Talking to my mum about a book which you could read as part of your English learning routine. The book tells the story of The Beatles and their impact on society. We review the book and then discuss many aspects of The Beatles story, especially the four Beatles themselves.
This is a new episode of Gill’s Book club and I’m talking again to my mum, Gill Thompson about a specific book which you might want to read as part of your English learning routine.
Hello Mum, how are you?
The book this time is all about The Beatles, which is a band from England that you *might* have heard of.
You could read this book, and if you did I’m sure you would learn plenty of things both in terms of language and general knowledge, but there’s no pressure to do so. If you like, you can just listen to this conversation with my mum and hopefully this will be interesting and useful enough on its own.
But if you are looking for a good book to read in English, then this one could be a good choice, and hopefully this conversation will help you to understand the whole thing a bit more, which in turn should help you pick up more English from it. So, my advice is: listen to this conversation with my mum and if you’re inspired, get a copy of the book and read it, or if you prefer, just listen to us without feeling any pressure to read the book at all. Hopefully this will still be enjoyable and interesting even if you haven’t read the book and have no plans to do so.
Over 700 episodes and 12 years ago, in the 3rd episode of this podcast, I interviewed my mum about her memories of seeing The Beatles performing live on stage in the 1960s, which she did, twice.
Now, we’re going to talk about the band again, this time focusing on a book which is all about the Beatles phenomenon and their place in history. The plan is to review the book as a text for learners of English, and then have a deeper discussion about The Beatles.
You probably know that I’m a big fan of The Beatles and grew up with their music, as my parents were (and still are) fans too. For years I’ve been thinking about doing more episodes about The Beatles story, and mentally preparing myself for it, but I have never actually got round to recording anything, mainly because the topic is just too big and there’s too much to say! But finally I have actually recorded some episodes that might scratch the surface of this topic a bit, and hopefully will give you something insightful and interesting to listen to, whether you are a fan of this band or whether you know almost nothing about them at all.
So this is going to be the first in a series of episodes in which I talk about Beatle-related things. There’s this one with my mum and then a few episodes with another guest who is an English teacher and something of an expert on The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular.
So, Beatle episodes are coming. I suppose, for some of you, episodes about The Beatles are like busses. You wait ages for one and then loads of them arrive at the same time.
And by the way, I am certainly not forgetting the main focus of this podcast, which is all about helping you learn English. I think The Beatles can help you learn English, reading is very important in learning English, and so why not do some reading about The Beatles?
Plus, later in this Beatles series there will be some language-focused episodes, using The Beatles as a context – focusing on some specific descriptive vocabulary and also some analysis of the Beatles’ song lyrics.
Maybe you’re not a fan of The Beatles. This is fine. I’m not going to try to convince you that you should like their music. That’s a matter of taste. But I do think that their story is something else entirely. I think it is hard to deny the fact that the story of these 4 individuals, the things that happened to them and the impact they had on the world – this is all simply fascinating. It’s an epic story. So, even if you don’t like the music, I hope you stay just for the story.
Now, let’s start this episode of Gill’s Book Club, talking about a recently published book about The Beatles.
Length – Is it a long book?
It’s long (642 pages) but the chapters are short, so it’s possible to read it in little chunks.
It’s available in audiobook and Kindle versions.
Appropriacy for Learners of English
The language is modern and plain in style. It’s quite literary of course, because it is a book and not a screenplay or something, but generally speaking it is clearly written and should be readable for learners with an Upper Intermediate level or above, although there will be some difficult words of course, but that’s good. I would say that overall the style is modern, neutral and definitely the kind of English that I would recommend as a good model of English for my listeners.
The short chapters make the whole thing quite easy to digest. It’s in bitesize chunks.
You can dip into it and you don’t necessarily have to read it in order. It’s almost like a collection of essays.
The audiobook version on Audible is good – different voices and voice actors doing different accents, including pretty good impressions of the main people involved.
Why is it called “One Two Three Four”?
This is the first thing you hear on the first song on side 1 of The Beatles’ first album “Please Please Me”, released in early 1963 – You can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in at the start of the song by saying “1, 2 , 3 , 4”. Also, there were four Beatles, so…
So there you have it, after more than 700 episodes I finally returned to the topic of The Beatles with my mum and I think it’s fair to say that we went into quite a lot more depth than we did in episode 3 back in 2009, although episode 3 does include stuff we didn’t mention here, specifically my mum’s account of actually seeing The Beatles perform live, twice. So check out episode 3 if you haven’t done so.
