Tag Archives: british

872. The Birthday Party (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. This is a story about people watching and what you can notice about people’s relationships if you are observant enough.

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📄 Click here to read the story text 👈

Luke’s Vocabulary Notes

  • In your early / late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties
  • To look married (look good, look tired, look happy, look married, look bored)
  • Unmistakably married
  • They were married. It was unmistakable.
  • Mistakable = easily confused for something else
  • Unmistakable = not easily confused for something else – you can immediately identify it
  • The unmistakable smell of fresh bread in the air
  • They looked unmistakably French / unmistakably English / unmistakably yours/hers/his (this handwriting is unmistakably his)
  • Why are they unmistakably married? What does she mean? She’s alluding to subtle behaviour. When a couple are unmarried or perhaps in the early stages of a relationship they tend to give each other a lot more attention. They might be still trying to seduce each other somehow, or to attract each other. There’s still mystery and interest. Brand new couples can hardly take their eyes off each other. I imagine this couple is unmistakably married because they show signs of the relationship suffering from over familiarity. They mystery is gone, maybe. Perhaps they seem very familiar with each other, or very comfortable with each other. Marriage can make people feel stuck (not always!) especially if the marriage is based on the wrong things. 
  • A banquette = a long, fitted seat or bench, typically found in restaurants
  • Narrow – opposite of wide – a long narrow corridor 
  • We get the sense this is a small, intimate space. It’s also uncomfortable, painfully so. 
  • The couple and other guests in the restaurant are all so close and this makes the man’s humiliation and the woman’s heartbreak even more painful. 
  • The narrator is unable to stop “people watching” here – observing this couple opposite.
  • Also the couple sit side by side, not facing each other, which suggests that they’re not all that interested in each other. 
  • You start to speculate – what does this woman mean to this man? Is she there just to sit by his side and look glamorous? 
  • A round face
  • Self-satisfied (definitely a negative word) smug, arrogant, not charming
  • Fadingly pretty 
  • Fading  = gradually becoming less clear, less bright, less colourful. Her prettiness was fading. 
  • A big hat – I imagine it was one of those hats with a big brim, which can be very glamorous but also hides the face. 
  • Conspicuous = noticeable, easy to notice, eye-catching (apparently in those days big hats were not uncommon in New York restaurants)
  • Basically, they looked quite ordinary really, and weren’t trying to grab/attract everyone’s attention.
  • An occasion – a particular event, a birthday, an anniversary, something to celebrate
  • The wife had planned a surprise for him (past perfect because she planned this before any of the events in this story) without past perfect it could mean that the wife planned the surprise there at the table
  • A surprise in the form of a cake – “in the form of” here means that this is how the surprise was actually manifested. I mean, what was the surprise, how did this surprise take shape? The surprised arrived in the form of a cake.
  • The gift came in the form of a beautifully wrapped package.
  • Their support came in the form of encouraging words during a difficult time.
  • The solution to the problem arrived in the form of an innovative new technology.
  • Help arrived in the form of my wife who came to rescue me (from an awkward conversation for example)
  • A glossy birthday cake = shiny & smooth, so the light reflects off the top. It’s one of those smart, fancy cakes that you see in good quality cake shops. 
  • One pink candle burning in the center (American English spelling) – this is a little bit sad, isn’t it? Also, if this guy takes himself quite seriously, he might find that a tiny bit embarrassing – bringing attention to him, and this little cake with a pink candle might make him feel a bit ridiculous, especially if he is full of himself and takes himself seriously. But it is a lovely, sweet gesture and we just want him to be embarrassed but also touched and it would be a great moment for him to blush and smile and kiss his wife and maybe acknowledge the other diners with a smile, but he doesn’t.
  • The head waiter – so the wife probably asked the restaurant to make a special effort here, which again shows how much care she put into this.
  • He placed it before the husband. This means he carefully put it down.
  • Meanwhile = at the same time
  • The wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise
  • Beamed = her face glowed, she smiled, she seemed proud. To “beam” means that light comes out – like a torch, or a light house. In this case the woman’s face beamed with a certain emotion or an expression. 
  • Pride – to feel proud = she’s happy and satisfied with what she has done. She’s put a lot of effort into this and expects it to go well. She’s trying.
  • It became clear (obvious) at once (immediately) that help was needed (passive voice – needed by who?) We feel that the narrator suddenly sees that this woman is helpless in this situation. She’s in trouble. But nobody can help her without making it worse. 
  • The husband was not pleased.
  • He was hotly embarrassed. – not a common collocation but it tells us that his face probably went red and he was angry.
  • He was indignant = angry, annoyed, frustrated with his wife because of what she’s done. 
  • Don’t be like that = don’t be that way
  • As soon as the little cake had been deposited  on the table = quite formal and impersonal language, meaning put in a certain place. Money is deposited in an account. It’s quite cold, transactional language.
  • The birthday piece – a piece of music
  • The general attention had shifted = moved
  • I saw him say something to her under his breath  = in a very quiet voice, in a whisper, so other people can’t hear
  • Some punishing thing  = a comment which was designed to punish her, to make her feel bad
  • Quick (just a few words) and curt (rudely brief – rude because it is so short) and unkind (cruel).
  • I couldn’t bear to look
  • Can’t bear to do something
  • Can’t stand doing it
  • Can’t bring myself to do something
  • When I finally glanced over there = looked quickly
  • This is heartbreaking!
  • Adverbs
  • Crying quietly 
  • Crying heartbrokenly
  • Crying hopelessly
  • All to herself (she was doing it all by herself, but also crying to herself – a very lonely feeling where you are the only one witnessing your crying – the husband doesn’t care it seems)
  • All to herself / all by herself
  • Under the big gay brim of her best hat. (Gay in it’s original meaning, “carefree” “happy”)
  • The brim of the hat = the wide edge
  • This is a particularly sad image because of the contrast between this lovely hat that should be worn on a happy and carefree occasion, but under it this poor woman is crying. 

871. Rambling through my episode archive / Listener Comments / Gold YouTube Creator Award

A very long rambling episode with a big mix of vocabulary, stories about my trip to Rome, comments from listeners, lots of thoughts about episodes I’ve published over the last 12 months, more advice about learning English, and a story about being Jackie Chan’s English teacher.

