a slightly dramatic word choice there, by whoever wrote this article on Wikipedia. John Wikipedia.

England won the tournament, and Geoff Hurst became the first and to this day the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. Yes, England won and ever since we have been officially known as “Best Country in the World Ever” (in our heads). The rest of the world is just not bothered.

Eusébio, whose team Portugal were taking part in their first World Cup, was the tournament top-scorer, with 9 goals to his name.

*Controversial goal.

*Did the ball cross the line (no)

Joy for England in a pretty special year/decade for the country – well, there was this and The Beatles recorded Revolver, which on balance I am more proud of. Anyway, well done chaps! Now, let’s see if we can do it again. Oh, you’ve forgotten how to use your legs. What happened?

1970
In 1970, The finals were held in Mexico. The group stage clash between defending champions England and Brazil lived up to its billing, and is still remembered for England goalkeeper Gordon Banks’ save from a Pelé header on the six-yard line, arguably the best save ever, although once my brother nearly dropped a glass of wine on my parent’s carpet but I managed to dive and catch it at the last minute. I still think this is better than anything Gordon Banks ever did.

The tournament is also remembered for the semi-final match between Italy and West Germany, in which 5 goals were scored in extra time, and Franz Beckenbauer played with a broken arm (not for fun, or because he was bored, I mean he wasn’t just playing with someone’s broken arm like “ooh it’s all floppy! Does it hurt when I do that? What about when I swing it round? – stop playing with my broken arm! – No, he had a broken arm and he played football with it – I mean, he wasn’t hitting the ball with his broken arm, he just carried on playing while he had a broken arm – is that clear?)

Germany had used up all their allowed substitutions so Beckenbauer had to carry on even though he had a broken arm. Football players were much tougher back then. These days if you sneeze on a footballer’s arm they’ll leap into the air like a salmon and then roll around holding their face in agony like a child having a tantrum in a supermarket.

Italy were the eventual 4–3 winners, but were defeated 1–4 in the final by Brazil, who became the first nation to win three World Cups, and were awarded the Jules Rimet trophy permanently for their achievement. Basically, the world said to Brazil – ok you can have the world cup forever, you’re amazing. You now own football and your country will be forever associated with the game and whenever you meet people from other countries they will just say “Hey, you’re a Brazilian guy? So you love football huh?” a bit like the way when people meet an English person they typically will say “Hey, you’re an English guy huh? Cool! We don’t understand your food, your humour, your accents or your inability to score penalties, or in fact normal goals too! But please teach me your language, lol”.

This was a legendary Brazilian squad in 1970, including players like Pele, captain Carlos Alberto Torres, Jairzinho, Tostão, Gérson and Rivelino. For me this was when the World Cup entered a new era, with superstar players, in colour, with television in many people’s homes.

1974
A new trophy was created for the 1974 edition, held in West Germany. Some people make jokes about its appearance. I’ll let you imagine what those jokes are. The West German hosts won the competition by beating the Netherlands 2–1 in the final, but it was also the revolutionary Total Football system of the Dutch that captured the footballing world’s imagination.

In Total Football, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a predetermined role; anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender.

The only player who must stay in a specified position is the goalkeeper, because the whole thing would fall apart if the goalie suddenly decided to just become a midfielder. It’s not “rush goalie” which is a rule we used to play in the park when we were kids. Rush goalie means that basically anyone can be the goalkeeper – if they’re in the goal area, they’re the goalie. But generally what happened is that nobody wanted to be the goalie so quite often the goal would be left unattended while the members of the team looked at each other and argued about why nobody was in goal. Everyone was a glory hunter. An indictment of the English game there.

The very well-playing Poland finished third, after defeating Brazil 1–0 (and after defeating Argentina 3–2 and eliminating Italy 2–1 in the initial group play). Wow, another country, just eliminated. They lost in terrible rain in the semifinals to West Germany 0–1. Ouch, I bet that hurt. Germany basically said, “The Polish are proving to be rather problematic. Eliminate them, immediately.”

Johan Cruyff was one of the stars of this competition, showing off close ball control and dribbling skills (my daughter has some pretty good dribbling skills – better than Johan Cruyff I can tell you), including the legendary “Cruyff Turn”. T

1978
The 1978 World Cup was held in Argentina, causing controversy as a military coup had taken place in the country two years earlier. Tunisia won their first match against Mexico 3–1 and became the first African team to ever win a world cup game. There was some on-field controversy as well. During the second round Argentina had an advantage in their match against Peru since the kick off was several hours after Brazil’s match with Poland. Brazil won their match 3–1, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Peru by four goals to advance to the final. Trailing 2–0 at half-time, Peru simply collapsed in the second half, and Argentina eventually won 6–0. Rumors suggested that Peru might have been bribed into allowing Argentina to win the match by such a large margin. Just rumours. Bribery and corruption in football, surely not? (please add irony and sarcasm) Argentina went on to win the final 3–1, Mario Kempes scoring twice, with the Dutch being runners-up for the second time running. Obviously it was a fantastic result for Argentina. The Netherlands still haven’t won the World Cup, despite being one of the great footballing nations of all time.

1982
Spain hosted an expanded 1982 World Cup which featured 24 teams. The group match between Kuwait and France was stage of a farcical incident. As the French were leading 3–1, the Kuwaiti team stopped playing after hearing a whistle from the stands which they thought had come from referee, as French defender Maxime Bossis scored. As the Kuwaiti team were protesting the goal, Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwaiti Football Association, rushed onto the pitch and gave the referee a piece of his mind, who proceeded to disallow the goal. Bossis scored another valid goal a few minutes later and France won 4–1.

Wonderful! Imagine the Sheikh running onto the pitch. “This goal must be disallowed. The whistle was blown!!” “Not my whistle sir” “I don’t care! A whistle was blown. Maybe not your whistle but it was a whistle!!! This goal must be disallowed!! May I remind you that I am a very powerful muslim and it would be very unwise to disagree with me!” “Oh really, that’s not necessary, that kind of off-colour anti-muslim joke has no place in an international tournament like this…” “Please just think about what I said and remember, god is watching you, and I have a lot of money and I’m sure we can sort something out.” “OK, goal disallowed!” “Thank you please Mr Referee, thank you you are very kind man”
A few minutes later France score again. “Oh shit”.

Also during the group stages Hungary beat El Salvador 10–1, which has been the only occasion to this day that a team scored 10 goals in a World Cup match. To be fair to El Salvador, their country was in the midst of civil war at the time which might have made training a bit difficult because apparently players were often late because they were helping the wounded on the way to the training ground.

The final was won by Italy (against West Germany), making Italian captain Dino Zoff the oldest player to win the World Cup. Italian striker Paolo Rossi, who was making his comeback after a match-fixing scandal and the ensuing ban, was the tournament top-scorer with six goals including a classic hat-trick against Brazil.

1986
Mexico became the first nation to hold two World Cups by hosting the 1986 World Cup. José Batista of Uruguay set a World Cup record being sent off after a mere 56 seconds into the game against Scotland. To be fair it was a very nasty and dangerous tackle and this decision by the referee helped to establish the idea that dangerous tackles like that should be outlawed.

The quarter final match between England and Argentina is remembered for two remarkable Diego Maradona goals, later regarded as player of the tournament, the first, the controversial handball goal, and the second, considered to be the Goal of the Century, in which he dribbled half the length of the field past five English players before scoring.

I remember watching it on telly with my family when I was 9. We were furious, because Maradona blatantly cheated. Nowadays this is seen as being a sort of revenge for the Falklands War or something, and generally it’s part of the colourful career of Diego Maradona. A big spectacle for sure, but some people reckon that if we hadn’t lost that game we could have won the tournament, but anyone can be chairman of the hindsight committee.

The fact that Maradona also scored that goal of the century kind of makes up for the handball, I suppose. Maybe in some countries that kind of thing is fair as long as you can get away with it. In England that sort of cheating is frowned upon.

In the final, Argentina beat West Germany 3–2, inspired by Diego Maradona, who set up Jorge Burruchaga for the winner. Maradona was undeniably amazing.

1990
The 1990 World Cup was held in Italy. Cameroon participating in their second World Cup, made it to the quarter finals after beating Argentina in the opening game. No African country had ever reached the quarter finals before. England put a stop to that. Sorry Cameroon. Roger Milla was an entertaining player. I think he invented the post-match celebratory dance.

An unpleasant episode marred the South American preliminaries: during the match between Brazil and Chile, a firework landed close to the Chilean goalkeeper Rojas, who then pretended to be injured by cutting his own face with a razor blade he had hidden in his glove. His team refused to continue the match (as they were down a goal at the time). The plot was discovered and resulted in a 12-year suspension for Rojas and Chile being banned from the World Cup in 1994.

The final featured the same teams as in 1986. After finishing runners-up in the two previous tournaments, West Germany beat Argentina 1–0 in the final to record their third title. The Republic of Ireland also made their first appearance in the tournament, reaching the quarter-finals without winning a single game (4 draws, with a penalty shoot-out win over Romania in the second round). This is the furthest a team has ever advanced in the World Cup without winning a game. Somehow it seems entirely appropriate that the Irish could get through to the quarter finals without actually winning any games. It’s as if the world said to them – Ireland, everyone likes you, your accent is adorable and Guinness is amazing – you can go through. The luck of the Irish?

I was 13/14 years old and obsessed by football at the time. I watched the tournament on TV and I had the fully completed Panini sticker album which my Dad bought for me one day. I loved that England team, and we nearly got to the final! England actually did quite well and fought hard against Germany in the semi final. Paul Gascoigne was a great player during that tournament and he cried when he got a yellow card that would ban him from the final. The match went to a penalty shoot out, which of course we lost.

1994
The 1994 World Cup, held in the USA, was the first tournament to be held in a country that largely didn’t understand either the rules of the game or the idea that other countries even existed in the world. “The World Cup, huh? So who’s playing who? Pittsburgh versus Cleveland?” Joking. This was the first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, with Brazil edging out Italy.

Yugoslavia was excluded due to UN sanctions in connection with the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Russia (taking the place of USSR which had broken up over 1990 and 1991) played their first World Cup competition as a new country, with Greece, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia as the other first-time team.

Diego Maradona was banned mid-tournament after testing positive for recreational drugs. I think he was coked up (allegedly) during some of the games, which was obvious when you saw the way he reacted to scoring an admittedly amazing goal at one point. They guy was bonkers and off his head. Without him, Argentina were eliminated in the last 16 by Romania — the tournament also saw tragedy when Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was murdered 10 days after scoring an own-goal against the hosts in their first round match that eliminated Colombia.

This is a tragic story. There’s no other way of putting it. It’s just sad. This guy was just the victim of a gang-related culture that existed in Columbia at the time. Come on, let’s get the story.

(Wikipedia)

Escobar’s infamous own goal occurred in a match against the United States on June 22, in the second match for Colombia at the 1994 World Cup. Stretching to block a cross from American midfielder John Harkes, he inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net. The United States won the game, 2–1.[15]

After the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Escobar decided to return to Colombia instead of visiting relatives in Las Vegas, Nevada.[11] On the evening of July 1, 1994, five days after the elimination of Colombia from the World Cup, Escobar called his friends, and they went to a bar in the El Poblado neighborhood in Medellín. Then they went to a liquor store. Shortly afterwards, they arrived at the El Indio nightclub. His friends split up. At approximately 3:00 the next morning, Escobar was alone in the parking lot of El Indio, in his car, when three men appeared. They began arguing with him. Two of the men took out handguns.[16] Escobar was shot six times with a .38 caliber pistol.[8] It was reported that the killer shouted “¡Gol!” (“Goal!”) after every shot, once for each time the South American football commentator said it during the broadcast.[17] The group then drove away in a Toyota pickup truck, leaving Escobar to bleed to death. Escobar was rushed to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later.[16][18][19]
The murder was widely believed to be a punishment for the own goal.[20]
Escobar’s funeral was attended by more than 120,000 people. Every year people honour Escobar by bringing photographs of him to matches. In July 2002, the city of Medellín unveiled a statue in honour of his memory.[22]
Humberto Castro Muñoz, a bodyguard for members of a powerful Colombian drug cartel,[clarification needed] was arrested on the night of 2 July 1994, confessing the next day to the killing of Escobar.[23] Muñoz also worked as a driver for Santiago Gallón, who had allegedly lost heavily betting on the outcome of the game.[24] He was found guilty of Escobar’s murder in June 1995. He was sentenced to 43 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 26 years because of his submitting to the ruling penal code in 2001. Humberto was released on good behaviour due to further reductions from prison work and study in 2005 after serving approximately 11 years. His three accomplices were acquitted.

