Category Archives: Vocabulary

679. Gill’s Book Club: A Gentleman In Moscow

Talking to my mum again about her latest book recommendation. A Gentleman In Moscow is about a Russian Count who is put under house arrest in 1922 in the beautiful Metropol Hotel in Moscow. 

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This episode is sponsored by LEP Premium. With Luke’s English Podcast I have two podcasts in fact. There’s the free episodes, which feature monologues, conversations with guests or specific topics. That’s where you get to listen to natural English on a regular basis, presented to you, for you. Then the premium episodes are all about language. Often I take samples from free episodes, then break them down for target language which I teach to you, help you remember and pronounce correctly. So the double whammy is to listen to LEP and also be a premium subscriber, to get the maximum benefit from my work. To get started with LEPP go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for more info.

Introduction Transcript

Welcome to Gill’s Book Club, on Luke’s English Podcast.

This is the second Gill’s Book Club episode and this is where I talk to my mum, Gill Thompson, about books that she’s enjoyed.

My mum loves books, she’s a voracious reader, a member of a book club with her friends and she works in a second hand bookshop.

She gets through loads of books, and so this is naturally a topic that we can explore together on the podcast.

How does this work?

We pick a book a few months in advance, give people a chance to read it, then talk about it on the podcast, including some of the main plot points (no spoilers) characters, context and details.

Do you have to read the book too?

No. We’ll explain the main plot points without giving away any spoilers.
But you can read the book if you like, or get the audiobook version.

You could read the book first, then listen. Or listen first, then read the book, or just listen without reading the book at all, and enjoy hearing my mum talking about it, the characters, the story and so on. There might also be some nice vocabulary coming up which you can notice as we go along. As usual, check the episode page on my website to see some vocabulary notes and transcripts.

For other episodes I’ve done with advice on reading books to improve your English, check the episode archive.

I said earlier this year that the book we’d be talking about is A Gentleman In Moscow, by Amor Towles, and so that’s the main topic of conversation here.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a 2016 novel by Amor Towles. It is his second novel, following the release of the New York Times bestselling novel Rules of Civility. The novel concerns Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, a man ordered by a Bolshevik tribunal to spend the rest of his life in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow. Wikipedia

There’s a bit of smalltalk at the beginning, and then we get stuck into the book.

I’ll talk to you again on the other side of this conversation, but now, let’s listen to my mum talking about her latest book recommendation.

——

Vocabulary Notes & Questions

Can you comment on these things with reference to the characters and events in the book?
Manners
Integrity
Loyalty
Vocabulary
Class

Do these words apply to Count Alexander Rostov?
Witty
Likeable
Standoffish
Spoiled
Privileged
Glass half full / Glass half empty

Does he change during the book?

House arrest
Did this book make you think of the lockdown?
If you had to be on house arrest, but you can choose any building you like, which building would you choose?
Which building would you choose to be locked inside? (not your own home)

Book club
What did the women from the book club think of it?

Book recommendation
The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Picture of Ivan the Terrible
booksyo.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/repin_ivan_terribleivan.jpg

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 is a painting by Russian realist artist Ilya Repin made between 1883 and 1885.

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 is a painting by Russian realist artist Ilya Repin made between 1883 and 1885.

Ending Transcript

So there you are. That was my lovely mum talking about a lovely book and it was all lovely lovely lovely.

Again, check out the page for this episode on my website for vocabulary notes, and the names of the different books and things that we mentioned, plus the chance to see that painting of Ivan the Terrible and more.

I’m still deep inside P24, having published 9 out of 12 parts. More coming for premium subscribers soon…

Later today I’m interviewing my dad.

I don’t like to talk on the podcast about stuff I’m going to do, because I’ve learned that often things don’t go as you expect and it’s unwise to make the listeners think that something is coming when it actually can’t happen because of a technical issue or a scheduling problem or something.

So, who knows, we might not be able to actually do the recording, but the plan is to talk to my dad later today, also about a book. But this isn’t a book that he’s read, written by someone else, it’s actually a book he’s written himself. Yep, he wrote a book during the lockdown. What’s with all these books!? About 5 people I know have written books during the lockdown, including my dad. So stay tuned to LEP in order to (hopefully) listen to a conversation with Rick Thompson about his new book.

Thanks again to my mum for her contribution to this episode.

I hope you all enjoyed listening to it and as ever I look forward to reading your comments and responses to this episode in the comment section on my website, but also on YouTube where you can find all my episodes, and you can keep in touch on social media, my favourite being Twitter and my handle is @EnglishPodcast

Take care everyone. I’ll speak to you again soon, but for now, good bye…

678. The Vintage Furniture Trade in London (with Howard Roach)

Talking to my old teaching colleague Howard Roach about his furniture business in South London.

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Introduction

Hello LEPsters in LEPland, how are you doing today?

I hope you’re all doing well out there in all corners of podcastland, wherever you are, whatever you find yourself doing at this particular moment. You’ve chosen to press play on this podcast episode and I thank you for that. Welcome to the podcast. My name is Luke and I’m an English teacher from London and this is my podcast for learners of English, like you I expect!

Here I am again at my desk in the podcastle, preparing a new free episode for you all.

I’ve taken a little break from the mammoth Premium series I’ve been doing this week about homophones and jokes. Premium lepsters will know that I’ve uploaded 8 parts of series 24 now, and there are still 3 or 4 parts to go! If you haven’t checked them out yet, do so. In the LEP App, in the categories section, you’ll find Premium and also Pronunciation Videos. That’s where you go to get the premium content on your phone. On a computer, go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get all the premium content there. And for more information and how to sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

But this is free episode 678 and in this one you’re going to listen to a conversation with a guest who hasn’t been on this podcast for over 10 years. Today I am talking to my friend Howard Roach who first appeared in episode 5, about Joaquin Phoenix, and then he made at least one more appearance in episode 11 (Men vs Women) and then that was it, for nearly 11 years!

I know Howard from our days teaching together at the London school of English. But he’s back again now to talk about something completely different that he’s been doing since he stopped teaching 7 years ago.

Howard now works in the vintage furniture trade in London. He gets hold of pieces of vintage furniture, then sells them on to customers, perhaps restoring the furniture in the process.

This is a business he set up 8 years ago when he decided to transition from being a teacher to being a furniture dealer.

Howard’s business is called Vintique London and this is what it says on their website. 

www.vintiquelondon.co.uk/

THE FURNITURE RE-LOVE REVOLUTION.

RETRO, VINTAGE AND MID CENTURY FURNITURE WAREHOUSE LONDON

Based in Peckham, South East London, Vintique London, is an eclectic treasure trove of retro, mid century, vintage and designer furniture and interior accessories.

What started out as a hobby collecting iconic vintage and retro pieces soon turned into a startup business in 2012. Since then we haven’t looked back. 

