Category Archives: Transcripts

876. Thoughts & comments on recent episodes / A Spring Equinox Ramble 2024

Listen to me rambling about Daylight Saving Time, weird AI generated images for Luke’s English Podcast, and lots of comments and responses to recent episodes including the Birthday Party story 🎂 , the MBTI Personality Test 🙇 and the Walk & Talk in Paris 📹🚶.

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🔖 The Advanced English Summit – book your place for Luke’s Zoom talk (free) 👇

https://english-at-home.com/summit/


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Those Strange AI-generated Images 👇

863. Welcome Back / Your English in 2024 with LEP 📈

A new year episode to welcome you back to my podcast, to encourage you to reflect on your learning of English over the last 12 months, to consider your English learning in 2024 and how this podcast can help you. Includes plenty of ideas for how to improve your English, some reflections on my learning of French, and some ‘help’ from my baby son 👶.

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📄 Get the PDF Transcript 👇 (text also included below 👇👇)

🏆 LEP Premium information 👉 https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Episode Text (This is the text on the PDF – but the vocabulary is not highlighted in green here)

Happy New Year everyone!

This is my first episode of 2024 and let’s get serious for a moment because actually the purpose of this one is to help you consider where you are with your English (because that’s what this is all about isn’t it?) to encourage you to reflect on your learning of English in 2023, to approach 2024 with the right mindset and also give you loads of advice and tips for how to keep improving your English with this podcast and in plenty of other ways.

This episode has mostly been written out in advance, so I’m reading from a script in this one. 

You’ll find the PDF script on the page for this episode and there’s a link in the description wherever you are listening to this. 

“Link in the description” – Do you know what that means? 

You can just download it free and I’m not even going to ask for your email address and then send you loads of emails tempting you to buy my online course which is only available for a limited period of time for mysterious reasons that aren’t fully explained. 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that. You can just download the PDF directly like in the old days of the internet.

By the way, if you prefer rambling episodes with no script, just hang on because I’ll be doing one of them after I’ve done this episode. 

The plan is to do this one which is fully planned and scripted, and then just do something totally spontaneous in the next episode. 

So, there is a New Year rambling episode coming soon. Also there will be a premium episode coming soon for premium subscribers focusing on some of the language I use in this episode. 

Premium subscribers – watch out for some of the words and phrases which are highlighted in a lurid green colour on the PDF – those bits of vocabulary will come up in a premium episode soon. 

If you’re not a premium subscriber, you can still notice those highlighted phrases and just consider how much you are missing out by not being a premium subscriber, and of course if you just can’t stand missing out on the magic, and you want to be a premium subscriber or you just want more information about it, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

By the way, I chose that lurid green colour so that it will also show up if you print the PDF in black and white. Also, it’s a way of subtley reminding you to keep noticing vocabulary.

Also, I have various other episodes in the pipeline which I recorded late last year and they are coming too, over the next few weeks including a couple of Amber & Paul ones, an episode with Lindsay from All Ears English, one with my friend who works at UNESCO and some others, so just bear with me, they are coming as well! 

As usual, I just have so many episodes to publish and things I want to say. I’d love to just publish new episodes every few days, to be honest, but I don’t want to overload you completely. I know some of you might be happy for me to do that, but really – podcasting wisdom says that I shouldn’t do that.

This episode

What’s this episode going to be? Let’s get started.

First of all, I want to welcome new listeners and remind old listeners who I am and what this is all about. A lot of people will be turning over a new leaf and trying to make a fresh start with their English. Is that you? Have you made a new year’s resolution to improve your English this year? 

Maybe you’ve decided to listen to podcasts in English and here you are. Or maybe you’re already a regular listener and you’re happy to be back in LEPland with this new episode. In any case, welcome and welcome back. It’s good to doing the first episode of the show in 2024.

Some info about LEP for new listeners (and old listeners too, whose memory isn’t what it once was) 

Hello. Forgive me for stating the obvious here but I’m Luke Thompson and I’m the host of this podcast that you are listening to right now, which is called Luke’s English Podcast. It’s a podcast for learners of English. I’m Luke, hence the title of the show – Luke’s English Podcast. Yes, I am very original and creative and I worked very hard to come up with that name. 

In my episodes I talk about all kinds of stuff and help you learn English. All you have to do is listen, although if you want there are plenty of other ways you can use my episodes to work on your English. I’ll mention some of those things later. 

I talk about different topics, chat with different guests, tell stories, just ramble about what’s on my mind, give advice for learning English, talk about British culture such as music, films and comedy, explain jokes and generally give you something to listen to in English on a regular basis. This is an award-winning podcast by the way and I have a very loyal, enthusiastic and lovely audience who are affectionately called the LEPsters. 

I’m an English teacher from England (West London and the West Midlands). I’ve been teaching English for nearly 25 years now. I first taught in Japan many years ago (have I ever mentioned that I used to live in Japan? – you get a point every time I say that, remember) then I taught in London for a long time at various language schools in places like Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Waterloo, Holland Park and Hammersmith, and these days I live and work in Paris, yes the one in France. 

I went to university in Liverpool a long long time ago and graduated with a degree in media and cultural studies which means I am very good at watching movies. 

I have CELTA and DELTA qualifications in English language teaching to adults, so don’t worry, you are in safe hands, you can trust me I am fully qualified. I am a professional. I have a particular set of skills which I have developed over a very long career. 

As well as being an English teacher, I am also a stand-up comedian, which you must have realised already because you can’t have failed to notice how funny and witty I am. I do stand-up which means I go on stage in front of audiences and make them laugh with hilarious jokes and stories and things and it always works really well and everyone in the room laughs so much, so hard that they die and then can never tell anyone else how funny I am, which is why I don’t have my own Netflix special. 

I’ve been doing stand-up on a semi-professional basis for about 15 years – roughly the same length of time as this podcast, but not as consistently as this I have to say. 

Most of the time these days I perform at comedy shows in Paris in the evenings sometimes, in English, to audiences of English-speaking ex-pats, tourists and local Parisians. If you want to hear me talking about my stand up comedy, check out my recent appearance on the Stolariod Stories podcast. The episode was called The Art of Making People Laugh with Luke Thompson from Luke’s English Podcast. The Art of Making People Laugh: with Luke Thompson from Luke’s English Podcast

I have been doing this podcast for about 15 years now. The show has had over 150 million downloads in total, which is mind-blowing. It is listened to by people all over the world. I am actually very famous but nobody knows who I am. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. But somehow it is still true. 

If I got all my listeners together in one place I’d be able to fill a few football stadiums, but that’s never going to happen and I’m not even very good at football so it wouldn’t be a very good idea anyway.  

There are audio versions and video versions of this podcast. 

Audio in podcast apps, video on YouTube. Let me explain that to the uninitiated. *

*Remember the words and phrases highlighted in green? That was one of them → “the unititiated”. Get the PDF from the episode page on my website and you can see those highlighted bits. 

I’ll add them all in a list at the end of the episode as well because I’m nice. You’re welcome. I’ll explain them in a premium episode coming soon, to help you remember them and also use them. 

You can listen to the audio podcast in any podcast app on your phone and this is the way that most people listen to my episodes, for example using Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PocketCasts and so on. 

I imagine people do something like this. They get up in the morning, stretch, have a shower, question their life choices, eat breakfast, maybe get the kids ready for school, go to work, and at some point get their phone out, put their headphones in, open up their podcast app of choice, tap on “Luke’s English Podcast” and start listening to a new episode or continue listening to one they started the day before. 

Other people might just stay at home (because what’s the point of leaving the house really?) and maybe get their phone out, connect it to their bluetooth speaker or something, then listen to my podcast and maybe do some really exciting housework or something like that. 

So that’s how to listen to my episodes in a podcast app on your phone. If you’re already initiated into the world of podcasting, that all might strike you as being very obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t understand what podcasts are, how they work or even how the word podcast is spelled or indeed pronounced. 

POD-CAST. POD-CAAAAST. /pɒdkɑ:st/ not postcard or pot-cat

I understand. It can be a tricky word actually. It’s a relatively new word and in terms of pronunciation there are a couple of tricky consonant clusters in there. 

The bit where the D and the C combine and the bit where the S and the T combine. Tricky stuff actually. 

  • /pɒdkɑ:st/ POD – CAAST
  • Try it again.
  • Not POST KAAAAST
  • POD KAAAST
  • Not POK-KAAAST  either
  • POD CAST
  • Podcast
  • Luke’s English Podcast

ok

The word podcast is actually a combination of the word broadcast and the word iPod

It’s a broadcast on your iPod. A podcast. 

It’s a kind of audio broadcast (like a radio show  – radio is broadcasted through radio signals from a radio tower thing, right? 

The radio waves are sent out into the air and picked up by your radio. But with a podcast, the audio is sent out via the internet and you get it and put it on your iPod, although nobody actually uses iPods any more, it’s all mobile phones now isn’t it? 

So, it might as well be called a Phonecast – because I broadcast my show to your phone. Not a phone call, because that’s not how it works. 

I don’t just call you and start talking. I could, but that would be a very inefficient way of doing this, if I had to call you all one by one and say this to each person I called, again and again. No, thank goodness, that’s now how it works. It’s not a phone call, and it’s not a phonecast, even though you listen on your phone (unless you listen on your computer on my website or something, or you actually do listen on an iPod because you’re still using one. So, it’s not a phonecast, it’s a podcast. That should be clear. 

If you don’t know how to subscribe to the audio podcast, just download a podcast app on your phone. They’re completely free (podcast apps, not phones). I recommend PocketCasts. Go ahead and download PocketCasts free from the app store on your phone. Install it, then open it and search for Luke’s English Podcast, then tap “Subscribe” or “Add” (or whatever the equivalent is in your language) and my show will be saved in your list of subscriptions and you’ll always be able to go back to the app to listen to my latest episodes when they are published, and the entire back catalogue, and your life will improve just a little bit, certainly a step in the right direction. Switch on notifications and your phone will tell you when I’ve published a new episode. Happy days.

One of the advantages of listening to the audio podcast on your phone is that you can do other things while you listen, and people tell me that they listen while travelling, working out in the gym, doing housework, running or walking in the countryside, driving, and even at work or school while they should be doing something else. 

I expect some people listen while doing incredible things, like flying planes, recovering from a general anaesthetic after having surgery or operating the safety systems of a nuclear power station. 

I also publish video versions of these episodes on YouTube, and it’s usually the same content as the audio versions, but often the audio versions have even more content because sometimes I ramble a bit at the beginning and end of episodes (and in the middle), and those bits don’t always end up in the video versions. 

My YouTube channel nearly has 1 million subscribers now, which I find incredible really. Not all my episodes get a million views of course, except the ones called “Learn English with a Short Story” which are particularly popular on the platform. The advantages of the video versions are that you can see me while I speak (do you consider that to be an advantage?) 

You can see my body language, facial expressions and the movements of my mouth. For the more visually oriented people, that is a good thing. There are also automatic subtitles on YouTube which are getting better all the time, and I often show text on the screen while I record so you can read and listen at the same time (that text is usually also available on my website for the audio listeners). But, again, the video versions often have less content than the audio versions and you do have to basically stay looking at the screen the entire time, whereas with the audio episodes you can just put your headphones in, put your phone in your pocket and do something else, like fishing or taking your dog for a walk, or  if you prefer dogging and taking your fish for a walk, I mean it’s your life, you can do what you want can’t you? 

My episodes can be quite long, but this shouldn’t be a problem really (who said it was a problem?) Anyway, it shouldn’t be an issue, because you can just pause the episode whenever you want, do something else, and when you return to your podcast app and find that episode again, the app will remember where you stopped and you can continue from that point. YouTube does exactly the same thing if you are signed into it with your google account. 

So, you can just chill out about the whole “Your episodes should be 28 minutes long, no more no less” thing. Just listen to 28 minutes, then stop, then listen to another 28 minutes the next time. 

So, long episodes aren’t really an issue because you can listen to as much as you like, stop and do something else, then carry on where you stopped before. 

Having said that, I do try to keep the length of my episodes under control. I don’t want them to be too long, but the fact is I just have stuff that I want to say and I find it hard to shut up, so I need all that time! 

For me, these episodes are similar to English lessons I do at school. 

Lessons are usually at least 90 minutes long, often more. English lessons in a language school are very rarely less than one hour long. So, it’s a similar story with my episodes. 

Also, I also have a premium subscription (have I mentioned that before, I don’t think I have, have I? No, I definitely haven’t mentioned the premium subscription. Hey, I have a premium subscription. It’s called Luke’s English Podcast Premim. Forgive me for mentioning it again, it’s just that the modest amount of money that I make from it helps me to feed two starving children and one wife and to heat our home which otherwise would be cold, and allows me to buy microphones and guitars and things – all essential purchases of course. Anyway, LEP Premium costs just 4$ a month (and has the price gone up in line with inflation? No, it hasn’t. Starbucks have raised the price of their bizarrely-named coffees, the fuel you put in your car is more expensive, but LEP Premium remains the same despite all those things) and gives you access to extra episodes which focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

So, my podcast has two branches → the free episodes and the premium episodes 

The free episodes → this is what I described before – me talking alone or with guests about things which I hope you will just find interesting and entertaining to listen to as part of your effort to get plenty of English into your brain via your ears. The free episodes are the ones which are available free in audio podcast format, or YouTube video format.

The premium episodes → extra episodes published every month, and also available in a podcast app on your phone. When you sign up you can add the premium episodes to your podcast app. 

Last year I published over 30 premium episodes, so that is 2 or 3 episodes per month. This is not just bonus content or out-takes or something. These are carefully prepared and thought-through lessons in which I help you build your English. All the info about the premium subscription is on my website at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

The main difference between the two branches is that the free episodes are all about input and the premium ones are much more about teaching you directly.