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869. Working at UNESCO | English in International Diplomacy

In international diplomacy, “communication is everything”. This is the main point of this conversation, in which I talk to my friend who works for the UK delegation at UNESCO in Paris. We discuss the work that UNESCO does, and the various communication challenges involved in working together with representatives from countries all around the world, including the collaborative writing of official documents where the use of a single comma can be debated for hours, and the meetings and conversations in which cultural sensitivity and good-will are essential elements for success. Also includes some communication idioms and guitar playing near the end of the episode.

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Introduction Transcript

My guest today is my friend who works at UNESCO. 

UNESCO stands for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (Wikipedia)

It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) which has the aim of promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. 

Perhaps the most famous thing they do is to protect certain world heritage sites, but that is only one of the things that they are involved in.

My friend works there and in this episode you’ll hear us talking about his work and about communication in the context of international diplomacy.

This is quite complex stuff actually. 

Normally in these situations, when I’m publishing an episode like this, I have to make certain decisions about what to say in the introduction.

How much should I explain in advance? 

What kind of support should I give to my audience before you listen?

People listening to my podcast have varying levels of English. Rather than slowing down and stopping to explain every word, I want to give you a conversation at natural speed, but explaining some context at the start can really help a lot of people. It’s not just because of English. It’s also just a question of general knowledge too.

Before I met M__, I didn’t really know a lot about what UNESCO did, and honestly, I think most people probably find it a little bit of a mystery. 

So I have decided to explain one or two things here, so you are properly placed to understand all of this and therefore enjoy it and benefit most from it.

Of course I don’t want to say too much or repeat myself or anything, so I’ve written this introduction in advance to try and keep me focused, to be informative but also efficient, and then you can just get stuck into the conversation with my guest.

M__ works for the UK delegation at UNESCO, which has its headquarters in Paris by the way. The word “delegation” comes up a few times (also the word “delegate”) and that will be explained.

UNESCO HQ is in Paris – I did stand-up there once, which was weird! I was invited as part of a festival in 2019 called Paris Talks. It was a bit like a series of TED Talks, all of them serious – about the future. 

***Luke talks spontaneously for a couple of minutes about doing stand-up comedy at the UNESCO HQ in Paris***

Whenever I chat to M__, if we have a drink together or something, I am always really curious about his work and I find it really fascinating. Hopefully it’ll be fascinating for you too.

So, we’re going to talk about the work that UNESCO does and the way the organisation works, but also about the different forms of communication that happen there, and this, for me as an English teacher, is perhaps the most interesting thing about it.

Imagine, nearly every nation in the world collaborating together at a government level on very important projects. This of course includes nation states which have different relations with each other, some friendly, some antagonistic. 

Also, you’re dealing with often vastly different cultures with different communication styles and values. But you’ve got to try to work together with these different groups towards a common goal.

This involves communication at a very high level – international diplomacy. What does it take to cross these barriers of culture, politics, economics, at a state level? 

Diplomatic communication is a huge part of it and working in this context requires a variety of different types of communication skills. 

There’s persuasion, there’s negotiation, there’s showing respect, there’s using pressure, there’s giving compliments and expressing gratitude and it can happen in writing and in spoken English too at various levels of formality.

Imagine these different communication contexts:

  • Huge meetings with representatives from countries all around the world, sitting at tables with little flags on them and everyone attempting to work together to agree on certain big decisions. Sometimes they don’t want to do the same thing. There are groups that are friendly, and groups that have their differences.
  • The collaborative writing of very formal documents in those big meetings. These are documents which UNESCO issues – a bit like laws passed by a government (although UNESCO doesn’t actually make laws)
  • Smaller, less formal meetings in which different delegations attempt to build support for their proposals, with negotiations and persuasion.
  • Individual one on one conversations or conversations in small groups, between the more formal meetings, where representatives might stand up and chat together perhaps over coffee and a softer form of persuasion or negotiation occurs, and the building of relationships and alliances.
  • And the work of interpreters – who sit in other rooms, looking through windows, with headsets on, having to simultaneously translate what is being said in these important meetings from one language to another, and the quick decisions they have to make about how exactly they should word things without subtly changing the tone of what is being said. Interpreters are a huge part of this. Maybe some of you listening are considering becoming an interpreter, or maybe you already are.

How is language used in these different situations? How does the language change?

We’re talking about different levels of formality, and the pragmatics of diplomacy at this high level.

Also, what does UNESCO do exactly? How does it actually work? What does M__ actually do on a daily basis?

These are the things I was very interested in capturing in this conversation.

Before we start, here are a few more details.

Here’s some more information from Wikipedia.

UNESCO was founded in 1945 and its founding mission, which was shaped by the events of World War II, is to advance peace, sustainable development and human rights by facilitating collaboration and dialogue among nations.[10] 

It pursues this objective through five major programme areas: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information.

What does it actually do? I find this quite hard to work out!

  • It assists in the translation and dissemination of world literature – making sure the best works of literature are available to be read by everyone, and not just in their countries of origin.
  • It works to bridge the worldwide digital divide (attempting to reduce disparities between developed and developing countries in terms of what technologies are available to people)
  • It creates inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication. By Knowledge Societies, UNESCO means societies in which people have the capabilities not just to acquire information but also to transform it into knowledge and understanding, which empowers them to enhance their livelihoods and contribute to the social and economic development of their societies. UNESCO has launched several initiatives and global movements, such as Education For All.

How does it actually do these things? As far as I can tell, they create what M__ calls “standard setting documents”. 

Those are not laws because they are not legally binding but they are similar to laws because they set out guidelines on what should or should not be done. 

Governments in the member states can use these standard setting documents to help them form policies and laws, in line with UNESCO’s overall objectives.

So they’re not binding legislation but these UNESCO documents are still very formally written. 

M__ tells us about how this is done, at the various stages, referring to different communication contexts in the process.

This all might sound a bit dry in my descriptions, but just let me take you back to that image of the large meeting room at UNESCO with all these representatives or delegates from the different countries. Imagine you are actually there. 

Imagine having to open one of those big meetings. Imagine the mood in the room as you look out and see these different faces representing the different nations. Imagine the tone you would have to use in your speech, the specific wording, to gain their attention and their respect, to speak with the relevant level of importance, to try to create a feeling of goodwill, to make the different delegations feel respected, and then to attempt to unite these different nations with competing interests and worldviews.