So I’m going to talk to Howard about the vintage furniture trade in London, what kind of stuff he sells, how he buys, sells and restores interesting and cool items of furniture and if he has any stories about particular purchases or sales that he’s made in the past.

As I mentioned before, Howard also used to be an English teacher, working with me at the London School of English with other guests from this podcast that you might have listened to in the past. So there are also a few tales of teaching from back in the old days in London.

Vocabulary

Let’s have a quick look at some vocab to begin with. Here’s some stuff that might come up and stuff that is relevant to the topic of buying and selling furniture.

  • Furniture (uncountable noun) 
  • a furniture / furnitures some furniture
  • Pieces of furniture
  • Items of furniture
  • Vintage = ​typical of a period in the past and of high quality “Vintage furniture”
  • Retro = using styles or fashions from the recent past “We specialise in selling retro and vintage pieces”
  • Mid-Century = from the middle of the last century – 50s, 60s “Most of our items are mid-century in style”
  • Turn of the century = the beginning of the last century, early 1900s “It is also possible to find pieces from the turn of the century”
  • Antiques / Antique = old and valuable, an old and valuable item – think darker more ornate pieces “and occasional antiques”
  • Darkwood furniture = furniture made from darker woods, like mahogany “and other types of darkwood furniture”
  • Second hand = Previously owned by someone else – “All items are used or second hand, but have been fully restored to their original quality”
  • Used = Same
  • Car-boot sale = an event where people load up their car with stuff from their home or loft and drive to a field, then open the boot and sell the contents to people. It can be a way to pick up antiques. “I first started going to car-boot sales and markets where you can find some real bargains”
  • Auction = an event when things are sold by bidding. An item is presented and the bidding begins at a certain amount, and people in the audience can raise their bids until the item is sold to the highest bidder. It’s like Ebay, but in real life. “I’ve bought a few things at auctions. You can learn a lot from the other dealers”
  • Restored = if an item is restored it means it might be fixed, or certain parts might have been replaced but it’s back to its original look and original quality. “A fully restored mid-century vintage chest of drawers”
  • Quid (30 quid) = “quid” means pounds “Just 75 quid for you mate”

Items of furniture

  • Chest of drawers = a large wide item with drawers
  • Bookcase = an item with space for storing books
  • Sideboard = a low, long piece which is supposed to go against a wall and contains some drawers and some cabinet space. You could put a TV on it.
  • Highboard = like a sideboard but it goes higher against the wall with perhaps a glass cabinet
  • Cabinet (just two doors)
  • Record cabinet = space for a record player and records
  • Dining chairs = chairs for sitting at a table
  • Armchairs = chairs for relaxing in the living room

So let’s get started. As I said earlier, before we get onto the whole topic of Howard’s furniture business, there is some chat about our time as teachers in London with about 15 minutes of stories and reminiscing about teaching and then we get onto the furniture (not literally). We don’t actually climb onto the furniture at any point in the episode.

When we get onto the furniture we are not also literally getting onto the furniture, conducting the interview balanced on chairs and tables.

But anyway, for the first time in over 10 years, let’s welcome back Howard Roach onto Luke’s English Podcast. 


Ending

Ooh a 10% discount for all LEPsters. The website address again:

www.Vintiquelondon.co.uk   

Don’t forget P24 for 8 parts of an episode series about homophones and jokes plus much more

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

677. A Post-Holiday Ramble / Holiday Vocab / Stories

I’ve come back from my holiday so it’s time to ramble on about some holiday stories, holiday vocabulary, podcast stats and other bits and pieces including an appearance by my daughter.

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674. 19 Amusing Insurance Claims / Car Crash Vocabulary

Listen to some funny extracts from genuine insurance claims and learn some vocabulary to describe car crashes and driving (badly).

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Introduction Transcript / Episode Notes

Hello LEPsters, how are you today? The weather here is grey, overcast. The conditions are perfect for recording and listening to an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, so here we go.

In this episode I’m going to read through some insurance claims, which contain some very funny descriptions of people attempting to explain how they got into accidents while driving. I think it should be pretty amusing and as usual there’s lots of English to learn from it.

So we’re talking about driving and having accidents, collisions or crashes in a car. Have you ever been in a car crash? What happened? Did you have to do any insurance paperwork afterwards? Did you have to describe what happened in your crash?

If you have an accident while driving in the UK the insurance company sends you a claim form which you fill in, and often there’s a big space on the back that says “Give, in your own words, a description of how you think the accident occurred.”

So this is where people give their account of the accident.

And they always try to make it sound like it wasn’t their fault or they weren’t breaking any speed limits.

“I was driving down the road at 28mph…”

These are genuine claim form extracts from real people’s insurance claims.

I have to say that I got inspired to do this episode by Jasper Carrot, a comedian from the 70s, 80s and 90s in the UK.

Jasper Carrot (who used to live down the road from me, growing up) used to do a routine about funny insurance claims. He would basically read out the insurance claims on stage and bring them to life, make comments about them and stuff. He said all the claims were all true and I’d always been interested in finding some of those claim forms online, and after doing some searches I’ve managed to find loads of those real insurance claims so I’ve selected some and we’re going to go through them one by one. Some of these are the same ones that Jasper Carrot used to read out in his comedy shows.

The cool thing about this for learning English is not just that these are really funny and stupid descriptions, it’s that they include moments when the language becomes a bit ambiguous and can mean several things at the same time (like a joke) and also there are descriptions of movements and accidents that contain some nice bits of English.

And we’re going to go through all the vocab that comes up as we go along, including a vocab review at the end.

So if you don’t find these particularly funny, you can at least learn some English from it all.

And we’re talking about vocabulary for movements, accidents, collisions and driving, verb tenses for storytelling and all that kind of thing.

Just think about that for a second. How do you describe moments when accidents happen? They’re often quite difficult to describe.

Have you ever had an accident? Can you try to describe exactly what happened in English?

I was in a car accident once. Let me describe it to you.

I did end up with whiplash and I remember making an insurance claim for it, which I never applied for eventually, because I think I only missed about 2 shifts working at the pub and the whole thing didn’t seem worth it.

Anyway, what about these claims? Let’s go.

See if you can notice what is funny or strange about these claims, and also what is happening linguistically which makes it funny. It’s often due to slightly bad writing that these things end up sounding like something else.

