Tag Archives: british

705. Kate Billington Returns (and she brought cake)

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.

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Introduction Transcript

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.

OK? Alright. 

So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.


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.

Tinnitus

  • 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?

Maelstrom

  • My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes. 
  • What is a maelstrom?

Violent

  • 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.

Grooming

  • 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

Tang Qiongyu

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. 😋😋😋

IcyFlame 

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!

Reda Zaouiri

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.”

Ps 2 : Hooray for becoming a Chef !

All the best !

Alexandr Suvorov (Friend of the podcast)

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.


Ending

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.”)

But

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)

I think that will probably do for now!

LEP Premium – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

More episodes coming soon, including some conversations with WISBOLEP runners-up, and other things in the pipeline.

Thank you for listening!

Leave your comments in the comment section below 👇

698. Paul is on the Podcast / Random Questions with Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor joins me for some random questions and challenges, including various little discussion points, accents, citizenship test questions, idioms, jokes and more.

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Links, Notes, etc

Happy Hour Live with Paul Taylor (with Luke Thompson)

UK Swearing / Road Rage compilation

696. WISBOLEP Competition Results + RAMBLE

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.

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Episode Notes

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 Up by 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

688. Sean Connery

I recorded an episode about Sean Connery, who died yesterday. I didn’t expect to get emotional, but I did (a bit). Here it is. Hope you like it.

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Episode Transcript & Notes

Hello listeners, 

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.

BBC Article with Tributes

www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-54761824

Sean Connery on whether he was worried about being typecast

Jokes

What time does Sean Connery arrive at Wimbledon?

  • Tennish

Why does Sean Connery hate crabs?

  • Because they’re shellfish

What did Sean Connery say when a book fell on his head?

  • I can only blame my shelf.

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

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

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669. How to Learn English

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

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Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

Right, let’s get started.

Hello, welcome to my podcast. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a come to Jesus moment for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning English is the main aim of this podcast

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

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

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

Click here for information about LEP Premium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s the written language

And there’s the spoken language

This is our system.

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

On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.

On the vertical we have written and spoken English.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 4 skills are connected in various ways.

Reading and writing deal with the written word of course. 

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

Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word. 

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

Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form. 

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

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

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

Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.

Receptive Skills / Input

Prof. Stephen Krashen 

This from Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anyway, what Krashen is saying I suppose is:

Input is vital. This is like your food.

Receptive skills / input

Language has to go in before it comes out.

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

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

Basically, listen x5 and read x5.

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

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

Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.

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

Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So which books do you choose? 

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

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

Basically, read whatever you want.

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

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

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

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

Graded Readers

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

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

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

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

So, just read and enjoy it!

Here are some more book recommendations

Book of email correspondence

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

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

David Crystal 

The Story of English in 100 Words

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

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

So you’re bound to learn tons from that.

Biography

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

Fiction

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

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

Productive skills / output

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

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

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

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

So how do you work on these things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can you practise on your own?

Writing

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

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

So, here are some things you could write

What to write

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

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

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

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

Email English by Paul Emmerson

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

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

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

Other ideas

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary Notes

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

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

Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

So practice x5

But with who?

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

Talking on your own (and even in your head)

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

Listen and repeat

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

You can also practise different speaking scenarios.

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

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

A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.

The disclaimer

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

Anyway, the note about pronunciation

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

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

I think it can work wonders for your English.

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

Thanks for listening.

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664. Lockdown Ramble with My Wife

Chatting to my wife late one evening last week about what it’s like to be with an English guy, raising our daughter to be bilingual and more…

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!


Ending

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.

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

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

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Transcript & Notes

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of countries in the world are on lockdown.

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

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

Maybe

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

Or maybe

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

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

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

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

Here’s the general plan.

In this episode

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

1. Vocabulary

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

Basics – Some trending words & phrases

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary to describe this experience – Feelings & Emotions

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

Bad things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friend Vanessa on FB shared this

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

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

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

507. Learning English with UK Comedy TV Shows

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

The next episode of Gill’s Book Club:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Coming in a couple of months I expect

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

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

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

Anyway, let’s carry on*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

twitter.com/ptcomedy/status/1243507221482344453

3. Corrections from episodes 651 and 652

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

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

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

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

Disposable face masks vs N95 respirator masks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song

So Lonely by The Police/Sting

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

What’s your experience?

