Category Archives: Work

621. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 3) Discord in the Den

One more episode about this TV series involving entrepreneurs getting investment for their business startups. In this one there’s plenty of disagreement and some strong feedback from the Dragons.

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A bit of language

  • They’ve applied in their droves, eager to get an investment.
  • It’s the Dragons’ own money on the line.
  • The rest will leave empty-handed.
  • Going on DD must be very nerve-wracking.
  • They’re giving him a healthy dose of reality, but also it’s pretty brutal feedback.
  • They’re going to go to town on him.
    5.20
  • Peter Jones just looks bewildered.
  • His steadfast belief in his product may be admirable but that’s not enough for Peter Jones.
  • I am pleading with you not to do it.

Pitch 1 starts at 01:53 // Pitch 2 starts at 13:35

Leave me your comment – don’t be a ninja!

620. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 2) Negotiation

Listen to a real business negotiation and learn loads of English in the process. Vocabulary, scripts and notes available below.

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Transcript & Notes

Welcome back to LEP. This is part 2 of this mini series I’m going to do about BBC Dragons’ Den, the TV show about entrepreneurs trying to raise finance for their business startups by going to meet the Dragons – a group of 5 business angels looking to make money by investing in interesting new business propositions.

In part 1 of this I did a long business ramble all about the different factors and considerations involved in an entrepreneur attempting to do an investment deal with a private equity investor. That covered loads of vocabulary relating to loads of different areas of business and laid the ground work for this episode in which we are going to use a real pitch from an episode of Dragons’ Den as a case study from which we can learn loads of English.

Also, the story of this particular investment is particularly interesting and the negotiation takes an unexpected turn which creates more emotional drama than you might expect from a business meeting.

So, at the end of part 1 we listened to Kirsty Henshaw’s original pitch. Let’s listen to that again and break it down for language. After that we’ll listen to the rest of the meeting in bits. We’ll listen and then listen again and break it all down.

This should be a really good one! I hope you’re listening carefully. We might be able to get all of this done in this episode, we will see. There are other Dragons’ Den pitches that I’d like to do too so I might add another episode with some other pitches as well. So perhaps this will be a 3 or 4 part series.

Right, so let’s listen to Kirsty Henshaw again and remember my questions from before.

  • How much investment does she need? £65,000
  • What equity stake is she offering in return? 15%
  • What exactly is the product? A healthy alternative to ice-cream – a frozen dessert (free from dairy, sugar, soya, nuts – everything! But what’s actually in it?)
  • Why does she need the investment? To buy stock, raise brand awareness with marketing and PR

Would you like to invest?
What questions would you like to ask next?

Kirsty’s pitch begins at 44:00

Peter Jones
It tastes more like frozen yoghurt. Is that fair?
– She wanted a healthy option, similar to ice cream but there’s no dairy that’s why it’s a frozen desert.
How much has it cost so far?
£20,000
How many have you sold?
2,500 units
Went to a big meeting with a large supermarket – it’s completely unique, some of the staff had heard about it before
Do you have any forecasts in the first year?
– 300,000 units – starting to get into bigger places now

Duncan Bannatyne
How healthy is it? How much fat is in it?
– Less than 3% fat in all of them, no sugar in any, carbohydrates are from fruit extracts, a good form of sugar

James Caan
What are the ingredients?
Brown rice milk (because soya isn’t great for children and rice milk is a good digestive enzyme), the fat is organic virgin coconut oil, sweetened with extract of apple, carob and grape.

Deborah Meaden
How far are you down the track with the supermarket?
– Min 400 stores from Sept when they do their refresh
Are they committed?
– At least 350-400 stores to trial it

Theo Paphetis
Which supermarket is it?
– Tesco
They must have asked you whether you could produce in the right volume?
Yes
What did you say?
– I said yes because I’ve spoken to the manager of the biggest ice cream manufacturers and they can make it no problem, if we get the order (volume – numbers)

James Caan
Do you have any idea what Tesco’s potentially could order?
– At least four flavours for each store to start with
How many in a case?
12
If they sold one case per week per store, that’s 400 cases. How much do you make per unit?
– Just over one pound
So 4,000 per week is what you’d make. That’s 200,000 a year.
– Not including my current suppliers
What did you forecast your profit in year one?
– £300,000
So that forecast is not a million miles out. There’s some substance around it.

What’s your background?
Uni (sports science), but had to leave because mind was on the business

Theo
Who is Worhingshaw’s?
– Mix of boyfriend and her name – to make it sound like it had been around for a while
Have you really done all this on your own?
– Yes
How do you invest the money in this?
– 2 jobs and a bit of a night job, and my little boy
You’re pretty amazing aren’t you?
– No, not really.
[She starts crying]
This has been really tough for you hasn’t it?
– I just do it all for my little boy. I just want him to have a good life.
I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m finding it really really difficult to actually take on board what you’ve achieved. It’s phenomenal. I’m totally blown away by it. I’m going to make you an offer. You’ve come in here asking for 60,000 for 15% but I want 40%.
And I’ll explain to you why. Because I’m not going to give you 60,000, I’m giving you 100,000 because that’s what I believe you need to make this business successful.

Deborah Meaden
Let me tell you where I am. I think you’ve done a great job against all odds, but here’s my blunt and honest truth to you. I’m not going to beat Theo’s offer so I’m not going to waste my time making you one. Thank you very much but I’m out.

Peter Jones
Where do you want to take it? You’d love to see this product in every shop. Reggae Reggae Sauce was a big success because of Levi Roots’ whole story. You could be the frozen desert version of Levi Roots.

For that reason I’d like to make you an offer for the full amount but I only want 25% of the company.

James Caan
Let me wish you every success but you’re not going to need my offer so I’m out (there are already deals on the table).

Duncan Bannatyne
I’ll match Peter’s offer (£60,000 for 25%)

Kirsty
I don’t want to give 40% away but thank you for your offer Theo.
I’m really confused now because I know you’re both brilliant.
You’re both ideal to help me, so I don’t really know what to do now.

Peter
If we raised it to 30% so we got 15% each, I’m more than happy to work with Duncan if that’s something he would accept (yes).

Kirsty
I’d really like to work with both of you. It would be ideal so thank you very much I’d really like to accept your offers.

That’s it!

What do you think? Would you like some more Dragons’ Den on the podcast?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

619. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 1) Vocabulary

Learn tons of business vocabulary in context in this episode all about a TV show about entrepreneurs negotiating investment for their business startups. Notes & scripts available below.

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Transcript & Notes

Hello and welcome to LEP#619. How are you today? All good I hope.

In this episode of LEP we’re going to look at a popular BBC TV show which is now in its 17th series on BBC2. We’re going to listen to some clips, I’ll help you understand it all like a native speaker and we’ll be mining the whole thing for vocabulary too. I’ve done episodes like this before about British TV including Top Gear and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Both of those are available in the episode archive. Now it’s the turn of one of my favourites – Dragons Den.

You might be thinking, “Dragons’ Den. What is that? Is it some kind of Game of Thrones thing, a fantasy thing with dragons and stuff?”

No, not at all. In fact this series is all about business startups, entrepreneurs, investors, negotiations and pitching new business ideas.

It’s based on a Japanese TV format. So, Japanese LEPsters might be familiar with DD already. Also it might exist in other countries too. It’s been on the BBC since 2005. I really enjoy watching it and also using clips in class, which I have been doing for years now and is one of my favourite things to do in English lessons. I could spend a whole week on Dragons Den, with all the vocab, the listening, and then doing role plays of business presentations, negotiations and discussions. This is the first time I’ve dipped my toe into Dragons’ Den on the podcast.

There will be tons of business vocabulary in this episode as well as a chance to test your listening skills as we listen to clips of this show including people presenting their businesses and negotiating an investment.

