Is that a confusing title? Hopefully not. As you might expect, it’s a little summary of what’s included in the episode. To give you some more details, Alastair Budge is the host of a podcast called “English Learning for Curious Minds” and he has created a new audio drama for English learners called “Pioneers of the Continuum”. It’s a time-travel adventure for English learners, and Alastair asked me to be the narrator for episode 1. In this episode of LEP, we talk about Alastair’s story, living in Malta, learning English by immersion, cliches and complaints from English speakers visiting Paris and Alastair’s story about playing the bagpipes on the streets of Paris. The audio version includes 30+mins of rambling from me at the end. Enjoy!
My friend Anna has written a book for children (7+) which has a full publishing contract and is available in all good bookshops now. The book tells the story of a boy who accidentally creates a monster when his secret collection of nose bogeys gets struck by lightning! This conversation includes lots of talk of snot and bogeys, as well as stories from Anna’s time as a travel writer.
Get your copy of Monster Bogey here! https://www.chickenhousebooks.com/books/monster-bogey/
Read an extract from the book here https://www.chickenhousebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Monster-Bogey-chapter-1-for-website-COMPRESSED.pdf
Kate Billington returns to LEP for the third time, to drink tea, talk about my pod-room, learning the bassoon, exam results, learning Chinese, responding to listener comments and talking about her videos on TikTok.
Links and things
The British Council on TikTok
Kate’s video about “It’s raining cats and dogs”
@britishcouncilenglish Replying to @sentimentalbxtch Way ahead of you! #learnontiktok #learnenglish #idioms #edutok #vocabulary #english ♬ original sound – British Council English
@britishcouncilenglish Kate’s back with another ‘very funny joke’ (she made me write that…)! Tell us what you think! #britishhumour #britishcomedy #englishteacher #learnenglish #learnontiktok #vocabulary ♬ original sound – British Council English
British Council Mini-English Lesson on For & Since
Previous appearances on LEP
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you are doing fine out there in podcast land.
Kate Billington is back on the podcast today. Of course, you remember her from episodes 689 and 705.
If you heard those episodes I’m sure you will remember Kate and I know that a lot of you out there will be very happy that she is back again and yes, Kate’s return to this podcast is long overdue. She was a very popular guest when she was on the show before. So it’s great to have her back.
Some of you don’t know Kate because you haven’t heard those episodes but there’s no need for me to introduce her fully now in the intro because I kind of do that again during the conversation, except that Kate is an English teacher from England and we work together at the British Council.
People sometimes ask if Kate has her own podcast or YouTube channel or something, because they want to hear more from her.
Well, recently she started making videos for TikTok. We do talk about this during the episode, but that’s not until the end of the conversation, so I just wanted to give you a heads up about that right now at the start.
Kate is part of a team of teachers making content for the British Council’s channel on TikTok. You’ll see that they are making shorter videos (certainly shorter than mine) about things like British English idioms, culture and other entertaining bits and pieces. So, check it out – @BritishCouncilEnglish on TikTok. The link is on the page for this episode on my website.
So, what you are about to hear is another long and rambling conversation with a guest on my podcast. Hopefully you will stay engaged and entertained throughout while practising your English listening in the process.
All you have to do as you listen to this is keep up with the changes and tangents, and enjoy this conversational journey into things like how Kate helped me with the shelves in my pod-room, how Kate doesn’t agree with the way I arrange my books on those shelves, how it feels to be filmed while talking (and yes there is a video version of this on YouTube), we talk about Kate’s academic successes and failures (or maybe I should say “failure” because it seems there’s only been one, and I’m still not sure it counts as a failure), the Chinese classes that Kate has been taking recently, quite a lot of stuff about Korea (hello Korean listeners), our blood types and what they mean, how we both feel about getting older, and how we feel about certain other English teaching video content that you might find on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. All that, and much more, starting… now.
An episode all about studying at university in the UK, with loads of advice about student visas, funding your studies with scholarships, extra-curricular social activities and opportunities at the Students’ Union and more. Features a conversation with a German student currently studying a master’s in clinical neuropsychology at UCL in London. This bonus episode is published in paid partnership with Study UK and the British Council’s GREAT Britain campaign. For more information, follow the links below.
