Category Archives: Uncategorized

859. A Christmas Ramble 2023 (with ChatGPT)

How about some English rambling at Christmas time? ChatGPT (who can speak now) helps me with some questions and ideas, and I ramble about Christmas plans, traditions, post-gift melancholy, upcoming episodes, how to do a King Charles impression, and more…


Some Previous Christmas Episodes from the Archive 🎅👇

855. Discussing Films with Cara Leopold

Talking to Cara about films, movies, her movie club for English learners and a discussion about films and what they mean.


Introduction Transcript


In this episode you will be able to listen to a conversation with Cara Leopold all about films. 

If you are a long-term listener to this podcast, then you will know Cara. She’s been on this show a few times before.  

Just in case you need a reminder, Cara is an English teacher from the UK, currently living in France, and she loves films and uses them to help people learn English. In fact she  is the creator of the Leo Listening Movie Club, where she helps advanced, film-loving English learners understand and discuss iconic movies together in order to master conversational English.

Cara Loves films.
I love films too, who doesn’t?
We all love films, don’t we? 
And it’s very common to talk about films we’ve seen.

Are you able to do that in English?

I want you to think about what is involved in having a conversation about films in English.

When we talk about films, we do a number of things, including:

  • Summarising the plot or story of the film
  • Describing the main characters 
  • Talking about actors and their performances, 
  • Talking about directors and they way films are directed, edited, locations, effects and music.
  • Giving our opinions about films, including the things we like and don’t like
  • Discussing the meaning of films, and any social, historical or personal issues which are connected to them.

How do we do those things in English? Are you familiar with the language of cinema and the language of talking about films?

What I want to do with this episode is let you listen to a natural conversation (one that isn’t scripted in advance) about films in order to let you hear all those things being done.

So that’s what this is! 

You can use this episode in several ways. 

1) Just listen for enjoyment, listen to what we have to say about various different films, and just try to follow the conversation, and practice your general listening skills in the process. 

2) Focus on noticing the specific vocabulary or grammar that we use to do all the things I mentioned before. Listen out for the ways we describe, summarise, give opinions and generally share our thoughts about films.

We mention lots of different films in this conversation and one thing which I’m thinking about is that those films might have different titles in your language. I hope you are able to identify the films. 

You can see a list of the names of the films we mention on the page for this episode on my website. If you want to check out those movie titles, and perhaps google them to find out what they are called in your language, just go to the episode page on my website and you’ll see all the titles listed there, plus various other links to things which we mention or which you might find useful.

Right then. It’s now time to listen to my conversation with Cara. 

I will talk to you again briefly at the end of this but now, let’s get started.

Ending Transcript

Thanks again to Cara.

You can check out her work. 

On her website you can see details of the different courses and resources I mentioned before, which involve improving your English with films. 

Also check out her YouTube channel where she has been posting videos lately. Some of the videos there include things like:

  • The best movies for English learners
  • The 5 best podcasts for movie loving English learners
  • Should you watch movies in English with or without subtitles?
  • How to understand movies in English without subtitles
  • And more

Also you will find a link to Cara’s LinkedIn page where she has been writing posts about various things.

Cara Links

As well as that, on the page for this episode on my website you’ll also find 

  • Links to those previous episodes of this podcast about using films and TV series to improve your English. That’s episodes 523 and 660 

Also! Links to the episodes about Groundhog Day that we mentioned.

Episode 129 (parts 1 & 2) of Daniel Goodson’s podcast “My Fluent Podcast” in which Daniel and Cara discuss Groundhog Day

And a list of all the names of the films Cara and I mentioned in this conversation, in case you wanted to google them to find out what they are called in your language.

Here are a few questions which you could answer in the comment section if you like:

  • Have you seen any good films recently? 
  • Do you prefer films or TV series? Why?
  • What films have helped you learn English? How did they help you? 

Films we mentioned in this conversation

  • Pétaouchnok  (The French film starring Philippe Rebbot, who Cara saw at a cafe recently)
  • Films which Cara has watched in her film club recently
  • Get Out
  • Groundhog Day

    Jane Austen adaptations
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice

    Richard Curtis films
  • Love Actually
  • Four Weddings & A Funeral
  • Notting Hill
  • About Time
  • Yesterday 

    Danny Boyle films
  • 28 Days Later
  • 28 Weeks Later

    Horror films 
  • Paranormal Activity
  • Insidious
  • John Carpenter films
  • Halloween
  • The Thing

    Paul Verhoven films
  • Robocop
  • Total Recall

    David Fincher films
  • Se7en
  • Fight Club

    One of my all-time favourite films
  • Taxi Driver

    More recent films
  • The Barbie Movie
  • Killers of the Flower Moon

762. Meditation & Learning English (with Antony Rotunno)

Discussing meditation, meditation techniques, how it can help in our lives and improve us as language learners. Antony Rotunno is my guest and listen out for stories, advice, tangents and maybe one or two revelations.

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Introduction Transcript / Links / Show Notes

Hello listeners and welcome back to the podcast. 

This episode is called Meditation & Learning English, and as the title suggests, this is about the topic of meditation and how it can help us in our lives in various ways, including with our learning of languages. 

My guest this time is podcaster and English teacher Antony Rotunno. Antony is back on the podcast after being on the podcast a few times last year when we did a series of episodes about John Lennon.

Antony has a few podcasts of his own and you might remember that recently I said that I’d listened to a couple of Antony’s episodes which were all about meditation. 

They were called “The Joys and Wonders of Meditation” 

I listened to them late last year, during quite a stressful period when we were having work done on our new flat, and I really felt like they helped me to find ways to keep my stress under control and get a bit of mental clarity during all of that chaos.

I definitely recommend those episodes to everyone. 

That’s Episodes 4 & 5 of “Life & Life Only”. You will find links on the page for this episode.

While listening to those two episodes I immediately thought I should invite Antony back onto my podcast for an interview, this time about meditation. 

I think there’s a lot of stuff to learn from them, a lot of benefits to gain from it all and some interesting ideas to consider about learning English.

Antony Rotunno

As I said just a moment ago, Antony was on my podcast a few times last year talking about John Lennon and he’s always an insightful, articulate and thoughtful guest so it’s nice to have him back.

Just a reminder – Antony is an English teacher like me, he’s from England, he is a musician and also a podcaster. He has three podcasts in fact. You might want to check them out if you’re looking for more stuff to listen to.

“Life & Life Only” in which he explores themes of self-development, philosophy and the search for inner and outer truth. This is the one with the episodes about meditation.

Glass Onion: On John Lennon” in which Antony goes into fascinating depth about many aspects of John Lennon’s life and related topics.

“Film Gold”, which is basically a chance for Antony to discuss some of his favourite films with different guests. I was a guest in a recent episode of Film Gold in fact. We talked about one of our favourite British comedy films of all time – Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you want to listen to Antony and me chatting about that film, then check out Film Gold episode 15. 

Those are Antony’s podcasts and they are available wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll also find links in the description and on the page for this episode on my website.

There you go, lots of other things for you to listen to there! But you might be thinking “Hold on Luke, I’m already listening to this episode about mediation!” 

Ok, well, when you’ve finished this, if you’re still hungry for more, you could listen to Antony and me talking about Monty Python in episode 15 of Film Gold or Antony’s original meditation episodes from Life & Life Only, or anything else that takes your fancy.

But now let’s get back to this episode that you are listening to right now and the topic of meditation.


  • What is it, exactly?
  • How does it work?
  • How do you do it?
  • Is it just the same as relaxation?
  • What can the benefits be?
  • What can Antony tell us about his experiences of finding out about it and doing it, including going on several silent meditation retreats? 
  • What are some simple meditation techniques that you can apply to your daily life?
  • And can meditation help you to be a better learner of English?

Those are the talking points. There are some tangents of course as we end up talking about some other bits and pieces along the way and there are also a few quick meditation exercises, or spot meditations, which you can do while you listen, if you like.

In fact, to give you an idea of what that means – what a spot meditation is – let’s do a very quick spot meditation exercise right now just before the interview starts, to help you focus. 

I’m making this one up myself of course and I’m not a meditation instructor but I’m willing to give it a shot. 

A quick meditation before listening – to help you focus

Just follow my instructions for a moment and it might put you in the right frame of mind to really concentrate on our conversation.

First – consider your body position while you are listening to this.

Just take a moment to be aware of your body and any feelings of tension that you might have.

Are your shoulders tense? Are you sitting upright or are you perhaps slumped in some way? Are you tied up in a knot? Are you standing unevenly on one leg or leaning to one side? Is your jaw clenched? 

Take a moment to find those tensions in your body and release them. Just let them relax.

Take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm and feel the sensation of the air going in and coming out, and your stomach going up and down.

Now focus on my voice. 

Focus on the shape of the words, the different kinds of sounds that are included in each syllable of each word. 

Notice the rhythm of the sentences I’m saying – where the stresses are, where the pauses are, and any times my voice goes up or down. 

Just try to follow it very carefully without letting your mind get distracted by other things.

