Category Archives: Teaching

570. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 2)

Part 2 of my chat with Zdenek from the Czech Republic. In this one we talk about becoming an English teacher, taking the infamous DELTA teaching course, Zdenek’s podcast and board game, and some long-lost (and embarrassing) comedy YouTube videos I made in the pre-podcast days.

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Introduction Transcript

This is part two of this double episode featuring Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic.

Zdenek is an English teacher, a podcaster and a board game enthusiast. In this conversation we’re learning about Zdenek’s story. In part 1, which you’ve all listened to, we heard about how Zdenek learned English to a high level by working as a labourer and electrical fitter on a building site in East London. In this episode we continue the story by talking about these things:

  • Coming back to the Czech Republic and becoming an English teacher
  • The challenge of doing the DELTA (the notoriously difficult Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, which is considered in the industry as the highest practical English language teaching qualification out there)
  • My story of failing one of my teaching observations when I did the DELTA in 2006 (Don’t worry folks, I took the teaching observation again and passed it by the way, my record and my reputation remain intact)
  • Teaching English when it’s not your first language – the preconceptions, challenges and possible advantages of that
  • Zdenek’s podcast – his inspiration, his reasons for doing it, what he does in his episodes and how the podcast fits in with his teaching and his life in general.
  • There is also a slightly embarrassing story from me about some lost comedy videos I made in the years before I started Luke’s English Podcast.
  • And finally we have Zdenek’s interest in board games, both as a teaching tool in the ELT classroom but also in English speaking gaming communities online using the Steam platform. Zdenek has in fact created his own board game which he hopes to get properly published in physical form in the future.

Enjoy!


Ending

So that was Zdenek from the Czech Republic.

If you would like to play Zdenek’s game online you need to download the Steam platform and then buy TableTop Simulator. Then, in the Workshop area you will find Zdenek’s game which is called Kingdoms of Deceit.

If you’d like more information about this, leave a comment on the page for this episode on my website. I expect Zdenek will be able to help you there.

Playing online games like Kingdoms of Deceit can be a great idea for your English and for your social life in general as Zdenek said. This sort of thing is a great solution to that problem of not being able to get social time in English. So, check it out, it could result in you making some friends online, having fun playing some virtual board games and improving your English in the process.

As I said, get Steam, then TableTop Similator and find Kingdoms of Deceit there. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’ll find it. If you have questions, just leave a comment on the episode page and I expect Zdenek will be able to respond.

Also, check out Zdenek’s English Podcast which you can find on iTunes and most other podcast platforms. He also has a Facebook group which you could join in order to keep in touch with him and his listeners.

You heard me mention those ridiculous videos I made with my brother, before I started LEP, the ones filmed in some woodland at the bottom of my parents’ garden, in which I’m a survivalist who gets everything wrong.

I did, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), delete and lose almost all of those videos, but I have realised that there is one that still exists and is still on YouTube. It’s just a few minutes long and you can see it if you like, by checking the page for this episode. I watched it again and it did crack me up a bit to be honest. Maybe those videos were funnier than I remembered.

In the video you’ll see me pretending to be a survival expert and doing various comical pratfalls (a pratfall is when you fall over, for comical purposes – I did a lot of pratfalls in this video, falling into hedges and actually injuring myself quite badly – I had scratches all over my arms which I had to cover up with long sleeves for a few weeks while teaching. I’m wearing an old safari suit from the 70s that my Dad had in the back of his wardrobe, which looks ridiculous and is too tight. Perhaps the funniest bits are when you can hear my brother trying not to laugh behind the camera. This is the least embarrassing video, which is why I didn’t delete it. Probably the most embarrassing thing about the video is my haircut, to be honest.

Unfortunately the footage of me jumping into a pond, being attacked by imaginary spiders and smearing myself in mud is lost forever. Unfortunately? Actually, it’s probably for the best…

Anyway, check out the video on the page for this episode if you like. It’s called How (not) to Light a Fire.

Alright then, that is it for this episode.

Thanks again to Zdenek for being on the podcast.

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to check out my premium service at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for regular episodes in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Join the mailing list on my website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish content on the website.

Also, follow me on Twitter, which is where I’m most active on social media. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again in another episode soon!

Bye

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

569. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 1)

Talking to English teacher & podcaster Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic about how he learned English to a high level by working on a building site in East London with a team of cockneys who couldn’t pronounce his name properly. Also includes tangents about football commentators, climate change denial, flat earth conspiracy theorists and more. [Part 1 of 2]. Intro & outro transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you today? Fine? Pretty good? Not too bad? Can’t complain? Mustn’t grumble? Could be worse? Doing alright? You’re doing alright. Good. Glad to hear it.

Here is a new episode and it’s a conversation with Zdenek Lukas who is an English teacher from the Czech Republic. You might have heard me mention Zdenek on the podcast before and in fact you might already be familiar with his voice because he has a podcast of his own. You might be one of his listeners in fact.

Zdenek’s podcast is called Zdenek’s English Podcast – yes, that does sound familiar doesn’t it? It’s like the name of my podcast. As Zdenek has said himself many times, he was inspired to start his podcast mainly after becoming a fan of my podcast and I’m ok with that.

He did actually ask me before choosing that name and I said yep, go ahead. This was years ago now, I think around 2013, when he first set up his podcast and got in touch with me about it.

These days Zdenek’s English Podcast exists in its own right. He’s uploaded about 250 episodes which feature monologues from him about his life and his journey with English, and also conversations with his friends, native speakers he meets in his hometown or on trips to London and in gaming communities online and he even records episodes with his students of English from time to time.

I thought it was about time I talked to Zdenek on this podcast and I wanted to ask him about these things:

  • how he learned English to such a high level
  • his story of moving to the UK where he ended up working with cockneys in the East End of London
  • how he became a teacher of English
  • his thoughts on the question of non-native speakers as teachers of English
  • his podcast
  • his love of board games and how they can be used for learning English
  • the board game he has created himself and the online board game communities that he’s part of

So my plan was to interview him about all of those things, but naturally we ended up going off on various tangents, especially at the beginning of this first part, and then we got into all the questions I wanted to ask Zdenek and I found out about his whole story. This is a two part episode.

Part 1 Summary

Here’s a quick run-down of what’s coming up in part 1, just to make sure you can keep up, especially since the conversation goes off in a few directions at the beginning.

We mention what happened at LEPster meetups in London that Zdenek organised last year and the year before. I attended the first one but not the second. He recorded episodes of his podcast on both occasions.

We talk about what it takes to be a genuine LEPster and whether some people might stop listening after a few episodes.

We talk about where Zdenek’s home town is and the general location of the Czech Republic.

A few tangents:

  • Global warming & climate change denial
  • The time I talked to some Flat Earth conspiracy theorists on The Flat Earth Podcast
  • Louis Theroux (UK documentary film maker)

Zdenek tells us about his academic background in linguistics and English teaching including details of the university dissertation he wrote about the language of English football commentators.

And then we get into Zdenek’s whole story of learning English, including what happened when he travelled to England in his early 20s with no plan, just the will to get away and have an interesting experience in another country. The result was that it really pushed his level of English and led him on his current career and life path.

I will let you discover all the details now as you listen to our whole conversation which is presented to you here in two parts.

This is part one of course, so without any further ado, here we go!

Ending

Ok everyone, that is where we are going to stop, but the conversation will continue in part 2 which should be available right away I think, so you can just move on to that one now, can’t you?

So, that is it for part 1 and I will speak to you again in part 2.

Thanks for listening…

Bye!

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

568. What is Luke’s English Podcast, and how can it help you with your English?

What are the aims & objectives for this podcast? How can you use it to improve your English? This episode is an introduction for new listeners and a reminder for long-term listeners: This is a podcast all about learning English through listening, while having some fun in the process. Transcript available.

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Episode Transcript

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to 2019! This is it! We’ve arrived.

That’s actually the 10th time I’ve said Happy New Year on this podcast (not in this episode) The 10th time I’ve said it in a podcast episode, in January, because this is the 10th year of LEP. This is the 10th January of LEP and the 10th new year podcast episode. Imagine that! In fact, you don’t need to imagine it, because it’s actually true and real. So, just know that! A decade of me doing this. Actually, the official 10 year anniversary is coming up in April. 12th April to be exact. There’ll be more on that later in the year I expect.

Hello, I hope you are absolutely, totally, wholly and completely 100% fine, so that when someone asks you “how are you?” you can put your hand on your heart and say with total sincerity that you really are fine, like fine wine.

I’m doing alright thanks very much. Happy to be talking to you on the podcast in 2019. Here we are in the future.

I’d like to say a big Hello to any new listeners who might be listening to this for the very first time, right here, right now. I often get new listeners at this time of year. So, if you are a brand new listener, then “hello” and welcome to my podcast. If you’re a long-term listener then hello as well, nice to have you back, you’re looking great, would you like a biscuit, no, you’re on a diet? New year’s resolution. Good for you. Keep it up.

But hello to any new listeners I have. Welcome.

This is a podcast for people learning English, people who love English and anyone who is just interested by all the cool things that come to you when you choose to learn a language, in this case that’s the language we call English – British English to be exact. Thank you for choosing to listen to me in this episode and I hope you stick with us and join my audience of listeners all around the world.

Maybe you’re listening to this because you’ve made a new year’s resolution to improve your English and you thought “I’m going to improve my English in 2019 and start listening to a podcast” or something like that.

Well, I think you’ve come to the right place. Welcome, one and all.

What’s this episode all about?

This episode is a summary of what this podcast is all about – what is Luke’s English Podcast? And this is for the benefit of new listeners, and for the old listeners in case you’ve just forgotten or something, and also it’s a reminder of how you can use the podcast to improve your English.

I’m doing this in the general spirit of the new year period, which is often about re-evaluating what you’re doing, re-establishing your objectives and generally taking stock.

“Taking stock”, that’s a nice phrase. It means doing a general assessment of the present situation – having a look at what’s going on now, seeing what you’ve got and what you’re doing.

That’s “taking stock”.

You can say “I’m taking stock” or if you want to add something to the expression, you use ‘of’, so for example, “it’s normal at this time of year to take stock of things” or “take stock of your life”.

Taking stock is also something you do if you own a business – when you count all the stock you have in your shop or warehouse, for example. When I worked for a big music shop in Liverpool many years ago, we regularly had to take stock, or do a stock check. That basically involved counting all the CDs and DVDs we had in the store so we could be completely sure what we had, the value of what we had and so on, and that helped the store managers to manage the business effectively. In all honesty, doing the stock check at the shop completely sucked because you had to physically count every single item in the shop and do it while the shop was closed, which meant staying at work until it was very late and everyone was hungry and annoyed at having to count things all evening.

Hopefully taking stock of this podcast will be a bit more enjoyable than taking stock of many thousands of DVDs and CDs at 9.30 in the evening in a now defunct business which used to be located on Church Street in Liverpool.

We also take stock of our lives when we just evaluate or assess where we are, what we’re doing, what we’ve got and what we need. In this episode I’m welcoming new listeners and taking stock of this podcast, and just reminding everyone what it’s all about and what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and generally what you’re listening to.

My podcast episodes are quite diverse. I move around and talk about lots of different topics, but sometimes it’s worth just reminding ourselves that this is all about learning English, making sure we’re all enjoying it and knowing that there is method to the madness here.

I’m going to talk about

  • The aims of this podcast
  • Ways in which you can use this podcast to improve your English
  • How this podcast works and the different ways you can listen to it

The Aims of the Podcast

First of all, I think people should do more listening.

I want to help people to listen to more English, because I just know that it is a really important part of the language learning process.

I say “I just know” because, well, I do just know it, from my experience of being an English teacher for nearly 20 years.

I have realised that doing plenty of listening practice, with the right kind of audio resource, is a very healthy thing to do for learners of English. To be honest, it’s not just listening, everyone could do more practice in general, but people usually read, do grammar exercises, but listening seems to get a bit sidelined.

Just listening, regularly, is very healthy for your English.

That’s true and I think most people would agree with it.

However, the majority of learners I’ve met over the years during my career, just don’t do this.

Most people just don’t do enough listening while learning English.

I find it hard to understand how someone can think they can learn a language without actually hearing that language being spoken, a lot. How can you know the language if you haven’t actually heard it being used very much? I think the problem is really that people don’t know what to listen to, and find it hard to get listening into their everyday lives. Of course we now have all the films and TV series you can find online but I believe podcasts can really help people to get more English listening into their lives. I am a believer in podcasts, that’s why I have one.

It’s worth making a point here about the different types of listening you can do. Let’s say you’ve decided you need to do more listening, so what do you listen to? People often say “I’ll listen to the BBC News!” People often assume that listening to the news is the right thing to do. It can be great of course, and it’s better than not listening to anything, but I think there are probably better things to listen to than the news.

The thing is that the news is really hard to understand and the newsreaders don’t talk like normal human beings. They have a particular way of speaking and use particular words in a certain style. Nobody in the real world actually talks like that when they have normal conversations. Instead it’s better to listen to something more conversational and closer to the kind of English that you need – for socialising, for building relationships with people, for doing interesting presentations at work and things like that.

For example, let’s look at a quick dialogue. First the natural version, then the news version.

Hi Luke, how are you?

I’m fine thanks, you?

Pretty good thanks. Did you have a good Christmas break?

Yeah, it wasn’t bad thanks. I just spent a week at my parents’ place and ate far too much food and just generally relaxed with my family. It was nice.

Now the News version.

Hi Luke

Welcome to this conversation. Today’s top story – how I spent my Christmas holidays. This report, from me.