In the free episodes I want to give you something to listen to in English which is made for you, which is entertaining, interesting and authentic, to help you listen more, listen for longer periods, and listen long-term. 

Sometimes I ramble and just share my thoughts with you in a kind of stream-of-consciousness way, sometimes I talk with guests including my friends & family and other people who I hope will have interesting things to say on the show, talk about a variety of topics, tell stories.

In the premium episodes I tend to focus on teaching you things, and this usually means vocabulary – explaining, highlighting, demonstrating, clarifying words and phrases, showing you how words and phrases are actually used with collocations, and other little important details. I also deal with grammar sometimes, and pronunciation every time – mainly giving you something to use for listen & repeat practice so you can regularly repeat after me, but also giving you insights into the pronunciation system in English in various ways. So, the focus is on teaching you language bit by bit.

Sometimes those two branches cross over, and I end up doing premium-type stuff on the free podcast (explaining vocabulary in short story episodes for example) or doing free-podcast type stuff in premium episodes (rambling episodes, short story episodes).

And, as a foundation, I want you to remember that I have been teaching English for most of my adult life now and so it is deeply ingrained in me, and in fact I couldn’t really stop teaching English even if I tried, and so even when I am just talking to you I am still teaching you. There is always that intention there to help you notice language, to engage with this language, to aid you somehow – so even when I’m just talking with seemingly no focus, there is a focus and a method in the background which is to help you connect with English as it is spoken, English as a living language, and English which is a medium for making connections with people and for expressing yourself. 

I am always attempting to reach out to you through the things I say and sort of grab you and shove English straight into your ears, but in a nice way. 

Also, I just love doing this podcast and hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off on you and will encourage you in your journey. 

I could continue to ramble on for ages about the benefits of listening to English podcasts long term, but I have done that plenty of times before. Just have a look back at my episode archive and see what you can see.

By the way, I wrote most of this over the last few days of the school holidays while sitting on my sofa in moments when my baby son was asleep or when my wife took the kids for a routine checkup at the doctor and I had some time to write down some thoughts which had been building up in my head during the Christmas holiday. I wrote these ideas down, and have edited them and added to them a bit since then.

You & Your English in 2023 and 2024 📈

Now I’m going to talk about you and your English over the last 12 months and into the forthcoming 12 months.

Usually in the New Year period I do some kind of New Year episode, and so I have been thinking “What can I say to my audience that will put them in the right mental space to help them learn English with my podcast in 2024? What inspiring words of wisdom can I impart? What sage-like advice can I give?” 

And after I had lowered my expectations for myself and just started writing, this is what came out. Listen carefully and hopefully you will get swept up in what I’m saying and the outcome will be that you’ll get a renewed sense of positivity and possibility for your English this year. Or maybe you’ll just have a nice relaxing sleep. I don’t know. Hopefully it’ll be good for you, either way. Just please be careful if you are driving or operating heavy machinery whil listening to this.

Remember, there’s a PDF for all of this and you can download it from my website. Just click the link in the show notes to find the episode page – the PDF is there.

It’s the new year period. This is a time when we look back and survey the year we’ve just completed, then look forward to the forthcoming 12 months and consider how we’re going to spend that time. I invite you to do that with me here in this episode. 

This is a podcast for learners of English. So, we’re going to focus on English of course. In this episode I want to encourage you and help you to take stock of your English learning at this moment in time.

First let’s look back and consider the last 12 months, and your English. 

Over the last 12 months

  • What kind of progress have you made in your English? 
  • What has worked for you? 
  • What have you done that has had a positive impact on your English?
  • What were some positive experiences and moments you had? 
  • What about negative experiences? What can you learn from them?

Grammar Pause

Note that I said “over the last 12 months” there and then used present perfect tense “What progress have you made?”. If I’d said “in 2023” then it would be past simple “What progress did you make?” “What worked for you?”. 

This is because “Over the last 12 months is an unfinished time period. Basically – don’t use past simple with unfinished time periods. 

For more details about present perfect (in fact, everything you ever wanted to know) then listen to premium series 12 – P12. That’s a premium episode. Did I mention my premium subscription? Again, get the details at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

So, those questions again.

Over the last 12 months

  • What kind of progress have you made in your English? 
  • What has worked for you? 
  • What have you done that has had a positive impact on your English?
  • What were some positive experiences and moments you had? 
  • What about negative experiences? What can you learn from them?

Perhaps you have no clear sense of what you’ve done or whether it’s been positive or negative. 

If that’s the case, if you’re thinking “errr, I dunno actually” it probably means that…

a) you haven’t really done much with English – and this doesn’t just mean “studying” in the traditional way, but just using English either in a productive way (speaking, writing) or receptive way (reading, listening). There hasn’t been much English in your life for the past 12 months, 

or… 

b) you’re just not being very mindful about your relationship with English or the things you do in relation to your English. Perhaps you’re not really that aware of the ways that you are learning this language. You listen to my episodes, do other things in English sometimes but you don’t reflect on it all in an objective way, or an academic way. 

To be honest, I doubt that you fit the description I just mentioned. I think most of my audience are pretty aware of their English.  

And in fact maybe you are very conscious of it, and take quite a  metacognitive approach to it – maybe you are constantly analysing and strategising the way you learn English, and applying different methods.

In any case, this is a moment when I invite you to be mindful about your English. 

Maybe you feel like you haven’t really noticed a significant improvement in your English recently, which is a very common feeling.

Is that you? Are you waiting for some kind of breakthrough moment? Do you feel like you’re on a long plateau? Do you feel like you made significant progress a while ago but nothing has happened more recently? 

Or maybe not, maybe you’re currently really excited because you’ve discovered new abilities, like a superhero in the first half of their superhero origin movie or something.

But it is very common to get stuck in the so-called “intermediate plateau” and if that is the case for you, then I will say these things: 

don’t give up, don’t stop, keep going. The progress might not be obvious to you, but it’s probably still happening and will be revealed later. You just have to be willing to stick with it.

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut, or stuck in a routine and it feels like you’re going over the same ground and you’re not climbing to the top of any mountains or getting any significant feelings of reward moments of triumph or glory.

But that’s ok. You can’t have those moments all the time. 

Sometimes they are few and far between. Sometimes those breakthrough moments in language learning, or those meaningful moments of magic are rare. 

But keep going. Sometimes there is a lot of progress being made, but it’s under the surface and you don’t notice it.  

Language learning can be a weird thing. It can be hard to see it happening. It can be invisible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. 

With English you have to put in a lot of hours. You have to absorb a lot of language, and you have to do plenty of practice. Spending a lot of time on it is necessary, and so you have to see the bigger picture

Imagine it like a long journey. There might be times on that journey where you climb to very high points, like the top of a hill or mountain and you get a clear, dramatic sense of achievement. But at other times you have to travel along a long flat plain and it can feel like you’re not even moving at all. But keep going. You’re making progress, but you might not be aware of it. It’s not all going to be moments of glory and sometimes your progress is not fully visible to you, but it is happening. 

You also have to fail quite a lot – you’ve got to get things wrong a lot before you come back and get them right. This can make you feel disheartened, as if you just keep making mistakes.

But keep going. Don’t stop. This is all part of a process. People don’t improve in their language learning because they give up. So, keep listening, keep doing whatever you’re doing. Stay in the game. Keep your English alive in 2024, and there will come a time or a moment when the time you have spent with it will pay off somehow.

At the very least, you’re understanding everything I’m saying, right? You’re understanding this. You understand me and you’re also noticing that I’m using certain phrases and expressions, aren’t you?

I’ll sum them up for you later. Not all of them, but a lot of them – I’m talking about some of the little phrases I have just used (the ones which are highlighted in that lurid green colour on the PDF), like “breakthrough moments” or “few and far between” or “disheartened”. I’ll sum them up later, help you properly understand them, remember them, and pronounce them too.

You’re noticing those things, you’re hearing them, aren’t you? 

It’s all going in. That’s all fuel or food for your English, you know. 

And the more you are exposed to English as a living thing like this, the better your position is, as a learner of English. The better prepared you will be for the moments when you have to open your mouth and produce the language, or when you’re on the spot and you’re in conversation with someone and you have to understand what’s coming out of their mouth and then you’re suddenly having to respond, and these bits of English come to you, seemingly from nowhere. That’s all thanks to the fact that you’ve been keeping your English alive and at the very least listening to this podcast and keeping your ears open. 

If you feel stuck at the intermediate plateau, keep going, keep the faith, realise that there is progress being made but you might not notice it every day. Keep your chin up

But also consider shaking things up a bit, adopting some new habits maybe, and perhaps give yourself a challenge – maybe some kind of speaking challenge, or change the kinds of practice you’re doing, or perhaps add a bit of discipline into your routines with some other little exercises you could do. I’ll mention some ideas for that later. 

What have you been doing with your English?

Now, bear in mind that in language learning anything is probably better than nothing, so even if the only thing you’ve been doing in English is to listen to podcasts sometimes, watch some stuff in English or occasionally speak it when the need arises, then fine, that’s still good. It’s better than nothing. 

Also, if you’ve been listening to all of my episodes I must say that puts you in a select group of extremely special people. Not everyone listens to podcasts in English. If you’re in public, have a look around. How many of these other people listen to Luke’s English Podcast, or any other podcast for that matter, in English? 

Ah, yes, you are one of the special ones. You are part of that elite group of people who have access to this exclusive and slightly secret world. You’re one of the ones who not only knows what a podcast is, but also how to pronounce it, spell it and also listen to it regularly.

Anyway, listening to podcasts is definitely good for your English, even if it is the only thing you do. But I do recommend doing more than just listening. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Perhaps the worst things for your English are things like this…

a) doing absolutely nothing in English at all, and 

b) getting into a negative mindset in which you tell yourself that your English is no good, that you just can’t do it, or you’re one of those people who simply doesn’t have what it takes to use this language effectively. Never mind those negative thoughts. They will not help, so try not to say those things to yourself. Give yourself a break in 2024!

Everyone is naturally able to learn a language, you just have to maintain some good habits, a positive mental attitude, a sense of enjoyment and perhaps a sense of drive to push things further.

So, what have you been doing in English? What has worked for you? 

Can you recognise the things that have… 

a) helped you to make progress 

b) caused you to feel good about your English?

How can you put your best foot forwards and repeat some of the successes of the last year and build on them and generally move in the right direction, towards growth, progress and prosperity, in your English, but in your life?

Let’s try to maintain a positive cycle in 2024, where one good thing causes you to feel a bit more positive about your English, leading to a growing sense of confidence, which causes you to step outside your comfort zone a little bit more easily, and do something else with a bit more success, which again feeds into your positivity and sense of achievement, and this continues in a generally upward trajectory.


~ Let’s take a quick break here ~ 


To keep this simple, let’s consider these questions: 

  • What have been the good moments in your English learning over the last 12 months?
  • What were those situations? What exactly did you do? What happened? What caused you to feel an improvement in your English and the way you feel about your English?
  • How can you repeat those successes and build on them in the coming months?
  • And, if there were negative things – experiences or feelings in relation to your English, how can you learn from them?

To demonstrate this a bit, let me reflect on my learning of French, which admittedly I have not been engaging with properly (and there you see my somewhat negative attitude towards my relationship with French, revealing the frankly unhealthy condition of my French language learning).

Let me just reflect on my French here and consider my answers to the questions I have above.

Here are some notes which I will expand on.

The cooking class

  • Tell the story – where, when, who, what why etc…
  • The good things – I listened to what the others said and I copied them. I prepared myself in advance, in my head. I decided to just enjoy the moment. I went out of my comfort zone. I will remember the little things that I noticed and used.

Reading graphic novels

  • I love graphic novels in French and there are so many. I finished the series called L’Arabe du Futur, I’ve been reading one about the story of the making of Star Wars, one about an Indonesian woman who lives in France and observes funny cultural differences, one about crime and police in Baltimore which I found really difficult to follow, one about a journalist’s trip to North Korea and more. 
  • You can read direct speech.
  • There is awesome art work and the pictures definitely help to support my understanding. 
  • I get a sense of achievement from actually finishing the books. 
  • I have found something that I actually really enjoy doing in French. I don’t know why, but a lot of things turn me off. I find social interactions in French to be extremely painful.
  • I can go at my own speed (unlike TV shows which are harder to keep up with)
  • I tend to just read and read, and unfortunately I sort of skip over the phrases which I don’t understand or don’t know how to pronounce. I should actually stop and check those things, note them down, try to use them myself. (more comments on this kind of thing later)
  • There’s no audio though, so I can’t actually hear the pronunciation.
  • I should try reading other things like magazine articles or books. I did buy High Fidelity in French but just couldn’t get into the habit of reading it. I have quite bad reading habits actually, even in English. 

Open my ears and just listen to people around me

  • This really just means getting out of my bubble and noticing the French which people are using around me. 
  • Being part of conversations when lots of people are talking can be very overwhelming and exhausting. It’s all too much for me and I just become cut off from the French I’m hearing. As I’ve said before, I feel like I’m watching a game of tennis and after I while I just can’t see the ball any more. 

Being a bit more gregarious and outgoing – stop avoiding social interactions, take out my headphones and be a bit more present. 

Don’t beat myself up

Don’t care so much

Just enjoy it!

Lower my expectations for myself – take the pressure off my shoulders a bit

There are millions of other things I could be doing to improve my French – perhaps I’ll mention some of those things later – but you know what, part of what holds me back with my French is this sense of pressure that I should be a master language learner because I am a professional language teacher. I put a lot of pressure on myself and as a result I have a bad relationship with French and I often avoid it and avoid learning it. You heard me talk about some of these things in the episode with Fabio from last year. Episode 850 “Any Language You Want”, also the one with Rhiannon Carter. 