Also you could check out that episode in which I asked my uncle Nic to tell us about the time he met Paul McCartney. He told the story in episode 414, and not only has he met Paul, he’s also played football with the members of Pink Floyd and hung out with The Who backstage at one of their concerts, and more. So check that one out too. Links for those episodes are on the page for this one on my website of course.
I really hope you enjoyed listening to this episode. I must admit that although I feel compelled to talk about this subject at length, part of me is concerned that this is all too much for my audience but I suppose those people who aren’t into this can just skip this stuff. It’s completely up to you. But do let me know what you think.
Remember, any time you have any thoughts about what you are hearing on this podcast, if you have responses or comments in your head as you listen, you can express them in English and I will read those comments, and so will many other LEPsters. The best place to leave your comments is on the page for the relevant episode on my website. Go to EPISODES in the menu and find the relevant episode page, scroll to the bottom and that’s where you will find the comment section. I am curious to see what you think. Any Beatle fans, get in touch. Non Beatle fans, I want to know what you’re thinking. Remember, sometimes doing this podcast is a bit like talking into the void and not quite knowing what people are thinking while I’m doing it.
I won’t talk much more at the end here, except that of course there are millions of things I wish I could have mentioned or talked about in this conversation.
We didn’t talk enough about Ringo!
There are also loads of other people and events that I wanted to mention.
I hope I didn’t talk too much.
Just in case this wasn’t quite enough rambling about The Beatles on this podcast, remember there are four (count them) four more episodes on The Beatles to come, but hopefully those episodes will be different enough to justify this series.
Anyway, 4 more Beatle related episodes are coming up.
One is a discussion about John Lennon.
Another two are language focused and we’ll be talking about adjectives for describing personality traits.
And the last one is about Beatles song lyrics and little phrases and idioms that you can learn from them.
So it’s not just rambling about The Beatles, although that will be part of it too.
Thanks again to mum for her great contribution to this episode, and yes I am lucky to have a mum who is this cool. I appreciate that and I’m really glad to get her voice on the podcast along with my other guests.
And thank you as ever for listening all the way to the end, you are the best.
Take care, look after yourselves and each other and I will speak to you again soon. I think the next episode will be Michael from Poland. But until then it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.
Talking to another runner-up from last year’s listener competition. Robin from Hamburg had a big setback in his learning of English, but worked hard to overcome it. We talk about his English learning trajectory, and ramble about German language & culture, his podcast for learners of German, podcasting microphones and then Robin teaches me some German words which are difficult to pronounce.
Hello everybody, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you are all doing alright today, wherever you are and whatever you are doing as you listen to this.
Here is a new episode, and we are returning to the WISBOLEP series with this one – talking to winners of the competition I did at the end of last year in which listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.
LEPland – that’s Luke’s English Podcast land, you see, L E P land – LEPland. Not LAPland, no, that’s Lapland – a real place, somewhere in the north of Finland. But no, I’m not talking about Lapland. I say this because sometimes people write to me and they say “Another listener here from Lapland” really? Are you from Lapland? Or do you mean LEPland. Maybe you are from Lapland, I don’t know. There are people there. If you are in Lapland, then hello to you too. Maybe you are Santa Claus (because Santa comes from Lapland) Maybe Father Christmas listens to this podcast during the year, just relaxing, taking a break. Anyway, if you are Father Chrismtas then welcome, “welcome” to everyone. But anyway, where was I? So… The competition, last year, Listeners chose some guests from LEPland to be featured in episodes of this podcast.
This episode now is the 4th in that series and the spirit of this whole competition is to let some LEPsters talk on the podcast so we can learn some things from them including insights into how they learned English, perhaps some things about the countries they come from and whatever else they can talk to us about.
This time it is the turn of Robin who comes from Hamburg in Germany.