If you feel your mind wandering off, if you get distracted or if you feel like saying “Come on Luke stop rambling, we don’t want another 15 minute introduction, just get on with it please” or something – if you feel your mind wandering at all, then just guide it back and as you listen to this conversation between Antony and me, keep going with that approach.

So that was just a very brief spot meditation to help you focus your attention a bit.

OK, so now let’s start the episode properly and here we go. 

Meditation and Learning English with Antony Rotunno.

Luke & Antony Discuss Monty Python & The Holy Grail

760. The Rick Thompson Report: Ukraine

Talking to my dad about the situation in Ukraine on 28 February 2022.


Episode Introduction

Hello listeners

I’m recording this on 28 February 2022.

In this episode I’m going to talk about what’s going on in Ukraine.

I have LEPsters in both Ukraine and in Russia. 

The main thing I want to say is that I just hope that my listeners are able to stay safe – although that sounds hollow because of course some of them won’t be able to stay safe, and many people are being forced to choose not to stay safe.

I know it’s not simple, and there are various factions with different motivations. It’s not completely black and white but most people just want to be able to live their lives and live the best they can, but this war is making that impossible, and for what exactly?

In any case, I’m thinking of my listeners in Ukraine right now, and it seems that a lot of the rest of the world is also thinking of Ukraine at the moment, and sending their messages of support – and I’m talking about ordinary people here, right? Not the leaders or the regimes. 

But I also want to say that I am also thinking of my Russian listeners too because it’s not just as simple as the Ukranians being the good guys and the Russians being the bad guys. 

Russian people are facing their own difficulties at this moment too, because plenty of Russian people are not in favour of a war in Ukraine – a war which could only make things worse for everyone. There are no winners in war. 

So, I’ve decided that I am going to talk about the situation in Ukraine.

So, just to be clear I am talking about it because: 

a) I want to show some support for my listeners who are directly involved in this and to echo the message of millions of others around the world right now that this is not what we want. 

b) I want to just talk about the situation from our perspective here in the UK.

Some will say “You’re not getting the full story. Putin is just responding to NATO aggression.” Or “Putin is defending the rights of groups within Ukraine who want independence and who are being repressed”. That’s certainly the way he’s trying to justify this. 

Some might say “Why don’t you speak about other acts of violence in the world, or times when other nations violate the sovereignty of other nation states?” 

Some people might say “What about the UK’s aggression against other countries, including invasions which were dressed up as peacekeeping missions?” Don’t assume that because I’m British I support the actions of my government.

We should also not assume that Russian people automatically support the actions of their government. 

The people of a country and the governments or regimes in control of that country are not one and the same thing.


LEP merch is now available, including t-shirts, mugs and more featuring special LEP designs made by James Thompson. Luke and James discuss the new designs and launch a new design competition to give you the chance to get your design in my merch store and a cash prize of £80.

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Hello listeners, it’s nice to be talking to you on this fine morning. I’m also joined by James, my brother.

If you’ve seen me on YouTube in a t-shirt with a magnificent LEP logo on the front of it, or drinking tea from a lovely looking mug with an LEP logo on it, or perhaps writing something down on my special LEP notepad, then you might be thinking…

Where can I get one of those t-shirts?
Where can I get one of those mugs?

Where do I get one of those amazing pads?

Or even: How can I get one of my designs on some LEP Merch?

Your questions are finally being answered today, because the LEP merch store is back open, and I am launching a design competition to give you the chance to get your design on an LEP t-shirt, and a special cash prize of £80!

The merch store is now open. That’s where you can get t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, stickers and loads of other things with the LEP logo on, but also there are various other new designs which you should love if you are a LEPster. 

I suspect that you’re going to want more than just one of the things on offer for you today – In fact I’ve already ordered some and I am wearing one now.

In this episode I’m going to talk a little bit about the different merchandise available just to make sure it’s clear and that you understand everything.

Also in this episode I am launching a design competition – this is your chance to have your design on an official LEP t-shirt. Not only that, but there are cash prizes available too for the winners. I will explain more later.

My brother James is the one who did all the design work to produce the various images which are available across a range of products, so he is joining me for this one.

We’re going to talk about each design one by one, I’ll give you a little tour of the store to make sure you can use it properly, I will give you the full details of the LEP Design competition and then we’re going to open things out to have a larger conversation about merchandising and stories related to that.

Tips for Using TeePublic –

Click on the design you like, then choose the products using the list on the left.\

Some t-shirts are double sided.

Check the different types of t-shirt available using the little drop-down menu (classic, heavy, tri-blend, etc)

TeePublic often does sales and discounts on their website.

Tips for Using RedBubble –

I opened this store so Chinese & Russian LEPsters could buy merch too. The website is simple enough. It shows t-shirts in the thumbnail pictures, but check the list on the left to see all available products.

Various types of t-shirt are available.

RedBubble doesn’t do double sided t-shirts.

Avoid buying dark designs on a dark colour t-shirt (although personally I think an LEP Ninja design on a black tri-blend t-shirt looks really cool)

Let me know what other ideas or changes you’d like to make to the store, and I will see what I can do. So, if you have any other design ideas, or suggestions for things you’d like to see in the store, or changes you’d like to make – let me know.


We are looking for cool t-shirt designs by LEPsters, for the LEP Merch Store.

  • Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
  • PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
  • SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi.  Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
  • CLOSING DATE: 22 October 2021
  • Send your t-shirt designs to

James and I will consider all designs which are sent to me, and a selection of designs will be displayed on the website so you can leave your comments. James and I will also discuss them in a podcast episode.

Ultimately, James and I are the judges and we make the final choice on the winner(s).

716. Interview with a Pop Star from the 1960s – Megan Brady from The Applejacks

An interview with Megan Brady, who was the bass player in The Applejacks – a pop band from Birmingham in the 1960s who had a top 5 record, met The Beatles and performed on TV shows and at concerts in the UK.

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Introduction (After the main LEP Jingle)

Hello listeners. In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Megan Brady who was a pop star in the 1960s. Yes, a proper pop star. She was in a band which had a top 10 single, she was on the radio, she appeared on a lot of the music TV shows, she met loads of other pop stars of the moment including the Beatles – yes she met The Beatles, and in fact John Lennon and Paul McCartney gave her band a song which they recorded – their second single actually, the band were featured in the music magazines and no doubt many teenagers all over the country had her photo on their bedroom walls. Yeah, proper pop star stuff. So this is the story of Megan’s career in music in the 1960s.

You might be thinking – which band was Megan in? Well the band was called The Applejacks – you might not have heard of them. They’re not one of the big bands that we now think of when we look back at the 1960s, and they didn’t really reach fame on an international level but they were certainly part of the scene, and were well known at the time. My mum was a fan of The Applejacks, for example. 

Of course we know about The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but there was a whole wave of other groups from all over the UK who were playing a new form of music and so many young people were really into it, and that includes The Applejacks who were from the Birmingham area. 

The 1960s was a really fruitful period in terms of modern British culture and I am proud of that part of our history. I find it fascinating, I like the music and I like the stories of the people involved, and I hope you do too.

My guest is Megan Brady (although she was known as Megan Davies in those days) Megan was the bass guitar player in the band, and at the time it was quite uncommon to have a female musician in a group. We’re talking about the early to mid 1960s. There were female singers, but you hardly ever saw girls actually playing instruments in bands, and so that was one of the unique things about The Applejacks. 

So, yes, you’re going to hear Megan talking about all of this, as well as other details like her other career as a clinical physiologist in neurophysiology in the National Health Service (that basically involves studying people’s brain waves) and just stuff about playing the bass guitar, how she’s still working on her technique and things like that.

I know Megan because I’m mates with one of her sons, Jake – or Jacob as she calls him. I met Jake at sixth form college and we played music together in bands over the years.

I was always really impressed by the fact that his parents were both professional musicians, or had been professional musicians at various times because I was so into music from the 60s and 70s including a lot of the artists that Jake’s Mum and Dad had worked with or brushed shoulders with over the years. 

For example, I was really into Jimi Hendrix when I was 16 or 17 and I remember talking to Jake about Hendrix and he told me that they actually had Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at their home somewhere. A wah-wah pedal is a kind of guitar pedal. Jake wasn’t bragging really, he thought it was cool too, and he just wanted to share it with me and I believed him! “Hey, you like Jimi Hendrix – check this out, we’ve got Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal at home! Come over I’ll show it to you!” Whaaat? Etc. 

Also, I went to Jake’s house one day and I was hanging out in his bedroom listening to some of his music, and his mum’s bass guitar was sitting there – a nice Fender Jazz bass – and I picked it up and played it a little bit, and Jake said to me “Oh yeah, Jimi Hendrix played that bass once!” I couldn’t believe it! Hendrix played the same bass that was actually in my hands. It turned out that Jake’s mum knew Hendrix a bit, back in the old days and he once had a little go on her bass guitar – the same one that was in Jake’s bedroom that time.

Eventually I learned more and my parents told me more about Megan and that she had played bass in The Applejacks in the 60s and they were one of the popular groups of the time. 

So that’s how I know Megan. I am friends with her son, and now I’ve finally taken the initiative to interview her on this podcast. Megan is lovely and she was happy to do this, which I really appreciate.