A traditional British Christmas has long been known to involve drinks, gifts, and a meal of roast turkey with vegetables and this year was certainly no exception. Local reports have indicated that the yuletide season was spent in the usual manner, with a gathering of family and friends who joined together at the family home where wine was drunk, turkey was consumed and, like many revellers during this festive season, falling asleep on the sofa was an unavoidable consequence typical of the season’s indulgences which certainly were a common sight this year in households all over the country…

So, the point there is – people might assume that the news is the right thing to listen to, but there are better options and podcasts are great, especially mine! (Other podcasts are available of course)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the benefits of listening. Instead I’ll just repeat that it’s very healthy for your English to listen to natural speech which is engaging and entertaining on a personal level, which is not too slow but also not too fast, which is clear, which you just enjoy hearing, and to do it regularly and hopefully for more than just a few minutes at a time.

So, my first basic aim is to help you to
Listen to more English
Listen longer
Listen more regularly

And to listen to the right kind of English speaking.

So, first and foremost, just listen. As a starting point or a foundation, just listen. That’s all you need to do. Just listen to my podcast, or indeed others because I didn’t invent this whole “speaking and recording your voice and putting it online” thing, of course.

I hope you enjoy it and actually want to listen to what I have to say because if you enjoy this, everything else becomes so much easier. Of course, my podcast won’t be for everyone, but I hope that you, yes you, actually choose to listen to this not just because you know you need to improve your English (because someone told you that you had to do it, like your Dad, or your boss, or if you work for your Dad, your boss, who is your Dad, your Dadboss) so don’t do it because you feel like you should but because listening to my episodes is somehow just enjoyable for you.

Another aim, and this is fairly obvious but it still needs to be said, is this. I aim to help you to improve your English (durr) to expand your vocabulary, to build your grammar, to increase your awareness of natural pronunciation in English which in turn should help you with your own pronunciation, or accent if you like.

Listening to my podcast can help you with those things, and it has helped lots of people. How do you know Luke? Because people write to me and tell me that it has helped, and I believe them! They tell me about their IELTS scores and also about how difficult it used to be to use English in the past, and how much better it is now after persevering with my podcast for some time (and no doubt doing other things which have helped – I can’t claim all the credit, no no, oh, oh you’re too kind, ok well if you insist, yes it’s all thanks to me).

So, I want to help you improve your English, and I am a teacher so that’s good isn’t it?

Yes, I am an English teacher, for adult humans and I have been for a long time now, but I don’t always teach English directly in normal episodes of this podcast.

I mean, these episodes aren’t really lessons in the traditional sense. In many cases I’m just talking to you about something that I just want to talk about or that I hope you will find interesting, because remember – the first aim is to help you just to listen to more English, regularly, for longer periods, long-term.

In some episodes I am definitely teaching you language points. There are episodes in the archive dealing with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation and these days I do plenty of direct language teaching in my premium episodes, which are available for premium subscribers. In those premium episodes I explain language, demonstrate it, give you tests and pronunciation drills, using my particular set of skills. “That sounds wonderful”, you must be thinking. “How do I sign up?” Well, you can sign up for LEP premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium. You’ll get access to all the existing premium episodes and any new ones when they are published, plus new phrasal verb episodes and more – all for the price of a coffee every month.

So, I do teach language more directly in the premium episodes, but the normal free episodes don’t always contain direct English language teaching. Instead, I mainly just talk to you – and this is my 18th year as a professional English teacher. I’ve got lots of experience of talking to learners of English, so in a way I just can’t stop teaching. Even when I’m just talking to you, I am still teaching you, even if it might not be 100% obvious. I explain things as I go, I try to talk clearly but also naturally. I try to use good microphones so you can hear what I’m saying.

I think I know what things my listeners will and won’t understand, and I keep this in mind at all times, while also just talking to you in what I hope is an engaging way, always trying to make sure you listen more, listen longer, listen regularly and listen long term, and if all goes according to plan, you enjoy it too.

How can I keep you listening?

  • I try to entertain you as we go – make you laugh sometimes (when you’re on a bus or walking down the street maybe), amuse you or just hold your interest somehow. Hopefully I manage to entertain you, I don’t really know. Only you can be the judge of that.
  • I make it personal – talk from the heart, talk about things I’m passionate about, put some soul into it, I hope. Hopefully this makes the podcast authentic and genuine, rather than just self-indulgent.
  • I tell stories about my life and about other things I know about.
  • I talk about language learning in order to give you ideas and keep you motivated.
  • I interview guests and just chat with friends and family. Many of my friends are stand-up comedians and it’s generally pretty fun and funny to talk to them, and members of my family are frequent guests on the podcast – my Dad for example often comes on to talk about politics (especially Brexit) and my brother and I like to talk about music and films. Sometimes I have other guests like people I don’t know as friends but who are interesting to feature on the podcast for whatever reason, like when I spoke to the linguist David Crystal.
  • I sometimes talk about silly things and just have fun talking nonsense for its own sake, but I also talk about serious topics when I’m in the mood.
  • I talk about culture – this means things like films, TV shows, comedy, music, also history and politics and stuff like that.
  • I explain comedy (often British) – stand up, TV shows, sketches, jokes etc – which is a complicated and yet very rewarding thing to do.

Talking about my podcast like this sounds a bit pretentious, I’m realising now. It sounds like I think it’s a really big deal, like a kind of charity that protects works of art or looks after the dreams of children or something. “Here are Luke’s English Podcast we are committed to honouring the legacy of William Shakespeare…“ or something. Obviously, it’s just a podcast, but I try to do my best to make it good.

All of it is designed to keep you listening, keep you interested in order to help you improve and maintain your English as we go along.

What have I learned about learning English, and how does this relate to the podcast?

Based on my experience, my academic reading and the many language learners I’ve met over the years, here are some important elements in learning a language and how this relates to my podcast.

It’s possible to talk about this forever, but I’m going to try and keep it simple by breaking it down into just 3 things: motivation, practice and time. There are other factors of course, but let’s just keep it simple at the moment.

Motivation
This is the main one. You have to want to learn the target language. If you don’t really want to learn the language, you probably won’t because learning a language means making personal choices about you and your identity and then devoting time to it, making compromises and perhaps letting some other things go while you prioritise your language learning.

You need to have internal personal reasons for learning the language. Nobody can learn a language for you and nobody can be motivated on your behalf. The motivation must come from you. So find your motivation for learning the language. Make your reasons for learning the language personal to you. Accept that you will have to sideline some other things and prioritise your learning of your target language. You might need to stop watching those crappy soap operas in your first language, for example, or just dump that boyfriend or girlfriend who really is no good for you and who doesn’t believe in you and your efforts to learn English and in fact is holding you back. Why are you with that person anyway? They’re no good for you. You’re worth so much more than that. If you’re in a loving and supportive relationship, or you’re single – you can ignore that bit.

Also, try if you can, to have a positive relationship with the language. Sometimes learning a language can be frustrating because it’s difficult. Let’s be honest. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need to talk about it all the time and there wouldn’t be a huge industry in language teaching and learning. It is difficult, especially if you want to get really good and especially if you’re learning the language as an adult who is also juggling lots of other things in your life.

Learning a language can be a challenge – an enjoyable challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

I know for many of you, learning English is just a great thing that you love doing and it’s sort of like your passion or maybe even your obsession and that is great. I have great respect for you because language learning is a great thing to do and is a really cool thing to be enthusiastic about.

But a lot of people do find it a challenge and find it hard to keep the motivation up.

The structure of the English language might be very different to your mother tongue. The pronunciation feels weird and unnatural. The spelling of words and the way they are said don’t match. In fact it’s all irritatingly confusing and illogical, and quite embarrassing when you get it wrong and you feel less intelligent than you are in your first language. In your first language you might be a truly awesome dude or dudette (or whatever the female equivalent of a dude is) but in English you might be reduced to more of a Mr Bean character. I don’t know, that’s how I feel in French a lot of the time, so maybe it’s the same for you in English, although having said that I’ve met quite a lot of listeners to this podcast and none of you were Mr Bean, not even a little bit. So, anyway… I’m saying that learning English can be difficult because it’s, well, it’s like we have a different word for everything isn’t it? It’s like a completely different language or something!

It can even feel like the language thinks in a different way to how your language thinks (if you know what I mean). You might not like feeling different or having to change a bit.

When you’re trying to learn a language you might feel out of your comfort zone. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Feeling a bit lost, puzzled, confused, frustrated – they’re all totally normal and natural reactions. You need to get over that feeling pretty quickly and weirdly learn to enjoy the feeling, and find ways to overcome it, and then just revel in those moments when you learn things and move forwards, opening up new avenues for yourself in the process.

Leave the negative thoughts behind, they’ll just hold you back. Stay positive at all times (just be blindly positive, constantly, like “hey, everything’s just great!!!”) and be stubborn. Don’t give up, and remember this – you are a natural biological machine designed to learn language. Your brain is totally designed to learn English and it can happen in a very natural way, you just have to kind of get yourself out of the way and let it happen.

Get yourself out of the way – I mean, don’t judge yourself too harshly, try not to worry about how cool you appear to other people, or whether you’re making mistakes or if you need to monitor your behaviour, just relax a bit and let the magic happen.

Keep an open mind, don’t let yourself get blocked, don’t worry about mistakes too much, feel good about your progress, and just learn from any errors that you make.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re not making progress and you’ll be disheartened and maybe even depressed at times – you might think, “that’s it I’m a lost cause”. That’s ok, that’s normal too. Keep going. You’re not a lost cause. Learning a language is a long term thing, and there might be periods when you feel you’re not learning that much, but you’ll be surprised. Often the learning process is not completely obvious to us. You might not realise it but your brain is dealing with the language work you’re doing. Sometimes there’s a period in which you feel you’re not making progress, but your brain is working hard and as long as you’re still interacting with the language, using it, listening to it, consuming and producing it, working to memorise words, your brain is working on doing it better and better all the time, and one day you’ll make a breakthrough and you’ll realise the difficult times were worth it because you were making progress without realising it.

So, choose to be positive. Choose to keep your chin up, enjoy the small bits of progress, celebrate larger moments of progress, remember that people all over the world, every day, have the same struggles as you. It’s all normal. Keep going, you’re on the right track, don’t stop. I should turn this into a motivational song, shouldn’t I?

Basically, motivation is really important.

Practice
This means that you need to actually do things! In a simple way this means you need to speak a lot, read a lot, listen a lot, write a lot and perhaps do some old fashioned language work with a grammar book, vocabulary book or pronunciation book (with CDs or something) or do some other clever little techniques using online resources or just a dictionary or audio with a transcript – more on that later.

Practice is like money in the bank. The more you put in, the more you get out (unless there’s a huge banking crisis caused by dodgy bankers gambling with our money – but in the language learning bank, this never happens so don’t worry. Your English is safe, even with Brexit and all that stuff.)

You’ve got to put the work in to get the benefit out again later. The best thing is that if you are motivated the practice doesn’t feel like work, it’s just something you enjoy doing. That’s where the motivation comes in – it is the fuel that lets you do all the practising. There are lots of different kinds of practice which I will talk about later in this episode, which admittedly could turn into another one of those massive episodes that I do. Seriously, I don’t always set out to make long episodes, they just happen. Clearly the universe or The Force or whatever wants me to make longer episodes because even when I set out to do a reasonably brief episode, they end up pretty long. This episode was supposed to be just a quick re-cap of my aims for doing this podcast, and now it’s become something of a marathon episode all about how to learn English.

Ah well, who’s complaining? Are you complaining? Nope. Good. I don’t know why you would complain anyway. Why would you not want more of this? I know why, because it doesn’t perfectly match the length of your commute to work. I think that’s the only reason, or perhaps because as a learner of English it’s a bit too hard to concentrate on listening to English for more than say 30 minutes at a time.

That’s probably the good reason for making shorter episodes and I know that’s true, but I’m sorry – don’t blame me, blame the general shape of the universe because it just seems that I can’t do this stuff in just 30 minute chunks. It just doesn’t come out like that, so I suppose some of you will just have to use that pause button. That’s why god invented pause buttons and podcast apps that remember where you pressed pause last time, right? Right.

So, anyway, I was talking about the importance of practice.

Just remember the 5 Ps – practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.

Nobody learned to play a musical instrument by reading musical theory, they did it by practising day after day. It’s the same with language learning. Practice day after day after day after day, which becomes week after week, month after month, year after year and decade after decade. This is just the first decade too. We’ve only just started!

It’s not just what you know, it’s what you can do. It’s not about knowing grammar rules, or knowing words, it’s about being able to do things in English.

So, open your mouth, speak (it does help if you open your mouth first before you speak, by the way) listen for enjoyment and interest, read for pleasure, write something that’s meaningful and will be pleasant for the person who might read it. It’s all about communicating ideas, and making English a part of who you are.

You own English by the way. It’s your language too. That’s the cool thing about this language. It’s open source. So start using it to express yourself right now.

Time
Here is some basic maths, I think. I have an equation for you.

(practice + time) x motivation = progress

I’m not a mathematician, and that’s just a mathematical metaphor rather than a real equation, but anyway, the point is – you need to invest time into learning this language.

Practice regularly, practice for longer than just a few minutes, practice long term – you’ll need to keep practising your English forever! It might never be perfect because guess what? Perfection doesn’t exist. Nobody is completely perfect at English or any language, to be honest. You might think that Stephen Fry (random example) is perfect at English, but I guarantee that he often struggles to find the right words, he often has difficulty when writing, he stammers sometimes when he speaks and makes mistakes here and there, he probably feels bad about something he said slightly badly once, he reads a massive amount and probably listens to a ton of radio, podcasts and audiobooks. His English is excellent, but it’s not perfect, because perfection in language is an absolute concept that in reality is sort of impossible to achieve. There is no end point called “perfect” in language, I think. It’s just a continuum. That’s a nice word, “continuum” because it has two Us right next to each other. I don’t know any other words in English (or any other language for that matter) that have two Us right next to each other like that. OK so I’ve just Googled it and it turns out that I do know another word with two Us and it’s “vacuum”, which is also a nice word.