Imagine having a specific project, and trying to get it off the ground – arranging smaller meetings to try to build alliances. Taking the time to chat one on one with people between meetings, drafting emails with proposals, and finally trying to edit formal documentation in collaboration with other delegates in huge writing sessions that can last days.

That’s the world we’re talking about here and specific things about how we have to adapt our language in these situations.

Several other things

  1. My friend is also a really good guitarist, and so at the end of this conversation we couldn’t help but turn our attention to the guitars in my podcastle. He plays one of my guitars and we talk about guitars. So, we do move from international diplomacy to guitars. If you want to hear him play, just stick around until the end of the conversation.
  2. Background noise. There was a guy in the corridor outside my podcast room doing some work – sanding a wall. So, apologies – you’ll hear the sounds of normal life bleeding into the recording slightly. I think it’s not too bad, but if you hear some noise and wonder what it is, it’s a guy sanding a wall outside.

Right, so without any further ado let’s get started. The first thing you’ll hear now is me saying that often the most difficult part of podcasting is the very beginning of a recording, and M__ gives me a good bit of advice which he has learned from his work at UNESCO.

So, let’s now join the conversation at that point. I’ll chat to you a bit at the end.


Communication Idioms (explained at the end)

  • To beat around the bush
  • To talk at cross purposes
  • To grab/get the wrong end of the stick
  • To hit the nail on the head
  • It strikes a different chord in people’s minds (if you speak from the heart)
  • This guy is trying to wrap me round his finger (to manipulate/control me)

868. How the USA is changing (with Lindsay McMahon from All Ears English)

Lindsay has been observing social, economic and political trends in her home country and comes on the podcast today to talk about them.

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Introduction Notes / Transcript for Episode 868

Hello!

Today on the podcast I am talking to Lindsay from All Ears Engish. 

Do you know the All Ears English podcast? If you don’t know it, then that is a surprise to me because All Ears English is an extremely popular, well-known and high ranking podcast for learners of English. 

I’m sure you’ve come across it before. Yellow logo, Lindsay and her co-hosts Michelle, Jessica and Aubrey. American English. Their episodes are always full of positive energy. They promote personal growth through learning English and their mantra is “connection not perfection”. All Ears English. Over a million subscribers on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, ranked in Best of Apple Podcasts categories in 2018 and 2019, and #1 in US Education Language Courses category. Lindsay and her team have been featured in Podcast Magazine, Language Magazine, and Forbes. When your podcast is in a magazine, when you’ve crossed from one medium into another, you know you’re doing something right. You know, All Ears English! https://www.allearsenglish.com/

Lindsay is a returning guest on my podcast. She has been on this show a few times before. Long, long term listeners might remember her first appearance way back in episode 186 in 2014 talking about culture shock. So we’ve collaborated quite a few times. I have also been on All Ears English a number of times too, including recently.

Just a couple of months ago, Lindsay and I decided that it was about time we collaborated again on a couple of episodes so we invited each other onto our respective podcasts. I was on her show just a couple of weeks ago, in episode 2140 talking about differences between American and British English. We compared the vocabulary differences, communication style differences and more. If that sounds interesting, you could check it out. AEE 2140: The Subtle Differences Between American and British English with Luke’s English Podcast

Listen to Luke on All Ears English talking about differences between UK and USA English (audio version)

And for Lindsay’s appearance on my show in this episode, we agreed that it could be really interesting to talk about Lindsay’s home country – the USA and what’s going on there at the moment in terms of economic, political and cultural changes.

You’re going to hear us talking about things like:

The actions of unions and how that has been affecting workers’ rights. 

The way cities are evolving because of changes in people’s working lives especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Property prices, the energy crisis, American people’s attitudes about their government, trust in public institutions and other things of that nature.

Also, I couldn’t help adding my own comments about what’s been going on in the UK as well, in order to compare and find similarities between our two countries.

It’s a big year for both the UK and the USE – we have big elections coming up – a presidential election in the USA at the end of the year and a general election in the UK at some point. 

There’s plenty to talk about. I hope you find it all interesting. I’ll talk to you again a little bit at the other end of this conversation, but now, without any further ado, let’s get started. 

“Across the Universe” – Lyrics and Chords

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-beatles/across-the-universe-chords-202167

867. Multimodal Communication (with Nik Peachey)

This episode is all about the different modes of communication that we use beyond the 4 linguistic skills of reading, writing, listening speaking. My guest is Nik Peachey who has helped to write a new paper published by OUP called Multimodality in ELT: communication skills for today’s generation. Listen to Nik and me chatting about the importance of multimodal literacy in our social interactions and in the ways we consume and produce media online.

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Read the OUP paper “Multimodality: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation” here (OUP registration required)


Introduction Notes / Transcript

Hello!

This episode is a conversation all about multimodality in communication. My guest is Nik Peachey, who will introduce himself to you in a few minutes when the conversation part of this episode begins.

Let me give you a bit of background information about how this episode came about, and what the main topic of conversation is.

I was contacted by OUP (they publish academic materials for English teachers and learners – course books but also teacher training materials for English teachers).

They have published a paper about multimodality in ELT and they wanted to see if I was interested in doing an interview with one of the people involved in the writing of this paper. The paper is called Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation.

I thought “Hmm, multimodality, that’s a nice word – sounds interesting”. I was also aware of Nik Peachey already – he’s a fairly well-known figure in the world of English language teaching and publishing, especially in the UK. He’s a name you see at things like teaching conferences or in teacher training.

So I replied to OUP and said I was interested, they sent me a copy of the paper they have published and we arranged this interview, which actually took place a couple of months ago. It turned out to be a very interesting and wide-ranging conversation about so many things.

Let’s consider the title of that paper again “Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation”.

Basically, this is all about how as teachers we always need to be aware of the ways in which learners of English need to use English to communicate in the world today. This involves looking at communication and considering how that happens, and also considering how changes in technology are having an effect.

How do we communicate? Is it just through language? How is our communication affected by advancements in technology?

What OUP are saying, with this paper, is that more and more our communication is multimodal, which means that we communicate in a variety of different ways or modes.

This is not just in terms of the 4 skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. That is, traditionally, how communication has been defined.

Those are all linguistic or verbal modes (language based), but there are more communication modes than that, including non-verbal ones which are still hugely important. This includes body language, but there is a lot more than that, especially when you consider how much of our communication is mediated through technology these days.