(This has become a therapy session now) 

Because I make it my business to help other people learn a language, and I do know a lot of methods and have so much pedagogy spinning around inside my head, and that is connected to job-related and career-related pressure, I am extremely aware of all the things I am not doing in my learning of French. I carry all of that on my shoulders and it causes me to feel quite ashamed of my language learning, and shame doesn’t help. It just kills that outgoing, curious, risk-taking, adventurous side that you need to encourage in yourself because that is so important in language learning. It also kills the motivation you need to push through things like slightly boring or unexciting language practice exercises you can do, which require discipline. 

There are also other reasons for my lack of progress including the fact that a lot of people just switch to English when they speak to me, I am actually more capable of having meaningful conversations in English than French, I can’t really speak French at home with my wife because our relationship is based in English and more. As I’ve said before, my French is not that great but my excuses are improving all the time. 

Anyway, I would like to take all that pressure off my shoulders and just come at this a bit more fresh, as if I have no idea that I’m climbing a big mountain – I’m just going for a great walk in the countryside and I’m enjoying the view.

Things to improve

  • Attitude (I’ve just talked about that – just take it easy on myself, basically)
  • Keep a vocabulary/grammar note book → just a notebook, or perhaps notes on my phone, where I can note down or jot down any little things which I notice and would like to remember. Little phrases, little bits of grammar or structures that keep coming up, little reminders of pronunciation. I can check an online French dictionary or even ChatGPT or other online tools like DeepL translator. Online translators can be extremely useful tools – just don’t use them to cheat (to writing all your emails and stuff), use them to help you learn.
  • Check my note book later and remind myself of what I noted down.
  • Practise by testing myself – simply covering up some words with my thumb, reading things out loud and then running them through Google Translate to hear them said, in order to check my pronunciation (Not translating, just making Google Translate say the French I’m learning)
  • Devote just 10 minutes a day to doing some reading or listening in French and then investigating the language I notice with my note book.
  • Try to convert listening to speaking, and reading to writing. Repeat some of the things I’ve heard. Write down some of the things I’ve read. ChatGPT can help with the writing – just ask it to correct you and perhaps explain your errors. Other chatbots are available of course. And I only mention ChatGPT here in case you can’t find or can’t afford a human teacher.
  • Consider taking some one-to-one lessons with a human being perhaps on iTalki.

    I have to sort out my time management for this. All my time is used up at the moment, but I should make time.

Questions for you

  • What do you think of the things I just said? 
  • I mean, did it make you think of your situation at all?

Maybe it just made you think of me and my language learning. To be honest, I don’t really want you to analyse and diagnose my language learning situation. I’m not looking for advice or help with my French, I’m just using it as a little example.

  • Did it encourage you to reflect on your English?

I strongly suspect that your English is better than my French, so your concerns might be a bit different to mine.  You’re probably looking for ways to get out of the intermediate plateau, or ways of progressing to a very proficient level of English. I have people with a pretty wide variety of English levels listening to this, from pretty low-level people who only just manage to follow what I am saying (you have my respect) to non-native speakers who are really advanced and even teach English as a living, and who just enjoy listening to another teacher do his thing, and want to maintain their level and keep their English alive and fresh (you have my respect too).

Anyway, with my own example as a case study, I gave some suggestions of little ways to work on your language there, beyond just listening to this podcast. 

Maybe that can give you some inspiration or ideas.

But really, the main thing I want to get across to you here is the importance of having a positive relationship with the language you are learning.

So, for me and my French, the things I will hold in my mind are

  1. The positive experience I had at the cooking class
  2. The comfort and enjoyment I experience from reading graphic novels in French

Hey! Leave a comment!

I have something to ask you. Please comment on this episode. Spread some positivity in the comment section. I want to encourage you to give any positive comment that you can right now. This will be good for you as it will help you realise something positive about your English and will give you a little bit of writing practice, but it will also be good for everyone else because it can help to create a good vibe and also can give people some inspiration and some general support in their English learning.

  • What positive experiences have you had with English?
  • What do you love about learning English?
  • What little methods, exercises or resources have helped with your English?
  • What have you enjoyed in English lately?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Summary 

Sometimes I worry that I am too wordy and the main core message of what I am saying gets watered down by the slightly long-winded way in which I put things. It’s probably fine and I just worry too much about these things, or something. Anyway, I want this episode to be clear, so I’ve asked ChatGPT to summarise the things I just said to you. I entered the text which I wrote on my sofa over the last few days and which I have read to you, and asked it to summarise it for me. 

This is what it wrote.

Here’s what it said. 

The text you provided is an extensive reflection on English language learning and personal experiences related to language acquisition. The author encourages listeners to assess their progress over the past year, emphasizing the importance of reflective practice and mindfulness in language learning.
The piece delves into various aspects:
1. **Looking back:** Encouraging individuals to consider their progress in English over the past year. Reflecting on what has worked positively, identifying experiences that have impacted learning, and acknowledging both positive and negative moments.
2. **Acknowledging learning challenges:** Addressing the common feeling of being stuck in the “intermediate plateau” and offering encouragement to persist despite feeling stagnant. Emphasizing that progress may not always be immediately visible but is still happening.
3. **Adopting a positive attitude:** Encouraging a positive mindset, emphasizing that failures and setbacks are part of the learning process. Highlighting the importance of perseverance and staying committed to learning.
4. **Suggestions for improvement:** Offering personal experiences with learning French and outlining strategies for improvement, such as keeping a vocabulary/grammar notebook, practicing reading and listening, and exploring speaking opportunities.
5. **The importance of enjoying the learning process:** Stressing the significance of enjoying the journey of learning a language and removing self-imposed pressure to achieve perfection.
6. **Encouragement for sharing experiences:** Inviting listeners to share positive experiences, effective learning methods, and resources in English.
7. **Future goals:** Posing questions about how individuals want to spend the next 12 months, emphasizing the value of enjoying time spent learning English, and expressing enthusiasm for continuing the podcast journey.
Overall, the text serves as a reflective guide, encouraging learners to consider their language learning journeys, embrace challenges, find joy in the process, and engage with the learning community by sharing experiences and positive energy.

A note about AI chatbots like ChatGPT

Sometimes listeners on YouTube post AI-written summaries of my episodes in the comment section and they’re usually a bit wrong, for example the AI seems confused by moments of humour or comedy in my episodes, or by funny little conversational tangents and doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between those tangential moments and the main topic of the episode, and so its summaries are a bit off the mark. I’m talking about Tammy AI here. I don’t know if it uses the same engine as ChatGPT. Anyway, that summary which ChatGPT gave me for this episode is good and I’m happy with it. 

By the way, I’m not relying on ChatGPT here, overusing it and becoming dependent on it. I say that because I think some people out there are wary of ChatGPT and see any use of it as being a slippery slope to over-reliance on it and therefore a sort of slipping of standards. But I think that AI can be used sparingly and to good effect, and that summary is an example of that. It came up with that summary in seconds. I read it, checked it and decided to use it.

Speaking challenges

I said before that I would give you some ideas for speaking and writing challenges. So here are some things you can do to work on your productive skills in English.

Working on your speaking

In a perfect world you will have people to talk to, and you can just have these long conversations, practise expressing yourself for long periods until you are really tired and that night you fall asleep with your mind whizzing and whirring with English words, structures and pronunciation. But, for so many of you out there, you don’t have this opportunity.

You could try joining a community of English speakers. For example, Zdenek has a Discord server called The Achievers Chamber which is a place where you can practise speaking with other learners of English who have a similar level to you. https://teacherzdenek.com/?page_id=2816 

Or you can go to italki.com www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and find a person there to talk to, or a teacher to have lessons with. There are teachers from all over the world including the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, USA etc. 

You have to pay for this of course, and sometimes it can take time to find the right teacher or conversation partner for you, but it can be an effective way to find someone for speaking practice with feedback and also lessons for specific purposes. By the way, if you use my link you can get a $10 voucher when you buy some lessons on italki www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

You could also enrol in language classes in a language school near you, like The British Council, and you’ll probably find that they offer courses which include lessons on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and all that stuff. You might not find specific classes only for speaking and feedback though. You’ll have to check the BC’s website for more information. See if they have a teaching centre near you, and what services they offer. They also have online courses. https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/adults  

But even if you can’t access English speakers or teachers for conversations and language feedback, you can still find ways to practise your speaking on your own. You just have to think outside the box a little bit and be prepared to do something that seems a bit unconventional, like speaking to yourself. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re weird, and if someone overhears you and wonders what you’re doing, just say “it’s ok – there’s nothing to worry about – Luke told me to do it.” and they’ll say “Who is Luke?” and then you’ll have to just make them listen to LEP and then they’ll become LEPsters and my evil plan will finally come to fruition and I’ll take over the world. 

Talk to yourself

Just try talking to yourself, out loud, in English. There are many things you can talk about or try to do (there are ideas coming). 

Simply the act of attempting to express yourself out loud in English is good practice. When you get stuck and you realise you don’t know how to say something you want to say, you can just go to Google Translate (other translators are available – DeepL for example) and just write what you want to say in your language and translate it into English. You can also press the “audio” button to hear how to pronounce it. 

This is not cheating. It’s using Google Translate as a tool.

You might think that Google Translate is a bad thing, it’s cheating, it’s lazy, it’s bad for your English or it’s unreliable. Well, it’s actually pretty good I find, as long as it’s not the only thing you are working with.

There’s also ChatGPT with the Google Chrome extention “Voice control for ChatGPT, which allows you to just ask questions to ChatGPT, get it to translate things for you, and listen to it say its responses. You can control things like speaking speed and different accents. It’s no replacement for speaking to an actual human, but if you see it as a tool for certain kinds of controlled practice, it can be pretty useful!

So, consider using things like Google Translate or ChatGPT as tools to help you practise speaking on your own. 

If you don’t know what to talk about, here are some ideas.

  1. Commentary
    Give a commentary of all the things you are doing while doing them.
  2. Commentary in the past
    While you are doing things, talk about them as if they happened in the past. Imagine you’re in the future and you’re describing all the things you did.
  3. Shadowing
    Listen to a short audio clip or video in English and try to imitate the speaker’s pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm. Repeat the sentences or phrases immediately after hearing them. There are specific episodes in the premium subscription designed to help you do this.
  4. Record yourself
    Pick a topic or a short passage (maybe a topic from a podcast episode, or a passage from an episode with a transcript – like a story episode), read it aloud, and record your voice. Then, listen to the recording and analyse your pronunciation, intonation, and fluency. Take note of areas that you could improve.
  5. Monologue or ramble challenge
    Choose a topic or an object around you and talk about it for a few minutes as if you’re giving a presentation. You can discuss its features, uses, history, or any related information.
  6. Role play
    Act out conversations between different characters or personas. You can use scripts from movies, TV shows, or even create your own scenarios. This helps with practicing natural language flow and expressions. Also, you can just talk to yourself. Try it now! (I’ll demonstrate it if you like)
  7. Describe and Explain
    Take an object, a picture, or a scene and describe it in as much detail as possible. This exercise helps in expanding vocabulary and enhancing descriptive skills.
  8. Debate with yourself
    Choose a topic you’re interested in and argue both sides of the debate. Express your opinions, provide reasons, and counter-arguments as if you were having a real discussion.
  9. Storytelling
    Create and narrate stories. It can be a personal experience, a fictional tale, or a summary of a book or movie. Just describe what happened. My StoryTime episodes in the premium subscription are specifically designed to help you do this. 
  10. Sing along and karaoke
    Practice singing along to English songs. It can help with pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. You can also find karaoke versions of songs on YouTube with the lyrics on the screen and sing them as if you’re performing. Just remember that songs often break the rules of grammar and pop songs are usually sung in an American accent, not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.
  11. Read Aloud
    Choose a book, article, or any text in English, and read it aloud. Focus on clear pronunciation, appropriate pauses, and intonation as if you’re narrating it for an audience. If you also have the audio version of that text, you can listen to it and compare it to your version. I talked about the benefits of doing this in episode 794. 

If you have other cool ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Remember, the key to improvement is regular practice. Mix and match these activities based on your preferences and gradually increase the difficulty level as you progress. But remember, self-assessment and feedback are really important for monitoring your improvement.

Again, consider recording yourself and listening back. 

Also consider using Voice Control for ChatGPT and talking to it, and then ask it to give you feedback. You can say “I am going to speak English to you. Can you give me some feedback on my English, and correct some of my errors?” Then speak for a few minutes. It will focus on things like grammar and vocabulary, rather than pronunciation though. But if you notice that you’re saying certain words and ChatGPT is hearing other words, it might mean you are pronouncing those words wrong, and then it;’s time to use Google Translate to check the pronunciation of the word or words you’re having trouble with. Of course, good online dictionaries have phonetic translations and audio recordings too.

Writing challenges

  • Write a diary or journal
    YOu can simply describe the things you did, or write about your feelings. Either way, it’s good to get into the habit of trying to express yourself in written English.

But it’s important to remember that we normally write certain kinds of text and so you should probably practise writing in these modes.

Here are the kinds of text you might have to write. This is the sort of thing that comes up in writing sections of Cambridge Exams

  • A for/against essay
  • A business report or academic report with an introduction, findings and conclusion
  • An informal letter to a friend or family member describing an event or planning something
  • A formal business letter to get or give information
  • A business proposal (similar to a report but with a recommendation at the end)
  • A short fiction story
  • A covering letter or personal statement for a job application

Again, I am going to refer to ChatGPT here, but there’s no denying how helpful it can be here, in lieu of a real human teacher.