Insurance Claims

Sources ackadia.com/humour/top-100-funny-motor-insurance-claims/

  1. “Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.”
  2. “The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other eye on the car behind.”
  3. “I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight”
  4. “The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again”
  5. “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.”
  6. “I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way”
  7. “The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him.”
  8. “In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
  9. “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
  10. “I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my head through it.”
  11. “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
  12. “I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
  13. “As I approached an intersection a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.”
  14. “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck a pedestrian.”
  15. “I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the bonnet of my car.”
  16. “No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert.”
  17. “I bumped into a lamp-post which was obscured by human beings.”
  18. “The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.”
  19. “A house hit my car.”
    (A house was being moved by a large truck. My friend had his car parked on the side of the road correctly. The house began to tilt off the truck and eventually fell off the truck, landing on my friend’s car. He eventually had the insurance paid, after lengthy explanation and the moving company confirming the story.) (Ben Keirnan)

Now let’s go through them one by one and break them down

Things to consider

  • What’s funny? (in some cases it’s obvious, but sometimes more subtle)
  • In the case of ambiguously or badly worded sentences:
    • What is the writer trying to say?
    • What does the writer seem to say?
    • How could it be rewritten?
  1. “Going to work at 7am this morning I drove out of my drive straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early.”
    Fairly clear. It’s funny because he blames the bus for being early, as if he doesn’t look, just judges traffic by the bus schedule.

2. “The accident happened because I had one eye on the lorry in front, one eye on the pedestrian and the other eye on the car behind.”
How many eyes do you have?

3. “I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight”
Just dumb.

4. “The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again”
Sounds like it was intentional. He hit him again because he got up.
“So I couldn’t avoid hitting him” “He got up and I couldn’t avoid him”

5. “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.”
Again, it sounds like it was intentional and that he did it because of his mother in law. I think it should be “I lost track of where I was going when I glanced at my mother in law and then went over the embankment”. Headed sounds like he chose to do it, maybe.

6. “I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way”
Technically the truck couldn’t have been coming the other way because it was stationary.
The whole “coming the other way” thing should be dropped.

7. “The pedestrian ran for the pavement, but I got him.”
Haha. This sounds like he’s glad or that he intended to do it. Bad choice of words.
He ran for the pavement but I still couldn’t avoid hitting him.

8. “In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
Sounds like the fly was on the telephone pole.
I was trying to kill a fly that was in my car and I hit a telephone pole.

9. “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
I accidentally drove into the wrong drive and hit a tree I didn’t expect to be there.

10. “I thought my window was down, but I found it was up when I put my head through it.”
Self explanatory really.

11. “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
Again, it sounds like he did it on purpose.
The guy was driving very erratically and I had already had to swerve a few times to avoid him before I eventually hit him.

12. “I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
I was a very experienced driver who had never had an accident until one day I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.

13. “As I approached an intersection a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before.”
Self explanatory? I didn’t expect to see a new stop sign in a spot where there had previously been none.

14. “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck a pedestrian.”
I accidentally struck a pedestrian while I was attempting to avoid hitting another car.

15. “I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the bonnet of my car.”
No comment.

16. “No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert.”
Contradiction in terms and sounds very petty and vindictive.

17. “I bumped into a lamp-post which was obscured by human beings.”
Sounds like The Day Today
Sounds like he might have hit some people.
It’s just weird to call them human beings, why not people?

18. “The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week.”
Haha.

19. “A house hit my car.”
Actually true (as we heard before)

Vocabulary

  • The bumper – the front of the back or car – the part which might bump against another car when you’re parking (badly)
  • The bonnet (USA – the hood) – the part at the front which covers the engine
  • The boot (USA – the trunk) the part at the back where you put your luggage
  • To drive straight into something – “I drove straight into a bus”
  • A lorry = a big truck for transporting goods. “I drove out of my house and crashed into a lorry”
  • To have one eye on this and the other eye on that – “I had one eye on the lorry and the other eye on a pedestrian”
  • A pedestrian = someone walking on the pavement
  • To pull away / pull off = drive away from a stationary position
  • To pull over / pull up = stop at the side of the road in a car
  • To glance something = 1. look at something quickly “I glanced at my mother in law” 2. hit slightly – “The bullet glanced his helmet and didn’t harm him”
  • To head = go in that direction – head for, head to, head off, head over – “I glanced at my mother in law and headed over the embankment”
  • To collide with / a collision = crash – “I collided with a stationary lorry.” “There was a huge collision today on the M6 outside Manchester”
  • To crash into / a crash = collide – “I crashed into my own house.” “During the escape I collided with a police truck and had to murder them all before escaping on a motorbike while I threw grenades at an army van and stole an ambulance from a crime scene. That’s right, I was playing Grand Theft Auto 5.”
  • To drive into something = could mean crash, or could mean enter somewhere in your car. “I drove into the vicarage. I drove into the vicar.”
  • To swerve = turn suddenly, maybe to avoid something – “I had to swerve three times to avoid Tom Cruise, until I finally got him.”
  • To do it on purpose = to do something intentionally “I hit the pedestrian three times but not on purpose.”
  • To do it by accident = do something unintentionally “I drove into the bank, unlocked the safe, took all the money, shot 3 cops and drove off, but I did it by accident.”
  • To fall asleep at the wheel = to fall asleep while driving – “Be careful not to fall asleep at the wheel. Take regular breaks. Tiredness kills.”
  • To bump into something / someone = to meet someone by chance, to collide with something but in a small way = “I bumped into Tony the other day, he says hello.” “I bumped into a Rover in the car park. The owner was not happy. He had a Rover.”
  • Erratic / erratically = moving or behaving in an irregular or unpredictable way

Hotel California Chords

tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/eagles/hotel-california-chords-46190

Have you ever had a car crash? What happened?

670. Language Learning with James Harris

Talking to writer and comedian James Harris about life as a writer, going to Oxford Uni, being an international Brit and learning German, French and Chinese as an adult.

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Transcript

Hello folks and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing fine on this particular day. This episode features a conversation, recorded a couple of weeks ago now, with a comedian and writer from the UK about various things, as you’ll see. Your task is to follow along and see what you can pick up and what bits of language learning wisdom you can glean from this conversation.

I don’t really know James that well. I’ve only actually met him once in fact.

He’s a comedian and a writer, he speaks several languages and his twitter feed is good value. He tweets about politics, learning languages, the issues of the day, comedy and various other things. We share a mutual friend – that’s Dharmander Singh from Birmingham, who I used to be in a band with and who is now a stand up comedian in Berlin. The time I met James was in Berlin when I was there on holiday, and I did some stand up on the same show as him.

So why have I invited him on the podcast? Well, it’s mainly because of Twitter. As I said his Twitter feed is interesting. He takes a moderate and balanced view of things, and his interests are pretty wide-ranging, including the fact that he’s very international. He’s married to a Chinese girl, he’s lived abroad, he used to work as a tour guide in several countries, he used to be an English teacher like me, he speaks very good German and French, he’s working on his Chinese, he works as a translator and he’s generally an articulate and interesting guy and so I just thought that he could be worth talking on the podcast.