Before we start, I need to just explain a few words that you’ll hear but you might now know. 

  • The Scouts / The Scout Association / Cub Scouts / Girl Guides / Brownies – The Scouts is a worldwide movement for young people (it used to be just boys, but these days it’s for boys and girls I think), founded as the Boy Scouts in England in 1908 by Lord Baden-Powell with the aim of developing character and responsibility. My brother and I used to be Scouts and so did my dad. What kinds of things did we do?Megan was in the Scouts and so were most of the other members of The Applejacks. That’s how they met.
  • Gang show
  • Cub mistress
  • Scout hut
  • Skiffle
  • Skiffle numbers (songs)
  • The Shadows
  • A cruise / a cruise ship / Cunard Cruises
  • The Queen Mary and the QE2
  • Top of the Pops
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital – a famous hospital in London specialising in pediatric care (medical care for children) Where Megan has worked since the late 1990s.
  • Bass guitar stuff – Just a heads up – things will get a bit geeky and specific sometimes in this conversation as we talk about playing the bass guitar, different types of bass guitar and Megan’s bass playing technique. During lockdown she’s been practising with an online bass guitar teacher called Scott Divine from Scott’s Bass Lessons. I didn’t want to cut those parts out of the conversation because I personally find those things really interesting, Megan was enthusiastic about them and so who’s to say that you won’t find them interesting too?
  • Parts of a guitar – The head, the machine heads & tuning pegs, the neck, the body, the pickups, the scratchplate (or pickguard), the pick, the bridge.
  • Fender Jazz Bass vs Fender Precision Bass

Right, without any further ado then, let’s listen to Megan Brady talking about playing the bass guitar and her story of being a pop star in the 1960s. 

And to lead us into this I’m going to play a little sample of The Applejack’s first and most successful single which was called Tell Me When, released in 1964…


Ending song – Baby Jane by The Applejacks

Thanks again to Megan for taking the time to talk to us about all of that.

You might be wondering why I didn’t get Megan to play some bass for us, which would have been really nice of course.

I didn’t want to put her on the spot, plus for us to hear it properly she’d need to plug it into something like an amplifier and connecting an electric guitar to a computer and playing the sound during a call is a bit tricky too, so it wasn’t really possible at that particular moment.

But you can hear songs by The Applejacks on Spotify and YouTube.

I’ll be sharing some bits and pieces on the page for this episode, including a video filmed in 1964 I think, of Megan performing with The Applejacks, which is a great little sample of the time and you can see her playing I think her Hohner semi-acoustic bass.

The super-long introduction that I recorded but didn’t use – you’ll find it as bonus audio in the app. I go into more details about how I first met Megan’s son Jake and also some other ramblings about The Applejacks…

Tell Me When (Their biggest hit)

Like Dreamers Do (by Lennon/McCartney)

I Go To Sleep (by Ray Davies of The Kinks)

Baby Jane

The Applejacks on Spotify

710. The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl (Short Story)

In this episode I read out a short story written by Roald Dahl and then comment on the style, language and plot. Enjoy some storytelling and learn some English in the process. Video version available.

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Video Version

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Transcript & Notes

Hello listeners, how are you today?

In this episode I’m going to read a short story to you, which I hope will be an entertaining and pleasant way to learn English with my podcast. I’ll also give some comments on the story afterwards and I will highlight a few bits of vocabulary at the end, but the main thing is that I’d just like to let you listen to a good-quality and entertaining short story in English.

I am currently videoing myself while recording this episode and the video will be available on my YouTube channel and on my website, and I’m sharing my screen in the video so you can read my notes and the text for this story with me, if you like – sort of like an on-screen transcript. The notes and stuff will also be available on the page for this episode on my website. Check the show notes for the link for that.

The story I’m going to read today is called The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl.
I think it was originally published in 1980 in his book “More Tales of the Unexpected”.

Do you know Roald Dahl? I have read a Roald Dahl story on this podcast before – that was The Hitchhiker in episode 545. It was a popular one, so let’s do it again.

Roald Dahl is one of the UK’s favourite authors, and of course he’s popular around the world too. You might already be aware of him and his work. He was born in 1916 and died in 1990 and most of his writing was done in the 70s and 80s. His most famous stories were written for children (Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James & The Giant Peach, the BFG, Matilda and plenty of others) and my childhood was full of Roald Dahl stories (maybe yours too), but he also wrote a lot of short stories for adults or young adults, particularly earlier in his career. This is one of those stories.

Get some of Roald Dahl’s books!

I’d like to suggest that you purchase some of his work – his books.

I’ve got two books of his short stories for adults. The books are called “Roald Dahl: The Complete Short Stories Vol.1 & 2” and I highly recommend them. They are available from all the usual bookshops. “Roald Dahl: The Complete Short Stories Vol.1 & 2” The Umbrella Man appears in “The Complete Short Stories Vol.2”

Notes on Language & Style
The story was published over 30 years ago now, and was probably written earlier than that. I’m not sure when the story is set, but it feels a bit old fashioned. For the most part the English is the sort of modern, neutral English that you would come across today and so almost all of it is appropriate for you to learn and use, but some of the dialogue is a bit dated. I’ll point out some of that old fashioned language later.

By today’s standards the characters sound quite posh and upper-class (and I’ll try to reflect this in the way I read it out).

I’ll give more comments at the end.

I’m going to start in just a moment.

How to use this episode

1. Just listen, follow what I’m saying, enjoy the story and don’t feel pressured to do anything else.

2. If you want to take it further and push your learning more, then you could get a copy of the story, and use it as a learning resource.

If you want the text of the story you could buy “The Complete Short Stories Vol.2” and read it there.

Alternatively, I found a PDF copy of the book which has been posted by someone online, so you could click the link to the PDF and read that (link in the show notes and on the episode page)

Click here for the PDF of the story

You could read it while you listen to me so you can connect the written word to the spoken word, or you could read it again later and take more time over it.

For pronunciation, you could shadow the story with me – read aloud at the same time as you listen, perhaps with the text in front of you.

You could record yourself reading the story, and then listen back and compare it to my recording, perhaps focusing on different aspects of pronunciation.

For vocabulary, you could find any words or phrases that you don’t know and check them using an online dictionary like (Oxford, Cambridge, Longman and Macmillan dictionaries are also available and I often use them as a teacher too)

Or, as I said, just relax and listen to the story without worrying about doing anything else.

Let’s get started! I will summarise this at the end in plain English so you can be sure you understood the main events.

Luke reads the story

I hope you enjoyed that!

A summary of the story

Here’s a summary from It neatly summarises the story in plain English in a couple of paragraphs. This should help you to make sure you got the main plot. As I said if you have specific bits of vocabulary that you’d like to check, you can do that on your own using one of those dictionaries. We might go through a few little details in a minute. First let me read out this summary.

I like this because it’s enjoyable to listen to the way the man persuades even this very suspicious woman to give him some money. I don’t think tricking people for money is good or anything like that, but I do find it interesting when people have fairly complex but effective techniques for fooling people.

It’s also interesting how the woman’s attitudes about class and social status make her quite susceptible to this man’s trick, and I’m sure she wouldn’t be the only one. She judges people by their appearances and seems a bit snobbish, and he uses that to his advantage. He gives the impression of being a gentleman, and this is what allows him to take advantage of the woman.

We all have natural prejudices, which can affect the way we judge people. It seems this old man uses people’s prejudices as part of his trick.

Here are some comments about the way the characters are described and the English used.

One of the strengths of this story is the way the characters are given depth. The story is told in a relatively simple manner with short sentences and not a lot of extraneous detail but the small details that are given make the characters 3-dimensional.

This is done by showing us little contradictions in the things they say or do or at least hinting at some little conflicts that they seem to have inside them, some positive and negative traits, particularly the mother.

The mother is strict, but she’s willing to give her daughter a banana split after her dental appointment. I guess she is kind and loving and wants to treat her daughter to something nice after the frightening ordeal of going to the dentist, but is it a good idea to treat your child to such a sugary dessert after the dentist has filled a hole in her tooth? I guess we all have to balance being strict, giving treats and managing the dental health of our children. But it’s interesting that we wonder slightly about what kind of mother she is. Maybe I’m reading too much into it here, but what did you think? What do you think is going on between the mother and the daughter? Does she seem to be a good mother? I suppose that’s a subjective thing. But I’d be interested to know what you think.

She’s a bit stuck up and snobbish. She looks down her nose at the man when she believes he is begging for money, but then she can’t hide her admiration for him when she believes he is perhaps a titled-gentleman, maybe someone who comes from the upper-classes in society.

Her attitudes about people and their status are clearly revealed by her reactions to the man at different moments. This is a good example of the principle of “show, don’t tell” which I think is a good method for telling stories. “Show, don’t tell” basically means that it’s always better to show the reader how to feel rather than telling them how to feel.

Roald Dahl could have told us directly that the mother was a bit snobbish, by saying something like “My mother was always a bit snobbish and looked down on people lower than her and yet admired the upper classes highly” but it’s more effective for him to show us her attitudes by describing her reactions to the man at different moments in the story. This allows us to work out for ourselves that the mother is a bit of a snob, or maybe she’s just trying hard to get the best life for her and her family.