Leave your comments below and let us know 👍

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book 1

J.L. Carr “A Month in the Country

Book 2

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

Book 3

R.C. Sheriff “The Fortnight in September

Also mentioned

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

The previous episode with my mum about books.

The Withnail & I episode


Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

630. The English Guy with a Sitcom on Japanese TV (with BJ Fox)

A conversation with English comedian BJ Fox, who performs stand-up in Japan and has his own TV show on NHK. Our conversation includes the story of how BJ managed to pitch the show to Japanese producers, how he learnt Japanese to a proficient level, doing stand-up in a different culture and much more.

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Introduction

Hi everyone, welcome back to the podcast. It’s lovely to be talking to you again. I hope the feeling is mutual.

Let me tell you about this episode. So, this one is a conversation with an English stand-up comedian, living in Japan. He goes by the name of BJ Fox and he’s doing really well over there. He’s one of the top comedians on the English language comedy scene in Tokyo (which is a relatively big scene in fact) he also performs stand-up in Japanese, which is really cool because it means that his Japanese must be really good – he makes audiences of Japanese people laugh a lot in his shows. He has also performed stand-up in lots of other countries, especially across Asia but also in the UK and now he has his own sitcom on Japanese TV – on NHK, which is basically the Japanese equivalent of the BBC. So, he’s got his own TV show.

Now this is quite an extraordinary achievement – to get your own sitcom on Japanese telly. BJ writes the show himself and also plays the main character. So, how did he manage this? How did he get his own TV show? I mean, a lot of people move to other countries, manage to learn the language and live quite successfully there, but not everyone ends up with their own TV show. Also, how did he learn Japanese to such a high level? What’s it like doing stand up in Japan? What’s his TV sitcom all about?

BJ has also worked in the video games industry, including time spent at the Pokemon company and at Rockstar Games. I don’t know if you know Rockstar Games. They’re the ones who produce the Grand Theft Auto series and also the Red Dead Redemption series, and in fact BJ was one of the people responsible for bringing Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption to the Japanese market.

I spoke to BJ over Skype recently and asked him about all these things.

Sign up to LEP Premium to get a vocabulary / pronunciation episode based on this conversation – www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Before we listen, I just want to mention that I have published a premium episode covering specific vocabulary from this conversation. I went through the recording, picked out lots of vocabulary and in the premium episode I explain it, demonstrate it and also drill it for pronunciation. Those of you who are premium subscribers will have access to that in the app and on the website. It’s Premium episode 18 (parts 1 & 2) and I think you’ll find that listening to that episode (either before or after you listen to this converstion) will really help you understand everything much better, it’ll help you notice and pick up certain phrases and to practise saying them with all the correct, natural pronunciation, and all of that is a great way to maximise your learning potential with an episode like this. That’s what my premium episodes are all about.

So check out Premium series 18 – which accompanies this episode. It’s already available in the app and on the website. To sign up to LEP Premium just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium and the best way to listen to premium content is by using the Luke’s English Podcast App. If you have any questions, just send me an email through my website or through the app.

Right then, let’s meet BJ Fox and find out about his stand-up, his career, how he learned Japanese and what it’s like having his own sitcom on Japanese TV.

Home Sweet Tokyo – Season 3 – coming soon to NHK World

Videos & Links

A clip from an episode of Home Sweet Tokyo.

Watch episodes of Home Sweet Tokyo on NHK’s website here.

BJ Fox’s Website where you can see more videos and find out his gig dates.

The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast – Stuart Goldsmith interviews some of the best comedians in the world in great depth and finds out exactly how they do their comedy.


Ending

That was BJ Fox then. I’d like to say thanks again to him for coming on the podcast. It was really interesting to talk to him.

I suggest that you have a look on the page for this episode on the website where you will find a clip from Home Sweet Tokyo, links to BJ’s website and also a link to The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, which is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in exactly how comedians do what they do – which is, basically, to make people laugh really hard until their faces hurt. It’s like actual magic, it’s amazing.

And don’t forget that I recently published a two-part Premium episode covering language from this conversation. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to LEP Premium in order to listen to that and maximise your English learning from this podcast. The episode covers vocabulary and pronunciation, so you can expand your range of English and sound more like a native speaker. Sign up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium .

I’ve also recently uploaded more little premium videos with pronunciation drills. They’re short videos in which I drill some sentences, you can see me saying the sentences, I highlight some features of pronunciation like sentence stress, weak forms and connected speech, you can see my mouth moving as I say them, you can copy me and also the target sentences are written on the screen with some features highlighted like the stress and the weak forms. Premium LEPsters – there’s a heads up. Check out the latest content – it’s there in the premium category in your app, and also online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium . There should be more content coming this month.