👉 The Study UK website with all the info you need https://study-uk.britishcouncil.org/
👉 Student Visas https://www.gov.uk/study-uk-student-visa
👉 Scholarships and funding https://study-uk.britishcouncil.org/scholarships-funding
👉 Study in Wales https://www.studyinwales.ac.uk/
👉 Scholarships for Welsh universities https://www.studyinwales.ac.uk/scholarships-and-funding
👉 German Academic Exchange for information about scholarships https://www.daad.de/en/
👉 German Federal Ministry of Education and Research https://www.xn--bafg-7qa.de/bafoeg/de/home/home_node.html
👉 International Health Insurance Surcharge Refund www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/refunds
👉 Working while on a student visa – The UK Council for International Student Affairs https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/
👉 Study Guides for Parents in Germany https://www.britishcouncil.de/sites/default/files/studyuk_guide_parents_en_2023_final.pdf
Steve Kaufmann is a very prolific language learner. He has learned at least 20 languages to varying degrees during his life. Some of them he learned during his career as an international diplomat and businessman, and others he has learned during his (semi) retirement. In this interview Steve talks about his language learning experiences, methods and motivations. We talk about various metaphors and similes for language learning including ocean voyages 🚢, cows 🐮, skiing ⛷ and cutting grass🏡, and I ask Steve about cross-cultural experiences he has had during his career. There is a video version but only the audio version contains my intro and ending rambles about getting my hair cut and how you need to remember that you’re a baby cow-shark on skis 🐄🦈🎿😅.
Thanks again to Steve for the interview! Check out his website here https://www.thelinguist.com/
As a language learner, never forget that you are a baby cow-shark on skis!! 🐮🦈⛷
To qualify for British citizenship, one of the requirements is to pass the “Life in the UK” test. Questions cover things like British history, British life & culture, British politics, British geography and principles of modern British life. What do you think? Can you pass the test? Join me as I test online English teacher Cara Leopold (leo-listening.com). How much does she know about her own country of origin? What can you learn about Britain? What IS Britain anyway? Find out in this episode! Video version available.
☝️The audio version contains 15 minutes of extra rambling from Luke at the end.
👇Video version with questions & answers on the screen
Cara’s website 👉 www.leo-listening.com (Cara specialises in helping English learners understand fast speech by listening to films and TV series)
Life In The UK Practice Tests 👉 www.lifeintheuktests.co.uk
✍️ What do you think should be included in the Life In The UK Test?
James Harris is a writer, comedian, English teacher and language learner (French, German, Chinese) from England. In this funny chat, we talk about learning Chinese, being married to a Chinese woman and his semi-autobiographical book, “Midlands” which tells several funny and touching stories about two ex-pats living in Germany; Stuart, who is a stand-up comedian trying to understand the Germans, and Doug who gets involved in a love affair. James reads several passages from the book during the episode.
👉 Get James’ book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Midlands-James-Harris/dp/B0B38CX11P
👉 Sign up to James’ email newsletter “Stiff Upper Quip” for regular short articles in English & more https://stiffupperquip.substack.com/
👇 Listen to James’ first episode on LEP
Extracts from “Midlands” by James Harris 📖
From Chapter 2
Stuart describes his early days in Germany, learning German.
Then a chance meeting in a pub had earned him an invitation to Berlin. Laura, Danish and short, was staying there for the summer, rummaging around in the archives for information about a particular Jewish family who had gone on to achieve cultural success in post-war Denmark;
Laura, a snub-nosed Danish girl with glasses who loved Israel and wheat beer. Stuart didn’t care much about her interests but did enjoy spending the days reading on her balcony and socializing with university friends at night;
by the end of the summer his hair had lengthened and his German increased fifty-fold, meaning he now knew about a hundred words. ‘Hallo!’ he would say, then ‘Weltschmerz’ and following a further pause ‘Auf Wiedersehen,’ saying a final farewell to people he would see again the next day.
He also hadn’t yet learnt to ask whether something was sugar or salt, leading to an evening eating some very sweet chips. But even speechless he wasn’t, at last, uneasy in Berlin – it seemed to him a gentle city, where the trains slid in and out and the open spaces pacified tourists drunker and rowdier elsewhere.
It was like the Germans had become one of the peaceful races in Star Trek, the ones introduced by an insert screen of their orderly, verdant planet, Bajorans, say, or some other species permanently threatened by obliteration; and what a change after the tiny cubicles and traffic-jam living of the English, who could only ever be the Borg.
Surrounded by pacifists, Stuart revelled in the license of Englishness, his ability to voice the odd mildly aggressive opinion or wildly over-celebrate during that summer’s football tournament, until England lost. He swam in lakes, and bought a bicycle, and gradually stopped thinking of England and the ashes it had fed him.
In Oxford, where he had been President of the University sketch revue, people had printed gossip about him in the student newspapers, asked him to leave parties, dealt with him as the man who had committed that deepest and most unforgivable of Oxford crimes: failure.
He had failed, as a comedian and a young man, and now publicly; his country had rejected him. He had been humiliated in front of an audience of his contemporaries and sent into an internal exile.
Afterwards, many of these young dilettantes, at the time apparently picturing future lives as bereft of unforeseen distress as possible, lives composed of simply an endless procession of success, successes occurring within a network of contacts which they had built up at University and which would continue to provide them with unstinting support throughout their adult lives, never violating the simple and essential principle that all was permissible as long as it did well – did not want his name on their social CV.