The murder of Andrés Escobar tarnished the image of the country internationally.[27] Escobar himself had worked to promote a more positive image of Colombia, earning acclaim within Colombia.
Escobar is still held in the highest regard by Colombian fans, and is especially mourned and remembered by Atlético Nacional’s fans. Escobar is known for his famous line “Life doesn’t end here”.[2][28]
After Escobar’s death, his family founded the Andrés Escobar Project to help disadvantaged children learn to play football.

Oleg Salenko of Russia became the first player to score five goals in a single World Cup finals game in his country’s 6–1 group stage win over Cameroon. The same match, 42-year old Roger Milla scored the only goal for Cameroon, becoming the oldest player ever to score in a World Cup match. England didn’t qualify for this competition, but I watched a lot of the games anyway. I was 17 and one of my friends had a free house during the final week of the tournament. His parents were away. We all hung out there and watched a lot of games together. Fun times.

1998
The 1998 World Cup was held in France. Iran beat the Maldives in qualification by the widest margin in World Cup history – 17–0. Hosts France won the tournament by beating Brazil 3–0 in the final. What a great moment for the French! There was a lot of hype around the Brazilian squad going into the competition, especially around the star player Ronaldo. As the scorer of four goals in the tournament, Ronaldo appeared to be less than a hundred percent in the match, and was unable to make any impact.

What happened?

This is from The Guardian:
Hours before the final at the Stade de France, Ronaldo suffered a mysterious seizure and was whisked to hospital and out of the starting line-up. Then he made an apparently miraculous recovery and was hastily returned to the team sheet, only to underperform in Brazil’s heaviest defeat in 68 years of World Cups. Not surprisingly, the match soon transcended its sporting importance to become one of the resonant events in the country’s contemporary history.

Whereas the world’s media soon moved on to other subjects, Brazil’s did not.

Within weeks, a lawyer began a civil action in a Rio court, demanding explanations. Concurrently, the Rio regional medical council started a professional ethics action against the two team medics (they were both unanimously absolved).

But the most detailed investigation happened in Brazil’s national congress. And because the main protagonists all gave testimony, the public was offered unprecedented insight into what really went on behind the scenes on the day of the final. The details that emerged were riveting.

The squad had lunch at the Chateau de Grande Romaine in Lésigny, near Paris, then went back to their rooms, which they were sharing in twos. Ronaldo was with Roberto Carlos, next to a room with Edmundo and Doriva.
Suddenly Ronaldo started to have a fit. His entire body convulsed, he frothed at the mouth and began to shake uncontrollably. Roberto Carlos, overwhelmed by panic, started screaming for help. “When I saw what it was, I despaired,” Edmundo told congress. “Because it was a really strong and shocking scene.” He ran through the hotel hitting on all the doors and shouting for everyone to come.
A congressman asked the striker for more details. “Was Ronaldo hitting out or shaking?”
“Hitting out a lot,” replied Edmundo.
“Lying down?”
“Lying down and hitting himself with his hands like this, with his teeth . . . “
“Together?”
“Locked together and with his mouth foaming.”
“His whole body hitting itself?”
“The whole body, yes.”
Cesar Sampaio, the defender, was the first person to administer first aid. He got to Ronaldo before the doctors did and, with Edmundo holding him down, put his hand in Ronaldo’s mouth to unravel his tongue and prevent him swallowing it.

Ronaldo, still only aged 21, then fell asleep. According to Edmundo, the team doctors decided that the best course of action would be to pretend that nothing had happened when he woke up.

“We went back to our rooms, we rested,” said Edmundo. “But, you know what I mean, everyone was worried. My room was linked, so I saw everything. Every five minutes someone came and stared, and Ronaldo was there, sleeping like a baby.”

Collective trauma
Ronaldo woke up and went for tea. But he was subdued. Leonardo, in a distressed state, insisted that Ronaldo be told what had happened. The doctors broke the news and said he would be taken for tests. Only if the tests were fine would he be able to play the final.
When the squad took the coach to the Stade de France, Ronaldo instead went to the Lilas clinic in Paris. Forty minutes before the kick-off he showed up with the all-clear, insisting he should play. “Faced with this reaction,” said Zagallo, “I chose Ronaldo. Now was it his being chosen that caused Brazil to lose? Absolutely not. I think it was the collective trauma, created by the atmosphere of what had happened.”

Conspiracy theories came out

CONSPIRACY 1
Nike and the CBF forced Ronaldo to play
Ronaldo had a fit shortly before the game and was not well enough to play. The CBF (Brazilian Football Association) intervened and forced him to play, since there was a hidden part of the Nike-CBF contract that dictated he had to play in the World Cup final. This was because Nike had invested so much in him for its marketing campaign.

CONSPIRACY 2
Brazil sold the World Cup
Brazil’s players received a total of $23m (£15m) in bribes, the promise of Brazil hosting the 2006 World Cup, and an easy passage in the 2002 World Cup to throw the game. Ronaldo refused to have any part in this, hence Edmundo’s name was in the list in his place. But Ronaldo changed his mind after Nike threatened to withdraw his sponsorship money. The idea was for Brazil to lose on a golden goal, but since they were so shaken by the deal, France – who were unaware of the plot – scored three times in 90 minutes.

CONSPIRACY 3
Ronaldo was drugged
The striker’s indisposition on the day of the final was the result of sabotage by France, who wanted to put out Brazil’s best player.

CONSPIRACY 4
Ronaldo was unwell
Ronaldo had a secret medical problem which he had kept hidden all his life.

CONSPIRACY 5
The blue pill
The doctors gave him a “blue pill” as a painkiller. But it had tranquilizing effects that made him “sleepy”.

Alex Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life (Bloomsbury, £9.99)

None of those theories are true, according to the official narrative. Ronaldo just had a fit, it shocked the team, he was given a clean bill of health, he was rushed back into the team just minutes before the game, but he was subdued and the team were a bit shocked by it. Also, it was France’s time to shine – they were playing at home and this usually makes a massive difference in terms of the atmosphere in the stadium and the country as a whole.

Even if the Nike conspiracy theory isn’t true, it’s certainly true that there was a sense that the World Cup had become way too commercialised and more about money-making than the true values of the World Cup.

Debutants Croatia finished a commendable third.

I watched many of the key games at home, on my own :( This is when I was on summer holiday from university, living at my parents house, in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t have a car, so I had to try and persuade my mates to come and collect me so I could watch games with them. A lot of the time I was just stranded on my own, shouting at the TV. I was 21. England got knocked out by Argentina, yes, on penalties.

2002
The 2002 World Cup was the first to be held in Asia, and was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan. Australia defeated American Samoa 31–0 in a preliminary match – a new record for the margin of victory, and the highest-scoring match ever. The tournament was a successful one for teams traditionally regarded as minnows, with South Korea, Senegal and USA all reaching the last eight. Brazil beat Germany 2–0 in the final for their fifth title. I was in Japan during this competition. I was 25 years old. Japan went a bit nuts for football, as you’d expect. The Koreans went even more nuts though because their team did really well, getting to the semi-finals and eventually finishing third. World Cup fever gripped South Korea and I heard reports of people going crazy and jumping into rivers. That’s all I remember about that, that a lot of people jumped into rivers. I suppose that is a good way to react to your country doing really well in the World Cup. Waaah! We won! We won!!! Quick, find a river! Just jump into a river!!

There were some allegations of corruption and some rather questionable refereeing decisions that seemed to favour the hosts Korea. I remember a lot of Japanese people saying that the referees in the Korean games were obviously biased. But I don’t want to stoke up any tensions so, la la la, everything’s ok – happy happy happy.

Oh, England got knocked out by Brazil in the quarter finals by the way. Not on penalties this time. We just got beaten normally. Ronaldinho happened, basically.

And I went to one of the games – England vs Sweden in the Saitama Stadium and then went drinking in Tokyo with loads of Japanese people who were nuts about David Beckham and his haircut, which was described as a “soft mohican” or “soffuto mooheekanu”. A lot of my students were obsessed by David Beckham for about 2 weeks.

2006
The 2006 World Cup was held in Germany. By this point it had become normal to have loads of corruption scandals in the run up to the tournament, and I must say that the general atmosphere of the World Cup was all about making money for anyone with a vested interest in, well, making money from things. Having the World Cup in your country can bring in loads of money. Where that money actually goes, is not entirely clear. The World Cup is so huge and it’s privately owned, so it’s all about doing deals and those deals are made between states and companies. Public and private interests mingling in a very seedy and suspicious manner.

The way the host country is chosen is based on national delegates casting votes. These delegates represent different countries. The suggestion is that countries hoping to host the Cup, might try to ‘persuade’ the delegates, perhaps by doing dodgy little trade deals and offering kickbacks and other benefits in return for a vote.

To give you a taste of some of the shenanigans going on, here’s a paragraph from John Wikipedia’s page about the 2006 World Cup.

[A number of] …irregularities surfaced, including, In the months leading up to the decision for who should host the tournament, the sudden interest of German politicians and major businesses in the four Asian countries whose delegates were decisive for the vote.[9] Just a week before the vote, the German government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder lifted their arms embargo on Saudi Arabia and agreed to send grenade launchers to the country. DaimlerChrysler invested several hundred million Euros in Hyundai, while one of the sons of the company’s founders was a member of FIFA’s executive committee. Both Volkswagen and Bayer announced investments in Thailand and South Korea, whose respective delegates Worawi Makudi and Chung Jong-Moon were possible votes for Germany.[9][10] Makudi additionally received a payment by a company of German media mogul Leo Kirch.

FIFA deny these things. As far as I know they remain just allegations at this stage. I think proceedings were opened into the bid, but I don’t know the outcome.

First seed (seeded teams are the ones which are expected to do well – so the ‘first seeds’ are favourite teams and ‘second seeds’ are in the next category down, probably due to their performance in the qualifying stages) and WC holders Brazil and second seeded England were initially English bookmakers’ favourites. God knows why England were favourites to win. Presumably it was because of our performance in preceding games. We were knocked out in a quarter final against Portugal. Yes, on penalties.

A strong performance by Germany brought them as far as the semi finals. However, the final match-up was between Italy and France. This is the game in which French captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the last 10 minutes of extra time for a headbutt to the chest of Italian central defender Marco Materazzi.

I think this was both one of the ugliest moments in World Cup history and one of the most awesome.

So, on the ugly side – this kind of violence should not happen in football. Loads of children would have been watching, all around the world. There’s no excuse for headbutting someone in the chest and knocking him down like that.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help being impressed by how badass Zidane was. Apparently Materazzi had been saying some extremely insulting things to him throughout the match. I expect the red mist descended and Zidane lost control… although it didn’t look like he lost control. That was one of the fascinating things. He looked like he was completely in control and it was such a devastating headbutt. It must have hurt Materazzi quite a bit. France lost the game, but again, if it had been a UFC Fight, France would have won.