A bit of a ramble

Recent episodes

Basically, it’s been great to get some nice feedback from listeners. The 2 episodes with James (Oasis, Do you ever…?) have had great responses. People really enjoyed them. I am lucky to have a brother who I get on with most of the time, and we make each other laugh a lot. I’m glad if that comes across on the podcast and that you can join in the laughter too.

The Emina episode – I’m very happy that lots of you found it inspiring and also that you found lots in common with her. I think it’s always interesting to speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, and to try to work out how they did it.

The Rick Thompson Report is always popular – people often say that this is how they get informed about Brexit. Even some of my friends who are native speakers of English listen to those episodes. The UK’s general election is due to happen on 12 December (Thursday) and I would like to record something about that after the results are in. My Dad will hopefully be up for it, but I can’t guarantee it. It depends if we find the right time to do it. December is shaping up to be an extremely busy month.

I haven’t finished the 3-part series about “88 Expressions that will confuse everyone” – the series about very British expressions and slang. I do plan to finish that. I promised you 88 expressions and so far I’ve given you 50. So I owe you another 28. Check out my maths!

Also, the episode about terrible jokes went down well, so I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. Basically, we’re going to keep on trucking here at LEPHQ. I say “we” – it’s mainly just me, isn’t it? With a little help from my friends and family of course, who join me as guests sometimes and of course the support I get from you my listeners in the form of donations (thank you thank you thank you if you’ve donated) and also just the fact that you are loyal listeners, that you recommend the podcast to your friends, leave glowing reviews on places like iTunes (LEP is simply sensational, there’s no other word for it). So thank you for the support.

Crazy strikes in France

Emmanuel Macron (the French president) is currently attempting to reform pension laws here. I don’t fully understand it, but because of this, a lot of workers across many sectors are protesting and going on strike at the moment and it looks like the strikes are going to continue throughout December, which could make life extremely difficult here. It already is, in fact. The main problem is transport, but this has some major knock on effects in other areas. Almost all the public transport is closed – The Metro, busses, train lines, trams, and in Paris that makes a huge difference because almost everyone relies on it to an extent. So this means that loads of other things are affected. Lots of people can’t get to work and it causes a lot of general chaos. For us the main problems are the creche and our travel plans at Christmas.

The daycare centre (creche) for our daughter could be closed for the next couple of weeks, so my wife and I will not be able to work like normal. We’ll have to stay at home with the little one. Now, I’m not complaining – it’s always lovely to be able to spend time with her and I can walk to school when I have lessons to teach. Also, I have some sympathy with the people who are on strike but this could seriously affect my podcast output this month because while I’m looking after my daughter I can’t really do anything else, including podcasting.

Update: Our daughter is being looked after for a few days by her grandparents, leaving us free to concentrate on work we need to do before Christmas. But it’s only for a few days – so I have to cram all my content creation into these next few days. So I will be locked in the Pod-Castle, making episodes as quickly as I can!

Luke – tell us what happened yesterday, as an example of the travel chaos gripping the city.

Also it could affect our travel plans to the UK for Christmas, so everything is up in the air at the moment. The main thing for you is that it might be difficult for me to prepare, record and upload all the content I’m planning for the next few weeks, and that includes the annual Christmas episode (which this year is going to be about Christmas jokes), perhaps one other free episode of the podcast which I haven’t worked out yet, maybe a Star Wars episode if I get to see Episode 9 when it is released here on 18 December, also I’m planning another premium audio series and more premium pronunciation videos. That’s quite a lot of content but I will be off on holiday during the Christmas period so I want to publish or prepare quite a lot of content before that, but I might not be able to do anything. We will see what happens and whether we can find childcare for the little one.

Anyway, let’s see how much I can get done in the time I have. It might just be that I have to do some late night or early morning podcasting, or perhaps no podcasting at all. We will see. But I just wanted to let you know, in case you get radio silence from LEP later this month.

But now it is time to wish you all a warm farewell until next time. Check out the LEP App if you don’t already have it, check out LEP Premium, sign up to the mailing list on the website, follow me on Twitter, have a look at the page for this episode for all your BJ Fox info and I will speak to you again soon I hope, but for now it’s just time to say GOODBYE!