Robin came joint 3rd in the competition with William from France. So William and Robin both received exactly the same number of votes and in fact their stories are not dissimilar (which is another way of saying that their stories are quite similar). Yes, their stories are not dissimilar in the sense that they both first learned English at school in their neighbouring countries, and then both chose to pursue English in higher education, both decided to become teachers of English and both spent time as teaching assistants in English schools in the South East of England, helping English schoolkids and students learn French or German in the case of Robin. So, funnily enough, Robin and William both have many things in common, including the fact that they both got exactly the same number of votes, so joint 3rd position, but anyway, this is Robin.
And yes, Robin is also an English teacher, just like the other WISBOLEP winners that we have had so far.
Now I would like to address something at this point and that is the fact that all the winners of this competition so far have been English teachers. Obviously they’ve been, let’s say, non-native speakers from different countries, but yes, the four people I’ve spoken to so far – they have all been English teachers, and I get the impression from reading one or two comments that some people might think it’s a bit unfair, for some reason, that the winners all seem to be English teachers, right?
Here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell, and actually I should also say, the vast majority of comments on these episodes so far have been really positive. People have loved listening to the guests that we’ve had so far and I think people have found them to be interesting and inspiring and thought-provoking and so on. But anyway, I do get the sense that there is maybe this feeling of “All the winners are English teachers. What’s going on?” and so here’s the rationale, or the logic behind this point of view, as far as I can tell. Something like this…
“Hmm, so you can only win this competition if you’re an English teacher. What about the rest of us who don’t have that advantage?”
This sort of comment seems to suggest that non-native speakers of English who are English teachers have improved their level of English as a result of being teachers, that their English improved because they became teachers or as a consequence of being English teachers, and so being an English teacher gave them an unfair advantage in this competition.
But I think it’s probably the other way round, isn’t it? Surely they reached a proficient level of English before they became teachers, and then became teachers as a consequence of having a good enough level of English. You can’t qualify as a teacher without having a fairly decent level of English first, can you?
So, I think their progress and achievements in English proficiency are still thanks to their own merit just like anyone else who has got good at English, and so I think this still counts.
Sure, perhaps their teaching work has meant that they’ve had to do more language study than most people, and that they get to use English in their work on a fairly regular basis. That’s true. So the job has probably tweaked their English that bit further than many other people, but again, I’m sure the majority of their English progress was made before becoming English teachers.
So, I just wanted to point that out in case some people listening felt there was something amiss about the results of the competition. Personally, I think it’s fine and you probably think so too, right?
But bear with me as I say just one or two other things about this.
Of course there are loads of people who achieve great things in English and who don’t choose to become teachers, and that’s great too. I really don’t mind what people do, as long as they have something to offer to my audience, and I suppose ultimately this is why listeners voted for these people in this competition, because they felt that they would have interesting things to say on the podcast, and probably some insights into improving your English, and I think those things are definitely true. I feel that the 3 interviews we’ve had so far have been very insightful and interesting, and I think that this also applies to the other interviews that you haven’t heard yet. There are three more interviews to listen to. There’s Robin, Michal and Bahar as well.
And I’m sure that even now some people are going “This is unnecessary Luke. You don’t need to justify yourself”. Ok I won’t (as I whack the microphone).
Anyway, so, after this one with Robin, the next one will be Michal from Poland and he has achieved a decent level of English and he’s not an English teacher. Not yet anyway! I don’t know what he will choose to do in the future, but so far he has not qualified as a teacher.
Anyway, I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, even though I have just devoted a number of minutes to talking about it. I think ultimately it doesn’t really matter that much, does it? Essentially we are listening to LEPsters who other LEPsters wanted to hear on this podcast and you know what – I am really enjoying these episodes, I think that the LEPsters who voted in the competition made some really good choices, and this series has been very well-received overall, which is great.
And this brings us to our 4th WISBOLEP guest – Robin from Hamburg in Germany (just in case you weren’t sure where Hamburg was. That’s right, it’s in Germany) so here we go.
So I spoke to a few weeks ago. Robin is someone who learned English at school like most people, and liked it, and then chose to pursue his English studies and broaden his English skills while still living in Germany. There were challenges and setbacks, as you will hear, but ultimately he managed to immerse himself in the language and get his English to a good enough level to be able to train to become a teacher of the language in Germany. Later on he went to England to get some work experience as a teaching assistant in German classes at a posh school in the South East.