From Chapter 14
Stuart is on-stage doing stand up in Germany.
‘Don’t you sometimes get the feeling,’ said Stuart, years before on the stage in Heidelberg, ‘that if Barack Obama had been German it wouldn’t have been “Yes We Can” but ”Nein das geht nicht”? No you can’t.
‘Everyone would have been chanting it – No you can’t! No you can’t! Of course in this version Obama would not have been black.’
Stuart was closing in on the kill. ‘And this very lack of optimism,’ he said, treading across the stage, limbering, into the really good stuff now, ‘is actually built into the German language itself.
Like for example, when you’re really happy in English, you say “I’m on Cloud Nine.” But in Germany you say, “I’m on Cloud Seven.”
Does this mean that even in their happiest moments the Germans are two clouds less happy than English-speaking people?’
And after developing that bit, which meant moving into a depiction of an exemplary German, Hannes, in his German heaven, with an allotment, board games, juice and an Autobahn heading directly to Mallorca, he noting, somewhat wistfully, the celebratory Anglophones on Cloud Nine who were dancing to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’, which was an excuse to sing it, following which they – the Anglophones – called down to Cloud Eight “Hey Hannes man! Come and join us here on Cloud Nine” and Hannes replying “No thank you. Everything on Cloud Seven is perfectly satisfactory” then moving on to speculation as to the occupants of the other clouds, the French on Cloud Eight living it up, their motor scooters floating off the cloud and down to Cloud Zero where the Greeks were and below them the Cypriots who’d had to sell the cloud, and were just falling – after all these and other jokes, Stuart had them where he wanted them.
‘Isn’t it funny that, since the Second World War, the Germans have been like’, change voice, German accent, ‘”We Germans. We have done so many things wrong and there is no way we can ever put them right.”
And now Greece is like,’ pause, turn of the head, “Well, actually…”’
They laughed, and laughed, and laughed. They got it.
👇 Follow James on Twitter
In conversation with Mysterious Al, a contemporary artist / street artist from London now living in Melbourne, Australia. The conversation covers Al’s background, how he makes his art, the difference between street art & graffiti, attitudes towards graffiti, how Al needs to use social media (but doesn’t like it!) his recent ghost train exhibition, and more. Al’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mysteriousal/ Al’s website https://www.mysterious.al Video version also available.
Video Version with images and subtitles
Introduction Transcript (audio version)
Welcome back to the podcast. I hope life is treating you kindly today and that you’re not being rained on, or baked by the sun or stuck in traffic or being chased by a bear or something. If you are being chased by a bear, well done for managing to press play on this episode of the podcast while also attempting to escape, and good luck. Maybe play this episode to the bear and he (or she) will suddenly become absorbed in the fascinating conversation that you’re going to hear in this episode, and then you can become friends with the bear and bond over a mutual love and interest in listening to Luke’s English Podcast. Or just throw your phone at the bear as hard as possible and hope that it just leaves you alone, I don’t know, but good luck with that.
OK, now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s start properly.
Welcome to this episode. This one is a conversation with Mysterious Al.
Mysterious Al is an artist from London, now based in Melbourne, Australia.
Al is known as a street artist. He is also a contemporary artist in the more conventional sense, but he is often been called a street artist.
So we’re talking about art here, contemporary art, but more specifically street art, and street art is similar to graffiti but it’s not exactly the same thing. We’ll discuss that during this conversation (the difference between graffiti and street art) as well as lots of other things.
Al used to live in London and was working there at around the same time as Banksy, who is probably the most well-known name in this particular world. You’ve heard of Banksy, right? Banksy is famous for his stencilled street art in the UK, particularly in London and in Bristol.
So, Al is a contemporary of Banksy and was part of the same scene as him in London..
These days Al still displays art work in outdoor urban areas but he also produces canvases, fine art prints, and NFTs in his studio, which he exhibits and sells privately.
A canvas is a work of art on a canvas, in the traditional way – a wooden frame with some canvas stretched over it, and then a painting is done on that surface and it’s then presented or exhibited in a gallery. So Al does canvases, and also NFTs, which are a fairly new thing. NFTs in the art world are basically original, unique digital art works which can be bought and sold online, but not copied. If you’re not sure what NFTs are, and blockchains and stuff, then listen on because we do explain that stuff.
So these days Al works in his studio in Melbourne creating canvases and NFTs, and putting on interesting exhibitions but he also works with councils and brands, making huge murals for buildings, and various other projects.
Al is an amazing artist, his work is really distinctive, and he’s also just an interesting person to talk to and so I thought it could be fascinating to interview him about his art, the specific ways that he makes it, and generally to make an episode about the issues related to street art, graffiti, and what it’s like to be a working artist today.
I hope you find it interesting and that you are motivated to keep listening.
By the way, this podcast is for adult learners of English around the world. I say that because some people listening to this or watching this might not know that. This is a podcast for people in different countries learning English and who want to listen to natural, authentic conversations as a way of developing their English skills.
This conversation might be a bit difficult sometimes because it’s not graded for a particular English level, but I have made a premium episode series in which I explain a lot of phrases that come up in this conversation. If you listen to that and use the accompanying pdf, it’ll really help you to understand this episode properly and you’ll definitely learn more English vocabulary from it, as well as work on your pronunciation too. So, to get the most from this, you could check out Luke’s English Podcast Premium series P42 and you can get it in your podcast app through Acast+ by signing up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
So, English learners, we’re about to start this episode, but to get your mind in the right space for this, which will help you understand it all a bit better, here are some questions for you to consider.
If you like, you can discuss these questions maybe with your English teacher or conversation partners in English, or just on your own, out loud or in your head.
Some questions for you
We’ll start with graffiti
- Do you live in a place where there is graffiti?
- Do you see graffiti around you?
- What do you think when you see graffiti? How do you feel about it?
- Is graffiti a form of art? Or is it a crime? Or both?
- What do you think when you see a piece of graffiti in a certain spot which must have been very difficult to reach, like high up on a building, or next to the train tracks?
- Who is graffiti for? What’s the purpose of it?
- Do you know the names for the different types of graffit or street art?
- Tags, Posters (paste up – paper posters which are pasted to walls with paste), Stencils, Stickers (slapped onto walls, signs etc), Murals (large pieces on walls), Blockbuster murals (huge pictures that take up the entire sides of buildings), Wildstyle – which is the large letters and words painted on a wall or train or something in a very stylised way
And other types probably
This conversation is not all about graffiti though, it’s also about art and the life of an artist.
- What do you think of the world of art?
- The way art is presented to people, and also bought and sold?
- There’s the big, famous, expensive pieces, but also plenty of other art which is made and sold every day at much more reasonable prices.
- Where should art be exhibited? Just in art galleries? Or other places?
- Do you find it interesting to look at art in galleries or do you think they could present art in a different and more exciting way somehow?
- What do you think the life of an artist is like?
- How do they spend their time?
- What are the challenges and the advantages of living as an artist?
- How might social media be important for artists today?
- Which platforms do you think artists can use?
- What might be the good and bad aspects of having to use social media as an artist?
- Do you know what NFTs are?
- Have you ever heard of NFTs?
- What is a block-chain?
- How could NFTs and blockchains change the way digital artists sell their work?
I could go on, but I think that’s enough in terms of questions and info to get you in the right headspace for this conversation.
This is a long episode. No need for me to make it even longer here in the introduction, but you know – you can listen to as much or as little of this as you like. You can pause and continue later, and that is the joy (just one of the joys) of podcasting.
Personally, I hope you listen until the end. I’ll have another little word with you then.
But now, let’s meet Mysterious Al and here we go…
So that was Mysterious Al. I really enjoyed catching up with him after not having seen him for over a decade. He’s exactly the same as he used to be which is nice.
You might be thinking – Luke you didn’t ask him about Banksy!
You said that he used to hang around with Banksy in London.
So, has he ever met him and does he know the true identity of Banksy?
Banksy is a fascinating figure and part of the intrigue and mystique is that we don’t know who he is.
I asked Al by email if he has met him and if he can tell us his true identity.
This is his response.
Yes I have met Banksy, a few times. I think everyone who’s been in the London scene a long time would have crossed his path, but nobody would ever give away his identity because it would give away the fun and he’s worked so hard to protect it.
There are various theories about who Banksy is, including that he’s a member of Massive Attack or that he’s one of the founding members of Gorillaz the band, or even that Banksy is not just one person. I guess we will never know, which is all part of the mystique.
Anyway, this episode was not about Banksy, it was about Mysterious Al, and if you are curious about Al’s work, yes you can find him on Instagram, but also his website is a great place to go if you want to find out about exhibitions in Melbourne, and also if you want to buy some of his work. Mysterious.al
Remember, P42 is all about phrases from this conversation – not just language to describe art, but any phrases which I think you might not have noticed, or understood and which could help you push your level of English higher and higher. Check it out at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
That’s it, cheers!
Special Guest Mark Steel joins me to discuss cultural and linguistic differences between the UK and France, plus accents in the UK and a little tour of some places in the UK that you don’t know about. Also includes a discussion of swearing and rude language in Britain. What is the R word which you should never say in a specific part of the UK? Listen on to find out. Video version available.
Video Version (shorter, with automatic subtitles)
Last week a very special guest visited one of our comedy shows in Paris. I was given a ticket to the show, so I decided to record a podcast while riding through the streets on the way to the show, wondering if I might be able to interview this guest on LEP. Listen to find out what happened, and to hear some rambling and atmospheric sounds of Paris streets at night.