Italy won 5–3 in a penalty shootout, the score having been 1–1 after 90 minutes and extra time. I watched this game in my flat in London, joined at half time by a Polish friend called Marek who brought a plastic bag full of beer, and who might be listening to this. I was 29 years old.

2010
The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa. It was the first cup hosted on African soil, and the cup was won by Spain.

The tournament was noted for its highly defensive opening matches (i.e. utterly boring games), controversies surrounding goal-line technology, and the introduction of vuvuzelas, which some people believe destroyed the atmosphere at many of the games. The noise was pretty annoying. Do you remember? It was like watching football during an invasion of killer bees. It was rubbish. They drowned out all the noise and sounded like a tiresome droning sound that never stopped.

Though considered as one of the tournament favourites, the Spaniards won the cup despite scoring only 8 goals in 7 games and losing their opening match to Switzerland. David Villa led the squad in scoring with 5 goals. In a final which saw a record number of yellow cards distributed and what some considered violent play from the Dutch side, the 10-man Netherlands squad were defeated 1–0 in the 116th minute of extra time by an Andrés Iniesta goal. I watched a lot of this in London with my girlfriend. I was 33. England were pretty rubbish. We got smashed by an amazing German team 5-1. They completely took us apart in very embarrassing fashion. Frank Lampard had a goal disallowed by the referee, although it did cross the line. Perhaps this was justice for the non-goal which was allowed back in the 1966 final when England beat West Germany.

2014
The 2014 World Cup was held in Brazil, marking the second time that Brazil hosted the competition. I did quite a few podcasts about it back in 2014. They’re all in the episode archive. One of them is a conversation with my dad about his memories of attending the World Cup in 1966 when it was hosted in England.
As ever there were scandals and allegations of corruption, and criticisms that the money generated by hosting the world cup was not going to be re-invested in order to help local Brazilian people, many of whom really needed (and still need) support. Whether the WC was good for Brazil overall is debatable. Certainly it brought the attention of the world to Brazil. There were protests, but also big parties and celebrations.
The cup was won by Germany, who beat Argentina 1–0 in the final. The Netherlands defeated Brazil 3–0 in the bronze medal game. There was also a famously humiliating defeat for Brazil by Germany in the semi final, when the Germans thrashed the Brazilians 7 -1 and nobody could believe their eyes. That must have hurt a lot. Brazil, if it makes you feel any better – England got eliminated in the group stage after just two matches.
This was also the tournament in which Luis Suarez (Uruguay) bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. The 3rd time he had done it in his career. Luis, it’s called football for a reason. Foot-ball. Not tooth-head. Or tooth-arm… or … just don’t bite anyone OK?
2014 was the first time that three consecutive tournaments saw the winning side come from the same continent (Europe: 2006 Italy, 2010 Spain, 2014 Germany).

And that brings us to 2018, Russia!

Who’s going to win? What’s going to happen. I have no idea, but hopefully it will be fun finding out in just a few days.

I’m hoping to do one or more episodes about this year’s tournament, if I can manage it. I will be watching.
Cheers!

520. Idioms Game & Chat Part 2 (with Andy Johnson) + 18 More Idioms & Vocab Items Explained

The second part of my chat with Andy Johnson. Listen out for 18 more idioms which will be explained later. Topics include: Twitter abuse, the other Andy Johnson, training for the London Marathon + more. Transcripts and vocabulary definitions below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

In this episode you can continue to listen to a conversation I recorded with Andy Johnson just the other day. The language focus in this double episode is on idiomatic expressions.

In fact we’re playing a sort of idioms game. The rules of the game are that before having the conversation Andy & I had to prepare 3 idioms each. By prepare I mean to just think of 3 idioms, or flick through an idioms dictionary and pick 3 that you quite like. Then during the conversation we had to try and insert the idioms naturally, without drawing too much attention to them. Just to slip them in completely naturally. The challenge is that we both, at the end of the conversation, have to try and identify which expressions the other one had prepared in advance.

During the whole conversation lots of idioms just came up naturally. In part 1 I went through a lot of them – there were about 25 idioms in the first part. I explained them all at the end.

Do you remember them all? Here’s a quick reminder.

Idioms from last time:

  • to bring someone up to speed
  • to have beef with someone
  • to hold a grudge against someone
  • to have a score to settle with someone
  • to jump the gun
  • to be the butt of a joke
  • bad blood
  • to take something on face value
  • to be a piece of cake
  • not my cup of tea
  • to hit the nail on the head
  • to stick out like a sore thumb
  • to shoehorn something in
  • to do something on the spur of the moment
  • to be on the doorstep of
  • to be two/three sheets to the wind
  • to be half cut
  • to creep out of the woodwork
  • to feel peckish
  • to be jaw-dropping
  • to be eye-opening
  • to shine a spotlight on something/someone
  • to call someone out for doing something
  • to slag someone off

Again, I explained all of those at the end of part 1. Only 1 of those idioms was prepared in advance. All the others just came up on the spur of the moment.

So that means that in this episode there are still 5 more pre-prepared idioms left.

Having checked part 2, I can tell you that there are about 18 idioms in total. So, listen carefully to the rest of our conversation and try to spot expressions which you think might be the idioms I’ll be defining later. 5 of them were written down by us in advance and slipped into the conversation as part of the game, the others just happened naturally.

There’s also plenty more nice, useful vocabulary that you might not know coming up, so listen carefully – there’s a lot to learn from this episode.

In terms of the topics in the conversation, in this one you’ll hear us cover Andy’s experience of being abused or angrily criticised on Twitter, my experiences of facing audiences as a stand up comedian, how there is another Andy Johnson in London who also looks a little bit like Moby and who used to play football for England, Andy’s training for the upcoming London Marathon and then the results of the idioms game – with our comments about the idioms we noticed (or didn’t notice).

And as I said, I’ll also be explaining all the idioms and more vocabulary at the end of the conversation in the final part of this episode, so keep listening for some clarification of things you might not have understood or noticed.

But now, let’s carry on with the conversation and hear about Andy’s experience of facing criticism on Twitter because of a misunderstanding about his presentation about Millennials in the workplace. By the way, for more information about Andy’s talk on millennials and to find out what millennials are (if you don’t know) let me recommend that you listen to episode 424 in which I spoke to Andy and his colleague Ben about it in more detail.

424. With Andy & Ben from The London School of English (Part 2)

You can find the link on the page for this episode with all the other notes and stuff, or in the episode archive.


The conversation continues…

Luke & Andy’s Idioms Game – The Results

Ones Andy thought Luke had pre-planned: (actually, none of them were pre-planned)

  • Two sheets to the wind = drunk
  • To pull the rug from under you / to pull the rug from someone’s feet = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them

Luke’s pre-planned idioms

  • To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
  • To be a dead ringer (for someone) = to look exactly like someone else
  • To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger

Ones Luke thought Andy had pre-planned

  • It’s the cross I bear = a burden that you have to carry or live with
  • to be half-cut = drunk
  • To slag someone off = to abuse or criticise someone in quite a rude way

Andy’s pre-planned Idioms

  • It’s the cross I bear
  • To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    (Also – to put someone on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect)
  • Jaw-dropping / to make your jaw drop = surprising, amazing, astonishing (in Part 1)

…the conversation ends.


Sponsor Andy & help support The Christie Foundation Trust

Click here for Andy’s JustGiving page for his sponsored Marathon www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andybjohnson

Also via PayPal www.paypal.me/andybjornjohnson


Vocabulary List – Idioms and Other Expressions You Heard in this Episode

At least 18 Idioms and some other nice bits of vocabulary to learn

  • You are a bit of a dead ringer for Moby (I forgot to mention this one in part 1)
    To be a dead ringer for someone = to look exactly like someone
  • They’d all got the wrong end of the stick, but they were all slagging you off.
    To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a rude way
  • It was really eye-opening how quickly it can escalate and how people can latch onto something and they can completely turn it and twist it.
  • eye-opening = surprising and something you learn from (in part 1)
  • Jaw-dropping = amazing, astonishing (in part 1)
  • To latch onto something = to become firmly attached to something (physically), to strongly accept an idea with enthusiasm – just get fixed on one idea quickly and firmly
  • How did it feel to receive all that heavy-handed criticism?
    Heavy-handed (adj) = too strong, using much force than is necessary. E.g. heavy-handed policing.
  • I sent the guy a message, the guy whose tweet caused the kerfuffle
    A kerfuffle
    = A disturbance, a fuss, noise, a confusing and complex situation. E.g. She caused quite a kerfuffle when she sent out that letter accusing them of cheating.
  • I was thanking him for sticking up for me.
    To stick up for someone 
    = to defend someone, to back someone up.
  • If you stand on a pedestal and you give your opinion on things, you’re always setting yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    To set yourself up for something = put yourself in a position where something can happen. E.g. set yourself up for success, set yourself up for a fall, set yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    Heckling (see below)
  • Also – to put something on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect, to idolise or idealise someone
  • People react quite strongly to that especially when it’s posing some kind of threat to the status quo of their work
    to pose a threat to something (not really an idiom) = to present a possible danger to something
    The status quo = the present situation
  • People might feel like these new things are, like, pulling the rug from under them.
  • It’s like pulling the rug from under their feet.
    To pull the rug from under someone = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them
  • Heckling – meaning someone in the audience shouting out when someone is speaking publicly
  • I got an injury and it got worse and worse and worse throughout the week. I couldn’t run for 5 weeks. I had physio, I had acupuncture, I had ultrasound. (not idioms)
    To have physio  = physiotherapy
    ultrasound, an ultrasound scan = a sort of scan that uses sound as a way of seeing inside your body, as an alternative to an x-ray, to check for injury or maybe a baby (but not a baby in Andy’s case. “What seems to be the problem Mr Johnson? Well, my knee is really playing up. It’s very stiff and painful when I walk. Let’s have a look, if you’d like to just lie down here we’ll start the ultrasound. Oh, oh… Mr Johnson, it appears that you’re pregnant. What?? Yes, that’s right, you have a baby in your knee. But how is this possible? I’ve been using contraception! hahaha, etc)
  • The physio used to be the physiotherapist for Fulham Football Club. (person)
    A physio = a physiotherapist (person)
  • When I walked in he did a double take (thinking that Andy might be the other Andy Johnson, who used to play for Fulham FC)
    To do a double take = to look at something briefly, then look away and look back again very quickly! It’s really funny and comical! Also you can do a triple take and a quadruple take for maximum comic effect.

  • A bit of a mover and shaker in the world of football, this Luke Thompson
    A mover and shaker (in the world of …) = a powerful person who influences people and initiates events.
  • Any little problem gets exacerbated when you’re running a marathon.
    To exacerbate something = to make something worse (not an idiom)
  • It seems to be, touch wood, it seems to be OK.
    People say “touch wood” as a superstition to wish themselves luck or for protection against bad luck. It’s like saying “fingers crossed”.
  • Do you have a full slap-up breakfast or is it just a banana to keep the wolf from the door?
    slap up (adjective) = excellent, first class – used with food. A slap up meal. A slap up breakfast. It’s usually used in an enthusiastic and informal way to talk about a full meal.
    To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger, to stave off hunger
  • You go out too fast so after 6 or 7 km you’re knackered!
    Knackered (adj) = extremely tired (British slang)
  • Everyone’s in the same boat. They’ve trained for ages. There’s the music and the camaraderie, they’re running together. Everybody just goes off far too quickly.
    To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation
  • The charity is something that’s very close to my heart.
    It’s very close to my heart = it means a lot to me, it’s important to me
  • When you’re wishing someone luck you say “break a leg”.
    Break a leg = good luck! Have a good show!
  • The leg refers to a limb – an arm or leg, but also a large piece of wood like a beam, or branches of a tree. A large piece of wood can be a limb.
  • In comedy, when you have a really good show, you raise the roof. (the roof comes off because the audience are laughing and applauding)
    So, break a leg means “I hope you have such a great show that the roof comes off the building!”
  • I was using it in a very irreverent way, a very light-hearted way. (talking about the phrase “the cross I bear”)
  • I’m all at sea = I’m confused and not sure what to do

Come on!!! That must be useful to you! A huge slice of English learning cake there for you to feast upon. You could feed a whole family on that for about a week in some places!