Along the way Robin also chose to start a podcast for learners of German. So Robin is a podcaster too, just like me. Robin’s podcast is called Auf Deutsch Gesagt, which I hope I’m pronouncing correctly. Speakers of German, indeed Robin, in fact, you could get in the comments section and tell me if I’ve pronounced that correctly. Auf Deutsch Gesagt!
So if you are learning German and you want a podcast that is similar to mine but in German, you could listen to Robin’s podcast Auf Deutsch Gesagt! Which translates as “In plain German” or “In plain language” which I guess means that the German that you can hear in his episodes is the sort of natural German that people use on a daily basis. As Robin has said, he was quite inspired by my approach to LEP, and so I guess Auf Deutsch Gesagt is along similar lines. So that’s Robin’s podcast for people learning German. It’s on Spotify and is available where you normally get your podcasts.
There are links for his podcast on the page for this episode too.
So this conversation ended up being a bit longer than some of the other interviews with WISBOLEP winners, but that’s partly because we found that there were quite a lot of things for us to talk about including Robin’s learning of English after being told by one of his university teachers that he should just give up because he wasn’t good enough, his experience as a teaching assistant at a school in England, some comparisons between English and German language and culture, some slightly geeky stuff about the recording setups and microphones that we use for our podcasts, and then finally we thought it could be fun for Robin to try and teach me a bit of German, so you will hear me struggling to pronounce a few words in German near the end of the conversation, which should give you a bit of a laugh.
So that’s it then for this introduction. I will chat to you again briefly on the other side of this conversation but let’s now meet WISBOLEP runner up Robin from Hamburg, and here we go.
So that was Robin from Hamburg, teaching me a bit of German there, which was a bit of fun wasn’t it? I think it was. I hope you enjoyed it, listening to me struggle with another language for a change.
Again, if you’re learning German and you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, why not check out Auf Deutsch gesagt! (Spell it) So, again, you can just check the page for this episode on my website and you’ll see all of this stuff written. My introduction and this ending part here. It’s all written and you’ll find links to Auf Deutsch gesagt! If you want to listen to it.
It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you will find links on the website to help you find it. (I’ve just said that!)
As you heard Robin say there, his approach is pretty similar to mine so it might be what you are looking for if you are learning German.
Also, I think it was very interesting to note the trajectory of Robin’s English learning.
Ooh “Trajectory” – there’s a nice word. (spell it)
Let me just talk about it a little bit. Firstly, it refers to the path that an object takes as it flies through the air. Now we’re talking about the trajectory of Robin’s English journey, but I think the first use or meaning of the word trajectory normally refers to objects flying through the air, and the path that they take as they fly through the air.
For example the trajectory of a plane from take off to landing. Imagine a line going up from the ground soaring into the air, over distance, then going back down to the ground. Trajectory – it doesn’t always mean it goes down, up and then back down again. It could just be from down to up.
Also you’ve got the trajectory of a rocket, or the trajectory of a golf ball flying from the ground, up into the air, over the grass and maybe landing on the green, hopefully, if you’re a golfer. The path that an object takes as it moves through the air. That’s the trajectory.
The second use of the word is metaphorical or idiomatic and it’s used to describe the movement or path of other things, like for example someone’s career trajectory, or the growth trajectory of a company, upward trajectory or downward trajectory. Imagine a line showing the movement of something making a curved line going up and over. It could be a line on a graph.
So, it is interesting to follow the trajectory of Robin’s English learning, especially that moment when he was told he wasn’t good enough to pursue his studies, and then he kind of doubled down on his English, and the results kind of spoke for themselves.
Arguably, being told “Oh you’re not good enough, I think you should give up” that is a very damaging thing to say to a learner of English, you would have thought, although not in the case of Robin, because this is the sort of kick up the bum that he needed. This is the kick up the arse that Robin needed apparently. I don’t know, I guess it could go either way. For some people, being told that would just destroy your confidence and you’d never achieve anything as a language learner after being told that. Or it might give you a wake up call and if you’re determined, well, this is the slap in the face that I needed – metaphorical slap in the face that I needed to kind of actually get me going.
Anyway, in the case of Robin it was the thing that kind of made him grasp the challenge.
So, thankfully Robin took it as a challenge and seriously started to immerse himself in English all the time, and probably did self study from grammar books and other things but basically he just put a lot of time and effort into his English and it paid off, and just listen to him now.