Anyway a continuum is basically a long line, rather than a series of points. Imagine a line with an arrow on the end, it just keeps going.

So in this language learning journey that you’re on, there might be no destination and the sooner you realise that the better. It’s all about the journey.

Or maybe it’s better to make the comparison with learning a musical instrument. Nobody practices an instrument and then one day just stops playing and says, “that’s it, I’m done! I’ve finished! I have learned music. Now I can rest” because you have to maintain your skills, you have to commune with the music every day, you have to keep your hands or your body in shape to be able to reach all the notes you need to reach. You need to play music every day to just maintain your level! Language is the same I think.

So, spend time on it – regularly, for longer periods, long term.

And just regularly listening to this podcast – at the very least – will help as a kind of foundation.

How to use this podcast to help your English

So, as I’ve just said, regularly listening to my podcast can definitely help you and as a constant, basic thing in your life you should keep doing that – listen regularly, listen for longer periods and listen long term… to my podcast or any podcast that works for you. Other podcasts are available of course. Just pick the one that works for you. Yes, films and TV shows can also be good but that’s slightly different because with films and TV series you’re in front of a screen, locked to the show, perhaps reading subtitles, but certainly only doing that – only focusing on the show, which is great but that’s the only thing you can do while you’re doing it. With podcasts you can listen while you’re doing something else, which is a big advantage when it comes to saving time.

So, the basic thing is just listen.

But what else can you do? What other kinds of practice can you do? And how can this podcast fit into that?

*Luke talks a bit about learning English as a child and learning English by ‘survival’ (e.g. moving to a new country and having to learn English to work or get by every day)*

I’ve talked about this before in previous episodes, for example episode 174 (How to learn English with LEP) and also some other episodes, like the ones about Breaking the Intermediate Plateau and various others I’ve recorded over the years.

It all depends on what kind of learner you are and what works for you. I think there isn’t one universal method which always works for everyone.

You have to choose the kind of practice that works for you, fits into your lifestyle and matches your motivation. And that’s a good thing – a lot of people worry about whether they’re doing the right thing and whether they’re following the right method. Just do what works for you, because all roads lead to Rome. As long as you’re practising, staying positive, staying motivated, enjoying it mostly, and spending time on practising your language, that’s great. Find the thing that works for you and that’s great. Often the best methods are the ones that just make you feel good while you’re practising, although saying that it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t be lazy. But at the same time it’s better to be doing something rather than nothing.

I mean, some people think “I’m not practising my language learning in the right way therefore I won’t do it at all” which is a big mistake. In language learning something is always better than nothing. So interact with English regularly, even if you feel like it’s not 100% the best method in the world, it’s better to do that than nothing at all. For example, if all you do is just listen to my podcast and don’t really do anything else, that’s ok. I would encourage you to do other types of practice too, but certainly only listening to my podcast is by no means a bad thing. If it’s a case of “only listen to a podcast in English without doing other work” or “don’t do anything at all” – only listening to the podcast is a far far far better option, obviously.

That seems obvious, but I know from experience (and personal experience as a learner of French) that we are all likely to think “Oh, just listening to this podcast episode is not going to solve all my language learning problems, so I’ll just do something else instead”. That’s human nature. But listening to the podcast episode or reading a few pages from that book or whatever it is that you’re doing with your English, is always better than just doing nothing!

So, just sitting back with your headphones on and listening to me, or listening to someone else on another podcast, that’s totally fab and brilliant and magical even if it is the basic minimum you can do.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this podcast works best as part of a balanced diet. I mean, you’ll make more progress if you combine listening with other, more active forms of practice.

You should also be doing plenty of speaking, ideally in conversation with real people in English, preferably with native speakers (but not necessarily) and you should be doing reading and writing practice as well. Reading is really important because, basically, you’ve got to see the language as well as hear it. Remember, language exists in many forms and you have to be familiar with it an all those forms – you need to be able to write it (spelling, grammar, structure, understanding the conventions of certain kinds of text – like how to organise an essay, a letter, a report, an email, an informal text etc) you need to be able to read it – in various forms – books, articles, etc. You need to be able to understand it when it is spoken (listening skills) in order to identify the main topic, but also to get the nuances like small details, attitude of the speaker and the ways in which words might be joined together and how different accents sound, and you need to be able to speak the language – which means being able to convey exactly what you mean fairly quickly, confidently and with some nuance too.

To get the fully rounded and complete English that you need, it’s important to work on those 4 skills. You also need to work on language systems like grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation because these are the building blocks of the language. But remember that those building blocks are always used to express an idea, to communicate a message and that is the main point of language – it’s there to communicate a message, so always prioritise the effective communication of your message. That’s the most important thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should ignore accuracy (meaning – correct grammar, correct word usage, correct spelling etc) no – accuracy is also important of course. What I mean is that it’s best to practise using language for communication, rather than just doing mechanical practice of grammar for example. So, my point here is that English is something you can do not just something you know. Focus on being able to do things in English, like for example being able to tell stories about yourself (you know those little stories about our lives that we all have, like the story of our career, or the main relationships in our lives etc). That’s just one example. In a wider sense, this all means that you need to let English into your life in a personal way and learn how to use English to express yourself as a person. It’s not just about knowing the right irregular verb, or knowing the rule for how past perfect is used.

Studying grammar definitely helps…

But here are some ideas about how this podcast can help you with your English, and specific things that you can do, using this podcast, beyond just listening to it regularly.

First of all, you should become a premium subscriber (as you know) because in those premium episodes I actually cut out a lot of the annoying work that you’d normally have to do and kind of hand all the language to you on a plate, with practice exercises and some pronunciation drills and everything, so that will certainly help you maximise your learning with my podcast.

But in terms of other things, here are some ideas.

More Ideas for How to Work on your English (with and without this podcast)

  • Be mindful and notice language – this just means paying attention to the language as you hear it – try to notice features of grammar, certain phrases, ways in which words join together in fluent speech. Noticing or being mindful – it just means paying attention really. You can mke mental notes as you listen, just going “oh, it’s interesting how he’s using ‘will’ to talk about the future here and “going to” there, or “ooh how did he structure that sentence about the past?” and stuff like that. You can skip back and listen to bits again. You can make actual notes on paper, on a computer or on a phone. You could push it even further and transcribe parts of an episode. Transcribing is a super-duper mindful listening exercise because you end up having to focus on every single minute detail when you’re transcribing and it forces you to really pay attention. There is a transcription project for this podcast which is run by listeners. You can join in – more info in a minute.
  • Check the pages for episodes where a lot of the language will be written – you might find words written there – words or phrases you didn’t know but you heard me using. You can then just notice them, or copy+paste them into your word lists or your flashcard apps or whatever sweet technological wizardry you like to use.
  • You’ll often find transcripts there too, which is nice.
  • Shadowing – this means repeating after me. You can talk along with me, if you can keep up, or pause the podcast and repeat what I’m saying.
  • Responding to what I’m saying – in your head, out loud, on paper or in the comment section on the website. Respond to any part of an episode with your own thoughts. It can make it more like a conversation. You could even just pause the podcast and talk for a little bit on your own. It doesn’t mean you’re mad or insane anything. It’s ok, you can tell the doctors that I told you to do it – I mean talk to yourself, not rob a bank or anything. I will not take responsibility for your criminal tendencies or your language learning – both are ultimately your responsibility.
  • A little bit of humour there, hahhaha ha ha ha yes it certainly helps the language learning process doesn’t it… (awkward)
  • Language exchanges – find someone who speaks English who wants to learn your language. Do 30 minutes in English, 30 mins in your language. It helps if you find someone who is actually serious about doing it and isn’t a total time waster. You might need to shop around and you might have a few disappointing experiences before you find the right person.
  • You can set up language exchanges with other users on italki and it’s free.
  • LEP meetups, or at least chat with friends – organise social events in English, like board game sessions or whatever. Check my website for Meetups, or organise one and tell me about it and I’ll advertise it on the podcast. Give me plenty of notice. You can also check websites like meetup.com to see if there are English language events happening in your area.
  • Italki lessons – get some private tuition with a teacher on italki
  • Peer groups – find groups of like-minded individuals to share the language learning journey. The comment section on my website might be a good way to start. Try leaving some friendly responses to other people’s comments. You might end up in a Skype group, chatting with friendly people in English.
  • Getting your errors corrected – I think there are services online that will correct your writing, but honestly I’m not sure where they are. If you know of any, let us know in the comment section. I haven’t actually googled it, maybe you could do that, with you know, the internet.
  • Self-correction – use your passive knowledge of grammar, spelling, vocabulary to correct your writing. I think I’ve got more to say on this in a minute.
  • Grammar books – go through the exercises and try to get them right (of course – it would be weird if you tried to get them wrong) read the grammar rules or should I say “guidelines” because they can be a neat shortcut to understanding how the language really works and also try to notice the language you’re studying and use the grammar book to confirm what you’re hearing in the real world. For example, you could study some language in your grammar book and make a point of trying to notice it being used in the English you’re reading or listening to.
  • Write a diary – write things in English every day. Even if it’s boring stuff like “I went to work and then got a headache because my boss stresses me out and then I had some cake”. It doesn’t matter what it is really, just find your voice in English and write something every day, even if nobody else reads it, it’s still good practice.
  • Write your ideas down without worrying too much about being correct, then read it again and correct it like a teacher, then write the thing again. You could write a response to a topic in the podcast for example, or if it’s your diary just write what you did using past tenses all the time and express your feelings and describe what you want to happen in the future and things like that.
  • Write imaginary letters or emails, or maybe write real emails to, like, real people! Find a pen friend. Again, there are websites that can help you find a pen friend. Like I said before – google it! I can’t do absolutely everything for you. If you can’t find a real pen friend, just use your imagination!
  • Read graded readers (books adapted to your level) they’re published by Penguin, Black Cat and other publishers. You might find some in your library or perhaps just buy some from Amazon or another bookseller that pays its taxes (ooh controversial). Graded readers are books which have been adapted to different levels of English. They are easier to read and this is a good thing because reading normal books in English can be crushing and difficult so what’s the point, and with graded books you get the satisfaction of finishing a book in English.
  • Record yourself and listen back to it
  • Use my TED talk technique
  • Transcribe portions of my episodes – and join the Orion Team
  • Write comments in the comment section and chat with other listeners. Feel free to discuss ideas and things, but always try to be friendly and respectful – which is a good exercise in life in general.
  • Listen to episodes several times if you can. You’ll notice so much more on repeat listens.
  • Loads of things to do, and there are more ideas out there – feel free to share them in the comment section.

OK – how are you all doing? Feeling motivated? I should certainly hope so!

To recap – the main thing I want you to do is to listen – listen more, listen regularly, listen for longer periods and listen long term. Hopefully my podcast can help.

Also, through listening you can certainly improve your English significantly, but it’ll help if you do other things too, you get creative with it, you use your imagination and you let yourself go a bit. OK? OK!!

What does this mean to me personally?

For me this podcast is a labour of love – with more emphasis on the love than the labour. I mean, I work hard on this, but mainly it’s something I just love doing, which makes it not feel like work. The Chinese philosopher Confucius may have said “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” (People say Confucius said this)

This podcast project (which also includes my website, my premium service and other things like occasional videos) this is where I use my professional skills as a teacher to make my content, but also I get to use this as a platform for my creativity, for interviewing interesting people and for rambling on about topics that I personally find fascinating.

Also, it’s a great joy for me to be able to share my culture and my language with my listeners who come from all around the world, and who often contact me on social media, by email and in the comment section of my website, where there are regular commenters who have created something of a community of friendly LEPsters.

Most of my listeners are ninjas – not literally (although who knows) No, what I mean by ninjas is just people who stay hiding in the shadows, listening intently but never revealing themselves or getting in touch with me. Every now and then a ninja will emerge from the shows, send me a message or leave a comment on the website and then disappear forever.

In my experience, the vast majority of my audience are lovely, like-minded people who are united by their interest in learning English and hopefully the sorts of things that get talked about on this podcast.

My top ten countries, right now, at the time of recording this, are (in reverse order):

10. Ukraine
9. Italy
8. Germany
7. Poland
6. Korea
5. UK
4. Spain
3. Japan
2. China
1. Russia

The chances are, you are currently living in one of those places. If so, “HELLO”. If you are living in another country, then I would like to extend a very warm “HELLO” to you too. In fact, I think there might be more people listening outside of those top 10 countries, but you’re all spread out across different parts of the globe. The top 10 countries represent where my audience kind of bunch up together. According to my online stats, I have listeners in about 200 countries. So, if you are not in the top 10, then HELLO! And please tell some of your mates about the podcast in order to get your country into the top 10. Russia, Japan and China are the usual winners of this weird International Premiership of Countries I have going on here. Those countries also have pretty large populations, which might have something to do with it. India is #28 by the way. I don’t really understand the statistics to be honest, except that people in the world listen to me talking and that’s marvellous.

So, this podcast is my personal project and it is also now a source of income for me. My free episodes are sponsored by italki and Spoken all of whom offer services for improving your English in ways that go well with this podcast. For example with italki you can get regular speaking practice into your life. Those sponsors support the free episodes and they also offer you discounts and stuff like that. Then, my premium subscription service also helps me put food on the table and pay the rent, as well as cover the costs of running this whole project – and there are costs involved! Hosting all my audio and video content, hosting my website, the costs of recording equipment that helps me keep the sound quality as high as possible so you can hear every word I say without having to damage your hearing in the process!

Also, my work is supported by my audience who send donations to me as an expression of gratitude. Thanks guys.

All in all, the podcast now helps me to live my life, and do certain basic and vital things like support my family, buy food in the supermarket, buy nappies for my daughter, train tickets to see my family, and other essentials like proper tea bags from Marks & Spencer and biscuits and cake and stuff. Let me tell you, it is a wonderful thing that I can do something I love (podcasting) in order to help me do other things I love (like drinking tea and buying cinema tickets) and to provide things for people I love (my wife and daughter).

How does this podcast work and how can you listen to it?

Well, you’re listening to it now so I guess you’ve pretty much worked this one out, but still, it’s worth just telling you a few things about how this works.

Listen on a computer, or listen on your phone. There may be other ways to get it. The podcast is on Spotify as well…

Listen on your phone
Most people listen using a podcasting app on their phone, for example the Apple Podcasts app or maybe the equivalent podcast app on Android phones. Other podcasting apps are available, like PocketCasts, CastBox, iVoox etc, but of course truly the best way to enjoy listening to this podcast on your phone is to use my app – the Luke’s English Podcast App, which is available free from the app store. Why is it better Luke? Well, it does pretty much the same things that those other apps do (like you can download episodes into the app for offline listening, or you can change the playback speed, select your favourite episodes and stuff), but there’s quite a lot of bonus content in the LEP app – some episodes contain bonus audio clips (like bits I’ve edited out of the episode) and loads of other stuff – in fact there are loads of videos, about 150 short episodes about phrasal verbs – all in the LEP App and available free.

You can also access my premium episodes using the app. Just login with your premium details and bob’s your uncle – all the premium content is right there for you to enjoy in your own time.

So, in my opinion, the best way to listen on your phone is through my app, and I consider the LEP app to be the home of LEP on your phone.

So, most people listen to the podcast on their phone, probably while riding a bus or something like that. That’s the cool thing about audio podcasts. You can listen to them while you’re doing other things, which allows you to get more English into your life by multitasking.

It’s not like watching English videos on YouTube or Netflix, which require 100% of your attention. You can listen while doing the housework, walking down the street, sitting on the loo or many other things that we all have to do no matter where in the world we live.

On your computer
It’s also possible to listen to the podcast on your computer, probably on my website where you’ll find the entire archive of episodes (and I’ve done episodes on loads of different topics – have a look and you’ll see). The advantage of listening on your computer is that you can check out the notes, transcripts and other useful information which I present on the pages for these episodes. Also, you can leave your comments in the comment section, read other people’s comments and all that stuff.

All the premium content is also available via my website.

By the way, if you want more details about the premium content and how to register for it, just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium which you really should do if you want your life to be even more awesome than it already is.

A good way to get easy access to the website pages for episodes is to join my mailing list, which is on the website, in the top right HAND corner of every page. Join the mailing list and you’ll get an email whenever I upload a new episode, or something else on the website, and sometimes I upload website-only content like perhaps a letter from me, a music mix, my appearances on other people’s podcasts or videos (sometimes I’m interviewed by other people – usually about something humour-related) and things like that. So join the mailing list. You’ll get an email in your inbox with a link when I upload something, click the link and it’ll take you straight to thAT page.

That’s probably enough now isn’t it?

OK, so that was my chance to take stock, re-state some of the aims of this podcast, and help us put our best foot forwards in 2019.

As ever I am always happy to read your comments and emails. If you have any thoughts about any of this, about my podcast, about your English, about tips for improving your English, or if I’ve missed something please write a comment or send an email through the website or the app.

I look forward to recording more episodes of this podcast for you in the coming months, and there will be conversations with my Dad, with Amber & Paul, more episodes about British Comedy, more stuff about accents, premium episodes with language teaching and plenty of other things coming.

Thank you for listening to my podcast and for being wonderful human beings.

Have a great day, morning, evening, night or whatever time of day it is out there in LEPland.

Speak to you again in the next episode.

Bye!

🎁 Listen to this episode in the LEP App for 10+ minutes of bonus audio 🎁

Search the app store for Luke’s English Podcast App.

555. Raphael Miller’s Summer School Report

Raphael Miller is back on the podcast to tell us about his experience of running a summer school for international teenagers in Liverpool.

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The conversation includes lots of stories and descriptions of what happened at the school this summer, including things like teenage sleeping habits, a Chinese celebrity teenager, the proper way to eat a pizza, piano-playing Italian wonder-kids, making tie-dye t-shirts, riding roller-coasters, and blossoming friendships across national borders.

Your English Summer website www.yourenglishsummer.co.uk/

Goofy and Pluto – WTF?

Donald Duck?

Alton Towers – Oblivion

Raph’s previous appearance on LEP (April 2018)

522. Learning English at Summer School in the UK (A Rambling Chat with Raphael Miller)

537. How Olly Richards Learns a Language (Part 2) Intermediate Plateau / The Magic of Story / Pronunciation & Personality / Classroom vs Self-Guided Learning

The rest of my conversation with polyglot Olly Richards, talking about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, the magic of story, pronunciation and identity issues, and self-guided learning.

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Intro Transcript

Welcome back to this double episode in which I’m talking to language learner and polyglot Olly Richards all about how to learn languages as an adult.

Olly speaks 8 languages and spends a lot of time working on language courses, and giving advice on his podcast and blog, which are called “I will teach you a language”.

2 years after our last conversation it was interesting to catch up with Olly and see if his approach to language learning has developed.

In this episode I talk to Olly about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, we go into details about the magic of story and how important it is in language learning, we discuss the connection between pronunciation and personality and wonder if the main problem people have with pronunciation is actually an identity issue. There are also comments on learning in the classroom vs self-guided learning.

There’s loads of great advice in here. For premium subscribers I’m doing a video which will sum up the main points and clarify them a bit. That will be available shortly in the app and online for premium members.

But now let’s continue listening to Olly as we have the rest of our conversation about language.

—–

That’s it – I don’t need to say much more!

www.Iwillteachyoualanguage.com

Premium subscribers you’ll get a video summary from me soon.

Sign up for premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium if you know what’s good for you!

Speak to you soon.

Bye.

536. How Olly Richards Learns a Language (Part 1) Compelling Material / Input-based Learning

Talking to polyglot Olly Richards about the benefits of listening, reading and using stories to learn English. Full of insights and strategies for effective language learning. Transcripts and notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

This episode is packed full of language learning experience and wisdom, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Today I’m talking to Olly Richards, who has been on this podcast before, twice. Long term listeners will remember him. Some of you may also listen to his podcast, which is called I Will Teach You a Language. This is his third appearance on LEP, and I’m very happy to share this two-part episode with you here, today. I must say that I think this episode is full of really valuable insights about language learning and should be essential listening for anyone who is serious about learning a language to fluency.

The basics that you need to know about Olly.
He’s from England.
He speaks 8 languages. English is the only one he learned while growing up as a child. The rest of his languages were learned in adulthood.
I would say that he’s obsessed with language learning. He’s on a mission, basically, to learn languages but also to explore exactly how we learn languages, to find out the best methods, the most effective techniques, to discover the holy grail of language learning.

Olly spends so much time and effort learning languages, practising, reading academic studies, speaking to people about language in various languages, blogging about it, doing his podcast about it, producing books and courses all dedicated to the pursuit of language learning. He’s made language learning his career in fact.

Check out his website www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com to find out about all his projects, to read his blog articles and listen to his podcast.

As you’d expect, Olly really knows a thing or two about language learning. He’s got all the qualifications and has done all the academic work, but what I’m interested in is his own subjective experience of being a language learner himself, equipped with all the metacognitive strategies and accepted wisdom about the subject. This is where I think we can really get to the bottom of this topic. This is how we can get to the real truth about learning a language.

The first time Olly was on this podcast, we got to know the basics about how he applies himself to his language learning, but that was about 2 and a half years ago.

That episode was very revealing and still has so much to offer. I highly recommend you go into the archive and listen to that too. It’s episode 332, over 200 episodes ago! His second appearance on LEP was in episode 357.

So, in this conversation today we’re catching up with Olly after about 2 years of him working away on his language learning and teaching projects. So, what new insights does he have to share with us? Has his approach to learning languages changed? What does he now think is the most valuable way to spend your time in order to improve your acquisition of another language?

I think the results are really revealing.

I talked to Olly for nearly two hours – it was very easy and we could have gone on for longer. After having had this conversation I personally feel validated and reassured – why? Because Olly’s conclusions confirm what I’ve also discovered about language learning, and his conclusions confirm many of the principles behind my approach to doing Luke’s English Podcast. It’s a nice reminder that, in fact – yes, there is method to the madness.

Spending time talking to Olly and listening to him talk about learning languages is extremely motivating and I feel like this conversation, which will be presented to you in two parts, I feel like it’s a real shot in the arm for me personally, for the podcast generally, and for you too I hope. This should be a very healthy listening experience for all of you, in terms of your English.

Really – if you’re serious about learning English you will really pay attention. Absorb all of this, think about your own language learning experiences, apply Olly’s approaches to your situation, and see how you can continue to improve your learning of English to an advanced level.

There’s no need to say any more now in the introduction, let’s just hear what Olly Richards has to say about learning a language.


Ending Transcript

That’s where this part ends, but you’ll be able to continue listening in part 2. Well, I think this is a good one – absolutely chock a block with insights and advice for learning a language.

If you’re a premium subscriber you’ll soon be able to see a video of me reflecting on some of the things Olly said in this episode, summarising the main points and turning them into some bits of advice for those of you out there who are learning English with this podcast.

But for this audio episode, that’s it for part 1.

You’ll be able to hear the rest in part 2 as we discuss how to break the intermediate plateau and the connection between pronunciation and personality issues.

To get the full LEP experience and to get the full benefit of LEP on your English you should become a premium subscriber. For just the price of a coffee or beer per month you can access an ever growing library of lessons from me to you – covering language in more detail – usually explaining, clarifying and demonstrating real English – either because it has come up in specific episodes, or because it’s just stuff you should know and be able to do. I’ve been teaching for about 17 years and you can get the benefit of my particular set of skills by becoming a premium member – the perfect balance between getting loads of input and getting some advice, help, clarification and practice from me. All content in the app and online, .pdfs, full episodes, bonus episodes, videos, phrasal verbs, story lessons and more. teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get started. The app is the best way to get the premium content I expect.

OK that’s it for this episode. I’ll speak to you again in part 2. Thanks for listening.

Bye.

522. Learning English at Summer School in the UK (A Rambling Chat with Raphael Miller)

Talking to my ex-colleague Raphael Miller about his new summer school for teenagers as well as many other topics, including British social and communication culture, growing up in Liverpool, studying at Oxford University, the famous Star Wars actor Raphael knows and remembering some of the old-fashioned ways we used to describe computers and the internet. Transcripts and links below. 👨‍🎓🌞🇬🇧

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Your English Summer – Links

Website www.yourenglishsummer.co.uk

Facebook www.facebook.com/yourenglishsummer/

Introduction Transcript

In this episode you can listen to a conversation I had with my friend Raphael Miller. Raph and I used to work together as teachers at the London School of English, along with Andy Johnson, Ben Butler and Carrick Cameron – all of whom have featured in episodes of this podcast.

Since those days, Raph has done lots of work at summer schools in the UK and has recently set up his own summer school project called Your English Summer. This is a school for teenagers from around the world who want to come to the UK to develop their English skills while having a really cool experience living away from home for a couple of weeks.

I thought I would ask Raph about his project, about the benefits of sending your teenagers to the UK for a summer school English experience and also about Raph’s own experiences of learning languages as a teenager and into adulthood.

I hadn’t spoken to Raph for a while – not since the last time he was on this podcast perhaps, and so it was really fun to catch up with him, find out about his project and also just ramble on about all kinds of other things, like his experiences at Oxford University, his childhood in Liverpool and a famous actor that he knows from university, who has had a big role in a Star Wars film. To find out all about that, just keep listening.

This might be a difficult conversation for you to follow, depending on your level. Reasons why it might be hard are:

  • The conversation was done over Skype, so the sound quality isn’t 100% perfect – but it’s good to get used to listening in less-than-perfect conditions, like when you have to do tele-conferences in English at work.
  • Raph has a slight Liverpool accent (but actually I think this isn’t really an issue because it’s really not that strong)
  • It’s all done at natural speed and there are quite a lot of idioms, jokey bits, specific phrases and fluent speech that might be hard to understand.

But the point here is that this is an authentic chat which ultimately is good practice for you.

If you are a parent of teenage kids and you’re thinking about sending them to a summer school in the UK to learn English, you should check out Raphael’s school, which is called Your English Summer – more details at yourEnglishsummer.co.uk

Now, let’s get stuck into the conversation.

Just before I hit the record button, Raph and I had been struggling to get connected on Skype. It wasn’t working properly on his computer, but to solve the problem he just turned it off and turned it back on again, which fixed it, of course – because that’s usually how you fix technical problems. What do you do when something doesn’t work? How do you fix it? Well, have you tried turning it on and turning it off again? There are other generic solutions to typical technical problems of course… can you think of any?

After that we talk a little bit about a recent episode of LEP that Raphael had been listening to – a recent one with Amber & Sarah called “Becoming Maman”… and the conversation just keeps on flowing from there, taking in some details about the social rules related to talking to new parents about their children (in fact, like me, Raph is also a new father – his son is just 6 months old now) British social etiquette in general, how we both know each other and how we first met, and then onto the details Raphael’s project, learning English at summer schools in the UK, Liverpool, Oxford University and various other things…

So, now that you’re ready, let’s dive into this chat with Raphael Miller … and here we go.


Raph also appears in…

160. The A to Z of Christmas

Liverpool Accent Episodes

469. British Comedy: John Bishop

470. Understanding the Liverpool Accent

Your English Summer – Links

Website www.yourenglishsummer.co.uk

Facebook www.facebook.com/yourenglishsummer/

Ending Transcript

That was a rambling chat with Raphael Miller.

Don’t forget to visit www.yourenglishsummer.co.uk

and www.facebook.com/yourenglishsummer/

…for more details about his summer school in Liverpool. Could be a great thing for your teenage kids to do – or if you know any other parents who are looking for a small, friendly and genuinely fun English summer school experience – tell them about Your English Summer.

A note about LEP Premium

I’ve been mentioning this for a couple of weeks now. I expect it to arrive in May. Things slowed down a bit this week because I got really ill with a very nasty throat infection – tonsillitis to be exact. Tonsils are glands at the back of the throat. Mine got infected and all swollen, which was intensely painful for about 5 days. My whole head felt like it was going to explode, I felt like someone was stabbing me in the head and neck with needles, while also periodically stepping on my legs and back in a pair of Dr Marten’s boots. Swallowing was like torture. Not nice at all. It was a lot like when I was sick in Japan. Thankfully this time it was just the tonsilitis and not something more serious. Anyway, the French healthcare system and my wife, looked after me and I’m feeling a lot better. Also, for a week to 10 days this month we’re going to the UK on holiday, which means taking some more time out from podcasting duties. There should be another episode coming out while I’m away but the launch of LEP Premium is unlikely to happen until May. I’m also still working with Libsyn to actually do things like make additions to the app and some other things before LEPP can happen.

Anyway, it should come along in May and when it does you should find that one of the first Premium episodes is a language review of this episode, also there are some language features from the episode about pets I wanted to look at, so that’ll probably come up too.

Remember that one of the aims of LEP Premium is to make sure you really learn the English you’ve heard on the podcast – not just hear it but really learn it properly – the English you might not have even noticed but with which you need a guiding hand – in this case my guiding hand, with all those years of teaching experience, podcast experience – so I can help you with your English and have some fun while doing it.

So, a language review for this episode with LEP Premium coming up.

Remember too that LEP Premium will work like this:

  • You’ll create a profile with Libsyn, my host
  • You pay a small amount per month (e.g. the price of a coffee for me) to access the Premium content
  • You can get the content in the LEP app or via a webpage – same account login.
  • It’s a chance for you to get content that focuses specifically on language teaching, while also making a contribution to LEP.
  • You’ll get those LEP Premium episodes, and also new Phrasal Verb episodes + more bonus stuff just for premium subscribers. You’ll be my VIP club and I’ll be happy to reward you with exclusive content.

Coming soon in LEPland.

Right, time to go now – have a great day, night, morning, afternoon, evening, milkshake smoothie or tropical fruit juice or whatever you’re having. Cheers!

Luke

519. Idioms Game & Chat (with Andy Johnson) + 25 Idioms Explained

A conversation with Andy Johnson including loads of idiomatic expressions and their explanations. First you can listen to a rambling chat with Andy and then I’ll explain 25 idioms that came up during the conversation. Part 2 coming soon… Transcriptions, Vocabulary list & Definitions available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello folks – in this episode I’m talking again to Andy Johnson from The London School of English, and while we’re talking we’re going to play an idioms game, so you can practise your listening with this conversation and also learn some natural English expressions in the process.

Alright Andy? I’m going to do the introduction to this episode, with you here. Sometimes I’ll check in on you, just to see if you’re still there and to see if you’re ok with what I’ve said. OK?

Andy’s been on the podcast a couple of times before but if you haven’t heard those episodes here’s some intel on Andy J, to bring you up to speed. This is the Andy Johnson Fact File.

Andy Johnson started out working in marketing before becoming an English teacher. He’s been teaching English for … a number of years (I think it’s about 15 years now). He did the DELTA qualification at the same college as me (name of that college? That’s UCL in London) and has worked for The London School of English for over 10 years, first as a teacher and now as the Director of London School Online – that’s the London School’s online operation, and yes – I’m calling it an operation, which makes it sound either like they’re surgeons, or special agents and perhaps they are somehow a combination of both of those things – but for online English courses. London School Online offer various online courses for learners of English and other things of that nature. Get more details at www.londonschoolonline.com

Actually the correct link is www.londonschool.com/lso

Andy is a runner. He runs marathons, which is great considering he nearly lost a leg when he was younger, and when I say “lost” a leg I don’t mean that he just couldn’t find it for a while, like “oh where’s my leg? I put it down a earlier and I can’t find it… Ah, there it is! Oh, I nearly lost a leg there!” no, I mean he nearly had to have it removed permanently, which sounds like it was a very frightening and horrible experience. There’s an emotional and inspirational story that explains what happened, which you can hear if you listen to episode 472 when Andy talked about it.

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

So, despite an early issue with his leg, Andy is a runner and in fact at the moment he is training for the London Marathon which happens next month.

Andy is married and has two children who are boys. He sometimes steps on pieces of their lego, which I understand is incredibly painful. Lego comes from Denmark but Andy Johnson is half Swedish.

But Sweden and Denmark are both scandinavian countries, so the link still works somehow.

However, this does not lessen the pain he experiences when he steps on Lego.

Andy has a good joke about Swedish military ships having barcodes so that when they come into port they can “scan the navy in”, which sounds like “scandinavian”. It’s a good joke, despite the way I just told it just then.

As an English teacher Andy often attends teaching conferences where he presents talks to other English teaching professionals. Previously we talked about his talk on millennials in the English language classroom which he has done at various conferences including the IATEFL conference, which is like the Glastonbury Festival but for English teaching.

Andy also looks a bit like Moby (the American musician, DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, photographer and animal rights activist) but a better-dressed version. Sometimes people mistake him for Moby, with hilarious results, as we have heard on the podcast before.

So, Andy is like a better-dressed, half-Swedish half-English English teaching Moby look-a-like who runs marathons, steps on his kids’ lego and talks about teaching English to millennials at conferences. But he’s so much more than that.

Andy Johnson everybody…

Spot the Idioms

As well as having a conversation, in this episode we’ve also decided to play a game as a way of including a language-focus – in this case idioms. You have to spot at least 6 idiomatic phrases in this conversation, although there will definitely be more than 6.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms to include in our conversation.

What are idioms?

Remember – idioms are fixed expressions with a particular meaning – a meaning that might not be obvious when you take them on face value. The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used in the expression. They don’t have a literal meaning.

Really common idioms (which you probably already know) are things like “That was a piece of cake”, meaning “That was easy” or “It’s just not my cup of tea”, meaning “I don’t really like it”. Those two are really common and well-known ones that just happen to involve food. A third example might be “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there” – to hit the nail on the head, which we use when someone has made exactly the right comment – the sort of comment which perfectly explains or sums up the situation. “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there”.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms – but we haven’t told each other what they are yet. We’re going to play a little game while taking part in our conversation.

Idioms Game

The rules of the game are this:

  • We have to seamlessly include the idioms into the conversation. We should find a way to include the idioms in a natural way – so they are used correctly for the context of the conversation, and not too obviously. They shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, for example.
  • Both of us have to try and identify which idioms we chose, and when we hear them – write them down.
  • At the end of the conversation we will state which idioms we thought were the the pre-prepared ones. For each correctly identified pre-prepared idiom, we get a point.
    It is possible and indeed encouraged to slip in some other idioms as distractions, but these must not be pre-prepared. They can only be expressions that could naturally have come up in moments during the conversation.

So basically – I have to spot Andy’s 3 pre-prepared idioms, and he has to spot my 3 pre-prepared idioms.

A strategy could be – to insert your pre-prepared idioms into the conversation without them being too obvious, while perhaps attempting to distract each other or tempt each other with other idioms that we just include on the spur of the moment.

You can play too, ladies and gentlemen. Try to spot the 6 idioms we have pre-prepared. Also watch out for any other expressions that might not be on our lists, but which are worth learning too, like for example “to stick out like a sore thumb” or “on the spur of the moment”.

At the end I’ll go through all of the idioms and clarify them.


Conversation begins – and then pauses before Andy tells us about being abused on Twitter.


More Transcript…

Hi everyone,

I’m pausing the conversation right there. Andy is about to tell us about he got abused on Twitter, but you’ll have to wait until part 2 to hear that story and the rest of the conversation and the results of our idioms game.

But Luke, why are you pausing here?

The whole conversation went on for about 90 minutes and this time I thought I’d split it into two episodes – mainly because I want to take a bit of time to highlight certain features of language that you have heard already in the conversation, namely – all the idioms that have come up so far. We’re focusing on idioms in this one.

You know that we’re playing an idioms game in this episode and I wonder if you’ve been paying attention, trying to spot the idiomatic phrases that we prepared in advance.

But as well as the pre-prepared expressions, there are loads of other ones that are just coming up naturally.

So I’d like to highlight all the idioms which have come up so far. I’ve listened back to the conversation and made a list of all the idioms I could hear.

Let me now go through them. I’m not going to tell you which ones are the pre-prepared ones, except to say that only one pre-prepared idiom has been used in the conversation so far. That’s one out of the 6 pre-prepared ones. Only one has been used so far. The other 5 will come up in the next conversation.

So, I’m not telling you which one that is. What I am going to do though, is explain every idiom that has come up in part 1.

Here we go.

Vocabulary List + Definitions

Idioms and Expressions that you can hear in this episode (Part 1)

  • Here is some intel on Andy J to bring you up to speed.
    Intel = intelligence. This is just information but it’s a word used by the secret service. “Our agents have collected some valuable bits of intelligence.” “What’s the intel on the British Prime Minister’s security guards?”
  • To bring someone up to speed = to give someone the latest information so they are as informed as everyone else. “Hi, welcome back. Let me bring you up to speed on where we are with the negotiations.”
  • If Swedes have beef with anybody it’s with the Norwegians
    To have beef with someone = to have a complaint to make about someone/something, or to have a long running resentment or grudge against someone/something. E.g. you hear this a lot in rap music. Let’s say Notorious BIG insulted Tupac (maybe he said something about his mum) and then Tupac had a beef with him. (he also held a grudge against him and had a score to settle with him)
  • You’re holding a grudge against someone = you have an long running bad feeling against probably because of something bad that happened in the past. E.g. Mike stole Dave’s girlfriend, and so Dave’s had a grudge against him ever since. Murray has had a grudge against Nadal ever since he humiliated him in front of the crowds of spectators at Wimbledon a few years ago. Obama made a joke about Trump and so Trump had a grudge against him. He had beef with Obama.
  • You’ve got a score to settle with someone = you need/want to take revenge on someone
    Have you got your idioms Andy? I’ve already used one. I think I might have jumped the gun a bit there.
  • To jump the gun = to do something too quickly. Like runners who start the race before the gun.
  • Swedes use Norwegians as the butt of a joke
    The butt of the joke = the object of the joke. E.g. Years the Irish were the butt of a lot of jokes in England.
  • There’s some bad blood between the two of them.
    Bad blood = a bad feeling between two people because of something that happened in the past
  • A meaning that might not be obvious if you take them on face value.
    Take something on/at face value = you just accept something as the way it is, without realising there is a deeper meaning, or another aspect to it. E.g. if you take an idiom on face value, you might take it literally without realising it has another meaning. Or you might take a joke on face value, and not realise it’s a joke – take it literally.
  • That was a piece of cake = easy
  • It’s just not my cup of tea = I don’t really like it
  • You’ve really hit the nail on the head there = you said exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment
  • The idioms shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb = to be very obvious or different from the surroundings or other things
  • You shouldn’t shoehorn them in = force them in unnaturally
  • To include some unprepared idioms on the spur of the moment = on impulse, without planning in advance
  • The Notting Hill Carnival goes on just on the doorstep of the London School = very close to a building
  • The guy was clearly half-cut = drunk
  • He was sitting on the barrel, two sheets to the wind = drunk (also – 3 sheets to the wind)
    www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/three-sheets-to-the-wind.html
  • Did you ever have those socks with the days of the week on? Oh man, that was a minefield.
    A minefield = a very difficult situation in which failure or problems are very likely to happen so you need to take great care.
  • Wait, what’s a street walker? You’re going to have to spell it out.
    A street walker / A lady of the night = a prostitute
    To spell it out = to make it absolutely clear
    It made her look like a lady of the night.
  • What’s amazing is how many trolls creep out of the woodwork on international women’s day.
    to creep out of the woodwork = (a negative expression) when people who are previously hidden or silent, reveal themselves or their opinions.
  • If you’re feeling a bit peckish and you eat your thumb, the thumb will grow back.
    Peckish = a bit hungry
  • It’s jaw-dropping the amount of misogyny that comes out on days like this
  • It’s really eye-opening.
    Jaw-dropping = surprising and amazing. It makes your jaw drop open. Wow!
    Eye-opening = surprising and you learn something new from it
  • For him to shine a spotlight on these people and to call them out for their ignorance and their general dickish behaviour, while still raising money and raising awareness for the cause, I just thought it was really really good.
    to shine a spotlight on someone = bring attention to someone. Like pointing a theatre spotlight on someone on stage.
    To call someone out for something = to publicly bring attention to someone’s bad actions (Hey everybody – this guy criticised millennials!!)
  • Who is this guy to slag off a whole generation?
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a really unpleasant way. (a slightly rude expression)

Now that’s the end of the idioms in this episode.

There are more in part 2 and there should also be a bit at the end where I explain the vocabulary too.

I think this is really useful when I do this. What would really help you now is if you listened to the conversation again. Now that I’ve highlighted the idioms, listen to the conversation again and I 100% promise you that you will notice them more easily and you are also far more likely to remember them and be able to notice them again.

Listening to conversations I have on my podcast with my guests is definitely important, but I think that just highlighting some of the language you’ve heard by picking out certain phrases, repeating and explaining them – this can make a crucial difference in your ability to really learn English from my episodes.

It’s something I think is valuable and I’m looking at ways of introducing this sort of thing more permanently.

For example – an idea I’m thinking of and I’m nearly ready to do it – would be to introduce a paid premium service for just a few Euros a month, where you’d get regular language review episodes where I go through language you’ve heard in episodes. The episodes would be available to premium subscribers in the app and online via a computer.

Preparing language reviews is time consuming for me and adds a lot more work than just preparing a conversation, recording it, editing it and publishing it as a free podcast. I have to listen again carefully, note certain language features and then spend time clarifying them on the podcast.

A paid premium subscription option would allow me to do it more properly and regularly and would mean my time and work is being rewarded, and you’d get really valuable episodes in which I explain the language you’ve heard but might have missed in episodes.

Let me know what you think. From your end, it would be like this. You could sign up for LEP premium online via my host Libsyn. You’d need to pay a little bit of money per month, not that much – probably just the price of a pint of beer per month for me. Then you’d be able to sign into my app and get access to a certain number of premium episodes. Those episodes would be primarily about language. I do various types of episode on LEP – some of them don’t involve language teaching or a language focus although of course it’s all good for your English because you’re getting valuable exposure to the language and I’m here to help. BUt the premium episodes would all be about language and mostly they’d involve me explaining, clarifying and demonstrating English that you’d heard occuring naturally in normal episodes of LEP. So they’d be like Language Review episodes. You’d be able to listen to normal episodes of LEP and then several Premium episodes too which would explain, clarify and expand on the vocab, grammar or pronunciation you’d heard in the normal episodes.

I’m also planning to include other things for the premium package – including finishing off APVAD. I think the only way I can continue the phrasal verb episodes is if they’re part of a premium package.

And don’t worry – if you can’t get the LEP app, you’d still be able to access premium content from a computer on the premium page.

Anyway, this is in the pipeline. Things move a bit slowly here at LEPHQ but I’m getting there.

In the meantime, get the LEP app. More free extra stuff keeps popping up there. I recently uploaded Episode 518b which is part 2 of the grammar questions episode. Check it out.

Also, sign up to the mailing list on the website if you haven’t already done that.

Time to go now!

Speak to you again with Andy in part 2 of this episode where you’ll learn some more idioms and also find out what happens in our idioms game.

Cheers!

Bye.

Luke

518. Grammar Questions (Part 1) Present Perfect Continuous / Future Continuous / Language of Newspaper Headlines

Answering grammar questions from listeners, with details about verb tenses (including present continuous vs present perfect continuous & future continuous vs going to) and the language of newspaper headlines. Includes references to The QueenThe Legend of Zelda and a lot of pizza. Transcriptions & grammar notes available below.

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Transcript & Grammar Notes

This episode is all about grammar and I’m going to respond to questions and comments that I’ve received mainly in the comment section on my website.

I don’t often teach grammar on the podcast directly but I still think studying grammar is worthwhile.

I do grammar all the time in my language classes and it is often very interesting. My students get into it even though they’re sometimes quite confused by it, and generally I find that learners do see the value of studying grammar sometimes because ultimately it is the foundation of the language.

I think that a certain amount of grammar work is really useful and important, depending on your situation of course. It shouldn’t all be grammar – you’ve also got to focus on general communication skills, building and remembering vocabulary and so on, but it does pay to take a proper look at the way the language works on a structural level. There may be certain big differences in the way English works and your language works, and you might need a helping hand in understanding those differences and it can help you to correct certain common errors that you might be making in English.

So, let’s “take a deep dive” into some grammar here on the podcast today.

Overview of the Episode

There is information in this episode about:

  • Verb tenses
    • future continuous vs going to (what’s the difference?)
    • present perfect continuous vs present continuous (what’s the difference?)
  • The Grammar of Newspaper Headlines
    • Why is it “STEPHEN HAWKING DIES” and not “STEPHEN HAWKING DIED”?
  • Relative clauses (or WTF is up with relative clauses?) – Will be in part 2 in the App
  • A question about prepositions – Will be in part 2 in the App
  • Have got vs have vs get – Will be in part 2 in the App

Also a couple of other selected comments from the website recently.

Some of these questions were sent to me bloody ages ago, and who knows, the people who originally sent them might not even be listening to this podcast any more – they might have given up on English (since their questions were left unanswered for so long), or maybe they’ve given up on life in general and perhaps they’ve just moved to Florida or something, where they run a modestly priced leather goods store… Or maybe they just died. I don’t know! I don’t know what you’re all doing with your lives! Anyway, grammar questions from listeners who may or may not still be alive, or running a small business somewhere in Florida.

Let’s get straight into it.

VERB TENSES

Present Continuous vs Present Perfect Continuous

Alessandro (via Facebook)
Hi Luke. I don’t know if this is the right way to interact with you.
[Luke: Generally, the right way to interact with me is to give me tea and cake]
I just need an info some info. Could you please tell me in which of your podcast episodes you explained the difference between the present continuous and the present perfect continuous? [I can’t remember for the life of me!]
If you didn’t yet, please consider this message as an idea for a new episode. I think that we learners usually use these two forms in the incorrect way.

Present continuous – e.g. “I am eating a cake”
Present perfect continuous – e.g. “I have been eating a cake”

Typical wrong sentence – can you correct it?
“I am learning English since 10 years ago”

A few issues:
Present continuous
Present perfect continuous (and simple)
Time expressions with present perfect for saying how long you have been doing something.

Present continuous (be + -ing)

  • Things happening right now
    I am sitting on a chair. We are learning English. What are you doing? I’m just watching Neflix, what about you? Nothing. I am literally doing nothing. How is that possible? I don’t know, I’m just bored. No, I mean how is it physically possible for you to be doing nothing? I don’t know, there’s nothing going on. No you don’t understand, I’m asking a metaphysical question, like you have to be doing something – you’re breathing, you’re staring into space, you’re just lying there. Never mind, I shouldn’t have called you… CLICK
  • Temporary situations at the moment
    I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment. I’m working on a new project at the moment. I’m not sleeping very well these days.
  • Fixed future plans (like going to)
    What are you doing tomorrow? I don’t know. Nothing. Well, I’m going to the cinema to see Avengers: Infinity War. Do you want to come? Yeah!! Wait, is your girlfriend going? Yes, she is. Well, in that case – ahhh, ooooh, I’ve just realised – something’s come up, I’m not going to be able to make it. I’ve just realised I’m looking after my neighbour’s pet fish, cat, catfish, tomorrow. Can’t come.
    Weird situation in which someone doesn’t like someone’s girlfriend. No funny ending to that story, just a bit of intriguing drama…

Anyway… That’s present continuous.

Things happening now, temporary situations happening now, future plans.

We don’t use present continuous to talk about how long a present action has been happening.

In some languages you do. You just use a present tense and add a time expression.

E.g. “I am waiting here since 3 hours!”

In English it should be:
I’ve been waiting here for 3 hours.

That’s present perfect continuous.

It’s used for a few things – a few different functions, but a big one is to describe how long a present action or situation has been happening.

I’ve been recording this podcast episode for xxx minutes.

You can do a simple kind of dialogue.

Hey, what are you doing?
I’m just -ing.
How long have you been doing it?
About xxx time.
Sorry?
I said I’ve been doing it for about xxx time. Why do you ask?
No reason.
OK.
Good conversation.

Imagine the village idiot going around town asking people what they’re doing and how long they’ve been doing it. The town is a very sleepy village where nothing happens and everyone is unemployed. ( A bit like side missions in The Legend of Zelda?)

Hey what are you doing?
I’m just throwing stones into a lake.
How long have you been doing it?
About 4 hours.
What?
I said I’ve been throwing stones into this lake for about 4 hours. What’s it to you?
Nothing.

Present perfect continuous is like what happens when present perfect simple and present continuous have sex. The result is present perfect continuous. (Not what you learn in the grammar books)

Have (from p.p.s.) been (the past participle of “be” from present continuous) and then –ing (from present continuous)

Present perfect is all about actions in the past that are connected to now in some way

  • They happened in an unfinished time period (So, how are you getting on? What have you done so far in this episode? How many grammar questions have you answered?)
  • They have an effect on the present (I’ve just dropped my iPhone into the toilet, what am I going to do? Just flush it away maaan)
  • They’re not finished (You’ve been talking for XXX minutes and you haven’t even answered one question yet?)
  • They’re very recent (I’ve literally just started this question, give me a break man)

There are simple and continuous forms.

Present Perfect Continuous? (have/has + been + -ing)

  • Things that started in the past and are still going on now
    “I’ve been living in Paris for 5 years”
    In some cases, it’s the same as present perfect simple – depending on the verb you’re using. E.g. “I’ve lived in Paris for 5 years” = “I’ve been living in Paris for 5 years” but “I’ve lost my keys” isn’t the same as “I’ve been losing my keys”.
  • Emphasising that the action is repeated or long – not just one single action but repeated actions, or a long action
    I’ve lost my keys (once – I don’t have them now)
    I’ve been losing my keys for years now.” (repeated)
  • Emphasising the process of the action, rather than the result
    “I’ve been working on my grammar” – process
    “I’ve worked on my grammar” – result/completed/finished
    “I’ve been painting my kitchen” – process
    “I’ve painted my kitchen” – result/completed/finished
    “I’ve dropped my phone in the toilet” – just once
  • To talk about how long for a present action (for/since)
    “I’ve been reading this book for 3 weeks.”
    For how many times it’s present perfect
    “I’ve read this book 3 times”

A dialogue to compare the tenses

I’ll read through the dialogue. You can notice instances of the different tenses. Then I’ll go through it again to clarify.

A: I’m reading this book. It’s massive. It’s called Tune In and it’s all about the Beatles and it’s in massive detail. It’s amazing.
B: So you’re reading Tune In. Yes, that’s brilliant. Long, isn’t it? How long have you been reading it?
A: Ages. I’ve been reading it for weeks and weeks and I’m not even halfway through it yet. Have you read it?
B: Yes, I’ve read it twice actually.
A: Twice??
B: Yep.
A: How long did it take you to read it?
B: A couple of days.
A: Just a couple of days!! Bloody hell, you read quickly! What are you reading now?
B: I’m reading The Lord of the Rings.
A: Another long one. How long have you been reading that?
B: I started this morning.
A: OK, and how much have you read?
B: I’ve nearly finished it. I’ve read almost the whole thing.
A: Bloody hell you read quickly! What’s your favourite part of the book?
B: Umm, I… I can’t remember! I haven’t been paying attention really.

Now go through the dialogue again and clarify.

Now test yourself

Here’s a gap fill version. See if you can fill the gaps.

A: I _____________ (read) this book. It’s massive. It’s called Tune In and it’s all about the Beatles but it’s in massive detail. It’s amazing.
B: So you _____________ (read) Tune In. Yes, that’s brilliant. Long, isn’t it? How long _____________ (you read) it?
A: Ages. I _____________ (read) it for weeks and weeks and I’m not even halfway through it yet. _____________ (you read) it?
B: Yes, I _____________ (read) it twice actually.
A: Twice??
B: Yep.
A: How long _____________ (take) you to read it?
B: A couple of days.
A: Just a couple of days!! Bloody hell, you read quickly! What _____________ (you read) now?
B: I _____________ (read) The Lord of the Rings.
A: Another long one. How long _____________ (you read) that?
B: I started this morning.
A: OK, and how much ______________ (you read)?
B: I _____________ (nearly finish) it. I _____________ (read) almost the whole thing.
A: Bloody hell you read quickly! What’s your favourite part of the book?
B: Umm, I… I can’t remember! I_____________ (not pay attention) really.

Check the complete version above for the answers.

Transcription Project

ptholome/Antonio
I want to say something I think is interesting. There is two years I am involved in the transcription project (I’ve been involved in the TP for two years) and although I can’t measure how much I’ve learned or how much my understanding skills have grown up, when I was listening to this movie, finally, I could see the great result of my collaboration in the transcription project.
In fact, watching this movie I can see how much I still have to learn, but I am glad to say that I feel I understand enough to enjoy the movie as I never was able to do before.
So, this result is fuelling my motivation to continue working on this project and I hope to see coming back even once in a while a lot of the people who have done such great work transcribing the 135 episodes we’ve done since we started working as a team.
That’s all what I wanted to say so far. back to the second part of the movie which is not as interesting the book but that’s what movies are, aren’t they?
Which movie and book is Antonio talking about? We’ll find out later.

And now… more tenses…

Future continuous vs going to

The Future …future…future…future…future…

Who wrote this comment? Don’t know.
Great! Thanks, Jilmani for the lesson about English tenses! (Luke: Last summer Jilmani did a really cool challenge where she picked some episodes of LEP and then posed some questions – mostly about grammar – verb tenses – all done in a teaching app called Remind)
Now I have one question, what is the difference between these two sentences:
1) I will be eating pizza when you arrive.
2) I’m going to eat pizza when you arrive.

1 = action in progress at a moment in the future
2 = planned action which will start when you arrive

But *cough*

Sometimes we use will + be + ing (future continuous) to talk about planned actions in the future which are part of your normal routine – which is pretty much exactly the same as how we use going to. So future continuous and going to actually ‘cross over’ here.

Will you be eating here today or in the canteen? / Are you going to eat here today or in the canteen?

Welcome to the Murder Tour of London. Today we will be visiting the sites of 30 murders which all occurred in this 1 square mile. / Today we’re going to visit the sites of 30 murders.
And at each location one of you, will get murdered… 

Our verb tenses are used for a variety of functions and sometimes those functions overlap, like for example “I have lived here for 5 years” and “I’ve been living here for 5 years.” – yes, that is possible.

Future continuous is used for:

  • Actions in progress at a point in the future
  • Actions in the future as part of a planned routine (a bit like going to)

Going to is used for: (amongst other things)

  • Planned actions in the future

How about?
I’ll be eating pizza when you arrive
I’ll eat pizza when you arrive
I’m going to be eating pizza when you arrive
I’m going to eat pizza when you arrive

Listen to the episode to get all my comments and clarifications. This is a podcast, not a blog!

The Language of Newspaper Headlines

Roland Varga
Thanks for this episode! I’ve been meaning to ask you the following grammar question for quite a while [🏆] and now Prof. Hawking’s death has given me the reason. Every time when someone dies (obviously a well-known person) all the headlines in newspapers come up in present time like “Stephen Hawking dies at age 76” or ” XY dies at age 80“. Should not they be in past time?

The language of newspaper headlines

Newspaper headlines (and online news websites) have a grammar of their own.

“Oh no, you mean there’s another grammar I have to learn now?”

The main thing is that headlines have to be punchy, short, and “in the here and now” – in order to grab your attention.

It can be summarised by a few points

  • Past simple or present perfect often become present simple
    “England have just won the World Cup!”
    “ENGLAND WIN WORLD CUP”
    The subtitle might develop it in more detail. “The England football team have won the world cup in a dramatic victory over all other countries, proving inconclusively that England is the best country – not just at football, but at everything, and that English people are the best people in the world, especially the ones who were actually playing the football match.”
  • Future forms become ‘infinitive with to’
    The Queen is going to eat a pizza. “QUEEN TO EAT PIZZA”
    Facebook is going to stop being a bit evil “FACEBOOK TO STOP BEING A BIT EVIL” “FACEBOOK IN EVIL STOP SHOCK”
  • Auxiliary verbs are often removed, especially in passive constructions
    LEP has been voted the best podcast in the world.
    “LEP VOTED BEST PODCAST”
  • Long noun phrases
    BOMB THREAT SHOCK HITS PALACE
  • Prepositional phrases are sometimes used to mean that something is involved in something else, or something happened because of something else.
    Paul McCartney is going to face criminal charges because he killed a couple of spiders when he was a teenager.
    “MACCA JAILED OVER SPIDER KILLING SPREE”
    “MACCA IN SPIDER KILLING FRENZY”

Before we carry on…

Comment of the Week!

It’s not really about grammar, but it is a very clear and well-written comment about the challenge of learning a language, in response to my episodes about my problems with French.

Tian Joshua
Learning a language is really an arduous task. My two cents: something like language learning can only possibly go either of two ways, a virtuous circle or a vicious circle.
In my mind, a typical virtuous cycle goes like this: something about a foreign culture or language sparks your interest, you reach out to find more of the culture via the language or the language itself, you either dip your toe in it or dive into it. Either way, luckily enough, you encounter some good people who are very friendly and helpful in your language learning journey. Your confidence gets boosted. You feel motivated to do more. They give you the initial momentum to send you on your trajectory. Once you have applied what you have recently learned in some personally significant real life scenarios, like making a particularly witty and fitting comment in front of your secret crush or crushes, you get further positive feedback, which drives you to learn more so you can “flaunt” more in the next opportunity of using the language. As such, a rewarding positive feedback loop is forged and you are on your way to solid mastery of this language.

Conversely, a typical vicious cycle starts to take shape when the first a couple of people you use this language with are not helpful or patient. That way, your confidence gets bruised and your desire to learn the language gets curbed. You are hesitant to speak up even when you should. You do not get to put your language command into use as often as you should. More importantly, you are not self-assured, which definitely makes you less convincing and communicative even in your first language.

Based on what I said, maybe the main focus in language learning, and perhaps in everything else in life, should be breaking out of the vicious circle, if you are trapped in one. To that end, we need to keep a positive and robust state of mind. In other words, we need to come to the realization that we should not let the people that we get in contact with influence us too much. They may or may not be brought to our life by fate. The encounters may or may not be part of a grand plan. I want to learn this language. I will not let “language dickheads” get in my way. At the end of the day, I am the one in control of my mind. I choose to stay positive. People cannot discourage me. May the (mental) force be with you.

I want to learn this language. I will not let “language dickheads” get in my way. At the end of the day, I am the one in control of my mind. I choose to stay positive. People cannot discourage me. May the (mental) force be with you.

Shout out to Jack 🏆

Shout out to Jack in the comment section for making vocabulary lists which are being featured as top comments. Nice one Jack.

This is very helpful for visitors to my website.

There are three things people can do:

  • Check the list (you’ll find it as a featured comment at the top of the comment section, or maybe in the show notes) after you’ve listened. If there are some phrases you don’t know, perhaps check them in an online dictionary, try to remember how they were used in the episode, perhaps try to make sentences using the phrases.
  • Listen again while checking the list and notice how the phrases are used. You can listen and repeat too if you like.
  • Add some of the phrases to your own vocabulary lists, which I hope you’re keeping! Then revisit them and remember – if you don’t use it you lose it – just talk to yourself about the phrases, or talk with a language partner. E.g. if the phrase is “I’ve been meaning to do an episode about this for ages”, which is in episode 497 – the one about Withnail and I. You could just personalise that phrase to make it about you. E.g. “I’ve been meaning to get the bathroom door fixed for ages” or “I’ve been meaning to read that book for ages”. Something you’ve had vague plans to do for a long time, but you haven’t done it yet.

So, it’s up to you how you use the list but all it takes is a little motivation and ingenuity and you can use vocabulary lists to your advantage. Check the pages for each episode, and check the comment section too for Jack’s lists, which are checked by me and then featured at the top of the comment section. He’s done lots of the recent episodes and some early ones too.

Part 2 is available in the LEP App now – in the App-only Episodes category.

Click here to get the LEP APP

🎧

512. My Experiences of (not) Learning French [Part 2] Learning Language in a Classroom vs Learning On Your Own

Talking more about my experiences as a student of French, this time reading from notes I took during my French lessons (when I should have been focusing on the class!) and some considerations about learning a language in a classroom and learning on your own. Notes & transcript available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript & Notes

Here’s part 2 of this episode about my experiences of (not) learning French. In the last one I talked about how I learned some French as a child and how I feel I’m not learning it as an adult, despite living in Paris and I made a load of excuses about it, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do of course – because excuses are no substitute for taking action.

In this episode the plan is to talk about some more experiences I had while learning French, specifically some lessons I took at a language school a few years ago in Paris. I wrote some thoughts in a diary while taking those lessons and I’m going to read out those thoughts and then discuss the relative benefits and drawbacks of learning a language in a classroom vs learning on your own using self-guided methods. There will also be some comments and reflections on teaching a foreign language to groups in a classroom environment.

First, some comments from listeners after the previous episode. My listeners are being very kind and understanding, as usual. I received quite a few messages – I can’t read them all out here but this is a selection. On the subject of receiving messages – I’m sorry if you have written to me and I haven’t got back to you. Please know that I do read everything I receive and I appreciate your thoughts and comments very much.

Cat

Luke, I find your lack of French disturbing. 😸

Just kidding.

It must be utterly difficult for you if everyone wants to make use of you as the best known English teacher on the Internet. :) Also your head is busy with all these millions of ideas for your podcast, the gigs and so on. There is almost no room in your brain left free for other languages. You are totally absorbed with creating quality content for your audiences. You shouldn’t be judging yourself too hard. You have your priorities and are doing great job. Now with raising your child bilingually you have the task to pass on to her the exquisite English you have. 👍
We should be doing things we enjoy and not do things that other people expect from us. That guy at the party had been downright rude, he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself. 😸

Jack

C’mon King ! Don’t beat yourself (up) too much. Your French is much better than my English.

Nick

I’ve realized after listening to this ep. that I want to see a French beach!

Mj Moreno 
Funny title! 😂 I’m wishing to listen to the episode. [I’m hoping to listen to it / I’m looking forward to listening to it]

Cesar San Vicente Viñez 
Faut pas se décourager (don’t get discouraged)

Hi Luke,
Ne sois pas si dur avec toi !
I’m pretty sure that you can improve it ;)
Bon courage!
From a Parisian girl

Luke from Poland (?)

Hi Luke. Your story about drilling has inspired me to write a poem for you.
—————————————————
What about my neighbour’s drilling?
I have rather mixed feelings.
I know he just needs some holes
in his floor and in his walls
He needs even lots of drilling
In his ceiling.
But the next sound of a drill
makes me fight , makes me kill
and like a bloody beast
with bare hands, with clenched fists
I will enter his own flat
And I kill him with cold blood.
No !!! I’d rather stop this talk
and I am going for a walk….
—————————————————–
You may read it on the air and for sure it is going to save some lives of innocent neighbours. :-)

Some words & phrases

  • to beat yourself up
  • don’t be too hard on yourself
  • don’t get discouraged
  • self-flagellation (technically means whipping yourself as an act of self-punishment – but also a way to talk about excessive self criticism)

My experience of learning French in a classroom as an adult

The classroom experiences at Alliance Francaise. It’s a bit like the British Council but for French. They promote French culture and also offer French lessons.

So, a few years ago I went to Alliance Francaise to take some French lessons for a couple of weeks.

My wife bought me the lessons as a birthday present, and as an effort to get my French off the ground.

I wrote some notes while I was there. I recently found those notes. I have them here and I thought I’d just talk to you about them now, and try to remember what was running through my head in those classes.

I guess the point here is that I can reflect on my personal experience and generally make a few comments about learning a language in different contexts – paying particular focus to the classroom vs self-directed learning.

Being a student again.

Trying not to fall into all the typical student behaviour: not listening, arriving late, not doing homework and having rubbish excuses, asking unrelated questions, not paying attention to other classmates or listening to them, not really giving a crap about what’s going on, letting the teacher do all the work, not showing enthusiasm for work the teacher has clearly spent time and effort on preparing, not actually speaking French in the classroom, being shy with the other students and not wanting to talk to them, forgetting the book, not really going with activities that the teacher is attempting to set up, looking at my watch, yawning, complaining, judging the teacher on her appearance, etc.

Going for the level check

Got put in an A2 class. Probably because of accuracy, but I’m not really sure. I was never given a summary of my skills and problems.

Bought the book.

This is exactly like my normal experiences as a teacher, but from the other point of view.

Day 1

Joined a class that had already been studying together for a while.

Don’t remember doing much “getting to know you” at the start. I think it was just a quick introduction and then off we went. There were some people in the class I never spoke to at all.

Didn’t catch the teacher’s name at the start, and therefore it was lost forever. Why didn’t I just ask her?

What the class looked like.

Being late!!

Notes I wrote down during classes (when I should have been studying)

Good to see she’s keen. She makes excuses for being 2 minutes late and seems stressed.

Lots of photocopies. It’s very easy to get disorganised. It really helps if the photocopies are hole punched. I don’t mind if they’re not beautifully presented. They should be functional.

I wish she’d just let us talk freely, or try to talk freely!

Too much TTT. I’m very aware of this as a teacher in my own classes. A lot of her talking time is just lost on me. It feels very teacher oriented. She’s explaining a lot and spending a lot of time setting up activities, but I still don’t know what’s going on!

Teach the students, not the plan.

1 hour of pronunciation at the start of the class, with us trying in vain to pronounce certain vowel sounds. I suppose this is really important because mastering these different sounds can make a huge difference to your intelligibility in French. But we spend an awful lot of time on it and I wonder how useful it is. I wonder if perhaps it’s more important to develop fluency in the language, and to perhaps get some remedial correction. I’d like her to let us talk and perhaps listen to us and correct us a bit, and give us some much-needed encouragement. I desperately need encouragement. I really really need someone to tell me “Yes, that’s good! Well done, keep it up!” I can’t remember the last time anyone actually gave me positive feedback about my French. I’m in such a negative rut. I’d love it if she gave me more freedom, some praise and also some remedial correction.

She always expects perfection, but we need encouragement. Sometimes I’d like her to let us talk without interruption and perhaps correct us later. She won’t let us utter anything without it being perfect. I just feel like I’m slamming against a brick wall all the time. Maybe I’m too soft and I expect to just be great all the time. I’m too intolerant of failure. I’m too sensitive. Some of the best language learners I know can tolerate a lot of failure and just keep coming back for more, perhaps out of stubbornness or sheer bloody-mindedness. I need to toughen up a bit.

—— recording had to be abandoned at this point due to crying baby!

[Continuing the next day…]

I wonder which one is better: Loading all the grammar, vocab and pronunciation into the learner and then expecting them to produce correct language as a result, or letting the learner just struggle through with a focus on communication and then helping out in a remedial way.

I’m beginning to prefer the second option. I find it’s more responsive and even natural to emphasise the learner’s personal production of English and work from there, rather than inputting so much. I’m not here to gather information, I’m here to do things, to experiment, to make mistakes and do it my own way. Sometimes the classroom environment and teacher don’t let you own your English. But again, perhaps I’m expecting too much too soon and I might need to stop being so egotistical about it and accept my role as a learner in this situation and just get down to some good old-fashioned studying, and learn those verb conjugations. It’s quite humbling.

But back to the idea of the teacher controlling the class and using quite a rigid programme – being teacher-centred. You could argue that this is a problem from two different angles. Firstly, the teacher might rob the students of their independence, their natural tendency to just try to be understood and to communicate and to discover the language and make mistakes but to essentially “find their voice” in the target language. But also, learners might give up these things as they hand over responsibility to the teacher. In my experience, the best language learners are fiercely self-motivated and take full responsibility for their learning, but the language classroom situation tends to subconsciously cause learners to give up that responsibility to the teacher – so that if no progress is made, it’s the teacher’s fault, and if lots of progress is made – the teacher is a hero. But that ignores the fact that personal motivation might be the most important factor. So, perhaps the whole classroom situation encourages bad habits in learners, by taking personal responsibility away from the learners. Unless the teacher is particularly good, and knows this, and is always making sure that learners take responsibility for themselves while also giving them a structure and framework for learning. It’s hard to be a good teacher – you have to know when to be in charge of the class and be in control, and when to just get out of the way completely.

But then again, perhaps the classroom provides a space in which learners can basically get all the answers that they wouldn’t get if they were just out in the wild west of the real world, where nobody is there to lend a hand and it’s all just a question of survival. (sounds tough)

Anyway, the debate in my head here is about whether the teacher gets in the way of the learners, or is a vital agent in providing the learners with a moment-by-moment study plan.

All too often the teacher isn’t able to just get out of the way, and so you plough through more and more activities, being presented with language that you have to take on – which often leads to that feeling that as a student you’re kind of drowning. It might be nice to just spend some time asking the class some questions, seeing how the students answer them, and then take it from there, doing remedial work, allowing all the students to take part, giving us some discussion time with the corrected language, questions and phrases on the board. Going round, listening to us, gathering feedback to correct us afterwards. There’s not a lot of this happening, so I feel like the classroom situation is not being fully exploited.

This does require a particularly nimble teacher – one who is able to adapt on the spot and come up with feedback, drills, little practice exercises and questions that identify the specific problem the student has, how to remedy it and how to let the students practise it correctly. It also requires that the learners are able to go with the flow too. It’s often more practical to write a plan in advance and just stick to it rigidly regardless of whether the students are really on-board.

They have IWBs, which is nice.

The teacher is sweet, and she got hotter as the course went on.

Her efforts are very admirable. She intends to do an hour of pronunciation at the beginning of each class, and that has to be set up in quite a careful way, involving certain important stages in the exercises. So, she’s made an effort and has obviously spent time preparing this lesson. But a lot of her efforts are just torpedoed by late-comers or just students who seem a bit slow.

I’m aware of how it’s hard to be charming, funny or just yourself in another language. I think I must come across as quite different to my real personality, which is annoying, because I think my teacher and possibly other classmates don’t really understand what I’m saying and therefore who I am. I might give an example of what she’s saying but she doesn’t think it’s related – because I’m unable to specify what I’m talking about because of my poor French. It must seem like I’m not concentrating at all and I’m just rambling or trying to change the topic. I can see how easy it is to seem like a dickhead or a problematic student. Note: for my teaching I have to remember to always give my students a chance. Sometimes somebody will say or do something that I will find strange or perhaps rude. I have to remember that the language barrier often distorts people’s personalities. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t and you find people are the same in both languages. So, maybe I really am someone who doesn’t focus and talks without thinking and rarely makes sense, and perhaps even enjoys derailing things. I hope not.

But I find that I’m a bit weird. I have to explain myself a lot. My head goes faster than my mouth. I have a tendency to ramble and that’s because I;’m afraid that people don’t understand me so I repeat myself, so I must be pretty weird in class. I probably am a bit weird, but in English I’m quick enough to be able to flip that into being funny – I’m fast enough with the language to be able to manage my weirdness and make it humourous instead. In French, I’m just weird.

We do gap fills – paper exercises that are so common in language learning, but paper exercises don’t necessarily help in production of the language because you use different strategies for solving a gap fill exercise than producing fluent spontaneous speech.

Teacher has to be very patient and intuitive. Listening is so important for a teacher. We have to listen to our students, work out what they’re trying to say, and then give them the English they need to say that. Also, good activities are ones that present the students with a need to say certain things, so that they have to use the target language to complete the task. Then the teacher needs to pay attention to how we are completing the task, and give us the right feedback.

Sometimes the teacher thinks I don’t understand, or misunderstands me, but it’s just because I can’t explain myself properly. I feel like talking about what we’re talking about means that we’re communicating on some metaphysical level where you need meta-language to discuss the language you’re learning. It all gets terribly complicated.

U and OO sound – Imagine you’re being punched in the stomach. Imagine that your mouth is a chicken’s arse. These things totally don’t help me! It shows me how so much of our explanations are wasted if they aren’t truly clear. We have to always think from the students’ point of view. This is more about teaching than learning French isn’t it!

As a learner I get the impression I’m being told one thing about French, and then I go out and hear something different. I wonder “Are they lying or just unaware of how their own language is being used in the real world? Or maybe I’ve got it wrong.”

A lot of the time I have no idea what’s going on or what the teacher is talking about. I’m just constantly spinning in space. No idea what’s going on. I’m always right on the edge of understanding things. On the edge of my comfort zone.

It’s a humbling experience, and quite sweet too because everyone’s a bit shy and just trying to do their best, but I feel very stupid indeed.

Sometimes I just can’t explain why I don’t understand. I don’t have the ‘meta language’ to do describe what I don’t understand.

Organisation is vital in language learning. Keeping a good record of vocabulary and other learning notes – but it’s hard to stay organised when you have a busy life. Learning a language is a full-time thing. You really have to devote yourself to it. It can feel overwhelming, but with step by step practice you can do it.

Slow students in the class bring the whole level of the class down. Sometimes I think “Just leave them behind they’re dead to us!” But obviously the teacher can’t do that.

In a classroom environment everyone has a lot of responsibility to work with each other. You need quite a tight team to make the whole thing work.

I felt a weird sense of camaraderie with the teacher, because I’m a teacher too. She didn’t know this until the end. It was funny to be on the other side for a change.

At the end of the course I felt a weird emotional pull. It was a bit sad or something to be finishing the course. It was all too brief.

Learning English in the classroom vs Learning English on your own

In the Classroom

Positives:
Safe space
Teacher
Actual speaking and writing practice
Group means more varied activities and a chance to practise real communication, not just book work
Method
Programme
Text books
Tests
You can ask questions
Experiment
Other students
Learn with others / peer group / Community
Expert explanation of grammar
Correction
Exam classes
Learn from the mistakes of others – Hearing other people’s English can be a good thing
Competition
Teacher’s own material
Social life
Friends and memories
Nothing is stopping you from studying on your own as well – you can combine your private study routine with classroom study – and use the classroom as a safe space, a place to test yourself and have your questions answered
A way to ringfence several hours in the week for exclusive language practice. For some people it’s too hard to build it into the routine, so they just take classes so someone else can manage it.

Negatives:
Slower or faster than others – held back or confused. Weaker students drag you down to their level (but often these are opportunities to learn – they don’t have to be wasted moments)
Level difference (is it really a problem? The assumption is that you need to be with people who are higher than you, but this is a class, not just a social situation)
Personalities in class – sometimes the wrong balance of personalities means that nothing gets done properly
Class sizes – too big? Hard for the teacher to manage effectively, less STT
You have no control over various factors, like the topic or study point of the lesson, who speaks, what the interaction will be etc. You might get to influence that a bit, but you simply can’t expect it all to be done the way you want – it’s a group
Tendency to sit back and be spoon fed
Reduced responsibility
Reverting to the old mindset of being a pupil at school
Hearing other people’s English can be a bad thing, unless it is being corrected
TTT
Possibly annoying teacher!
Expensive & time-consuming
Choosing the right school
In your own country the students will probably be from your country – this can be an advantage in that you will share things more closely, but this can be a disadvantage in that there’s less variety and a lack of an ‘international mindset’ which is helpful in developing a broad mind and to practice speaking to other non-natives from around the world (and the chances are that these are the people you’ll be talking to anyway)

On your own

Positives:
You can use all the things I’ve ever mentioned on the podcast to create your own personalised study plan, or any other techniques or materials that you know. The world of language learning is your oyster.
There’s plenty of free stuff for learning English now
You can work out what’s best for you
Set your own schedule
You don’t have to go at someone else’s pace
You don’t have to go to someone else’s place!
If you’re organised, you can build a study plan that is tailored to you specifically
Massive amount of online stuff available including 1-2-1 lessons, e.g. with italki
Plenty of grammar practice and explanation online
You can surround yourself with English by using things like podcasts, books, italki etc
Take all the responsibility yourself
Cheap
Ultimately, this is the only way because nobody can learn a language for you. Whatever approach you choose you’ll always have to be responsible for your own learning.

Negatives:
There’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders because you’ve got to do it all yourself and keep yourself motivated
You have to be extremely organised and devoted
You have to be able to manage your time and your workflow yourself, and let’s face it most of us need a helping hand
It’s hard to build learning English into everything you do even though that’s probably what you need to get to the higher levels
There’s no teacher to correct your mistakes and give you a plan
It can be lonely
Nobody to actually talk to unless you go online
Materials – which ones?
No guidance or advice from teacher or others – or at least it’s difficult to find – support network

In the end – the classroom is a resource which you have to learn to use. It can be a convenient way to get English practice into your life.

But ultimately, whatever the situation – personal motivation and your approach to what you do – these are the most important things. If you have the right level of motivation, you can use the classroom to your advantage, but it is limited. Outside of class you’ve got more freedom, but that can often result in you doing nothing. Classroom situations give you a bit more focus.

Learning in a classroom is just part of what you can do.

It works really well for lots of people, but not well for others.

It’s all about how you approach it.

In the end – you have to get to know yourself and your own ways of learning.

If classroom learning suits you, go for it – but make sure you use that classroom as a resource and get the most from it.

If classroom learning doesn’t work for you – that’s ok but you need to be very motivated, disciplined so you develop habits in your own time, but you have to be quite organised for that.

I could go on…

I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this. It has helped me to reflect on my French a bit. I feel a bit better now actually. I think my French is improving, just very slowly indeed – not as quickly as I’d like and it feels overwhelming, but I must remember the example of the elephant. How do you eat an elephant? Just one spoon at a time – but you do have to eat regular spoons – one spoon at a time, as often as you can and enjoy it too! I’ve no idea how an elephant tastes, but since this is just a metaphor, let’s say the elephant is made of the finest Belgian chocolate, shall we?

I also just want to say how impressed I am by those of you out there who have improved your English to a good degree. Many of my listeners – that’s you- you have developed your English really well, often starting from a very basic level and not living in an English-speaking environment and I’m really proud of you. This takes dedication, work, time and effort. I’m also impressed by those of you who have learned English using my podcast. Many of you listen until the end of episodes, you follow me banging on about stuff, you write carefully worded comments and emails, you send voice messages, and of course outside of podcast-related things I’m sure you do plenty of other things that I’m not aware of in order to push your English further and further, even when it’s difficult. You’ve done so well and I just want you to know that I’m really impressed and proud of you. I know the challenge – believe me – so I’m really impressed and proud of you and also flattered that you choose to listen to my episodes as part of your English language lifestyle. There must be moments when you’re listening to my episodes where you’re lost, confused you’ve kept going – and it’s bound to help and I’m sure it has. Well done.

Thanks for listening.

Additional notes (not used in the episode)

Let me remind you of those three things. Just consider how your learning involves these things:

Motivation
Just how motivated are you to learn the language you want to learn? Where does that motivation come from? Is it external (e.g. I feel I should learn it for other people or other reasons) or is it internal (I really want to learn it for myself). Motivation is like the driving force that you need to power your entire learning process. It’s probably the most important thing, because where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Habit
What are the things that you’re actually doing in English? Examine your habits. The main thing is that English practice is in your life as a habit. Habitual practice – regular things – every day probably. But think about those habits too. How many of those things are: Productive (involving you producing English in speaking or writing) Receptive (involving you just consuming English by listening or reading) Regular (on a regular basis – every day if possible) and long (longer than just a few minutes really). Habit is one of the most important things because it makes sure that language learning becomes a regular part of your day. It’s hard to change your lifestyle, so it’s important to try and get into the habit of doing things but little by little. That can mean just spending 10 minutes a day on English. When that has become a fixed habit, you can build on it and push towards longer periods. If you’re already maxing out your English in terms of time, think about pushing towards more intensive productive practice, like writing and speaking.

Resources
What are the things you’re using to learn English? Are there any other things you could get into your life? How can you really exploit them fully? Some simple examples:
LEP – you’re listening, but do you check the episode pages, take the vocab in the lists, read the transcriptions, check out the videos and other links I recommend?
Books – are you reading books at all? If you never finish the books you read in English – consider buying shorter books or graded books (E.g. Penguin Readers) which are appropriate for your level. Do you note certain words or phrases that you discover in the books you read? Are you choosing books that really interest you, or books that you think you should read? Are you choosing books filled with complex old-fashioned language, or books that contain more normal every day English?
Films and TV – do you sometimes watch an episode several times with and without the subtitles? Do you ever repeat the things you hear? Do you make note of new bits of language? Do you go back to those notes and test yourself? Do you record yourself saying things?
italki – get some lessons or conversations. This can be a good way to get proper, real-life communicative practice into your routine. Don’t be shy – give it a try.