Again, what do you think of the idea of this paid premium membership system?

Sign up to be a premium member for a nominal amount per month, per 6 months or per year.

Get access to a certain number of language-related episodes of LEPP (LEP Premium) per month. The episodes would be available in the app or on a website. Episodes would mostly deal with language that has come up naturally in conversations on LEP – like what I’ve done here, or in the recent grammar episodes. Yep, language related but with the usual funny examples and explanations. Also there would be more phrasal verb episodes and probably other things because I would want to reward my premium lepsters or PLEPSTERS, so I’d probably offer little videos and other things too. All for the price of a beer or a sandwich for me per month.

That’s something in the pipeline at the moment.

Why aren’t you just doing it now Luke?

Yes, good question. I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for ages. It’s slightly harder than you might think actually. The thing is, I really want it to work. I want it to be worthwhile. That means finding a model that works. I think now I’ve got the app and I can offer paid content in the app, that is the right platform. Now it’s just a case of making it happen. Enthusiastic responses from you would certainly give me a boost. I think it would be really great. I just hope you realise that too.

Anyway, you can contact me about it if you like, using the usual methods.

Join the mailing list.

Download the app.

Nice one for getting to the end of this episode. Imagine all that English that has gone into your brain. That’s good! Nice one. Give yourself a pat on the back. I think you can agree that your English is better now than it was before you started listening to this, can’t you? I think you can agree with that statement.

Alright, time to go.

Speak to you soon! Bye!!!

Luke

473. Explaining the Rules of Cricket (with Dad)

Everything you need to know about the world’s 2nd most popular spectator sport, cricket. I’m joined by my Dad, Rick Thompson and we describe the rules, the appeal of the game and also some expressions in English that come from cricket.

[DOWNLOAD]

It’s summer in the UK and at this time of year there are various sounds that you might hear in a typical English village, the sound of bees buzzing, kids playing in the playground, an ice-cream van and perhaps the smack of leather on willow (the sound of a cricket ball – a hard, heavy ball covered in leather, being hit by a wooden cricket bat made of willow) those sounds coming from a game of cricket on the local village green.

Also, the sounds of cricket make their way into your home during the summer months as people listen on the radio or watch the coverage on TV.

International test match cricket is a feature of the summertime in England and is somehow deeply rooted into English life. It’s one of those cliches of rural England – sandwiches, afternoon tea and cricket on the green.

But for many foreign people who don’t play cricket it can seem like a weird antiquated slow game with rules that nobody understands. People are surprised that a game of cricket can last several days. Americans are often horrified to discover that games often end in a draw with no winner at the end.

The fact is, cricket is a fantastic game which requires strategy but there are many moments of dramatic action and great skill and ability shown by the players.

My Dad is a big fan of cricket. He used to play it when he was younger and has always followed the matches on the radio. I’ve been threatening for a while to do an episode about cricket, to somehow achieve the impossible and explain cricket to the world, and my Dad is going to join me.

So sit back, have a cup of tea and some cake, and try to get your head around this wonderful game.

And stay tuned for some nice idiomatic expressions which we use in English and which originally came from the game of cricket.


Well, that was a valiant effort by us. I hope you agree! But I wonder if you managed to keep up with all of it! If you are listening all the way to the end and you’re still alive – well done!

You may have got lost at some point along the way, or did you follow all of it? Let me know.

In any case I hope you got something out of that conversation, even if it is a sense that cricket is worth getting enthusiastic about even if you don’t fully understand it, and that it’s a big thing in the UK and many other countries around the world.

I recommend that you have a look at some cricket being played. There are videos showing you different aspects of cricket on the page for this episode, so check them out.

Also, there was that vocabulary.

Let me just go through the vocabulary again here, just to make it clear.

Vocabulary

  • On a sticky wicket = in a difficult situation (We’re on a bit of a sticky wicket here because of the result of the EU referendum) (NYTimes “It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his supporters right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”)
  • To have a good innings = to have a good long life (How old was he when he died? 94? Oh, so he had a good innings)
  • It’s just not cricket = it’s not fair! (Getting queue jumped, it’s just not cricket, is it?)
  • It hit me for six = it surprised, shocked and stunned you. (When my ex-girlfriend told me she was getting married to my best friend it really hit me for six)
  • I was absolutely bowled over = I was really surprised and amazed (“Bowled over” actually comes from bowling not cricket – when a pin is knocked over by the ball) (We were really bowled over by your presentation, you did a fantastic job!)
  • I’m completely stumped. You’ve stumped me there. = I’m unable to answer that question because it’s too complicated. (I did ok in the listening part, but I was completely stumped by the grammar questions)
  • You’ve caught me out there. = You’ve asked me a difficult question which has shown that I’ve made a mistake. (What about the outstanding tax payments on your public accounting report? There’s 300 pounds missing! – Oh, you’ve caught me out there, hah, yes I forgot to include them!)

Videos

Stephen Fry explains LBW in cricket

Shane Warne from Australia – the greatest spin bowler ever

Great bowling

Excellent batting

Amazing catches

Thanks for listening!

Why does the UK have so many accents? (Recorded February 2017)

This episode was originally recorded in February 2017 and is being uploaded in August 2017. In this episode I’m going to answer several questions from listeners about accents, including how regional accents occur in the UK and why there are so many accents there. Video available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Video – I’m not sick, I’m English, and it was winter. ;)

uk accents

There is a very wide variety of accents in the UK (not to mention the accents you find in other English-speaking countries like Ireland, Canada, the USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more. English is a hugely diverse language and in my experience foreign learners of English don’t usually know a lot about the different accents – particularly all the regional varieties in the UK, and they often just find it difficult to understand them, and as a result learners of English can’t enjoy the great variety of sounds in English and the sheer diversity of character and personality you get from the different varieties of English, and therefore it’s worth talking about on the podcast.

This is such a big subject that to do it justice would require me to write a whole book about it. Instead I just do episodes about accents fairly regularly in an effort to cover as much of the topic as possible. For example, I recently did some episodes about British accents that you hear in the Lord of the Rings films, which gave me a chance to talk about the different associations we have with different accents in the UK and how those associations were used to provide some colour and character to the movie versions of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings stories. I also did episodes about the accents you might hear in Glasgow and I spoke to Korean Billy about regional dialects and accents too.

Since uploading those episodes I’ve noticed a few comments from listeners wondering why there are so many accents in the UK, so I’ve prepared this episode which I hope will help you understand that a bit more.

The plan, in this episode (or episodes) is to talk about these things:

  • Why there are so many accents in the UK
  • How our accents develop as part of a natural psychological process
  • What this means for learners of English and teachers of English

Also, we’ll listen to someone speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you understand it

So, this episode is about the way people speak, but it’s also about history, psychology, how to learn English, what my friends sound like, and how to understand a football player from Liverpool.

How are all those things connected? Listen on and you’ll find out!

Why do we have so many accents in the UK? (Communication Accommodation Theory)

One of the things I said in those episodes about LOTR was that there is a really wide variety of accents in the UK, and that your accent reveals lots of things about you such as where in the country you’re from and what social background you come from.

Remember, when I say “Accent” this means simply the way that you pronounce the words you’re using.

If you remember, one of the things I mentioned in one of those episodes was a quote from George Bernard Shaw, which said “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”, George Bernard Shaw.

This gives the impression that we all hate each other of course, and I don’t agree. The point which is made by this quote is that we all have prejudices about each other’s accent and this is an expression of the class system probably. That middle class people probably look down on people with strong regional accents and resent people who speak with very posh accents and so on…

Here’s a comment from Nick in response to those episodes.

Nick 2 hours ago – [These bits in brackets are Luke’s comments]
What a complicated life there in the UK… Everybody resents each other because of their accents… [we don’t resent each other really, but we do judge each other a bit – we also love each others accents too] Wow I never thought that accents in the UK had such an important role in people’s lives. [Yes, they’re very important indicators of our identity – but they’re also a source of great fun, joy, amusement and celebration] Luke, thanks for this episode. You opened up the UK in a new way for me. Even though I knew about different accents in the UK (and from your podcast too) I somehow didn’t realize the deep meaning of accents in English life.
But I don’t really understand how it happened that you have so many accents in quite a small area. I can understand that different levels of society may have different words in their vocabulary, but why they should have SUCH different accents especially when they live in one city or region… maybe it was people’s desire to make something with the language, or at least with pronunciation in order to be somehow unique from others. Like different groups of people or subcultures dress in different clothes or different nations have their own folk costumes.

This is a really good question and there are so many interesting aspects to the answer. I’m now going to try and deal with that question.

Why do we have so many accents in the UK?

It could be explained by “Communication Accommodation Theory” or CAT for short.

Collins dictionary: “Accommodation” 3. countable noun
Accommodation is a kind of agreement between different people which enables them to exist together without trouble. (not a written agreement, but a social or psychological tendency to come closer to each other and form communities based on shared behaviour)

Communication Accommodation Theory suggests that the way we communicate is an expression of our desire or natural tendency to become part of a social group.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_accommodation_theory (Wikipedia)

E.g. When I was living in Japan I picked up a lot of the body language because I wanted to fit in, basically. I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

That’s non-verbal communication, but we’re talking about verbal communication.

Also, it’s not just limited to individuals. Imagine whole communities of people, over many many generations being affected by this process.

scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-is-for-accommodation/ (Thornbury)

This could explain:

  • Why there are so many different accents associated with different regions in the UK
    For example, why people in Liverpool speak differently to people in Manchester, or why the ‘cockney’ dialect came about (more on this kind of thing in a bit)
  • Why we naturally change the way we speak depending on the people around us
  • Why speaking to a diverse range of people is very good for your accent
  • Why native English speakers sometimes change the way they speak when talking to foreigners – e.g. when travelling or meeting a foreign person.

The tendency is to unconsciously adapt.

I’m going to try and deal with all these things, but not quite in that order!

Why native speakers sometimes adapt their language when talking to foreigners
According to Scott Thornbury (a well-known teacher and author of teaching materials and a bit of a legend in the world of English teaching) there are two versions – ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’.

“This is especially obvious in the way we talk to children and non-native speakers, [using] forms of talk called ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’, respectively. Both varieties are characterized by considerable simplification, although there are significant differences. Caretaker talk is often pitched higher and is slower than talk used with adults, but, while simpler, is nearly always grammatically well-formed. Foreigner talk, on the other hand, tolerates greater use of non-grammatical, pidgin-like forms, as in ‘me wait you here’, or ‘you like drink much, no?’”
I’ve seen this happening to some English teachers. They adapt their speech to the students, speaking this weird form of English that’s easy for foreigners to understand but might not be helping them learn.

It’s really difficult to judge it correctly as a teacher. How much do you grade your language, and how do you do it? It’s important to speak correctly – meaning in the sort of full English that you normally would use and in the same way that most native speakers talk to each other, while making sure it’s comprehensible. If you’re too ‘natural’ your students won’t understand you. But if you simplify your English too much, you end up doing this ‘foreigner talk’ which is just not a good model of the language.

I guess this is part of being a good teacher; knowing how to strike the balance between being comprehensible and yet also realistic and natural.

I always try to keep these things in mind when I speak. It’s probably why my voice becomes more and more like standard RP, which I think is just generally accepted to be clearest version of the language, and that’s how I was brought up to speak by my parents. That’s not to say other versions of the language aren’t correct of course, and as I’ve said many times before I love the different accents.