To try and break this down, let’s think about this in two areas: social interactions (the way we speak and listen to each other face to face), and the way we consume media (content such as video, audio, texts).

There is also how these two things (social interactions and media) combine because more and more we use media to communicate – write texts and emails, do video calls, and combine text, images, video and audio to create social media posts.

So, let’s consider these two areas then: social interactions, and media, and let’s think about how they are multimodal – how they involve many various forms of communication.

In terms of social interactions there’s verbal communication (the words we’re using etc) but also body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity. Also cultural factors come into play such as pop culture references that we use, or different social codes of behaviour in different cultures.

To communicate successfully we need to have an awareness of those social factors.

*Give an example of how I have to consider these things as an English teacher talking to my class – body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity, cultural references, social codes of behaviour*

The second area is the way multimodality relates to the way we consume media – for example if you watch some video content online, understanding the various ways in which that media is constructed. How certain visuals are important, the use of certain tropes, the use of different fonts, different colours, different editing techniques, music and so on. Understanding these things allows us to decode the media we see, and this is crucial in understanding the intentions behind content we are exposed to, which in turn helps us to detect things like misinformation or just the purpose of the video.

For example, if you show a certain online video to someone who has very little multimodal awareness (like your grandmother or something) it’s not uncommon for this person just to be completely confused by what they’re seeing, or to experience some kind of culture shock. Imagine playing a video of Davie504 on YouTube to my grandmother. By the way Davie504 is an extremely successful YouTuber who makes very distinctive and funny videos about playing the bass guitar. If my gran watched one of his videos, I genuinely think she would not know what was going on. That’s because she isn’t familiar with all the different codes being used.

So it’s important to be have a level of multimodal literacy, so you can properly understand the media you are consuming, but also so that you can also communicate successfully through media yourself, by doing things like creating social media posts which combine sound, video, text and designs.

Nik Peachey is going to give various examples of these things during the conversation, which should help to clarify this all for you.

Ultimately, this is all about the importance of multimodal literacy in both our everyday communication and also in the way we consume content.

I guess for you, as learners of English, you can just consider how language exists as one part of an overall context which also includes things like culture, non-verbal communication, media literacy and more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

One note about the sound – I predict that some of you will comment that you found it hard to hear Nik. He’s not using a podcasting or broadcasting microphone, which might make it a little bit hard to hear him at first. You can hear some sounds of the room around him – a bit of echo and reverb. You might have to adjust your ear at the beginning, but you will get used to it. For me, this conversation got more and more interesting as Nik and I got to know each other better and got really into the whole subject of communication in its various modes. I hope you enjoy it too and that it makes you think about how learning English can be about more than just learning words and grammar.

I’ll speak to you again a little bit at the end of the conversation.

1 Million Subscribers on YouTube 🎉

Here are my reactions to getting 1 million subscribers on YouTube, and probably 1 million+ on audio platforms too! Listen to me rambling on my own and with my daughter (6 years old now) while the subscriber number gradually goes up, and eventually reaches this big milestone.

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866. The Lying Game #9 with Amber & Paul (with Vocabulary Explanations)

The return of the lying game on LEP! Amber, Paul and I play a speaking game which I sometimes use in my English classes. Listen to our stories and try to work out if we are lying or telling the truth. The second half of the episode contains story summaries and vocabulary explanations. 

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Notes / Transcript

Introduction

This episode is called The Lying Game #9 with Amber & Paul

To help you understand, enjoy and learn more from this episode, I’m going to explain a coupe of things here at the start. 

Some of you might not need this introduction – it depends on your level of English – you can just skip forwards if you want, it’s only a few minutes. But my comments here are designed to be helpful.

This is another conversation with my friends Amber and Paul and we’re going to play a speaking activity called The Lying Game. I know a lot of you are already familiar with this game, but for the uninitiated – this game is something of a tradition on this podcast. It is based on a speaking activity which I’ve been using in my English classes for about 15 years. You’ll hear us recap the rules of the game in a moment, but it’s very simple. Basically, just listen carefully and try to decide if our stories are true or lies.

As you listen, I expect that you might have some questions which you would like answered. Some of those will be language questions about certain words, phrases, bits of pronunciation or grammar. For example, “What does it mean to “fall off the wagon?”, “What’s the difference between fat, fatty and fattening? “ and “is the funnest thing” correct English?”. 

Other questions will be about the specific details that you might not catch when listening to our stories – What exactly happened in each case? Wait, was that story a lie or the truth? Which parts were not true, etc? What just happened? What are they going on about? 

It can be tricky to listen to three fluent speakers of English (especially close friends) talking quickly together. I know what it’s like because it happens to me in French all the time. There are unfinished sentences, you get connected speech, people talk over each other a bit and interrupt each other. 

That does make it tricky to follow, but what I will say is that this is normal, natural, fluent speech and it is important for you to get familiar with it. The more you practise listening to this kind of thing, the more you will be able to follow conversations like this. 

But yes, you might have questions as you listen. 

So, at the end of this episode, in the last 20 minutes or so, I will help you, by summarising each story and telling you in plain English what happened in each part of the game. 

I will also explain quite a lot of vocabulary which comes up – phrases, idioms, specific words etc, like “to fall off the wagon” “to be fattening” and so on. 

So, listen to us playing the game, try to work out if we are lying or telling the truth, and I’ll clarify vocabulary at the end and that vocabulary section at the end will be a little taste of the kind of thing that I do in my premium episodes, where I focus on explaining language. 

And finally, premium subscribers – have you noticed, I have published parts 1-5 of P56 (which will be an 8 part series in total when it’s all done) This series is all about vocabulary which I used in episode 863 recently, called “You and Your English in 2024” – Remember all the words that I highlighted in that lurid green colour? 

That’s the vocabulary I’m clarifying, explaining, teaching and helping you to remember and use in Premium series 56, available now for premium subscribers. There are vocabulary reviews, pronunciation episodes, PDF worksheets, video versions, discussion questions for speaking practice, memory exercises and more. 

Just make sure, if you are a subscriber, that you have added LEP premium to a podcast app on your phone. If you have done that you will see episodes 1-5 in your list, with the other parts coming very soon. 