What I’m going to do is this

  • Introduce to the topic, with quite a lot of business vocabulary relating to everything involved in starting up a new business and raising finance for it.
  • Play you some clips from Dragons Den, when one person pitches their business idea and dragons start negotiating, and I’ll break it down for vocabulary.

I’ll explain a bit of the vocab as we go through this episode, and there will be a lot of context to help you but mainly I want to focus on just listening to clips from the show and then helping you understand everything. Really, one of my aims at LEP is to help you appreciate things like TV, films and comedy more easily in English, or at least to be able to use them to help you learn English more effectively.

So we’ll focus on the clips after an introduction from me, and then I can deal with the vocabulary more specifically in a premium series, which I’m also working on.

OK, so let’s get into the details of this TV show Dragons’ Den.

First let me explain the title.

Dragons’ Den – what does it mean?

Dragons’ Den. A den of dragons.

To walk into the lions’ den (the place where the lions live) = to deliberately put yourself in a position of danger or difficulty

Usually this means to face a difficult situation, like going into a room full of people who will criticise you. Imagine a politician involved in a scandal going into a room full of journalists. He’s walking into the lions’ den.

A “den” is a kind of place where Lions might live. It could be a clearing in a forest, maybe within the roots of a tree, maybe surrounded by some rocks. A place where the lions hang out and sleep. That’s a den. Kids also build dens in their bedrooms. They take blankets and pillows and drape them over chairs and tables to make little dens which they can then hide in and play inside.

In this case its Dragons’ Den, so this is like a lions’ den but even more scary and dangerous! I think it’s just that dragons are better analogies for scary, no-nonsense business people than lions. Also, it sounds cool “Dragons’ Den”.

So, the dragons are the investors in their leather chairs. The den is a kind of renovated warehouse that could be somewhere in East London maybe, in a trendy new business district. The 5 dragons are sitting in a line with their plush leather chairs, sharp suits, pads and pens, side tables with glasses of water and piles of cash! The cash is just for show of course (there are quite a few lingering shots of the money).

The entrepreneurs are nervous, feeling the pressure. They walk up some tight spiral stairs into the room and the dragons eye them all up judgementally.

Then the entrepreneur starts his or her pitch. The dragons ask questions and drill down into the business plan and then there are some negotiations for the investment.

The entrepreneur is looking for an investment of a certain amount. In return they are offering a portion of the equity of the company.

Equity in this case means the ownership of the company. If you imagine a pie chart or a pizza, perhaps, if you prefer. Imagine that pizza. 100% of it is mine. But I might choose to sell some parts of that pizza to an investor. Let’s say I give them 20% of the pizza for about £20,000. In terms of a business this means that the investor gets 20% of the profits that the company makes. In return I get cash which I can use to get the business going in various ways.

So equity refers to ownership of the company and it is divided into shares. Sometimes it is referred to as an equity stake. So an investor might have a 20% equity stake in a company, for example. The entrepreneur holds onto an 80% equity stake.

This is how finance can be raised. Instead of getting a loan and paying interest you kind of liquidate part of the company to get the cash but you also get the support of an investor too, and that’s the other thing the dragons offer. Not just cash but also some business acumen and contacts to help them get a foot in the door.

The dragons have actually financed a few successful businesses in the past on this show, ones that have made it to the supermarkets or even become household names.

Yes, all the businesses are real, all the money is real and the deals are real, but apparently after making agreements on the TV show, necessary due diligence is done before the deal is officially sealed.

But it’s all real. Real people, real businesses, real money. OK.

We’ll meet the Dragons in a moment, but first I have a vocab list here which I am going to go through in a kind of ramble, a business ramble. Luke’s Business Rambles – could be a good series…

I might briefly explain these terms as we go but my main focus is to try and put all these words into a rambling monologue about why an entrepreneur would need to raise finance for a new business. I plan to go over all of this in more detail in an upcoming premium episode.

Vocabulary

Let’s imagine that I have a new business. I’ve invented a pen that goes red or flashes when you make a grammar mistake. Let’s say there’s software you can download for it. It connects to your devices by Bluetooth and you can get different functions, but it’s like Grammarly in a pen.

Why would a startup need to raise finance?

  • Pay for stock, manufacturing costs, hire staff, find facilities, pay for marketing (how are you going to get people to know about it)

  • contacts for retail

  • dealing with a logistics chain

  • Business plan

  • Cost price

  • List price

  • Retail price (RRP)

  • Mark up

  • Margin

  • Profit (net and gross)

  • Manufacturers

  • Wholesalers

  • Retailers

  • B to B

  • B to C

  • SWOT analysis

  • Projected sales figures

  • Turnover

  • Projected turnover

  • Income

  • Revenue

  • Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Ask the bank for a loan

  • Get family to lend you money

  • Use a government scheme

  • Venture capitalists

  • Equity investors

  • Business angels

  • Pitch

  • Elevator pitch

  • Investment amount

  • equity/shares

  • stock/stocks

  • Negotiate

  • Patent (pending)

  • Competitors

  • Valuation of your company

  • “I’m out”

Meet The Dragons

Peter Jones
At age 16 he set up a tennis academy.
He now has a £250m empire in leisure, telecoms & media.

Deborah Meaden
Made millions in the holiday and leisure industriesShe sold a stake in her company in a £30m deal, while maintaining 23% of the company.

Duncan Bannatyne
From Glasgow. He’s worth over £170m.
He owns “Bannatyne’s” health clubs, casinos and hotels.

Theo Paphetis
He’s a retail specialist.
He takes failing companies and transforms them into thriving businesses – Partners, Ryman.

James Caan
Originally born in Pakistan, his family moved to the UK when he was 2.
Was initially successful in recruitment, setting up several high level recruitment companies which he then sold for large amounts of profit. He is also the founder and current CEO of the UK-based private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw.

How it works

When the Dragons are interested in an investment they will say “I’m interested…” and will then make an offer.

The rules are that the entrepreneur must get the investment amount they are asking for, or more. The percentage equity stake is what is negotiated.

If a Dragon is not interested in the investment they will declare themselves out by saying “I’m out” and explaining their reason.

“I’m out” has become a sort of catchphrase that you can use in reference to the show.

Dragons’ Den Series 8 Episode 1 (also contains a brutal takedown of an entrepreneur [1st pitch] and an interesting exchange/argument in the wine pitch, with a v nervous presenter)

Kirsty Henshaw – Frozen Desserts

A part-time barmaid looking for investment in her food business.

Listen to the pitch from 44:00

  • How much investment does she need? £65,000
  • What equity stake is she offering in return? 15%
  • What exactly is the product? A healthy alternative to ice-cream – a frozen dessert (free from dairy, sugar, soya, nuts – everything! But what’s actually in it?)
  • Why does she need the investment? To buy stock, raise brand awareness with marketing and PR
  • Would you like to invest?
  • What questions would you like to ask next?

Kirsty’s pitch begins at 44:00

To be continued in part 2…

617. Sales and Advertising (with Paul Taylor)

A language-focused episode looking at words and phrases that you often see and hear in advertising and sales situations. Also includes discussion of sales techniques, Apple’s sales and marketing strategy and also a classic bit of stand-up by the late great George Carlin.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello dear listeners, how are you today?

Here is an episode with Paul all about the subject of advertising and sales, with a bit of marketing thrown in there too. So this is a language-focused episode looking at words and phrases that you often see and hear in advertising and sales situations. It also includes discussion of sales techniques, Apple’s sales and marketing strategy and also a classic bit of stand-up by the late great George Carlin.

The episode starts with a discussion between Paul and me about Paul’s experiences of working in sales jobs at Apple, including selling their products to customers on the shop floor and how Apple markets its products to people. Then we go through a big list of words and phrases relating to sales situations in various ways, including the typical things you might read on packaging, advertising or sales material. The list is pretty long but it all leads up to the comedy sketch at the end, which includes all the phrases. That comedy bit, by the way, does contain some very rude language, so there’s a heads up if that’s not your cup of tea.