Here’s a template for a ChatGPT prompt which you can use to create writing tasks.

Write this prompt. You can change the underlined part depending on what kind of writing you want to practise.

Can you give me a short writing task to help me practise my English? I’d like to write a business email. Can you give me some feedback on my writing, and also provide me with an example answer for your task?

ChatGPT will give you the task, then tell you to write your text as a reply and it will give you some feedback. It will also give you a sample answer to your task which you can use as a model to copy / get ideas from. 

Here’s ChatGPT’s response to my prompt:

Absolutely! Here’s a scenario for your business email:
**Scenario: You work for a software company and need to email a client regarding a delay in delivering a project. The client has been eagerly anticipating the completion of the project and is expecting it by the end of the month. Craft an email to notify the client about the delay, explain the reasons behind it, and reassure them about the revised timeline.**
When you draft your email, make sure to maintain a professional tone, be transparent about the situation, offer apologies for the inconvenience caused by the delay, and propose a revised timeline or solution.
For feedback and an example answer:
When you’ve written your email, you can share it here for review and feedback. Additionally, I’ll provide an example email response for the scenario described above:
Subject: Update on Project Delivery Timeline
Dear [Client’s Name],
I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to provide an update on the status of the project we’ve been working on.
Regrettably, I must inform you that there has been a slight delay in the delivery of the project. We understand the importance of this project to your business objectives, and please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this delay may cause.
The primary reason for the delay is a need for additional testing and refinement to ensure the final product meets the high-quality standards we’ve committed to delivering. Our team encountered unexpected technical issues during the final phase of development, which required more thorough testing and adjustments than initially anticipated.
We are fully committed to delivering a flawless product that exceeds your expectations. To ensure the highest quality and functionality, we estimate that the project will be completed and ready for delivery by [Revised Date].
Rest assured, our team is actively addressing the challenges, and we are implementing strategies to expedite the process without compromising the quality of the final product.
In the meantime, we will provide regular updates on the progress to keep you informed about the status of the project. Your satisfaction remains our top priority, and we appreciate your understanding and continued trust in our services.
Should you have any questions or require further clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Best regards,
[Your Name][Your Position][Your Contact Information]
Feel free to use this example as a reference while drafting your email. Once you’ve composed your message, share it here for feedback, and I’ll be glad to assist further!

So, you can use that prompt to ask ChatGPT to give you similar tasks, feedback and model.

By the way, I couldn’t help having a bit of fun with ChatGPT and I decided to write a really terrible response to the task it gave me. I just wanted to see what feedback it would give me.

Here’s my answer to your task.
Sorry mate but I ain’t done that thing you wanted cos sh*t got intense and I had to stay at home. Sorry about that can you give me more time though and it’ll get done proper innit bruv. Alright boss.

Here’s the feedback ChatGPT gave me. It showed great restraint here. If one my my students had given me this work I would not have been quite so professional I think.

Your message has a casual tone, which may not be suitable for a professional business email. To maintain a more formal and professional approach, consider the following revised version:
Subject: Extension Request for Project Delivery
Dear [Client’s Name],
I sincerely apologize for the delay in delivering the project as initially planned. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances arose, requiring my urgent attention and presence at home.
I understand the importance of this project and the inconvenience caused by this delay. I assure you that I am fully committed to completing the project promptly and to the highest standard possible.
Could I kindly request an extension of [X amount of time] to ensure the project is finalized thoroughly and accurately? This additional time will enable me to dedicate the necessary focus and effort to ensure a successful outcome.
I appreciate your understanding and flexibility in this matter. Please be assured that I am prioritizing the completion of the project and will strive to exceed your expectations.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
Best regards,
[Your Name][Your Position][Your Contact Information]
This revised version maintains a polite and professional tone while effectively communicating the need for an extension. Feel free to incorporate this structure and tone into your future business emails for a more formal and appropriate approach.

OK, so that brings us to the end of this episode.

Well done for getting to the end. I trust you have not turned into a skeleton with headphones on. Do let me know that you are still breathing and that you found this episode to be useful.

What about that vocabulary highlighted in that lurid green colour on the PDF?

As I said before, I will devote a premium episode (maybe a series) to this vocabulary. So, you’ll need to be a premium subscriber to get that. Did I mention my premium subscription at all?

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

But here is a list of all those highlighted expressions for your reference.

DID YOU NOTICE THIS VOCABULARY IN THIS EPISODE?

I’ll be explaining all of this in an upcoming Premium episode. 

  • watch out for some of the words and phrases highlighted in lurid green on the PDF
  • A lot of people will be turning over a new leaf and trying to make a fresh start with their English. Is that you? 
  • It’s a podcast for learners of English. I’m Luke. Hence the title of the show – Luke’s English Podcast. 
  • There are audio versions and video versions of this podcast. Let me explain that to the uninitiated
  • If you’re already initiated into the world of podcasting, that all might strike you as being very obvious
  • I just love doing this podcast and hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off on you and will encourage you in your journey
  • What inspiring words of wisdom can I impart? What sage-like advice can I give?” 
  • And after I had lowered my expectations for myself and just started writing, this is what came out. 
  • Listen carefully and hopefully you will get swept up in what I’m saying and the outcome will be that you’ll get a renewed sense of positivity and possibility for your English this year. 
  • This is a time when we look back and survey the year we’ve just completed, then look forward to the forthcoming 12 months and consider how we’re going to spend that time.
  • I want to encourage you and help you to take stock of your English learning at this moment in time.
  • “errr, I dunno actually”
  • you’re just not being very mindful about your relationship with English 
  • you’re not really that aware of the ways that you are learning this language
  • ou listen to my episodes, do other things in English sometimes but you don’t reflect on it all in an objective way
  • To be honest, I doubt that you fit the description I just mentioned. 
  • in fact maybe you are very conscious of it, and take quite a  metacognitive approach to it – maybe you are constantly analysing and strategising the way you learn English
  • Are you waiting for some kind of breakthrough moment?
  • Do you feel like you’re on a long plateau?
  • You just have to be willing to stick with it.
  • Sometimes you get stuck in a rut, or stuck in a routine
  • it feels like you’re going over the same ground 
  • getting any significant feelings of reward moments of triumph or glory.
  • You can’t have those moments all the time. Sometimes they are few and far between.
  • With English you have to put in a lot of hours.
  • you have to see the bigger picture
  • Imagine it like a long journey. (trip, journey, travel)
  • But at other times you have to travel along a long flat plain and it can feel like you’re not even moving at all. 
  • This can make you feel disheartened
  • the time you have spent with it will pay off somehow.
  • the more you are exposed to English as a living thing like this, the better your position is,
  • when you’re on the spot and you’re in conversation with someone
  • keep going, keep the faith,
  • Keep your chin up.
  • consider shaking things up a bit, adopting some new habits maybe
  • watch some stuff in English or occasionally speak it when the need arises
  • I must say that puts you in a select group of extremely special people.
  • this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet.
  • getting into a negative mindset
  • one of those people who simply doesn’t have what it takes to use this language effectively
  • you just have to maintain some good habits, a positive mental attitude, a sense of enjoyment and perhaps a sense of drive to push things further.
  • How can you put your best foot forwards and repeat some of the successes of the last year and build on them
  • this continues in a generally upward trajectory.
  • To demonstrate this a bit, let me reflect on my learning of French
  • Here are some notes which I will expand on.
  • Reading graphic novels
  • This really just means getting out of my bubble
  • I just become cut off from the French I’m hearing
  • Being a bit more gregarious and outgoing 
  • Don’t beat myself up
  • part of what holds me back with my French is this sense of pressure that I should be a master language learner 
  • you need to push through things like slightly boring or unexciting language practice exercises
  • just take it easy on myself, basically
  • notes on my phone, where I can note down or jot down any little things which I notice
  • I don’t really want you to analyse and diagnose my language learning situation
  • I strongly suspect that your English is better than my French
  • Sometimes I worry that I am too wordy and the main core message of what I am saying gets watered down by the slightly long-winded way in which I put things. 
  • The piece delves into various aspects
  • its summaries are a bit off the mark
  • some people out there are wary of ChatGPT and see any use of it as being a slippery slope to over-reliance on it and therefore a sort of slipping of standards
  • AI can be used sparingly and to good effect
  • you are really tired and that night you fall asleep with your mind whizzing and whirring with English words

my evil plan will finally come to fruition and I’ll take over the world.

854. The Invitation (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. 📄 I found this story in answer to a post on Quora.com asking about true scary stories. I thought I could use it to help you learn English. Can you understand the story, and predict the twist at the end?

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Story Script

The Invitation

About 7 years ago I got an invitation to attend a dinner party at my cousin’s house. I have a pretty large family and I had never actually seen this particular cousin before.  I had only ever spoken to him on the phone. I was surprised that his family unexpectedly invited me over, but I was curious to finally meet them.

The invitation had an address that I didn’t know and the GPS was unfamiliar with it too. It was in one of those areas where Google Maps doesn’t work properly because of poor phone reception, 

so I had to use an old fashioned paper map. I marked the location on the map, tried to get a sense of where I was headed, and set off in my car.

As I was driving I started to notice how far I’d travelled into the countryside, away from civilization. I saw trees, farms and fields passing by. Just trees, farms, and fields, and more trees, more farms and more fields. 

“Where the hell am I going?” I thought to myself. I’d never ventured out so far in that direction before.

I drove for quite a long time, trying to locate the address I had marked on the map. 

The thing is, in this area, a lot of the roads don’t have names, or the names aren’t clearly marked by road signs. I just had to try to match the layout of the streets, to the layout I could see on the map.

I finally found a place at a location that looked like the one I had noted on my map. I was pretty sure this was the right spot, so I parked and got out of the car. 

Approaching the house I noticed how dull and dreary it looked. It was completely covered in leaves, branches and overgrown trees. 

“This can’t be it.” I said to myself.

But as soon as I walked onto the rocky driveway my aunt and uncle came out to greet me. They seemed excited and welcoming. 

“Hello! Hello! Come in! Come in!” they said, beckoning me inside. 

Walking into the house, I asked where my cousin was. Answering immediately one of them said, “Oh, he just went to run a few errands. He should be back later.”

I waited in their kitchen and we spent a couple of hours talking about my mother and my family. My aunt made a delicious homemade pot roast that I finished off in minutes. 

After dinner we played an enduring game of Uno. It was surprisingly fun and competitive. My aunt in particular seemed delighted to be playing.

When we finished the game of Uno it was almost dark and there was still no sign of my cousin. My aunt and uncle assured me that he’d be back any time soon. Despite what they said, I decided that I had to leave. 

It was almost dark outside and I knew it would be a nightmare to find my way out of this dreadful place after sunset, with no streetlights or road signs. As my GPS just wasn’t working, I asked my aunt and uncle the most efficient way to get to the highway.

They gave me a puzzled look. 

“But, we thought you were staying the night?” they said.

I told them I couldn’t because I had work the next day and couldn’t afford to miss another day. “It’s much better if you leave tomorrow morning. Trust us. You’ll get lost” they said.

I shrugged it off and told them not to worry, 

“Don’t worry. I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. I could find my way out of the Sahara desert.” I told them. 

Looking aggravated, they strongly advised me to stay the night for my own sake. Their body language was weird too as they became more serious and insistent. My uncle stood shaking his head, and my aunt began to move about the place, picking up a set of keys to unlock what I assume was a spare bedroom.

At this point I was getting annoyed and irritable. I sighed, “Fine I’ll stay the night then, but I have to get up very early for work.” I said. Both of them seemed strangely ecstatic that I was staying the night. 

As soon as they went out of the room to get bed sheets and pillows, 

I ran out of the door, got in my car and hastily pulled away. I know it was rude, but I suddenly felt the urge to get out of there, quickly. 

It seemed to take me ages, but I finally found my way back to the main highway and drove back through the night, wondering why my cousin had never turned up.

I got home several hours later than I expected. It was after midnight and I didn’t want to wake my parents up. Climbing over my fence and entering the back door, I noticed that the kitchen lights were on.

As soon as I took my first step through the door, I saw my mom sitting there looking impatient.

“Where have you been?” 

She asked.

“I was at aunt Debra’s. I told you.”

I replied.

“Then why did she call saying you never arrived?”

To this day, I still have no idea who I visited.

Read the original version on Quora.com

838. A 3-Hour Mega-Ramble / Reflecting on a Wonderful Spring Day in Paris

This is the longest episode of LEP so far, and it’s a solo ramble. Relax, follow my words, hang out with me for 3 hours, get stranded on a desert island of the imagination, and then get rescued. Includes a haircut, a sleep and a t-shirt change during the episode.

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PDF Script / Notes for this episode 👇

837. Describing a Car Accident in 15+ Styles of English 🚗📚

How would the same car accident be described in over 15 completely different styles of English? What are the differences in vocabulary, grammar and organisational structure? How should I change my voice to read each description? Let’s see how English changes in different situations. Styles presented include: formal and informal English, news reports, an action movie screenplay, an Eminem rap, a romantic novel, a Shakespeare play, a politician making a speech, a stand-up comedian, Liam Neeson in the film Taken, and Luke in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast. PDF transcript available.

