Category Archives: TV series

691. Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach

How do professional actors change the way they speak for different acting roles? What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning? In this conversation I speak to Jerome Butler who is a very experienced dialect coach working in the TV and film industry in the USA, and we discuss these questions.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi folks, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been working on the WISBOLEP competition and it is coming soon. I’ll let you know exactly what I’ve decided, I will play you recordings from listeners and you’ll be able to vote and we’re going to find a LEPster to be interviewed on the podcast. So the next installment of Why I Should Be On LEP is coming soon.

Also some premium content is coming. Just a reminder that I recently uploaded a 28-minute video of one of my comedy shows. It’s me doing stand-up comedy in London a couple of years ago. I’d been holding on to that video for a while, but I finally decided it was time to publish it considering I’m not doing any gigs at the moment and I’m not sure when I will be able to. So, premium subscribers – check it out, as well as all the pronunciation videos I’ve uploaded and at least 100 premium episodes. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you want to sign up or know more.

Also you can expect more free episodes, including the next WISBOLEP episode and more conversations with guests. 

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews recently as you’ve probably noticed. It’s been a really good run of guests that we have never heard before on the podcast, but I will go back to the old favourites soon enough, with hopefully Amber & Paul making a return and an episode of Gill’s Book Club – the book in question will be 1, 2, 3, 4: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown – an interesting, recent book which explores the story of the Beatles in various interesting ways. We’ll be doing that in the new year because I’m getting it for Christmas and I’ll need a chance to read it. I think it will basically be a chance for me to talk about The Beatles with my mum and she was a huge fan back in the Beatlemania days and saw them live twice. So, you might want to get that – 1, 2, 3, 4 by Craig Brown. Anyway, onto this episode and this one is all about pronunciation, so get ready to think about accents and changing the way you speak. It goes quite nicely with other episodes like the recent one I did about Key Features of English Accents (682). So the question is, how can you change your accent? Let’s ask a dialect coach.

Jingle —

Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach 

Hello everyone – here is an episode all about accents and dialects and specifically how to convincingly sound like you come from a different place, with a different accent. 

You’re going to hear me in conversation with Jerome Butler who is a dialect coach. Jerome works with actors who need to change the way they speak. 

To give you an example of what this means, let’s say I’m an actor from England, and I’ve got a part in a TV show that takes place in the USA in a southern state. Perhaps the film is set in Atlanta or something like that (like in The Walking Dead perhaps) and the character I’m playing was born and grew up in that area, and so I need to change my RP English accent to a general Southern accent from the USA for the filming of the show. 

How can I do it? How can I change my voice? How can I consistently speak like I am from a southern state in the USA? Well, I would need a dialect coach, and that is what Jerome does. 

Actually, having to change your accent is quite common for actors in the English language TV and film industry. There are loads of famous actors who have successfully changed the way they speak for different roles. I mentioned The Walking Dead before and it is quite a good example – so many of the actors in that show are from the UK but they sound like they could come from Georgia or a neighbouring state. No doubt those actors worked closely with dialect coaches like Jerome. 

And it’s not just British actors working in the USA, it’s anyone who normally speaks in one way and needs to learn to speak in another way, and remember the English language is so diverse in terms of accents and dialects across different parts of the world that it’s very common for actors to have to make this kind of change in their work.

Now, talking to Jerome about this is actually a great opportunity for us to listen to someone who has a lot of experience and expertise in helping people change their accents. He’s been doing it for years now and has worked on loads of different film and TV projects and with loads of different actors from different parts of the world. Jerome is amazing actually, and we’re really lucky to have him on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking to him and it was very interesting to find out the specifics of what he does in his job.

For you as learners of English this should be particularly interesting, because the whole point of this conversation is to answer two questions really:

  • How can actors change their accents and dialects for different roles?
  • What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning?

How can you change your accent?

It’s quite a complicated question as you can expect – it involves many linguistic factors and a lot of work. In just a one-hour conversation we can’t give you all the answers of course. It’s a complex and very personal process, but at least we can get a sort of window into that process by listening to what Jerome has to say.

Let me tell you a bit about Jerome’s CV before we listen to him talking, just so you get an idea of who you are listening to.

Jerome Butler has had a really diverse career working for over 25 years in acting, teaching and dialect coaching. He graduated from The Juilliard School which is one of the most prestigious acting and performance art schools in the USA. Loads of great actors went there, including well-known people like Adam Driver, Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaacs, Anthony Mackie, Robin Williams and plenty of others.

He’s done various acting roles in theatre, TV and film productions even including episodes of Star Trek Voyager and ER but the majority of the work he has done in the industry is that of a dialect coach and if you look at his IMDB page the list just goes on and on, working on various productions with various performers including names you might recognise, like Emily Mortimer, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler, Robert Downey Jr., Jonathan Pryce, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Impressive, most impressive.

OK so I just dropped a bunch of names on you there, but this episode is not a celebrity gossip type thing. It’s not about that. I’m not asking him to tell us what Robert Downey Jnr is really like. I just wanted to let you know that Jerome is a proper, professional dialect coach who has lots of real industry experience, so he knows what he is talking about.

He’s also taught classes at universities like MIT and has been involved in an artistic rehabilitation program in the California prison system. That’s quite a glittering and diverse CV, and of course now he has reached the high point of his professional career – appearing in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Haha. 

In this conversation we start by talking about the work he does and what it involves, and the conversation gets more and more specific as it goes, as we try to understand what he does and relate it to your learning of English.

Now, I would also like to say that I think as a learner of English, the decision to change your accent or perhaps I should say the decision to try to sound exactly like a native speaker of English is completely up to you but in the EFL/ESL community this is actually quite a contentious issue. Should learners of English aim to or expect to ultimately sound exactly like native English speakers? People seem to disagree about it. 

Even now I can sense, using my jedi force abilities that some of you are saying “yes we should try to sound like native speakers!” whereas others are saying “no, we shouldn’t” and probably most of you are saying “I don’t really know Luke, I haven’t made up my mind!” and a couple of you are saying “Sorry, what was the question?” 

Let me repeat it.

Should learners of English spend time and effort on trying to sound exactly like native speakers? Should we all aim for “native level speech” as our ultimate goal? Or is it better to keep your accent when you speak English because this is all part of who you are and it’s perhaps even damaging to set such high standards? 

These are questions that are often discussed and people continue to disagree on the answers. 

To an extent it is a question of personal choice – people can do whatever they like and if sounding like a native speaker is your personal goal, then fine. Some people manage to do it really well. 

One thing’s for sure – nobody can argue against the importance of intelligibility – being understandable and clear, but exactly who you should sound like seems to be up to you.

But anyway,  I felt I should mention this whole argument in the introduction here, and Jerome mentions it too before going on to describe the specifics of how someone could shift their accent.

Also keep listening to hear Jerome start training me to speak in that southern American accent that I mentioned earlier. Can he help me learn to speak like I’m in The Walking Dead and I’m from a southern state like Georgia or Tennessee or South Carolina or maybe even Alabama?

OK, I will talk to you again at the end in order to recap and sum up some of the main points that are made in this conversation. But now, let’s start this conversation with me in Paris and Jerome Butler across the Atlantic in New York City.

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Ending Transcript

So, that was dialect coach Jerome Butler. Thank you again to Jerome for all that information he gave us.

So, for me that was fascinating and also reassuring to know that Jermoe uses more or less the same methods and approaches in the TV and film industries as I use in my English teaching. I think Jerome gave us some really valuable insights into how people can change their accents. As I said before, this is a huge and complex subject so we only scratched the surface here. 

If you’d like to know more from Jerome and use the tools he mentioned then visit his website, which is dialectcoachescorner.com/ You can create a free profile there and then start exploring and practising. It is for a general American English accent though, as Jerome pointed out.

Let me now just recap and sum up the main bits of advice in that conversation. If you found it a bit difficult to follow or to pick out all the specifics, this summary should help.

Summarising Advice from this conversation

Learn the phonemic script because it will help you become more aware of the different sounds that are used in English. There are apps you can use to do this. Check “Sounds” by Macmillan. This will really help you to identify and then produce specific sounds that are used in English → British English in the case of that. “Sounds” contains various tasks that will help you learn the sounds, practise recognising them, transcribing words phonetically and more. The full name is “Sounds: The Pronunciation App” and the best way to download it is from the Macmillan website www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/ 

Categorise words by the different sounds – for example, what is the vowel sound in the stressed syllable of the word?

You can take all the vowel sounds – monophthongs and diphthongs and consider them to be categories. Try putting different words into those categories.

Vowel sounds would be good. 

Also certain consonant sounds like voiced and unvoiced pairs, TH sounds and so on. Also, -ED endings for regular verbs.

A textbook like Ship or Sheep by Ann Baker can help because in that book all the different vowel sounds are listed chapter by chapter and you can practise recognising, categorising and repeating words with those sounds.