The language learning thing is obviously very appropriate and I’m always interested in finding out as much as possible about how someone has learned a second language to a very decent level in adulthood, and that is something that we talk about for at least 50% of this conversation. The first half of our chat is basically me getting to know James properly, talking about his work, his studies, his experiences of going to Oxford University, why he chose to move to Germany, being married to a Chinese girl. Then we get into the details of how he learned German mainly, but also French and now how he’s working on his Chinese.

No need to say much more except that I hope you manage to follow the conversation clearly all the way through. Let me know how it was for you and I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation, probably with some background music going over the top.



Thank you to James for being on the podcast today. Look him up online to read some of his stuff, follow him on social media and help him out by keeping him fuelled up on coffee.

Follow James on Twitter @JamesHarrisNow
Writing, Mini Screenplays shoeleatherexpress.org/
BUY A COFFEE FOR JAMES HARRIS t.co/8AAQ6P33wJ?amp=1

So, how are you listeners?

Did you pick up any useful nuggets from that conversation? I think there was some pretty good advice there especially the stuff about reading and noting down certain words, being a bit rigorous about your studying and believing that you can do it, really helps.

669. How to Learn English

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

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Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Right, let’s get started.

Hello, welcome to my podcast. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a come to Jesus moment for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning English is the main aim of this podcast

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

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

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s the written language

And there’s the spoken language

This is our system.

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

On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.

On the vertical we have written and spoken English.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 4 skills are connected in various ways.

Reading and writing deal with the written word of course. 

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

Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word. 

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

Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form. 

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

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

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

Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.

Receptive Skills / Input

Prof. Stephen Krashen 

This from Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Anyway, what Krashen is saying I suppose is:

Input is vital. This is like your food.

Receptive skills / input

Language has to go in before it comes out.

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

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

Basically, listen x5 and read x5.

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

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

Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So which books do you choose? 

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

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

Basically, read whatever you want.

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

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

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

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

Graded Readers

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

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

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

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

So, just read and enjoy it!

Here are some more book recommendations

Book of email correspondence

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

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

David Crystal 

The Story of English in 100 Words

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

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

So you’re bound to learn tons from that.

Biography

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

Fiction

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

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

Productive skills / output

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

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

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

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

So how do you work on these things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can you practise on your own?

Writing

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

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

So, here are some things you could write

What to write

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

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

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

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

Email English by Paul Emmerson

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

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

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

Other ideas

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary Notes

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

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

Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

So practice x5

But with who?

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

Talking on your own (and even in your head)

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

Listen and repeat

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

You can also practise different speaking scenarios.

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

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

A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.

The disclaimer

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

Anyway, the note about pronunciation

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

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

I think it can work wonders for your English.

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

Thanks for listening.

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

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665. A Chinwag with Sebastian Marx / 18+ British slang phrases that Americans don’t understand

Chatting to Sebastian Marx from New York and testing his knowledge of British English slang phrases. Slang vocabulary list available below.

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Introduction

This episode features a chinwag (that’s a conversation by the way) with Sebastian Marx – a friend of mine who is originally from New York (he’s an American) but who has been living in France for the last 15 years. Long term listeners might remember him from his past appearances on this podcast. You’ll see links to those episodes on the page for this episode.

Sebastian is a stand up comedian who performs both in English and French, and he was the one who first started doing stand up in English in Paris. So all of us comedians who perform on stage here in English, including Amber, Paul, Sarah Donnelly and others – we all have Sebastian to thank for originally giving us that opportunity as he is the one who got the whole scene started in the first place with the New York Comedy Night which he set up years ago.

I invited Seb onto the podcast just for a bit of a chat, but also to test his knowledge of British English slang. I’m always interested to see how much my American friends know about my version of English.

The Chinwag

In terms of the general chinwag – we talk for the first 25 minutes or so about a few topics, including:

  • What he thinks of the Trump presidency
  • His learning of French
  • Speaking French or English to French people, like waiters in cafes

Then, after about 25 minutes of jibber-jabber, we decide to focus on language and you’ll hear me testing Seb’s knowledge of British English slang – informal spoken English phrases that most Brits know but which Americans are probably unfamiliar with.

This is slang so you should know that things get a bit rude later in the episode with some references to sexual acts – you know, sexual stuff, and also a few other fairly lewd and crude things like bodily functions and so on.

Some of you are probably delighted to hear that and have no problem with it at all but I feel I should give you a heads up about rude content, just in case you’re a teacher listening to this in class or something (I can imagine getting a message from a teacher who’s heard it, or perhaps even having a conversation, like this: Luke, I used an episode of your podcast in my young learners’ class the other day and oh, you started talking about… arseholes and chests, it was quite awkward — Oh dear I’m terribly sorry Mrs Crawly, I should have provided a warning of some kind. I trust that this will not affect my daughter’s entry into the Royal Academy in September. Perhaps you should come for tea and we can discuss it at length. I have one or two things to say to you about your conduct and how this is affecting your reputation among the staff at Downton. Oh, I’m terribly sorry to put you out Lady Crawley… etc… Sorry, I accidentally slipped into an episode of Downton Abbey there. Papa and Mama would be awfully disappointed, and we’ve just received a telegram that the first world war has started and we’re all terribly worried about how this might affect life at Downton and blah blah blah).

I dunno, maybe you’re a teacher or you’re listening to this with children, or maybe you just don’t like rude things of that nature. Basically – there’s some rude stuff in the second half of this episode. Alright? No big deal.

*it’s ok Luke – we fucking love rude stuff, don’t worry*

Alright, steady on…

OK, I promised myself I wouldn’t ramble too much at the start of this one so let’s crack on now, and here is the jingle….

The Slang you can hear in the episode

(listen to hear the full descriptions, examples and American English equivalents)

✔️= Sebastian knew it or guessed it correctly
❌= Sebastian didn’t know it or guessed it wrong