Do I accommodate when I talk to native speakers with different accents?

Yes I do – a bit – I mean, only to accents that are a part of me. I have a few slightly different accents in me and my speech slides in slightly different directions depending on who I am with. They’re not radical changes because I’m still being myself, but my speech does change a little bit. When I’m back in Birmingham my speech becomes a bit more Brummie. When I’m in London it does the same. Only a little bit of course. This is totally normal.

It’s also why it’s important to speak to other people on this podcast because it’s in the interaction with others that language really becomes most alive and natural. When I’m talking to you on my own I speak in my neutral voice, but when I’m in conversation with others you might hear my voice changing slightly. You might not notice to be honest because it’s a pretty mild change. Perhaps it doesn’t happen that much because I am still aware that I’m being listened to by my audience.

For example, when I spoke to Rob Ager from Liverpool about movies last year, my accent didn’t change that much. But maybe if I’d spent the weekend in Liverpool, just hanging out and talking, my accent might have changed a little bit.

When I lived in Japan I spent a lot of time working with people from Australia and apparently I picked up some of accent – particularly the rising intonation pattern. So, the conclusion – I do accommodate a bit, but usually to an accent that I have personal history with, and only if I’m exposed to it for fairly long periods of time and when I’m feeling self-conscious it happens less.
Certainly when I’m back in Birmingham my accent changes a bit, because that’s where I spent a lot time when I was younger.

Cat’s question: What are Paul and Amber’s accents?
Amber & I are pretty similar. It’s just RP. Paul speaks RP too but with a bit more local influence. He’s from Kent so he speaks with some traces of a Kentish accent – e.g. glottal stops. “Native speaker” “Excited” Maybe some “th” sounds sound a bit like “d” or “v” sounds.

Some people seem to think that his voice is influenced by French. It’s isn’t.

That kind of influence would only happen if French was Paul’s first language, and he’d learned English as a second language in adulthood. That’s not the case – in fact to an extent he learned both languages while growing up. He’s certainly native level in English, and he probably is native level in French too. He certainly sounds it. So, because he’s got, basically, two native level languages, they exist independently in his head and therefore don’t influence each other much in terms of accent. Every now and then it influences his vocabulary but he instantly recognises it and self-corrects. You might have heard him do it on the podcast sometimes.

Paul speaks very clearly, which is evident in the way people always tell him that they can understand what he’s saying. His English accent is influenced more by where he grew up in the south-east of England and by the wide variety of people he’s spoken to in his life. He spent many years travelling with Apple, studying and living in different parts of the UK. RP again is probably the default setting for someone like Paul, when trying to speak clearly, but those glottal stops and some dropped consonant sounds reveal that his most formative time for English was in Canterbury, and he is also not the sort of person to listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4.
Paul is also a natural mimic. He’s able to hold different accents in his head at the same time and switch between them. He’s something of a chameleon in that way. Put him in with a bunch of Scottish people for a long time and he’d probably emerge with traces of that accent I expect. Anyway, when he’s with Amber and me his accent is pretty much like ours but with traces of his Kentish background, which is why he says “Native speaker” like that.

So, that’s a bit about ‘accommodation theory’ in relation to my friends and me.
What about Nick’s original question about the diversity of accents in the UK. I’m going to talk more specifically about that in a moment.

But first let’s check out a funny example of a professional footballer from Liverpool who moved to France to play for Olympique de Marseille football club.

Now this is an example of an English person accommodating to French people around him, and we see that this is certainly not happening to Paul Taylor

Joey Barton’s weird French accent

Who is Joey Barton? What was the situation?

Joey Barton speaking with this weird French voice

He was heavily criticised for this – a lot of people mocked him and called him stupid.
He’s definitely not stupid. Maybe he wasn’t aware of the different ways he could have changed his voice – e.g. speaking with RP probably just wasn’t something that would occur to him. This lad is a scouser through and through. He’s not going to start speaking RP – he’s going to accommodate to the French instead.

The reason he’s doing it, as explained by accommodation theory is to make it easier for the French journalists to understand him. His scouse accent is difficult for the French to understand. He was just trying to be intelligible and he ended up accommodating to their speech.

Also he did it to win social approval. I imagine being the only English guy there, in front of all those French journalists, with the pressure of playing for this big club and not speaking French, he wanted to win their approval. This probably happens in Football quite a lot because of the emphasis on teamwork. I expect during training and while bantering with other players and staff, Barton had to very quickly adapt his speech to be part of the team. I imagine speaking Scouse English more clearly wouldn’t help the French.

(Joey Barton talks about the French accent incident)

It’s not just speech – it’s also non-verbal communication. Barton does a couple of typically French things, including the kind of ‘sigh’ or blowing of air through the lips which is really common.

According to research we are naturally wired to copy the speech and behavioural patterns of the people we’re talking to. It’s a natural, neurological process that humans engage in when they want to communicate, be understood and be accepted by others.

Significance for Learning English
For learning English this suggests some of the most important ways to improve your English pronunciation and your English in general are to a) actually communicate with people in real conversations about real things b) have the desire to understand others and really be understood by others c) have the desire to share things (info) with the people you’re communicating with d) have the desire to be socially accepted by the people you’re talking to.

So, spend time talking naturally with English speakers because you want to! Or at least, practise communicating in English not just because you think it’s important for your career or for your English, but because you are genuinely interested in sharing ideas, finding out about people and the world, and broadening the scope of your identity. The more motivated you are by these things, the more you’re opening yourself up to the natural neurological conditions for language learning.

Got it? Talking to different people with good English and who come from diverse origins about things you are interested in, really helps your English and your accent in particular!
Being engaged in genuine communication because you care about sharing ideas is going to help your brain in a natural process of language learning.

Other work helps too – like studying the phonemic chart, analysing the physical ways we pronounce different sounds, how speech is connected and all that stuff, and doing plenty and plenty of mechanical, physical practice – it’s important too, but certainly this theory suggests that our brains are wired to adapt our speech patterns in the right conditions as part of a social process.

But also, it may be vital for you to learn how to accommodate yourself to the English of the people you’re talking to. This from Scott Thornbury:

So, what are the implications for language teaching? In the interests both of intelligibility and establishing ‘comity’, Joey Barton’s adaptive accent strategy may be the way to go. For learners of English, whose interlocutors may not themselves be native speakers, this may mean learning to adapt to other non-native speaker accents. As Jenkins (2007: 238) argues, ‘in international communication, the ability to accommodate to interlocutors with other first languages than one’s own… is a far more important skill than the ability to imitate the English of a native speaker.’

So, when you’re chatting to other non native speakers in English, how should you make yourself more intelligible in order to establish good relations? Do you suddenly start sounding like Luke Thompson, or do you accommodate to their way of speaking, following the rule of accommodation theory?

What do you think? Feel free to either agree with accommodation theory here, or disagree with it, but do give a good reason why.

But why are there so many accents in the UK?

It’s a really complex question which probably needs to be answered by someone with a PhD on the subject, but here’s my answer!

It’s probably a big mix of geography, culture, politics, history and human nature.
Tribalism.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a small nation with quite a high population.

Geography. We’re an island (group of islands actually) so that creates a clear land border – meaning that we’re a bit more ‘penned in’ than some other cultures.

The class system. RP was the standardised version, but ordinary folk spoke in their own way and weren’t expected to speak RP because they knew their place. They could never break away from that. We never had a revolution proclaiming everyone as equal, so working people didn’t take on the standard form of English.

Irregular relationship between the written word (spelling) and the spoken version mean that the spoken version is perhaps more open to interpretation than others. Our written language is not phonetic, therefore the pronunciation is not tied down. There’s no solid rule book on how to pronounce English – there’s the phonetic chart, but that is based on RP and that’s where the class system comes into it. RP is associated with a certain class of people and then identity politics come into play.

Perhaps the multicultural ‘mongrel’ nature of the Brits has something to do with it. We’re a mongrel nation. Maybe the diversity of accents is the result of this patchwork or melting pot of different people and languages. E.g. celtic, nordic, germanic, norman French, gallic French, latin, Irish celtic, Scots celtic, commonwealth nations like Jamaica, India & Pakistan – especially Jamaica which has had a massive influence the way young people in London speak, and now media, like American and Australian English that we hear on a daily basis.

Our islands have been visited, invaded, populated and influenced by migrating people and their voices for many many years. This goes deep into the past and continues to this day, even though the official version of history will suggest that we have one unbroken family line (The Royal Family that we all learn about in school). There’s a lot more diversity than this narrative would suggest. This could result in a wide variety of influences, creating diversity which is not obvious just by looking at people. It’s also interesting to me that the narrative of the ‘unbroken line of history’ which we get from the monarchy, is also aligned with a certain way of speaking – this old-fashioned RP which is the standard form. Underneath that standard form, or next to it, there is a lot more variety and diversity.

There was a long period before the emergence of the single unifying monarchy in which the country was essentially split up into different, independent areas, ruled by competing monarchs. Tribalism was seriously important. Think: Game of Thrones. Community, loyalty, rejection of others – these were vitally important principles. It was the breeding ground for different local versions of a language. It must be the same in many other countries.

This relates to aspects of the accommodation theory. Convergence is when people pull together in a community and naturally speak in the same way to express this shared identity. At the same time there is divergence – pulling away from other communities which could be rivals or whatever. If you’re part of one community you’ll speak like them and you won’t speak like the others. Either you’re in one or the other. This could account for why people in Liverpool and Manchester speak differently even though the two cities are pretty close. Just look at the football fans to see how much of a rivalry there is between the two cities.

I expect a number of other factors have come together to cause the UK to have this wide diversity. But perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of the diversity because the place is really connected – it’s a pretty small island and we’re all squeezed in together with a clear natural border of the sea, and the industrial revolution happened there bringing the train – mass transport which suddenly brought everyone much closer together, making us a lot more aware of our different versions of English. I imagine if you examined other countries you would find similar differences in Accent. The USA for example has definite differences, and it’s quite a young country in comparison. So, I expect many countries have similar diversity in accent and dialect, perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of it in the UK.

We also have the class system which has added another dividing line – another factor which pushes communities together (convergence) or pushes them apart (divergence). Perhaps working class communities held onto their accents as a way of expressing their sense of local identity as a contrast to the less region specific upper classes, who seemed to be less fixed geographically. E.g. The Royal Family has it’s own geography, which moves between international borders and not just across domestic community borders. I mean, Prince Phillip for example was born in Greece. The QUeen’s ancestors were German. Despite the fact that they are the figureheads for the UK, they are not really fixed to local areas within the country.

This also would apply to the nobility – the proper upper classes, who probably owned land that perhaps their families hadn’t lived on for centuries. I expect one area of England for example was ruled by one family for a period, then another family became the rulers – either by conquest, trade, marriage etc. The ruling class probably were quite mobile. The people who lived and worked on the land, were of that land for generations. So, working class people have stronger regional accents than upper class people. It’s absolutely nothing to do with so-called “lazy pronunciation”, it’s more to do with identity – strengthening local communities by having their own version of the language. Power, identity and economics.

No governing body to standardise English. Just powerful people through their influence have guided the narrative that RP is the standard form – this also happens to be the English that the educated, wealthy class use.

So, that’s my fairly long and rambling answer Nick.

We’re not finished with accents though. I’ve just talked about how C.A.T. might explain why we have so many accents in the UK, and also what the theory can tell us about things like my accent, the accents of my friends and also how you can work on your accent too. I still plan to spend some more time focusing on specific accents and playing around.