She dreams of living a more wealthy and privileged life, having a car and a chauffeur. This shows us something about her position in society and that she’s probably middle class or upper-middle class and dreams of having more comfort and convenience in her life, like upper-class people have.

She’s very untrustworthy and suspicious. Are these negative traits or is it wise to be cautious of others? But she’s also willing to be quite adventurous, chasing after the old man when she realises that he’s up to something.

All of these little conflicting things, so efficiently described, help to flesh out her character and make her a lot more human and relatable. We kind of see how the daughter might feel – being a bit wary of her mother’s strictness but enjoying spending time with her, having just been treated to a nice banana split and sharing the afternoon together, also her disappointment with the way her mother treats the old man at first, learning about how to deal with strangers in the street and then the excitement of chasing after him.

Roald Dahl always does this – somehow allows you to experience the excitement of being with certain other people.

Then there’s the little old man who just loves a drink of whiskey but apparently doesn’t have any money of his own, and yet he has cleverly come up with a genius little plan to get money from people in the street. I suppose he won in the end, and the mother was shown up to be a bit of a snob or something. (Maybe I’m being a bit mean to the mother – is she a snob, or is she just wary of certain types of person?)

I wonder if this little event affected the way the daughter saw the mother, if it brought them closer, or if the mother was embarrassed. In the end it seems that the mother and daughter just shared a funny little experience together. Ultimately it is quite adorable the way the two of them interact and I get quite a warm feeling from them.

I like the neatness of the story, the cleverness of the man’s plan, the mischievous elements and the moment when the old man drinks his whiskey – it seems like he really enjoys it.

What about you? What do you think of the story? Leave your comments in the comment section.

Posh / Old-Fashioned Sounding Vocabulary

  • Again, if there are specific words or phrases that you’d like to check, I’ll let you do that yourself using the book or the PDF and a good dictionary, but I mentioned before about how some things sounded quite old fashioned and posh, and I’d like to point those things out.

    Things that sound posh or formal, or at least old-fashioned. (posh people often sound a bit old fashioned for some reason) I wouldn’t really use these phrases in my normal everyday life.

    Obviously you can speak how you like. I’m just pointing out things which I think sound a bit old-fashioned or posh.
  • “I assure you!” → “Honestly!”
  • “Old people like me become terribly forgetful” → “really”
  • “I beg you to believe me, madam” → “Believe me, please!”
  • “Isn’t it the silliest thing to do?” → “Isn’t it such a stupid thing to do?”
  • “I summon a taxi to get me home” → “I get a taxi” or “I call a taxi to get me home”
  • “Oh mummy” (a lot of posh kids call their Mum, “mummy” – I think most British kids call their mother “Mum”)
  • “Don’t be so beastly to him!” → “Don’t be so horrible to him!”
  • “It’s of no importance so long as I get home” → “It’s not important…”
  • “I wanted to satisfy myself that he wasn’t a trickster” → “I wanted to be sure…”
  • Goodness Mummy, what a hurry he’s in” → “Oh my god!” “Wow”
  • Good heavens, it’s a pub!”
  • By golly, he’s got a nerve!”
  • “That’s a jolly expensive drink” → “That’s a really expensive drink”
  • Super” → “Amazing, brilliant”

Fancy another Roald Dahl story?

I have read a Roald Dahl story before on the podcast. Some of you might remember. I read The Hitchhiker in episode 545. You can check it out in the archive if you’d like to listen to it. There’s also a link to that on the page for this episode on my website.

Finally, let’s listen to the author himself introducing the story at the start of an episode of Tales of the Unexpected, the TV show. Check this out.

I believe that Roald Dahl witnessed a real umbrella man on the streets of New York, but I wonder if he really did try the trick himself, and whether you are tempted to try it too, but I’m not sure the whole world needs more tricksters, does it?

Thanks for listening, speak to you again in the next episode, but for now – good bye bye bye…

693. English With Lucy / A Conversation with Lucy Earl

Chatting to Lucy Earl from the English with Lucy channel on YouTube.

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Introduction & Ending Transcripts

Hello everyone, How are you doing today? 

I hope you are fine and completely ready to listen to this new episode of my podcast. 

A couple of things before we get started.


Voting is currently underway in the WISBOLEP competition, as you may know if you have heard the previous episode of this podcast. If you haven’t voted yet, head over to to hear all the entries and to choose who you think should be interviewed in an episode of the podcast. Find the voting form, tap the names of the people you want to vote for and then click vote. The voting closes on 6 December at midnight CET. 

LEP Premium 27 & 28 –

Also, hello premium subscribers – you might have seen that I’ve uploaded parts 1 & 2 of premium series 27. P27 is an error correction series. It’ll be an 8-part series in total. Parts 1 & 2 are available for you now. In that series I’m not just correcting some common errors but using those errors as a starting point to teach various bits of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. Check it out in the LEP app or on the website. Premium 27 parts 1 & 2 are already available for you.

Also – coming very soon to LEP Premium (and possibly even available now, depending on when you listen to this) – coming soon is an episode with over 50 phrases from the conversation you’re going to hear in this episode. I’ve picked out over 50 things which I think that you might miss or that you might not know. It will help you to understand this conversation a lot more and will help you use it to expand your English beyond the benefits of only listening to it.  

To find out how to access the premium episodes and to get all the relevant information about LEP Premium go to

A Conversation with Lucy

In this episode you can hear me in conversation with Lucy Earl from the English with Lucy YouTube channel.

Do you know English with Lucy on YouTube?

I’d be surprised if you didn’t. She has to be one of the most famous English teachers on YouTube, certainly one of the most well-known British English teachers on that platform.

Her YouTube channel currently has over 5 million subscribers and that number is growing all the time. The last time I checked it was 4.something and then checking today it says 5.06 million, so she’s doing quite well, isn’t she? 

Yes, it is a huge success and earlier this year Lucy actually mentioned this podcast in one of her videos and recommended it as a good way to learn English through listening and I thought, “Hello, Lucy knows about LEP, and apparently she likes it. That’s nice. Maybe I should invite her onto the podcast for a bit of a chat.”

So that’s what I did and that’s what you’re going to get here. A friendly chat with Lucy Earl from English with Lucy.

Here is a quick run-down of what comes up in the conversation you are about to hear. 

We talk about…

  • Our accents and how they change sometimes, depending on who we’re with.
  • Lucy’s educational background & university life.
  • Learning Spanish and how she managed to get fluent
  • Getting recognised, or not getting recognised by people who have seen her videos
  • How she got into teaching and how she started her YouTube channel 
  • Some stories of living and hanging out in London, where she went to university
  • What it’s like sharing a flat with lots of other people and the conditions we lived in and things we did when we were students
  • The process of making video content and her approaches to managing her time
  • The experience of being a content creator at home, including how to stay focused and motivated and avoiding distractions like social media and procrastination in general.
  • How organised or disorganised we both are, in various aspects of our lives – including how tidy our bedrooms are.
  • Life on the farm (because Lucy lives on a farm these days) and how the weather is so important
  • What Lucy plans to do in the future, including some details of a new pronunciation course she has set up. 

Spot the moments of humour

As you listen to this I would like you to spot the moments of humour that come up. Maybe you’ll notice them, which is great, but I just want to flag this up as a little thing to focus on. I wonder if you will spot all the humorous moments. Try to listen out for these things.

Self-deprecation —> putting yourself down in order to be modest or not arrogant, perhaps saying things which aren’t really true but saying them just to be humorous and to show that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Innuendo —> pointing out things that could have a sexual meaning or outright saying things that obviously have a double meaning which is sexual. Basically this means saying things which are rude and sexual but not saying them directly. Just hinting at it, suggesting something that has a sexual meaning, saying something a bit ambiguous that could also be rude if you think about it. This often involves things like the verb “do” which can mean several things including “having sex”.

If you don’t really get what I’m talking about then don’t worry, I will explain it all later in the episode.

But there are a couple of moments of self-deprecation and 4 or 5 specific innuendos to listen out for.

I’ll highlight them more specifically at the end. 

Also, there is a video version of this conversation on my youtube channel (just the conversation without my intro and outro). So, if you’d like to watch the two of us speaking, and for example you want to see me blush when at one point Lucy mentions taking off her clothes, then you can. Just go to my channel and check out the video there. Don’t forget to like and subscribe as well, ok guys?Smack that like button. Actually, just clicking it or tapping it is fine. No need to actually smash the like button. You might damage your computer, or phone, or tablet.

Anyway, so I will now let you listen to our chat. Watch out for the things I mentioned, try to keep up and I hope you simply enjoy listening to this conversation with Lucy Earl from English with Lucy. Here we go…

YouTube Version (doesn’t include 25 minutes of intro/ending content)



So, that was my chat with Lucy and it was very nice to actually meet her and chat to her like that, person to person. It’s always lovely to meet people and actually talk to them properly, especially when you only know them from YouTube videos or something. – offer code LUKE15

Don’t forget that you can get a 15% discount on all of Lucy’s new pronunciation courses if you use the offer code LUKE15 (that’s l u k e, not l o o k or l u c k, ok?) A little spelling test there – if you fail to spell my name properly, you will not get the 15% discount. 

Use the offer code LUKE15 to get 15% off Lucy’s pronunciation courses.

We’re not done yet. I still have plenty of things to say here. 

Those moments of humour

I asked you at the beginning to listen out for certain bits of humour – self-deprecating humour and also some innuendos. Did you notice them? They were probably quite obvious, but let’s see.


A reminder of what an innuendo is – it’s a comment which is indirectly rude or sexual. Not a directly sexual comment, but one which is a bit ambiguous and could have a sexual meaning. I talked about this in episode 447 which was all about British humour with Amber Minogue. 

Anyway, here are the innuendos in this episode.

Lucy: A language exchange 

Luke: were they just exchanging languages or…

~exchanging languages, or exchanging other things – bodily fluids perhaps, or as Lucy pointed out, tongues. Bear in mind that this was in reference to people in their teens or 20s on Erasmus programmes, socialising at infamous nightclubs like Tiger Tiger in London where people typically go to pick people up or get picked up by people and exchanging tongues is quite a normal thing that happens there.

Lucy: Being with a Spanish guy – that is, I’m sad to say, one of the best ways to get fluent in another language… is to shack up with someone!

Luke: Learning by doing, as it’s called.

~Learning by doing. This normally refers to learning a skill by actually doing it, or perhaps learning English by doing something in that language, such as learning English by doing a cooking course in English. Or learning to cook by actually cooking rather than just being shown how to do it by a cooking instructor. 

But “doing” can also mean having sex. Not always of course. It depends heavily on the context. Don’t be scared of the word do. If you said “I’m doing my homework” I don’t think anyone would misunderstand that. It only becomes an innuendo in certain contexts, like this one. Getting into a relationship with someone, and no-doubt getting into bed with them too, can be a great way to learn a language. Learning by doing. You see. OK. I’ve made that joke on the podcast a few times before. Have you ever noticed it before?

Lucy also mentioned the phrase “to shack up with someone”. This is not “to shag someone”, although it sounded like that. To shag someone means to have sex with them. It’s a fairly rude slang expression, which I don’t count as a proper swear word by the way.

Anyway, that’s not what Lucy said. What she said was, “One of the best ways to get fluent is to shack up with someone”. This means to move in with them. It’s quite an informal expression. A shack means a place to live, like a house (specifically it’s a sort of little house made of wood or something) but the point is “to shack up with someone” means to move in with someone and live with them. But the suggestion is also that this means being in a relationship with them too, and the suggestion is also that you’re sleeping with them, right?

Lucy: I have a terrible habit of removing my clothing… Oh, and putting it on the floor.

Luke: Not just removing your clothes.

Lucy: Well that’s another habit, but I’ve had therapy for that. [I don’t think she has actually had therapy for this – she’s just being self-deprecating so she doesn’t sound like an exhibitionist]

Luke: (Talking about shepherds and saying something like “You don’t have sheep on your farm though do you?”)

Lucy: I think his dad did do sheep at one point. I think everyone’s done sheep at one point. You’re not a real farmer unless you’ve tried sheep.

Luke: You mean breeding sheep. Sheep-on-sheep action. Not anything else.

Lucy: Oh lord no! 

Luke: You did talk about doing sheep. I felt compelled to highlight the innuendo. I’m very good at digging myself into holes here. 

Lucy: I think that’s what the farmers were doing.

Self-deprecating humour

My podcast is massive. It’s got global reach. It’s very influential. I’m working on Vladimir Putin, subliminally. [I’m not really] Sarcasm + self-deprecation

50+ bits of language highlighted in Premium 28, coming soon…

There may be other specifics that you didn’t notice or didn’t understand in this conversation. If you want to make sure you got it all, and learn loads of English from this episode, check out P28 which is either coming very soon or available now, depending on when you listen to this. I’ve got about 50 extracts from this conversation, full of target language for you to pick up and add to your active vocabulary. Check it out. That’s Premium episode 28 in the LEP Premium subscription, available for premium subscribers now or at least very very soon. To find out more about the premium subscription go to 

Song on the Guitar

Some Might Say by Oasis – chords & lyrics here

Thanks for listening – speak to you again soon!

686. Christian from Canguro English

A conversation with YouTube English teacher Christian Saunders from Canguro English about the realities of learning and teaching English, motivation and goal-setting in language learning, Paul McCartney recording an album in his kitchen and plenty more. Video version also available on YouTube.

Audio Version (with extra content)

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Video Version (just the conversation)

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Hello folks, let me tell you about LEP Premium. There’s a thing called LEP Premium and it’s my paid subscription service. In premium episodes I do my best to help you expand your vocabulary, understand grammar and improve your pronunciation. I publish the episodes on my website and in the LEP App. If you’d like to sign up or just get more information go to

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode you can hear me having a conversation with Christian from Canguro English. 

Do you know about Canguro English? Some of you will already be aware of it. 

Canguro English is a YouTube channel, it’s an Instagram account, it’s a Facebook page, it’s a Twitter account and it’s also an audio podcast, and it’s all the work of Christian Saunders, an English teacher who originally comes from Australia but now lives and works in Spain. 

By the way, the “Canguro” part is spelled c a n g u r o – and it’s spelled like that because it is pronounced exactly the same as the word kangaroo when pronounced in Christian’s Aussie accent, the kangaroo of course being one of the symbols of Australia (Do you know what a kangaroo is? It’s that animal that has a long tail, large hind legs and a pouch on its belly. They jump around the Australian outback and in fact can only be found in Australia). Say kangaroo in an Aussie accent and it sounds like it should be spelled c a n g u r o.

I’ve been aware of Christian and his work for a few years now as his videos often pop up in my suggested videos section on YouTube. Christian teaches English in his videos like many other YouTube English teachers, but over the last few years he has focused on delivering messages about changing the way we learn and teach languages, the importance of taking responsibility for your own language learning, and generally exploring the psychology and philosophy of learning other languages, especially English.

When I see Christian’s videos, I’m always struck by how passionate he is about his work, how he manages to communicate quite complex ideas using simple language in a clear and engaging manner, his use of metaphors and visual demonstrations and a generally thoughtful and generous approach to helping people not only learn English, but to think about how they approach the learning of English.

Then recently Christian did an event on social media in order to raise money for educational charity. Some of you might have seen it. The video involved him reading every single word from a copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, live on YouTube, which is actually much harder than it sounds. 

He sat in front of the camera with the dictionary in front of him and proceeded to read each word one by one, and he continued doing it for 18 solid hours. You can find the video on YouTube.

I watched some of it and it was impressive – not just because it was for a good cause but because it seemed so tough! 

After 10 hours or something he seemed to be totally exhausted! His eyes were hurting, his face was hurting, his brain was hurting! He must have been going mad sitting in front of that huge tome with so many thousands of words ahead of him, and the whole time there were people in the comment section encouraging him, cheering him on and donating money to the educational charity he was promoting – the aim being to raise $50,000 to go towards the building of a school for poor children. 

After watching Christian for a whileI went to bed, and when I woke up early the next morning, he was still going!

I decided there and then that it was about time I talked to him on my podcast, just because I wanted to know what it was like for him, to let him explain why he was doing it, and also to get stuck into a wider conversation about lots of other things, and that’s what you’re going to hear. I sort of had a feeling that we’d get on quite well and that we’d have plenty to talk about, and I wasn’t wrong as you’ll hear in our chat.

This was a long conversation but it went by really quickly and it was really enjoyable to actually talk to Christian properly after having seen his thought provoking videos on YouTube. 

Our conversation covers things like, catching COVID-19, the charity dictionary-reading marathon, Christian’s story of moving to Spain and renovating an old barn into a home for him and his family, what it’s like being an English teacher in classrooms and also a content creator for learners of English online, motivation in language learning, my personal situation learning French, Christian’s speaking style, how Barack Obama speaks, Paul McCartney recording an album in his kitchen and loads of other things too. 

I’m very happy that I spoke to Christian because the conversation you’re about to hear does contain some really important principles about language learning – including many big conclusions that both Christian and I have reached after being involved in language teaching and learning for many years. Listen carefully – there is definitely some good wisdom to be picked up from this (I hope so anyway) and at the very least, it’s nice to just get to know Christian in a bit more detail.

You should know that there is a YouTube video version of this conversation in which you can see both Christian and me talking to each other, so head over to my YouTube channel “Luke’s English Podcast” on YouTube to find it, and don’t forget to like and subscribe when you do that (that’s right “smash that like button” guys). You will also find the YouTube video of this conversation embedded on the page for this episode on my website.

That’s it for my introduction. I’ll talk to you again briefly at the end of this episode. But now I will let you get stuck into this conversation with Christian from Canguro English, and here we go.

Ending Transcript

So, that was Christian from Canguro English. Come on, that was good wasn’t it? I hope you agree that there were plenty of solid bits of insight about language learning there, from two teachers who’ve been working for years to actually help people learn English. 

Thank you again to Christian for talking to us and for giving his sincere and thoughtful comments on all the stuff that I asked him about.

Remember, there is a video version of this episode and you’ll find it on YouTube – Luke’s English Podcast is the channel name. Don’t forget to like and subscribe, ok guys. Smash that like button, etc. Seriously though, why not watch the video now that you’ve heard the audio. It could be a good way to reinforce what you’ve heard and there’s a good chance you’ll understand a lot more the second time round. My episodes are often long and have a lot in them, so listening or watching more than once is definitely worthwhile, if you can find the time to do it.

Also, check out Canguro English on YouTube. Have a look at his dictionary challenge if you want to see a man suffering! Otherwise, have a look at the various videos he has made about the psychology of learning English and more.

A quick note about WISBOLEP – I am working on the next part of that, so stay tuned and watch this space.

Also, I’m working on premium content which should be coming soon, but otherwise there’s a large library of episodes there for you to work with, including pronunciation drills which I think might be some of the most valuable of the premium episodes. 

Finally, I feel inspired to sing a song with my guitar. 

The tune I’m going to do is called Wonderful World – not the Louis Armstrong one, although that is lovely. This is the one by Sam Cooke and it is dedicated to my lovely wife who has more patience than I gave her credit for in this episode :)

You’ll find the chords and lyrics on the page for this episode if you’d like to sing along or learn it for yourself.

Wonderful World by Sam Cooke (Lyrics and guitar chords)

682. Key Features of English Accents, Explained

Exploring the main differences between standard English pronunciation (RP) and non-standard regional or colloquial accents. How do people really speak in different parts of England, and how does this accent differ from the accent you probably hear in English language course books and dictionaries? Notes & videos available below.

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Notes & Transcripts for this Episode Start HERE

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Hello everyone, this episode is brought to you by LEP Premium which is my paid subscription service in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to really boost your English. It includes a big library of audio episodes, video episodes and PDFs plus new content arriving all the time. You get episodes in the LEP App or online. To get started go to 

Hello and welcome to the podcast!

I hope you’re doing fine today. I’m alright thanks for asking. It’s a Thursday afternoon. I have finished my teaching for the day. I’m at home. I’ve had lunch. It’s now pouring with rain outside. The conditions are perfect for learning and teaching English in another new episode. 

This one is going to be a deep dive into English accents and we’re going to look at some pronunciation features that are common in the non-standard forms of English accents, which basically means the regional accents that differ in various ways to standard English RP. This should help you identify key differences between RP and the other accents and remember – most people have a regional accent. RP isn’t actually that common. It’s only a small percentage of all the English speakers in the world, and yet the coursebooks, pronunciation guides, dictionaries and so on tend only to present RP as their model for learning English. As a result you might find it really hard to understand people speaking in the real world or in realistic TV shows and films. This episode is about helping you understand how non-standard English accents differ from RP.

Just before we start on that though, I just have three announcements and bits of podcast admin to make.

1. WISBOLEP – The New Deadline for the Competition is 15 October 2020.

The latest LEP competition is now open, since I launched it in the last episode. WISBOLEP. If you’re interested in taking part, just listen to the previous episode of this podcast to find out. I thought I wouldn’t get many entries, but of course I always underestimate this kind of thing. 

Thank you for those of you who have entered the competition – I have already had more than I thought I would get. Now I’m worried that I’ll get too many entries. At this stage, the competition closes on 31 October but I have decided to bring forward the end date of the competition, otherwise I will get so many entries and I won’t be able to deal with them all.

So – is that clear? The new end date for WISBOLEP is midnight on 15 October 2020.

2. LEPster Meetup in Prague – Sat 17 October 

I want to say “hello” to any LEPsters in Prague in the Czech Republic. Hello.

There is another LEPster meeting happening in Prague on Sat 17 Oct 2020, 5pm-10pm. I suggest you join in, speak English, meet some like-minded people and play some board games in English, which is a really great way to work on your communication skills because it’s fun and makes you use English in specific ways.


Date & Time: Sat 17 Oct, 5-10pm. 

Venue: Bohemia Boards and Brews

Host: Zdenek Lukas

It’s a board game cafe. A lot of expats go there and the owner is American.

Join a Facebook group called Prague Lepsters and sign in there because of the reservation and/or send me an email at

Prague Lepsters on Facebook

3. Listen to Luke on the IELTS Speaking for Success Podcast

Recently I was interviewed on the IELTS Speaking for Success podcast, which is co-hosted by Maria Molashenko. The podcast is all about succeeding in the IELTS test, but our episode was all about how to use podcasts to improve your speaking. We talked about approaches to using podcast episodes to learn English in various ways, including listening passively and actively and specific techniques you can use. Maria is a successful language learner herself (and she’s a LEPster) and she has loads of good input too. So, you could listen to that. It’s for everyone hoping to improve their English with podcasts. Also, there’s a PDF summary of all our advice, which you can download free. Find both the audio and the PDF linked on the page for this episode on my website, or search your generic podcast app for IELTS speaking for success. I was in Series 4 Episode 10 “Learning English Through Podcasts”.

Listen to the episode

Get the PDF

Key Features of English Accents

This episode is all about English accents – the regional versions that exist all over the country, and how they generally differ from a standard English accent like mine for example. 

We’ll be looking at some very common features of English that are very typical in England, and which generally mark someone out as being from a certain place and from a certain background.

We’re not going into all the differences between each regional accent, like “this is Liverpool, this is Manchester, etc”. I’ve done that before in previous episodes (search the archive for British accents and dialects). Rather we are just going to look at some features which are shared by lots of the different regional accents.

This feels like a premium episode because it’s all about language, but I’m keeping it free and what I’m going to do is record a follow up premium episode which will be full of pronunciation drills for you to practise saying things with these pronunciation features and without, like me.

That’s coming soon to 

Have you ever noticed any differences in the way I speak and the way that some other British people speak, like some of my guests, for example the way Paul Taylor speaks? 

The difference is quite subtle.

Luke’s Accent vs Paul’s Accent

From episode 527 – Can Paul Taylor Pass the UK Citizenship Test (from 12:50)

There’s really only one main difference there in the way Paul and I speak, but it’s quite a big one in the world of English accents. Paul says things like “It’s really overly complicated and it’s not, it’s not complicated but it’s stuff that is irrelevant if you want to live and work in England” “He’s pretty decent. He knows a lot about history and stuff.”

The difference there is the way Paul pronounces certain T sounds with a glottal stop. I might do it occasionally, but I think generally I pronounce most of my Ts, certainly the ones in the middle of words, most of the time.

So Paul uses a glottal stop and I usually don’t – that’s the main difference, but it’s quite a big one.

What does this mean then? How does this distinguish Paul and me then? 

The difference is just a subtle one in the way that we speak, which means that Paul’s accent is influenced a bit more by where he comes from, and maybe he’s from a slightly lower social class, but we’re splitting hairs really. It’s probably more of a cultural one in the households in which we grew up. 

I grew up in what I often call a BBC household with a dad who went to Oxford and worked at the BBC for most of his career and in our house there wasn’t much of a trace of an accent. Maybe a bit of midlands, or Yorkshire but generally it was RP. Maybe this is because my dad studied English at university, and my mum studied history as well and then my dad went into broadcast journalism, so speaking in this standard way was just the norm. Also my grandparents spoke mostly in this way, with slight northern accents coming through sometimes in the way they said certain words. 

I don’t know all about Paul’s background that much, but I guess his accent stems from the time he spent in Kent growing up, which is very similar to London really, and glottal stops are very common in that entire region. I don’t think Paul is from a hugely different social class to me, but if I had to call it, I’d say that I’m more on the side of upper-middle class and Paul is, I don’t know, middle middle class, not that it’s important. It’s more that I want you to be able to pick up on these little signifiers of people’s backgrounds, like English people do when they hear each other speak. I’m not inviting you to judge people, just to be aware of certain social clues that you might not otherwise notice.

I don’t want to get bogged down in class here. That’s another story for another time.

Let’s get back to talking about different types of English that you might hear, and their differences.

How about the way people speak on the BBC news and the way people speak in the street? [There are stylistic differences, but mainly the BBC news is spoken in standard RP]

Have you ever come to the UK after studying English in your home country for many years and then got into a taxi and found you have no idea what the taxi driver was saying?

It’s probably because his pronunciation didn’t follow the usual, standard conventions. It probably wasn’t something you were used to hearing if you’ve been studying from course books or other published materials.

What are some of the differences between my accent and so many regional accents in the UK?

Email of the Year

Every now and then I get an email which asks me lots of questions and also answers them at the same time, which is great. Here’s one which I received flippin ‘ages ago ( 5 years ago in fact – Email of the decade?) I’ve only managed to get round to it now but anyway, here we go.

Name: Koji Watanabe

Message: Hi Luke!

My name is Koji. I’m a big fan of your show.

First of all, congratulations on your marriage! I hope your honeymoon will be stunning and that you love it.

If I (can)  introduce myself, I was born and raised in Japan and moved to Sydney 2 and a half years ago. However, I have been using various visual study materials (tv shows) from the UK and my English is British rather than Australian.

I started playing cricket and am deeply saddened by the defeat by England in the recent Ashes series. In one episode you said you and your father loved the game so I would love to hear you talking about it for the whole show.