Sign into your acast+ account to manage your subscription and add the episodes to a podcast app on your phone (I recommend PocketCasts) https://plus.acast.com/

If you want to sign up to LEP Premium to get access to those episodes – be my guest, just click the link you will find in the show notes of this episode.

But now, back to The Lying Game. I hope you enjoy it. And Stick around until the end to hear me clarifying and explaining some vocabulary. 

Oh, and by the way, there is some rude language in this episode, as usual – including the use of a few swear words.


Conversation / Lying Game happens


Notes / Script – after the lying game conversation

How was that for you? I got slightly over-excited in this episode and I couldn’t help butting in with my own comments and jokes here and there. Apologies if that made it a bit harder to keep up. I’m always trying to get the balance right between keeping things simple and keeping things entertaining. But I know what it’s like to listen to a busy conversation between people in another language. It can be tiring, it can be tricky but nevertheless, you made it. Of course it depends on your level of English. 

Story Summaries – SPOILER ALERT!

Let me summarise the three stories.

Paul’s Story

Paul said that after his bad show in Portugal, he “fell off the wagon” and got back on the booze. 

He got “shitfaced” and despite having a horrible hangover the next day in which he was sick over and over again (lovely, I know) he then continued drinking regularly again.

There was a point of contention here, because…

Amber and I guessed that this was true and Paul said that it was true.

However, there was a point of contention here, because although the first part of that story was true – he did fall off the wagon after that show in Portugal, in fact the other part – that he then continued drinking again after that, was not true. He quickly went back to not drinking after that one, exceptional, evening. So, was this story true or a lie? To be completely honest, according to my rules (if one detail is a lie, the whole story is a lie) this story was a lie, and therefore Amber and I didn’t deserve to get a point. 

But, that’s in the past now and in that moment the referee (that’s me, even though I am also playing the game – conflict of interest? Noooo) the referee said that Amber & I were right, so we got the points and then just moved on because we simply didn’t have time to sit around debating it any more. End result – Amber and I got one point each. 

Scores:  A 1, P 0, L 1

Luke’s Story

Then it was my turn and I said that I once took a hot air balloon ride with Bill Oddie (a tv presenter in the UK) and R2D2’s daughter (the daughter of actor Kenny Baker). 

Kenny was there but didn’t actually go up in the balloon because he said that “R2D2 doesn’t fly”. In my story I said that upon hearing this, my brother and I were both a bit confused because R2D2 definitely flies in the Star Wars films, a lot – in all manner of spacecraft. But anyway, that was the story. 

Amber and Paul both assumed that this story was completely true, and this is for a few reasons. 1) I almost always tell the truth in this game. 2) the story was way too specific and weird to be made up (they underestimated me) and 3) They just didn’t press me with more questions. If they’d been more inquisitive I’m sure they would have discovered that my story had no substance to it. In any case, Amber and Paul were both fooled and guessed it was true, but ah no, I made it up completely. 

To be fair it is based on a true story. Once upon a time, my dad did produce a TV series for BBC Midlands called The Balloon in which a presenter visited different parts of the midlands in a hot air balloon (sounds like something from Alan Partridge), but it was presented by Sue Beardsmore and neither Bill Oddie nor R2D2 actor Kenny Baker (or his daughter) were involved in any way. 

James and I were allowed to take a trip in the balloon one day at the end of the filming and it is one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It would have been even more memorable if R2D2 had been involved, but no. I got two points for this because both A & P fell for it completely.

Scores: A 1, P 0, L 3

Amber’s Story

Amber said she had developed a phobia of cows – “bovinophobia”. This was a result of several experiences she had with her family on holiday where they encountered cows in fields (including one time in Argentina) and Amber felt very scared, and since then she has realised that she actually can’t stand cows at all, and can’t even look at some paintings of cows which she saw during her recent art history course, finding their bovine faces strangely repellant. She hasn’t been officially diagnosed as suffering from bovinophobia, but she believes she has it.

But was this true?

Paul thought no, I said yes.

In fact, it was not true. Although Amber is definitely wary of cows, she doesn’t have a phobia of them. Remember, a phobia is the irrational fear of something. Being very scared of something when there’s really no reason to be scared of it. But Amber’s fear of cows is completely reasonable and logical considering they do actually kill quite a lot of people each year by trampling them to death. But she is not scared of pictures of cows, so her fear is not irrational or extreme (which is how a phobia is defined).

Final scores! A2, P1, L3


Vocabulary List

A little taste of LEP Premium here – just a tiny taste because I am not going to go into a lot of detail here and you don’t get all the other peripheral things like extra examples, memory exercises, pronunciation exercises, speaking questions etc.

Listen to the episode to hear my explanations.

  • You treated us to lunch
  • It’s one of the funnest things to do
  • Is this true or is it made up bullcrap?
  • It was a rough show
  • I relapsed from alcohol
  • I got completely shitfaced
  • So you fell off the wagon
  • He still looks quite svelte. You do look in good shape.
  • I needed to stop. I needed to get fit.
  • Alcohol is very fattening.
  • I vomited. I threw up. [I was sick. I puked.]
  • You gave up drinking. You quit booze.
  • He’s back on the booze now. It’s a slippery slope.
  • A year of sobriety. Adam was not the most supportive of your sobriety. [to be sober]
  • Hair of the dog.
  • You never lie and [your story] is too obscure. (too obscure to be made up – she doubts my imagination)
  • He’s very old. He’s got a plethora of stories.
  • Oh ye of little faith, you didn’t think I had it in me to lie.
  • We should have known [that he was lying] but honestly he’s got such a track record [so we expected him to be consistent and to tell the truth again].
  • People get trampled by them (cows).
  • You’re repelled by the image of a cow.
  • Their fleshy bovine bodies shifting left to right as they try to position themselves against the fence to have a look at you.
  • I started getting anxious, scared, nervous. (these words are similar. Nervous does not mean angry). 
  • Farmers put their hand all the way inside the rear end of a cow.
  • Horses are renowned for kicking you when you’re behind them.
  • You can get a hoof in the head. hooves
    (Actually, I’m not sure someone said these exact words, but I think the word “hoof” did come up)
  • Cows are all squished up close to each other.
  • How do you feel when you get on line 9 at 9AM in the morning, and there are a lot of people mooing around.
  • I don’t have animosity towards cows. [You just don’t want to get trampled]
  • You have a rational fear of cows rather than an irrational fear.
  • Flimsy naked monkies
  • A monkey with alopecia – [it was] ripped! They are just all muscle.
  • A monkey jumped out and I thought “that monkey can have me any day”
  • It was just like a bloke, a massive bloke.