Now, I would like to ask all of you a few questions

  • How many different accents can you identify in your country?
  • Are accents in your country related to geography?
  • Is there a standard accent? Is that accent associated with a particular region?
  • What attitudes to people have about accents where you come from?
  • In English, which accent do you prefer? If you don’t know a region, can you think of an individual person whose accent you like? Feel free to say Amber Minogue of course.
  • If you’ve been shipwrecked and you get washed up on a remote island populated by a local tribe of native people who seem to use English as their main language and yet look like they might be hostile, or hungry, or both, what’s the best way to get into their good books? Speak like me, or speak like them? Or get back in the sea and swim?

472. Andy Johnson at The London School (Part 2) Why Andy runs marathons

Talking to Andy about why he runs marathons, including vocabulary relating to doing exercise, health, fitness, technique, injuries and medical care.

[DOWNLOAD]

Intro Transcript

Here’s the next part of my conversation with Andy Johnson, recorded at The London School of English a few days ago.

Andy is an English teacher, a father of 2 kids, and also a regular runner. He’s done at least one marathon and a few half marathons, and I thought since many of you listening to this podcast will also be runners (in fact some people will be running right now while listening to this) that it might be interesting to hear Andy talking about his reasons for running, the way he does it, the benefits, the difficulties and all the rest of it. So here’s a conversation about running.

If you’re not into running I would still recommend that you listen to this. You might be surprised at how personal it gets when Andy explains his reasons for training for the London marathon 10 years ago. It turns out that running has special significance for Andy and that running the London marathon was a key moment in his life as it marked a significant milestone for him – and running acts as a regular reminder of a particularly difficult experience Andy had when he was younger.

So, this episode is about running, but it’s also about much more than that. I’d like to thank Andy again for taking part in another episode of the podcast and for sharing so much of his story.

Vocab hunters: Watch out for vocabulary relating to doing exercise, health, fitness, technique, injuries and medical care.

So, without further ado you can now listen to our conversation about running.


Outtro Transcript

I just want to thank Andy again for coming on the podcast and telling us about his story. It was a very interesting conversation and I think the closest we’ve come to having tears on the podcast – it was a moving story but no tears this time! I wonder if you held it together out there in podcast land, or did you start welling up at any moment?

Don’t forget that Andy would like you to take his survey about self-directed learning. You can find a link to that on the page for this episode. Andy just wants to know about how you learn English on your own, outside of the classroom environment, and that includes how you use LEP to help with your English.

TAKE ANDY’S SURVEY ABOUT LEARNING

Click the link, the questionnaire will take a couple of minutes and you’ll help Andy with research for his next IATEFL conference talk.

That’s it for this episode. Watch out for some website-only content coming soon. Subscribe to the mailing list to get informed when that is released.

I hope you are continuing to have a good August, if indeed it is August as you listen to this. I’m still on holiday, relaxing and having a lovely time, I hope – I’m actually recording this before I went on holiday, so this is a very weird time situation. Which tense should I be using here, because I’m actually recording right now, in the past, but as I’m talking it’s the future, so my present is your past and your present is my future, so that’s the present past perfect future continuous or something. I am will have been being having a great time and I will have been had been hoped that you will be being having a wonderful time too, in the future.

Thanks for listening to this episode and I’ll speak to you again soon. Bye!

450. Comments & Questions

In this episode I’m going to go through some questions from the comment section and give a bit of news. There will be some grammar, some vocab, some reactions to recent episodes and some bits relating to how you can continue to push your English with this podcast.

[DOWNLOAD]

Episode notes

The comment section is buzzing with chat. Photos are being shared of people’s running routes and shots of gorgeous spring flowers and blossoms in full bloom. A listener called Sylvia is doing an illustration for every single episode and posting it in the comment section. Regular commenters are having some long and funny conversations – they’re very friendly and like a laugh so get stuck into the comment section and see what all the fuss is about.

The usual commenters are: Cat, Nick, Jack, Agnes, Marta, Antonio, Eri, Hiro, Euoamo, Sylvia, Jilmani, Mayumi, Ethan, Syntropy and more people I have probably forgotten about!

Cat is the top commenter with a total of 2795 COMMENTS
Nick is in 2nd place with 1851 COMMENTS
Jack is in 3rd place with 963 COMMENTS

David Crystal

Bit of news: I’ll be interviewing Prof. David Crystal on the podcast soon.

David Crystal is the foremost writer and lecturer on the English language, with a worldwide reputation and over 100 books to his name. He is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and in 1995 was awarded the OBE for services to the English language.

I met him in 2012 when he gave me an award (with Andy Johnson). He’s really nice and I’ve always wanted to have him on the podcast.

And I am interviewing him soon, which is a serious treat.

This is the guy who knows everything there is to know about language and I’m going to interview him.

Honestly, I have millions of questions I could ask him, and I could easily fill up several episodes with him just asking all the questions in my head.

But I’d also like to give you a chance to ask a few questions. So leave your questions for David Crystal in the comment section. I can’t guarantee I’ll ask him all of them, but if there are some particularly good ones I’ll ask them.

Otherwise, I might be able to answer some of the questions myself.

Recent Comments on the Website

Here are some comments which arrived recently.

Cat – in reply to the British Humour episode
Hi Luke and Amber, thanks for your lovely chat! It was a most enjoyable and also educational episode.
I’ve got two questions:
1. You mentioned “NHS” (?) as something that each Brit is proud of. What is it exactly?
2. During the dissection of the Hugh Grant’s quote you said that he was “public school”. What does it mean?
Thanks for explanations!

IMG_4148Oil painting by Sasha Sokolova

Thanks for the oil painting!www.sashasokolova.com

 

JAPANESE LEPSTER GIFT VIDEO ~ I need to do this!

Paul
Congratulations, teacher Luke, for the podium! Great job and another great podcast, thanks!
“It’s time for me to leave Audioboom.com” = LUKEXIT!!!!!

Amber’s podcast – Paname – it’s not available yet, but soon!

Orion Transcription Team

Just a reminder about the Orion transcription team – they continue to produce transcripts, mainly under the management of Antonio from Spain, and they are always on the lookout for new recruits. Antonio regularly posts messages in the comment section saying “Episode blah blah is now available for transcription” and with a google link. E.g. the latest one is episode 444. The Rick Thompson Report.

Remember, it can be really good for your English so check it out! Transcribe just 3 or 5 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment. If you do it regularly you’ll see that it allows you to focus your attention on what you’re hearing and you’ll be surprised at how much that focus allows you to examine the language up close. You could also try repeating out loud some of the things you’re hearing as you transcribe, that could be a good way to convert the process into a speaking exercise.

Turning Input into Intake

Here’s some vaguely academic stuff about Turning input into intake to increase your language acquisition. There’s language input, and there’s language acquisition. Between those two things, there’s intake. Intake is the stuff we really learn from.

This from the University of Austin Texas
The term “input” referred to all the exposure to a foreign language that is around us. However, as years went on, researchers realized that input was not enough. If the learners were not noticing or concentrating on the incoming flow of language, comprehension would be limited. So today, researchers in second language acquisition commonly make a distinction between input and intake. Simply put, input is all the written and spoken target language that a learner encounters, whether it is fully comprehended or not. Intake is limited to the comprehended input that impacts the learner’s developing linguistic system. For our purposes, we suggest that technology provides ways to increase the foreign language input that learners are exposed to and enhances the process of how input is converted into intake.

Without getting too fancy, let’s say that to really learn from the things you hear you need to convert what you’re hearing from input into intake.

This means listening to content which is comprehensible – i.e. basically understandable even though there may be some things you don’t get. A mix of things you already know (this is your foundation that allows you to work out the bits you don’t know) and some things you don’t know or don’t understand.

It also means sometimes really focusing and giving all your attention to certain bits of what you’re hearing. Some things might kind of pass you by a bit, but it’s important while you listen to be sort of emotionally involved in it and to interact with it while listening – to really think and feel in response to what you’re hearing. Apparently this helps turn input into intake.

Transcribing pushes this to the max. It forces you to turn everything from mere input into intake – which is the good stuff. I think it’s backed up by not just academic research but by the experiences of transcribers. It helps push your English, and remember you can just do a short chunk, you don’t have to do a whole episode, that’s crazy!

In summary – focusing all your attention on 3-5 minutes of an episode can really help turn input into intake and can maximise your learning potential with this podcast, or any audio resource.

Yuko – language question “shall”
Dear Luke, my name is Yuko. I have been a ninja listener of your pod cast for a long time, and I am originally from Japan, which makes my ninja status more authentic, doesn’t it? I am living in New York, but really fond of British English.
I have a question. When it comes to the usage of ‘shall’, it is rarely used here except for those two occasions: to suggest something, for example, “shall I do this for you?”, and to use following “Let’s”‘ for example, “let’s go, shall we”. Back in Japan, I learned that shall is also used interchangeably with will for describing the things or action in the future, but, here, all American friends said that shall is never used in daily life except for the examples above, and that if I used shall instead will, it would sound quite archaic.
However, I have a sense that sometimes I catch “shall” as description of future in bbc or British dramas even in modern setting. Would you mind telling the use of “shall” in today’s British English? Thank you very much. I always enjoy and admire your witty, and sophisticated subjects, not to mention it was quite honoring that you chose my country as the destination of your latest trip. I hope all is well and both of you and your wife have enjoyed it.

Yuko, all the right info is in your question.
You’re just not sure about it and you need confirmation.
OK then!
Shall – for suggestions (shall I? Shall we?) – after Let’s…
Shall for future (like ‘will’ – yes, old-fashioned and a bit posh, but some people still do it, like my Mum “I shan’t be coming to the cinema.” or “I expect I shall be exhausted by the end of the day!”
Also in contracts for obligations
That’s it!

Agnes – Sport
I’m just curious whether Luke is taking some exercise or not, he looks sporty and I suppose that he does some sport activities:-)) I usually jog before going work, early morning – the best time for burning calories.

Anna Mrozek
I had an English class today and my classmate asked me “how the hell do you know all these words?!”, so…
Thank you Luke, because you deserve the credit for that. :)

Leonid
Hi there everyone! Does someone know the accurate meaning of the phrase “to be on E”? Thanks in advance!

Great comment from Cat
Just keep listening to Luke’s English Podcast. And try to listen to episodes more than once. It is on the second listen that we start to notice the language consciously and start learning. After some time, you can listen to the episode for the third time. And there you will see how much you have learned in the meanwhile. Do it with your favourite episodes. And try to listen to OPPs as well. And use the same technique. It’s very effective. Also listening during a physical exercise speeds up the learning process. Because your brain is working at 5x of it’s performance capability. So use such shortcuts, especially if you are a bit lazy like I am! ;))

I would add that you can also do some transcribing, or check out previously written transcriptions – either the unproofread ones in google docs, or episodes with published scripts. That can help you notice language too.

Film Club: Touching the Void

Hope you enjoyed the “Touching the Void” episodes. I have had a few comments indicating that it moved a few people. but my stats show the episode hasn’t been listened to as much as normal episodes.

I often worry about uploading too much, but there’s always someone who says “we want more!”
I recorded an episode about Alien Covenant the other day. It’s about an hour of rambling about the Alien franchise. I’m a bit wary of uploading it straight away because it would be 3 film club episodes in a row and this isn’t strictly a film podcast. I probably shouldn’t think about it all that much.

But I’ve been quite productive lately and I have some episodes in the pipeline – Alien, 2 Amber & Paul episodes, one about music and culture with James.

Anyway, going back to Touching the Void, I’m glad to see those of you who have listened to it seemed to enjoy it.

Agnes
Have been listening to this story based on facts for the second time today I felt an incredible chill down my back and my hair stood up on both of my hands.
Luke, telling us this story, you made me be there, with them, I saw this horribly broken leg, I saw as Joe dropped down, I saw everything, even though I haven’t watched the documentary yet.
just thank you

Ethanwlee
One step at a time – this is my biggest takeaway from this episode. At the end of the day, that’s the mantra that keeps us going, staying focused. This story leaves me lots of food for thought. Thanks Luke!