❌“Pants” (adjective) “That film was pants” = not great, rubbish
✔️“Knackered” (adjective”) “I’m absolutely knackered today” = exhausted, really tired / American English equivalent: “beat”
❌”Gobsmacked” (adjective) “I was absolutely gobsmacked” = shocked, surprised
Also: “shut your gob” = shut up, stop talking (gob = mouth)
✔️“a slash” (noun) “Hold on, I’m going for a slash” = I’m going to go and urinate
❌“On the lash” (prepositional phrase) “I’m going out on the lash tonight” = to go out drinking alcohol
✔️“To pull” (verb) “Hopefully I’m going to pull” = to score, get lucky, to get laid, to have sex with someone
On the pull” = trying to ‘get lucky’ with someone
To go out on the pull
To chat someone up” = to talk to someone to make them like you (sexually) to try to pull someone by talking
❌“To get off with someone” (phrasal verb) “I got off with her” = to kiss passionately on the lips (USA: to make out with someone)
To get on with someone” = to have a good relationship with someone, to “hit it off with someone”
✔️“A plonker” (noun) “You are such a plonker” (not a swear word) = an idiot
❌”A tosser” (noun) “Stop being such a tosser” (synonym of “wanker” but less rude) an idiot, a person you don’t like
a wanker” is a mean nasty unpleasant man that you’re angry with
To wank” = to masturbate
Asshole” (US English)
Arsehole” (UK English)
✔️“A fag” (noun) “I’m just having a fag” = a cigarette (in US English it’s a very rude term of abuse meaning a homosexual)
❌“A wind up” (noun) “He’s a wind up merchant” “Is this a wind up?” = a joke, a piss-take, teasing, making fun of someone, playing a trick on someone, a con, a prank, lying to someone as a joke
To wind someone up” = to annoy someone
❌“whingeing / to whinge” (verb) “Stop whingeing! You’re always whingeing.” = to complain, to moan, to whine, in an annoying way
✔️“Smart” (adjective) “You’re looking smart today. What’s the big occasion?” = to be well dressed, to be wearing formal clothing, to look clean and tidy (opposite = casual) (USA: smart = intelligent)
❌“Lush” (adjective) “Oh that’s lush” “Those trainers are lush” “Oh she is lush isn’t she?” = good, attractive (for a person), cool, great, awesome
❌“Grotty” (adjective) “I smoked a cigarette earlier and I’m feeling dead grotty now.” = unpleasant, dirty, feeling a bit unwell or under the weather
❌“Ta” (exclamation) “Could you pass me the sugar? Ta.” = thanks
✔️”A chinwag” (noun) “We’ve had a good chinwag” = conversation
❌“It’s all gone pear shaped” (idiom) “We did a Zoom call but everything went pear shaped because of technical problems” = to go wrong

Schlep (verb – US slang, from Yiddish) to carry something with difficulty, to carry something heavy – “I’ve been schlepping this bag around all day”
Schlep (noun – US slang, from Yiddish) a long and arduous journey – “I work on the other side of town and getting there is a real schlep!”

50 British phrases that Americans just don’t understand (MatadorNetwork)
matadornetwork.com/notebook/50-british-phrases-americans-just-dont-understand/

Ending

Music: Sippin’ Gin by Jim Thompson

Righty-ho, that was Sebastian Marx (thanks Sebastian) and 18 bits of British English slang.

How many did he get right? He predicted 50% I think. Well, out of 18 he identified 7. And my criteria for getting it right was whether he knew the word or phrase already or if he worked it out correctly, first guess, from my example. 7 out of 18. What’s that as a percentage? Some of the mathematicians are already on that, but I need a calculator to work that one out, unless you want to listen to me working that out in my head. Trust me, you don’t want to listen to that. I don’t think I can do it. Anyway, the result is… 38.88888888889 Let’s round that up to 39% which is a clear fail I think everyone can agree.

What does this mean? I’m not sure, except that it proves something about American and British culture and language. Sebastian made the point during the episode and I think I’ve said it before previously, like in that slang game I did with Jennifer from English Across the Pond last year.

Brits are way more familiar with American English than Americans (and of course I mean people from the USA) are with British English because we are exposed to a lot more American culture through TV and film than Americans are exposed to British culture.

America produces tons of TV and film of course and exports a massive amount too, but it doesn’t import as much TV and film as it exports. Basically, most Americans don’t get exposed to that much British English, certainly not the kind of local informal slang stuff that we touched on in this episode. Big surprise eh! Not really! We know this about the USA – big place, quite loud on the world’s stage, exports a lot of stuff, but to a large extent doesn’t look beyond its own borders all that much, relatively speaking. We all knew that though didn’t we!

Anyway, never mind all that geo-political stuff. I just enjoyed chatting with Sebastian in this episode and sharing some of my version of English with him. That is more interesting and fun for me.

What about you? How much of the slang in this episode did you know? I’ve definitely talked about some of those things before, but I bet there were one or two new things in there too.
But how much of it did you know and how much did you learn from me in previous episodes? And if you didn’t get it from me, where have you learned British slang? Let us know in the comment section!

Also, feel free to add other bits of British slang that you think is especially, quintessentially British in the comment section.

All the slang I tested Seb on is listed on the page for this episode on the website, so check it out. That’s where you can see specific spellings of words and phrases, and you can check some example sentences and definitions that I’ve given for you.

Talking of British English expressions – I must finish that series I started last autumn – 88 English expressions that will confuse everyone. Remember that? I still have about 25 expressions left to cover I think! I must get round to doing that.

My podcast is a bit like a big, slow moving ship. Sometimes I miss something or forget something and kind of sail past it, but for some reason it’s very hard to stop the ship or turn it round and go back. So, if I don’t do a specific episode I was planning to do at one point, general momentum keeps pushing me forwards and it’s difficult to turn the ship around and go back. I’m not sure why this is.

Stuff to mention at the end

Lovely comments from listeners on the last episode (in different locations like YouTube, website, twitter, email) My wife said that the comments were cute and lovely.

Something evil this way comes… Episode 666 is next.

666 → often described as the number of the beast. The mark of the devil.

Lots of people have been asking if I’m planning anything special for that.

Well, you’ll have to wait and see…

Previous episodes with Sebastian

130. A Cup of Tea with… Sebastian Marx

183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)

247. Understanding The USA

298. The Bank Robbery (Part 1)

299. The Bank Robbery (Part 2)

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences

A vocabulary episode with lots of phrases for describing the experience of living in self-isolation. It also includes a bit of a ramble about the situation in the UK, my personal experiences of living in Paris during the lockdown and a song at the end. Vocabulary list & notes available.

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Transcript & Notes

Introduction

Hi everyone, here’s a new episode to keep you company and to help you learn some English that you can use to describe the experience of living in self-isolation. We’ll be looking especially at vocabulary to describe the feelings and emotions that you might be going through during this experience.

Something like 2.5 billion people in the world are in self-isolation at the moment, including me, my wife and our daughter and no doubt many of you too. Not the band.

Some of you out there won’t be in isolation, confined at home or on lockdown, for whatever reason. It depends on the approach that your country is taking to this pandemic.

Maybe you are making personal choices to stay at home even if your government hasn’t imposed it. In the UK for example, the government has only recently imposed it, a week or two late in some people’s opinions. I’m trying not to talk about politics here though, just how it feels to be stuck inside, and as I said – this is mainly a vocabulary episode so I will be talking about expressions like “on lockdown”, “in isolation”, “confinement” and also loads of other things.

In France we are on lockdown and we’re only about a week and a half into it. I’m not sure how long it will go on for. Some people say a couple of weeks, some say it will continue into May, others suggest longer.

If you aren’t sure, being “on lockdown” means being ordered by the government to stay at home for an extended period of time, without a lot of human contact in an attempt to prevent the spread of this virus.