The Zenith show (January 6) already happened so you can’t get tickets for it any more. I talked about it in LEP#864.

Thanks to James Kuo (LEPster) for making these two episodes happen. 

OK, that’s enough from me I think! I will be back in your eardrums in the next episode. 

I have a few more episodes with guests which I recorded late last year to publish and then I am planning to do more solo podcasts for a while, including more stories, which I have been enjoying a lot. Acting and storytelling – lots of fun.

OK, don’t be a ninja – leave a comment. I hope you’re not a skeleton. 

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you next time but for now, goodbye!!!


Listen to 8 previous lying game episodes 👇👇👇

308. The Lying Game (Part 1) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores: A 2 / P 2 / L 2 (“even stevens”)

309. The Lying Game (Part 2) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores: A 0 / P 1 / L 4

317. The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 1) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores: A 1 / P 2 / L 1

318. The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 2) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast   Scores: A 6 / P 3 / L 3

343. The Interactive Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) / Descriptive Adjectives with T / Three is a Magic Number | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores ?

436. The Return of The Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) [Video] | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast  Scores: A 1 / P 3 / L 2

642. The Lying Game Returns (with Amber & Paul) | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores : 2 / 2 / 2

663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast Scores A 2 / P 3 / L 1

Total scores after Lying Game #9: A 14  / P 16  / L 15

865. Catching Up with Amber & Paul #13

Amber & Paul return to the podcast for another tangential conversation about various things, including why Paul is angry 😤, how Amber gets crushed in her own bed 🛌, how our British children don’t need to wear coats 🧥, the special gifts Luke has prepared for Amber & Paul 🎁, the highs and lows of Paul’s global comedy tour 🎭, how he’s been telling the Russian joke on stage 😐, Amber’s recent trip to London 🇬🇧, The Beatles’ “Now & Then” 🎶, the next step in Paul’s career ⏩, Amber’s kids saying more funny things 👧👦💬 and more…

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

☝️ The audio episode has some extra content at the end

What is The Lying Game? (next episode)

In the next episode we’re playing The Lying Game. If you want to listen to previous lying game episodes, check out this list 👇

308. The Lying Game (Part 1) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

309. The Lying Game (Part 2) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

317. The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 1) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

318. The Lying Game 2: The Rematch (Part 2) with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast   

343. The Interactive Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) / Descriptive Adjectives with T / Three is a Magic Number | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

436. The Return of The Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) [Video] | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast  

642. The Lying Game Returns (with Amber & Paul) | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast 

663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast

864. A Winter Ramble ❄️ Learn English with LEP

Join me as I talk without a script about lovely cold weather ❄️ being too lazy to wash my cups 🍵 feeling exhausted because my son won’t sleep 👶😮‍💨 New Year’s Eve celebrations 🛋 performing stand up comedy to 4200 people 🎤 a recommended YouTube channel about adventurous missions in the UK countryside 🥾 and recent horror films I’ve seen 🙀.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]


GeoWizard’s Mission Across Wales #1 👇

863. Welcome Back / Your English in 2024 with LEP 📈

A new year episode to welcome you back to my podcast, to encourage you to reflect on your learning of English over the last 12 months, to consider your English learning in 2024 and how this podcast can help you. Includes plenty of ideas for how to improve your English, some reflections on my learning of French, and some ‘help’ from my baby son 👶.

[DOWNLOAD]

📄 Get the PDF Transcript 👇 (text also included below 👇👇)

🏆 LEP Premium information 👉 https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Episode Text (This is the text on the PDF – but the vocabulary is not highlighted in green here)

Happy New Year everyone!

This is my first episode of 2024 and let’s get serious for a moment because actually the purpose of this one is to help you consider where you are with your English (because that’s what this is all about isn’t it?) to encourage you to reflect on your learning of English in 2023, to approach 2024 with the right mindset and also give you loads of advice and tips for how to keep improving your English with this podcast and in plenty of other ways.

This episode has mostly been written out in advance, so I’m reading from a script in this one. 

You’ll find the PDF script on the page for this episode and there’s a link in the description wherever you are listening to this. 

“Link in the description” – Do you know what that means? 

You can just download it free and I’m not even going to ask for your email address and then send you loads of emails tempting you to buy my online course which is only available for a limited period of time for mysterious reasons that aren’t fully explained. 

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that. You can just download the PDF directly like in the old days of the internet.

By the way, if you prefer rambling episodes with no script, just hang on because I’ll be doing one of them after I’ve done this episode. 

The plan is to do this one which is fully planned and scripted, and then just do something totally spontaneous in the next episode. 

So, there is a New Year rambling episode coming soon. Also there will be a premium episode coming soon for premium subscribers focusing on some of the language I use in this episode. 

Premium subscribers – watch out for some of the words and phrases which are highlighted in a lurid green colour on the PDF – those bits of vocabulary will come up in a premium episode soon. 

If you’re not a premium subscriber, you can still notice those highlighted phrases and just consider how much you are missing out by not being a premium subscriber, and of course if you just can’t stand missing out on the magic, and you want to be a premium subscriber or you just want more information about it, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

By the way, I chose that lurid green colour so that it will also show up if you print the PDF in black and white. Also, it’s a way of subtley reminding you to keep noticing vocabulary.

Also, I have various other episodes in the pipeline which I recorded late last year and they are coming too, over the next few weeks including a couple of Amber & Paul ones, an episode with Lindsay from All Ears English, one with my friend who works at UNESCO and some others, so just bear with me, they are coming as well! 

As usual, I just have so many episodes to publish and things I want to say. I’d love to just publish new episodes every few days, to be honest, but I don’t want to overload you completely. I know some of you might be happy for me to do that, but really – podcasting wisdom says that I shouldn’t do that.

This episode

What’s this episode going to be? Let’s get started.

First of all, I want to welcome new listeners and remind old listeners who I am and what this is all about. A lot of people will be turning over a new leaf and trying to make a fresh start with their English. Is that you? Have you made a new year’s resolution to improve your English this year? 