So get your vocabulary learning hat on for this episode and also let’s get stuck into the topic of sales and advertising, with Paul.


Positive or Negative?

You’re interested in buying a new product (e.g. a fantastic portable tumbler, or some Southwest Pacific Air). You look at the sales literature for the item and see some of these phrases and conditions. Are they positive or negative?

all sales are final

allow six weeks for delivery

authentic

no purchase necessary

batteries not included

classic

convenient

economy

custom

deluxe

designer

luxury

each item sold separately

easy terms

affordable prices

experience

free installation

free admission

free appraisal

free alterations

free delivery

free estimates

free home trial

and free parking

no cash? no problem!

friendly service

genuine

imitation

gourmet

high-quality

hospitality

low rates

Leather / leather-style

limited time only

mileage may vary

money-back guarantee

name brands

no down payment

no entry fee

no fuss

no hidden charges

no kidding!

no mess

no risk

no obligation

no payments or interest until September

no one will call on you

no red tape

offer good while supplies last

order today

performance

premium

prestige

quality

savings

select

selection

send no money

service

so act now

some assembly required

some items not available

some restrictions may apply

style

two to a customer

value


Ending

So that was Sales and Advertising with Paul.

As usual, let me know your thoughts relating to this episode.

What do you think of sales and advertising?

Do you work in sales? Have you noticed any particular techniques or use of language that helps you sell things?

What do you think of adverts on TV or the way things are promoted to you on the internet?

How do you feel about clickbait? Do you ever click on those articles?

Do you think graffiti is ok in public places? How is that different to advertising in the sense that we don’t get any choice over what is displayed to us in public? What about drawing graffiti on advertising that’s in public spaces?

The subject of sales, advertising and marketing is a big one and I expect to come back to it on the podcast at some point because there’s loads of things we could do with that.

Business English is always something that I’ve saved and never done on the podcast. I was always planning to do a business English podcast or a business English course, but without calling it a business English course, because people don’t seem to like the word business. It sounds all heavy and dark, like the dark side or the Death Star or something. But English in professional situations is really interesting and I’m talking about things like how we negotiate, how we deal with being diplomatic in meetings, how we do presentations and socialise with people. I was actually working on a business course and have loads of unfinished material for it. I must go back to that but in the meantime I might dip into some more businessy subjects in the future. We will see. But let me know about your interest in business English and if you’d like to learn the ways of the dark side and fulfil your destiny and all that stuff.

But for now, it’s pretty much time for the end of the episode. Thank you for listening as usual.

If the spirit moves you, you could leave me a lovely lovely review on iTunes or apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Getting positive reviews helps to promote my podcast on those platforms. It’s more likely to end up in recommended selections and things like that, so it helps the podcast a great deal.

Otherwise, you can always donate with one of the yellow paypal buttons, sign up to LEP Premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and check out my sponsors italki at www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

You’ve been listening to Luke’s English Podcast and until next time, good bye  bye bye bye…


Simon Sinek – Start With Why

Adam & Joe – Free Stuff

George Carlin’s Advertising Lullaby

Advertising Lullaby – Lyrics

Quality, value, style, service, selection, convenience
Economy, savings, performance, experience, hospitality
Low rates, friendly service, name brands, easy terms
Affordable prices, money-back guarantee

Free installation, free admission, free appraisal, free alterations
Free delivery, free estimates, free home trial, and free parking

No cash? No problem! No kidding! No fuss, no muss
No risk, no obligation, no red tape, no down payment
No entry fee, no hidden charges, no purchase necessary
No one will call on you, no payments or interest till September

Limited time only, though, so act now, order today, send no money
Offer good while supplies last, two to a customer, each item sold separately
Batteries not included, mileage may vary, all sales are final
Allow six weeks for delivery, some items not available
Some assembly required, some restrictions may apply

So come on in for a free demonstration and a free consultation
With our friendly, professional staff. Our experienced and
Knowledgeable sales representatives will help you make a
Selection that’s just right for you and just right for your budget

And say, don’t forget to pick up your free gift: a classic deluxe
Custom designer luxury prestige high-quality premium select
Gourmet pocket pencil sharpener. Yours for the asking
No purchase necessary. It’s our way of saying thank you

And if you act now, we’ll include an extra added free complimentary
Bonus gift at no cost to you: a classic deluxe custom designer
Luxury prestige high-quality premium select gourmet combination
Key ring, magnifying glass, and garden hose, in a genuine
Imitation leather-style carrying case with authentic vinyl trim
Yours for the asking, no purchase necessary. It’s our way of
Saying thank you

Actually, it’s our way of saying ‘Bend over just a little farther
So we can stick this big advertising dick up your ass a little bit
Deeper, a little bit deeper, a little bit DEEPER, you miserable
No-good dumbass fucking consumer!’

 

594. Andy Johnson Returns (Part 1) Moving House / London vs Canterbury / English Teaching

Chatting to friend of the podcast Andy Johnson about moving house, comparisons between London and Canterbury and different approaches to teaching English. Intro & outtro transcripts available. Part 2 coming soon.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello dear listeners and welcome to this brand new episode of the podcast, presented to you for your listening pleasure and for the general development of your English.

What have I got lined up for you in this episode?

Well, just the other day I spoke again to Andy Johnson, friend of the podcast and my former colleague from the days when I worked at the London School of English. Andy has been on the podcast lots of times before as many of you will know, but the last time was about a year ago actually (in episode 529), so it’s good to have him back again.

The idea in this episode is just to catch up with Andy, find out what he’s been up to since we last spoke on the podcast and just see where the conversation takes us.

Just before I play you the first part of our conversation (because this episode is in two parts) here’s an overview of the topics you are about to hear us talking about. You can expect to hear vocabulary relating to these things.

Moving house from London to Canterbury
Andy and his family recently moved out of London to a much smaller city in the south east of England called Canterbury. Some of you might know it as it is a bit of a tourist destination because of its magnificent cathedral and its significant cultural history.

Andy tells us about his experience of moving, how living in Canterbury is different to living in London, some details of things like the rental costs & lifestyle differences in both cities, what it’s like for the kids, and some interesting facts and history about Canterbury itself.

English teaching
We chat about this year’s IATEFL conference where Andy did a talk about online learning, and he tells us about one interesting presentation that he saw which was all about using escape rooms to help people learn English.

Do you know what escape rooms are? Are they popular in your country? Escape rooms are fun experiences in which you go into a locked room with some friends and have to solve some puzzles and complete tasks in order to escape from the room. They’re a lot of fun, but how could they be used in learning English?

This leads to a bit of discussion about how we approach the teaching of English in classrooms these days, focusing on how to create the right context for practising specific target language naturally. As an example I talk a bit about how I’ve been teaching “used to” to my intermediate classes at school recently.

Andy’s job
We then talk a bit about Andy’s job at London School Online, delivering online English training to companies, and what that involves. If you are interested in providing an online course for the staff in your company you can get more information about that and contact Andy through his website, which is www.londonschool.com/lso

Finally, we do talk a bit about Andy’s running (because some of you will be curious about that) – how his running routines have changed since moving to a smaller city and whether or not he did the London Marathon this year.

So, for all the vocab hunters out there, watch out for bits of language relating to all those things.

So now, without further ado I will let you enjoy listening to another chat with Andy Johnson on Luke’s English Podcast and here we go.


Ending Transcript

That is it for part one, but this will continue in part 2 in which our conversation turns to other topics including food, TV series, football, and music.

Thanks again to Andy for being on the podcast.