It seemed to make a lot of difference, right? Then he was able to qualify as a teacher and help other people with their English learning trajectory too, but the key thing is that he took the bull by the horns and took control of his learning himself [There’s a nice phrase! + some rambling about how you shouldn’t actually take a real bull by the horns because you’ll probably get gored in the stomach…]
The thing is that Robin took the bull by the horns, metaphorically speaking, and took control of his learning himself, realising it was all down to him and he did it in his own way.
Again, I hope you agree that this has been quite inspiring – basically as a way to say, you can do it too if you put your mind to it and you put the time in.
Again, I will echo my statements from the last of these episodes – I often tell you about the importance of motivation and the importance of doing certain types of practice, but also I just want to say, equally don’t worry about doing anything really. Don’t worry about it too much. Don’t feel bad if you’re not doing the things I often say. At the very least, just listen, enjoy listening, be happy, stay positive and enjoy spending time with English in any way that you like. This is probably the most important thing, that you have to maintain a good and positive feel-good relationship with the language, and when the time is right, you can take more control and really apply yourself by doing different kinds of practice, but don’t worry if you just like listening to English and that’s all you do. That’s fine. It’s all good. It’s all good in the hood.
But if you’re always looking for specific tips on ways to improve your English, if you want to take the bull by the horns and you want to improve your English in more applied ways including your pronunciation and your accent then pay attention to some things that Michal from Poland is going to say in the next WISBOLEP episode, which will arrive in a few weeks. Little sneak preview there of the episode with Michal from Poland.
And of course there’s the ongoing LEP Premium project which is designed to be a service that can help you make sure your English is on the right trajectory. Parts 3 & 4 of P29 are coming very soon – and they are going to cover more solid vocabulary, collocations, synonyms and phrases based on things my dad said in episode 704 of the podcast, with listen & repeat pronunciation exercises in part 2 as well. So if you want to hear that, access the PDFs for it and all the other premium content visit www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
But in any case, I hope you enjoyed this episode and thanks again to Robin for his contribution. It was great to talk to him. It was really nice to listen to him and just hear about his story and so on. I apologise if I spoke too much during the conversation, but it was a conversation after all, and that’s fine isn’t it?
As ever, let us know your thoughts in response to this episode in the comments section for this episode, right?
If you’re looking for the episode page where you can write your comments and also read transcripts for the introduction and ending of episodes like this, you will find the link in the description for this, wherever you are listening. [Luke rambles a bit about the Apple podcasts app] or just go to teacherluke.co.uk and then click EPISODES in the menu.
Well, it’s time to finish, isn’t it? It’s time to end.
Thank you for listening to my podcast again. Good luck with your English and I will speak to you soon, but now it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye bye bye.
Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.
Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.
You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to.
But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes.
You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available).
The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.
In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do.
Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.
So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress.
Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.
Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.
Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.
So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.
You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast. For more information, visit teacherluke.co.uk
Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington.
Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.
There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today.
The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment.
After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.
Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself.
Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.
Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation
I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.
What is tinnitus?
Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?
My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes.
What is a maelstrom?
We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way)
Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)
Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older?
Why would this be the case?
Cake & Eating Cake
What kind of cake did Kate bring this time?
What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.
What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word?
Why did I use it?
Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.
Derren Brown (hypnotist)
How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?
That’s it for the questions.
As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.
Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington.
OK, here we go!
Links & Comments
Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show
Some Listener Comments from Episode 689
Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.
However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财（gōng xǐ fā cái）means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”（xīn nián kuài lè）.
By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋
Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.
Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!
If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)
There you go luke !
Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)
Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”
Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere.
Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.
Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.
Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆
Some other vocabulary to clarify
To flatter someone / flattery
This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.
“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.
Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)
Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:
“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”
Or “Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.
Savour / savoury
To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.
Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)
Join me as I potter around my flat and give the results of the WISBOLEP competition then make a cup of tea and have a ramble about things like listening to non-native English speakers, reducing clutter in your home, renting vs owning a property, what it must be like to have only one hand, Zatoichi the blind swordsman, The Mandalorian TV series, Christmas plans and more. Includes a song on the guitar at the end.
Here are the competition results in full. Congratulations to Walaa for taking the top spot!