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DOWNLOAD THE PDF TRANSCRIPT FREE 👇

Styles demonstrated in this episode 👇

  • An informal letter to a friend
  • Literary style
  • A stand-up comedy routine
  • A police report
  • An academic essay
  • A tabloid newspaper report
  • A broadsheet newspaper report
  • A conversational anecdote between friends
  • A Hollywood action movie screenplay
  • A news report on location
  • A child writing a letter to their parents
  • An 18th century romantic novel
  • Shakespeare
  • Eminem
  • JRR Tolkein
  • Luke’s English Podcast
  • Super-intelligent alien computers who have been dispassionately observing the human race for centuries
  • A politician making a speech
  • Liam Neeson in the film “Taken” (2006)

832. Sherlock Holmes: The Red-headed League (Learn English with a Short Story)

Let me read you a classic Sherlock Holmes detective story, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ll read the original text and stop regularly in order to explain what is happening.

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822. ChatGPT & Learning English PART 2

In this series I am evaluating ChatGPT as a language-learning tool. In this part I’m experimenting with role-play conversations, job interview practice, creating texts and dialogues and seeing if it can help you prepare for Cambridge exams like IELTS or CAE.

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Episode Transcript

Hello listeners,

This is part 2 of a 3-part episode in which I am playing around with ChatGPT in order to see how it can help you learn English. 

ChatGPT is a sophisticated AI chatbot. You can ask it questions and give it commands and it responds instantly. This is the most advanced AI chatbot I have ever used and it is quite impressive how it can do so many different tasks. We’re all finding out how we can use it and how it can be useful as a time-saving tool for many things, including learning and teaching English.

Of course ChatGPT is not without its critics. Some of those criticisms include the fact that ChatGPT will probably encourage cheating and will make it harder for institutions like schools to detect cheating. Noam Chomsky the well-known linguist and intellectual has described it as high-tech plagiarism, because it essentially regurgitates other people’s work and doesn’t provide citations or sources for the information it provides, and also people are suggesting that ChatGPT or AI in general could ultimately lead to a lot of people losing their jobs. 

Does that include me, and other English teachers like me? Can ChatGPT replace English teachers, content creators or even the need to practise English with humans at all?

I’m not entirely sure, and we’re all working these things out at the moment, since this is perhaps the first time this kind of technology has been so accessible and now everyone’s using it, learning about it and thinking about it.  

There are very interesting debates about this going on, but in this episode I’m focusing mainly on things you can do with ChatGPT, seeing how it works, and evaluating it’s effectiveness as a language learning tool. 

This is part 2. In part 1 of this I asked it to create a study plan as if I was an upper-intermediate learner of English, which it instantly wrote for me. The advice was presented very clearly and a lot of it was pretty decent advice at first glance, but was it appropriate advice for the learner profile I wrote? Was the information a bit generic? What experience or research was its advice based on? We don’t really know. 

Then I checked its ability to correct English errors and to explain those corrections, which it seemed to do quite well, although it lacked the ability of a human teacher to see the bigger picture and to use emotional intelligence, and then I started testing its ability to have a natural conversation, which it struggled with – mainly because as an AI language model it doesn’t have any feelings or opinions of its own and apparently these things are absolutely vital elements for a good conversation.

But is it possible to persuade ChatGPT to forget that it’s an AI chatbot and to pretend to be someone else, like a celebrity that you’d like to chat to, or your English teacher who can correct your errors while you chat?

This is what we’re looking at in part 2 here.

Also, coming up are these questions:

  • How well does it handle role plays in order to let you prepare to use English in specific situations?
  • Can you simulate job interview situations with it?
  • Can it create useful texts or dialogues for studying with?
  • Can it help you with exam preparation by providing sample written texts in response to FCE or CAE writing tasks?
  • Can it give you good advice for doing Cambridge exams?
  • Can it create reliable, useful exam practice tasks to help you prepare for IELTS?

Well, let’s find out now as we continue to play around with ChatGPT. By the way, there is a PDF script for all the things I am saying in this episode, including all the prompts I am using. You can get it on the page for this episode on my website – link in the description. If you are watching on YouTube you will see the text on the screen and I recommend that you watch this in full screen mode so you can see the text more easily.

OK, so let’s continue and here we go…

Conversation role plays for specific situations

If you need practice of using English in certain specific situations, you can ask it to help you.

I am a hotel receptionist. Can you help me deal with customer complaints?

It just gave me advice, like an article about how to deal with customer complaints. 

You can ask it to create sample dialogues for you, for different situations.

Can you make a dialogue between a hotel receptionist and a customer making a complaint about their room?

It creates a pretty good model dialogue. The language you can see is professional, and polite and a good example of the kind of English you would need in that situation. 

ChatGPT is good at this kind of thing. But, as a teacher in class, I might want to make sure this dialogue contained certain target language which I want to present and practise. 

Again, there isn’t a brain there looking at the bigger picture, guiding you, interpreting your needs and reactions, anticipating and planning as it prepares learning materials and activities for you. 

Conversation can be hard to maintain. 

You need to give it very specific instructions if you want to converse with it. Otherwise it will just generate a dialogue. 

Let’s do a roleplay. You pretend to be a hotel customer with a complaint, and I will be the receptionist. Can you also correct my English errors during the roleplay?

It just created the dialogue, writing lines for both people.

Let’s see what happens if I re-write the prompt more specifically.

Let’s do a roleplay. You pretend to be a hotel customer with a complaint, and I will be the receptionist. I will start by writing “Hello, can I help you”. Then give your response and wait for me to reply before writing the next line.

Can you also correct my English errors during the roleplay?

It’s very difficult to persuade it to do this.

Job interview role plays

Can you interview me for a job as a TEFL teacher at a new language school in Paris?

This worked quite well. It generated questions one after the other. It also responded when I asked for clarification. 

Let’s see it it can help you prepare for an interview for a specific position.

Can we do a job interview role play? I’ll input a job advertisement and can you then interview me for the position?

You can input all the details from a job advertisement. 

Just paste all the text from an online job advert, like “Marketing manager job advert” or “TEFL teacher France job advert” or “Podcast host job advert”

Inputting a large amount of text can confuse ChatGPT and it tends to just summarise the text. But then you can say “Ask me interview questions based on the job description I gave you”.

It should ask you some pretty good questions, relevant to that job, which will allow you to simulate the interview on your own, or at least prepare some answers. You could type your answers into ChatGPT and ask it for feedback.

But beware of just practising English through typing. Don’t forget that in the real world you have to speak spontaneously and you have to use social skills while doing it including things like body language.

Sample dialogues or texts

Ask it to produce sample texts or sample dialogues which you can then study with.

To be fair, this isn’t really necessary as there are so many texts and resources already available for you, including ones which are specifically created to help you learn English, but yes they are in published books and materials that you might not have immediate access to. Also, it’s simple to just go to ChatGPT and ask it to create any text or dialogue you want, following your specific instructions.

Can you write a 300 word text containing useful phrases for talking about using the toilet?

No speaking: Remember, Chat GPT won’t “say” any of these sentences because it is only in text form.

Can you create a 200 word story to present the use of narrative verb tenses in English?

What I want from this is a range of verb tenses. Past simple, past continuous, past perfect, with good clear examples of how those forms are used and how they are different to each other.

Did it do that?

Was it a good story?

Can it help with Cambridge Exam test preparation?

Let’s see if it can do a Cambridge First Certificate writing task. 

Sample answers can help us to practice our writing by providing a model which we can learn from. 

Let’s input a task directly into ChatGPT.

CAE Writing Part 1

You have received this email from your English-speaking friend David.

From: David

Subject: touring holiday

Some college friends of mine are visiting your area soon for a week’s touring holiday. They would like to travel around and learn about your local area and its history.

Can you tell me about some of the places they could visit? What’s the best way to travel around – car, bike or coach?

Thanks,

David

Write your email.

Write 140 – 190 words in an appropriate style. 

Dear David,

It’s great to hear from you!

I’d be happy to give some recommendations for your college friends’ touring holiday in our area.

There are plenty of places to visit and explore around here. If your friends are interested in history, I would suggest they start with a visit to the local museum, which houses exhibits on the area’s past, including its early settlements and industrial heritage.

Another must-visit is the old castle, which is one of the most famous landmarks in the region. Your friends can take a guided tour of the castle to learn about its history and its role in the area’s development.

As for the best way to travel around, I would recommend a car. There are several car rental agencies available in the area, and it’s an efficient and flexible way to travel and explore. However, if they are more comfortable with public transport, there are several coach tours available that take visitors around to the most popular sites.

I hope your friends enjoy their time here and get to experience everything that the area has to offer.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Can you give me some advice on how to do a Cambridge FCE writing task, like the one I gave you?

The answer was pretty good but it got some things wrong.

  • It said that I should use a formal tone, but this isn’t always the case. 
  • The email to David shouldn’t be formal. In fact this advice contradicts what it did in the writing task. It used some informal language there. 
  • It didn’t refer to any assessment criteria.
  • I’m not sure ChatGPT is consistent or reliable enough to replace proper English language teaching.

Ask it to create IELTS practice tests

I asked it:

Can you create an IELTS reading section 3 practice test?

It created a test which looked good at first glance, but it was not a proper section 3 reading test. 

The test format was different and did not follow the true, false, not given format of IELTS part 3. 

So this means it is not providing sufficient practice for IELTS reading section 3. 

Each part of IELTS is specifically designed to test different reading skills and each reading test is very carefully created to test those skills. 

Chat GPT didn’t do this to the same standard as you would find in proper IELTS test preparation materials.

Part 2 ending

That is where we are going to stop part 2.

I hope you’re enjoying these episodes and finding them useful.

Don’t forget to leave your comments in the comment section if you have something to say. 

We are going to continue in part 3 of this episode, which will be available soon. In fact it might be available for you now – check the episode description for links.

In part 3 I will be attempting to get answers to these questions:

  • Can you use ChatGPT like a dictionary?
  • Can it give us the same information about words that we can find in a good dictionary?
  • Can it give us correct definitions, information about parts of speech, pronunciation, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, collocations?
  • Can it provide information about the etymology of words and phrases?
  • Can it transcribe things into phonemic script? 
  • Does it accurately transcribe things into British English pronunciation or is it just standard American?
  • Can it convert between different dialects of English, e.g. will it convert American English into British English, or into specific dialects of British English?
  • Is it able to help us to use the right sentence stress, word stress, pausing and intonation when reading things out loud?
  • Can it help us practise grammar by creating quizzes or tests? Are those tests reliable?
  • Can it help you to remember vocabulary with tests and quizzes?
  • Can it help you remember words and spelling with mnemonic memory devices?
  • Can it create text adventure games?
  • Can it adapt its English to different levels?
  • What are my overall thoughts and conclusions about ChatGPT?

All of that, coming up in part 3!

End of part 2

805. A New Year Ramble 2023 / Learn English with LEP

A rambling episode about making a fresh start in the new year, and some things I just have to tell you about listening to Luke’s English Podcast using a podcast app on your phone + lots of tangents. I hope you enjoy it!

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Episode notes / Transcript

  • I start reading at 12mins12seconds in the audio version
  • Sometimes I go “off-script” and say things which are not written here. I hope you can follow it all.

HELLO!

If you’re new to this podcast – I’m Luke, I’m an English teacher and comedian from England, and I’ve been doing this podcast for learners of English for about 14 years now.

You can use my podcast to improve your English in various ways, but the main thing is that it can help you do more listening, which is essential for acquiring natural, and instinctive English. What I mean by instinctive English is that you get an instinctive feel for the language, and this is what you can get from simply engaging with English in spoken form or written form and focusing on understanding it. It really helps if the process is fun and so I do try to keep things funny (this isn’t funny though) or just entertaining and interesting as much as possible.

This is episode 805 and it’s called A New Year Ramble 2023.

I am just going to talk to you for at least an hour. Just listen to my voice for the duration of the episode and remember – all the words and sentences I am saying are all going into your brain and a lot of it will stick there! This is perhaps more effective for your English progress than slaving away over a grammar book or staring at word lists. Just listen to me, follow my words, stick with me and hopefully enjoy it all. Let the rest happen naturally.

For this episode I’ve written some notes which I am reading from sometimes, and some stuff is spontaneous.

The main thing in this episode is that I’m just going to have a ramble. That means talking and talking, sometimes going this way sometimes that way, moving from one topic to another and one thought to another without having a very clearly defined structure. As I said, I’m just going to talk to you for a while. Join me!

New Listeners, a Fresh Start & Learning English with LEP in 2023

In January I find that new people start listening (hello!) 

Also people return to the podcast and generally refocus on learning English, turning over a new leaf. 

New Year’s resolutions 

I like to make a fresh start every January and say some things on the podcast to explain what this is, how it works, and how you can learn English from my content. 

This is the 14th time I’ve recorded an new year episode. It’s my 14th January on this show so I have done quite a lot of episodes in the past welcoming new people and talking about how you can learn English with this podcast, and what the aims of this project are. 

So, instead of repeating the same things again, I’ll suggest that you check out some of these episodes. (Pick some episodes to recommend)

Where can I find all your episodes, Luke?

You can always find all my episodes in the archive on my website. If you’re watching on YouTube, not all the episodes are there. Just some.

All rest are in my episode archive on my website including episode titles, numbers, summaries of what’s in each episode and then on each page you’ll find an audio player, a download button and sometimes vocabulary notes, transcripts of some or all of the episode and more things.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/episodes 

Some things you should know about how to listen to LEP 

I’ve noticed from quite a lot of comments and emails recently that people don’t know certain key information about my show.

Let’s just clarify a few things here about this podcast. 

  • Free episodes (Luke’s English Podcast)
  • and premium episodes (Luke’s English Podcast Premium)

Free Episodes

Free episodes are free! You’re listening to a free episode right now! 

If you’re listening using a podcast app on your phone, you might notice some advertising. This helps me to continue doing the podcast and pays for things like rent, internet, food. 

Premium Episodes

Premium episodes are only available if you sign up to LEP Premium for about 4$ a month. This also helps me to pay for things like food, clothes for my daughter, flowers for my wife, and loads of other things. This is how I actually live these days! 

Anyway, premium episodes are for premium subscribers and they’re usually about vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.

The premium episodes have PDFs.

Some premium subscribers don’t know how to find the PDFs. 

I’ll tell you more about premium a bit later including the best way to listen to premium episodes and how to get the PDFs. 

How to listen to the free episodes

My show has always been primarily an audio podcast which most people listen to using a podcast app on their phone. 

You can also listen to the episodes on my website. 

I publish my episodes on YouTube as well. 

Over the last couple of years I’ve been filming myself with a webcam while recording my episodes and putting those video versions on YouTube. Some of those YouTube videos have sort of gone viral and I’ve ended up being a kind of YouTuber as well, but I still consider this show to be an audio podcast first and foremost.

Sometimes there is more content in the audio versions, for example if I have an interview with a guest, the video version might only contain the conversation, whereas the audio version will probably include an introduction and some talking from me at the end of the episode (perhaps a short ramble or some vocabulary explanations). 

When it’s possible I add some text on the screen of video versions on YouTube so you can read while you listen, but I don’t do that every time. 

Automatic subtitles are available (usually) on my YouTube videos. 

But this show is primarily an audio podcast. This is how I think of it. It’s an audio show which you can listen to in the normal way people listen to podcasts, which means using a podcast app on your phone. 

Now, I’m going to go a bit basic here and explain what a podcast app is. 

Back to basics: What is a podcast app?

The majority of you listening already know all this stuff so I’m just patronising you, but I suppose you could just pay attention to the way I’m describing all of this. How would you explain how to listen to a podcast, to someone who is completely new to the whole thing? Here’s how I would do it.  

For those of you who don’t know, a podcast app is an app you download (free) onto your phone from the App Store (iOS) or Play Store (Android). 

Lots of apps are available as I said. Check your phone. You might already have one. If you’re on iOS, you can look for the one with the purple icon that says Podcasts. Personally I’m not a huge fan of that app, but it will work fine.  

Maybe you don’t have a podcast app on your phone, in which case, download one (PocketCasts!) then just search in the app for Luke’s English Podcast and then subscribe to it. Of course, other podcasts are available but who needs other podcasts I ask you?

New episodes will arrive there every time I publish them and it’s super convenient. You can listen to episodes on headphones (recommended) or just blare them out loud on your phone on the back of the bus or something if you want to annoy everyone around you or perhaps help them learn English too. 

You can listen when your phone is connected to wifi (probably at home or maybe in the office when you should be working) or you can listen when you’re outside using your phone’s data internet connection. 

Podcast apps will also save your place in the episode, if you press stop for some reason. The app will remember where you stopped. Then when you go back to the app later and start listening to that episode again, the app will remember where you stopped and you can carry on listening. Perfect! No need to worry about my episodes being too long! No need to listen to the whole thing in one single sitting.

There are also other advantages to using a podcast app on your phone, including being able to add my premium episodes to the app as well, if you sign up. I’ll explain more about that in a minute. 

A lot of people use Spotify to listen to podcasts. Great! The only problem there is that you can’t add premium episodes to Spotify, because it’s not a “normal podcast app”. 

Don’t use the Luke’s English Podcast App any more

By the way, I am not talking about the LEP App here. A lot of you have downloaded that on your phones. 

It’s listed in the app store as “Luke’s English Podcast App” and it might appear on your phone as simply LEP.

But, don’t use the LEP app any more. It is defunct. New episodes are no longer arriving there and in a few months it will disappear from the App Store completely. So, you can forget about the LEP App now. It’s sad, I know, but it’s not the end of the world because you can continue listening in any other normal podcast app as I’ve said.

How to listen to LEP Premium and how to get the premium PDFs

Right, so let me talk a bit about LEP Premium. This isn’t a promotion by the way, it’s just information which a lot of people don’t know. No pressure to sign up to my premium subscription or anything. It’s totally up to you. Of course I hope you do, but it’s up to you right? 

By the way, premium people – new episodes are coming including some storytime episodes. 

So, I am constantly getting emails from people saying “I have signed up to LEP Premium but how do I listen and how do I get the PDFs?” and I just feel like a surprising number of people out there are somehow missing out on basic information which you just have to know or I might go a bit mad and stick bananas in my ears and then everyone will say “Hey you’ve got bananas in your ears” and I’ll say “What??” and they’ll say “You’ve got bananas in your ears!!!” and I’ll say “What????” and they’ll say “WHY HAVE YOU GOT BANANAS IN YOUR EARS???” and I’ll say “I CAN’T HEAR YOU I’VE GOT BANANAS IN MY EARS!!!”

That’s what will happen if everyone continues not to know certain basic information about my podcast and about how the premium part works. 

So…

Let me explain as quickly and clearly as possible, then we’ll move on to some ramblings about other perhaps more entertaining matters. 

The best way to listen to premium episodes is to add LEP Premium to a podcast app on your phone. 

Let’s say you’re using Apple Podcasts to listen to the normal free episodes of LEP and you’ve decided it’s time to also listen to the premium content to push your English further. Maybe one day you just say to yourself “Hey, I think it’s time to also listen to the premium content to push my English further” but then you think, but what do I do? Where do I go? And crucially – how do I get those precious PDFS???? 

Ok, so let’s say you’ve gone to www.teacherluke.Co.uk/premium on your phone and you’ve signed up to LEP Premium and you are logged into Acast+ (the platform I use for the premium subscription). 

You’ll see that you have the option to “Listen now” or  “Add show to app”. 

If you tap “listen now” you’ll see a list of all the episodes and you can play them, listen to them. But this is not a convenient way to listen. 

You need to tap “add show to app”, so tap that and you can choose the podcast app which you have on your phone and which you use to listen to the free episodes, see? 

Again, let’s say you’re using Apple Podcasts. Let’s use that as an example.

Where it says “Add show to podcast” you then tap “Apple Podcasts” and the Apple Podcasts app will magically open, giving you the option to subscribe to LEP Premium there. Do it! You’ve already paid, you’ve put your card details in and stuff, what are you waiting for. Add LEP Premium to Apple Podcasts! Go for it!

Now you have upgraded your LEP episode list on Apple Podcasts. You will now be able to find the premium episodes in your list. Before it was just the free episodes. Now the list includes the premium episodes too. Celebrate! It’s a miracle!

Spare a thought for LEPsters who can’t sign up to LEP Premium because of government stuff (Give peace a chance)

I think at this point it would be appropriate to spare a thought for those LEPsters who are unable to sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+, probably because of two possibilities  – either Acast has been blocked by your government because they think that LEP and LEP Premium are just far too dangerous for people to listen to, because – heaven forbid, I might talk about things which perhaps directly contradict the version of reality which they are trying to pull over your eyes, OR your credit card will not work for international payments because your country is being sanctioned because your government is being very naughty indeed. In any case, if you can’t access LEP Premium, I am sorry, but have a word with your government OK? But don’t get thrown in jail. I know, that’s easier said than done. I don’t know – I don’t want to casually suggest that you all rise up in some kind of revolution or something, and overthrow the people who run your country, because you simply cannot allow this madness to continue and you simply must be allowed to sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+. This is up to you. I’ll let you weigh up the risks and the potential benefits and so on. Good luck.

OK but let’s say you’ve signed up to LEP Premium and you’ve successfully added the episodes to your podcast app of choice. The premium episodes are now in your list, along with the other episodes. It might not be obvious at first, but they are there, just waiting to be discovered and listened to.

How can you find them? Well, you’ll need to scroll through the list a bit. Just scroll down through the episode list and BINGO you’ll see them. All premium episodes start with P and a number. P42, P41 etc. Some episodes have the word [Premium] at the start. 

Premium episodes P01-P36 were all added in July 2022 and they can be found between free episodes 776 and 777. Scroll down to episode 777 and look under it – see! Loads of premium episodes are there! (if you’ve signed up to the premium subscfiption and added the episodes to your app as I explained before)

ALL THIS STUFF ABOUT PODCAST APPS AND THE PREMIUM EPISODES IS GOING TO STOP IN A COUPLE OF MINUTES I PROMISE!! TRY NOT TO GET IMPATIENT OK??

What about the PDFs for those premium episodes? 

The links for the PDFs can be found in the show notes for each premium Episode. 

Anyway, what are “show notes” for podcast episodes?

In podcast apps, all podcast episodes have some text notes. This is where podcasters can add maybe a summary of the episode or some links to other things online. 

See if you can find the show notes or episode notes for each episode. Go on, have a look right now?

Some of you are saying “Come oooon Luke I know where the show notes are” OK then, find them right now and look at them and then say to yourself “Yes, I know where the show notes are, thank you Luke”

On Apple Podcasts, while you have an episode selected (you’ll see the LEP logo, the name of the episode and a play button) just drag the screen up and the notes will be revealed below. Again, it’s like magic or a miracle or something. An actual miracle. Thanks Jesus!

(one of my new year’s resolutions is to have more FUN in my episodes again, because life is too short)

This is where you will find the links to download the PDF for the episode. 

Tap one of the links, open the PDF and read it while you listen or send it to your computer where you can study it more carefully, annotate it with a pdf reader or even print it on paper in the old fashioned way. Then use a pencil to do the tasks. 

Ok? 

OK!

If you’re not signed up to LEP premium: Hello! That’s fine! 

You don’t have to sign up to the premium service if you don’t want to, can’t afford to or aren’t allowed to due to confusing global events and the actions of powerful men who sit at tables deciding your future. 

You are still a LEPSTER and you can still enjoy all the free episodes and all the rest of it, until of course the thought police completely turn off your access to the internet. Which country are you talking about Luke? Well, whichever country is doing it. 

There are show notes for all the free episodes too. (For many of you I’m teaching grandma how to suck eggs) 

If you’re listening in a podcast app. Have a look – you’ll always find a link to the “episode page”. That’s where you can read any vocab notes, find the associated youTube video (if there is one) and other information that I mention in the episode. 

YouTube Comments / Keeping My Episodes Varied / I’m the boss round here (yes, I am a powerful man who sits at a table and decides YOUR future)

Now we’re talking about YouTube which is another platform where I publish my episodes – either in video format (where you can see me talking, if that’s your cup of tea) or just listen to episodes without video and maybe switch on the automatic subtitles (don’t forget to smash that like button and click the bell icon and all that jazz).

One thing about being on YouTube is that there are more comments. 

This is because it is much easier to comment on YouTube than it is if you are in audioland (listening on a podcast app on your phone, probably). 

On YouTube the comment section is right there, and it is an integral part of the YouTube experience. 

So, people comment a lot more, which is great. It is lovely to get your feedback and it’s encouraging when people respond to what you’re doing. 

Sometimes it is amazing, especially if people write genuinely positive and appreciative things.

It’s mostly great, but it’s sometimes a bit irritating. 

As you know, if you are a human being, the negative things tend to stick with us a bit more than the positive things. 

By and large, my audience (like any audience of learners of English it seems) is incredibly thankful and appreciative, which is lovely. But naturally there are some people who are not so thoughtful and who write comments which probably tell us more about them than they do about the content that they’re commenting on. 

Now, while I do believe it is really important to take criticisms on board, to consider them and to learn from them, some comments are just a bit annoying! 

Which comments?

Well, obviously just abusive or directly rude comments are just the kind of “bird shit on the window of life” but there are some comments which are not exactly abuse, but which just show a certain lack of consideration for the content creator. I’m not going to list all the things that irritate me, because what’s the point, but one thing I have noticed is when I upload an episode, let’s say it’s a story episode, and the comment is “I miss your rambling episodes” or “Please make content about phrasal verbs” or “Please make short videos like “Don’t say please” or “stop saying thank you”.

Or I upload a rambling episode and someone comments “Make more stories, we want stories” or I do an Amber & Paul episode and the comment is “We want a Rick Thompson Report!” You get the idea. 

I do a variety of episodes, and I’ve always tried to keep the episodes varied for the whole time I’ve been doing this podcast, for better or worse. This is because: 

  • You can’t please all the people all the time (You might think that one type of episode is the best, but plenty of others will think that another type of episode is the best – in the end, I decide)
  • Keeping things varied keeps me motivated
  • It’s important for you to hear a variety of things – not just stories, not just teaching phrasal verbs etc, but also conversations, monologues, some easier episodes, some which are more difficult etc
  • I don’t think anyone thinks about this more than I do. I put my experience, my professional knowledge and also my heart and soul into making these episodes. They’re not always exactly perfect, but there is no such thing as “perfect” and it’s a fruitless mission to try and chase it. 

Ah shit I feel like I’m being too negative now, and also overthinking everything. Ah well. 

Is my show blocked in China?

Chinese LEPsters – how do you listen to my podcast? Do you use a VPN? Is my podcast available in Apple Podcasts? Is it available on any other apps? Let me know :)

Happy New Year! LET’S HAVE FUN IN ENGLISH IN 2023! GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!

Leave a comment to let me know you’re not a skeleton 👇

795. DOPPELGANGER (Learn English with a Short Story)

Learn English with another short story. In fact, this episode contains two stories. Listen until the end for the 2nd one. Repeat after me to practise your pronunciation. Learn some vocabulary & grammar in the second half of the episode, with an explanation of modal verbs of deduction in the past and present. Video version available.

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Video Version (with on-screen text)

Sign up to LEP Premium for a premium series with another story (P41)

Download the episode transcript here

Episode Transcript

Hello everyone, 

Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing out there in podcast land? Surviving?

Here’s a new episode. It’s time to do some more English learning with a story. 

In this episode, I’m going to read another short story to you, and use it to teach you some English. 