If you want to get in touch with Andy, perhaps because you’re interested in the online learning programs he offers, you can find him on LinkedIn, on Twitter @andybjohnson and the London School Online website is www.londonschool.com/lso/

Allow me to remind you, at this point, to sign up for LEP premium. I’ve got new episodes in the pipeline that involve teaching you some nice, chunky bits of natural English vocabulary along with all the usual bits and pieces, including PDF worksheets, tests & exercises and pronunciation drills, and of course becoming a premium subscriber gives you access to the ever growing library of premium content which you can listen to in the LEP app or online from your computer and it will all cost you just the price of a coffee a month from. Keep me caffeinated and become an LEP premium subscriber today! GO to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get started.

I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.

Part 2 should be available very soon, but for now it’s just time to say good bye!!!

569. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 1)

Talking to English teacher & podcaster Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic about how he learned English to a high level by working on a building site in East London with a team of cockneys who couldn’t pronounce his name properly. Also includes tangents about football commentators, climate change denial, flat earth conspiracy theorists and more. [Part 1 of 2]. Intro & outro transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you today? Fine? Pretty good? Not too bad? Can’t complain? Mustn’t grumble? Could be worse? Doing alright? You’re doing alright. Good. Glad to hear it.

Here is a new episode and it’s a conversation with Zdenek Lukas who is an English teacher from the Czech Republic. You might have heard me mention Zdenek on the podcast before and in fact you might already be familiar with his voice because he has a podcast of his own. You might be one of his listeners in fact.

Zdenek’s podcast is called Zdenek’s English Podcast – yes, that does sound familiar doesn’t it? It’s like the name of my podcast. As Zdenek has said himself many times, he was inspired to start his podcast mainly after becoming a fan of my podcast and I’m ok with that.

He did actually ask me before choosing that name and I said yep, go ahead. This was years ago now, I think around 2013, when he first set up his podcast and got in touch with me about it.

These days Zdenek’s English Podcast exists in its own right. He’s uploaded about 250 episodes which feature monologues from him about his life and his journey with English, and also conversations with his friends, native speakers he meets in his hometown or on trips to London and in gaming communities online and he even records episodes with his students of English from time to time.

I thought it was about time I talked to Zdenek on this podcast and I wanted to ask him about these things:

  • how he learned English to such a high level
  • his story of moving to the UK where he ended up working with cockneys in the East End of London
  • how he became a teacher of English
  • his thoughts on the question of non-native speakers as teachers of English
  • his podcast
  • his love of board games and how they can be used for learning English
  • the board game he has created himself and the online board game communities that he’s part of

So my plan was to interview him about all of those things, but naturally we ended up going off on various tangents, especially at the beginning of this first part, and then we got into all the questions I wanted to ask Zdenek and I found out about his whole story. This is a two part episode.

Part 1 Summary

Here’s a quick run-down of what’s coming up in part 1, just to make sure you can keep up, especially since the conversation goes off in a few directions at the beginning.

We mention what happened at LEPster meetups in London that Zdenek organised last year and the year before. I attended the first one but not the second. He recorded episodes of his podcast on both occasions.

We talk about what it takes to be a genuine LEPster and whether some people might stop listening after a few episodes.

We talk about where Zdenek’s home town is and the general location of the Czech Republic.

A few tangents:

  • Global warming & climate change denial
  • The time I talked to some Flat Earth conspiracy theorists on The Flat Earth Podcast
  • Louis Theroux (UK documentary film maker)

Zdenek tells us about his academic background in linguistics and English teaching including details of the university dissertation he wrote about the language of English football commentators.

And then we get into Zdenek’s whole story of learning English, including what happened when he travelled to England in his early 20s with no plan, just the will to get away and have an interesting experience in another country. The result was that it really pushed his level of English and led him on his current career and life path.

I will let you discover all the details now as you listen to our whole conversation which is presented to you here in two parts.

This is part one of course, so without any further ado, here we go!

Ending

Ok everyone, that is where we are going to stop, but the conversation will continue in part 2 which should be available right away I think, so you can just move on to that one now, can’t you?

So, that is it for part 1 and I will speak to you again in part 2.

Thanks for listening…

Bye!

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

564. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 4)

More trending vocabulary and issues of the moment, this time focusing on topics like working conditions in the gig economy, the pros and cons of instagram and a true story about a unicorn riding a bike in London. Transcript available.

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PART 4 Transcript – 99% complete

Welcome back to this series about The Words of the Year. In the last 3 episodes I’ve been working my way through this list published by The Collins Dictionary online of 10 words which were used a lot in 2017. So far I’ve talked about fake newsantifa, Corbynmania, cuffing season, echo chamber, fidget spinner and gender-fluid. It’s been a bit of a tightrope for me to talk about some of those fairly controversial political topics and manage to cover the different aspects of the debates surrounding these concepts. But hopefully you’ve been finding it interesting and you’ve noticed lots of vocabulary – more than just the words of the year.

Most of what I’m saying in this series is written on the pages for these episodes on the website. I started preparing these episodes last year when Collins published their list and just never got round to recording it, but I’ve added more notes and ideas to this over the last 12 months and I’m happy to be finally putting my thoughts on record in these episodes. So do check out the pages for these episodes published on my website. If you go through all the stuff I’ve written, and perhaps try to read along as I’m speaking, it will make it easier for you to pick up bits of vocabulary that you’ll hear me using.

Generally, in episodes like this, I hope you are trying to notice little bits of language as we go along. That’s basically the point. I’m trying to provide you with a meaningful context in which you can discover or notice vocabulary which you can attempt to pick up and use yourself. The notes and scripts on the website should really help you to do that, as you can check spelling and paste new words and expressions into your word lists if you keep them. So I hope you use episodes like this as a chance to expand your vocabulary as you listen.

I’ve got 3 more words from the 2017 list to deal with and I think I’ll get that done in this episode, which is part 4 of the series. Then after this, it’s time to move onto the Collins Words of the Year for 2018! But thankfully I’ll have the help of my friend Amber Minogue (who, of course you know because she is a regular guest on the show). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s finish the word list from 2017 first.

Remember these are words or phrases which were used a lot in 2017 and which Collins selected also because they represent big issues that people were talking about or reading about in the media during 2017. All these issues are still relevant and significant today, except perhaps fidget spinners from the last episode, which I think are now old news and probably just a trend that peaked in 2017.

OK let’s carry on.

(the) Gig economy

noun: an economy in which there are few permanent employees and most jobs are assigned to temporary or freelance workers.

This is all about the current job market in the UK (and elsewhere of course). It’s an economy – or employment market in which permanent work is getting more and more rare – I’m not really sure why.

Instead it’s more and more common to just have a series of temporary jobs, being employed on a freelance basis. The expression gig economy is used to refer to this situation in which people might just move between different temporary jobs, or perhaps work a number of little jobs at the same time. This is to be contrasted with the old idea that in your career you find just one permanent job with a company that employs you for life, or at least until you retire.

Nowadays there seems to be less job security, or perhaps just more flexibility than there used to be.

We’ve got a bit of vocabulary here about types of job, or types of contract and then we’ll break down the expression “gig economy” as well, which basically means just explaining what a gig is.

Let’s look at the difference between a permanent job and a freelance or temporary job.

“Hey, I got a new job.” Your friend might say. How do you respond?

“Oh, cool. Is it a permanent contract?”

“No, just temping” or “No I’m freelancing still, but it’s for 6 months, which isn’t bad”

  • A permanent job / A permanent contract
  • A temporary contract / Temping
  • Freelancing

The advantage of a permanent job is that you get more security. You’re certain to have work and to be paid every month, but you’re committed to that job. With freelance or temporary work you have a bit more flexibility. You can probably say to employers “Hey, I’m not free for the month of April” or something and you can do whatever you want in April because there are no strings attached. But, why would you want to do that? You still need to pay the rent. You need to keep working, right? Usually temporary contracts are just not as good as permanent ones, unless for some reason you only want to work for a short period – like maybe you just want to work for the next 3 months before you go travelling or something.

The downside of temporary or freelance work is that because there’s not permanent contract, your employer can just say, “Oh, we’ve got no work for you next week, sorry” and you say “Oh, any idea when you will need me?” and they say “We’ll let you know” and then you’re facing a period of no work, and no money to pay the rent. It’s uncertain. What happens then is that in this situation you end up going around doing lots of little temporary jobs, perhaps doing different types of work, some part-time stuff, anything so you can pay the rent and pay for your mobile phone connection and your supply of basic essentials like food, water, shelter, clothing, wifi and hipster coffee. The gig economy refers to this situation, in which there are fewer permanent jobs and everyone’s just rushing around doing little gigs here, little gigs there.

Some more bits of vocabulary

a Gig – a ‘one-off’ job. It’s usually used to refer to a comedy show or a music show, by comedians or musicians. “I did a gig last night” or “You’ve been gigging a lot recently” or “What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done?” or “we went to a great gig last night” or “I’ve got a gig tonight”.

It’s also used more and more to refer to other types of work, e.g. just one-off temporary contracts. “I’ve got a gig at a startup company in town, doing their website. It’s a pretty good gig actually.”

The gig economy (collinsdictionary.com)
In July 2017 the UK prime minister, Theresa May, made a speech promising to support the increasing number of workers in the ‘gig economy’, where the flexibility of short-term and part-time working comes at the cost of having little job security and none of the employment benefits enjoyed by permanent members of staff.

Really, this refers to the fact that instead of doing one single permanent job these days, more and more people are doing multiple part-time jobs at the same time.

OK, so you get the idea.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is doing temporary work, it’s just that’s it’s more and more common. On the one hand this means we have a flexible workforce, but on the other hand it’s a situation in which there’s less and less job security.

What about where you live? Is there a gig economy there?

Zero-hours contracts

If you’ve spent any time in the UK and read any papers or listened to the news recently, you must have come across this expression. 

This from the BBC’s website https://www.bbc.com/news/business-23573442

Q: What are zero-hours contracts?

A: Zero-hours contracts, or casual contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work.

They mean employees work only when they are needed by employers, often at short notice. Their pay depends on how many hours they work.

Some zero-hours contracts require workers to take the shifts they are offered, while others do not.

Sick pay is often not included, although holiday pay should be, in line with working time regulations.

Q: Why are they controversial?

A: There is concern that zero-hours contracts do not offer enough financial stability and security.

The ONS found that employees on such a contract worked an average of 25 hours a week.

However, about a third of those on zero-hours contracts want more hours – mostly in their current job – compared with just 10% of other people in employment.

The CIPD research found that 16% of zero-hours workers said their employer often failed to provide them with sufficient hours each week.

The ONS said that zero-hours workers were more likely to be women or in full-time education and aged under 25 or over 65.

Employees on zero-hours contracts also do not have the same employment rights as those on traditional contracts, and critics are concerned that the contracts are being used to avoid employers’ responsibilities to employees.

So the issue is that zero hours contracts just let employers have all the control and power.

They’re really awful for workers’ rights.

Co-working spaces – these are rather cool and groovy spaces where you can go and work. They’re often populated by young people doing freelance work, or perhaps people who need an office for a short period and don’t have one, so they use co-working spaces as flexible alternatives to having an office. The rise of co-working spaces shows us that the job market is changing and is becoming more temporary in nature. They’re cool spaces, but they can be a bit noisy and expensive long term. They’re one of the parts of the gig economy.

Some gigs you might need to do if you’re struggling to find a permanent contract: waiter, barman, barista in a coffee shop, cleaner, clerical worker (doing basic office work like filing or data entry) or just a job in Starbucks, Uber driver, Deliveroo cyclist, and many more…

These are all jobs that you might take if you’re a gig economy worker, perhaps doing several jobs at the same time during your working week, while also taking some kind of academic course in an attempt to get an edge in the job market.

It’s probably a slightly insecure and confusing way of life, being all these things at the same time. Perhaps it’s cool to have so much flexibility too. There might be a sense of freedom in it, but I wouldn’t want that kind of lifestyle as the father of a child… but maybe I do actually have that lifestyle. I teach part time at the British Council and the rest of my time is spent working mostly alone on my online English teaching projects, while also doing stand-up comedy in the evenings and taking odd little extra jobs on the side, like sometimes I do voice-over work, sometimes I do bits of comedy writing, sometimes some acting… Maybe I am a gig economy worker. If it wasn’t for the permanent contract at the B.C. I would feel a bit more insecure I think (although LEP Premium is starting to make it possible for me to have more financial security and I’m lucky enough that my wife also contributes to our family budget).

Collocations with gig economy
A gig economy worker
One in three gig economy workers juggle at least two jobs at the same time, according to a study by one of the world’s biggest insurance companies. (Independent)

Gig economy companies
More than a million workers in Britain’s gig economy risk losing more than £22,000 each from being wrongly labelled as self-employed, according to research that shows the dangers posed to people in fragile employment.

The insurance firm Zurich said forcing gig economy companies to classify their workers as employees rather than self-employed would mean automatic enrolment in a workplace pension. Under these rules, it estimates a typical worker aged 25 and earning £25,000 a year would receive a total of £22,000 in employer contributions by the time they retire. (The Guardian)

Gig economy practices (practices = things that are done, and the way they are done)
UK government delays possible reforms to gig economy practices
The Guardian-Dec 5, 2017
Reforms to the gig economy expected to improve rights for up to 1.1 million people have been delayed until next year, in the latest sign that Brexit negotiations are hampering domestic policy.

Do you know any examples of this?
Are you a gig economy worker?

Insta

Adjective (slang): of or relating to the photo-sharing application Instagram

Some collocations/examples of ‘insta’ used as an adjective
insta friends
insta brand
insta trainer

Meet ‘Agent 00Fitness’: The unstoppable rise of the ‘Insta-trainer’
CNN-Dec 18, 2017
The most prominent American athlete to have picked up on the Insta-training trend is LeBron James, who has been posting workout clips for the past few years to his nearly 34 million Instagram followers.

Your Favorite Insta-Brand Just Launched Knits
Refinery29-10 hours ago
Welcome to our new bi-weekly column, Insta-Bait, where we highlight the brands taking over our feeds right now — because Instagram isn’t just a place where we DM memes to our friends and double-tap our style icons’ most on-point outfits, it’s where we discover new labels on the regular.

Do you use instagram?
Is it good for people’s mental health?

Instagram and mental health
Here is a reputable report about mental health and social media

qz.com/988765/instagram-fb-is-the-most-harmful-social-network-for-your-mental-health-but-youtube-goog-has-a-positive-effect-a-new-report-says/

Unicorn

noun:
(1) an imaginary creature depicted as a white horse with one long spiralled horn growing from its forehead, regarded as symbol of innocence and purity
(2) a recently launched business enterprise that is valued at more than one billion dollars

Unicorns aren’t new, but their popularity on the Internet (and of course everywhere else now too) is a pretty recent development. This ancient mythical creature is enjoying a renaissance of its own right now, both in images created by amateur computer users and for products sold in stores. Are you seeing unicorns pop up on a daily basis across your Twitter feed, Tumblr dashboard, or Facebook page, and in reality just in front of your actual face in the real world that you can touch? (unicornsrule.com)

We know what a unicorn is, but why are they so popular and prevalent these days?

Examples:
Unicorn t-shirts
Images of unicorns and rainbows
Memes featuring unicorns and rainbows and stuff

What is a unicorn? It’s a mythical animal
What do they represent? (purity, strength, honour, freedom, being fabulous, rarity (they’re rare), beauty, innocence, things which are hard to come by these days – idealism of identity, freedom to be whoever or whatever you want to be, the knowledge that it’s impossible to find)
Sometimes they appear on flags – e.g. they’re actually the symbol of Scotland, appears on the UK royal coat of arms (chained up because they were thought to be dangerous if free – quite sad isn’t it? Or maybe they’re chained up because Scottish kings were so awesome that they were even capable of catching unicorns, so now they’re in chains to represent the awesomeness of Scottish kings)
Appearance in some films – Blade Runner, Legend
Sexual connotation – in the LGBT community – because they often appear with rainbows, they’re used as symbols of activism. You might see them being used in marches promoting the rights of the LGBT community.
There’s also some slang too – apparently a unicorn can mean a single, attractive, healthy, bisexual female who wants to have a relationship with a couple. So hard to find that they’re considered as rare as a unicorn.

In finance: A unicorn is a startup company valued at over $1 billion. A new company that is immediately valued really highly. The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures. According to TechCrunch, there were 223 unicorns as of March 2017.[6] The largest unicorns included Uber, Xiaomi, Airbnb, Palantir, Dropbox and Pinterest.[7]

Discussion Questions
Do you think they were ever real?
What is it about unicorns that captures people’s imaginations?
Why are they popular now?
Unicorn start up companies: Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox – do you use any of these?

A message from a LEPster featuring a unicorn riding a bike in London

Message:

Hi Luke,

I’ve often thought of writing to you or leaving you a comment on Facebook but a. I’m not much of a “social”/“public” person b. I didn’t feel like it, honestly.

Until now.

Two things have happened to make me write to you. I’ve currently moved to London and:
1. I saw your name in a tower of “missing” letters (or whatever they are) at the front gate of my new residence here and I find it funny.
*mental note: check how common the name Luke and the last name Thompson are in England
2. I saw a cycling unicorn.

Could sound weird but it’s London, you know. (I hope you do because it is my first time in London. I’ve been here just since late August and I’m still, happily, freaking out many times in a day.)

Well, long story short… Let’s get to the unicorn.

Friday. 16th November. 10:00 am. Near Hackney Central.
I was on the sidewalk [Luke: pavement, surely?] trying to cross the road when a man dressed up as a unicorn cycled past. I smiled, of course, (I’m quite expressive). What a happy moment, a unicorn on a bike. In the morning. Lovely. Suddenly, a woman (she didn’t look crazy although she probably was…) came up to me, quite angry, shouting:
– “Are you laughing at that unicorn?????”
Here is when you come in. At that moment I remembered one of your marvellous podcasts dedicated to Alan Partridge when you made the difference between “laughing at” and “laughing with” (thanks Luke. The same in Spanish but still thanks because many times it’s just the opposite. And mainly thanks for the English comedy you bring to our lives) So I said:
– “Not at, with…” (Quite shy…or scared…)
And the woman said (still shouting and in an angry mood):
– “Oh, good. Because if a cycling unicorn doesn’t cheer you up you are MISERABLE!!!”
And she was gone, like very offended… THE END.

I don’t know whether it’s been “life-live comedy” or what, but it did feel like a comedy sketch.

That’s all. I’ve just received a notification of a new Luke’s English Podcast episode (how appropriate! I’m glad you’re back) so I’m now going to do another thing that cheers me up apart from seeing a cycling unicorn: listen to your podcast. THANKS.

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Parts 5 & 6 with Amber coming soon (Words for 2018)

553. Fighting Wildland Fires with Benny the Russian Firefighter

Talking to firefighter Anton Beneslavsky (aka “Benny”) who works as the leader of an international fire fighting project. We talk about becoming a firefighter, the work that he’s doing with Greenpeace around the world and the very serious threat of climate change.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi folks,

This summer I received a message from a listener in Russia called Sasha, suggesting that I talk to his friend Benny on the podcast.

This is what Sasha wrote to me:
I know a guy who works on the Greenpeace Global Fire project. His name is Benny (actually Anton Beneslavsky but that’s just a formality). He has been fighting wildfires almost all over the world and teaching volunteers and Greenpeace staff how to fight wildfires. In fairness, I must say that teaching people how to fight all types of wildfires is not the main purpose of the project. What is more important is raising people’s awareness of wildfires and the consequences of these fires. So they’re trying to do all these sorts of things within the project, fighting wildfires, teaching and mind shifting as they call it. Benny is really of great experience in this topic.
I would like to ask you (with great humbleness:)) if there is any chance that you’ll find it possible to have a conversation with Benny on your Podcast for the sake of pleasure and good things?

Well, since you asked so nicely…!

Anton “Benny” Beneslavsky (Photo credit: Ivan Burov)

Benny sounded to me like an interesting person doing important work and so we arranged an interview over Skype and you’re going to listen to it in this episode.

Benny first became a firefighter as a volunteer 8 years ago in order to fight large wildfires (wildland fires) which were burning near where he lived in Moscow. For the non Russian listeners, 2010 is infamous in Russia as the year of big wildfires in various parts of the country that became a major public health issue.

This from Wikipedia
The 2010 Russian wildfires were several hundred wildland fires that broke out across Russia, primarily in the west in summer 2010. They started burning in late July and lasted until early September 2010. The fires were associated with record-high temperatures, which were attributed to climate change[4]—the summer had been the hottest recorded in Russian history[5]—and drought.[6]
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven regions, and 28 other regions were under a state of emergency due to crop failures caused by the drought.[7] The fires cost roughly $15 billion in damages.
A combination of the smoke from the fires, producing heavy smog blanketing large urban regions and the record-breaking heat wave put stress on the Russian healthcare system. Munich Re estimated that in all, 56,000 people died from the effects of the smog and the heat wave.[8] The 2010 wildfires were the worst on record to that time.

This is what got Benny to become a volunteer firefighter in the beginning, and in this episode you’re going to hear Benny talking all about becoming a firefighter, the work that he’s doing with Greenpeace to fight wildfires and their causes around the world, the impact of climate change, the best and worst things about being a firefighter and projects that he’ll be working on in the future.

Some of the dedicated language learners listening will, no doubt, be paying attention to Benny’s English during this interview, but don’t judge him on his English which he uses every day in his work, instead judge Benny on that work that he’s doing and the important issues relating to climate change that he mentions during our conversation.

And this is quite timely because climate change is back in the headlines again.

This from theweek.co.uk just a few days ago

UN report warns of global warming
A new report from the UN warns of a huge risk if global warming is allowed to exceed 1.5C and calls for unprecedented action within the next 12 years to prevent extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty. The authors of the report, some of the world’s leading scientists, say the goal is affordable and feasible although it is ambitious.

So this is a big issue right now for all of us.

I don’t always feature non-native speakers on this podcast, but sometimes I do and I think it’s worth remembering that as long as you’re communicating effectively and playing your part as a member of a team in English then that’s the main thing. I mean, you don’t necessarily have to wait to have 100% native-level English before you can start doing important work in English. Perhaps knowledge of vocabulary is the most important thing, and being a clear speaker.

On the subject of vocabulary, look out for all the words and phrases relating to fire in this episode.

There is a bit of disturbance in the sound quality unfortunately as Benny’s headset microphone picked up all the plosive sounds that he made. Those are the /p/ / b/ /s/ /k/ /tch/ /f/ sounds, etc. So while Benny is speaking his microphone does sort of explode a bit sometimes, but there it is, this is just what we’re dealing with. I’m sure when you do your conference calls or when you’re on the phone to another part of the world the sound quality isn’t always perfect. In fact, it’s often quite poor isn’t it? So, this is good practice for you, and it’s also good practice to listen to non-native speakers because if you’re working internationally you’re probably going to speaking English to other non-natives and that’s an important thing to consider.

Right, so without any further ado, let’s get started.


Ending

If you’d like to know more there are links on my website for…

Greenpeace Indonesia www.greenpeace.org/seasia/news/-Fires-burning-inside-palm-oil-concessions-linked-to-major-household-brands/

Greenpeace Russia www.greenpeace.org/international/story/15550/the-incredible-firefighting-women-of-russia/

Fighting fires sparks dialogue and builds respect

Want to support Greenpeace Russia and the work they’re doing? Click this link to their crowdfunding page where you can donate money to help them buy equipment and other resources join.greenpeace.ru/firefighters/index.phtml

Thank you for listening.

Don’t forget to visit the website where you can find all those links, and also links for my sponsors, my premium service and everything else, even updates on my next stand-up shows and my Twitter feed and all that, not to mention the active comment section where LEPsters from around the world chat to each other and express themselves in English.

Jump into the comment section whenever you want. Everyone’s welcome.

Coming up next on the podcast…

I’ve got some more interviews. I haven’t done a rambling episode for a while (although they’re usually a bit rambling but I mean one where I’m on my own) so I’d quite like to do that soon. Maybe just have no notes or script or anything and just talk off the top of my head. It’s been a while since I did that. But I have loads of interviews saved on my computer which I’ve been editing. For some reason September was full of Skype calls to different people. So lots of guests with different accents. Also I managed to get another episode with my parents, for more of our slightly inane rambling and I have to say this one really cracks me up. I think it will give you a chuckle on the bus. That might be the next episode, or very soon anyway.

Anyway, bye for now!

Bye bye bye

Luke

544. The Rick Thompson Report: No Deal Brexit

Talking to my dad about the current Brexit situation, including what could actually happen in the UK if we leave the EU with no deal. Expect language relating to politics, economics and the big issues of the day. Intro and outtro transcripts available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hi everyone, how are you doing? Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report. Long-term listeners will be familiar with this type of episode. This is where I talk to my dad about the news, which is almost always about Brexit. We’ve been doing these ever since the referendum happened, tracking the UK government as they attempt to extract the country from the EU. We’ve heard all about the leave campaign and their claims, the impossible job of negotiating a deal with an entity that you’re also leaving – like marrying someone that you’re also divorcing.

The last time I did a RTR was in December last year and we talked about the state of the UK’s negotiation with the EU, with the shaky leader Theresa May attempting to put together a new deal which could somehow keep things as good as possible while also letting us leave. Both my dad and I are quite perplexed by the desperate need to leave the EU, when it looks like just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Sometimes I hear from people, or read things on social media that suggest that the UK as a whole wants to leave the EU. I might read comments about how Britain wants to leave, or Britain doesn’t want to be in the EU, and I feel a bit annoyed because there are plenty of British people who think Brexit is a bad idea. I’m one and so is my dad, we make no bones about that, but this isn’t for some ideological reason, or because we’ve picked sides. It’s because it doesn’t really make practical sense to close access to our biggest marketplace and a zone which also includes all sorts of environmental, scientific and security communities that we will also be leaving. Also the real prospect of leaving the EU with no deal could be catastrophic in many ways, and even the UK government is issuing advice about stockpiling food and other measures in the event of a no deal Brexit. The deadline is approaching fast and the UK still hasn’t found an agreement with the EU. What will happen next March when we leave officially? How will this affect life in the UK? Listen on to find out.

I do invive your comments of course, so if you feel like you have something to say, leave your comment in the comment section. I’m very curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking.

But now, without any further ado, let’s talk to my dad about the latest Brexit news.


Ending Transcript

So there you have it. There are my dad’s thoughts on Brexit. I certainly hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Rick Thompson Report, keeping you up to date on Britain’s tricky situation.

As I said earlier, please do leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’m curious to know what the rest of the world is thinking. I wonder how Brexit is reported and generally considered in your country? Is the leading narrative that Brexit is a good or bad thing, and why do you think that is? Do you think Brexit would help or harm your country in some way?

Thanks as ever for listening, leaving comments and generally being great audience members.

Have a great day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I’ll speak to you again soon.

Bye…

541. What British People Say vs What They Mean

Examining British communication style and debunking a few myths about how British people communicate. This episode is based on a famous infographic called “What British People Say vs What They Really Mean” or “The Anglo-EU Translation Guide”. It contains lots of thoughts about how direct and indirect cultures communicate with each other, and some samples of business English, with a few improvised scenarios too! Transcript available.

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Transcript (below)

In this episode I’m talking about an infographic which is often shared online called “What British People Say vs What They Mean”. In the infographic there are three columns. One with sentences typically spoken by English people. The next column has what, apparently, British people really mean, and then the third column shows us the perceived meanings of those sentences by foreigners. It is supposed to highlight the indirectness of British English speakers and the how people from direct cultures often misunderstand us.

 

I’m going to go through the graphic line by line, discussing the language, talking about the indirect communication style of British people and discussing to what extent this infographic is true and how much is a stereotype.

This relates to several conversations I’ve had in episodes in the past, namely the ones about cultural differences with Amber & Paul, British humour with Amber and the one about language & culture with Alex van Walsum.

This chart often pops up online. You might have seen it. It’s shared on Facebook or Twitter, and people send it to me by email. People send this to me all the time, often accompanied with the question “Is this true?” It’s probably the infographic that I’ve seen more than any other. A while ago I shared it on my Facebook page and it got a big response with thousands of people seeing it and loads of comments.

The chart is anonymously written. It may have first appeared in an article on the Economist’s website. Apparently some people say it originated in a Dutch company that had dealings with the UK, which is interesting because the Dutch are known for being very direct in their communication, so through their eyes the Brits might seem excessively indirect. The infographic is sometimes entitled “What British People Say vs What They Mean” or the “Anglo-EU translation guide”.

Basically the chart presents a list of utterances, which it presents as typical things the British say in business situations, and then two other columns which represent what British people really mean when they say those things, and then how other people actually understand them to mean something quite different.

I think it’s based on communication and cultural differences between the UK and European neighbours. The underlying cultural difference is that in the UK we have an indirect communication culture, particularly with regard to saying negative things, and tend to signal their disapproval, disappointment, disagreement or offence in other ways – either by minimising the negative part, or using euphemism, which may be hard to understand to the untrained ear.

In my experience as an English person living in France, I find that it is definitely true that we have slightly different communication styles as a result of our cultural differences. But they’re just slightly different really.

One example of a difference between France and the UK is that generally in the UK our first interaction with people – especially people in service positions, e.g. if you’re going to the post office to collect a package which you’ve been told is there even though last time you went they claimed it definitely wasn’t there. So you have to go back and kind of complain and make them look again. In the UK my normal way of doing it would be to approach the situation in a nice way, using friendliness as a social lubricant to help things go more smoothly. Like “Sorry to bother you again! I went to the other post office and they told me the package is definitely here. Could you have another look for me? Thanks!” You kind of talk to that person like you understand how you’re personally putting them out, but between the two of you there is a friendly understanding. You’re nice to the person, even though technically they’re wrong and you’re sort of making a complaint. That’s how it goes much of the time – not every time of course. Often when Brits are unhappy with a service they will complain about it very directly. But many times you’ll see or hear Brits being pretty friendly when dealing with people in impersonal situations.

Now, that might actually be perceived not as a nice, informal gesture – but as fake, and two faced because in fact you’re actually not happy with the situation and you don’t know them personally, so why are you being all chummy?

In Paris, your first interaction would typically be a bit more formal and also a bit less friendly. If you’re all nice and friendly and you smile, you might be perceived as weak. That’s not to say that French people don’t smile – of course they do, but in that kind of service situation where you are making a complaint you’re likely to be serious and with a straight face. You can be completely straight about it and bring your unhappiness to the table. It’s normal to dig your heels in and argue a little bit before things then turn into a more amicable arrangement. It usually ends well, but there’s a bit of conflict at the start, for example saying “no” or “it’s not possible” at the beginning, before deciding later to ‘make an exception’.

I refer you to the episode with Alex Van Walsum who sums this up really well.

teacherluke.libsyn.com/391-discussing-language-culture-comedy-with-alexander-van-walsum

Episode 391 – play the bit

If you’re nice and you compromise from the start they’ll walk all over you without even realising it. So there’s conflict at the beginning until the thing finally gets resolved, and later on a relationship of trust might develop from the problem being fixed, but it comes after. I’m not saying in the UK we’re never direct or angry in that situation, or that in France people are never nice at first, I’m just saying in my experience it pays to be more formal and tough at the beginning or you’ll be taken for granted. Whereas in the UK my approach would be a bit different.

Sometimes this difference gets the better of me. I might go to a restaurant and say “Do you have a table for two at 8?” and the guy says “It’s complicated” or “No, it’s not possible” and I smile and say “OK, that’s a pity, thanks for your help!” and then leave. But what I often don’t realise is that “No, it’s not possible” is just the starting point. What you should do then is wait and just not take no for an answer. Wait and say “Is there anything you can do?” and dig your heels in a bit. Often, after a bit of digging, you might get a result. But you have to push through a little barrier first in many cases.

The point is that the words we use and the messages we convey are often quite different, and messages are often subject to various cultural codes which allow the people involved to truly understand what is being said vs what is the intended meaning, or illocutionary force of something.

Or more simply, in indirect cultures we don’t always say exactly what we mean, and it depends on the other person to decode the intended meaning of our messages. This is more common in some cultures than others, and this kind of indirectness does have a social function. If you’re from a direct culture, you’re less likely to be able to decode the messages and that’s where the misunderstandings happen.

That brings us to this chart of what British people say vs what they mean.

This chart essentially targets this cultural and linguistic point quite specifically, and while there is truth in it, I think the chart is not completely accurate.

Nevertheless, let’s go through what Brits say vs what they mean and see what we can learn.

One of the most important problems with this chart is the lack of context and the fact that these are spoken phrases written down, so none of the intonation is included. Intonation and context are vital in the way these messages are delivered and understood.

Without the context and intonation, this chart makes Brits look incredibly devious and two-faced. It also makes other people seem pretty dumb and naive.

On balance, what do I think of this?

It’s exaggerated. Brits are not as stuffy, awkward or unable to say what we mean as this seems to suggest. It’s slightly old fashioned too.

Also it’s not really fair on foreigners who aren’t that stupid.

I think it originally came from the Netherlands (who we do most of our business with in the EU) and they’re known for being a very plain talking, direct culture. So, this is perhaps from the dutch point of view, which exaggerates things further.

There is a point being made too, which is that the English say the opposite of what they mean, which is not true. Direct cultures tend to view indirect ones as being two-faced, hypocritical and even duplicitous. We do speak indirectly, perhaps downplaying negative things and attempting to use tact and diplomacy but it doesn’t stretch to being deceitful. For the English it’s a way to keep things nice and to sugarcoat our formal relationships. It’s a respectful distance which has been in the culture for a long time. We might be a bit indirect by dutch standards, but we know what we’re talking about. We understand what each other means, because we know the codes. So it’s a functional communication system, and just another way to share ideas while getting on at the same time.

Another point is that you could argue that it’s specifically English, rather than British because there is a slight cultural difference between the English and the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and even Cornish people, who might be more direct. Anyway, I know plenty of English people who are perfectly capable of being direct and saying exactly what they mean.

Also, there may be a class issue here. I think this relates to certain kinds of middle class or upper class English people, who tend to communicate like this, especially in a formal situation. There are certainly plenty of English people who are very direct in their communication style.
The situation is also important. Most of these phrases are used at work where diplomacy is important. In social situations these same people might be extremely direct, for example with friends who you make fun of and speak to without any kind of filter.

The sentences are out of context, so it’s not obvious how the phrase is intonated or what other phrases are used around it. Written down like that it has no nuance and can make the Brits look like pretty awful. So, this graph is designed to make people laugh and illustrate a tendency for Brits to be a bit indirect, but it is by no means a flawless guide to British communication style.
It’s a bit black and white. In fact there are plenty of UK individuals who are more direct than this, and EU individuals who are indirect. It’s a bit “them and us”, a bit ‘black and white’ and therefore a bit unfair.

It’s not just Brits. There are plenty of other cultures or individuals who also communicate like this. Canadians, for example, are well-known for having a polite and indirect communication style.

While there is definitely an underlying point being demonstrated by the chart, taking it on face value makes British people seem insincere and sneaky – which is a common criticism of us by European people with direct communication styles. Whereas us Brits see our communication style as diplomatic and avoiding conflict and essentially all about being nice, other people think we are not being honest, straight or sincere. We just don’t want to be too negative or nasty, but we come across as being unsure of ourselves, weak or untrustworthy. Equally, from the other side, Brits think the French can be wilfully difficult, stubborn and problematic because of how direct they are with negative comments. We also find the Germans – who tend to state things exactly as they are, to be cold and humourless with their ultra-pragmatic approach which doesn’t involve much small talk or ‘window dressing’. It’s tricky isn’t it!

In English we like to sugarcoat things. Not every culture does that. Some do it more than us.
Of course it doesn’t always go like that and most of the time communication happens without problems and it’s all fine. For example I have had many many exchanges with people from many different cultures including those from direct cultures and they’ve been absolutely lovely, but then again I am quite culturally aware and able to minimise this sort of thing by recognising the importance of saying exactly what you mean. I imagine that when people from other countries do business with Brits who are not used to cross cultural communication that sometimes there is friction and it’s often related to these cultural differences.

Also, it could be related to writing style in emails where this kind of thing becomes so much more obvious. I can imagine foreign people receiving English emails and wondering what exactly the person means – like the example of my wife and the castle.

For example, apparently when the German company BMW took over the British car manufacturer Rover, it took ages for BMW to fully understand the extent of the problems at Rover because all the British staff minimised the problems or spoke in slightly vague euphemisms. The Germans were not able to decode the embedded negatives within the Brits’ responses.

E.g. “We’ve had a few slight issues on the production line. Staff have expressed some preference for a longer break during the afternoon shift.” How big are those problems on the production line exactly? It would probably be worth investigating them further rather than assuming they are just “a few slight issues”.

Overall, I think there is truth in this chart, which is why it’s such an enduring success online, but it’s not totally true. The truth is that Brits put a positive shine on things as a social lubricant (sugarcoating) and it works within indirect cultures, whereas direct cultures say things as they are which can make them seem unfriendly or cold hearted yet ultimately more sincere. Neither approach is better than the other, they’re just alternatives.

Really, it’s about context. With indirect cultures, the indirect style probably feels more natural, with direct cultures it’s the other way around. The problems arise when the two cultures get together and then misunderstand each other. For the chart, more perspective and context is required to really understand what’s going on, and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. I say knee-jerk reactions – these are sort of quick, instant responses that happen without thoughtful consideration (like when a doctor taps your knee and it jerks forward without you thinking about it). Those things might be to conclude that Germans have no sense of humour, French people are willfully difficult and don’t want to work, English people are hypocrites who don’t say what they mean.

Simple binary comparisons of language without context like this can foster unbalanced opinions which can lead to or reinforce resentment and things like that. The final point is that despite our communication style, we’re still just as fair-minded, honest, trustworthy, narrow minded, dishonest and untrustworthy as anybody else! Don’t jump to conclusions and never let cultural differences cause you to make fast judgements about people without seeing the whole picture!

“The British are too polite to be honest, whereas the Germans are too honest to be polite.”
Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13545386