I’ve decided to talk to the top 6 candidates on the podcast in order to find out their stories, ask for their comments on learning English and more. Walaa will get a full episode for herself, and the others might share several episodes. We’ll see. The episodes will probably be recorded and uploaded in January.
Those people are: Walaa, Bahar, Robin, William, Tasha Liu and Michał. I’ll be in touch by email 👍
WISBOLEP Results (in reverse order)
16th place: Ksenia from LEPland – 29
15th place: Rasul from Ukraine – 92
Joint 13th place: Patrick from LEPland – 113 -&- Leisan from Russia – 113
12th place: Evgenia from Russia – 120
11th place: Priscilla from Indonesia – 121
10th place: Ezio from China – 137
9th place: Vladimir in Moscow – 154
8th place: Vadim from Russia – 173
7th place: Jane from Russia, living in China – 178
6th place: Michał from Poland – 300
5th place: Bahar from Iran – 337
Joint 3rd place: Robin from Hamburg – 361 – William from France – 361
2nd place: Tasha Liu from China – 391
1st place: Walaa from Syria – 2,801
Other words, names and links mentioned in this episode
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Upby Marie Kondo.
The Japanese art of decluttering (reducing clutter) and organizing.
Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman
All the WISBOLEP Recordings
In case you’d like to listen to all the competition entries again, including the 85 people who you didn’t hear in LEP#692.
Song Lyrics: “One of those People” by Neil Innes
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time I don’t want no bad news messin’ with my mind I don’t want no smart ass media clown Wising me up and then dumbing me down I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time
Not just ordinary crap I’m talking about a constant stream here Continually getting in my way I’ve got crap in the workplace Crap on TV Crap in the global economy I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time Oh Lord I ask you, is it such a crime? The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid
Well who is and who isn’t these days, it’s hard to tell When so many people have so many good reasons to feel more than just a little annoyed What can you do when you’re sure somebody Is fooling around with your reality I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid
The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
What can you do when you’re sure somebody Is fooling around with your reality I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
Sean Connery died at the weekend. Sir Sean Connery as maybe I should call him. So here is an episode about Sean Connery, or at least an episode in which I ramble on about Sean Connery.
Just in case you don’t know – Sean Connery was an actor from Scotland who played James Bond (technically not the first, but he’s considered to be the first proper James Bond) and plenty of other roles in other films. Which ones?
Right, so hopefully you know now who I’m talking about.
Did you hear the news? Is this a big moment for you, or for people where you are? I don’t know how significant this is to you, although I know that some of you were definitely moved by the news and that you want me to talk about it.
I’ll tell you about how I learned about his death yesterday, and I’ll give some of my personal thoughts and stuff in a minute.
Of course, it’s sad because we loved him in films and he’s gone now and it’s also strange whenever anyone dies because we can’t quite come to terms with the fact that someone who we knew is no longer in the world, they’re just gone now. It’s difficult to come to terms with that.
At times like this, when a public figure dies, I think we want to hear or read tributes to them, to revisit some of their finer moments, to appreciate them, maybe to re-evaluate their significance in the world, which may be the case with Sean Connery because to some extent he was quite divisive.
I wasn’t planning to do this episode, because well, as you know, I’ve got my work cut out at the moment (I’ve got lots of work to do) with things like the WISBOLEP competition (still working on it), LEP Premium content (also working on it) and other upcoming episodes.
I have another interview/conversation episode with one of my friends who you haven’t heard before, coming soon – probably in the next couple of days – here I am again, probably uploading too many episodes too close together… I hope you listen to them all.
But I digress. The point I was making was that when I heard the news of Sean Connery’s death I did feel sad (as I’ll describe in a minute) but I didn’t immediately think “Oh I must do an episode about this” – the main reason being that although I used to enjoy watching Sean Connery in films, and I’ve always had fun imitating his voice, and people sometimes say my dad looks like him (my Japanese friend Moto was really struck by this when he met him once “Your dad looks like Sean Connery!” I think he was a bit intimidated) Despite those things, I don’t feel I really know enough to record a full episode on him – or at least I feel I don’t know enough about him to do the sort of tribute that you might expect. I mean, one filled with all the key facts about his life. A full retrospective of the man’s life and work. That kind of thing. I’m not really able to do that, in the time that I have. All I can do is just talk to you about what he meant to me personally.