I listened to your episodes about the cockney accent, (Northern) Irish accent, British accents and dialects, and they covered some of my questions I would like to ask you today. 

I apologise in advance for asking you questions in the first communication. Only if you think it is something you might want to bring up in one of your podcast episodes, please read it through – otherwise, you can just disregard this email.

My questions are about accents and dialects.

Luke: What follows is a pretty detailed description of different pronunciation features in British English (TH sounds, T sounds and glottal stops, H sounds and more), with a few questions thrown in. 

What I’ve done is taken Koji’s notes and worked on them, adding details, thoughts, ideas and so on, while also keeping Koji’s original text. Let’s go through that now then.

Before we go into this, I just want to make a point about accents and identity.

What kind of accent do you want?

When we’re talking about accent, we need to bear two things in mind.

One is intelligibility – can people understand you? 

The other is identity – who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you want people to think of you? Who are you talking to?

Regarding the colloquial English we’re going to be looking at now, I think it is absolutely vital to know about these different varieties and how they affect pronunciation. But should you be speaking like this too? As I said, it’s totally up to you. I personally think being intelligible is the most important thing. You might also want to sound like a local, I suppose. In that case, go for it. But in the words of David Crystal, keep it natural. Don’t force an accent too much.

There’s also the rather sensitive subject of accentism or snobbishness in accents, and how people’s opinions of you are affected by the way you speak. The fact is, a colloquial accent can cause people to subconsciously judge you in certain ways. People might see you as being less educated or sophisticated if you drop all your Ts, pronounce TH sounds in certain ways, don’t pronounce H sounds and so on.

I’m not saying that colloquial English will make you stupid or anything. That’s obviously false, but colloquial English does carry with it certain associations such as a working class background. 

What am I saying? Basically, you’re more likely to find colloquial English like this from a guy working on a building site than from a qualified lawyer working in a top London law firm. So, which one are you? If you’re working on the building site with the other lads, I expect the colloquial English would seem more appropriate. If you’re doing an internship in the law firm, the standard RP would probably be more appropriate – but please don’t assume that I mean that colloquial English sounds stupid or is only used by uneducated people. I’m just saying – be aware of the baggage that comes with this kind of accent.

For example, my dad tends not to like glottal stops. If I said “Can you pass the butter?” he’d probably correct me. “It makes you look bad” is what he might say. Certain linguists might find that to be snobbishness, but the fact is, it’s a common attitude.

Should you speak like this? It’s up to you! The main thing is: you need to understand the varieties of English.

This episode is as much about understanding natural English when you hear it, as it is about actually learning to speak like this. In my honest opinion, I reckon you should probably aim to produce standard English. Try to be clear and use pronunciation that most people understand and let your own identity give some colour to the language as you doubtless will be imprinting your English with influence from your first language anyway.

In all honesty, it is very hard for an adult learning a second language to lose all trace of their accent. There are almost always traces of your accent in your English. That’s not so bad. Your English is just one of the many varieties out there. We don’t all speak the same. That’s the cool thing about English. It’s quite adaptable. If you’re using it, communicating effectively with it, and yet you sound different to everyone else – welcome to the club. English is like a village.

So, as someone from Bristol has their own version of English, then why not someone from Barcelona?

My main advice is – understand this, absorb it all, notice it when people speak, but just try to be clear when you speak. Try to focus on being understood in your communication, rather than trying to sound like a certain type of person. Clearly communicate your own ideas and just be yourself.

[Koji’s words are presented in italics]


This means that TH sounds become either F or V. 

Thirty Three – “Firty Free”

Mother and Father – “muvver and favver”

It’s particularly common in the south of England, although apparently TH fronting has started to spread to areas in the north too.

Unvoiced TH /θ/

Those who speak with th-fronting use “f” if “th” is pronounced as “θ”. 

For example:

Heath, bath, both, think, lethargic, catheter, Thursday

Danny Dyer on “Who do you ‘fink’ you are?”

“I was bowled over when I found out I was related to royalty on Who Do You Fink You Are.”

“Edward the Fird”

“My great-grandfaver “

And does this also apply to names as well? (Luke: Yes, of course)

Thor, Beth, Theodore, Thurgate, Matthew

Voiced TH /ð/

If “th” is pronounced as “ð”, the sound becomes “v” only when “th” is used in the middle or at the end of the word. Is this correct? [So, basically – not at the start of the word]

> Yes: Leather [le-va], mother [ma-va], writhe [raiv]

> No: that [vat], those [vouz], them etc..

I would agree. Occasionally  you hear TH at the start of the word becoming F or V but very rarely (it’s probably just a speech impediment that some people have).

It’s interesting that native speakers also seem to struggle with TH sounds, because learners often find this really really hard. 

*t-glottalisation (the glottal stop)

A glottal stop in English is a replacement for a T sound in the middle or at the end of the word. It’s most typically associated with a cockney accent from London.

Interview with Adele (from 1:31)

“I got really excited as if it wasn’t me, and afterwards I tried to check Twitter but I didn’t have a Twitter account so I just saw what was on there if you’re not on there”



Instead of making the T sound in your mouth, the glottal stop comes from closing and then opening the glottis, which is an opening between the vocal cords – basically it’s in your throat.

When we make a T sound, the tip of the tongue presses against your gum just behind your teeth and when the tongue is released, the air and sound that comes out is a T sound.

With a glottlal stop, we make that sound from the vocal chords rather than the tongue and the gums. When we open the glottis, air is released in a similar way to when we use our tongue on our gums.

  • Later 
  • Started
  • Water
  • Bottle
  • Computer

But we don’t do this for every single T sound. It depends on certain things.

It’s interesting to know this but I would advise against doing it too much in your speech. I’ve heard learners of English who try to use glottal stops on purpose perhaps because they’ve discovered that it makes you sound authentically English, but used too much and in a slightly wrong way it can have a weird effect. So, know about the glottal stop, know how to use it, but use it all the time at your own risk.

Quick Test

Imagine you’re a native English speaker who uses glottal stops ( you could be Paul Taylor maybe).

Can you say these words with a glottal stop? Where does the glottal stop go? Which words have no glottal stop?

  • Better
  • British
  • Antique
  • Letter
  • Entitled
  • Security
  • Hotel
  • Restaurant
  • Lost
  • Sit
  • Return
  • That
  • Thirty
  • Twitter
  • Wants
  • Potato

When do we add a glottal stop and when not?

YES: At the end of words  — not, hot, got, lot, start

YES: After a vowel sound (previous examples)

YES: In the weak/unstressed syllable

No: At the start of words

No: After a consonant sound

No: In the stressed syllable

Potato has two Ts in it. One is replaced with a glottal stop and other isn’t. Which T is glottalised, then?


Which T is in an unstressed (weak) syllable? 

It’s the second one.



But not in hotel, antique, return – because the t sound appears in the stressed syllable.


Pronounce the first T because it’s in the stressed syllable.

The second T becomes a glottal stop because it’s in the unstressed syllable and follows a vowel sound.



No glottal stop after a consonant (it’s impossible anyway!)

Koji – I’m sure there are some words in which t’s should not be dropped if I’m not mistaken.

For example, we can say:

Water [wa’er], pathetic [pa-fe’ik]

But we cannot use a stop for words such as:

Fountain (?), maintain, hotel, hostel..

Yes – because of the reasons given above.

Water and pathetic – The Ts in these words follow vowel sounds and are not in the stressed syllable.

Fountain, maintain and hostel – follow a consonant sound /n/ /s/

Maintain and Hotel – the T is in the stressed syllable

If a word has two elements then we do not drop “t”:

re-trieve, pre-text..

[This is a bit like the T at the start of the word. The prefixes could be considered as separate words.]

Are there any patterns or rules in which ts can be omitted? (we’ve just been through them but let’s recap)

YES: At the end of words  — not, hot, got, lot, start

YES: After a vowel sound (previous examples)

YES: In the weak/unstressed syllable

No: At the start of words

No: After a consonant sound

No: In the stressed syllable

Or do I just need to get the feel of it and remember which one can and cannot?

Get a feel for it is my advice, and like Koji mentioned before, the best way is not to do it too strongly. Don’t push it too much and try to use it everywhere. But try it out, test yourself, repeat after me. There will be a premium pronunciation episode for this, with drills for all the stuff in this episode. Both the colloquial version with things like glottal stops and also the standard version – how I would normally say it.

So, back to my advice for Koji.

Yes, on one hand, practise things like glottal stops – for fun mainly, but also to learn about how these sounds are made and how they feel, which will definitely help your listening, which in turn helps everything else. Helping your pronunciation can help your vocabulary, because it allows you to suddenly understand other people more, which then helps you identify what people are saying, allowing you to add those words and expressions to your active vocabulary.

So on the one hand, play with glottal stops and other things. But also consider to what extent you want to introduce these things into your normal speech, and in fact my advice would be to pronounce the Ts in your words when you are talking normally in your life. Pronouncing the Ts, especially at the ends of words, does tend to make you sound really clear and nice. It’s also probably a bit easier for you to do. As an example I am reminded of my friend Emina who was on the podcast a while ago, who has a great accent and I noticed she often makes a point of pronouncing the T sounds at the end and in the middle of words. 

But’s that’s just what I think. It’s up to you really! You can choose who you want to sound like, I just also want you to know what all the accents mean in the UK.

Glottal stops are very natural, but you should know that some people don’t like them and find them to be a sign of a lack of education. 

That’s not really true of course – you can be extremely well educated and still pronounce words with glottal stops, but there are plenty of people who don’t like glottal stops that much. 

So, regardless of all the arguments about the equality of accents (which I believe in) I think there is nothing wrong with pronouncing your Ts. (listen to Luke pronounce all the words in the list again, with T sounds)

This is especially true at the end of words, where a nice crisp T sound can sound very clear and nice.

  • I think we should start.
  • What time would you like to eat?
  • He’s intent on completing this project on budget.


This is pretty simple. It’s when h sounds aren’t pronounced.

It’s quite common in a cockney accent, but also plenty of others.

Here’s an example of Karl Pilkington who comes from Manchester, talking about getting his fridge fixed. 

“He says ‘let’s ‘have a look then’. He opens it, sticks his hand in…”

But when does h-dropping happen?

I thought I would just add this from Wikipedia, largely because of the last line, as a way of saying “yep, what they said.”

H-dropping is the deletion of the voiceless glottal fricative or “H sound”, [h]. The phenomenon is common in many dialects of English, and is also found in certain other languages, either as a purely historical development or as a contemporary difference between dialects. Although common in most regions of England and in some other English-speaking countries, H-dropping is often stigmatized and perceived as a sign of careless or uneducated speech.” Wikipedia

It’s worth noting that social stigma, related to this kind of speech. I think that you need to know that some people look down on those who speak English like this. For some, this kind of speech is a sign of a lack of education or class. There it is. Of course plenty of well known people, successful people, well educated people speak like this, but there is a bit of a stigma attached to all these pronunciation features, and that is probably related to a certain kind of class-based snobbishness.

But H-dropping is found in dialects all over England and Wales.

It’s more frequently found in working class accents in England (which are pretty much the same thing as regional accents anyway). 


  • harm, heat, and behind
  • he, him, her, his, had, and have
  • Should have
  • Would have
  • Could have

The dropping of H in weak forms is normal in all accents, including RP.

We do pronounce H after saying “a”

  • A hundred
  • A house
  • A hotel

But you might just turn it into “an”, then drop the H

  • An ‘undred
  • An ‘house
  • An ‘otel

Koji: Are h-dropping accents applied to pronouns and names as well?

e.g. Heidi [eye-dee], Hugo [o0-go], Henry, Hamish.. (yes, they are)

For example

  • Hello Harry, How’s it going Harry? Here, have you been having a sneaky look at my house.
  • Sorry, what?
  • Have you been sneaking around my house.
  • Your what?
  • My house!
  • Oh your house!
  • Yeah, my house!

*”me” as a way to say “my” and “us” to say “me”

  • Hey, give us the remote control.
  • I’ve lost all me fags.

Michael The Geordie – “He’d eaten all me fags”

Michael the Geordie talking about throwing a monkey in the sea because he’d
“Eaten all me fags”. (From 0:21 )

Koji: Where can this mainly be observed? Is this very common among Northerners? I think I heard this in London before but I’m not 100% sure.

Definitely common in the north.

Also in “Pirate” (the sort of English that pirates used, usually in films and things), so probably the south west.

Not so sure about London though. It’s common to reduce “my” to a weak form but is it a full-on “me”? I don’t think so.

And again, is this not applied to the beginning of the sentence?

Yes: Wait until I pop me shoes on.

No?: My date was cancelled. (Is “Me date” acceptable?)

Not true. You can use “me” at the start of the sentence.

In a Northern Accent

  • What’s the matter with you? Why have you go the hump?
  • Me bloody date cancelled on me didn’t she.

I think this is largely found in the northern part of UK, and I find it very interesting. 

I wonder if hearing Tohoku accent is nearly the same experience for you hearing people from the north speak. What is your impression about the accent? [those accents]

What do I think when I hear a northern accent?

I like northern accents. I don’t feel there is anything particularly different about a person with a northern accent, although people in the north are often said to be more friendly, more open to visitors, more down to earth and proud of where they come from of course.

This is just an example of a pretty strong northern accent (Bolton, in Lancashire).

Peter Kay in The Ice-Cream Man Cometh

Or a more normal one…

Jarvis Cocker on the Johnathon Ross Show in 2001

I like hearing northern accents, like I enjoy all accents. There’s a certain lyrical quality to any northern accent, which is a pleasure to hear.

This is a pretty excellent tour of the north of England in accents, which was originally broadcast on BBC radio 4. It’s dialect coach Elspeth Morrison and she pretty much nails all the accents here. 

See if you can follow each accent as she goes around the map. Imagine the north of England like a triangle leaning to the right. The top of the triangle is Northumberland (bordering Scotland) and below that on the north east are Newcastle and Middlesborough. From there go down the left side of the triangle to the north west (actually in the bottom left corner) and you get parts of Lancashire, Liverpool and moving inland a bit you get Manchester. There are some mountains called the pennines which run between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Over the pennines you get to places like Leeds and Wakefield. Keep going east and you get to East Yorkshire and cities like Hull. Then back up the right side of the triangle you get to Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Northumberland again.

So, for this clip all credit goes to dialect coach Elspeth Morrison and BBC Radio 4. 

A Tour of English Accents by Elspeth Morrison

Koji: Like Tohoku people do not mix their dialect with Kansai dialect, you wouldn’t speak with your received accent with the ones above? 

Nope, unless it’s for fun and I’m imitating different accents. Sometimes I slip into different accents when I speak or when I’m around the house. My accent might shift a little bit if I’m with mates who have Birmingham accents or London accents.

I know it is weird if I speak with an accent, but my workmates say I do not have Japanese accent…


Please just ignore this message if you think it is inappropriate for me to ask you those questions.

One more thing (well, two actually)


This is more a dialect feature than a pronunciation feature, but it’s worth noting anyway. 

You might have heard this in songs, films, TV series and lots of other places.

  • He ain’t coming
  • I ain’t got no money
  • Ain’t no mountain high enough

It either means “be not” or “have not”

Like all of these things:

  • Isn’t – This isn’t my car. This ain’t my car.
  • Aren’t – Those aren’t your keys. Those ain’t your keys.
  • Am not – I’m not lying. I ain’t lying.
  • Haven’t – They ain’t finished yet.
  • Hasn’t – Finished? She ain’t even started yet.

It’s considered to be an error in fact, but it’s very common.

Quick Task

Convert these lines into “correct” English

  • I ain’t finished yet –> I haven’t finished yet
  • He just ain’t smart enough  – 
  • You ain’t coming with us, you’re staying here
  • She ain’t got time to hang around with us
  • You know I ain’t lying

It’s quite common in double negatives.

  • I ain’t done nothing wrong.
  • She ain’t done nothing all day.
  • We ain’t said nothing to nobody/no-one.

And since we’ve had ain’t we might as well include innit.


This one mainly replaces “isn’t it” and that’s very common.

At a stretch it can replace all the different tag questions, but this is less common and more typical of a certain accent among young people in the London area. Ali G says it a lot, innit. (doesn’t he)

  • Isn’t it – “That’s the right answer, innit.”
  • Aren’t you – “You’re our new teacher innit miss”
  • Did he – “He went home innit”
  • Have – “We’ve gone the wrong way, innit”

So that’s it.

And Koji finishes his email…

Good luck with your honeymoon plan. I wish you a bright and the happiest married life together!

Best regards,


Well let’s all say thanks to Koji for providing what could be the email of the decade, forming the backbone of this episode, which looked at various features of colloquial accents common in regional accents all over England, including

  • TH sounds
  • Glottal stop
  • H drop
  • Me / my
  • Us / me
  • Ain’t 
  • Innit

I hope you feel you have learned something from this.

My next plan is to prepare a pronunciation episode of LEP Premium in which we can practise some pronunciation with and without these colloquial features.

Thanks for listening.

Actually, before we go, I thought I would make this episode just that little bit longer by adding something at the end here.

Jack & Dean on BBC Radio 1 – reading out song lyrics as if they’re being spoken by an angry northern dad. I thought it might be fun to hear them saying these lines that you might know from pop songs, but in the voice of a northern man. There’s quite a lot of laughing in this, which might distract you a bit, and some things might be a bit unintelligible, but generally I hope you like it. All the videos from this episode are on the episode page on my website of course, including this one. Right.

The songs and lyrics

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

I’m too hot (hot damn)

Call the police and the fireman

I’m too hot (hot damn)

Make a dragon wanna retire man

I’m too hot (hot damn)

Say my name you know who I am

I’m too hot (hot damn)

And my band ’bout that money

Break it down

Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two

But I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

And all the right junk in all the right places

Hozier – Take me To church (weird lyrics?)

I was born sick, but I love it

Command me to be well

A-amen, amen, amen – Take me to church

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies

I’ll tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife

Offer me that deathless death

Good God, let me give you my life