I recommend that as well as listening to me read the story out loud to you today, that you read this story out loud too, and I will give you a chance to do that by repeating after me. 

We’ll also look at some vocabulary and grammar from the story during the episode. And if you listen until the end, I will tell you another story too. 

That’s all going to come later in the episode. If you’re watching the video version – hello. Don’t forget to like & subscribe.  

If you are listening to the audio version. Click the link in the description to visit the page for this episode where you will be able to read a transcript for the whole things. You’re welcome.

100-Word Stories

Recently I have been looking for short stories to help me teach English, the shorter the better, and I found lots of 100-word stories on several websites. A 100-word story is a story with no more than 100 words.

There are a couple of sites where you can find a lot of these. One site is called https://100wordstory.org/ and the other is https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/ 

Anyone can submit a story to these sites. The stories are then checked by the website editors and then published for everyone to read.

The only rule for the writers, is that the stories have a 100-word limit. I think the minimum is 75 words, but the maximum is 100. So, a story with no more than 100 words.

That’s quite a challenge.

The writers need to be very disciplined. They have to choose their words carefully, and as a result these stories are very minimal and manage to convey descriptions and emotions using only a few words. 

As a teacher of English, I think these stories are great because it gives us compelling and concise samples of English to work with. 

Get the book 

I want to just point out that there is a book full of these very short stories, which you could buy. 

It’s called Nothing Short of 100: Selected tales from 100 Word Story

It is a collection of stories from the https://100wordstory.org/ website. 

There’s a Kindle version or a print version. 

It is published by OUTPOST 19 and it was put together by the team behind the website, including Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell and Joshua Michael Stewart. 

It is available for you to purchase and I recommend it if you are looking for bite size stories to use for learning or teaching English. 

I also recommend visiting https://100wordstory.org/ and www.fridayflashfiction.com where you can find absolutely loads of stories like this with new ones arriving each week.

Today’s story

OK so let’s start with a story which I’ve selected from the Nothing Short of 100 book.

This story is called DOPPELGÄNGER 

By the way, we don’t usually use an umlaut in English →  ä  

What is a doppleganger?

A doppelganger is someone who looks exactly like someone else, but it’s creepy and scary, like a ghostly copy of someone.

I think the word has its origins in German (hence the umlaut in the title), and translates directly as “double goer”. So your doppelganger is your double, a copy of you, who looks exactly like you and who goes around, walking the earth.

In my case, that would be Luka Modric, the Croatian footballer. That’s what people say anyway, that Luka Modric is my doppelganger. 

Yes, he is my doppelganger. I’m not his doppelganger, ok? He’s my doppelganger. I was here first!

We do use the word in conversational English.

We say things like “Oh, I saw your doppelganger in the street today!” (meaning, “I saw someone who looked just like you”)
or “It’s amazing, he’s your complete doppelganger!” etc. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that. Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever seen someone who looks exactly like someone you know? Have you ever done a double take and been confused for a split second? Has anyone told you that they’d seen your doppelganger?

OK, I’m now going to read the story

Just one question 👇

  • How did the person feel at the end of the story? Why? 

Answer: She felt shocked, upset, sad, surprised and possibly heartbroken. Maybe she couldn’t believe her eyes, because she saw her lover with another woman, or she saw someone who looked exactly like her lover with another woman.

Listen to the episode to hear me summarise and explain the story.

Let me give my comments and explanations, line by line (listen to get my comments)

DOPPELGÄNGER
I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.
I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café, and just at the last second, I caught a familiar hand gesture, and looked again. 
It couldn’t have been you though, my love, because your other hand was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.
Your heads were too close.
She was laughing, that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment, totally in love.
I walked on, heels tapping out a staccato rhythm, as I no longer wanted to look at the you who wasn’t you.

Possible interpretations

  • It was her husband/boyfriend, cheating on her, having an affair with another woman.
  • It wasn’t her husband/boyfriend. It was just someone who looked like him, but it still disturbed her because she’s terrified that he could cheat on her.
  • It was her ex, someone she is still in love with. They’re not together any more. He’s moved on, but she hasn’t.
  • It was a guy who she loves but they’re not together and she can’t bear the fact that he’s with someone else.
  • Perhaps she lost her husband (he died) and she just saw someone who reminded her of him.
  • Something else?

Language Analysis

Vocabulary & Grammar

  • The you who wasn’t you
    (Although you normally takes are/were, it is not plural, and so the relative pronoun who is singular)
  • Just at the last second
    • on time
    • in time
  • Familiar
  • A gesture
  • To catch (a look at) something (to get a glimpse of something)
  • …though
  • Clasping her hand
  • Abandoned laughing
  • To be totally in the moment
  • To walk on
  • Heels
  • Tapping
  • A staccato rhythm
  • It couldn’t have been you, my love 👇

Modal Verbs of Deduction

Present

Who is that?

I’m sure/certain it’s DaveIt must be Dave
It’s possible (that) it’s Dave-not sureIt could be DaveIt might be DaveIt may be Dave
It’s impossible (that) it’s DaveIt can’t be DaveIt couldn’t be Dave

Past

Who was that?

I’m sure/certain it was DaveIt must have been Dave
It’s possible (that) it was Dave-not sureIt could have been DaveIt might have been DaveIt may have been Dave
It’s impossible (that) it was DaveIt can’t have been DaveIt couldn’t have been Dave

Pronunciation

  • Repeat the story after me, line by line.
  • Try to say each line with no pauses between words.
  • Notice which word has the main emphasis (stress) in each line.
  • Don’t sound like a robot! 🤖

DOPPELGÄNGER

I almost didn’t see the you who wasn’t you.

I was walking past the outdoor tables of the French café,

and just at the last second,

I caught a familiar hand gesture,

and looked again.

It couldn’t have been you though, my love,

because your other hand
was clasping the hand of the woman opposite.

Your heads were too close.

She was laughing,

that abandoned laughing you do when you’re totally in the moment,

totally in love.

I walked on,

heels
tapping out a staccato rhythm,

as I no longer wanted to look
at the you 

who wasn’t you.


Do you want more of this kind of thing?

Sign up to LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium 

I do language analysis, vocab & grammar explanations and pronunciation practice.

There are stories and language reviews for conversations which have appeared in episodes of LEP. 

If you sign up you can add all the premium episodes to your podcast app of choice, and also get links for video versions and PDF worksheets.

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium 

🔗 Link in the description 🔗 

How about another story?

We’re not finished yet. 

I’m going to read you another story. This one is also about a doppelganger.

I’ll just read the story to you, and then I’m going to do language work in a premium episode which is coming soon to the premium subscription. 

OK, I am trying to persuade you to sign up to my premium subscription, but I think it’s worth it, and if you do you’ll be supporting the podcast. No pressure though. 

If you don’t want to sign up or you can’t, no worries.

I’m still going to read the story to you in this free episode, now. 

I hope you enjoy it. 

I’ll quickly summarise it at the end (in case you don’t understand), but I’ll do the detailed language teaching in premium series, coming soon.

Story 2

Doppelganger, by Sue Clayton 

From → www.FridayFlashFiction.com and adapted slightly by me. 

“This book says everyone has a doppelganger, a mirror image, and if you meet yours face to face, you’ll die.”

Janice, my flatmate, closed the book, finished her tea and toast, and slammed out of the door for her A&E shift at St. Margaret’s hospital just down the road. She loved any kind of fantasy literature, always immersed in some supernatural genre book. Not my cup of tea at all. Give me a good Nordic Noir mystery anytime.

After taking a shower I went to brush my teeth. If you meet your doppelganger face to face you’ll die, my reflection in the bathroom mirror laughed as I recited the words, but they’d begun to worm their subliminal way into my subconscious, waiting to claw their way to the surface and pounce.

One day, a couple of weeks later, I headed for the front door ready to set off into town where I worked at a music store. Doppelganger, I froze as my mind hissed the insidious word. What if I saw me on the train? Or stood behind me in the line at the coffee place? What if I came into the shop to buy a record and had to serve myself? The words shot through my mind. I let go of the door handle as if I had been electrocuted, and phoned in sick.

“Do you fancy a night out at that new wine bar down the street?”
Janice bounced through the front door one afternoon, chirpy as a blue bird, her shift trauma-free for once.

“Not tonight, Janice, I’m still not feeling very good.” The image of my other self perched on a stool at the far end of the bar, possibly raising a toast, was too hard to stomach.

‘You haven’t been outside for ages, Natalie, not even for work…you’ll end up getting fired. What’s going on with you?” Janice pressed.

“I’ll meet my doppelganger and die if I go outside,” I burst into tears, knowing how ridiculous I sounded.

“You know there’s no such thing. You need to get help, Natalie. I’ve got a therapist friend who works at the hospital. I’ll fix you up an appointment.” She wrapped me in a comfort hug.

“You’re booked in for ten o’clock this morning.” Two days later Janice grabbed my arm and pulled me through the front door; I didn’t stand a chance.

“You won’t meet yourself between here and St. Margaret’s.” She smiled reassuringly and we set off down the street.

“Excuse me,” a hand tapped my shoulder as we waited to cross the busy main road. I turned around and my shriek froze the blood of everyone close by, before I stepped backwards off the footpath into the path of an articulated lorry.

“I didn’t mean to frighten her,” tears ran down the anguished face of one of the two men who’d been standing behind me. He was holding a large six-feet square mirror which they were carrying across to the framing workshop across the road. “I just wanted to ask her to step to one side.”

Summary of Story 2

The narrator, let’s call her Sue (although I realised after recording this that she’s actually called Nathalie in the story!) lives with her flatmate Janice. 

One day Janice reads a line from a scary book she’s reading. It says that if you ever meet your doppelganger, you’ll die.

Sue doesn’t usually believe that kind of thing, but the idea gets into her head and as she is leaving the house one day, she suddenly gets scared that she might meet her doppelganger, and die.

So she decides to stay at home.

In fact she keeps staying at home, every day. The idea of meeting her doppelganger has made her too terrified to leave the house.

Janice gets worried about Sue and arranges for her to meet a therapist, and assures Sue that nothing can happen to her on the way.

Sue agrees to leave the house, but at the main road someone taps her on the shoulder.

Sue turns around and sees her own reflection.

The man who tapped her on the shoulder was trying to carry a mirror across the road.

He wanted to ask her to step to one side, to make space.

But Sue turned around and saw her doppelganger – her reflection in the mirror and screamed!

Then she stepped back, into the road, and was hit by a large lorry.


That’s the end of the episode, but check out LEP Premium.

I’m going to do a premium episode all about this second doppelganger story. 

All the vocabulary (with a memory test), some grammar, some pronunciation practice.

I’ll go through the vocabulary and some grammar and I’ll do some pronunciation practice with it too, just like I did with the 100-word story.

794. The Surprising Power of Reading Aloud (Article) 📖🗣️

Reading out loud can have lots of surprising benefits for our memory and our mental health. How can it also help with your English? In this episode I read an article to you, help you understand it and give comments on the importance of reading, both quietly in your head, and out loud. Video version and full transcript available.

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Video Version (with on-screen text)

Read the article on the BBC Future website here https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200917-the-surprising-power-of-reading-aloud


Download the full PDF transcript for this episode


Full Episode Transcript 👇

Hello listeners,

Welcome to this new episode. This one is about reading and the power of reading aloud (reading out loud) and I think it can definitely help you with your English in various ways. Stick with me, there’s a lot to discover here.

I found an article the other day on the BBC’s website and I thought it was really interesting and definitely something I could turn into an episode of this podcast. 

I am going to read the article to you in this episode. You can read it with me if you like. The link for the article is in the description, or if you are watching the video version you will see the text on the screen. 

I’ll help you understand it all, we’ll consider the main points being made by the writer, I’ll give my thoughts on how this all relates to learning English and I’ll point out some bits of vocabulary for you to learn along the way.

Reading out loud ← what does this mean?

Normally when we read, we read silently. We read in our heads. 📖👀

But when we read out loud we actually say the words we are reading with our voice so that other people can hear you. 🗣️ That’s what out loud means.

Aloud and out loud are synonyms.

  • To read out loud (I had to read out loud in front of my class during my French lesson and it was a bit embarrassing)
  • To say something out loud (Don’t say that out loud, it’s supposed be a secret!)
  • To think out loud (What are you talking about? Oh, sorry, never mind, I’m just thinking out loud really)
  • To laugh out loud (LOL)

The Article

The title of the article I found is The Surprising Power of Reading Aloud, and I found it in the “Future” section of the BBC’s website. 

BBC Future https://www.bbc.com/future/ 

BBC Future is a section of the BBC website where you can read some really interesting articles about lots of different subjects. 

The articles are written in an academic style (so we are looking at academic English here to an extent), but these articles are very readable and they are exactly the type of reading text that you might find in an IELTS reading test. You often find academic texts about scientific subjects, or history, or psychology in IELTS tests.

So, it would be really good practice for you to read articles like this on a regular basis, whether you are preparing for IELTS or you’re just interested in developing your English generally. The articles on BBC Future are quite advanced – they are for native English speakers, but with a good dictionary and a bit of motivation, they could really help your English. 

I’m going to help you do that in this episode with this particular article. I’ll take you through it and will explain things.

Let’s get started.

Before we start reading, I’ve got two tasks for you (and they’re important)

1st task: Consider some questions

Here are some questions to get you thinking 🧐🤔💭

I want you to consider these questions because this will get you in the right mental space to understand the article we’re going to read. It’s important to do this because this is how you get your mind ready before you read. So, consider these questions (below).

If you like you can pause this episode after I say these questions in order to actually answer them, in your own head or out loud. 