Maybe you’ve decided to listen to podcasts in English and here you are. Or maybe you’re already a regular listener and you’re happy to be back in LEPland with this new episode. In any case, welcome and welcome back. It’s good to doing the first episode of the show in 2024.

Some info about LEP for new listeners (and old listeners too, whose memory isn’t what it once was) 

Hello. Forgive me for stating the obvious here but I’m Luke Thompson and I’m the host of this podcast that you are listening to right now, which is called Luke’s English Podcast. It’s a podcast for learners of English. I’m Luke, hence the title of the show – Luke’s English Podcast. Yes, I am very original and creative and I worked very hard to come up with that name. 

In my episodes I talk about all kinds of stuff and help you learn English. All you have to do is listen, although if you want there are plenty of other ways you can use my episodes to work on your English. I’ll mention some of those things later. 

I talk about different topics, chat with different guests, tell stories, just ramble about what’s on my mind, give advice for learning English, talk about British culture such as music, films and comedy, explain jokes and generally give you something to listen to in English on a regular basis. This is an award-winning podcast by the way and I have a very loyal, enthusiastic and lovely audience who are affectionately called the LEPsters. 

I’m an English teacher from England (West London and the West Midlands). I’ve been teaching English for nearly 25 years now. I first taught in Japan many years ago (have I ever mentioned that I used to live in Japan? – you get a point every time I say that, remember) then I taught in London for a long time at various language schools in places like Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Waterloo, Holland Park and Hammersmith, and these days I live and work in Paris, yes the one in France. 

I went to university in Liverpool a long long time ago and graduated with a degree in media and cultural studies which means I am very good at watching movies. 

I have CELTA and DELTA qualifications in English language teaching to adults, so don’t worry, you are in safe hands, you can trust me I am fully qualified. I am a professional. I have a particular set of skills which I have developed over a very long career. 

As well as being an English teacher, I am also a stand-up comedian, which you must have realised already because you can’t have failed to notice how funny and witty I am. I do stand-up which means I go on stage in front of audiences and make them laugh with hilarious jokes and stories and things and it always works really well and everyone in the room laughs so much, so hard that they die and then can never tell anyone else how funny I am, which is why I don’t have my own Netflix special. 

I’ve been doing stand-up on a semi-professional basis for about 15 years – roughly the same length of time as this podcast, but not as consistently as this I have to say. 

Most of the time these days I perform at comedy shows in Paris in the evenings sometimes, in English, to audiences of English-speaking ex-pats, tourists and local Parisians. If you want to hear me talking about my stand up comedy, check out my recent appearance on the Stolariod Stories podcast. The episode was called The Art of Making People Laugh with Luke Thompson from Luke’s English Podcast. The Art of Making People Laugh: with Luke Thompson from Luke’s English Podcast

I have been doing this podcast for about 15 years now. The show has had over 150 million downloads in total, which is mind-blowing. It is listened to by people all over the world. I am actually very famous but nobody knows who I am. Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. But somehow it is still true. 

If I got all my listeners together in one place I’d be able to fill a few football stadiums, but that’s never going to happen and I’m not even very good at football so it wouldn’t be a very good idea anyway.  

There are audio versions and video versions of this podcast. 

Audio in podcast apps, video on YouTube. Let me explain that to the uninitiated. *

*Remember the words and phrases highlighted in green? That was one of them → “the unititiated”. Get the PDF from the episode page on my website and you can see those highlighted bits. 

I’ll add them all in a list at the end of the episode as well because I’m nice. You’re welcome. I’ll explain them in a premium episode coming soon, to help you remember them and also use them. 

You can listen to the audio podcast in any podcast app on your phone and this is the way that most people listen to my episodes, for example using Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PocketCasts and so on. 

I imagine people do something like this. They get up in the morning, stretch, have a shower, question their life choices, eat breakfast, maybe get the kids ready for school, go to work, and at some point get their phone out, put their headphones in, open up their podcast app of choice, tap on “Luke’s English Podcast” and start listening to a new episode or continue listening to one they started the day before. 

Other people might just stay at home (because what’s the point of leaving the house really?) and maybe get their phone out, connect it to their bluetooth speaker or something, then listen to my podcast and maybe do some really exciting housework or something like that. 

So that’s how to listen to my episodes in a podcast app on your phone. If you’re already initiated into the world of podcasting, that all might strike you as being very obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t understand what podcasts are, how they work or even how the word podcast is spelled or indeed pronounced. 

POD-CAST. POD-CAAAAST. /pɒdkɑ:st/ not postcard or pot-cat

I understand. It can be a tricky word actually. It’s a relatively new word and in terms of pronunciation there are a couple of tricky consonant clusters in there. 

The bit where the D and the C combine and the bit where the S and the T combine. Tricky stuff actually. 

  • /pɒdkɑ:st/ POD – CAAST
  • Try it again.
  • Not POST KAAAAST
  • POD KAAAST
  • Not POK-KAAAST  either
  • POD CAST
  • Podcast
  • Luke’s English Podcast

ok

The word podcast is actually a combination of the word broadcast and the word iPod

It’s a broadcast on your iPod. A podcast. 

It’s a kind of audio broadcast (like a radio show  – radio is broadcasted through radio signals from a radio tower thing, right? 

The radio waves are sent out into the air and picked up by your radio. But with a podcast, the audio is sent out via the internet and you get it and put it on your iPod, although nobody actually uses iPods any more, it’s all mobile phones now isn’t it? 

So, it might as well be called a Phonecast – because I broadcast my show to your phone. Not a phone call, because that’s not how it works. 

I don’t just call you and start talking. I could, but that would be a very inefficient way of doing this, if I had to call you all one by one and say this to each person I called, again and again. No, thank goodness, that’s now how it works. It’s not a phone call, and it’s not a phonecast, even though you listen on your phone (unless you listen on your computer on my website or something, or you actually do listen on an iPod because you’re still using one. So, it’s not a phonecast, it’s a podcast. That should be clear. 

If you don’t know how to subscribe to the audio podcast, just download a podcast app on your phone. They’re completely free (podcast apps, not phones). I recommend PocketCasts. Go ahead and download PocketCasts free from the app store on your phone. Install it, then open it and search for Luke’s English Podcast, then tap “Subscribe” or “Add” (or whatever the equivalent is in your language) and my show will be saved in your list of subscriptions and you’ll always be able to go back to the app to listen to my latest episodes when they are published, and the entire back catalogue, and your life will improve just a little bit, certainly a step in the right direction. Switch on notifications and your phone will tell you when I’ve published a new episode. Happy days.