Mechanical practise is important. Repetition is the mother of skill – I think that’s the phrase that Jerome used. It’s reassuring to know this – and he’s a man with a proven track record of results. He knows that to help someone change the way they speak it is a combination of heightening your awareness of the different sounds and how they are made, then mechanical practise with those sounds until they “enter your body” and you acquire the ability to quickly switch between the categories and quickly work out how to say words in the accent you have chosen.

So, again, practise identifying which sound is used – practise categorising words over and over again.

Then practise saying these words by repeating after someone. Again – Ship or Sheep can help because there is an audio CD. Other books or websites may be available.

But there are many things to take into account. It’s not just vowel sounds. If I’d had more time with Jerome we might have got onto other things like intonation, connected speech, elision of sounds, sentence stress, weak forms and all that stuff.

It can be hard to do it on your own so you might also need a personal coach of some kind, like a one to one teacher who can work closely with you.

Let me point you towards Jerome’s website again dialectcoachescorner.com/ where you can contact Jerome, create a free account to access all the resources and more. Remember, that is if you are looking for a general American accent, or perhaps more specific regional accents in the USA. For British English, well of course I’d recommend my premium subscription!

So, work with someone, work with resources designed to help you with this.

Alternatively, you can practise simply repeating after someone whose accent you want to copy. 

If you want to copy my accent, you can repeat words and sentences after me. 

Do this either by shadowing – just try to repeat as you listen, or perhaps pause and repeat.

Or you can use the pronunciation drills in my premium episodes, because they are designed to help you repeat after me and I focus my attention on things like sentence stress and other specific features.

Practise practise practise.

Have fun with it too.

But also remember that it is a question of personal choice. Please don’t feel that you have to sound exactly like a native speaker. In my opinion, it is totally fine and reasonable to retain traces of your native language when you speak English. That’s part of who you are. Like Jerome said, perhaps the only reason to completely lose all trace of your first language in your English accent is if you are an actor or a spy. 

Also, I think it requires a lot of time, dedication and effort to work on your accent to the same level as a professional actor. This isn’t always a realistic proposition for learners of English who are also busy in their lives. So, working on being clear is the main thing and if you have a regional accent in English, that’s fine – it’s part of who you are, just like someone from Liverpool has a Liverpool accent, someone from Glasgow has a Glasgow accent, someone from Essex has an Essex accent – you can have an accent from your country, as long as people understand you.

It’s all a question of personal choice at the end of the day – but there it is, I think speaking to Jerome shows us that there are ways of working on the way that you sound, if you are prepared to put in the time and the effort.

I also wonder sometimes if some people are more naturally talented at changing their pronunciation than others, but that is a question I’m not completely able to answer at this moment. What do you think? Do you think some people are naturally better than others at matters of pronunciation?

A Few Expressions in the Episode

My tongue is firmly in my cheek – This just means he’s not being serious. He said calling himself a dialect coach would mean he’d get paid more.

We’re splitting hairs – To split hairs means to make very specific and unnecessary distinctions between things. Jerome could be called an accent coach or a dialect coach and it doesn’t matter – although to be specific, dialect refers to the words and the grammar, and accent refers to the pronunciation.

I’m not going to go into the weeds – This means getting deeply involved in very specific details. He’s not going into all the complex details, he’s just giving us a simple overview.

Links

Here are some of those useful links again

662. Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10 (Surviving Lockdown with Kids)

Chatting to Amber Minogue & Paul Taylor about dealing with confinement at home with children, the birth of Amber’s baby, tongue twisters, weird children’s TV series and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello. Welcome back to LEP. I’m talking to you again as the rain falls on the roof above my head.

I hope you are surviving out there in Podcastland. There’s been a little delay since the last free episode, because I’ve been making and uploading content for the premium subscribers. Premium people will know that I am in the middle of premium series #22 which is a vocabulary builder series which also has examples from films and TV shows. I’m halfway through that series, and I’ll be uploading the remaining episodes after I’ve published this episode (this is 662) and the next episode (663) of LEP. If you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get all those other episodes I publish, just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

But here we are. This is episode 662, called Catching Up with Amber & Paul #10, the first of two Amber and Paul episodes. The podpals Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor are back again, this time on Zoom – the lockdown videoconferencing software of choice.

Obviously we are social distancing and so we couldn’t record in the same room. The result is that the sound quality is not up to the usual standard. You’re probably used that now, I expect – talking to people online via Zoom and other software has become the new normal, so it’s probably no big deal really to hear a conversation recorded on Zoom, but you might find the audio quality makes things a bit more difficult to follow. For example, sometimes Paul in this episode sounds a bit like a robot alien or an Aphex Twin remix – you know they way people’s voices distort sometimes in videoconferences? Anyway…

The subtitle of the episode is “Surviving Lockdown with Kids”.

A bit of a heads up here at the start. This is quite a child-heavy episode because all three of us have got kids and so naturally this is dominating our experience during the lockdown. We couldn’t do a “catching up” episode without talking about our children. They’re there all the time, you see. We’re not complaining, it’s wonderful. But it is what it is.

Those of you with children will know exactly what this is like. Those of you with no children might not be fully on board with all the kid-chat. I don’t know. Anyway, you can expect quite a lot of conversation about being locked up with our children in this episode, including things like how to keep them busy all the time, how their languages are coming along, which childrens’ TV we choose to watch, and which shows we like, don’t like or find really weird, including programmes like Paw Patrol, Puffin Rock, Peppa Pig and Tellytubbies, which can be found on Netflix, YouTube or Cbeebies the childrens’ BBC channel.

There’s also other stuff, including a tangent about a French tongue twister which is “ton tonton tond ton thon” which translates as “Your uncle mows your tuna”, which doesn’t actually mean anything really. To mow is to cut grass with a mower, like you would mow the lawn in your garden or mow the grass on a cricket pitch or something. Tuna is a fish, as you know. So, if you say “Your uncle mows your tuna” in French, it sounds pretty funny – “Ton tonton tond ton thon”. The words sound the same but are spelled differently. It’s just one of those funny things in French.

I’m mentioning this because we talk about it for a few minutes and there’s a good chance that if you don’t speak French you’ll get lost at that point. So I’m just trying to prepare you.

Paul also mentions an English tongue twister, which is “English can be a difficult language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though”. When you see that written down, the words have very similar spelling – THROUGH TOUGH THOROUGH THOUGHT THOUGH, but  they are pronounced quite differently. You can see that written on the page for this episode on the website.

These tongue twisters came up in one of Paul’s recent YouTube live videos, because he’s doing YouTube Lives every day during the lockdown. He can’t do stand up shows at this time, so YouTube live is how he is keeping in touch with his audience. His YouTube lives are called “Happy Hour with Paul Taylor” and basically at 6PM CET every weekday Paul opens a beer and talks to his audience, answering questions and generally having a laugh for about an hour. Just search for Paul Taylor on YouTube and don’t forget to smash that like button and subscribe. Hit the bell icon to get the notifications for when Paul is going live, and represent the LEPsters in Paul’s comment section.

Anyway, as well as a few tangents and things, there is quite a lot of stuff about living in lockdown with kids, but this episode is not for kids, it’s not really suitable for children because there’s swearing. The F bomb gets dropped here and there, and some others, so you might want to bear that in mind if you’ve got kids in the room –> either because you don’t want your kids hearing those words, or because you do want your kids to hear those words in order to for them to learn them and you might want to turn up the volume. I don’t know, it’s up to you. The main thing is: There is swearing in the episode.

I’d like to just make a quick note about swearing on the podcast actually because I was having this conversation in the comment section today.

For me, swearing on its own isn’t always bad – it depends on the situation and the intention behind using swear words.

I include swear words on the podcast sometimes because I want the podcast to be authentic and when I am talking to my close friends and family, swear words do come up. But I’m not saying you should use them all the time.

There’s a difference between saying a swear word to emphasise something, like for example (and I’m going to swear now) “That film was fucking awful” That is different to swearing at someone in order to insult them, like “You’re a fucking twat mate”, which is something I don’t really want to condone.

I’m saying that because I want it to be clear that although I have swearing on the podcast sometimes, I’m not saying that I’m a huge advocate for swearing all the time and I’m not trying to teaching people to swear at each other.

Was that a patronising thing to say? I’m not sure. I am a teacher after all so I feel I need to say things like that sometimes.

Anyway, we talk about children a bit in this episode, but it’s not really for children and after this one, there is another Amber & Paul episode coming (ep 663) with no conversation about our children at all, so there you go.

But the main thing is – Amber & Paul are back on the podcast, which is great. So let’s get started. I will talk to you again at the end of the episode but now – here is the jingle!

Free 30 Day Trial with Audible + One Free Audiobook Download

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TV shows

  • Tiger King
  • Better Call Saul
  • Puffin Rock (for children)

Podcasts

  • Phoebe Reads a Mystery
  • Criminal
  • This is Love

Paul’s YouTube channel – Happy Hour with Paul Taylor – Weekdays 6PM CET

www.youtube.com/user/paultaylorcomedy

660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English

Lots of practical advice and comments about how you can use films and TV series to work on your English. This episode is a recap of some advice in episode 523 with Cara Leopold. Transcript available below.

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Transcript starts here (95% complete)

Have you heard the last episode of this podcast (#659)? I spoke to Cara Leopold about being stuck indoors during the lockdown. Cara is an English teacher who likes to help her students to improve their English with TV series and films and we know that because of the lockdown, loads of people at the moment are watching more TV and films on platforms like Netflix and are probably thinking about how to use those things to learn English. 

Cara and I talked about that a bit near the end of the last episode, and we also did a whole episode about it a couple of years ago. That was episode 523, called Tips for Learning English with Films & TV Shows.

I mentioned before that I would sum up the main bits of advice that Cara and I gave in that episode. 

So here we are, that’s what I’m going to do now – I’m going to consolidate some advice for learning English with TV series and films. 

Then, when I’ve done that I’ll give you some personal recommendations for British TV shows and films that you can watch on Netflix. 

Learning English with Films & TV – Summary of Advice Given in Ep.523 + more comments

Time and time again we have heard this advice – “Want to improve your English? Just watch TV series and films in English with English subtitles!” 

It seems that people assume that you should just watch TV series in English with English subtitles and you’ll learn English magically as a consequence. People say it all the time, and I do think there is some truth in this. Watching lots of content in English is definitely a good idea, although of course that might not be enough on its own. There are plenty of other things you need to do, including regular speaking practice, writing, plenty of reading, using a systematic approach to learning vocabulary, taking time to understand how grammar works.

I suppose the thing is, there are two approaches that seem to be important in learning a language. One approach involves absorbing loads of English just through reading and listening. This is exposure, or immersion or comprehensible input – whatever you want to call it. You have to see and hear the language a lot if you want to be able to use it properly. 

This is input. It is really important to get loads of English into your everyday life. You must regularly connect with English, get exposure to English and immerse yourself in English and binging on TV series is probably a pretty good and usually fun way to do that. 

Personally I would say that podcasts are the best way, but whatever floats your boat. Ultimately it’s about finding the thing you really want to do. Obviously if you are a regular listener to my podcast then you might agree with me. But if TV shows and films are your thing then go for it. 

The point there is you can get loads of English input from TV series and films in English and there are so many amazing shows and films available to us now. It’s amazing. We are spoiled for choice. Anyway – input is important.

Added to that is the importance of using the language regularly in order to communicate. This is output. So this means doing loads of speaking practice and writing practice in order to develop your ability to express yourself, find your voice, develop genuine fluency without just translating everything in your head. So, plenty of input and output. 

I’m being quite general here but anyway, the point is → you’ve got to spend lots of time with the language in both receptive and productive ways.

Then the other approach is to be more systematic and disciplined – examining the language in some way, understanding how the English language is structured both in terms of grammar but also in terms of pronunciation so that you know how English is not only written but also produced orally, how it sounds when people actually speak it which helps you understand native speakers and also how to speak fluently yourself. It also involves using monolingual dictionaries to expand your vocab and investigate words, doing controlled practice for grammar and pronunciation and finding ways to remember vocabulary.

And throughout all of that you need to maintain your motivation, because enjoying the whole process is vital. If you’re motivated, you’re likely to do more, spend more time on the language, remember more things and generally get into a more positive and confident frame of mind about your relationship with English.

Using TV and films seems to fulfil the first category to some extent (input) because it allows you to immerse yourself in English, spend lots of time absorbing the language and it should be motivating because watching TV and films should be enjoyable. 

It’s also worth stating that learning English doesn’t have to be a chore. It doesn’t have to be a boring thing that you’re forced to do by other people, like teachers or parents. I suppose people often say “Just watch Netflix in English with English subtitles” and this feels like good news because it means “this doesn’t have to be boring homework! It can be enjoyable if you give it a chance”. So, getting addicted to a TV show in English is a good thing for your English. 

But is it just a case of just sitting back and watching all the episodes of Peaky Blinders or any other show that you’re into? What about the other things I just mentioned like speaking practice, writing, pronunciation, studying grammar and vocabulary? Well, it is possible to use TV and films in a more active way in order to achieve some of those things too if you’re willing to do more than just sit back and watch.

So here are some bits of advice which did come up in my conversation with Cara in episode 529 but given again and with a few other comments from me. 

  • Watching to learn English and watching just for pleasure are two different things. Watching in order to learn English might involve thinking outside the box and doing things a bit differently.
  • Using TV and films for learning English is not just a simple or easy way to learn, despite what people say “Just watch stuff in English and bingo you’ll be a native speaker!” It’s not that simple. 
  • In your first language you might just switch on a film or show and then kind of veg out while watching it – without really concentrating. This probably won’t work in English. Be prepared to focus and perhaps be more active while watching, often that mainly involves using the English subtitles, which are a real advantage.
  • I do recommend choosing content that gives you the option to have English subtitles. Watching with subtitles in your language can be useful because you can see how things are being translated and you can compare your language with the English you’re hearing, but generally speaking it’s best to operate only in English so I’d recommend that you forget about subtitles in your language, or watching something in your language with English subtitles. Do everything in English. So, put the audio in English and the subtitles in English too.
  • “So, should I always watch with the English subtitles on?” There are no hard and fast rules about using subtitles. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.
  • Using English subtitles can help you understand what you’re hearing, especially when you realise that spoken English and written English can be very different. Subtitles can help bridge the gap between how words and sentences sound, and how they are written. You might hear something and then read the subtitles and kind of go “Ooooh that’s what she said! Ahhhh! That’s it then!” which is a great moment in language learning → that kind of “Oh it’s THAT?” moment when you realise something. But watch out because sometimes the subtitles are slightly different to the speech you’re hearing, because they might have to use fewer words than were spoken in order to actually fit them on the screen. But that only happens occasionally. So, an advantage of subtitles is that they help you bridge the gap between what language sounds like and what it looks like. When you listen without subtitles, you will no-doubt miss a lot of what is being said, without realising you’re missing it. 
  • But be aware that if you only ever watch with subtitles you might not develop real listening skills, because you’re basically just reading while you watch and as we know, in the real world, you don’t get subtitles appearing in the air when people speak, unfortunately (well, yet. I expect eventually you’ll be able to get augmented reality glasses or perhaps some kind of biotech which lets you see simultaneous automatic subtitles when people talk, but not yet… that does sound like something out of an episode of Black Mirror…) Anyway, the point is, there are pros and cons of subtitles and no subtitles so you should have both. Experiment with switching the subtitles on and off while you are watching in order to try to get the best of both worlds.
  • Watch stuff more than once. You can watch a film or show several times, especially if you enjoy it or already know it. Some films improve with multiple viewings. So, try watching certain films several times, perhaps first with subtitles in your language, then subtitles in English and then in English with no subtitles at all. You will be surprised at how much more you notice, understand and remember after watching things numerous times. You will probably appreciate the show or film on a new level too, if you do this. There’s nothing wrong or weird about watching more than once. Like I said – think outside the box a bit. 
  • If you’re watching a TV show you can alternate between watching episodes with and without subtitles. Perhaps do one episode with subtitles, then the next one without. If you just can’t understand episodes without subtitles, try watching the episode with subtitles first then watch again without subtitles. Again, don’t worry, that’s not a weird thing to do, it’s fine – because I say so. And anyway, like I said before if it is a genuinely good show, you might appreciate it even more the second time you watch it and this can actually raise the quality of your listening practice. There are no rules here. Watching episodes several times is normal and useful.
  • So, we’ve talked about watching films several times, watching episodes several times, but you don’t have to watch the entire thing again from the start. You could just do it with certain scenes. Watch certain scenes several times, with and without the subtitles.
  • Test yourself on what you heard and check with the subtitles. You could try watching a scene, then trying to explain what just happened, and what people said. Then watch again with the subtitles in order to check. When you explain what you saw, you can do it out loud, with a friend, or just in writing. 
  • You could keep a sort of viewing diary for films or series. Write down little summaries of scenes, episodes or perhaps whole films (although it’s probably best to do it in smaller chunks) then review the scene you’ve written about by checking with subtitles, and re-write your summary if necessary. This is a good way to flip listening practise into productive practise. Remember, it is worth writing in English even if nobody else reads it. It’s just a good idea to practise producing English regularly. Of course it would be better if you had a language partner, coach or teacher who could check your writing and correct errors. Consider finding one on italki – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk – but doing it on your own is still a good idea.
  • Search for certain new bits of vocabulary when they come up – using monolingual dictionaries. I recommend using online dictionaries like collinsdictionary.com macmillandicionary.com dictionary.cambridge.org Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online www.ldoceonline.com/ or www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/ They’re all decent dictionaries and you can check words and phrases, see examples and crucially hear how the words are pronounced. It’s worth taking a bit of time to get familiar with how these online dictionaries present information to you. It can pay off massively in your learning. Please resist the temptation to just use google translate to get quick translations into your language. It might be a super-fast solution, but it’s not a healthy thing to do for your English long term. Monolingual dictionaries are amazing and can really help you. So use them.
  • Don’t worry too much about certain specific cultural details. Sometimes characters will talk about stuff that you just don’t know about. For example when I watch some American shows they refer to places, people, sports or events which I don’t know about and it does mean I get a bit lost sometimes. It’s normal. You could google those things of course if you really need to and learn as you go, or just don’t worry about them too much. It’s worth remembering that it might not be your listening skills that prevent you from understanding. It could be your general knowledge too. 
  • Try transcribing certain scenes – especially if you thought it contained really cool dialogue. Then watch again with the subtitles to check your transcription. (I made that suggestion earlier, but there it is again)
  • It’s not just a case of what you’re doing while you’re watching. Think about doing things both before and after you watch too. In fact, doing some preparation before you start watching can really help you.
  • Before you watch a film or TV show, check online reviews or summaries to help prepare yourself. Being prepared can help. If you know the general storyline or tone of the thing you’re watching, it can help to prevent you getting lost. Watch out for spoilers though. Maybe you can search for a spoiler-free review of the thing you’re going to see, this can really help put you in the right place before you actually click PLAY. 
  • Similarly, after you’ve watched you can read online reviews of what you’ve watched. That way you can add some extra reading practice to your listening, and you will be a lot more engaged and invested in what you’re reading. Personally I like to read reviews or re-caps of episodes of shows I’ve watched. It helps me understand what I’ve seen and also I like to read other people’s opinions on episodes. Websites like Den of Geek, Vulture, The Independent or The Guardian often do episode recaps of the big TV shows. Read them! It can also help you to appreciate subtle details that you’ve missed and you’ll pick up bits of English from the articles you’ll read. Go the extra mile. It will pay off for your English later. If you find those online newspaper reviews to be a bit “wordy” and opinionated then consider reading IMDB or Wikipedia plot summaries instead as they are often written in slightly more plain English.
  • I’d also recommend finding YouTube reviews of the films or series you’ve watched. Just go to YouTube and search for the title of the episode or film you’ve seen plus the word review and see what you get. You’ll find this is a great way to get more effective listening input because you’ll be fully engaged in what you’re listening to. You’ll be on the same page as the person speaking because you will understand all their reference points and you’ll be interacting with their opinions and thoughts a lot more. This is an important part of turning listening input into intake → language that is more likely to stick with you.
  • Be a little selective in your viewing choices – pick stuff that you’d normally enjoy, and remember that films and TV shows can contain very “mumbly” dialogue, and even just “grunting” during long fight scenes. Try to pick films that are pretty simple and perhaps comedies that focus on the dialogue. Also, as Cara mentioned before, some content is in a certain kind of register that might not be applicable to the English you need to use. Documentaries, for example, feature a different style of English than conversational English that you might hear in content with natural dialogue between people.
  • Pronunciation & Speaking → There’s the concept of shadowing, which works for a lot of people. This involves basically repeating what you hear. It can be a good way to essentially transcribe orally. I mean, you’re attempting to identify word for word what is being said and to replicate speech patterns. You should also check those useful subtitles to help you identify what you’re getting right and wrong. When you come across words and phrases you don’t know, those are opportunities to expand your vocabulary.
  • It’s hard to practise your speaking on your own. You can essentially do what you’re doing with writing (like keep a diary, summarise things you’ve seen, give your opinions about what you’ve seen and so on) but just do it with your mouth rather than with your fingers, but speaking works best when you’re speaking to another person. So, you could talk to the person you’re living with if they’re up for it. Otherwise, consider italki again.
  • I want to mention motivation again, and the importance of enjoying what you’re watching or listening to. If you’re not enjoying something you’re watching you definitely have permission to stop and choose something else instead. It might take a little while to find the right show for you. But don’t force yourself to watch something you don’t like.
  • Also, I’ve mentioned various things in this episode, like watching scenes or episodes several times, writing things down and then comparing with subtitles, shadowing, writing reviews,  and all that stuff. I do think it will help, but I know from experience that most people out there probably won’t bother to do it. That’s up to you. If you don’t take initiative and do some of those things, or at least try them a bit, I suppose you’ll never know how they can help you. If you don’t do anything more than just watch, then fine. Don’t feel bad about it.
  • Understanding films and TV can be really hard! Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand 100%. Even in our first languages we don’t always understand what’s going on in films. So, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not able to understand it all.
  • Of course you can always listen to LEP or whatever other listening resource you have that you can mostly understand, but it’s worth pushing yourself sometimes. Hopefully you get that from my episodes because they feature a mix of me speaking on my own which is probably easier to understand, with me speaking to guests which is harder. But hopefully you’ll find that you understand my content enough for language acquisition to happen. What’s my point here? I suppose it’s that you’ve always got episodes of my podcast to listen to, but you should also explore films and TV shows too, and try to do more than just sit back on the sofa in comfort while doing it. Try to be a bit more active if you can.

There is probably a lot of other advice that could be given. If you have other things to add, why not share them in the comment section.

Some Netflix Recommendations for British English

There are loads of great shows in American English of course, but I’m trying to narrow my focus to British English stuff here.

Here are some shows and films in British English which are on Netflix, which I have seen and can recommend.

I’ll mention the title, then talk about the show/film a little bit.

These things are all available on Netflix where I am (France) at the time of recording this (April 2020). You can probably find a lot of them elsewhere too, including on DVD.

Some of these shows you will have seen before, others will be new to you.

I’ll try to mention what kind of English you can hear in these shows, including accents.

TV Series

  • Black Mirror
  • Sherlock
  • The Crown
  • After Life
  • Bodyguard

Films

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
  • Snatch
  • Remains of the Day
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” 
  • Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Stand up Comedy

  • James Acaster – Repertoire
  • Greg Davies – You Magnificent Beast
  • Jimmy Carr – The Best of Ultimate Gold Greatest Hits

Plus plenty of others – just use the search bar.

OpenCulture.com –> Lots of free TV, films and documentaries

Also, check out www.OpenCulture.com and spend some time looking through the long list of free documentaries, TV shows and films there. For example, I found a documentary about Pink Floyd which was really fascinating.

Song

Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Suede – Lyrics and chords here tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/blue-swede/hooked-on-a-feeling-chords-753575

659. Lockdown Chat with Cara Leopold

Chatting to Cara Leopold about living in self isolation, the global coronavirus lockdown and how you can work on your English at home using TV shows and films.

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Hello ladies and gentlemen of the world, I hope you are doing alright in both body and mind at this particular moment in time.

Welcome to this new episode of my podcast which is here to help you develop your English skills simply by listening to some authentic, unscripted and spontaneous conversation – because we know that regular exposure to spoken English is vital in the learning process, and if listening to this can just keep you company for a while too, then that is an added bonus. 

In this episode you’re going to hear a chat with Cara Leopold, an English teacher from the UK currently living on lockdown in the east of France. 

Cara has been on this podcast before, two times as you may remember. 

The first time was back in episode 523 in which we talked about learning English with films and TV shows.

Then more recently we talked in episode 618 about the climate crisis.

This time you can hear us chatting about social distancing and being on lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic, and some more comments about how to improve your English during this period at home using TV series and films.

Yes, there is quite a lot of talking here about the coronavirus. I hope you’re not completely fed up with this topic now. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to talk about it too much, but I do still want to address the subject a bit, just because it’s on our minds so much and if I ignored it completely it would just end up being the elephant in the room.

Here is a quick rundown of the main points that came up in this conversation, just to help you understand what’s going on.

First we talk about the complex feelings and emotions we’re experiencing during this covid-19 lockdown, including things like anger, guilt, compassion, empathy, helplessness and general feelings of cognitive dissonance as we try to make sense of what’s going on in the world at the moment.

Then we talk about trying to balance the seriousness of the situation with your general mental health on a daily basis. Weighing up the positives and negatives of being stuck inside while the TV news reports on serious events going on around the world every day.

We talk about how much people are following the lockdown rules in our local areas and the vagueness of government positions on those lockdown rules in both France and the UK.

We speculate about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude towards social distancing (if you describe someone as ‘cavalier’ it means you’re criticising them for being a bit careless, reckless or not really taking the situation seriously enough) so we talk about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude a few weeks ago which resulted in him personally catching the virus. 

Breaking news at time of recording: he is now out of intensive care, which seems to be a good sign for his health, even though I expect it might have been touch and go for a while. Of course we wish him well, and anyone else who is suffering at this time.

We discuss the challenge of trying to work out a moral position on all of this, specifically several approaches to dealing with the crisis: social distancing vs herd immunity.

We chat about managing daily life at home, with a 2-year-old child (in my case), and what happens when I leave her unattended for more than 10 minutes.

Then we turn our attention to you and your English – and how you can use online content like TV series and films (for example on Netflix or perhaps on OpenCulture.com) to improve your English at home.

We did cover a lot of that kind of advice in episode 523 – link above.

but I will sum up the main bits of advice we made in that episode at the end of this one, so stay tuned for more comments about how you can use TV series and films to improve your English nearer the end of the chat.

By the way, Cara’s last episode was transcribed by the Orion Transcription team and apparently it was quite a tough transcribing job partly due to the sound quality from Cara’s side of the conversation. I think she may have been in an echoey room or at least a room with lots of flat surfaces around (a kitchen maybe) which caused her voice to be a bit difficult to hear. 

So this time Cara made a special effort to create better recording conditions. In fact for the whole conversation she was in a cupboard surrounded by coats – the point being, she was doing her best to get good quality sound. Hopefully she will be a bit clearer this time.

Clarifying Some Reference Points / Vocab

I’d like to clarify a couple of reference points, particularly in the opening minutes of the conversation, to help you follow what we’re saying.

Like an episode of Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a TV show which many of you will have seen, but also plenty of you won’t know about it. Episodes of the show typically involve some kind of scary situation, like perhaps a post-apocalyptic world or a world in which certain technology has completely changed our every day lives and not for the better, or it could be life in the context of an environmental or economic crisis or something. But basically “like an episode of Black Mirror” has become a phrase meaning “like we are living in a scary version of the future” or something.

France 3 / BFM  –> These are news stations which you get on French TV.

Canal+ –> a TV station / online platform which you have to pay for in France

ICU = intensive care unit

Helicopter parent / helicopter parenting = (informal disapproving) a parent who is closely involved with their child’s life and tries to control it too much, especially their child’s education

Collins Dictionary dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/helicopter-parent

There are plenty of other reference points and bits of language that I could explain and clarify now but actually I think it’s best to just let you listen to the conversation and simply try to follow it all, notice things as you go, work them out from context and try to find things that you can relate to personally, but in English.

So let’s begin…


Ending

Thanks again to Cara for climbing inside a cupboard and staying there for the duration of our conversation in a bid to improve the sound quality on her side of this conversation. Nice one Cara.

As ever, you can leave your comments on the website. I’m curious where you stand on all of this. 

I mentioned before that I would sum up the main points Cara and I made in episode 523 about using TV and films for learning English, with and without subtitles.

I’ve decided to put that into a separate episode, because I think that rather than tacking it onto the end of this conversation it deserves to have a whole episode of its own. Plus there will be people out there who would appreciate having all the advice in one single episode. So that will be the next episode of the podcast – a summary of advice for using Netflix (and other platforms) for improving your English, plus some more specific recommendations for shows and films you can watch.

Cara’s free course on udemy.com “Improve your English Listening Skills with Movie Quotes”

www.udemy.com/share/1020Lg/

Upcoming episode with Oli

Long term listeners will remember that I have a cousin called Oli who used to be on the podcast quite a lot until he moved to Bristol and I moved to France and we didn’t get the chance to see each other very often. Well he now works for Netflix as a producer at their offices in Los Angeles (I swear I am not sponsored by Netflix!) He moved there a couple of years ago and coincidentally enough I recorded a conversation with him the other day about moving to the USA, what it’s like working for Netflix as a producer and what it’s like to be a Brit living in the USA and communicating with American people every day. That is coming soon. Again, I’m not promoting Netflix – they don’t need me to do that. But anyway, it was a good conversation that covers details of his work and the communication and cultural differences between the UK and USA.

Coronavirus Mini Interviews 1-3 on Zdenek’s English Podcast

If you enjoyed listening to this conversation with Cara, and you enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences of living in lockdown in different countries then I’d like to recommend that you listen to several recent episodes of ZEP including episode 2 which is with me. Links on the page for the episode or just subscribe to Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Episode 1 – Alexander from Russia, Musa from Turkey who is currently living in the UK, Daniel from Switzerland who is also known from My Fluent Podcast, and Daria from Ukraine.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-291-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-1/

Episode 2 – Luke from England, Rita from Italy, Lavi from Hungary, and Nrup from India.

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-292-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-2/

Episode 3 – Kieren from England, Kais from the Netherlands, Nikita from Canada, and Darkan from Kazakhstan. 

zdeneksenglishpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-293-coronavirus-mini-interviews-part-3/

Some of you will be wondering when another RT report will arrive. Soon, I think!

Thanks and speak to you again soon!

656. British Comedy: Karl Pilkington’s Monkey News / The Ricky Gervais Show

Listen to a funny story told in a Manchester accent, and learn various bits of English in the process including vocabulary and pronunciation. Improve your understanding of regional British accents. Story transcript & vocabulary notes available.

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Episode aims

To understand a funny story in English to the same level as a native English speaker
To become more familiar with a Manchester accent (mancunian) and to practise listening to colloquial speech in English
To learn vocabulary relating to working on a building site, and more

Listen to the story – Monkey News / Builder

What are the main events in the story?
What’s going on?
What does the builder do?
What does he see?

A quick summary of the story

A man gets a new job on a building site. He’s just told to get to work and to not ask any questions. He sees another guy working at the top of the building who seems to work really well. He’s efficient, he doesn’t take breaks, he seems to take risks and be a hard worker. He asks the other builders and they say not to worry about it. Never mind. Don’t ask questions. He notices this guy at the top doesn’t have lunch, except for a bucket of nuts which is sent up to him. Peanuts. He gets v suspicious and asks the boss what’s going on. The boss just tells him to get back to work and not ask questions. Ultimately the guy clocks what’s going on and works out that it’s a chimpanzee working on the building and he complains, but the boss gives him the sack. So it turns out that a chimp was working on a building site and he was actually a more valuable worker than this experienced builder. Well, fancy that.

Vocabulary

Go through it quickly, just giving quick definitions and pronunciation pointers.

A bloke
A builder (person)
A building (noun)
To build / building (verb / -ing form of verb)
To get going on it = start doing something
To get on with it = hurry up, continue doing something
Bricks
Cement
Girders
The spire = the pointed top part of a building
The foundations
A fella
To take someone on
The work rate
Scared of heights (scared of the heights which are up there)
Riveting (verb)
Riveting (adjective) “This is really riveting stuff, Luke”
Nuts (that you eat)
Nuts and bolts
To hook something (on)
To check someone out
To stare
A tyre
To be wise to what’s going on
To clock something
It’s not on
Don’t get involved
Don’t interfere
You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
A good grafter
To graft (verb)
Graft (noun)
To let someone go
To be made redundant
To be laid off
A chip off the old block

Monkey News – Transcript

Ricky: Ooh, chimpanzee that! Monkey news, you fff…

Karl: There was this bloke who was a builder, right?

Steve: Oh yeah

K: And, er, you know what builders are like. They sort of move about, don’t they, from, from sort of building to building just building.

R: Well yeah. Once they’ve built it, the building’s done and they move on to build some more.

K: So he goes to his next job and that, right?

S: Who does, the builder?

K: The builder

S: Yep. The new building.

K: He goes to, like, the boss of this building who’s building it.

S: OK, yeah.

K: And he says what unto him?

K: Do you need anything building?

S: OK, yeah

K: So anyway, so he says, err, he says “Yeah yeah there’s plenty of work and that going about”. He says “We’re working on this one here”. He said, err, “Get going on it, like. There’s your bricks and cement and stuff. Get on with it.”

R: Any plans? Nah, JUST BUILD.

S: Just start building.

R: GO UP

K: They’re getting on with it and stuff. It’s all going well. But he notices that there’s someone working high up, on the top bit.

S: Sure

K: Because you know how, like, there’s girders and stuff on these big buildings

R: And he’s still building the bottom bit, which is weird.

K: And he’s still… Yeah well that’s, that’s the way they do it there apparently, just to sort of speed it up. Work from top to middle, from top to bottom

S: Sure. And that’s where? That’s in imaginary land.

R: We put the spire on and then we’d better do the foundations, and then put some stuff in the middle to keep it up there.

K: So anyway, he’s saying to, like, the other workers, he’s going “What’s… Who’s that up there? …

S: Who’s that up there?

K: … He’s working on his own.

R: What? Little fella was he?

S: Little hairy fella up there.

R: The little hairy fella up there with the hard hat

K: The other fellas are going “Look, you know, don’t ask questions, you know. The boss decides who he takes on. We’re happy to be getting paid here.”

R: [Laughing] DON’T ASK QUESTIONS?? Well I’ll see him when he comes down.

K: So he said, “Well he’s pretty impressive, you know. The work rate is pretty impressive, the work that he’s doing, the way he’s getting from one girder to the other “

S: Haha, he’s swinging is he?

K: “He doesn’t seem to be scared of the heights of anything.” He said “no, we just let him get on with it, you know. We work well as a team.” Lunch time comes. They’re all sat there. Sat on a little wall having their sandwiches. He’s just thinking that he’ll come down in a bit. [But] He’s just carrying on.

S: Is he? He’s just still going.

K: He’s still going and that, right? So, the fella says to the boss man, he says “Isn’t that fella up there going to come down and join us for lunch?” He said, “Err, like I said mate, don’t worry about him, right?” So he said “Oh, anyway, you’ve reminded me that he’s up there. He’s doing a lot of riveting and stuff up there. He probably needs some more nuts, to err…

S: Right, sure, and what kind of nuts is that? Is that nuts the food, or…?

K: So he said “What? Nuts?” He says “Yeah, just… There’s a bag full of them there, just just put them on the hook. Send them up and he can get on with his job.” So, anyway, he picks these nuts up

S: Nuts, yep.

K: Just hooks them on and thinks “They’re not that heavy, considering, you know, they’re normally pretty heavy aren’t they like nuts and bolts and stuff.

S: A big bag of nuts, yeah.

K: Anyway, he has a little glance in

S: Ah no, what’s in there?

K: Nuts

S: What, you mean nuts you can eat?

K: Nuts that you can eat.

S: Ah

K: So they send the bag up and he’s thinking “What’s all that about?” He checks him out. Starts to stare. Worked it out. He can see that… It’s a little chimp running about. So he goes, “I’m not happy with this.”

R: Why isn’t he? Is the boss sitting in a tyre?

K: He said “All them lot out there might not be wise to what’s going on here, but I’ve clocked it, and you’re sending nuts up to it. It’s a monkey, it’s not on.” So he goes, “Look, you know, we’re all just trying to earn a living here.” He said, err “Don’t get involved in it. I’m happy to pay you, but I’m paying him. Don’t interfere.”

R: He’s paying him?

K: He’s saying “Look, I’m just not happy with this. It’s not allowed.” So the boss was saying…

R: We pay peanuts, we get monkeys.

K: He said “To be honest mate, you know, err, he’s a great worker. He’s known for doing what he does. He’s a good grafter. If one of you is going to go, right, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go because he’s been here longer and that.

S: Blimey. He was made redundant.

R: None of that happened.

K: He was laid off

R: None of that happened.

K: He’s laid off and that. And that’s where that saying, about, err, you know how there’s a lot of tower blocks and that in America, it’s not like, err… ‘a chimp off the old block’, is where…

R: [Laughs hysterically]

K: And that’s monkey news.

Can I still listen to the Ricky Gervais Podcast?

Yes, you can.

Some episodes are still available on
The Ricky Gervais Podcast (find it on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts, and just scroll back through the archive to find some “best of” stuff)
The Ricky Gervais Show website www.therickygervaisshow.com/podcasts
YouTube (Search or Monkey News and you’ll find full compilations of them)

Another Monkey News – Chimp Goes Into Space

Links & More

A full page listing all instances of Monkey News, with summaries, and time codes for where they appear in episodes of the Ricky Gervais Podcast.

pilkipedia.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Monkey_News

A compilation of almost all the Monkey News segments from the RGP. Over 3 hours of Monkey News!

647. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 6)

The final part in this little series following Alan Partridge through a day in his life, and breaking it down for language. Alan is not for everyone, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and learned some English from it.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back. This is the 6th and final part of this particular episode run about Alan Partridge. I might come back to continue with part 7 and onwards at a later date.

But here is part 6 and in this one we’re going to conclude the storyline that we started in part 4 of this.

So we’re listening to some clips from this award-winning TV comedy from 1997 I think. It’s over 20 years old now but Alan Partridge is still a popular character and he is still on TV these days with new shows coming this year or early next year apparently.

But I’ve chosen this episode from 1997 because it follows on from the stuff we listened to in previous episodes.

Again, if you haven’t heard the other parts in this series, I suggest you go back and listen to them first. This won’t make a lot of sense to you if you haven’t heard those parts, and I mean parts 1-5. Check them out.

So we’re going to continue and conclude the story from this episode, which is episode 2 from series 1. It’s actually called “Alan Attraction”.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened in Alan Attraction so far.

It’s happens to be Valentine’s Day and Alan has been sending chocolate oranges to women he knows aged 50 and under. The thing is, all the chocolate oranges are shop soiled – probably ones that have been on display in shops and then taken off display and sent back to Rawlinsons for some reason, and so Rawlinsons don’t know what to do with all these damaged Chocolate Oranges, so they’ve somehow done a deal with Alan whereby he plugs Chocolate Oranges from Rawlinsons (Just say “Chocolate Oranges are available from Rawlinsons”) and then they give him 50 of the shopsoiled chocolate oranges.

More importantly for Alan, he is struggling financially. He hasn’t been given a second series by the BBC so now he is being forced to make financial changes. He has sacked all the staff in his company Pear Tree Productions and has to trade down his Rover 800 for a smaller model.

In the last episode we heard him go to Pear Tree Productions and sack them all in the most cowardly and pathetic way, except for Jill – the middle aged divorcee that works for him, and who he fancies. He lied to Jill about sacking everyone and then took Jill on a romantic Valentine’s Day trip to a local Owl sanctuary and then he asked her out to dinner at the travel tavern where they have an extremely romantic all-you-can-eat buffet for 6 pounds. It’s all you can eat from an 8-inch plate and Alan is cheating by smuggling in a 12 inch plate from his room.

So in this episode we’re going to hear

  • What happens on Alan’s date with Jill
  • Will they get on?
  • What’s going to go wrong? (because this is Alan – something always goes wrong)
  • Is Alan going to get involved with Jill?
  • What kind of lover do you think Alan is?
  • And is Alan still going to sack Jill like he promised Lynn he would?

I realised just before recording this that I haven’t described the appearance of the characters in the show.

Alan has a kind of middle-aged, middle English kind of look. He wears sensible shoes, brown slacks, a cardigan and shirt or possibly a blue or green blazer with brass buttons. His hair is a sort of side parting but it goes quite wide at the sides. Somehow it is exactly the sort of hair cut that TV presenters had in the mid-nineties.

Lynn looks like a typical middle-aged conservative English churchgoing woman. She is very modestly dressed in a long skirt (grey or brown) a plain blouse, cardigan, overcoat which is light brown or grey maybe. Her look is extremely sensible and plain. Her hair is, again, generic middle aged woman territory but there is absolutely no glamour to Lynn. She is a Baptist, which is quite a strict form of English protestant Christian. She’s very conservative, extremely meek, modest and also completely devoted to Alan. We don’t know why she is so devoted to him but she is. Alan of course takes her devotion for granted. Everyone should be that devoted to him, probably. He is generally quite mean to Lynn although he is also affectionate in some ways. For example, he plays her a song on his radio show as a dedication but feels the need to then say it’s nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Then there’s Jill in this episode who I think is also 50 (like Lynn) but she’s far more glamourous and sexy (read: slutty) than Lynn. Really, Jill is very trashy – low cut top (revealing her cleavage), short skirt, hair pushed up, lots of make up. She has tanned (probably fake tanned) skin, smokes fags, wears high heels and makes loads of dirty and flirtatious comments.

Those are the main characters in this episode I think.

Right, so let’s carry on and we’re going to now listen to Alan and Jill having their romantic dinner at the Travel Tavern (a horrible place for a valentines date).

Here are some things to look out for

17:22
Alan and Jill have dinner at the travel tavern
Jill has changed into a red dress, Alan is wearing his green blazer. Alan and Jill have just finished dinner. Alan buys Jill a rose. He holds onto his larger (12 inch) plate and Jill orders a chocolate moose, then Alan gets up onto the stage, grabs the mic and does something.

  • What does Alan do on the stage? What happens?
  • Jill says “I didn’t know you could sing” – What is Alan’s response about being in the choir when he was a boy?
  • Lynn arrives. What does she have to tell Alan?
  • Why was Alan’s phone switched off?
  • Why is Lynn wearing a “snazzy cardigan”?
  • What does Lynn suggest to Jill?
  • What’s Alan’s response?
  • What does Lynn give to Jill?
  • What does Jill suggest at the end?
  • What happends in the video? Basically!

22:00
Alan’s Room

Alan emerges from the bathroom in a bath robe.
Jill is in the bed in a nightie.

  • What does Alan suggest to Jill about the bathroom?
  • What does Alan think about living in a travel tavern?
  • Alan puts some change on the bedside table. What does Jill say? What’s Alan’s awkward response?

Alan wants to turn off the light, Jill suggests that they just dim it and Alan slowly dims it to complete darkness. “Bit more, bit more, bit more”

The next bit is perfect because it’s just audio.

Alan in bed with Jill
23:10

  • What do you think of Alan’s pillow talk?
  • What does he actually say while they’re having it off?
  • What do you imagine they’re doing?
  • What does Alan say about condoms?
  • Why does Alan want to keep talking?
  • “People forget that traders need access to Dixons!
  • They do say it will help people in wheelchairs”
  • What does Jill do that upsets Alan?
  • Who knocks at the door?

Alan’s Lovebud

Alan is back in the studio for his morning radio show as Jill is driving home in the taxi. Alan does a feature on his show called “Alan’s Love Bud” which is probably about romantic stories. In this one he tells another story but it’s obviously him and Jill.

  • What’s the conclusion of the story?
  • What will Alan be doing in 3 minutes’ time?

646. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 5)

What did Alan do on Valentine’s Day? Listen to find out, as we break down some more clips of this award-winning comedy and use them to learn English.

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Introduction

Welcome back to this episode about comedy legend Alan Partridge, a character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 5 in a series I started back in 2018. You should listen to the other parts before you listen to this.

What we’re going to do is continue to listen to some clips from an episode of I’m Alan Partridge – you should check out all the AP content out there including the DVDs you can find online.

We’re going to listen to some clips.
I’ll give you some things to watch out for.
We’ll see how much you can understand.
I’ll break it all down and point out funny moments and bits of language.

I hope to be able to cover all of this in this part, so we’ll have to keep things a bit brisk in order to stop the episode going on too long, but there might have to be another episode after this one, depending on how much we get done.

Let’s quickly sum up what happened in the last episode.

I reminded you who Alan Partridge is and what the context is for this episode.
We listened to Alan presenting his radio show and plugging chocolate oranges.
We heard Alan talking to the staff at the travel tavern and generally being awkward and weird.
Then we listened to Alan talking to Lynn about having to fire all the staff at his production company in order to avoid going bankrupt and because he’s not prepared to drive a Mini Metro even if they’ve rebadged it and it’s now the Rover Metro.

So in this episode we’re going to follow Alan as he meets all the members of his production company in order to fire them, even Jill the woman that he fancies and often flirts with.

Alan arrives with Lynn at the offices of Pear Tree Productions

09:15
Alan and the staff at Pear Tree Productions

Watch out for

  • How Alan flirts with Jill
  • How Alan lies by telling the staff the news about the second series
  • How Alan tries to stop people spending too much money
  • How Alan sacks his members of staff
  • How Alan manages to escape from everyone
  • When Jill asks Alan where everyone has gone, what does he say?

Alan and Jill

Watch out for

  • How Alan establishes if Jill likes him, sex wise, and his reaction
  • How they flirt really horribly
  • How Alan asks Jill out on a date

Alan & Jill at the Owl Sanctuary

Watch out for

  • Alan’s comment about astroturf
  • What Alan used to think when he saw Jill in the office
  • How Alan talks about a line of birds of prey they are looking at. He compares it to death row, and then look out for how his rambling comparison goes all weird.

Alan & Jill in the car

  • What did Alan do on Valentines day 8 years ago?
  • How does Alan ask Jill out on a date?

To be concluded in part 6…

645. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 4)

Listening to some more classic British comedy and dissecting it for language. This time we’re listening to some more clips of Alan Partridge, a comedy character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 4 of a series I started in 2018.

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Introduction

Hello there, dear listener, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English as a foreign or second language or third, or fourth. In these episodes I try to help you learn English while having a laugh at the same time. We cover a lot of British culture in these episodes including lots of stuff about comedy and there’s lots of English to be learned in the process.

Here’s another episode about Alan Partridge, a comedy character played by Steve Coogan. This is part 4 of a series I started in autumn 2018. 

You should listen to parts 1-3 (episodes 548-550) before hearing this. Seriously, if you haven’t heard the other parts yet – stop right now and go back to hear them. This will not make much sense to you unless you’ve heard parts 1-3 so go back and listen to them instead, before you listen to this. Alright? OK, so only the people who have already heard parts 1-3 (episodes 548-550) are still with me now then… It should be just those who’ve… what about you there?… yes, you I don’t remember you listening to the other parts. Probably best to hear those first, like I said, so… probably stop and go back… in the archive. (episodes 548-550) Ok you’re still listening. No that’s fine, just ignore, yep, just ignore what I said, yeah, because this doesn’t apply to you does it… just carry on then… don’t blame me though if this doesn’t make sense… not my fault, I did say… just one thing though, when you don’t get it, don’t even think about saying “this is British humour”… no this is not “British humour” ok, “this is poor listening skills and bloody mindedness”. OK, fine. Unbelievable.

I’m just kidding, everyone’s welcome! Here is another episode about British comedy legend Alan Partridge and this is part 4.

When I did parts 1-3 in autumn 2018, I wasn’t sure what people would think, but overall the response was really positive, with lots of people saying they’d like to hear more.

Here’s a comment I just got from a LTL called Aritz, which sums it up quite well I think.

Hey Luke! I wanted to write to you about the Alan Partridge episodes. Thank you so much for taking your time to record them! Although I already knew Steve Coogan, you managed to make me understand the character (Alan) and the comedian in more depth. The episodes were educational, funny and somehow brought us a bit of British culture (something that as a London resident I always appreciate). Seriously good (great!!) stuff! Thanks again!

Well then, let’s enter the world of Alan again then.

What we’re going to do here is listen to some clips of Alan Partridge and break it all down for language learning.

Hmmm, which clips should I choose. There’s so much. We’re spoiled for choice.

I’ve decided to deal with clips from “I’m Alan Partridge” Series 1, episode 2 which follows on from the episode when he has that meeting with Tony Hayers and it goes all wrong and he squishes some cheese into his face. 

I’ve chosen this episode because you already know the context of the story and it makes sense to carry on from where we were after hearing that scene. Also, this episode is just brilliant from start to finish (in my opinion of course, other opinions are available)

One thing I would like to say here is that I really want to recommend that you actually buy some Alan Partridge content. It’s really worth it. You should get a DVD or buy a series on iTunes or wherever you can.

I’d strongly recommend getting the DVDs for I’m Alan Partridge series 1 and 2. Also you could check out Mid Morning Matters series 1 and 2 if they’re available. If you’re in the UK you should find most of the AP content on the BBC iPlayer, including the recent series This Time with Alan Partridge (I recommend episode 4).

As well as those, you could get the Alan Partridge books. The first one is called “I, Partridge – We Need to Talk about Alan” and the second one is called “Nomad”. They are both absolutely brilliant and it’s not an exaggeration to say they are literally the best books I’ve ever read. Ok, that is an exaggeration, but it’s really not an exaggeration to say that the audiobook versions really are the best audiobooks I’ve ever heard.

The cool thing about the audiobooks is that they are read out by Alan himself (actually the actor Steve Coogan of course) and this is just amazing. You get hours of Alan reading you both his books and it’s absolutely top drawer comedy writing, and top-drawer voice acting too. Steve Coogan is a genius.

So, you could sign up with Audible and get the two Alan Partridge books.

And it just so happens that my Audible offer is still available!

You download the app on your phone, sign up with Audible and create an account to get the audiobooks, then download them onto your phone.

The offer is: One month of free Audible membership + any audiobook of your choice completely free.

If you like, you can cancel your membership before the end of the month and keep the free book. 

So it’s essentially a free audiobook.

www.Audibletrial.com/teacherluke or click an audible logo on my website.

And also there’s the Alan Partridge film, called Alpha Papa, in which Alan gets involved in an armed hostage situation at a radio station and ends up being the hostage negotiator.

So – plenty of Alan content for you to purchase, some of it free.

OK, I just wanted to promote the various bits of Alan Partridge stuff that you can get before we begin.

Right then, so where were we last time?

Context

Alan Partridge is this TV and radio presenter from Norwich in East Anglia in England who basically only cares about getting on television and enjoying the status of being a national broadcaster. He’s convinced he’s A-Grade talent, when in fact he’s at best a D-grade broadcaster or worse. He’s pretty much an awful person, although there are obviously worse people out there. Really, Alan is just lost, deluded, cowardly and deceitful rather than being out and out cruel or evil, although he treats his personal assistant Lynn pretty badly. But there’s something compelling about Alan, even though we certainly don’t want to be him, we might recognise ourselves in him. Is he uniquely British? In a way, yes. We tend to enjoy watching comedy characters who are quite awful, who think they’re better than they are, who are unaware of themselves. 

We’re usually quite self-conscious people who try our best to avoid being like Alan, so maybe there’s something quite cathartic about watching someone who is so unaware of himself and so unafflicted by modesty and self-consciousness.

Anyway, I shouldn’t try to explain all of that. I did enough in parts 1-3.

Let’s just get down to business.

So, Alan is a parody (he’s not a real person of course, just a character – that should be clear) a parody of a certain type of TV presenter. He used to be a sports reporter, then he got his own chat show, but accidentally killed a man on live TV. Now he has been thrown out by his wife, their marriage has broken up, probably because of him. In fact it’s all covered in the I, Partridge audiobook. Alan is now living in a roadside motel, or “Travel Tavern”. Somehow he avoided criminal proceedings from what happened on his chat show. Then he failed to get a second series of his show and ended up having a meltdown and punching his boss in the face with a piece of cheese while shouting “Smell my cheese you mother!”

So basically, he doesn’t have a second series and his career is on the rocks.

He’s still presenting a radio show on BBC Radio Norwich, but he’s got the pre-breakfast slot, which is something like 4.30-6.30AM. It’s the graveyard shift, basically. He’s drifting into obscurity.

In this episode, Alan attempts to deal with the fact that he doesn’t have a second series. He’s got to face up to certain financial realities, meaning that he can’t move into his new 5 bedroom house, he has to get a much cheaper car and he’s going to have to lay off (or sack, or fire) almost everyone who he employs at his media production company. He employs about 5 people there, including a middle-aged woman called Jill who he fancies.

Mostly in the episode we follow Alan as he deals with these things, badly in most cases. So he has to sack his production staff, get a smaller car and try to maintain his dignity while living in a shitty travel tavern. 

It’s valentine’s day in this episode, so there’s a kind of romantic theme – I say romantic, it’s not romantic at all really, but Alan ends up chatting up Jill from his production company and takes her out on a date. Lynn, his personal assistant seems a bit jealous. The whole thing goes wrong of course.

We’re going to do pretty much the whole episode here.

I’m Alan Partridge S1 E2

There is a laughter track on this, which is a pity, but honestly after a while you start to ignore it.

Alan’s radio show

Opening scenes on BBC Radio Norwich

What to watch out for:

  • Alan’s dedication to his PA Lynn
  • Why there’s no telephone Cluedo today
  • What Alan says about the sound effect (the normal morning cockrel and then the sound of a kiss)
  • How does Alan define Valentine’s Day?
  • How Alan gets the tone of a light pre-breakfast radio show completely wrong by talking about syphilis
  • How Alan ruins Dave Clifton’s joke about valentines cards “It’s valentines day! I came down this morning and I couldn’t open my door. I couldn’t open my door because I’d lost my key” ~terrible joke
  • How Alan manages to plug chocolate oranges from Rawlinsons

That’s not the sound of someone kissing me, or kissing a cock… cockrel I mean. It’s simply a way of saying “it’s valentines day”, a day upon which mr Al Capone ruined a romantic night out for many diners by massacring them. Died of syphillis he did, so there is some justice.

Alan in the reception

  • What’s the problem he has with Ben, who he says good morning to?
  • How does he subtly insult Susan on reception?
  • What’s the situation with Alan and the chocolate oranges?
  • What’s Alan’s fat back?
  • Can Sophie exchange her dark chocolate orange for a milk chocolate one?
  • Someone says “Excuse me, are you Alan Partridge?” – why?
  • What’s Alan’s complaint about the soap? (he acts out a washing routine in the shower)
  • Who sent Sophie a Valentine’s card?

Alan and Lynn talk about finances

  • What’s the good news?
  • And the bad news?
  • What about his Rover 800? Is he willing to drive a Mini Metro to save money?
  • What does he have to do re: Pear Tree Productions?
  • How does Lynn feel about Jill?
  • What’s Alan’s scam at the breakfast buffet?

The story continues in part 5…

639. 3 Quintessentially British Books (that you might not know about) with Mum

Talking to my mum about some examples of quintessentially British things, in this case it’s 3 British books that she particularly likes.

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Introduction

Hello folks! Here is the last of this 3 part series I’ve been doing about quintessentially British things. I’m assuming now that you’ve heard the previous parts of this series and you know what this is all about.

If you haven’t heard those yet, may I gently suggest that you listen to them first? There’s one with my brother and then one with my dad too.

Now it’s my mum’s turn and since she is such a bookworm – she works in a bookshop, is a member of a book club and is a voracious reader, the three things she has chosen are all novels – books about British characters going through typically British experiences, mostly in the early part of the 20th century.

So if you’re looking for some interesting books to read in English, check out these ones which are some of my mum’s favourites.

Have a look at the page for this episode on the website where you will find the names of all the books we mention plus some other references and bits & pieces.

Remember you can sign up to my mailing list on my website to receive an email notification whenever I release a new episode, and that contains a link which will take you straight to the relevant page for that episode.

Now, without any further ado let me allow you to enjoy the nice tones of my mum’s voice as she talks to you about her quintessentially British things.


Book 1

J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country

Book 2

R. F. Delderfield “To Serve Them All My Days

Book 3

R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September

Also mentioned

  • Withnail & I
  • Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff
  • The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sheriff

The previous episode with my mum about books.

The Withnail & I episode


Ending

So that was my mum and her three books. Let me say the titles again. There was “A Month in the Country” by J.L. Carr, “To Serve Them All My Days” by R. F. Delderfield and ““The Forgnight in September” by R.C. Sheriff.

It’s sort of a funny coincidence that all the writers of these books have initials at the start – J.L. Carr, R.F. Delderfield, R.C. Sheriff.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed listening to that and that you learnt a thing or two about the effects of the world wars on British people, and also that you might consider reading one of those novels yourself.

What do you think of my mum talking about books on this podcast? We did several episodes before together in which we talked a bit about books.

There was episode 488 teacherluke.co.uk/2017/10/26/488-a-rambling-conversation-with-mum-part-1-vocabulary/

And 489 teacherluke.co.uk/2017/10/30/489-a-rambling-conversation-with-mum-part-2-vocabulary/

Both of which dealt with things like my mum’s favourite podcast, some favourite people and different books she’s been reading.

What would you think of a fairly regular podcast series with my mum in which she talks about books she’s read. It could be called Mum’s Book Club. If you like the sound of that, let me know. I might be able to make it a regular feature, a bit like The Rick Thompson Report (and yes I need to make new one of them).

So would you like to hear more episodes of Mum’s Book Club? If so, let me know.

But that’s it for this episode. What did you think, overall, of this series? Did you learn anything about the UK? Did you get some good recommendations? Did you enjoy listening to my family? Let me know in the comment section.

I’ll speak to you again soon. Don’t forget to download the LEP App from the app store to get loads of bonus episodes, and consider signing up to my premium service to get regular monthly grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation lessons. Find out more at teacherluke.co.uk/premium

But for now, all that remains to be said is, good bye!

637. 5 Quintessentially English Things (that you might not know about) with James

Talking with James about 5 typically English things, including conversation about pop culture, writers, TV shows, British humour and more…

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. This is your regular opportunity to practise your listening and develop your knowledge of British English culture.

This is episode 637 and this is the first of a three part series about Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about).

You might be wondering what quintessential means.

It’s a word that’s often used in front of places, nationalities or cultures.

For example, 

A quintessentially English summer

He’s the quintessential New Yorker

5 signs that you’re quintessentially Canadian

Quintessentially British or English is a common one. There are lots of articles and quizzes online to work out if you are quintessentially British and they all contain typical examples of Britishness, like cups of tea, Mr Bean, social awkwardness, the weather and so on.

So quintessential means a typical example of something. A thing which seems to be a perfect, unique example of something specific. Like for example a food which is uniquely British and is a great example of Britishness, like, what fish and chips maybe?

As I said there are plenty of articles about quintessentially British things online, but they always deal with the same tired old stereotypes of Englishness or Britishness that we’ve heard a million times and don’t always just apply to the UK.

For example this one, from BT

Let’s go through it quickly just to get all the usual stereotypes and cliches out of the way first.

The BT.com article

home.bt.com/news/news-extra/25-things-that-will-prove-if-youre-quintessentially-english-or-not-11363977287804

But in this series of episodes I wanted to scratch below the surface of British culture a bit, and talk about some perhaps less known things. We all know about the cliches, but what if we go a bit deeper and hear from some English people about their favourite aspects of their culture, be it modern pop stuff, history, literature or geography.

So I decided to ask my Mum, my Dad and my brother to think of some typically British things for us to talk about on the podcast. So that’s what you’re going to get. Hopefully some revealing conversation about a diverse range of British cultural items, but also some good recommendations of other stuff that you can check out in your own time, which could help with your English.

Let’s get started then with this episode with James, my brother. This is quite a long one but stick with it. I asked him to choose 5 quintessentially British things. The next two episodes are shorter as we deal with just 3 things each. But this time it’s 5 and this is what happened, and you should know there is sporadic swearing throughout this conversation, so bear that in mind depending on who you are listening to this with. Check out the page for this episode on the website to see loads of videos and links for the 5 things we talk about.


James’ 5 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about)

1. Alan Moore

Writing, publishing, creating, the business of creating and selling books and magazines. Magic, art, politics, religion and the ethical complexity of superheroes in the real world.

2. Viz Comics

3. The Harrington Jacket

4. The Long Firm by Jake Arnott

5. The Fast Show

Ending

There you go, plenty of stuff to check out including interviews with Alan Moore, Viz comics which you can get from the  local shop if you’re in the UK, The Fast Show with some videos online, books by Jake Arnott, 

All that remains to be said is thanks to James for appearing in another episode. The next one is going to be with my dad and he has picked 3 quintessentially British things, then my Mum will be on the podcast with her three choices.

Thanks as ever for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon!

Coming next…

638. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Dad 

639. 3 Quintessentially British Things (that you might not know about) with Mum