Jilmani
Thank you so much Luke! It’s an amazing episode I can’t express how amazing it is. I want to tell you my personal story about climbing. My parents are both climbers and they had a club for climbers. They worked there a lot to train and coach also they took a lot of people in trips for camping. And I always went with them when I was a child. I liked climbing and adventurous trips more than anything else. I had always climbed and camped before I had an accident in 2014 in Lebanon. I was terribly injured and they expected that I’d die. Luckily I managed to survive. I needed a lot of eye surgeries because my cornea was damaged. Now I can’t climb at all not because I’m afraid of it, but my doctor prevented me. I got rid of all my pictures and anything that might remind me of climbing or my adventures. I haven’t climbed since that day, but I skydived a lot. Climbing always helped me to relax and forget about the troubles that we have in the Middle East. Also I’m a religious person it always made me feel happy and close to God. My doctor told me that I will be able to climb again when he removes the stitches. Thanks again Luke. I’ll watch the episode tonight luckily I have a Netflix subscription and I love documentaries a lot. Waiting for the next episode!

Luke: Be careful if you climb again! Be like me, just stay at home and watch other people do it on YouTube, it’s safer (except maybe I should do more exercise)

daav
Wow! Thank you, Luke! I really appreciate the topic you’ve chosen for a new episode. The film is pretty good and the book as well. I’ve got one in my bookcase. I have just little experience with high mountains because after my wedding I decided to bury my climbing gear to the very bottom of my wardrobe and since that day I’ve been “only” a hiker. But anyone, who has ever spent some time in the mountains without any support, just with a climbing mate on the other end of the rope, an ice axe in hands and a pair of crampons knows, that the fact Joe Simpson survived the Siula Grande ordeal is a …. real miracle, nothing else than a real miracle…
If someone wants to buy a book I recommend Bookdepository instead of Amazon. They offer free worldwide delivery which is a real bargain in my opinion. I buy books from them regularly (from The Czech Rep.) and it works well.

Cat
Daav, but why did you put away your climbing gear?! It’s like giving up on a part of your true self. Can you be happy with that for long?

daav
Hi Cat. At first I must admit I was never a climbing machine. I used to climb few times a year. Let’s say just few weekends and one or two trips to the Tatra Mountains or to the Alps. So it wasn’t so difficult to give up. In the Czech Rep. climbing is very popular and there are many people who spend every possible moment climbing a piece of rock in their surrounding area. So I can’t say I was a climber. I usually say that I have done some climbing :c) One day I considered that my wife meant a lot more to me than climbing. She had never asked me to stop climbing. She had even climbed with me once. But any time I had packed my climbing gear I had seen the same wish in her eyes – please, stay alive. During my last climbing trip I had a minor accident I have never told my wife about. Fortunately nothing comparable to Joe and Simon :c) But I realized that I was being very selfish. I enjoyed it, I liked it, but my parents and other people who truly love me were frightened to death every time I left them with a rope in my bag. Now I know that it wasn’t the climbing that I liked. It was mainly a peaceful and calm space around me. It was the fact I can leave all my daily routine behind me. Now i know it’s not adrenalin that I need. It’s just some kind of feeling I am alone, just on my own in some remote area. So today, long distance hiking is an activity that gives me everything I need. I just pack my rucksack, a tent, a fuel stove, some food, maps and a compass and I just walk. It’s different to climbing. It’s definitely not so dangerous. However it provides me the same pleasure. Unfortunately the Alps are full of people and there are so many huts. But some parts of the Pyrenees are amazing, the western part of Ukraine as well and the Andes are a dream for any hiker. I have many dreams, CDT in USA is one of them as well as many others around the world. The only disadvantage of long distance walking is that it’s very time-consuming compared to climbing. Are you a climber Cat?

Cat
Daav, if I were Luke, I would read your comment out in the next episode. It is deeply felt and full of love. :)

daav
Thank you Cat. But I’ve noticed that some people don’t like long episodes. And my comment is so long that Luke would have to record an extra episode just to read it out :c)

Success story from Erick in Brazil
Hello Luke,
This is Erick from Brazil.
Today when I was listening to your #429 podcast while running, I felt encouraged to share my listening experience with you.
I have been listening to you for about 1,5 years usually when I go running, so you have been my partner twice or three times a week. Strange, but I feel as if I have known you for a long time…
I actually think your podcast is more than just a teaching one, but it is more like a variety show with news, entertainment, fun stuff, etc. I really enjoy your ‘long talks’ which can be just some information, funny talk or more deep issues which are very good for getting immersed into the English language.
It is gratifying to hear other points of view of the various subjects on the media agenda especially when you bring guests to your show, like your Father, Amber and Paul, etc.
Sometimes it can be very hard for me to understand, but I took your advice, I keep going, listening to some episodes more than once, trying to get as much as I can.
Now I can say that I broke through the language barrier and I can really understand and talk in English because of you! So, I just have to thank you for all the material that you provide for free and especially for your success in making your podcast so popular and genuine!
Cheers from Brazil,
Erick Takada

I didn’t share that just to remind you of how wonderful I am, but also to just remind you that if you find it difficult to follow everything you hear on this podcast that you should keep going and battle through the moments of difficulty and you’ll find that bit by bit you build your understanding.
I can’t understand how anyone could expect to learn English properly without listening to a lot of it. I think it’s vital.

Do me a favour!

If you know someone who might like this podcast, share it with them! Recommend it to that person. It’s a good way to spread the word.

Another thing you could do is to write a nice review on iTunes – that’s really good for the podcast because it helps things like algorithms and getting my podcast featured in the ‘recommended’ section on iTunes. Also it looks good when new people check it on iTunes, and it would just make me feel good and put a smile on my face, which ultimately will feed back into the podcast.

Subscribe to the mailing list.

Watch this space for news of a potential LEP app for your phone or tablet which could include some bonus app-only content!

449. Film Club: Touching the Void (Part 2) Learning a Language is Like Climbing a Mountain

Part 2 of this Film Club episode looking at the award-winning documentary “Touching the Void” which tells the story of a mountain climbing expedition which goes wrong. Listen to this episode and then watch the film on Netflix or DVD for that extra bit of English input.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

Their plan was to climb back down the North ridge and then abseil down a part of the north face.

Abseiling is when you use ropes to kind of lower yourself down. But the clouds started coming in again.

The walk along the north ridge was much harder than expected. It was vertical on one side (with overhangs) and steep flutings (like grooves going down) on the other side. You wouldn’t know if you were stepping on something safe or not.

As they were descending, with the weather setting in, things got a bit out of control.

They got lost and they were in a whiteout – unable to see anything.

Their plan was to get down that day. But, by the time the sun went down they were still very high up the mountain, still over 6,000m up.

That night while they were making a brew of water, their gas ran out.

Day 4

The next day they could see that they’d managed to get down the worst part of the ridge and Simon thought they’d get down the rest of the mountain that day. He thought the whole climb was “in the bag” (if something is ‘in the bag’ it means you’re certain to achieve it, you’re definitely going to get it.)

Simon thought it was in the bag. He was wrong.

Joe was climbing in the front, before Simon. He reached a vertical wall, a fall in front of him, so he started to lower himself off it.

The method of lowering yourself down an ice wall, using pick axes and spikes on your feet.
Joe swung his pick into the ice, and it made a strange sound, so he decided to take it out and place it in again.

He was about to swing again, and the whole piece of ice he was attached to with his left hand just came off like a pancake, so he fell through the air.

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

Pain flew up his thigh from his knee. Incredibly painful.

I’ve never broken my leg and I hope I never do because I’m sure it’s horrible.
I have injured myself before. Of course, I’ve cut my fingers on knives etc. When you do injure yourself there is a shock, especially a kind of shock where you think it could be serious. That kind of shock lasts a few moments, when you don’t just feel pain but you feel a kind of panic, thinking “I’ve seriously hurt myself”. Most of the time that feeling goes away when you realise it’s not bad.

But if it is serious, you get this dreadful feeling that comes on. A truly dreadful feeling that comes from the realisation of just how difficult and inconvenient things are going to get. Not just the pain, but the fact that you now have this injury which is going to make everything so damn hard for you.

Now imagine that feeling when you’re 6000 metres up the side of a freezing mountain in Peru with no water and no medical services anywhere near you.

I don’t know about you, but I would feel more than dread, I’d feel pretty hopeless. I imagine I would feel more than the pain and the inconvenience, there would also be all this emotion coming, like anger, tragedy, sadness.

Anyway, Joe at this point was mainly feeling the intense pain of a badly broken leg.

Here’s what happened, and this is really horrible, ok?

The impact of the fall caused his knee joint to actually split. The joint split and the bone from the lower leg went up through the knee joint, split the end of his femur (the thigh bone) and carried on up the leg.

Unimaginable really. All those ligaments completely ruined, the bone, cartilage, nerve endings, and of course the blood vessels broken by it.

The whole leg would have been unusable of course, and there was a lot of internal bleeding inside his leg.

Apparently he couldn’t cope with the pain at all at the beginning, but after breathing for a while he started to get a grip on it.

But he thought he was done for. He was still level with the peaks of some of the other mountains.

He tried to stand on the leg – impossible.
Simon eventually arrived, and he describes seeing Joe’s face – a complex mix of terror, pain and anguish.

Simon said “Are you ok” and Joe nearly said “I’m fine thanks” – because that’s what we say to that question, even if you’re not fine!

But he said “No I’ve broken my leg” and immediately Simon thought, “Oh god, we’re stuffed”
Now. What would you do if you were Simon and Joe here?

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

You say, “mate, you’ve got to help me” or “Go ahead without me, I’m stuffed!” or “Don’t you dare leave me!”

Let’s say you’re Simon, what do you say here?
“Mate, don’t worry. We’ll get you down this mountain.”
“Look, you’re not going to make it. Do you have anything you want me to say to your parents?”
“Wait here, I’ll go and get help. I’ll come back for you I promise!”

Obviously, Joe is the one with the broken leg and the pain, but Simon also is in a difficult situation here because they’re partners.

According to Joe, Simon gave him some painkillers which did nothing, and they didn’t talk about it for a few moments because they both knew that Simon was going to have to leave Joe there, because they couldn’t get Joe down from the mountain without risking both their lives in the process.

Joe thought Simon would leave him there because there was no other choice.

Meanwhile, Richard, the third guy is sitting at base camp wondering what has happened to them, thinking that they both might be dead and that he’d find them at the bottom of the mountain because they’d just fall all the way to the bottom! There wasn’t really anything Richard could do because they were many many miles away from civilisation. There was no ambulance service to call. No mobile phones in the 80s. He just had to wait and see.

Back on the mountain, Simon pulled himself together to think about how he was going to get Joe down the mountain.

He decided to try and save him and had to come up with a practical solution.

The plan was, he’d just lower Joe down the mountain on a rope. Just slide him down.

He tied two 150ft ropes (there are about 3.3 feet per metre) together, with a knot in the middle and Simon was attached to one end, and Joe on the other.

Slide Joe down, letting the rope through the belay device. When the knot got to the belay device, stop letting Joe slide. Joe would stand up to take the weight off the rope. Simon would then unattach the rope from the device, let the knot through, then reattach the rope and then let it continue for the rest of the 150feet.

Then when Joe was at the end of the rope, Simon would downclimb to join him.

They continued like this for quite a long time, repeating the process. Letting Joe slide down, then letting the knot through the rope, letting Joe slide down further, then Simon climbing down.

Simon was letting Joe slide down quite quickly, conscious of the time running out and the fact they needed to get down to the bottom as quickly as possible.
It must have been excruciating for Joe.