Plenty of countries in the world are on lockdown.

So you might be starved of human contact at this time, or perhaps the opposite. You might be having a bit too much human contact if you are locked up with members of your family, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, flatmates and so on and you’re trying your hardest not to become homicidal under the circumstances.

There are various possibilities in terms of what you might be going through at the moment.

Maybe

  • You’re just lonely because you’re not used to spending so much time on your own.
  • You’re frustrated because you can’t stand not being able to do what you want to do (i.e. go out and live normally).
  • You can’t stand being confined with other people, who you are trying your best to get on with. You might be craving a bit of solitude at this time, just to get away from your family or something.
  • You are worrying about work.
  • You are worrying about family and friends who might get the virus, especially those who are in the “at-risk” category (e.g. those with underlying or existing health issues, or elderly people).

Or maybe

  • You’re strangely enjoying this time.
  • You are really enjoying having more time to yourself.
  • You’re managing to do things.
  • It feels a bit like a stay-at-home holiday, or a “staycation”.
  • You don’t mind self-isolation. In fact it’s kind of normal for you.

I’m slightly concerned about talking about this, because I am very aware that for some of you out there this is a really hard time and I don’t want to be frivolous about it.

I know that a lot of you are not having a sort of “staycation” (a holiday at home / a vacation in which you stay at home). I mean, this is not a holiday for many of you, but a very difficult and worrying time.

But having said that, I am now going to talk about this a bit.

Here’s the general plan.

In this episode

  1. Teach you some vocabulary to describe isolation, lockdown and the things that might be going through your mind as you experience this – particularly feelings and emotions.
  2. Comment on some recent news about this situation, focusing on the UK mainly again
  3. A couple of corrections from the previous episodes in which I talked about this (651 and 652)
  4. Ramble a little bit about what I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks

1. Vocabulary

I’m not talking about symptoms and health issues. I’ve already done that in episodes 651 and 652.

Basics – Some trending words & phrases

First some basics to describe this situation – words which are trending

Self-isolation
To be in self-isolation – “I can’t stand being in self-isolation. It’s doing my head in.”
To self isolate – “Boris Jonson has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating at home” (more on this later)
To isolate yourself (from) – “Those people who are displaying symptoms have been told to stay at home and isolate themselves from other family members.”

Lockdown
To be on lockdown – “We are on lockdown. We’ve been on lockdown for a few weeks in Paris.”
To be locked down – “Paris is almost completely locked down. You’re only allowed to go out for certain things. You might be stopped by the police and you could face a large fine if you don’t have a written justification for being outside.”
The lockdown – “The lockdown is going to last indefinitely”

Confinement
To be in confinement – “We’ve been in confinement for nearly 2 weeks now”
To be confined at home – “Billions of people around the world are currently confined at home, listening to Luke’s English Podcast and washing their hands.”

Quarantine
To be quarantined (keeping a possibly infected person or animal separate from others) “Lots of people have been quarantined at the airport.”
To be in quarantine – “They’re currently in quarantine until further notice”
To quarantine someone – “If you arrive at immigration, you will be immediately quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus in the country”

Containment
To contain the virus – “Visitors to the city have been quarantined in an effort to contain the spread of the virus”
The containment of the virus – “We’re confident that the lockdown will result in the containment of the virus.”

Vocabulary to describe this experience – Feelings & Emotions

Words and phrases you might need to talk about what you’re going through (mainly for those of you who are just stuck at home, not the symptoms of the disease)

Bad things

Bad mood / Relationships
Bored / boredom
I’m just so bored of being stuck indoors
I’m so sick of this boredom
To be at a loose end – “I’m just knocking around the house at a loose end” = bored and with nothing to do
Frustrating
It’s frustrating not being able to do what you want to do
To be/get frustrated
I’m starting to get frustrated. I need to go outside and get exercise.
Depression – “It’s normal to suffer from a bit of depression in conditions like this.”
To get depressed – “Try not to get depressed”
To feel down – “I must admit I’ve been feeling a bit down today.”
It’s getting to me – “It’s getting to me, being locked up. It’s started to get to me.”
It’s starting to get to me
To be locked up (with) someone – “I’m not sure I can face being locked up with my family for another 6 weeks!”
To irritate someone / To annoy someone / To get on someone’s nerves
To be irritating / to be annoying
“Could you use headphones while you’re gaming? It’s just really starting to irritate me.”
“The neighbours have their TV on really loud. It’s so annoying!”
“The sound of them talking is really starting to get on my nerves now”
To be at each other’s throats – “They were at each other’s throats after just 3 days!”
Familiarity breeds contempt
To have enough of someone/something – “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going out.”
To be fed up with someone/something – “I’m just so fed up with being stuck indoors all day”
To miss people – “I’m missing my friends”
To be / To feel cut off (from) someone – “It’s quite hard feeling cut off from my normal circle of friends”

Mental issues / Struggling to deal with the situation
I’m struggling to cope = I am finding it difficult to deal with this situation, i.e. I am mentally struggling. I’m feeling upset, emotional, depressed, unable to do anything.
This is like Groundhog Day = A film in which Bill Murray repeats the same day again and again
How am I going to get through this? – to get through something means to progress from start to finish. To be able to move from the start of the experience to the end of the experience without stopping or failing. To get through a tunnel. To get through an experience.
To be overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries – “Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by fears / doubts / worries” (e.g. about the knock-on effects on the economy, or even more paranoid thoughts about what’s really going on)
To get carried away / To let your mind get carried away – “You’re getting carried away. I don’t think things are that bad.”
Try not to think too much – “Look, don’t think too much. Try not to think too much. Just take it one day at a time.”
To feel paranoid – “I started feeling a bit paranoid the other day when I was outside.”
To feel anxious – “It’s easy to feel anxious in this situation”
Nervous vs stressed vs annoyed vs angry
Try not to worry
Don’t panic!
Don’t freak out
Panic buying – “You see footage on the news of people panic buying toilet roll and pasta. Apparently these are the two most essential things for us. Eating pasta and then wiping our arses when we poo it out.” [?]

Going mad
To climb the walls – “My teenage kids are climbing the walls, almost literally”
To lose it – “Any more time spent in this room and I’m just going to lose it.”
He’s lost it – “Uh oh, Luke’s lost it.”
To lose your mind – “I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind.”