Saying your answers out loud would be the best thing to do – to practise your speaking and putting your thoughts into words. So, if you can do that, do that, right now, with these questions.

Questions to consider before reading

  1. When was the last time you read something in English? What was it, and why did you read it?
  2. When you read in English or in your first language, do you usually read silently in your head or do you read out loud? Why?
  3. In what situations do people sometimes read out loud? 
  4. Do you think reading out loud is more or less common these days than it used to be?
    Do people read out loud more these days, or did they do that more in the past?
    Why could this be?
  5. Can you remember a time when someone read something out loud to you?
    What was the situation? How did it make you feel?
  6. How about when you were a child? Can you remember any moments when someone read out loud to you? How do you feel about those memories?
  7. What do you think is better for your English – reading texts silently in your head, reading texts out loud, or listening to other people read out loud to you? Why?

2nd task: Read the text 📖

Here’s a reading task for you 

Before I read this article to you, I want you to read it yourself. Twice

🔗 link in the description 🔗

First, read the text silently, then try reading it out loud.

You don’t have to read the whole thing. Maybe just do the first few paragraphs if you prefer. 

But try it. Go on.

Read it silently first, then read it out loud.

Try not to sound like a robot 🤖

Put some life into the reading ❤️‍🔥

If/When you read it out loud, consider these questions. you .

  • Where are the pauses? Where should you pause when you read? 
  • Which words in each line should be stressed (emphasised)?
  • Where does the voice go up and where does the voice go down? 
  • How would you read it out like a TV presenter or a university lecturer?

Imagine you are reading this out for an audience. 

It might affect the way you read it. 🗣️

You can do that now. The link to the article is in the description. 

Read it – first silently, and then out loud like a presenter.

I’ll let you pause the episode right now and do that. I’ll continue speaking to you again in a moment.

– – – –  

This is where you pause to read the article

 – – – –

OK, welcome back. I know some of you didn’t pause the episode and read the text, which is totally fine.

But some of you did. Nice one.

I wonder how it was for you. 

Was difficult or not? 

Was it difficult to read the text?

It’s a different experience isn’t it, reading it out loud. 

It has its own challenges. 

Unknown vocabulary, difficult pronunciation, understanding the overall flow and structure of the text.

Now, let me read the article to you. You can read it with me too, or just listen. It’s up to you. 

I’ve broken the text into sections. I’ll read a section of the article, then paraphrase what I read, add my comments and explain some words. Then we’ll move to the next section.

Whenever there’s a break in the text like this, it’s the end of a section.

– – – – – – – – –

When that happens, I’ll stop and explain things, then we’ll move on to the next section.

You’ll see some words highlighted in bold. These are words that you might not know, so I’ll explain them as we go. 

Try reading aloud with me to work on your pronunciation if you like.

BBC FUTURE: NEUROSCIENCE

Why you should read this out loud

By Sophie Hardach /ˈhædək/ 18th September 2020

Most adults retreat into a personal, quiet world inside their heads when they are reading, but we may be missing out on some vital benefits when we do this.

For much of history, reading was a fairly noisy activity. On clay tablets written in ancient Iraq and Syria some 4,000 years ago, the commonly used words for “to read” literally meant “to cry out” or “to listen”. 

“I am sending a very urgent message,” says one letter from this period. “Listen to this tablet. If it is appropriate, have the king listen to it.”

Only occasionally, a different technique was mentioned: to “see” a tablet – to read it silently.

Today, silent reading is the norm. The majority of us bottle the words in our heads as if sitting in the hushed confines of a library. Reading out loud is largely reserved for bedtime stories and performances.

But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds. The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. And far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Many of us intuitively use it as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word, and are just not aware of it.

– – – – – 1/10 – – – – –

Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has extensively researched the impact of reading aloud on memory. He and his collaborators have shown that people consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This memory-boosting effect of reading aloud is particularly strong in children, but it works for older people, too. “It’s beneficial throughout the age range,” he says.

MacLeod has named this phenomenon the “production effect”. It means that producing written words – that’s to say, reading them out loud – improves our memory of them.

– – – – – 2/10 – – – – –

The production effect has been replicated in numerous studies spanning more than a decade.

In one study in Australia, a group of seven-to-10-year-olds were presented with a list of words and asked to read some silently, and others aloud. Afterwards, they correctly recognised 87% of the words they’d read aloud, but only 70% of the silent ones.

In another study, adults aged 67 to 88 were given the same task – reading words either silently or aloud – before then writing down all those they could remember. They were able to recall 27% of the words they had read aloud, but only 10% of those they’d read silently. When asked which ones they recognised, they were able to correctly identify 80% of the words they had read aloud, but only 60% of the silent ones. MacLeod and his team have found the effect can last up to a week after the reading task.

– – – – – 3/10 – – – – –

Even just silently mouthing the words makes them more memorable, though to a lesser extent.

Researchers at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank discovered that the memory-enhancing effect also works if the readers have speech difficulties, and cannot fully articulate the words they read aloud.

MacLeod says one reason why people remember the spoken words is that “they stand out, they’re distinctive, because they were done aloud, and this gives you an additional basis for memory”.

We are generally better at recalling distinct, unusual events, and also, events that require active involvement

For instance, generating a word in response to a question makes it more memorable, a phenomenon known as the generation effect

Similarly, if someone prompts you with the clue “a tiny infant, sleeps in a cradle, begins with b”, and you answer baby, you’re going to remember it better than if you simply read it, MacLeod says.

– – – – – 4/10 – – – – –

Another way of making words stick is to enact them, for instance by bouncing a ball (or imagining bouncing a ball) while saying “bounce a ball”. 

This is called the enactment effect. Both of these effects are closely related to the production effect: they allow our memory to associate the word with a distinct event, and thereby make it easier to retrieve later.

– – – – – 5/10 – – – – –

The production effect is strongest if we read aloud ourselves. But listening to someone else read can benefit memory in other ways. In a study led by researchers at the University of Perugia in Italy, students read extracts from novels to a group of elderly people with dementia over a total of 60 sessions. The listeners performed better in memory tests after the sessions than before, possibly because the stories made them draw on their own memories and imagination, and helped them sort past experiences into sequences. “It seems that actively listening to a story leads to more intense and deeper information processing,” the researchers concluded.

Reading aloud can also make certain memory problems more obvious, and could be helpful in detecting such issues early on. 

In one study, people with early Alzheimer’s disease were found to be more likely than others to make certain errors when reading aloud.

– – – – – 6/10 – – – – –

There is some evidence that many of us are intuitively aware of the benefits of reading aloud, and use the technique more than we might realise.

Sam Duncan, an adult literacy researcher at University College London, conducted a two-year study of more than 500 people all over Britain during 2017-2019 to find out if, when and how they read aloud. Often, her participants would start out by saying they didn’t read aloud – but then realised that actually, they did.

“Adult reading aloud is widespread,” she says. “It’s not something we only do with children, or something that only happened in the past.”

Some said they read out funny emails or messages to entertain others. Others read aloud prayers and blessings for spiritual reasons. Writers and translators read drafts to themselves to hear the rhythm and flow. People also read aloud to make sense of recipes, contracts and densely written texts.

“Some find it helps them unpack complicated, difficult texts, whether it’s legal, academic, or Ikea-style instructions,” Duncan says. “Maybe it’s about slowing down, saying it and hearing it.”

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For many respondents, reading aloud brought joy, comfort and a sense of belonging. Some read to friends who were sick or dying, as “a way of escaping together somewhere”, Duncan says. One woman recalled her mother reading poems to her, and talking to her, in Welsh. After her mother died, the woman began reading Welsh poetry aloud to recreate those shared moments. A Tamil speaker living in London said he read Christian texts in Tamil to his wife. On Shetland, a poet read aloud poetry in the local dialect to herself and others.

“There were participants who talked about how when someone is reading aloud to you, you feel a bit like you’re given a gift of their time, of their attention, of their voice,” Duncan recalls. “We see this in the reading to children, that sense of closeness and bonding, but I don’t think we talk about it as much with adults.”

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If reading aloud delivers such benefits, why did humans ever switch to silent reading? One clue may lie in those clay tablets from the ancient Near East, written by professional scribes in a script called cuneiform /ˈkjuːnɪˌfɔːm/.

Over time, the scribes developed an ever faster and more efficient way of writing this script. Such fast scribbling has a crucial advantage, according to Karenleigh Overmann, a cognitive archaeologist at the University of Bergen, Norway who studies how writing affected human brains and behaviour in the past. “It keeps up with the speed of thought much better,” she says.

Reading aloud, on the other hand, is relatively slow due to the extra step of producing a sound.

“The ability to read silently, while confined to highly proficient scribes, would have had distinct advantages, especially, speed,” says Overmann. “Reading aloud is a behaviour that would slow down your ability to read quickly.”

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In his book on ancient literacy, Reading and Writing in Babylon, the French assyriologist Dominique Charpin quotes a letter by a scribe called Hulalum that hints at silent reading in a hurry. Apparently, Hulalum switched between “seeing” (ie, silent reading) and “saying/listening” (loud reading), depending on the situation. In his letter, he writes that he cracked open a clay envelopeMesopotamian tablets came encased inside a thin casing of clay to prevent prying eyes from reading them – thinking it contained a tablet for the king.

“I saw that it was written to [someone else] and therefore did not have the king listen to it,” writes Hulalum.

Perhaps the ancient scribes, just like us today, enjoyed having two reading modes at their disposal: one fast, convenient, silent and personal; the other slower, noisier, and at times more memorable.

In a time when our interactions with others and the barrage of information we take in are all too transient, perhaps it is worth making a bit more time for reading out loud. Perhaps you even gave it a try with this article, and enjoyed hearing it in your own voice?

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Conclusion

As a language practice exercise, try reading texts out loud. 

You don’t have to do it all the time, but simply trying to read a text out loud as if you are reading it to some people, can be a good exercise. 

Research suggests that it could help you remember words more effectively. The production effect means – producing words (saying them out loud) makes a difference to your ability to remember them later. Even just mouthing words when you read them helps them to go into your brain.

So, read aloud and mouth words when you read them.

Also, being prompted with a clue helps you remember words. This is called the generation effect. This encourages me a lot, because it confirms things I have been doing as a teacher, including in LEP Premium episodes when I use little prompts to help you recall words. For you, you could always create your own clues to help you remember words or phrases, or play word games in English in which you define words and then have to guess which words they are. Do this with new vocabulary. Of course, you would need friends or language partners to play with.

Acting words out, or linking them to physical movements also helps you remember words. So, when trying to remember words, add a physical element somehow, even if it means imagining yourself doing the word or being in a certain physical space when thinking of new words. For example if the expression is “to be wary of doing something” – put your hand to your chin and pretend you are being nervous about something or reluctant to do it. Make a sound like “Naaaaaaah, I’m a bit wary of doing that”. Perhaps imagine yourself at the end of a dark street and say “I’m a bit wary of going down there on my own. I think I’ll take the main road.”

Listening to other people read to you also helps a lot. So, the conclusion here is just keep listening to LEP of course! I am sure this works when someone is just speaking to you as well, especially if you are involved and caught up in what they are saying. That’s what I’ve always thought and I am sure scientific research would suggest that it’s true. My hypothesis is that people will remember more L2 words when they are presented in a meaningful context. It’s pretty obvious really. 

Reading aloud might be good for your mental health. It seems that the exercise can reveal signs of dementia. Maybe reading aloud does require quite a lot of brain work – not only are you reading and decoding the words, but your brain is involved in some motor exercise too – meaning, muscle work, movement work. Surely, making your brain multi-task like this can only be good as a way of keeping it active. Brain training, basically. 

It’s a good way to keep your brain young.

Reading aloud also makes you feel quite good, especially if you do it with others. It could be a good exercise with other learners of English, or with your English teacher. Of course, don’t only read aloud, but include it as part of your regular English practice. It’s especially enjoyable if you are reading out some interesting texts, and try to mix it up – some non-fiction stuff and also some stories and so on.

When you read aloud, consider where you need to chunk the text, pause, emphasise and use intonation.

Reading texts out loud is something I often do with my students in class. I ask my students to work out where the pauses should be, which words to emphasise and where the voice goes up or down. 

This exercise reveals things about the text, including the structure and the real meanings and intentions of the writer.

Try reading aloud from time to time. Also try reading out loud with me, at the same time as me sometimes (if there is a transcript with the episode). It might help you notice more aspects of the language in the text, help you remember it more, and help you practice your pronunciation as well as your reading. It might also just make you feel good.

What do you think?

  • Leave your comments below. 
  • What have you been thinking while listening to this?
  • Has it given you any ideas about learning English?
  • Do you have anything to add?

Put your thoughts into English in the comment section.


A Premium Series 

I’m also publishing a 3-part premium series all about the language in this episode. It’ll be available soon or maybe it’s already available now. I’m going to record them right away in fact. They are the next things I’m going to record.

In those premium episodes I will go through the vocabulary which I highlighted in the text again, and I’ll expand things with slightly more detailed explanations and examples, then I’ll test your memory of those words and phrases (with some prompts and some sentences with missing words) and give you a chance to practise pronouncing all the words in sentences. 

There will also be an episode where we practise reading aloud some of the paragraphs from the text, with advice about where to pause, which words to emphasise and so on, with sentences to repeat after me.

To get those episodes, sign up to LEP Premium on Acast+. You can add the premium episodes to your podcasting app, and also access PDFs and video versions that way. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium for the premium series focusing on the language in this episode.


That’s it for this episode, but I will be back soon with more things for you to listen to, including more stories which I would like to read to you, and conversations with guests, and all the other types of episode I like to present to you on my show.

Thanks for listening, but for now – good bye bye bye!