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

These are the things you think about when you’re with a friend, doing something. Is he pissed off? Does he mind? Apparently Joe was wondering if Simon was annoyed by it all.
But I think Simon was also suffering from shock and panic too, and to an extent he held a lot of responsibility now for both of them, because Joe was out of action. It was basically a single-handed mountain rescue by Simon, in extremely difficult conditions.
It must have been a desperate desperate feeling for both of them.

What they didn’t know at the time though, was that this was just the start and that it would get a lot worse, and that something awful was approaching that they had no idea about.
They continued going down the mountain in this fashion – Joe badly injured, in shock and losing blood into his leg, both of them exhausted, both dehydrated at altitude and close to hypothermia.

A race against time.

The weather turned bad again, and within an hour or two they were descending in a full storm, with wind chill factor of something like -80 degrees.

They couldn’t dig a cave and rehydrate because they’d run out of gas. There was nothing they could do. Apparently at this point they lost control and started panicking, flying down this mountain in this desperate fashion.

As they made some good progress, albeit in such awful conditions, Simon started feeling a sense of hope because he could see that they were virtually down. Almost down at the bottom.

Things were looking up.

I say “reach the bottom” – in reality there were lots of different sections and terrains between the summit and the camp. From top to bottom it was like this:
Peak
Ridge
Face
Less-steep part of the face (approach to the face)
Glacier (like a huge river of ice that flows from the top of the mountain range down to the river bed at the foot of the mountain – slowly moving down, carving out the valley as it goes, crushing rock underneath it) – full of crevasses (massive cracks in the glacier with drops that went down all the way to the floor – to the river bed of the glacier)
The bottom of the glacier – full of huge boulders and stones, with water trickling deep underneath them.
A long section of this rocky terrain.
The base camp next to a glacial pool.

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

Anyway, they were nearly down the mountain face, approaching the glacier. For Simon, he could see a glimmer of hope.

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

Neither of them realised it was coming, but Joe suddenly felt the ground under him get icier and more and more steep, and he started slipping faster and faster – going like a rollercoaster downwards, screaming at Simon to stop, but Simon couldn’t hear him and had no idea it was happening, just assuming that Joe was going faster over some steeper ground..
And then -whoosh, Joe slipped right off the edge of a cliff and was left dangling in the air, right above a massive crevasse – a huge crack in the mountain that went straight down into pure darkness. Joe was dangling over a huge abyss. About 80 feet between him and the opening of the crevasse.

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

He gave up hope and would have died as hypothermia began to set in.

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

Meanwhile, Joe wasn’t dead. He survived the fall and had landed on a ledge in the crevasse, not far from the top.

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

He was suffering from shock and was also in a serious condition with dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. He was also seriously traumatised by what had happened. Apparently he said he was convinced that he was going to die too.

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

Impossible to get out – broken leg, overhangs. Ice.

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

He didn’t have a religious moment. He knew nobody was coming to save him. There was no god, just the abyss. It filled him with fear.

Imagine the worst darkness. Fear of the dark – it’s primal.

He was also extremely angry and felt like this was not the end of his life.

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

One of the most impressive moments that has stuck with me.
“You’ve got to keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions, you know. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.”

Joe could have stayed on the ledge. He could have given up.
He chose to keep making decisions. He chose to keep moving forwards.
It just shows that you must not let things happen to you. Don’t just let yourself be carried away by events. Don’t stop making decisions and let yourself be carried away.
Even if you feel hopeless, like all options are screwed and that you’ll fail no matter what happens. Don’t stop making decisions.
You have to continue and keep going.
Like the famous quote, often attributed to Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
Don’t give up when things are hard and hellish. Keep going.
Don’t just stop and let things happen to you, especially when you’re in hell.
That’s no time to stop! You’re in hell. Keep moving! You’ll get out.
Joe decided he’d use the remaining rope he had to lower himself into the crevasse and possibly reach the bottom.

Bottom.
Crawled along.
Horrible sound – imagine the fear.
A spot of light. Hope.
The incredible joy of the light and emerging, born again.
But out of the frying pan into the fire.
This was still just the beginning of his challenge.
He started following Simon’s tracks.
Night fell. He crawled in the dark until he couldn’t go further and managed to create a snow cave.

Day 6

Simon’s tracks had gone.
He could see the massive challenge ahead of him. He nearly gave up when he realised how far he had to go. The challenge overwhelmed him almost completely.

He was presented with this massive maze near the bottom of the glacier, where it was full of crevasses, creating all these little pathways with huge holes down the sides. Joe had to shuffle through all of this.

He got to the rocks at the edge.
Much harder terrain.

Created a splint using his sleeping mat. Discarded his other gear.

Horrendous experience of trying to get through the boulders and through the rocks. Hopping, falling onto the rocks, getting up, continue. Falling virtually every hop, like breaking his leg again every time.

Just 25 yards but it took so long and with so much pain.

But he describes himself as insanely stubborn at times (spell it correctly this time!)
This worked to his advantage because he was determined not to be beaten. He wanted to have it his way.

This is where the second most impressive part came.

He broke up the challenge into bits. He said – right, I’ll get to that rock in 20 minutes. Everything became about getting to the next rock in 20 mins, then the next 20 minute challenge and so on.
He became obsessed with these targets. If he got to the rock in 18 minutes he’d be over the moon, ecstatic. If he made it in 22 minutes he’d be furious with himself.

This is another thing we can learn about achieving something big. It’s true – trying to achieve one huge thing can seem impossible. You might look at the whole challenge and think, “oh my god, there’s no way I can do that, it’s too big”. But the key to it is to set a series of small goals and just try to reach that, then another small goal. Break it down into little chunks and you will be able to do it. Looking at the whole challenge doesn’t help. It dwarfs you.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – it’s like something my Dad said to me about how to eat an elephant (that sounds weird because you might think – why are you trying to eat an elephant? But it’s just a metaphor that my Dad said to me once).

The thing about my Dad is that he often tends to be right about things. It’s quite annoying when you’re having a discussion or debate because he always somehow ends up being right, but it’s also great because I have learned some pearls of wisdom from him. I don’t know where he got this one from himself, maybe his Dad.

Anyway, when I was a child I think I was talking about how I was finding a school project difficult – I think we were even walking in the garden, but that sounds like it’s too good to be true – walking in the garden with my Dad and he gives me a piece of wisdom, like something out of a Hollywood movie or something. Tell me father, how can I train in the force and become a jedi? Etc.

Anyway, I said “I can’t do my history project Dad…” and he dropped some wisdom on me, saying “How do you eat an elephant?”

The point is this:
Seeing the challenge as one whole thing can destroy your motivation, but step by step, bit by bit – that’s how you get a big thing done. And don’t give up.
Also, you just have to have drive – you have to be stubborn, you have to be motivated. Listen to that army captain you have in your head and obey him!

Joe says that at times he felt like there were two voices in his head. One saying, “let’s rest here in the sun it’s nice” and another part of him which was completely unsympathetic, saying “No, you’ve got to get to that rock. Now get up and go!”

We all have that inside us. That cold, pragmatic voice, which seems frightening or something, but we just have to listen to it sometimes, just to get things done.

Obviously Joe was in seriously bad physical condition at this point. Exhaustion, the badly broken leg, internal bleeding, shock, frostbite, hunger, injuries from his falls.
But also he started falling apart mentally too.
That feeling of there being several voices in his head or several parts of his mind got stronger and stronger – with one part being this cold pragmatic feeling of just relentlessly getting to the next point and the next after that, and the other part of him was just almost disconnected as his mind wandered away from what was happening as if he was observing it all from a distance. It must have been seriously strange and disturbing.

Sound of water driving him mad.

Night fell and he lay on the rock staring up at the stars and his consciousness became quite unhinged, having psychedelic out-of-body experiences. He says he felt like he was becoming part of the rocks and part of the mountain itself, and he lost all sense of time, feeling that he had lain there for centuries.

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

Meanwhile, Simon and Richard are preparing to leave the next morning.

Joe finds water.
Peeing himself, enjoying the sensation.
Feeling totally robbed of his dignity.
Realises he could make it.
But hit hard by the realisation that Simon and Richard might have gone.

The delusions – thinking that Simon and Richard were, for some reason, following behind him but choosing not to come and help him because they didn’t want to embarrass him.
Then realising that they weren’t there and feeling utterly hopeless and alone and distraught.
Considered just getting in his sleeping bag. But felt it was too pathetic.

Sun went down and he completely lost it. He couldn’t hold his mind together any more.

Confusion and madness. He tried to look at his watch but couldn’t work out what time it was.
The worst thing – he got a song caught in his head. Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring. It went on and on for hours.

You know when you can’t sleep and you get a song caught in your head, really vividly. Imagine that but 1000x worse.
Like being trapped in hell.
It really upset him because he really wanted to think of other things but he couldn’t because of the song.
“Bloody hell I’m going to die to Boney M”

He would drift off, then wake up thinking he was in a pub car park drunk, he kept losing it. Totally delirious.

He woke up (or became conscious) because of a strong smell – it acted like smelling salts.
He’d crawled into the toilet area of the camp site.
After all that – he ends up crawling through their own shit at the end.
But it gave him hope that Simon and Richard might still be there. He had reached the camp. He called out to Simon, but got no reply.
That was the end for Joe.
This is when he finally knew he was finished.
He described how he lost himself completely at that moment. Ego death.

Simon and Richard were still in their tents, ready to leave the next morning. Apparently, Richard woke up because he thought he heard something.
Imagine you’re in the tent. This is about 4 days after Simon got back. They both thought Joe was dead.

Imagine you’re in the tent, feeling terrible, ready to leave the next day. Darkness.
The wind, blowing across the fabric of the tent. The shadow of the mountains in the background, with the knowledge that the body of your friend is still up there.
You wake up and you freeze because you’re sure you’ve just heard something.

There it is again, but it can’t be true. It sounded like a voice on the wind.
Apparently Richard waited, listening, and heard it again, and it really scared him because he wasn’t sure if it was real, or he was imagining it, or if it was a ghost.
He decided to check on Simon and discovered that he was already up – Simon had heard it too and was convinced it was Joe.

They searched for him shouting his name and found him on the ground a few minutes from the camp site.

What they found was the body of Joe, like a ghost or some kind of monster.
Joe was in such bad condition, covered in earth, crap, frostbite and sunburned, thin, starving, dehydrated and nearly dead.

They carried him to the camp and began the process of trying to rebuild his strength.
That’s where the story ends. We know that eventually Joe was brought down to a nearby civilisation where he received medical attention.

The challenge was not over there of course. I understand that he received some poor medical help in the basic hospital he ended up in, had to be flown back to the UK and his leg had to be amputated.

About the decision to cut the rope.

Joe has always defended Simon’s decision, saying that he would have done the same thing.
I can’t really understand why anyone would have a problem with what Simon did. Why should they both have died? It doesn’t make sense.

In fact, when you think about it, by cutting the rope, Simon saved Joe’s life, or helped to save him.

If Simon hadn’t cut the rope, they both would have fallen and it’s likely that one of them would have died. Let’s say that Joe would have landed on the ledge like before. Simon would probably have died. It’s unlikely that he would have landed on a ledge too. He probably would have fallen into the crevasse, dragging Joe in too. They both would have died.

Anyway what do you think?

Again, I urge you to watch the documentary film on Netflix, on DVD or on what other platform you can find.

Also, consider reading the book, or Joe Simpson’s other books – because apparently he had even more near death experiences on mountains too!

Let me also leave you with this

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.
  • How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. How do you get down a mountain? One step at a time too! Or you slide, or you drag yourself, or you hop. But you break down the challenge into achievable steps.
  • Nobody even broke their leg learning English – so, enjoy your studies and seize the day!

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande