Category Archives: Transcripts

737. A Summer Ramble 2 (Late August 2021)

I’m back in the podcast-zone after my holiday so I thought I would do another rambling episode before getting down to work on other content to be released soon. Video version also available.

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Transcript / Notes for this episode

Hello and welcome back to the podcast! 

This is episode 735 and it is a rambling episode, which means it’s just me talking to you about various things – including: whatever comes into my head while I’m recording, but specifically this time I’m aiming to talk about 

  • Being back from holiday and getting back into the podcast zone
  • Comments about my audio listeners and my video viewers on YouTube
  • News about moving flat and moving to my new pod room (You can see that the move hasn’t started yet and so the podcast has not been disrupted yet)
  • Some common questions from the YouTube comment section (new listeners)
  • Charlie Watts – the drummer from the Rolling Stones who passed away yesterday
  • A couple of comments from the comment section including one very motivational email I got from a long-term listener
  • Whatever else occurs to me as we record this!

As well as being available as a normal episode of the audio podcast, this is also available on YouTube with some text on the screen – the notes and scripts that I’m reading from, so you can read along with me and spot certain phrases and spelling and so on. 

By the way – you can always pause this and check the screen if you feel you didn’t understand something or you found a new word or phrase. 

I’m reading from a script / notes

In this episode I’m reading from a script which I wrote last night. I don’t normally read from a pre-written script when I do these rambles, but this time is different.

I wrote most of this script last night, when it wasn’t really the right time to do a podcast recording, but I still consider this to be a rambling episode because I just rambled with my fingers last night and now I’m just reading out the text-ramble that I created, so it still counts as rambling as far as I’m concerned, and I of course I can deviate from the script/notes whenever I want.

So stick with me and I hope you enjoy listening to my words as they flow out like endless rain into a paper cup – a cup which you can take and drink from, metaphorically of course. 

Drink my English – that’s what I’m saying. I hope you know what I mean!

In the podcast zone (this is what I wrote last night)

I’m sitting here in front of the computer. My wife is lying across the sofa watching a French TV show on her phone and she’s under a nice sheepskin blanket that we have so she is feeling very cosy. I’ve just made her a cup of mint tea and I’ve tucked her feet into a blanket because I’m such a great guy and a really wonderful husband. 

The child is in bed asleep, and despite the madness that is going in on the world outside, this is a little moment of peace and quiet. 

Now I’m sitting with my computer on my lap, but I’m pretty much in the podcast zone right now – meaning, that I’m thinking of ideas for the podcast, considering what I’ve been doing and what I should do next. I know I should be able to record tomorrow as the little one is going to her French grandparents for a few days and my wife has work to do, so tomorrow is podcast day.

But I’m in the podcast zone now because I’m thinking about podcast ideas and things to record tomorrow. I’m just writing down my thoughts on my computer as they come into my head. I’m trying to write down every thing I’m thinking in order to make sure this is actually a rambling episode. I’m rambling everything down in text form here and I’m trying to make it sound like I am actually speaking normally and not reading from a text. 

What I’ll have to do tomorrow is record this but make it sound like I’m just saying it all off the top of my head. 

Also I might just go off on a tangent at any point and deviate from the script, if something occurs to me. 

In fact, what I’m going to do is, the word-for-word script for this is going to stop soon and I’m going to just write down some basic notes and then expand on them as I talk into the microphone tomorrow (which is actually today – so, tomorrow is now, so, are we in the past, the present or the future? I think I might have just invented time travel. These words are from yesterday, but I’m reading them now and you’re going to listen to them in the future – let’s just say that in podcastland, time is a sort of flexible thing a bit like a jelly or something. 

Yep, in LEPland, time is jelly – which might explain why my episodes are quite long sometimes.

In any case, I would like to record this episode tomorrow as a kind of welcome back before embarking on things like premium content and other episodes I’ve been planning.

I do have other episodes I’d like to do and tbh while I was away on holiday over the last 3 weeks or so I was itching to get back to podcasting. 

I had lots of ideas popping into my head which I couldn’t quite hold onto and as I didn’t get the chance to write them down, they’ve all disappeared into the ether – little ideas, comments, stories that occurred to me at various moments, like when I’m in the shower but which I almost instantly forgot – so I was quite keen to do some recording again after being away just to satisfy the compulsive podcasting side of me. 

The holiday was fantastic and one of the best ones we have had for ages. I’ll tell you about it a bit later in this episode.

Those other episodes I could be doing right now:

P31 parts 4,5,6 

Learn English from my mum as we look at phrases which came up in our conversation in episode 717 – learn them properly with loads of examples and the chance to do plenty of listen and repeat pronunciation work with me so you don’t just learn new language, but learn how to produce it too.

War of the Worlds part 4 (conclusion?)

88 English expressions that will confuse everyone! (remember that? I never finished it)

More stories like The Mountain

Reading from more texts or books

An episode with The Thompsons which I recorded when I was in England

Some invitations to other podcasters/English teachers who have interviewed me recently

Top 10 Jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe 2021

And I have a big list of other ideas which I am slowly working my way through.

But I think before I do those ones and perhaps some others, I’d like to just do this rambling episode with you. 

These rambling episodes are where I just talk to you directly and move from topic to topic almost making it all up as I go along.

So just keep up with me, follow along and let the words flow through you like the force in Star Wars. 

Feel the English, let it flow through you. 

Be the English. 

Imagine blue lazers and Star Wars / The Matrix type stuff. 

Be one with the living English and listen with me as I chat to you about various things.

Audio listeners / Video Viewers (LEP is an audio podcast, with some videos on YouTube)

Most people listening to this – the vast majority listening to my words right now are listening to my podcast on their phone probably with headphones on, using a podcasting app of some sort, probably the native Apple Podcasts app on the iPhone or something like Spotify or another podcasting app, or perhaps you are listening on the LEP App. 

Most people listen to the audio version of this – and I’m saying this now because I’m also recording a video version of this on YouTube and I feel like YouTube is a pretty different audience. 

All the other platforms (ways to listen to the audio podcast) are united in one sort of group – the audio LEPsters and they’re more ninja-ish but they’re perhaps a bit more solid, reliable, dependable and loyal. 

I don’t mean to have a pop at (criticise) the video LEPsters on YouTube, but they seem to be a slightly different type of LEPster. I feel like YouTube LEPsters are less ninja-ish because there are many more comments.

Also, YouTube LEPsters (hello) seem to be less aware of the back catalogue of episodes, and I get a lot of people who have never heard the podcast ever before. (shocking, I know) 

But YouTube has enormous potential to go viral. In fact, in a way it’s like swimming in the deep ocean and you could catch a current and get into the very deep water. 

I mean, most episodes on YouTube get less attention than the audio versions, but then some videos go viral as they get picked up by the algorithm which is responding to the way people interact with your video and I guess that the algorithm sort of picks up on videos which are popular and promote them, as a way to always present the best content on the platform. 

So a couple of my recent videos went a bit viral (not a lot but a bit), which was nice.

So – YouTube LEPsters – here, let me just have a word for a moment. 

Really, this is an audio podcast that also has a youtube channel and recently I’ve been uploading more to it, but really this is still, mainly, an audio show and I have a big archive of audio episodes on my website and in my app. 

Not all the episode are available on YouTube and they’re not all on Apple Podcasts, but they’re all there on my website, with episode pages for each and every single one of them and audio download links. 

Go to my website teacherluke.co.uk (I know it looks like it was made in 2012) and then click EPISODES in the menu, and also in the LEP App you can get every single episode.

Most people listen to my podcast using an app on their phone and they listen when they are probably doing something else, like walking around, driving (please be careful), doing housework, doing exercise or simply breathing. 

So listening to the audio version on your phone seems to be the normal way to do it.

If you listen using a podcast app on your phone, and you need to stop listening for whatever reason, the app will remember where you stopped listening and you can then carry on from that point later. So, you don’t have to listen to an episode in one single go.

The majority of my audience listen to the audio version of this and I’ve been doing the audio podcast for over 12 years now, and I have a big back catalogue of episodes and I have talked about lots of different things over the years including some things that I’m sure you’d like to hear, so check out the episode archive for the older episodes.

LEP App

My app disappeared from the Apple App store for a couple of days (I had a payment issue with Apple) and when it came back all the ratings and reviews had gone (3 years’ worth), which was annoying. Can you do me a favour (no obligation of course) and give the app a rating and a review (if you use it)? 

How was your holiday?

It was great. No need to go into full detail like I have in the past, but basically we got lucky with the weather and had a really lovely time.

What about moving to your new flat and moving to a new pod-room?

Building work is being done in the new flat. I think the downstairs neighbours will want to murder us. 

I probably won’t get the keys to the new pod-room until mid September, and then I’ll move in there. I’ll need to get electricity and internet connected there, and to fit a desk and some shelves, and then it’ll be the official new pod-room.

Common Questions since going viral on YT

I am going to try to answer these questions as quickly and succinctly as possible without rambling at all in fact. So in this rambling episode, here is a section with no rambling. 

I hope that’s clear.

So, this is a rambling episode, with a bit where there’s no rambling.

Anyway – no rambling here, let’s just get straight to the point and keep it simple.

Common Questions from YouTube

Where are you from?

Can you do an episode about ______?

Check the episode archive on my website. There’s a chance I’ve already talked about that.

Go to the archive and do a ctrl+F search for the keywords you’re interested in.

How can I learn English by listening to your podcast?

This can really help you a lot, but it’s not the only thing you should do. 

It’s also important to read a lot (find texts which are not too tricky, use fairly modern English and which you actually want to read) study a bit (use grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation teaching materials of any kind and work with them – it’s not the only thing, but it helps) do lots of speaking if you can (ideally find someone to have meaningful conversations with, perhaps a teacher or language partner who can give you some little corrections and encouragement) and write on a regular basis too (practise writing different types of text or just write a diary every day in which you express your thoughts in English – you’ve got to express yourself in English regularly in order to find your voice).

Learning English is about learning how to do something, not just learning how to understand something, and we generally get better at things by trying to do them again and again. 

So listen and read a lot and try to speak and write a lot too. That’s quite general advice but there it is.

For more specific advice on how to use the podcast to improve your English, you could listen to these episodes

174, 568.

Should I listen to the episodes on order?

It’s up to you really. You can just listen to all the new ones as they come out, but if you really want to learn from me properly then I would suggest listening from episode 1. 

Certainly if you are a lower level learner, the first 50-ish episodes are probably a bit easier to understand and have more specific language-teaching objectives, so it would be good to start with them. 

But equally, if you just find my episodes fun and interesting you can listen to them in any order you like. Be aware though: multi-part episodes should be heard in order, and there might be little private jokes and references from earlier episodes which you might not understand (like the dreaded Russian Joke).

Can you do more story episodes?

Yes, I’m planning to do more stories.

Can you do episodes about grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?

Consider signing up to LEP Premium for loads of episodes like that.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo   

Can you feature ___(insert name here)___ again? (Check previous episodes)

Check the archive – a lot of my guests have been on the podcast before, especially favourites like Amber & Paul and my family. Check the archive.

Can you do video episodes every time?

Not every time, but I’ll try to do them as often as possible.

Is there a transcript for this episode?

teacherluke.co.uk

Transcripts

Episodes with transcripts

Episode archive and check

Transcript collaboration

YouTube channel – automatic subtitles

Live without subtitles – Learn to hear the spoken version of English without the aid of the written version (Although subtitles and scripts can also be a great resource, and so you should do a bit of both).

Recent appearances on other people’s podcasts

So in the last episode I mentioned:

The Level Up English Podcast

Stories of Language Learners Podcast

Since then I was also on:

English Small World Podcast (by Apex Language Consulting & Training in Taiwan) (2 episodes) apexenglishpodcast.podbean.com

The Clark and Miller English Podcast 

Charlie Watts

The Rolling Stones seem to be missing a drummer and a bass player. I hear Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are available. Imagine if they formed a Beatles/Stones supergroup at the very end of their careers?

But of course nobody could replace the people who are gone like Charlie Watts and Lennon and Harrison, but still it would be fun for the five remaining guys to get together and perform. 

Actually I think they’d be an amazing band but there would be ego struggles between Jagger and McCartney for stage limelight. 

Paul and Keef are great mates I believe and they used to meet up together when they both stayed in the Caribbean 

and probably have a few cups of tea and have a laugh and tell stories of the old days. 

So they’re pretty tight, and Ringo is friendly with everyone and still drumming. 

The Rolling Beatles

Message from Lio in Brazil

Remember the WISBOLEP competition? That was awesome.

From Lio from Brasil who didn’t make it to the last 16.

Lio appears at about 2:24:00 in the Wisbolep 1 video.

The point is – there were so many people who sent really great recordings and who didn’t get through to the last 16. 

I want to share this because it is a very real example of someone who has connected the learning of English to their personal life in a very human way – which means, making mistakes, acknowledging motivational issues and finally coming to terms with the fact they have to take responsibility for learning and the end result is great. 

This is an excellently written email that obviously just came out of Lio without him planning it and rewriting it. He has done really well with his English, as have so many other LEPsters. This is what he wrote.

Lio from Brasil

I had so much fun during this competition, even though I didn’t pass the first round.

Let me tell you something, I’ve been meaning to write it for a long time..:)

You know, I need to be frank, I was sooo happy and keen to participate that, when I recorded my pitch, I wasn’t thinking about “what” I should have said, but only about “how” to say it, (very slowly and clearly). 

My thought was: “I want everyone to understand me”, because I guess that there are different types of lepsters, people who just started and people who have been listening for years…

So I decided to speak that way..,I guess the result was that I made myself sound like a robot 😶

I don’t want to be too hard on myself but knowing that there is always room for progress, helps me on the journey, it tells me that I could be working even harder on my English, while at the same time having fun.

I love this language and when I was younger, it was so frustrating and tiring. You know the vibe because you’re learning French and you need it in one way or another.

As a non native speaker I knew as a child that I HAD to learn English, sooner or later.

It was only 9 years ago that I started to want to learn it…and did I start then? Of course not!!! naaa, too easy!! Let’s just procrastinate for other 5 or 6 years 😜

And so, as the story goes, in 2016 (November, I swear 😂) I started googling “learn English” online, Youtube and other websites…but I wasn’t satisfied, I was looking for something that wasn’t boring or “slow-paced”. 

I desired something interesting and alive, that could help me defeat my tendency to quit learning the language. 

Why? Because English represented this scary monster in my head and I had more worries than solutions at the time. So I felt the need to challenge myself and, as a beginner your podcast seemed quite advanced and not doable, I thought I couldn’t possibly succeed in understanding everything that was being said, episode after episode.

And then, at a certain point, I don’t know when or how, it just “clicked”…I think around episode 60 or 70…I suddenly realized I was understanding everything on the podcast. 

At that point, after years of procrastination, failures and half attempts at learning the language, I felt like: “that’s it! I got it! Finally!” 

Now, let me just tell you that I was aware of how much work I still needed (and need now)..but believe me…I cracked the code, I finally unlocked this thing, I got this! That’s how I felt…

But I need to add that, although I had finally found the resource I was looking for, I wasn’t disciplined enough for self studying and I already knew very good books (Raymond Murphy’s and collegues), but as you said so many times that I couldn’t possibly remember, you need to take responsibility for the learning process.

I really liked episode 686, you and Christian from Canguro English said a very important thing.

Sometimes people think that when one wants to learn a language, he/she simply needs to take lessons from a teacher saying: “Ok, I’m here, just fill me up with English”, so to speak..but if that was the case, how much easier things would be?

There is that film with Keanu Reeves, what was its name? Oh Yeah “Johnny Mnemonic” (1995) in which they put data inside his brain and he has to carry it, as a courier I believe. 

Anyway the point is, it doesn’t work like that, us, learners, we are the ones that need to do the hard work, guided by our teachers, in the lepsters case, by you of course, 😁you’re the one who unlocks all of this.

I followed a lot of advice you gave and let me tell you… thank you, it worked wonders!

So yeah, 80% of what I know comes from here! LEP!

But there is also something I love doing as much as possible, and that’s creating my own learning bubble where I’m immersed in the language, as much as possible. Your podcast is a great way to do that ! You definitely revolutionized my English comprehension, aquisition and assimilation and I’m so thankful for that! Not only the language, but your culture too!

I remember episode 100 of Lep: “Going to the pub”, (wow, so many years ago), that’s how it felt in this journey, sitting in a pub with a friend, chatting about so many things, that was the classroom. And episode 99:” The Rotary Sushi Bar of English”, where you pick up all the different portions of English.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we? :)

Thank you for all of this! I had and I’m having so much fun with Lep and knowing that so many people are part of this community is a strong reminder that in the end we’re all from Lepland, we all share this passion for the language and, as our teacher said many times, it’s all about connection, not perfection! 

P.S. Let me do it at least once …I’m certainly rushing to get to next episode…hehe ;)

Until then…bye bye byee bye bye

All the best,

Lio

HAMAD – STOP LISTENING TO LEP IN THE BATHROOM!

Hi Luke,

Hope you are doing great in these Covid-19 times.

One of your very dedicated listeners is Hamad, my husband, who annoyingly keeps listening to your podcasts in the bathroom, while showering, even when he is changing his clothes!

He keeps waking me up from my sleep during his morning “rituals”, or anytime he goes to the bathroom to do ANYTHING.

Please let him know i sent you this message, and tell him to PLEASE stop listening to your podcasts in the BATHROOM.

Sincerely, a concerned yet disturbed wife, Aysha

Thank you.

Sent from my iPhone

That’s all folks!!!

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

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

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

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

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

The aims of this episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context of the story and the writing style

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

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

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

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

A note about the language and the writing style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is quite scary stuff

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

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

Useful Links & Sources

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

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

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

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

Summarising the opening chapters

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

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

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

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

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

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

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

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

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

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

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

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

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

Ogilvy the Astronomer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

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

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

Summary of Chapter 4

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

To be continued in part 2…

724. The Mountain (Short Story) + Video

Reading an emotional short story, with vocabulary explanations and differences between British and American English.

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via Commaful

Read the story on Commaful here commaful.com/play/aknier/the-mountain/

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, welcome back to my podcast. I hope you’re doing well and that you’re ready to learn some more English with me in this new episode.

This one is called The Mountain and I’m going to read you a short story and then use it to teach you some English.

There is a video version of this available on YouTube with the text on the screen, so you can read and listen at the same time and you can see my face while I’m recording this, if that’s what you’d like to see. You can find that video on the page for this episode on my website or on my YouTube channel – Luke’s English Podcast on YouTube, don’t forget to like and subscribe of course.

Stories are great for learning English, and I’m always searching for various stories that I could read out on the podcast. I’ve found a few stories and texts, both online and in books that I have on my bookshelves, so you can expect more story episodes like this coming in the future as I read things in different styles, from different texts, including some well-known published work and some independently published stuff and fan fiction that is available online. 

Stories make ideal material for language learning. They are compelling and often the text of the story is also available which makes it extra useful for language learning because it works as a transcript for what you are listening to.

Today I googled “Free short stories online” and I ended up on a website called commaful.com 

This website is described as the largest library of multimedia stories online. Commaful.com 

On Commaful you can read and share stories written by users of the site, fan fiction, poetry and comics, and they have a picturebook format, which means that their stories are presented in a slightly different way, which makes them a bit more pleasant to read online or on mobile devices – more pleasant than just reading text on a screen, which is never a pleasant way to read literature. So rather than just presenting their texts on screen, they put each line of the story on top of an image of some kind (like a picture of a lake or a landscape or something) and you can swipe from one image to the next, reading each line of the story as you go, which is quite nice.

When reading these stories out loud the format encourages you to pause as you read each line, which is quite a good habit. Pausing is a good presentation skill.

It can be a good discipline to practise because pausing can add some space for the audience to think and can change the atmosphere slightly, adding extra weight to each line that you say. So pausing and taking your time can be good presentation skills to practise.

First I’m just going to read the story to you. You can just follow along and try to understand what’s going on.

Then I’ll read it again and I will stop to explain some bits of English that come up, and there are various nice bits of English in here – phrasal verbs, expressions and other nice bits of vocabulary mainly.

The story is written in American English, which is mostly the same as British English really, but I will point out any differences and will give you the UK English equivalents, so this can be a chance to learn some British and American English equivalents.

I’ll do a vocabulary and language summary at the end too.

As I said, there will be some pauses between the lines of the story, because of the way the story is presented to me on the website. I don’t normally pause like this when doing this podcast, but it could be useful because it might help you absorb what I’m saying and you can use those pauses to repeat after me if you like. This will be easier if you can read the lines with me, and again you can do that by watching the youtube video, or visiting the story on commaful.com

Or you can try repeating without seeing the lines if you want an extra challenge.

And of course you can simply enjoy listening to the story without worrying about repeating or anything like that. 

The story is about 10 minutes long, just to let you know what to expect.

The rest of this episode is me explaining and describing the language in the story.

By the way, this story was posted on commaful.com by a user called Aknier and I am assuming that Aknier is the author of this, so credit goes to him or her for writing it.

Follow the link in the description to access the story and you can leave comments there if you like.

I hope you enjoy it!

But now let’s begin the story…

Ending Transcript

OK so that is where the video ends, but I’m adding a bit more here to the audio version in order to do a quick language summary of the bits of vocabulary that came up in that. 

How was that for you? Did you enjoy the story? As I said, there weren’t many narrative elements. It was more an emotional story, but quite an interesting one.

Again, I do recommend that you try reading the story out loud, either by repeating after me or not.

Now let me recap some of the vocabulary items and British and American English differences that you heard there, just to sum up and help you remember what you’ve just heard. I’ll be as brief as I can while jogging your memory here.

You can find this vocabulary list on the page for this episode on my website of course.

Vocabulary List

  • I hardly cried (I didn’t cry a lot)
  • To work hard / to hardly work
  • To fuss / to make a fuss (Fuss = anxious or excited behaviour which serves no useful purpose. “What’s all the fuss about?” “Everyone’s talking about this Meghan & Harry interview. What’s all the fuss about?” “Why don’t you complain?” “Well, I don’t want to make a fuss”)
  • To make a scene = do something which attracts a lot of attention, like angrily shouting at staff in an airport terminal or hotel lobby
  • Siblings (brothers and sisters)
  • To bet that something will/would happen (to be sure it will/would happen) “I bet that England get knocked out of the World Cup on penalties” or “I bet it rains this afternoon”.
  • To shrug your shoulders
  • To grit your teeth = (literally) clench your jaw so your teeth are held tightly together (idiom) to decide to do something even though you don’t want to “I had to tell my dad that I’d crashed his car, so I just gritted my teeth and told him”)
  • A cast / a plaster cast 
  • To be able to afford something  “We couldn’t afford it” “We can’t afford it” (use ‘be able to’ after modal verbs when you can’t use ‘can’ – “We won’t be able to afford it”)
  • A cripple (offensive word)
  • To get picked on
  • To get teased
  • To make fun of someone
  • To get bullied
  • To get catcalled
  • To flash a smile
  • A blinding smile
  • To take that as a yes
  • To get upset
  • To get fired
  • To skip lunch
  • A scholarship
  • To be stunned
  • To soften your voice
  • To talk back
  • To sneak into the kitchen
  • To sneak money back into your wallet
  • Fight – fought – fought
  • Buy – bought – bought
  • To cheat on someone
  • To freak someone out
  • To make it up to someone
  • To raise your voice
  • To shout
  • To scream
  • To cave (in)
  • Emotional outbursts
  • To melt
  • To punch someone in the jaw
  • To stare blankly
  • Stand up for yourself
  • A mess
  • Serene
  • Tranquil
  • Deadly / the deadliest

American English / British English

  • Fifth grade – Fifth year
  • Pants – trousers
  • Mad – angry
  • To figure something out – to work something out
  • To yell – to shout
  • A jerk  – an idiot
  • To take out the trash – to take the rubbish out
  • Chores – housework
  • To punch someone in the jaw – to punch someone in the face

723. Bahar from Iran 🇮🇷 (WISBOLEP Runner-Up)

This is the final episode in the WISBOLEP competition series, speaking to Bahar from Iran about the 7-step method she used to improve her English and develop a British-sounding accent. Bahar used to be a terrible student who hated English, but then she made a decision to focus on her English in her own way. Listen to her explain how she did it.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, this is the final episode in the WISBOLEP series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast. As you probably know, this was a competition I launched last year in which listeners chose other listeners who they would like to be interviewed in an episode of the podcast, and so far we’ve had 5 people, all of whom have managed to improve their English to a proficient level, while living in a non-English speaking environment for the most part, without having English speaking people in their family or close friends. So these have been stories of English learning success, which I seriously hope have been inspiring and interesting for you to listen to.

This conversation is with Bahar from Iran. Bahar actually came 5th in the competition, but she happened to be the last person I interviewed.

As you will hear, Bahar’s English is excellent but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, according to her she used to be a terrible student who hated English and who couldn’t string a sentence together. But now it’s a completely different story. She is proficient in English, she has a lovely clear accent and is confident and talkative, and loves this language. So how did she do it?

That is the main focus of this episode. Bahar tells us the story of her English journey, and she outlines her 7-step method for improving her English, especially her pronunciation. 

Yes, she has come up with a 7-step method. To be clear, she defined this method in retrospect, meaning that having improved her English to a good level she then looked back at what she had done and consolidated her approach into 7 clear steps, and she’s going to go through the entire thing in this episode.

Now, you can try to follow Bahar’s method, but one of the main points here is that you can actually come up with your own method for improving your English as long as you maintain certain key principles in your learning. 

There’s no need for me to add much more here really, except that you will find links to the various resources Bahar mentions during this conversation. Those are resources that she has found to be especially useful. You’ll find links to those things on the page for this episode on my website.

So now I will let you meet Bahar from Iran, currently living in Italy and here we go.


Ending Transcript

So that was Bahar from Iran. Thanks again to Bahar for her contribution. She definitely put a lot of effort into preparing herself for this conversation, coming up with some clearly defined steps and thinking about how she could go into some specific details about the things that worked for her. So, thanks Bahar for doing that.

You will see the hand drawn infographic that Bahar created to show her 7 steps – you’ll see it on the page for this episode on my website, and as the image for this episode on YouTube.

Perhaps the main point is that you can create your own method for learning English. Just go with whatever works for you. There isn’t one single best approach. You just have to make sure you are working with English on a regular basis, that you do things which bring you some joy (there’s no point slogging away with something that you just don’t like doing), you should attempt to maintain a positive and beneficial cycle in your approach to English, try to find your own personal motivation for learning the language, say to yourself “I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it my way” and then just put the time in. 

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of just spending plenty of time listening and don’t apply too much pressure to yourself. Let it happen naturally and in its own time. I hope my podcast helps to make this easier.

Again, check the page for this episode on my website where you’ll find links to things that Bahar mentioned, including the BBC Sounds of English pronunciation course, British Council Elementary Podcasts and so on.

That’s for this episode. Thank you for listening. Leave your comments and feedback in the comment section and have a fantastic day, night, morning, afternoon or evening and I will speak to you soon.

But now it’s time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye.

Useful Links

The Sounds of English (BBC Pronunciation Course) www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/oromo/features/the-sounds-of-english

On YouTube www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD6B222E02447DC07

British Council Podcasts and Listening Resources at Different Levels learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening

Pearson graded readers www.pearson.com/english/catalogue/readers.html

703. Walaa from Syria – WISBOLEP Competition Winner 🏆

Walaa Mouma from Syria has an amazing and inspiring story for all learners of English around the world, and some specific tips on how to improve your English long-term. Listen to this episode to hear all about it. Transcript and text video available.