As I said, I’ve always enjoyed watching him in films (and by the way the James Bond films are not my favourite Sean Connery films) and I’ve always enjoyed having fun with his very characteristic voice, I was never a massive Sean Connery fan.
Some of you out there listening are probably bigger fans of his than I am and you might know more details about his life than I do (and please feel free to add things in the comment section if you feel I have missed something significant) You may have read books about him and so on. I haven’t read those books, or seen all the documentaries about him, or watched all the interviews with him (but I have seen a few), but I will talk about him because he was a huge figure in popular culture, and he was British, of course. Although actually, I think he was Scottish, first and foremost. He was a very proud Scot and a vocal supporter of Scottish independence, so let’s say that while, technically, he was British (because Scotland is part of the UK) in his heart he considered himself to be Scottish first and foremost.
Also, another reason for me to do this episode is that I think quite a lot of you out there have been expecting me to talk about Sean Connery. I know this mainly from social media and comments on my website over the last 24 hours. I’ve had messages requesting an episode on Sean or messages from people saying that when they heard the news they immediately thought of me and expected an episode about him, which is interesting, because I suppose for many people I am your portal to British culture and you’ve heard me do my Sean Connery voice on this podcast quite a few times.
Anyway, I think that when I get a few comments from people it’s usually just the tip of the iceberg and those few comments probably reflect the thoughts of many more of my ninja listeners who don’t get in touch with me.
So, I’m mainly doing this episode in response to the desire of my listeners to hear me talking about this.
It’s going to go like this.
I’m going to give my personal thoughts about how I learned about his death and what went through my mind.
I’ll read from a BBC article about Sean Connery – just so I can cover some of the main facts about him, and perhaps read some quotes from public figures who have paid tribute to him in the last few days.
And finally I think it could be fun to consider his voice and do some impressions of him and tell a couple of jokes, because his voice was definitely one of the iconic things about him.
So, once again, I will probably explain to you how to do a Sean Connery impression. We might listen to some samples of him speaking too, if I can find something appropriate.
My personal thoughts
How did I hear about it?
What was my response?
I posted a picture on Twitter which probably just confused everyone, I think. Let me explain.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny By Nile Rodgers
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hello listeners, how are you doing out there in podcastland? What’s going on with you then, eh? Where are you? Who are you? What are you doing right now? Where are you listening to this? How are you listening to this? Have you got headphones on? Are you in a car or something? In public? Are you allowed out at the moment? Have you got a mask on? I mean, a medical face mask, not a metaphorical mask, but maybe you’re wearing one of them too, hmmm….?
Anyway, enough weird nonsense. I just want to give you a hearty welcome at the start here and to make sure you’re really with me here as you listen to this episode of my podcast, which is designed to help you with your English. You see, it helps if you’re fully engaged and listening carefully. It helps with your English, if you’re really paying attention while you listen.
On the podcast today, you’re going to listen to a conversation between me and my wife. Yep, my wife is back on the podcast for the third time now. The 1st time was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502 (just to be clear: my daughter wasn’t born in episode 502 of course, I mean that was the first time my wife was on the podcast and it was just after our daughter was born) The 1st time my wife was on the podcast was just after our daughter was born, in episode 502, and the 2nd appearance by Mrs Thompson was in a premium episode series in which we taught you loads of phrases that my wife has learned from me and that we use all the time (That’s P08 by the way – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium )
The conversation you’re about to hear took place in our living room late in the evening last week, after we’d finally got our daughter to sleep and had eaten our dinner. We’d been talking about doing another podcast for a while and then finally we managed to record ourselves chatting about our experiences of living in lockdown and also to respond to some questions that listeners asked in the past.
Here are some of those questions…
What is it like to be with an English guy? Some people have wondered about this and asked me to talk to my wife about it. What about the differences in culture between us? How does this affect our relationship? We mainly talk about communication style here, and I’d like to refer back to a recent episode – #643, called The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming, as it touches on some similar points. So, what does my wife like or dislike about being with an English bloke? That’s what we deal with first.