Locked in
To go stir crazy – “I’m going a bit stir crazy to be honest” = feeling upset, angry, emotional, mad, mentally unwell because you are locked in somewhere, like if you were in prison. (in the 19th century “stir” was a nickname for prison, or specifically Newgate Prison in London, but now it refers to any situation in which you are cooped up)
I’m getting cabin fever
To be cooped up = to be locked inside, like you’re a chicken in a chicken coop. “I can’t stand being cooped up all day”.
Feeling claustrophobic
Feeling trapped
To be stuck indoors
Stuck (past of stick)
To be stuck somewhere – “I’m stuck at home” “They’re stuck in Morocco” “He got stuck in his car for hours” “I was stuck to the TV watching the news for 9 hours.”
To be stuck indoors – “I’m stuck indoors and it sucks.”

Others
My hands are chapped – “Have you got any moisturiser? My hands are so chapped from constantly washing them.”

On the front line – to be on the front line means to be doing the hardest and most important work. It was originally used to talk about soldiers in a war, specifically those people who are on the front line of the conflict, facing the enemy and fighting with them directly. This is the first meaning, but these days it is used to refer to the people who are doing the hardest and most important work in any situation.

In the past, working in a language school I have heard people talking about the teachers being the ones who are on the front line, meaning they are the ones who face the clients in the form of students in class, so if the students are unhappy for whatever reason, it’s the teachers who have to deal with that directly, rather than the marketing people, the management, the agents etc.

At the moment this phrase is being used a lot for those people who are working in hospitals, so health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and so on. In fact these are the real heroes of the moment.

Any of the negative things I’m mentioning in this episode, including all the boredom, the friction with those you live with, the fears about work, the frustrations and isolation – none of it compares to the struggles, risks and sheer exhaustion of those working on the front line of this situation.

Every evening here in Paris at 8pm people open their windows or go out onto their balconies in order to applaud together as a public display of gratitude for all the health workers who are working on the front line. It’s started happening across the UK as well, and I’m sure it’s the same in many other countries.

And I’d like to echo that. Thank you, if you are a health worker or if you’re involved directly in the fight against this fucking virus. Thank you. (applause)

Oh and by the way, we will beat this. It’s not the end of the world.

Positives
This could be a chance for you to do things
Every cloud has a silver lining
Spending a lot more time together
Quality time
To spend quality time with someone
To reconnect with your family
Reconnecting with family
To catch up on things
Finally catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do for a while

My friend Vanessa on FB shared this

“Day 9 of lockdown
My inner Emily Dickinson is loving this (Emily Dickinson was an American poet who was very withdrawn, introverted and reclusive)
I’ve never felt less pressure to go out or accomplish anything.
I’m loving the mandated family time.
My around-the-world loved ones actually have time to write back to me, quickly!
The air quality is the best it’s been in 40 years.
There have been no traffic jams, nor annoying honking out my window.
The sun shines against a beautiful blue sky.
I’m thankful the tragedy of losing someone to covid has not yet become a reality for me.
What are you lockdown silver linings?
Tell me ⬇️”

Not having to wear a bra to go to work. Lol.

Taking care of your mental health
www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Try to stay optimistic
Focus on the positives
If you’re with other people, just accept that there will be friction.
Work on being generous if you can.
Keep to a routine
Keep active
Get as much sunshine and fresh air as possible
Keep your mind stimulated
Focus on a hobby
Meditate
Do yoga
Play music
Read and write
Write a diary. Pour out your thoughts into the diary. It can be very rewarding.
Cross things off your to-do list
To binge watch TV series

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

To binge listen to podcasts / audiobooks
To binge on something
To spend time doing something
To daydream
To let your mind wander

The next episode of Gill’s Book Club:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Coming in a couple of months I expect

2. Some of the recent news in the UK at the time of recording this

Since I spoke to my Dad in episode 652 and we talked about how the UK government had been pursuing a plan of herd immunity, which basically means → don’t make people stay at home, don’t close restaurants, pubs, gyms and other places (don’t put the country on lockdown) just let everyone get the virus, let every become immune and so what if some people die, at least the economy will be ok.

*I’d like to add a point here after having listened to the recent episode of the Adam Buxton Podcast with Dr Xand Van Tulleken in which they talk about lots of things relating to the situation (I highly recommend it) and I just wanted to add that actually it’s really hard to calculate the human cost of either the coronavirus or the effects of the containment measures. Which will kill more people or cause more suffering? The virus itself or the knock-on effects of all these containment measures and the impact they will have on the economy and also on people’s lives? It’s hard to balance the two things…

Anyway, let’s carry on*

Since then, the government has changed its position and has put the country on lockdown but it was only imposed at the start of this week. Probably a bit late.

I’ll have to talk to my Dad again about this to go into more detail about what’s going on in the UK, although I don’t want to overload you all with coronavirus content.

Also there’s the fact that Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus and today so has Boris Johnson, and you might want to know what I think about those things.

Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus. This doesn’t mean he likes it, it means he’s got it. What do I think? Well, I wish him well of course, like anyone who’s got this. He is in the at-risk category being 71, but apparently his symptoms are fairly mild. I expect he’s got excellent medical care so he’ll probably be alright.

I reckon most people when hearing the news just thought “But what about the Queen, is the Queen OK?” because if the Queen got it that would be very bad news. She’s got good medical care too of course, but still, she’s 93. We know that when The Queen dies it will be so significant that the country will definitely change. It’ll signify the end of an era, there will be national mourning on an unprecedented scale, not necessarily because everyone loves her, but just because she is such a significant figure and one of the only symbols of national unity that we have left. I say national unity, I suppose I mean continuity in the sense that she has been a constant thing for decades, while so many other things have changed and I think the whole of the UK gets some sense of security from that sense of continuity. It’s a complex situation and of course there are various opinions on the monarchy, including many who think that it’s an outdated institution and represents inequality and privilege in society, but still, it’ll be a hugely significant moment when she does die, and the country will grind to a halt (again) for days, with public holidays and various other things happening. So, if she died during this coronavirus lockdown that would be devastating.

And if she got it, died and everyone thought that Charles had given it to her, they’d chop his head off! Obviously they wouldn’t, I’m joking, but let’s just say that the knives would be out (an expression) and it would be extremely bad for his popularity which is already quite shaky. Anyway, this isn’t about the monarchy!

Boris Johnson has tested positive for it too. Apparently he has mild symptoms and is staying at home, working from home. Ironically so does the health secretary Matt Hancock. To be honest, it’s no surprise because until about a week ago the government’s position on this whole thing was to just let everyone get infected, let the population develop herd immunity it’s no big deal really, and if loads of elderly people die and the NHS collapses under the pressure then never mind we’ll just keep calm and carry on.

In fact Boris was bragging only recently during a press-conference about how he had met loads of coronavirus sufferers in hospitals and how he’d shaken their hands and he was shaking everyone’s hands. I expect he is eating his words now. What’s perhaps more serious and shocking is how irresponsible he’s been. Sure, he’s got it now which a) doesn’t help him or the country, or his pregnant girlfriend but also b) he’s possibly spread the virus to loads of other people, potentially thousands (due to the way the virus spreads exponentially) → so congratulations Boris, you have directly helped to make the situation much much worse than it could have been.

Here he is, talking about it in that press conference.

twitter.com/ptcomedy/status/1243507221482344453

3. Corrections from episodes 651 and 652

I said that flu was a form of coronavirus. Apparently that’s not true. Coronavirus and flu are totally different, and while flu is a killer, Coronavirus is potentially a much bigger killer, because of the way it spreads.

And for those people out there saying “Flu kills more people per year than Coronavirus, what’s all the fuss about?” here’s a clip of stand up comedian Nico Yearwood talking about it on stage before the lockdown when the comedy clubs were still open.

I accidentally said that we should be washing our hands for 20 minutes. Obviously that was just a slip and I meant to say 20 seconds. (We corrected that in the RT report)

I also said that masks don’t stop you from getting the virus. I realise now that I had almost no actual evidence to back that up. It turns out there are several types of mask and some are more effective at protecting you from this than others.

Disposable face masks vs N95 respirator masks

CNET.com
Disposable face masks block large particles from entering your mouth (which I suppose means that small droplets containing the virus might still be able to get in, and anyway you can probably still get infected through the eyes and ears too, potentially – but maybe these disposable masks can help prevent you spreading it around),

So that’s the disposable face masks. Then the more tight-fitting N95 respirator masks are far more effective at shielding you from airborne illnesses. Those are the ones with the filters fitted in the front.

Both of these masks could potentially help protect you from getting a viral infection, but US government officials have emphasized that the American public should not purchase face masks to prevent themselves from getting infected. Instead, only people who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus should wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Apparently the N95 masks are much harder to find than the standard disposable ones.

ADDITIONAL (added after recording – this doesn’t appear in the episode)

I have just been sent this video on Twitter. The message is clear. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Masks help to prevent the spread of the virus. They might not be perfect, but they’re better than nothing. In the Czech Republic they seem to have been very successful in containing the spread of the virus. 

4. Personal experiences of lockdown / self-isolation with a 2-year-old child

Some details about what we’re doing and some of the challenges we’re facing

France has been on full lockdown for nearly 2 weeks now. Almost everything is closed except certain shops selling “essential items” –> note that the wine shops and cheese shops are very much open in our area :)

My daughter isn’t going to creche so we have to look after her all the time. That’s great but also exhausting. I’m not complaining, we knew what we were doing when we created her, so, you know, it’s our fault. Anyway, the thing is, it takes a lot of time and all that, and my wife and I have work to do but it’s not bad, we divide the day and I look after her in the morning and in the afternoon it’s the other way around.

I still teach classes for the British Council but now they are happening on Zoom – the videoconferencing platform. Actually, Zoom are doing pretty well out of this, aren’t they? I had just a few hours to learn how to use the platform but it’s pretty good. It’s not as good as teaching in real life, but it’s not bad. → Talk a bit about teaching on Zoom.

One thing I thought the other day is that this crisis is going to force us to change and will be a driver of change in various ways. Certainly we’re all becoming a lot more familiar with videoconferencing and I think a lot of employers and employees will realise that working from home is really doable and will become more and more normal.

Let me now talk about going outside and staying indoors. Most of our time is spent indoors of course, but we do go outside from time to time.

Going outside
Feeling a bit guilty and also a bit nervous (don’t want to catch the virus, but don’t want to spread it), but going outside is vital for our mental and physical health.
Strict instructions from the government, which we are trying to comply with.
People are getting pretty angry about this on social media.
Only going outside for a bit of exercise, staying max 1km from our home.
Only ever just one of us, or one of us with our daughter.
We just walk around the block, choosing quiet streets, crossing the road to avoid people etc.
It’s like a ghost town
It’s quite eerie
It’s also quite peaceful and wonderful
Paris is a very beautiful city and usually it’s very busy and stressful. Not at the moment. Well, not busy anyway.
The weather has been fantastic, which makes this much easier to deal with.
But it’s also a dirty place, like most inner-city areas.
Rubbish and also general uncleanliness.
I wonder what condition the place will be in after weeks of this. Are the streets usually this dirty or is it just more obvious now?
Rubbish on the floor, dog poo not cleaned up.
I’m teaching my daughter to count and we often count things we see in the street. She now counts the dog poo. There’s nothing I can do about it. At least she knows she should avoid it. (I’m still not sure if there is a taboo about talking about this in Paris, which would be odd. Surely the taboo would be to let your dog do it and then not clean it up.)
Actually, I think Paris is always like that!
Anyway, let’s not dwell on it too long.
Some shops are open – those ones for essential food, supermarkets, boulangeries (bakeries), cheese shops. Yep, I live in Paris!
Queues are more orderly. There are lines on the ground. People know that they have to stay at least 1m away from each other. There’s more politeness actually.
Not touching anything.
Getting our daughter to run while holding my hand.
Jumping onto manhole covers.
Looking into the windows of guitar shops.
Spotting things in the street and counting them.

Staying in
The main challenge for us is: keeping our daughter busy, keeping up her education (even though she’s just two and 3 months), limiting screen time, maintaining our mental health – I mean just trying to stay in a good mood, getting enough physical exercise for all of us but especially the little one, managing to get work done and also keeping in touch with friends and family. I feel like we’re only partly successful in all areas.
Yoga for kids
Reading, reading, reading
Using a pre-school app on the ipad
Worrying about screen time
Playing games for numbers, colours
Listening to music
Limiting screen time
Speaking a lot more English
Showering together
Washing hands and singing happy birthday to celebrities

Overall → things are really not that bad for us at all. We are incredibly lucky.

For some others this might be an impossible time.
Some people have been laid off
Some people who are self-employed are unable to do their work
Some people will be unable to feed their kids because schools are closed (and they rely on those schools to provide a decent meal once a day)
A lot of people will have lost money
Some people will be worried about loved ones who are in vulnerable positions
And of course some people will be sick with the coronavirus and feeling terrible, wondering if they should go to hospital etc.

Song

So Lonely by The Police/Sting

Chords & Lyrics
tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-police/so-lonely-chords-364306

What’s your experience?

Leave your comments below and let us know 👍

647. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 6)

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So in this episode we’re going to hear

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

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

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

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

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

Those are the main characters in this episode I think.

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

Here are some things to look out for

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

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

22:00
Alan’s Room

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

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

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

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

Alan in bed with Jill
23:10

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

Alan’s Lovebud

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

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

646. British Comedy: Alan Partridge (Part 5)

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan arrives with Lynn at the offices of Pear Tree Productions

09:15
Alan and the staff at Pear Tree Productions

Watch out for

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

Alan and Jill

Watch out for

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

Alan & Jill at the Owl Sanctuary

Watch out for

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

Alan & Jill in the car

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

To be concluded in part 6…