Audio Version

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Links

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

699. Welcome (back) to Luke’s English Podcast / FAQ (January 2021)

Wishing everyone a happy new year and taking stock of the main aims and methods of this podcast, plus some frequently asked questions. Video version available on YouTube.

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Episode Notes & Transcript

In this episode the plan is to wish you a happy new year, welcome back all my regular listeners (and maybe some irregular listeners too) and also say a big hello to any new listeners who might have just discovered this podcast and are wondering what it’s all about. I normally do episodes like this at the start of the year because at this time, during the new year period, it’s normal to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, perhaps make some new year’s resolutions and generally try to pick up some good habits for the year to come – and that often includes working on your English and trying to find good listening resources to help you do that. 

So, in this episode I’d like to welcome you to LEP or welcome you back to LEP, just summarise what this podcast is all about, restate my objectives for doing this and generally make sure we are all on-track for a good year of podcasting and learning English in 2021.

I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions. These are the questions people typically ask me when they find out that I have a podcast for learning English and they want to know more. 

So during the episode, you’ll learn or be reminded of what the main ideas are for this podcast, what teaching principles this is based on, what my methods are, what you can expect from my episodes in general, how you can use them to improve your English and also some info about me too, because it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re listening to, isn’t it? I have always found, as a teacher, that it really helps when I put my personality into my English lessons. It just seems to make things more enjoyable and effective for the learners. Not because I have an award-winning personality or anything, but just that I think learning a language is a deeply personal process and so it makes sense to have a more personal approach to teaching it as well as learning it. It helps if you know who I am. It gives you context, it brings the language to life and it’s just more fun too, isn’t it. If you like, as you listen to this, you can imagine we’re in a cafe or something (even though I’m doing all the talking – but you can pause me at any time and put your thoughts into words if you want. I can’t hear or respond to you, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it? That’s the least you can say about my podcast , haha, “Well, it’s better than listening to nothing”)

By the way, other podcasts are available of course. As you probably know, there are quite a lot of podcasts for learners of English including ones by the BBC and other ones by other people, and they’re great, but obviously I hope you listen to my podcast, don’t I?

So, what’s this podcast? How can it help your English? Who are you listening to? Those are the sorts of questions we’ll be covering, but also plenty of other random bits and pieces.

JINGLE

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to the podcast! I hope you had a fairly good holiday period – as good as it can be during this mad mad time that we are all living in. When’s the world going to go back to normal? When’s that going to happen? We don’t know. Was it even normal in the first place? Probably not. In any case – I hope you’re well and that you’ve started 2021 in a reasonably positive frame of mind and that you’re ready to embark on some new audio adventures with me and my podcast.

If you are a brand new listener – then welcome. I really hope you simply enjoy listening to me talking to you, or talking with my guests in English in these episodes. I hope that this will help you to get regular English listening practise into your life, and that you enjoy it too.

Because enjoying your listening practise is so important. This will help you to listen regularly, listen for longer periods of time and listen long-term in your life as well. 

We all know that it is very important and useful to listen to plenty of clear, natural English, spoken at a fairly normal speed, focusing on a variety of topics. 

Reading is good. Studying grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation – that’s good. Doing plenty of speaking practice is really important. Watching videos in English is helpful. But do not underestimate the importance of just listening to English – for as long as possible each time. That’s what this podcast aims to help you do – at a very minimum. There is more to it than that of course. A lot more. But basically – I want you to do more listening in English.

The first and most basic aim of this podcast is just to help you to get more English in your life through listening to the spoken word – listening to English as it is spoken naturally, by me in this case, and my guests.

Let’s go through my list of frequently asked questions, which will form the backbone of this episode, which is probably quite long.

  • What is this podcast?
  • Is it for me?
    • It’s for everyone, but it might be difficult if → You’re lower than an intermediate level (intermediate might be hard – you’ll have to be extra motivated) or you are a really visual learner. (My wife doesn’t listen to podcasts – even in French. She can’t really do it. She feels she has to close her eyes or do nothing else, whereas I love just listening to audio and it works really well for me – better than watching videos because I can multi task)
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • Why did you start doing this podcast?
  • Who are you Luke? I mean, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your career so that we can feel totally confident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re just some guy who can speak English?
  • Will it really help my English to listen to this? 
    • Yes.
  • How do you know?
    First-hand accounts from listeners.

Common sense. Of course. It’s about a billion times more effective than listening to nothing at all. Plus, what else are you going to do? Watch Netflix with subtitles (yes, do that too, but switch the subs off sometimes) REad books (yes definitely – both graded and non-graded ones if you’re ready) Speak English with people you know who speak English (yes) Take English classes (good idea as long as you take part properly and take responsibility for your learning too). You can do all of those things. But I don’t want to make this complicated. Listen to my podcast regularly and it will help with your English. 

Academic studies I’ve done – while preparing my teaching qualifications I read a lot of books and other texts based on proper academic studies into how people learn languages. 

Professional experience after having met many thousands of learners of English from many places, and working with them closely to help their English. Observing what works for them, what people respond to, the realities of learning a language. 

All of that has shown me that regularly listening to something like my podcast can help your English a lot. I could go into that more (and I have in previous episodes) but that’s all I will say at this point.

  • Will it help me improve my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?
    • Yes, both directly (when I teach language) and indirectly (through exposure). I can also help you think about the way that you learn, which can make you a more skillful and effective learner.
  • What’s your method then, Professor Thompson?
    • 5 Ls, 5 Ss, 5 Ps, being a smart-learner, the 5 Ms, DISCIPLINE, commitment.
      There are many ways to approach language learning. You have to choose one that works for you and that helps you to keep doing it even when it’s tough.
      Basic: Get as much English into your life as possible and make it meaningful. Hopefully I can help by giving you something you enjoy and want to listen to.
      More complex: Be a conscious learner too → notice structures and phrases, notice pronunciation (how I say things), try to record them, understand them in context, remember them, record them and repeat them. My premium content is designed specifically to help you do that. I cut out a lot of the annoying work and put it all on a plate for you. Just listen, follow the PDFs and do what I tell you to do – memory tests, repeat after me etc.
  • Can I really learn English on my own, only by listening to you Luke? 

I always recommend my podcast as “part of a balanced diet” and that does include doing other things, especially plenty of speaking practise with real people, probably qualified teachers who can help give you bits of feedback and correct your errors, but also just speaking with people helps you develop the social side of using in English for communication. 

I should also mention writing and reading of course, but since this is an audio podcast we focus mainly on the spoken version of English.

  • What level is it for?
  • Should I do anything else, other than just listening? 
    • Share your thoughts in the comment section on my website – practise little bits of writing there and chat with other listeners.
  • Your episodes are quite long. Aren’t they too long, in fact?
  • How should I listen? (the technology you can use, what you can do while listening, where you listen, how often you listen)
  • Are there transcripts for these episodes?
  • What’s your accent Luke?
  • Do you only have native speakers on your podcast?
    Most of the time my guests have English as a first language, but sometimes I talk to people who have learned English in adulthood because these people are extremely inspiring as they have done what so many people want to do, and they have great insights into the process of learning English and it’s also really important for you to listen to non-native English speakers speaking English too because it’s vital to hear a variety of English being spoken in your life. English is a diverse language. There are many people around the world using it and speaking it in slightly different ways. It’s important for you to be able to understand all those different varieties. This is true for the different accents and dialects in native English speakers too – you should become accustomed to hearing English spoken with various regional accents. If you only ever listen to my standard RP which is probably very clear to your ears, you might not be able to understand others. Also I really want to encourage you to love the different regional accents and to see their value. Sometimes learners of English will say that they only want RP and they see other accents as somehow being “lower forms of English” with less value. I don’t agree with this of course. The idea that a regional accent makes you sound uneducated or even lazy or something – that idea deserves to stay in the 1950s where it belongs. 

Having said that – let me put my cards on the table and be as clear as possible.

What accent should you develop in English?

The first thing is that you need to be clear. People need to understand you. Work on that.

It’s a good idea to pick a certain accent which you can use as a model. This is the accent/pronunciation you can aim for or try to copy. Why not choose RP? It’s a perfectly good choice as most people will be familiar with it. If you have a particular reason for wanting to copy a regional accent, then go for it. Perhaps you live in the north of England and you want to do things like your neighbours. Or maybe you just love a certain regional accent for personal reasons and you’ve decided that this is the one for you. That’s fine too. Go for it. Try to keep things natural. I could talk about this more but I won’t go on about it too much.

Basically – I love all the accents in English. I really do. But I would probably recommend RP as the one to go for, just because it’s still a standard form. I know someone is thinking “but only about 5% of English speakers use RP” yes – but I can’t think of another accent which is more common. Think of British accents in a pie chart. There isn’t one accent that really dominates that chart, I expect. Each segment in the chart is probably around the same size. So which one do you pick? Again, I think RP is fine and makes sense because it’s a standard. I don’t mean you should speak like a posh person, like The Queen or something, because that would be weird. 

  • Listening for understanding others 
    Listening in order to develop your pronunciation
  • How do I pronounce your name, actually?
  • How do I pronounce the name of the podcast?
  • What sort of episodes can we expect?
  • What are your favourite episodes?
  • You’re on episode 699 of LEP. Do you have anything special planned for episode 700? No, I don’t! I think it will just be another episode this time. I can’t think of anything specific I can do. Maybe I will do a YouTube livestream “Ask Me Anything” kind of thing. I’ll see. I know that if I do a YouTube live stream then you will all want to know about it in advance. This isn’t always possible. You’ll just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel. 
  • What are LEPsters?
  • Where are your listeners? 
    • In many places around the world! All over the world.
  • Why do you talk about ninjas sometimes? What are LEP Ninjas?
  • Can you explain the Russian Joke please? No. 
  • What do you think of Brexit? It’s a bad idea. I think it was an opportunity for a bunch of nutters to take control of my country and push it in a different direction. I think it’s the wrong direction, but now we have to live with it and make it work. I am not a fan of Boris Johnson and his gang. I feel they’re doing a bad job. That’s probably enough politics isn’t it. Oops, nearly slipped on politics there. Watch out everyone, there’s some politics on the floor. Don’t step in it. “Can someone clean that up please?”  (I have made that joke before)
  • Do you have a team of people helping you to do this? No, it’s just me. 
  • Can we see you perform stand-up comedy on stage?
  • Are you married and do you have kids and stuff?
  • What’s your favourite football team?
  • Do you like music? Do you play music? Do you have any songs stuck in your head today?
  • Can you sing songs for us on the podcast sometimes?
    Yes, I do that occasionally, when I feel inspired to do it. I’m not the greatest singer or the greatest guitarist. I’m just learning. But I love it and I feel moved to do it. If I do sing in an episode, most of the time, I do it right at the end of the episode so that people who might not like it don’t feel obliged to listen to it. But the ones who like hearing my versions of other people’s songs (I usually sing cover versions of songs) those people can listen and hopefully enjoy hearing me. I always make an effort to sing clearly so you can hear all the words of the song. I also don’t use any reverb to cover up the imperfections in my voice or guitar playing. I just get the guitar on my lap, point the microphone somewhere between the guitar and my mouth and do my best.
  • Are you on YouTube?

Yes, I have a YouTube channel as you may know. 

I post my audio episodes there, usually with a single static image. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the best way to listen to my content, but I guess if you are sitting at your computer, perhaps doing something else (like gaming or working or something) then it’s convenient to have one of my episodes running in the background. But also, YouTube’s automatically generated subtitles are usually pretty accurate. When I’m talking on my own, the accuracy is about 95% but when I’m with guests that accuracy can drop to about 85-90% I think. That’s not 100 perfect, but it’s pretty good. 

I’m always working on ways to deliver 100% correct transcripts to you because I know how useful and important they are. To an extent I’m just waiting for the technology to catch up. I think it won’t be long before automatic transcriptions are basically perfect but we’ll see.

I’ve been working with some new software which is quite mind-blowing. I don’t want to make any promises about it because I’m just experimenting with it at the moment, but basically it allows me to generate transcripts for episodes in a really convenient way, then edit those transcripts quite easily while also editing the audio. This is too complicated to get into now.

  • Have you forgotten anything? 

Yes, I am certain that I have forgotten to mention something really important, and someone is going to think “Hey you forgot to mention this specific thing! Or You didn’t mention this specific person!” Sorry about that.

You ramble quite a lot Luke, you sometimes talk too much and repeat yourself a bit. 

Yes, I do. Sue me. To paraphrase Shakespeare: There is a method in my madness.

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. The actual line from the play is ‘Though this be madness yet there is method in it’.

The main message I want to give you here is this: 

  • Listen to my episodes regularly and enjoy doing it.
  • Download my app to get easy access to all the episodes on your phone. (more than in Spotify and anywhere else)
  • Become a premium listener if you want to go further in your learning with me.
  • Don’t be a ninja – come out of the shadows and write a comment from time to time.

That’s it.

Thanks for listening. 

Happy new year.

Take care and be excellent to each other.

Speak to you next time.

Bye bye bye bye bye

675. An Unplanned Pre-Holiday Ramble (July 2020)

This episode is unedited and contains all my pauses, mistakes and thoughts while I attempt to talk about what’s coming up on LEP, my recent appearances on other people’s podcasts, comments and emails of the week and a couple of songs on the guitar.

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Luke on Other People’s Podcasts

The Real English Conversations podcast with Amy Whitney

Can you learn English without studying grammar?

Listen here

realenglishconversations.com/english-lessons-learning-tips/

Instant Feedback podcast with Markus Keeley

Talking to comedian Markus Keeley from Northern Ireland about identity, accents and a test of my knowledge of the Ulster Scots dialect of English.

instant-feedback.pinecast.co/episode/ffccfed122c9438c/32-luke-thompson

————-

Emails / Comments of the Week

An Amazing Beatle-inspired email from Elma

What’s your name? Elma

Do you have any other comments or feedback?: “Please please me” and read this email!

Dear Luke
„Because“ I don‘t know if I deleted my first email or if I sent it „Across the universe“ to the other Luke, I decided to write another special one „ From me to you“ „ With a little help from my friends“! I‘ve been listening to your Podcast since February and „Do you want to know a secret“? The „Chains“ are broken, „I‘ve got a feeling“ for the English language and my listening skills are „Getting better“ and better all the time. I listen to LEP „Here, there and everywhere“ „Eight days a week“!Don‘t „Ask me why“ I discovered it so late. With LEP „In my life“ „I feel fine“ every day, especially in these difficult times.
„Your mother should know“, that she has an amazing, kind, honest, funny and creative son (her two „Boys“ are so special) and an amazing family!
I want to tell you, that LEP is a great „Help“ for English learners! „Yes, it is“! I hope, „It won‘t be long“, till my English is as good as I would like it to be. „Don‘t let me down“ and please keep going in „What you‘re doing“!
I send „All my loving“ to you and your family especially your sweet little „Girl“. I wonder if her name is „Michelle“;) Stay healthy, take care and if it is too much loving at „The end“ because we don’t know each other I just say
„Good night“!
Greetings from Elma


PS. :) I hope, this is not a grammar disaster!! It is not my fault, my friends from Liddypool whispered the words in my ear!;)

Luke’s Reply:

I am the Eng-man! Goo-goo-ga-joob!

Hi Elma,

I love getting emails like this “Any Time At All” because it makes me feel like it’s my “Birthday” or “Something”. I’m “Flying”! I really “Dig It”. “Every Little Thing” in that email is impressive!

Would you mind if I read out the email on the podcast at some point? I’d like to share this with my listeners. I won’t reveal your email address, and If you prefer I can keep your name anonymous, or not – it’s up to you. Some of my listeners don’t want their name to be read out on the podcast for some reason.

Anyway, I should probably “Get Back” to my wife and daughter because “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” we are having together this Sunday afternoon.

So, let me say again, “Thank You Girl” for sending your “Words of Love” about my podcast.

More episodes are coming soon, and when you want to listen to something in English, “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)”.

All the best!

Luke

Another comment of the week from Victoria

This appeared under episode 674 about driving insurance claims and car crashes.

I did some corrections and edits while reading the comment on the podcast. This version is how the comment was originally written.

Really enjoyed this episode! And you singing at the end of episodes is like the cherry on the cake!
And as for the topic of the episode… I’ve never been in a car crash myself, though, Ihave a story to tell.
It happened about 6 years ago when I was in my second year in college.
It was a few minutes after a class started when my friend – Lena – stormed into a classroom and slumped into a chair in front of me. Her winter coat was slightly dirty, her hair was a bit of a mess and her hands were trembling while she was fishing out her textbook and other stuff. Lena is a type of person who always is in a rush and bumps into something. And so knowing that, I didn’t ask her what happened right away. However, as time went on, I noticed that she was rubbing a side of her body and occasionally her knees. My other friend who was sitting right next to me noticed that, too. When we asked Lena what’s wrong she said that a car hit her just a few minutes ago. To say that we were gobsmacked would be an understatement… Her tone of voice was casual and it seemed that she didn’t give much attention to the whole situation. We asked her how she feels and she said that she feels a bit dizzy. My friend and I told her to go to a nurse. But Lena refused and carried on writing in her notebook. We tried several times convince her to go to a nurse but she didn’t want to hear us out, apparently. All this time Lena didn’t stop rubbing some spots on her body… When it was time for a short break we noticed that she was paler than usual. Though, she smiled and chatted with us. She told us that when she was in the middle of a zebra crossing a traffic light changed to red all of a sudden. It was supposed to blink green a few seconds before going red. This traffic light was known for its acting up. She started running towards the other side of a road but was hit by a car. Lena was a lightweight girl. The next thing she registered was that she was laying on a bonnet of that car. Apparently, a driver of the car started pulling off without looking at a zebra crossing so they didn’t notice a rushing pedestrian. Lena hopped off the hood of the car and headed over to a college building. To be honest, I don’t really remember whether the driver got out of the car and offered some help or not. After Lena told us this story she lifted up her sweater slightly and we saw a few forming bruises. Shortly after that she said that she feels worse. In the end, she went to a nurse and then was sent home.
She didn’t show up at classes a few weeks after the incident. She got a concussion.

————-

Song Lyrics

For No One by The Beatles (Paul McCartney was the main writer) 1966

www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/fornoone.html

Here, There & Everywhere by The Beatles (also mainly by Paul McCartney) 1966

www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/herethereandeverywhere.html

The only time John Lennon paid Paul McCartney a compliment (the only time he told Paul he liked one of his songs)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hho-TIY1L2w

Thanks for listening! Premium content is coming soon, and hopefully some free episodes before I go on holiday in August.

669. How to Learn English

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

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Transcript

Hello and welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. This episode is number 669 and it’s called How To Learn English.

That’s quite a bold title but this really is a lot of what I have to say about learning English. If you really want to learn this language, this is my advice. 

I’ve been teaching for about 20 years, podcasting for over 11 years now and I keep finding out more about learning a language through teaching it, getting feedback from listeners and also through my experiences of trying to learn French. 

This episode is a distillation of many of my thoughts and advice on how to learn English. It’s not going to cover absolutely every aspect of it, because language learning is a huge subject that encompasses so many different things and you could talk about it all day, but I have decided to talk about learning English, breaking it down into the 4 skills, and giving you as much advice as I can in this single podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

For those of you who are not so familiar with me and my work. My name is Luke Thompson, I think I am the 4th most famous Luke Thompson in the world. I’m an English teacher, a podcaster, a comedian, a husband and a dad. I am from England but these days I live in France. My podcast is free and is downloaded all over the world. I also have a premium subscription in which I focus specifically on improving your vocab, grammar and pronunciation. To find out more about that go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Right, let’s get started.

Hello, welcome to my podcast. 

I expect you want to learn English, right? That’s the main reason you’re listening to this I expect. You want to learn English.

Well, good news! It’s definitely possible. You can learn English and you will if you put in the time and the effort. It’s important to remember that.

What do I mean by “learn English”, though? I mean that you can learn to speak English fluently, clearly and with confidence, expressing yourself with shades of meaning, adapting your English for the situation both in speaking and in writing, knowing and being able to use a wide variety of vocabulary and accurate grammar and ultimately being yourself in the language and developing beneficial relationships with others based on effective communication. Yes, you can. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

That’s it, just a positive and encouraging message at the start. It’s important to always remember that making progress in your learning is a realistic prospect and will happen when you put in the time and effort, and more good news: the more you enjoy it, the easier it is.

I hope this podcast helps you to enjoy getting English into your life on a regular basis, which is a key part of learning the language effectively. 

But what else should you be doing in order to improve your English overall?

In this episode I’d like to talk in some detail about learning English and how you can do it.

This episode is a sort of “come to Jesus moment”, which I feel I should do regularly, just to remind everyone listening that there is a method or approach at work here and that it’s not just you listening to people talking.

A “come to Jesus moment” in the world of business is when someone does a passionate speech or event in which fundamental priorities and/or beliefs are reassessed, or reaffirmed. It’s like when Jesus gathers his disciples around him in order to reaffirm their belief in what he’s preaching or to say some deep stuff which strengthens their faith.

This is a come to Jesus moment for me.

Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus. No, not at all. Not even a little bit, and anyway that’s not for me to say, that’s for other people to point out isn’t it, not me. Anyway…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a method to the madness.

In my podcast episodes, I’m always teaching you, using my particular set of professional skills, but rather than presenting it all as a lesson I usually try to present it more like a radio show or a comedy show even.

So, amidst the episodes about music, comedy, interviews and so on, I thought it would be worth restating the core values of LEP, which I seem to do about once every 6 months or so.

I’m going to give loads of advice here, and this is all based on what I’ve learned from:

  • Teaching for about 20 years
  • Meeting thousands of learners of English, some of them successful, some of them not, working directly with them as their teacher and listening to them talk about their studying habits and experiences
  • The academic studies I’ve done, especially the DELTA which involved extensive reading and writing on various aspects of how people learn and teach English
  • Doing my podcast and getting testimonies over the years from many listeners who told me about how they’ve used it to improve their English
  • There’s also my own personal experience of working on my French

Anyway, the plan is to talk about learning English with a focus on the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

I have talked about these points quite a few times before on this podcast, and have given tons of specific advice about working on your English, including in episodes like 174 (and others)

So I will probably repeat myself a bit. But I still get asked to talk about “how to learn English” very regularly and I think it’s important for me to talk about learning English on this podcast on a regular basis. Obviously, that is what this podcast is about, first and foremost, even though a lot of the time in my episodes you’ll hear me and my guests talking about all sorts of other things. 

Learning English is the main aim of this podcast

Essentially the thinking is that you should listen to natural conversation on a variety of topics and it’s simply listening to things in English (not just listening to things about English) that’s going to help you learn this language, especially if you enjoy the content.

I’ll probably talk about this again in a bit, but let’s say that ultimately the plan with the free episodes is to help you listen to English regularly, for longer periods of time, long term. The more, the better. If the content is enjoyable, that should just make it easier for you to achieve that. In fact, if you’re really into what you’re listening to, you don’t really even notice the time passing.

Then there’s the premium content, which is an effort to push your learning beyond the gains you get from all the exposure and input you get from just listening. The premium content is designed to let you get the benefit of my experience and teaching skills in order to cut out a lot of work that you would otherwise have to do yourself, so I can essentially take you by the hand and lead you through some intensive practice to work on your English more directly.

Click here for information about LEP Premium

So that’s my content, but let’s talk now about learning English as a whole then.

Learning English is a holistic thing. It encompasses many aspects and skills that are connected as a whole. 

There are receptive skills like listening and reading, productive skills like speaking and writing, language systems like grammar, spelling, vocabulary and phonology, social and psychological factors that come into play when we use language when interacting with others, then there are other factors that come into play like identity issues, body language, culture, literature, pragmatics and all sorts of other things. It’s hard to know where to start when talking about it.

You need to learn it to the point where you don’t even think about it any more. 

The more you talk and think about it, the more it starts to sound like the force from Star Wars.

  • Stretch out with your feelings.
  • Do or do not, there is no try.
  • Do not think, feel.
  • Let go, let the English flow through you.
  • I am your father (oh wait)

It’s about learning how to do something which goes right to the core of who you are in fact.

It’s a holistic thing. It incorporates many aspects as part of a whole process and so it’s quite tricky to know where to start.

Let’s put it like this. Language goes in, and language comes out. (I told you it sounds like The Force)

Language is within you and language is without you. It flows through you. It binds the galaxy together.

There are receptive skills (this is how language goes in)

And there are productive skills (this is how language goes out)

There’s the written language

And there’s the spoken language

This is our system.

Think of it like a table with two categories on the horizontal axis and two on the vertical axis, so it’s like a grid with 4 squares in it.

On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.

On the vertical we have written and spoken English.

Within the table we have 4 skills – the 4 squares. 

So in the box marked “written” and “receptive” we have reading.

Below that in the “spoken” and “receptive” categoriy we have listening.

On the right in the “written” and “productive” side we have writing.

And then in the “spoken” and “productive” side we have speaking.

Those are your four skills. Reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The 4 skills are connected in various ways.

Reading and writing deal with the written word of course. 

Reading helps you to write. It helps you to see how the language is built, how words are spelled and how sentences, paragraphs and texts are put together with grammar and textual conventions.

Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word. 

Listening helps you to learn how English actually sounds, how words join together in sentences or longer utterances, it helps you get familiar with the speed, rhythm, flow and intonation of the language. It helps you get used to natural pronunciation which in turn helps you produce English in the same way.

Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form. 

But reading and listening are connected too because they’re both receptive skills. They provide us with input which is the essential foundation of language learning.

And speaking and writing are connected because they’re productive skills.

These are the skills you need to use when using language for various purposes. This is where you are more active in the sense that you are constructing language and putting it down visually in the form of writing, or using your body to produce it orally.

Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.

Receptive Skills / Input

Prof. Stephen Krashen 

This from Wikipedia

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

The reading thing there is something we’ll come back to in the section about reading.

This is the academic who is always mentioned in this context, when talking about how to learn English these days. Krashen was one in a long line of linguists who came up with theories about how language is learned and should be taught. 

Arguably, we still don’t really know how people learn languages, but various academics over the years have put forward different hypotheses to explain it and these have been the backbone of our understanding of language learning that has informed the way we all learn and teach languages over the years.

Krashen though is the one that people often talk about today, including all the many YouTubers who regularly post videos about the best ways to learn, the only ways to learn, the secrets of learning and all that sort of thing. Krashen is usually brought up because his ideas fit in quite nicely to a model of language learning for today. I mean, it involves a lot of consumption of content in English – plenty of listening and reading and that sort of content is in plentiful supply online, like for example episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.

In his input hypothesis in which he makes the case for the importance of comprehensible input for language learning, he states that in fact the only way we can successfully increase our underlying linguistic competence. This is our system of linguistic knowledge or let’s say that “language instinct” that you have, which even subconsciously gives us a sense of when language is right or wrong. I suppose it could be active in that you know a certain grammar rule and can see when it’s been broken, or passive in that you just feel that something is right or wrong but can’t necessarily explain it. 

I would say the passive knowledge is the vital one because ultimately you just want to be able to feel that language is right or wrong without thinking about it.

But that being said, your active knowledge can be really useful when doing things like avoiding common errors as a result of your first language, or consciously pushing yourself to create language which is normal.

Anyway, Krashen says the only way to increase your linguistic competence is through comprehensible input, meaning reading and listening to things that we mostly understand and that with the context of what you do understand, you are able to work out the bits that you don’t know. This is how we acquire new languages.

So basically, we learn a language when we understand it. So, naturally, according to Krashen, the receptive skills come first.

I think this makes a lot of sense to me. I think it’s bound to be true that we learn language by listening to it and reading it. But what about those moments when you have to speak or write, what about learning the grammar and all the rest of it?

Krashen would say that we learn the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of a language by listening to it or reading it, and that it’s a natural process and part of how we decode language through comprehensible input.

So, don’t worry about grammar rules and all the rest of it, just listen and do your best to keep up and work out what’s going on, and do it regularly.

Again, I am sure this is true but I also think it’s worth studying the language a bit too, breaking it down a bit, seeing how it works, actively trying to learn more vocabulary, checking up on the rules of grammar and doing some controlled practice. Working on your pronunciation by copying and training your mouth and brain to cooperate with each other, like the way we practise certain movements in sport or musical parts on an instrument. 

I do believe that controlled practice and conscious learning like that must also be beneficial because I’ve seen it happen. Doing some active studying can be like a fast track of English learning. It can cut out a lot of time by helping you realise certain things about the language quickly, and I think if you then notice it again while listening and reading that only reinforces what you’ve learned.

Of course, you shouldn’t get blinded by grammar or pronunciation rules and so on, to the point that you can’t see the wood for the trees.

Try not to get hung up on grammar, because it can make you process language in an unnatural and contrived way. It can get stuck in your head and block you a bit. Instead, try to notice patterns and incorporate them into your use of English. Try to see grammar study as a way of confirming things you’ve already noticed, or a way of consulting with a reference book as you also just absorb English more naturally. If you only study English with the grammar, it’s going to be a weird abstract process for learning the language. It’s better to focus on consuming English in the form of messages which you are trying to understand, and then perhaps check your grammar later to straighten things out.

The premium subscription is where I help you with that sort of thing, hopefully combining with the free content to give you all the stuff you need to attack English from several angles.

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Anyway, what Krashen is saying I suppose is:

Input is vital. This is like your food.

Receptive skills / input

Language has to go in before it comes out.

How can you learn this language if you haven’t heard it and read it a lot?

Read and listen to things that are slightly above your level, so you can understand 60-80%. You need to be able to understand that much for your brain to work out the remaining 20-40% that you don’t know. Meaningful context is vital.

Basically, listen x5 and read x5.

It’s largely a question of finding the right stuff to listen to.

There’s this podcast of course. Others are available.

Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.

Hopefully you’ll find content that you actually want to listen to, not just for studying English. So if you do get addicted to a Netflix series and you can’t wait to find out what happens next, that’s good! That means you will get more comprehensible input and you will be much more focused and involved in it, which is great for your English. Or maybe you want to hear another stupid and funny conversation with my friends just because it makes you laugh and you feel some sort of connection to it. All of that is great because it will help you listen more, listen longer and listen long term.

Reading

This one is also a pleasure to talk about because it’s a pleasure to do and there are lots of great things to read.

Let’s hear from Krashen again as he is the master of the whole input model.

This is again from Wikipedia, which I think is fine usually for the basics like this.

Extensive reading, free reading, book flood, or reading for pleasure is a way of language learning, including foreign language learning, through large amounts of reading. As well as facilitating acquisition of vocabulary, it is believed to increase motivation through positive affective benefits. It is believed that extensive reading is an important factor in education. Proponents such as Stephen Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings. 

Of course that system is disputed because this is the academic arena we’re dealing with and people are always putting forward ideas, defending them, disputing them and so on. It’s how we move forwards and learn about this stuff.

So this is extensive reading which is different to the sort of intensive reading you do in English lessons, where you spend ages on just one page of text, break it down into tiny chunks, understanding every single morsel. With extensive reading it’s all about just getting as much English into your head as you can by reading as much as you can, and you focus on reading enjoyable things, especially stories and you don’t stop too much to analyse the language or even check words, you just keep trying to follow what you’re reading. The more involved in it you are, the better.

Again, this point about input is that it feeds your instinct for the language. You get a subconscious sense of what is right or wrong, which comes in very handy for when you’re doing those nasty sentence transformations and use of English tasks in a Cambridge exam like CAE. What you really want in those situations is to know exactly which preposition or auxiliary verb is missing, or to be able to manipulate sentences in a variety of forms. I reckon it helps to do a bit of language practice as well, with a few controlled exercises but the idea is that it should all go in naturally giving you this sense of language competence.

It’s important though to choose texts which are not too difficult for you. You need to be able to understand enough to be able to get a grip on the rest of the language.

So which books do you choose? 

We’ve talked about the importance of choosing stuff that’s interesting to you, that reflects the type of English you might need. 

Genre isn’t an issue. People assume you need to read or listen to the news but as we’ve already established they don’t really talk like normal people on the news, and they also write in a certain “newsy” style. Funnily enough it might be more useful to read the tabloid papers as they write in a more conversational style, but I think it’s worthwhile looking beyond the news.

Basically, read whatever you want.

Even comic books or graphic novels as they’re known for adults.

Graphic novels can be brilliant because they support your understanding with the images and often the English is in the form of speech so you learn really directly how to apply that stuff to real life. I love graphic novels in French. It’s my favourite way to work on the language.

You could consider the current bestsellers. If other people like the books then why shouldn’t you? Look in the fiction and non-fiction categories.

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

Graded Readers

Or try graded readers, which are an excellent and underused resource. I really recommend them if you’re not a strong reader. They’re previously published books, and often some of the great classics and modern classics in English, but they’re republished with English that is graded for certain levels. The number of words is reduced, it’s truncated and essentially it’s a way to increase the percentage you do understand, and decrease the amount you don’t understand, getting to that 80/20 spot where you can maximise your language learning. 

There are lots of titles to choose from and various publishers. Check these ones out

But your English may well be good enough now to have a go at a book for native speakers. So go for it. You have loads of options. Just make sure you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

I would also add that it’s important to choose texts which are written in modern style and perhaps about an area that you are particularly interested in. Perhaps think of it like this – what is the kind of English you want printed on the back of your head (on the inside)? Odd question, but I mean, what is your target English. Perhaps it’s the involving and descriptive storytelling of fiction, or it’s the matter-of-fact world of non-fiction. I reckon non-fiction is probably better because it reflects the kind of English you are more likely to be writing, especially if it’s things like academic work or reports at work, because they’re all about presenting you with information, data, commenting on what’s going on, describing how to do things and that’s probably the sort of thing you’ll need to use English for, especially in writing. 

So, just read and enjoy it!

Here are some more book recommendations

Book of email correspondence

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

This might be a bit dry but it will really show you loads of examples of emails with full explanations, so you can read and learn.

David Crystal 

The Story of English in 100 Words

Anything by David Crystal is fantastic, but this non-fiction book will teach you the entire story of the English language through 100 words and there are some great words in there like 

Loaf, Street, Riddle, Arse, Jail, Wicked, Matrix and Skunk, to name but a few. 

So you’re bound to learn tons from that.

Biography

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

Fiction

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

The writing is a bit old fashioned. I have to be honest, but it’s mostly modern in style and I think it’s worth it because the story is amazing and it’s not too long. It’s wonderfully descriptive and much better than any movie version could be. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time.

Productive skills / output

This is where we get to the more nebulous world of productive skills. It’s like an alien land where monsters roam, a bit like war of the worlds maybe.

OK I’m exaggerating here but I mean that productive skills are a bit harder to pin down because even more psychological and social factors come into play. You have the public aspect of it, the fact that you’re trying to manipulate the language and get your ideas across in the right way, being coherent and cohesive and in the right style with the right level of politeness with the correct conventional replies and requests and on and on it goes!

Again, I’m making it sound tricky, but I mean that you are involved so much more because you’re making the language and actually using it. This is exciting because you get to express yourself which is the most wonderful and gratifying thing you can do in another language, and when it slides out quite fluidly and you’re not too blocked by who knows what, then it’s all gravy. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and you get mixed up and it doesn’t come out right at all. There’s a sense of performance in productive skills, and a sense that you have to be aware of the right way to conduct yourself, and to be able to utter things in English instantly, following what the other person is saying, it’s all done in a sort of unconscious blur and thinking about grammar in that situation is a killer.

So it’s about getting a level of ease, a level of comfort, a platform from which you can bob and weave your way through the conversation, finding other ways to say things and switching correctly between tenses and situations. I think you get what I mean. 

So how do you work on these things?

  • Ease – a voice, fluency
  • Control – grammar, vocab, pronunciation
  • Range – a wide range of language for a wide range of things
  • Coherence – does it all make sense? Can people follow you easily?
  • Cohesion – particularly in writing, how does the whole text make sense as a whole?
  • Social factors – knowing how to put things and how to manage relationships through language

Again, the idea is that this language is just built into you from all that exposure and input.

I would say that there’s a great deal of other stuff you can do to improve your productive skills beyond reading and listening a lot, of course.

In both writing and speaking the first thing to remember is you need to engage in it as much as possible. Real writing and real speaking.

Ultimately this means trying to use language to communicate a message in some way and that’s what you should be focusing on. Meaningful interactions, especially ones in which you have something to offer or something to gain, such as negotiations or even information gap situations in which you’re telling someone something they don’t know. Also social interactions involving being polite or building relations with people. Ultimately, doing it for real is the best workshop in which you can work, rolling with the punches and trying to keep track of what you’re learning. 

This is why people learn English best when they’re forced to do it because of their surroundings. They learn by being a waiter in London for a year or working in an office with native speakers, or being plunged into a foreign university for a year, or moving to a new country and having to cope with all the challenges that brings and in a second language. I suppose this is immersion, but it;s more than that. I recommend actually conversing with people to just practise. It’s the 5 Ps.

It’s like going to the gym. Fluency is like physical fitness in your mind and also in your body because you’re using your mouth, your breathing and your head and hands to communicate too.

It applies to writing too. You can observe the way other people write their emails and kind of copy their style, you have to really think about what you’re saying and doubtless you will end up writing emails with requests, with information, with questions and with complaints and so on, so you will have to learn on the job. Being thrown in at the deep end, or if you just have to use English at work it could either be a big stress for you or a huge opportunity to just go for it.

Anyway, let’s talk about specific productive skills – writing and reading, and how to work on them.

Let’s say you’re not actually in a situation where you can talk to people or have correspondence with people, or have to write things which other people will ultimately have to read. Unless you find a tutor on italki for example then that person could be your practice point for speaking and writing, giving you feedback as you go. But let’s say for the purposes of this episode, it’s just you and the English language, facing each other off in a kind of wild west fashion.

How can you practise on your own?

Writing

Obviously you need to write. But what are you going to write and who is going to read it?

Firstly – just write, write regularly, write meaningfully and write with a reader in mind, even if nobody reads it. This is important because it will help you get used to simply putting your ideas into words. It’s a creative process and also a mechanical process to an extent. Building sentences is a sort of art or a craft. You have to practise it in order to get some level of comfort with it. Let’s imagine there’s a muscle in your head (this is not scientific at all) which, if you never exercise it, will be quite weak and underdeveloped. But if you exercise that muscle regularly it will be strong, reactive and quick. I expect there is a part of the brain responsible for creating written language, and a sub-section for creating written English. Keep that part of your brain fresh by writing English as much as you can. That’s as scientific as I can get here.

So, here are some things you could write

What to write

  • Anything
  • A diary
  • Email an imaginary person (spooky?) or yourself (think outside the box here ok?)
  • Academic writing – text types
  • Emails – email types and conventions
  • Reports – same!
  • Formal and informal letters – same!
  • Applications – same same!

Basically – Whatever you have to write, you should try to find some samples of these texts and aim to copy them. Copy the style, the arrangement, the language they use and reproduce it yourself. Texts that you write will invariably be very practical so it’s about reporting information and asking questions. Look at the sample texts and copy them.

It helps if you have a specific workbook. I recommend Email English by Paul Emmerson. It’s a simple workbook that helps you work on almost all those things and I’m not even sponsored by Macmillan or anything, it’s genuinely a great book.

They also have downloadable email writing tasks on the Macmillan website or here

Email English by Paul Emmerson

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

Ideally you’ll have a teacher to proofread your work, correct you and give you feedback.

If this isn’t possible, it’s still a good idea to write. 

Other ideas

A diary (just describe things that happened, or make it more personal and really explore your thoughts and feelings. If the words don’t come, just use basic words. If you feel unable to express yourself perfectly, express yourself imperfectly but try to express yourself.

Writing is not just sentences, it’s paragraphs and pages. The thing you are writing will define how you write it. This means – conventions of certain texts, formality level of the language.

Specific exam tasks → IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC higher and vantage

These will often push you to learn the conventions of different types of text, so it could be a good idea to take a Cambridge exam if you want to work on your writing.

Vocabulary Notes

You might write some notes on vocab and I would recommend here that you take a more extensive approach to doing this. Don’t just have one word per line. I want to see one word or phrase at the top of the page, and then loads of text underneath full of examples and your own examples with the language. You can then come back and cover up some of the words and try to remember. Alternatively you can use my PDFs with the notes and memory tests if you’re a premium subscriber. Little plug there for my other podcast.

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But making more extensive vocabulary notes with plenty of examples means that not only are you recording vocabulary, you’re practising using it in writing too.

Speaking

I mentioned italki before and you can find tutors, teachers and conversation partners there for regular practice and I do recommend doing that.

Otherwise, let’s look at some ways you can work on your speaking other than in actual spoken practice with others. Developing your speaking on your own.

This is quite a tricky thing to do because normally speaking is an instantly interactive form of communication. It also involves a lot of listening and then being able to produce English instantly and without hesitating too much.

It’s also quite physical as it involves using your mouth to produce words and sentences in the right way.

And of course there are all those cultural things to think about too.

But really speaking should just be your attempt to find your own voice in English, with fluency and with a specific tone. Of course it comes through a lot of practice, of having conversations in which you’re not really thinking about what you’re saying on a grammatical level but it’s pouring out of you due to necessity and not being able to really think a lot. Doing that regularly helps your brain map out the extent of the English you have and increase it, keeping it sort of fresh. That’s not scientific but more a metaphor of what I think speaking can do. It activates something in you that you have to maintain and keep active or those parts of the brain go dull.

So practice x5

But with who?

The fact is, it just helps to talk to other people and that’s the best and most basic advice I can give. Outside of that, you have to manipulate your surroundings and use your imagination to practise speaking on your own.

Talking on your own (and even in your head)

This might sound a bit odd, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to activate English that is in your head. You essentially talk to yourself, out loud, in English, describing what’s going on, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, say it all in English. Alternatively you can just do it in your own head and just think the sentences. This also keeps that system of language production in your head fresh. 

Listen and repeat

You can use certain audio and play a bit, pause, repeat what you heard, rewind, repeat again and keep going until you’ve got it, and then check the transcript or subtitles to see if you’re correct, check any new words and carry on. Always find ways to vocalise the things you are learning and that means saying them out loud even to yourself.

You can also practise different speaking scenarios.

Preparing for a Cambridge exam you can find past papers with speaking part preparation and practise. Find out what’s required in the different parts, watch videos of people taking the speaking part on YouTube, practise answering common questions about yourself, practise speaking on a topic for a minute or two, practise discussing your opinion on the issues of the day. Those are all specific speaking skills that you can practise on your own. I particularly recommend listen and repeat, especially when you have to take quite a long utterance in English, hold it in your head and repeat it like it’s one word? It’s like going to the gym in English. It involves a lot of things: Understanding the clip, identifying the words and grammar, being able to remember it all, being able to produce it in a similar way. That’s a whole punch of different kinds of practice. And if you repeat the sentence straight away, and again, you might notice certain little errors you’re making and correct them. So repeat over and over again, a bit like practising boxing combinations in the ring before the big fight.

In reality, the 4 skills are often mashed up together and you find you are doing things like listening and speaking at the same time, while also taking notes, looking at visuals and so on. It all gets very messy when language is actually applied to real communication in the real world.

A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.

The disclaimer

I think there are probably plenty of other things I have not mentioned in this episode, such as not talking about specific memory techniques (done that) or specific features of pronunciation (done that) or exactly how to read a book to learn English (done) or plenty of other things probably. To be honest this is just a podcast episode that I wanted to make about the 4 skills and it expanded into an episode all about learning English as a holistic process.

Anyway, the note about pronunciation

  • It is worth learning the phonemic script
  • It is worth getting the sounds app on your phone
  • It is worth doing drills and practising different features
  • It’s worth getting a book called Ship or Sheep or other books of that nature.
  • It’s worth remembering that if you have an accent when you speak that is fine and it’s part of who you are, the main thing is that you speak clearly, not which regional accent you have. Clarity is the thing to achieve. Also, it’s extremely difficult to “lose” your accent in English. Hardly anyone does it. But you can still be fine with your accent. English is quite open like that. Everyone’s welcome.

But there you have it. That was quite a comprehensive look at how I think learning English is best when you combine two things: comprehensible input, and a clever studying routine.

I think it can work wonders for your English.

And that’s what I try to do with this podcast. Give you all the input in the free episodes and then do some more focused studying in the premium content. Hopefully, together those two channels can boost your English to the max.

Thanks for listening.

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

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649. An Unedited Ramble (March 2020) Never Explain, Never Apologise? / No Stress / Method To The Madness / 3 Songs on Guitar

Luke talks on his own without stopping, restarting or editing, including responses to comments about recent episodes, thoughts on the methodology behind this podcast, some vocabulary teaching, a few songs on the guitar and more. This is no-stress episode, and a chance for me to just check in on you and make sure you’re all doing ok out there in the world! 😉

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Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay.

Episode Notes

These are just notes and not a full transcript. Some chunks of target vocabulary are highlighted in bold.

In this episode you’re going to hear me talking on my own, which probably means it’s going to be easier to understand and follow what I’m saying than some of the episodes I’ve uploaded recently, because I’ve uploaded some pretty challenging episodes over the last few weeks and months, and years… I try to mix it up a bit, with some challenging ones and some easier ones. Let’s say the easier ones are when I’m on my own and the more challenging ones are when I’m with other people or when we are breaking down recordings of other people.

But this one is just me, and you, because you’re involved. You’re listening aren’t you?

I hope this will come as something of a relief to you, at least to those of you who are pushing yourselves by listening to my podcast, and who might have quite a tough time understanding the more challenging episodes.

I know that some episodes are difficult to follow sometimes, because of the speed of English you’re hearing from my guests and me, and because we might be talking about subjects that you aren’t so familiar with.

Anyway, no stress today, there’s enough stress in the world. The plan here is just to chat to you, have a good old-fashioned ramble on LEP.

So you can have a bit of a breather today and just enjoy listening to this. And I hope you listen to all of it, from start to the finish. If it makes any difference to you, I will sing you a song or two with my guitar at the end. So if you’d like to hear me singing again, as I do at the end of episodes sometimes, then stick with it and keep listening until the end. Don’t be tempted to skip forward. That’s cheating.

Two words: deferred gratification.

It’s important to have a bit of self-discipline and I’m talking to myself there as much as I’m talking to you. 

When I decided to do this episode I thought (and it’s always like this, with these rambling episodes as I’ve come to call them) I decided initially to just talk without preparing anything in advance. Just no pressure, no specific agenda, just speak my mind and try to express the ideas which have been building up in my head since the last time I spoke to you like this.

The idea is that I can keep it authentic, in the moment and I don’t have to spend ages working on it before I even start recording. That’s what I think when I decide to do an episode like this.

But that’s easier said than done, because…. (What happens Luke? How do you end up writing so much in advance?)

Basically: I want to talk with no preparation, but then I have to write some things down or I won’t remember to mention them, but then I end up starting to type out everything in advance. 

It’s hard to know when to stop preparing and when to start recording.

So I’ve decided to just get started here without worrying too much about having every single detail prepared in advance. 

I know it’s probably not an issue for you, but I’m just giving you bit of insight into what goes through my mind when I prepare and record an episode. 

So → No more preparing, it’s time to start talking, which might mean there is some rambling here, which is fine and great.


Episode Aims

  • The main aim of this episode is to check in on you (make sure you’re doing alright) but not check up on you (to investigate, gather information, spy on someone)
  • And just chat to you about various things on my mind, things that I think are of interest to you as a member of my audience.
  • Talk a bit about recent episodes, just to establish where we are.
  • Give a few bits of news.
  • Respond to a couple of comments I’ve received
  • Have a bit of a laugh → just have some fun on the podcast because that is one of my favourite things about doing this. Just messing about and having fun, with no stress involved!
  • Sing one, two or maybe three songs on the guitar, which I will leave until the end.

As we go through all of this, I am sure that there will be various expressions, vocabulary and other language points that will come up. [A lot of it is highlighted for you here]

When I talk in episodes of this podcast I am sure that some people don’t notice what the method is. Most people like to think there is a specific pedagogical method at work and in my experience it is necessary to tell people (my students for example) exactly what the method is in order to put their minds at rest so they know they’re in safe hands.

What I will say is this – it might not be obvious all the time, but there is method to the madness I can assure you. I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years now and to an extent I am now just always teaching. I’m always in teaching mode. This means that I’m always thinking about what you while I am talking. I’m always thinking about the listener not because I’m so selfless and wonderful but because I know what I’m doing.

*You don’t need to justify it Luke*

Let’s just say this → Even when it’s not obvious that I am teaching you, I am teaching you. Every minute you listen to this (and indeed most other things you could listen to, but the difference here is that I am doing this specifically for you as a learner of English and even more specifically as a LEPster) … every minute you listen to this is a minute in the bank of your English. 

I’ll talk more about methodology and this podcast in a bit. I’m still technically in the introduction here.

I have no idea how long this will take, but it usually takes longer than I expect, so this could easily be two episodes.

But seriously, let’s forget about the clock for a while, ok? Don’t worry about how much time is passing. If you need to stop for some reason, just stop. Your podcasting app will remember where you were when you stopped and you can carry on again when you’re ready.

The main thing is: just listen, just try to follow everything. If you can follow it all without trouble, then fantastic, give yourself a little pat on the back. If you can’t follow it all, just do your best, keep going, don’t give up, rewind and listen to certain bits again if you need to. 

And this is where your podcasting app will help once more because you should have those helpful buttons which let you skip back by a few seconds. I use them a lot when I’m listening to podcasts, including ones in French (Any good french podcasts to recommend Luke? I’ll add that to the list for this episode – see below) 

You will see various notes on the page for this episode. This is all the stuff I wrote down before recording. It’s not a transcript, but if you hear me saying something and you’re wondering what it is, check out the page and you might see it written there.

I understand that checking a website isn’t all that convenient, even when you have a smartphone to hand. 

But anyway, it is there. If you’re listening in an app (including the LEP app) check the show notes → There is a link there that takes you right to the relevant page each time. That’s one of the fastest ways to get straight to the correct page. Otherwise, join the mailing list to have the link sent to your inbox, or just check out the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk where you can find everything.


Is everyone ok out there? Let’s be honest, this is a pretty crazy time. I hope you’re doing ok. Hang in there, stay positive!

Recent episodes 

Ian Moore → It’s interesting that Jack in the comment section mentioned that he found it waaaay easier to understand Ian this time compared to last time. This could well mean that his English listening skills have improved in that period – considering there are about 300 episodes between Ian’s first appearance and his second. So, I’m very happy to hear that, basically. 

I’m also happy to have had Ian on the podcast again. He really is a very witty man, not to mention well-dressed. There are a few videos of him online, doing comedy, being interviewed on TV and so on, and he is very good. 

Alan Partridge episodes

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. (or so they say)

“You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” (and you shouldn’t try to) ~originally attributed to John Lydgate and then Abraham Lincoln.

Slightly puzzling stats for the AP episodes. Part 4 and 6 have a similar number of listens, but episode 5 has about 25% fewer listens. What’s that all about? 

The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming → The main point is, focus on the message, not how the message has been delivered to you. I would also add: be thoughtful, be respectful, think about the other person, listen to them and pay attention to them, adapt your style accordingly. Ultimately it comes down to compassion. Be compassionate. Think about the other person, think about their situation, be less self-involved. Thinking about the other person, what they want and what they are really trying to say → this helps a lot. It helps you avoid conflict and it helps to bring more respect to you. In theory.

Recent Amber & Paul Episodes

It was fantastic to speak to them on the podcast recently. I think it’s best when the three of us have a specific aim for an episode, especially if it is a game of some kind. 

Amber had her baby! It’s a girl. Mum and baby are both doing fine. I’m hoping to speak to Amber soon about it, with Paul there too. Congratulations to Amber, her husband, and their little boy who now is the brother to a little baby sister.

Quintessentially British Things 

James – A few people going Hmmm. Some saying how fun it is to listen to the two of us, a couple of people saying they found James to be a bit rude because he kept cutting me off. We have a close relationship, but like all brothers we fight sometimes etc… conditions for recording, we both had a lot to say, etc. We mention it at the end of an upcoming episode we’ve done about music.

James’ comment

Hi people, sorry if I came across as rude / impatient. It was late, we were tired, and I’m afraid to say I was very, very drunk. ; )

Ones with Mum and Dad – all positive saying they found them interesting and lovely and I’m lucky to have a family like that, and I am. Episodes of Gill’s Book Club (which it will probably be called) should arrive this year. RT report too, when we feel like it!

A lot of conversations with native speakers at normal speed. What is your method, Luke? 

Upcoming music episode with James

Thoughts about the challenge of listening to some of my episodes.

I like to consider the thoughts of my listeners but ultimately I have to go with my gut and use my own judgement

The majority of comments come from LEPsters with pretty good English. So I don’t hear from lower-level listeners so much. 

Comments on the website → More people came out of the woodwork and that’s great. I’m not concerned. People need to go out of their way to visit the website, find the episode page, find the comment section, possibly sign into the comment section (Disqus) and write a comment in English. Most people just end up being ninjas often because there are various little barriers in the way. I get it! 

People comment in various ways → comment section, email, twitter, facebook, Youtube. The LEPsters’ comments are spread out all over the place. So they’re not all consolidated in one place. Maybe I should just stick to ONE platform, but I think this would ultimately make it more complicated for people to listen.

Premium → I am working on new stuff all the time. I say it’s about grammar, vocab & pron, and it is, but that sounds a bit dry doesn’t it? Remember – it’s still me, I’m still trying to do it in the LEP way, which means I make efforts to keep it entertaining at all times, as well as clear. Upcoming episodes will be about common errors I’ve noticed in comments and emails and things.

LEPster meet up in Paris + stand up show from me?

World Book Day – Thursday 5 March. www.worldbookday.com/

You’re reading a book, right? What are you reading?

Name: Miguel

Message: Hello there Luke, it is a great pleasure to be one of your thousands of listeners. Must admit that I am on the ninja´s listener side…Just a quick question, What kind of book would you suggest I should read in order to improve my english comprehension? I am going for the c1 advanced by the way and the big deal for me is the huge amount of sources offered on the Internet…

Thanks in advance my friend, carry on the good work!

Luke’s Reply

To be honest Miguel, you should just pick a book that you really want to read and that you will probably enjoy. You could pick the English version of one of your favourite books or perhaps a book of a film you like. 

You can also get graded books at the C1 level, which would also be a good idea. 

I’m assuming you mean reading novels rather than grammar/vocab books. 

Hope that helps. 

Check these episodes from the archive

French podcasts (difficult to find the right one for me, I must be quite picky)

Un Cafe Au Lot 7 → Louis Dubourg chats with French stand-up comedians, including some of my friends and acquaintances. Paul is interviewed there, so is Seb Marx and also some other big names like Fary and Gad Elmaleh.

French Voices → Conversations with interesting people with some things to look out for in English at the start)

French Your Way Podcast –> Specifically about teaching us French, making things clear and memorable, correcting certain mistakes, a lot of it is in English. Jessica is on maternity leave, starting in June. She’s probably fully involved with her baby. I hope she comes back soon when she is able to.

This comment is sponsored by LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Message: Hello Luke,

I have been a regular listener of your fantastic podcasts since 2018 and I am the one who requested an episode on the topic of “articles” a couple of weeks ago.

I just finished the fifth episode of this series this morning and I must say that it is the most brilliant episode that you have ever recorded. I didn’t not think you were capable of doing that in 2009 because this requires a lot of experience. I do not know if the Lepsters realize the amount of work that you have performed to complete this series. During the last 20 years, I have often searched for such a lesson focused on the right use of articles but I have never found it. There are so many rules but also exceptions that it drives me nuts. As a neuroradiologist at Lille University hospital, I regularlly write scientific papers on neurovascular diseases in international journals and I am frustrated to systematically see the editorial office of the journal change my sentences by adding or removing articles. I feel more confident now even if it takes a long time to master the correct use of articles.

I don’t know if I have correctly used the articles in this message but I am very happy to get a comprehensive document on this topic.

Thanks a lot Luke and keep it up. You are such a lovely person who is very inspiring to me.

Take care

Xavier

Luke’s response

Oh what a wonderful email, thank you very much Xavier. 

Yes, you used all the articles correctly in this email. I’m glad to see my episode has helped you!

I’m also very glad to receive emails such as this, from interesting and intelligent people who actually use my content to actively improve their English. It’s very inspiring.

TRANSCRIPTION PROJECT

This is a community effort in which LEPsters can transcribe episodes of the podcast. 

I’ve mentioned it before, now I’m mentioning it again.

Antonio’s comment

The transcription project is one of the most powerful options we have in this podcast.

Since I started learning English, I’ve always heard the same piece of advice from teachers I’ve been listening to, which is: “We must read, listen and write to have better English skills.”

Well, the transcription project is the perfect example and could allow us to reach this goal entirely.

The transcription project does not only involve transcribing but also proofreading episodes. That’s why I created two teams. The Orion team makes the transcriptions, and the Andromeda team proofreads and corrects the texts done by the Orion team.

And I want to tell to people, asking to join the project, that we can fulfil our goals staying in this project longer than one or two episodes. Nobody is going to encourage us or give a hug or give a kiss. Still, the joy of seeing this project growing up and becoming better than when we started participating in it is immense. Staying for an extended period allows you to see your real improvement.

When you proofread the episodes you did one year before, you are going to find a lot of mistakes and misheard words. That means that you can hear sounds and terms you couldn’t hear previously. That also means that you are becoming a better English speaker.

As I’ve often said, the transcription project is a hard task to do, sometimes we can feel bored, but we can not forget why we are doing it and what goal we want to reach. Mastering a language when you don’t live with native speakers is very hard. This project and Luke’s English Podcast episodes allow us to fill the gap. However, we need something more to stay in this project longer. We need to have another goal. A different goal than learning English. A goal which means giving back something to others.

Yes! Learning plus giving back is something much more powerful. We learn English for free, and we transcribe episodes and correct them for free.

Doing that we fulfil another goal: We help everyone coming to LEP to learn faster with our transcripts. The number of them is close to 342. (probably more since this was done – because 618. The Climate Crisis is also finished now and needs to be proofread).

I started my collaboration in 2015, and even if I am not as good an English speaker as I want, I know I am much better than then.

Thanks to people joining the Orion and Andromeda teams, staying with me, and helping me to continue with this project.

Cara Leopoldptholome/Antonio • (Paraphrased / a reply to a different but similar comment also by Antonio)

I don’t think people realise how important it is to keep listening and coming back to the same material, instead of just moving on to the next thing. Your engagement becomes much deeper and you’re more likely to learn and remember the new words, as well as improve your listening skills. I also really like the fact that it’s collaborative and that the transcription improves over time as more people listen to it – a community effort!

3 Songs by Neil Innes

Click the links for lyrics and chords.

I Must Be In Love neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/oooolalala.html

I Love You neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/loveyou.html

Let’s Be Natural neilinnes.media/wp-content/themes/neil-innes/chords/natural.html


634. A New Year Ramble for 2020 (Part 1) Pod Stats / Welcome to LEP / Travelling with a Toddler

Luke wishes you a Happy New year and rambles about recent podcast statistics, new year in the UK, welcoming new listeners to the podcast, and some stories about travelling to the UK with a toddler by plane. Transcript available below.

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Transcript (95%) and Notes for this Episode

Introduction

Hello there and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you’re doing fine wherever you are in the world. I’m back from my holiday and am now ready to record a new episode for you, and here it is – this is it right now, it’s actually happening and you are actually listening to it with your actual ears which should be connected to your actual head which contains your very real brain which is now processing sentences in English as you are hearing them. Welcome back to the podcast!

I have listeners all over the world. Let’s have a look at my top ten countries for 2019 to get a sample of where my audience is located.

In this one I’m going to do a few things, including welcoming any new listeners that I have here at the beginning of this new decade. I’m going to give a reminder about the aims and methods of this podcast for learning English. I’m going to talk about what I did during the Christmas holiday, give an update on my daughter’s English progress, give some news about the podcast and upcoming episodes, new year’s resolutions, a comment about one of my heroes who died on 29 December, and a few other bits and pieces. This might get long so it could be a double-ramble. We’ll see.

  • How are you?
  • Where are you?
  • What are you doing?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • How are you listening to this?
  • How long have you been listening to the podcast?
  • How’s your English coming along?

New Year – New Decade – New Start → here’s to fresh new challenges for the 2020s and to another decade of listening to English with this podcast. I am looking forward to making more and more episodes this year and into the future, and I can’t wait to actually take ideas that are swimming around in my head and make them happen in upcoming episodes of this podcast. So many things to talk about, so many things to do, so much English to teach you.

Transcript / Notes on the website

By the way, I am reading most of this from a script that I’ve been writing for a couple of weeks. 90% of the episode is transcribed in advance, and the rest is being read from notes.

I haven’t been able to podcast during the last 3 weeks or so, but in spare moments I’ve been writing notes in a google document on my computer and my phone and I’ve put them together to make a sort of transcript for this episode. You can find the transcript on the page for this episode in the archive at teacherluke.co.uk You’re listening to episode 634.

Happy New Year!

Happy new year! I hope you had a good celebration. I expect new year is a bigger celebration around the world than Christmas. Certainly, in my experience living in other countries I’ve noticed that new year’s eve is recognised all over the world as the big event, with fireworks in all the major cities and so on. It’s pretty cool.

I wonder what you did out there in podcastland. What are the typical things that happen on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day in your country?

In the UK it sort of depends on your age.

When I was younger it was sort of mandatory to go out to a party or a club or something and when you get back to college or work everyone’s asking each other what they did for New Year’s. I remember many occasions when I went out in the centre of town with some mates for a nightmare evening of loud music, too much drinking, singing, hugging and shaking hands and an impossible mission of getting back home to bed when all the public transport is closed and the taxis are all taken.

I actually had a very quiet New Year’s Eve this year. I generally don’t really like to do much on new years eve these days, maybe because I’m so boring now, or perhaps it’s because I just like the company of friends or family at home to see out the old decade and see in the new one, in some comfort. Also the fact that we’ve got a 2 year old daughter can make it a little bit more tricky to go out and party like I used to.

Anyway, this year I was in, my wife had gone back to Paris a bit early, I was at my parents’ house. My mum went to bed to get her energy back and so Dad and I sat up and from about 11pm we started podcasting, recording a conversation about some of his favourite aspects of Britain, which will be coming in an episode soon. We were actually podcasting while Big Ben counted down to midnight and you’ll be able to hear it soon.

Welcoming New Listeners

First of all I’d like to welcome any new listeners that I have. Welcome! My name is Luke and this is my podcast for learners of English. I expect you’ve found the podcast by searching things like iTunes or Spotify for podcasts for learning English, or maybe a friend recommended it for you or something – leave a comment in the comment section (my website is the best place for that) saying how you found the podcast.

So I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and I’ve been teaching English for nearly 20 years now. This podcast has won awards, don’t you know. Yep, 4 awards based on audience votes, a British Council Elton nomination, and I came third in the British Podcast Awards in 2017 – not bad!

In these episodes I talk about all sorts of things, but the main aim is to help you improve your English through listening. The principle is twofold. Firstly, we all know that doing plenty of listening in the target language is a vital part of developing your English. You can’t expect to learn a language unless you actually listen to it, get to know how it sounds, the rhythms of English and also the typical ways in which it is structured. You need to do plenty of listening, regularly, long term – and hopefully this podcast can help you achieve just that.

In each episode you have to just follow what I’m saying or follow a conversation with someone else and just try to keep up. I try to make my episodes entertaining as well as educational. I talk about learning English, give tips and advice, but also talk about loads of other topics in some depth to give you a chance to hear a range of different vocabulary.

The second part of the principle here is that you can develop your vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation a lot through listening. The grammar and vocab come from both trying to notice new language while you’re listening, and from the episodes in which I am specifically teaching or explaining new language to you.

The pronunciation part comes from copying me, shadowing me, and doing the pronunciation drills that I also publish. I also have a premium subscription in which I specifically teach language and give you plenty of pronunciation practice.

So if you keep up with my episodes, follow the advice I give, enjoy the different topics and conversations and follow my instructions for working on your English, you should find that your English improves accordingly.

Of course, this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. I mean, it’s also necessary to practise your speaking, your reading and your writing too in active ways. You could check out my sponsor italki for the speaking practice and check out my episode archive for plenty of other episodes in which I give specific advice about other areas of your English and also for specific things like the IELTS test.

The best way to listen to my podcast is through the LEP app which is available free in the app store. With the app you have the whole archive, some app-only episodes and access to the premium content. When you listen with a podcast app on your phone, the app will remember where you stopped listening (like at the end of your morning commute to work) and when you press play again (like at the end of your working day) the episode will continue where you left off.

Also on YouTube you can check most of my episodes (just audio but some videos) and there you can find the automatic subtitles which are 99% accurate.

I also have a transcription project done through my website in which a team of keen LEPsters (listeners to this podcast) transcribe my episodes by dividing each one into 3 minute chunks, then each member of the team transcribes his or her chunk and the whole episode is then completed. After that the more high-level listeners proofread the scripts, the end goal being for me to eventually publish them on the website or turn them into an ebook perhaps. Transcribing 3 minute chunks of my episodes is an excellent way to work on your skills as it requires a lot of things – being able to listen intensely for every single word, being able to recognise different words and phrases and how they are actually said by native speakers, being able to write with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, being able to reproduce exactly what you hear. It’s great training for your English.

Check my website for the entire episode archive and loads of other things. The episode archive on the website also contains loads of other content, like episodes of other people’s podcasts that I’ve been invited on, YouTube interviews with me and so on.

Sometimes I’m featured on other people’s shows and I usually will add a post in the archive so you can listen to it or watch it.

IELTS Speaking with Keith O’Hare

For example, recently I was featured in a video with a YouTube English teacher called Keith O’Hare. He specialises in helping people prepare for the IELTS speaking exam and he’s been doing a series in which he asks other online teachers to take a speaking test on video so you can learn how it is done.

He interviewed me in December and it’s now available on YouTube (link below). So, watch the video in order to see me taking an IELTS speaking test, to learn some of the language I used and also to get feedback from Keith on my performance. I also give some tips for learning English. I’ll be having Keith on the podcast at some point to interview him about IELTS speaking.

Language Analysis & more on Keith’s website

ieltsspeakingsuccess.com/ielts-speaking/native-speakers-do-ielts—luke-thompson/

So if you are new to the podcast – a hearty welcome to you. I hope you stick around and listen to the other episodes too, and consider becoming part of my online community by putting your comments in the comment section and maybe taking part in the transcription project. You can find the details for that on my website.

More intro…

A New Year Ramble, meaning that I’m talking about all the stuff that has been building up in my brain over the holiday period.

Obviously, it has been very busy, with looking after the little one, travelling to London, Birmingham, other parts of the country, dealing with the stress of Christmas, but also having an amazing time catching up with the family, exchanging presents, eating delicious food cooked by my mum and walking in the park to get some fresh air.

Normally I am podcasting quite a lot during any given week, pouring out ideas or teaching content into my podcast feed. Then I go on holiday and things start backing up a bit – I mean it feels a bit like a traffic jam with things that want to come out but the road is closed. So I’ve been imagining doing this episode and planning the next few episodes ahead.

And this episode is going to be me pouring those things out onto the podcast..

Let me talk you through what I’ve been thinking at certain quiet moments when my mind has been able to think about the podcast a little bit. Sometimes, like when my daughter is having a nap and I sort of have a nap too, or just before I go to sleep or something, my mind drifts to what I’m going to do on the podcast when I come back in January. I think about what my audience seems to like, what excites me about doing this, what things I think would be fun or useful for you to listen to and I turn it all over in my head, planning and thinking about the next episodes and waiting for some kind of inspiration to strike. Normally I keep thinking like this until I get a tangible idea of what the episode is going to be like, then it’s just a case of preparing for it and recording it. But once I know basically where the thing is going to go, the rest is just a case of trying to make the vision in my head into some kind of reality.

So during the holiday, I didn’t have many chances to record things, but plenty of chances to just think about it all.

Order of upcoming episodes and thoughts about previous ones

Whenever I go away on holiday and leave the podcast for a couple of weeks, the most recently uploaded episode gets loads of downloads. It stands to reason. The top episode in the list is going to be listened to more because it’s there. And so if you upload one episode and another one straight after it, the first one gets fewer downloads because they don’t know it’s there. It gets hidden behind the next one, which should be an argument for spacing out your episodes a bit more to give them time to breathe and for the audience to catch up. But then again, you want to keep uploading regularly to keep the interest up. For me, I tend to just upload whatever I make, and I try to give enough time for people to notice and listen to all the episodes, and there are those times when I go away on holiday and everyone can catch up.

But I do have to consider which episode I will be leaving at the top of the list when I go on holiday. This will be the episode that everyone will notice for the next 2 or 3 weeks, and if that’s the new year period it is especially important because a lot of people choose to start listening to podcasts as a resolution, and so they’ll be looking and new people will be finding Luke’s English Podcast, so the first impression is important.

So, sometimes I was worrying a bit, because the last two episodes I uploaded (except for some premium ones) were about Star Wars episode 9 and that’s not really a fair representation of what I do on this podcast. Also, I was stressing because I think the last episode, number 633 is not that great because I couldn’t remember the plot of the film and I was umming and ahhing.

So I wasn’t completely pleased with that episode and also not too pleased it was the episode at the top of the list for all those new listeners.

But I still wasn’t done with Star Wars, because it has become something of a tradition that at Christmas time, James, Dad and I go to see the new Star Wars film and this is the 4th time it has happened. The Force Awakens in 2015, Rogue One in 2016, The Last Jedi in 2017 and then The Rise of Skywalker in 2019 and the tradition also includes a long rambling podcast to dissect the film afterwards, so James and I duly went off to Birmingham on the train to see the film, had a beer afterwards and chose to discuss it all on the podcast. The result I think is very funny and quite interesting, and I’m much more pleased with it than my previous spoiler review. Anyway, I thought “I can’t wait all that time and then upload yet another Star Wars episode, which is nearly 2 hours long!!”

So I’ve decided to record this episode first, which is why it has taken so long. I have already edited and prepared the James & Luke Star Wars Discussion which will go up quite soon after this episode appears. So, it will be there so all you Star Wars fans can check it out and then we will continue with podcasting as usual. More about that later.

Christmas / New Year Holiday? What did you do?

What have you been up to during the break then Luke?

My wife, my daughter and I travelled to the UK -first to London and then to the midlands where my parents live. We spent just over 2 weeks away.

On new year’s eve I was actually with my dad and we decided to do a podcast from 11pm until midnight when the year ended. I’ll mention that again later.

Travelling with a toddler – describe what it’s like taking a child on a plane journey

Years of helping drunk friends in nightclubs to get home has really prepared me for this.
Little kids or babies are a lot like drunk friends on a Friday night.
They fall over a lot and might hurt themselves.
They’re liable to suddenly run into the street.
They sing like hooligans.
They might break down and start crying, and could easily piss themselves, shit themselves and puke on themselves all at the same time.
And they’re quite rowdy, annoying and loud too, which makes them a liability in things like queues and the confines of a seat on a plane, surrounded by other passengers.

Describe taking a toddler on a flight with just one person. With two it’s better, even though you have more bags, but with one adult it’s tricky.

This is what I described to Paul recently, because he basically can’t imagine flying with his daughter because she cries all the time and thinks it would be a huge operation to travel somewhere with all the equipment and baggage that you need for a child, with the travel cot, the car seat, the pram, the bottles and devices, the cleaning stuff and nappies, spare clothes and then all your stuff too! Paul can’t imagine it, and he listened sort of wide eyed as I explained it to him, like this.

I take:
One large suitcase (really big) with all our clothes, bottles, powdered milk, powdered cereal, washbag, thermometer, doliprane (paracetamol), books, toys, pacifier, doodoo (teddy bear or comforter), sleeping bag, my computer, my podcast stuff, leads, microphones, recorders, the pram, the waterproof cover for the pram (we’re going to England), A bag with food, drink, snacks, a bag with nappies, wipes and a towel, a change of clothes, some cartoons downloaded on netflix as a last line of defence, colouring books, pencil, sticker book, story book, maybe a farm animal, a book for me which I will never read, passports and my daughter.

So a pram (foldable) a huge suitcase, a backpack and my daughter and me.

Taxi to the airport. It’s expensive, but it’s just a much much smoother and efficient way to get this show on the road and get to the airport. Otherwise it’s taking a metro, walking a lot, then onto the RER, many many lifts and corridors and horrible air. The taxi option is amazing as they drop you right at arrivals.

Cruise through the terminal like a sort of huge articulated lorry, with the pram in front, my daughter probably sitting forwards and taking it all in, then me with my backpack and my other arm dragging the huge suitcase behind on its little wheels. A huge articulated truck moving through the airport.

Straight to the display, then probably to area C to queue up and check in the massive suitcase which could easily be overweight.

At this point JNR (my daughter) is sitting in the pram and probably demanding to be given the passports to be held. This could be her outstretching her hand, pointing at your pocket and saying “hand hand!” or even some mangled version of “passport”.

She’s being very insistent and we’re surrounded by silent queueing zombies so I give her the passports and just hope that she doesn’t drop them. She’s normally pretty good at holding onto them because she knows they’re important, which is why she wants to hold them.

But she has dropped things in airports before. Maybe the last time we were going through the airport and she was holding her doodoo (a teddy bear) . After walking for a while I noticed that bear was not with us any more and I went to JNR, where’s bear? And she looked around herself and then just went “huh!?” like, “Oh my god, where’s bear!?” This is like, worse than losing your phone for her.

So we wheel backwards and retrace our steps, both of us scanning the floor for bear, and I see him on the floor in the distance, lying next to a wall, slumped, and a woman is picking him up and having a look, she’s a member of staff and other people are gathering around. I just get there in time and explain that the bear belongs to my daughter and they are reunited and all’s well that ends well. Everyone sort of laughs and maybe waves at JNR and she says “bye bye “ and maybe “Aassiii” which is a combination of “thank you” and “merci”.

By the way, her languages are coming along quite well. She spends most of her time in French during the day at creche, but at home it’s mostly English. Her French has come on quicker than her English as she has certain standard phrases like “encore” and “oui” and “Cel-la” but the last two weeks she was in the UK really boosted her English.

First we spent some time with my cousin Oli and his family. He’s got three kids, one of whom is a couple of years older than my daughter, and another is the same age as her and they speak English so it was a real boost for her there.

Then with my parents and my brother it was all English for quite a long time, and her English really improved. She was saying things like “and that?” , which is quite a big step I think, and “please” “thank you” “bread” “Nice!” “Happy” “bird” “TV” “Farm” and “Beatles!”

Also a few other sentences that I can’t really remember now. She also babbles a great deal in a weird alien language and makes up songs with nonsense words and sometimes sings like a hooligan while standing on a chair.

Anyway, I give my daughter the passports and she can give them to the woman behind the counter, which is quite cute and a good way to ingratiate myself with the Air France woman, so I can try to get a better seat, maybe with nobody next to us.

She does her best and finds one for me.
Air France are pretty awesome.
Also, my bag is 26kg and the limit is 23kg but she says she can see it’s for both of us so she lets me off too. Nice.

Then it’s “Operation Get to the Gate” and also “Operation Energy Cancel”.

Operation Get to the Gate basically means getting through all the stuff like passport control, security and duty free and then being able to set up a base from which you can send out the child on exploratory missions to research and discover everything in the general area. That can be difficult because you have to deal with another queue, and then go through x-ray security, which means taking everything out of my backpack, separating all the baby food and water for the milk, take JNR out of the pram, fold it up and put it through as well, then coax my daughter to walk through and pretty much command her to stand in one spot while you get everything off the trays and your belt on and keys in your pocket and everything.

Then there’s a fight because I want her to get back in the pram but she’s not having it. I eventually decide that sometimes there’s no point struggling with a kid who doesn’t want to do something so we agree to walk, I push the pram and she sort of follows along and I have to constantly give her pointers like “this way” and “come on” “we’ve got to get to the gate” and she goes “GATE” and I say “Yes”. And there’s plenty of “no” “stop” Don’t do that, don’t touch. No hands. No, No No. Etc.

I try not to say no too much and to always explain to her what we’re doing and involve her somehow too.

So we keep going and I get her to push the pram, but it gets a bit tricky when we get to the big hall with all the gates because there are loads of distractions and also large open spaces. There are the arcade games and she always wanders in among the games of street fighter, fifa and pac man. I have to go and grab her, pick her up even though she doesn’t want to go and carry her, explaining that we have to get to the gate, then find some water for her and sandwiches for me.

So we get in the queue at Pret a Manger, leaving the pram over there, keeping one eye on it, while my daughter is wandering along the sandwich fridge, picking up salads and I’m telling her to put them back and come here. She wanders around but generally is quite cute and nice so people don’t get too annoyed. She wants to use the card machine and hold my credit card, anything that means she’s involved in what’s happening.

Normally it’s pretty good but sometimes it can be quite difficult following her around and picking her up as she kicks and screams if she doesn’t want to go, but usually it’s fine because I’ve explained exactly what’s happening and she likes that. I explain a day or so before that we’re going to the airport (she has an airport book) and do the motion of a plane in the sky and she knows what that is and she does it too and she goes “fly , fly” and maybe “plane!” or “avion!”. So she knows what’s going on and I’ve tried to explain that she needs her seatbelt, so the seatbelt is always in the story. Now she’s ok with seatbelts and says “seatbelt”.

Then there’s some running around after we’ve found our base of operations at one of the chairs next to our gate, and it’s “Operation Energy Cancel” or energy drain or something. The main aim here is to burn off as much of her energy as possible, and usually this involves running along side her going “run run run run run run run” and she gets really excited and giggly and runs along with you, looking like super mario. Run run run run run run. We do that up and down until she’s pretty tired or we have to queue up for the plane.

This bit might also involve lunch depending on how much time you have, and sometimes lunch is done on the plane. In any case lunch is always more like a drug that you give to your child than an actual meal! You know that when you’ve given them lunch, they’ll probably fall asleep about an hour later, so lunch is more like a sleep drug that you apply to your child so you can have a break. In fact all meals, milk, food are more like drugs that you give to your children.

The aim is to make her tired on the plane. At this point it is difficult to keep everything under control because I have a heavy backpack on my back full of podcasting equipment and kid stuff, a folded pram over my shoulder and my slightly hyper daughter investigating everything and kind of giggling or pointing at things.

When people start queuing for the plane I like to hang back until almost everyone is on board. Why would you want to get on board early and spend even more time sitting in that cramped little seat. I prefer to wait until all the stressed out people have struggled with their bags before sliding in at the end while everyone else watches you get on board and my daughter walks along the aisle looking at everyone. I have a huge backpack and a pram over my shoulder so I’m probably bumping people in the arm or in the head if I turn quickly. I have to shove some bags out of the way to push the folded pram in the overhead locker.

Then it’s operation distraction, subtitled “I hope she goes to sleep”.

There are basically six levels of “kid on a plane”

Level 1

Distracted by something quite wholesome, like drawing, stickers, reading a book. She’s quite happy to sit on your lap and try to pick up stickers and put them in places. I also don’t care at all if she puts stickers all over the seat or the magazine. Not a problem, if my daughter isn’t making a fuss, it’s all good. I might have to try and ingratiate myself with the person next to us, like a smile or just by talking to my daughter and hoping she does something cute, which usually works. So level 1 is – doing an activity.

Level 2

Walking up and down. This one is vital for when level 1 just doesn’t work and your child has some pent up energy. I walk her up and down the plane and also let her hang around at the end near the weird little shelves and kitchen area at the end of the plane. That tends to use up some energy and stop her kicking the chair in front or complaining or making a police siren noise.

Level 3

Changing the nappy. This can be quite a big operation depending on whether it is a #1 or a #2 and if there has been some kind of “leak”.

Obviously the worst possible one is a leaked #2 which can be a sort of Armageddon in the underpants, and can be really tricky to deal with in a plane toilet. You hope to hell that there’s a baby changing table, and if there is my daughter hardly even fits on it. She’s tall for her age. Anyway, I put her on the table and she’s a bit freaked out but very curious about everything in this grotty plane toilet. Then you change the nappy making sure she doesn’t touch it and you use loads of wipes to clean everything up, meanwhile your arse is pressed against the unit behind you, your left shin is pressed against the edge of the toilet and your head might be pressed against the curved ceiling on some planes. It might also be necessary to change her clothes, which is why it is vital to bring the other outfit. So that’s level 3.

Level 4

Watching a video on your phone. This is a sort of fallback position which might help you to get to Level 5. It’s not ideal because you don’t really want your child to be watching a phone for any length of time, and sometimes she tries to play with the phone and ends up going into your emails or photos or something. But it can be a great way to pacify a child who is being boisterous.

We tend to show her Babar The Elephant, which is basically like Downton Abbey for kids. They’re exactly the same thing. In fact it’s the other way round, Downton Abbey is like Babar The Elephant for grown ups.

It’s very cute and they have adorable Canadian accents.

Level 5

Sleep.

Blissful sleep when you can just take a break and even have a nap yourself which is the thing you’ve been craving all this time, ever since you were woken up at 6AM by her crying, then you take her in bed with you and she sort of kicks you and falls asleep until 7AM when she starts wailing for milk like a heroin addict and then after she downs it in about 2 minutes, she spends the next half an hour sort of rolling around and kicking in a half asleep trance, maybe in a bad mood, before sort of waking up and immediately giggling and playing around. So, getting the chance for a nap is just sensational.

Level 6

…is meltdown. There are different stages of meltdown of course, but this is what you are trying to prevent at all times.
Wrestling in your arms
Refusing to cooperate
Pushing your hands away so you end up doing some weird Chinese gung fu together
Wailing and crying loudly
Police sirens
Car alarms
Going red, tears
Sometimes this develops into a full on raging demonic possession but that has only ever happened once on the Eurostar in the evening when she was really tired but didn’t want to sleep or go in the pram, and it was like The Exorcist or something.

Anyway, normally it is a mix of levels 1-4 which is basically ok. Then there are more queues, more giving her passports and then fighting with her to get her in the pram and possibly failing, waiting for the huge bag and then going to meet my dad, get her in the back of the car and drive, and she always falls asleep within the first 2 minutes of the ride.

I’ll talk a bit more about my daughter later, including some details about her English and her bilingualism.

I don’t normally talk about her this much but I did spend loads of time with her this holiday so it’s pretty fresh in my mind.


That’s it for part 1. Part 2 will be available soon!