What have you been doing on lockdown with your daughter? Then we talk about living in lockdown with our daughter, including what we’ve been doing to keep her busy and how we’ve been able to observe her development more closely during this period. I should say, there’s quite a lot of conversation about our daughter in this episode. After the recording we both were concerned that it’s just two parents going on about their child. Again, if you have children, you’ll probably relate to what we’re saying. If you don’t have kids, I don’t know what you’ll think. You might not be into that stuff. Often, parents talking about children bores the pants of single people. But this has always been quite a personal podcast and a conversation with my wife is bound to include stuff about our daughter – I mean we’ve been locked up with her for about 7 or 8 weeks, so there you go. Just a little heads up – there’s more kid-chat in this episode.
How are we raising our daughter to be bilingual? The third main thing we talk about is the bilingualism of our daughter and our approach to that. How are we making sure that she learns English as well as French? What are the main ways of doing this and what are the main factors to bear in mind when raising a child to speak two languages?
There’s also some chat about other things, like some comments from listeners, going to visit the castle near where my parents live, and whether my wife likes Star Wars and The Beatles.
Listening back, I noticed that sometimes I was speaking really fast during this episode, especially in the second half. I have mixed feelings about this, about fast speech on this podcast. For some listeners, this will be great news because some of you want to listen to fast natural conversation. For others this will be challenging.
I think I speak quickly in this conversation because my wife and I are very close (we’re married, you see) and she has no qualms about interrupting me and so I have to raise my speaking speed in order to prevent that happening. It’s a bit like when I’m with my brother. There’s this feeling that we’re going to talk over each other so we end up speaking more quickly as we try to get our ideas out before we get cut off.
I suppose ultimately this is good for you to listen to, because this is how people really speak to each other. They interrupt, they finish each other’s sentences, they make false starts and correct themselves and they don’t always finish the points they are making. It is good to listen to that kind of speaking because it’s how people really speak, unlike the kind of contrived listening you get in textbooks where everything is written in advance and read out fairly awkwardly by actors. I’m not having a go at English course books – they can be incredibly useful, but at the same time they aren’t very realistic.
My Wife’s English (actually she’s French)
You might be curious about my wife’s English, and her background with English.
Just in case you don’t know, my wife is French, and English is not her first language. She had some lessons at school and at university like most French kids but mostly she learned her English in adulthood. We speak English at home together. Sometimes we speak in French together, but as anyone with experience of this will tell you, it’s quite hard to shift the language of your couple once it has been set, and our relationship definitely started in English and my wife’s English is better than my French, so English is the language of our couple. We sometimes speak French together, but in French I am quite incompetent – I am a lot like Mr Bean, and when she married me, that’s not what she signed up, so, English is how we communicate, and there it is.
Ok then so now I would like to invite you into the living room of our flat in Paris. Would you like a glass of wine? Maybe a cup of tea? Take a seat. Don’t speak, you can’t actually speak, you can only listen (this is a bit weird), but you can write some notes to us after we’ve finished – I mean, you can share your thoughts in the comment section under this episode if you wish. Otherwise, can just sit in the corner there and listen to us talking, if it’s not too awkward.
All right, that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get on with it, here is my lovely wife, here is her lovely voice and here we go!
So here is that bit at the end where I talk to you for a while before the episode finishes.
I hope you liked that conversation. Did you think I was talking a bit quickly at some points or did you not notice? I wonder what you think of my wife? It’s a bit weird publishing these conversations with my family sometimes. I wonder if I’m giving away too much of my personal life, but it’s not like I’m doing a reality show or anything is it? Maybe I’m being precious about it. Who knows.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed spending a bit of time in our flat during this episode, but I’m afraid we’ve got to go to bed now, so err…. would you like me to call you a taxi or…?
Nah, I’m joking of course hahaha, but please do leave now, thank you.
Actually I do have a couple of things to say.
Push notifications for the app are not currently working, which is a drag. Sometimes things take ages to get done around here, but I’m working on fixing the issue. As a result, app users and premium users might not know that I’ve been uploading premium episodes. I’m now onto premium series 22 and I recently uploaded parts 4, 5, 6 in that series. Check them out, they’re in the app in the premium category. You can also get them online at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium That’s just a heads up in case you didn’t realise they were there.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
Comment on some recent news about this situation, focusing on the UK mainly again
A couple of corrections from the previous episodes in which I talked about this (651 and 652)
Ramble a little bit about what I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks
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 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.”
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.
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 Toreconnect 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.