One of the advantages of listening to the audio podcast on your phone is that you can do other things while you listen, and people tell me that they listen while travelling, working out in the gym, doing housework, running or walking in the countryside, driving, and even at work or school while they should be doing something else. 

I expect some people listen while doing incredible things, like flying planes, recovering from a general anaesthetic after having surgery or operating the safety systems of a nuclear power station. 

I also publish video versions of these episodes on YouTube, and it’s usually the same content as the audio versions, but often the audio versions have even more content because sometimes I ramble a bit at the beginning and end of episodes (and in the middle), and those bits don’t always end up in the video versions. 

My YouTube channel nearly has 1 million subscribers now, which I find incredible really. Not all my episodes get a million views of course, except the ones called “Learn English with a Short Story” which are particularly popular on the platform. The advantages of the video versions are that you can see me while I speak (do you consider that to be an advantage?) 

You can see my body language, facial expressions and the movements of my mouth. For the more visually oriented people, that is a good thing. There are also automatic subtitles on YouTube which are getting better all the time, and I often show text on the screen while I record so you can read and listen at the same time (that text is usually also available on my website for the audio listeners). But, again, the video versions often have less content than the audio versions and you do have to basically stay looking at the screen the entire time, whereas with the audio episodes you can just put your headphones in, put your phone in your pocket and do something else, like fishing or taking your dog for a walk, or  if you prefer dogging and taking your fish for a walk, I mean it’s your life, you can do what you want can’t you? 

My episodes can be quite long, but this shouldn’t be a problem really (who said it was a problem?) Anyway, it shouldn’t be an issue, because you can just pause the episode whenever you want, do something else, and when you return to your podcast app and find that episode again, the app will remember where you stopped and you can continue from that point. YouTube does exactly the same thing if you are signed into it with your google account. 

So, you can just chill out about the whole “Your episodes should be 28 minutes long, no more no less” thing. Just listen to 28 minutes, then stop, then listen to another 28 minutes the next time. 

So, long episodes aren’t really an issue because you can listen to as much as you like, stop and do something else, then carry on where you stopped before. 

Having said that, I do try to keep the length of my episodes under control. I don’t want them to be too long, but the fact is I just have stuff that I want to say and I find it hard to shut up, so I need all that time! 

For me, these episodes are similar to English lessons I do at school. 

Lessons are usually at least 90 minutes long, often more. English lessons in a language school are very rarely less than one hour long. So, it’s a similar story with my episodes. 

Also, I also have a premium subscription (have I mentioned that before, I don’t think I have, have I? No, I definitely haven’t mentioned the premium subscription. Hey, I have a premium subscription. It’s called Luke’s English Podcast Premim. Forgive me for mentioning it again, it’s just that the modest amount of money that I make from it helps me to feed two starving children and one wife and to heat our home which otherwise would be cold, and allows me to buy microphones and guitars and things – all essential purchases of course. Anyway, LEP Premium costs just 4$ a month (and has the price gone up in line with inflation? No, it hasn’t. Starbucks have raised the price of their bizarrely-named coffees, the fuel you put in your car is more expensive, but LEP Premium remains the same despite all those things) and gives you access to extra episodes which focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

So, my podcast has two branches → the free episodes and the premium episodes 

The free episodes → this is what I described before – me talking alone or with guests about things which I hope you will just find interesting and entertaining to listen to as part of your effort to get plenty of English into your brain via your ears. The free episodes are the ones which are available free in audio podcast format, or YouTube video format.

The premium episodes → extra episodes published every month, and also available in a podcast app on your phone. When you sign up you can add the premium episodes to your podcast app. 

Last year I published over 30 premium episodes, so that is 2 or 3 episodes per month. This is not just bonus content or out-takes or something. These are carefully prepared and thought-through lessons in which I help you build your English. All the info about the premium subscription is on my website at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

The main difference between the two branches is that the free episodes are all about input and the premium ones are much more about teaching you directly.

In the free episodes I want to give you something to listen to in English which is made for you, which is entertaining, interesting and authentic, to help you listen more, listen for longer periods, and listen long-term. 

Sometimes I ramble and just share my thoughts with you in a kind of stream-of-consciousness way, sometimes I talk with guests including my friends & family and other people who I hope will have interesting things to say on the show, talk about a variety of topics, tell stories.

In the premium episodes I tend to focus on teaching you things, and this usually means vocabulary – explaining, highlighting, demonstrating, clarifying words and phrases, showing you how words and phrases are actually used with collocations, and other little important details. I also deal with grammar sometimes, and pronunciation every time – mainly giving you something to use for listen & repeat practice so you can regularly repeat after me, but also giving you insights into the pronunciation system in English in various ways. So, the focus is on teaching you language bit by bit.

Sometimes those two branches cross over, and I end up doing premium-type stuff on the free podcast (explaining vocabulary in short story episodes for example) or doing free-podcast type stuff in premium episodes (rambling episodes, short story episodes).

And, as a foundation, I want you to remember that I have been teaching English for most of my adult life now and so it is deeply ingrained in me, and in fact I couldn’t really stop teaching English even if I tried, and so even when I am just talking to you I am still teaching you. There is always that intention there to help you notice language, to engage with this language, to aid you somehow – so even when I’m just talking with seemingly no focus, there is a focus and a method in the background which is to help you connect with English as it is spoken, English as a living language, and English which is a medium for making connections with people and for expressing yourself. 

I am always attempting to reach out to you through the things I say and sort of grab you and shove English straight into your ears, but in a nice way. 

Also, I just love doing this podcast and hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off on you and will encourage you in your journey. 

I could continue to ramble on for ages about the benefits of listening to English podcasts long term, but I have done that plenty of times before. Just have a look back at my episode archive and see what you can see.

By the way, I wrote most of this over the last few days of the school holidays while sitting on my sofa in moments when my baby son was asleep or when my wife took the kids for a routine checkup at the doctor and I had some time to write down some thoughts which had been building up in my head during the Christmas holiday. I wrote these ideas down, and have edited them and added to them a bit since then.

You & Your English in 2023 and 2024 📈

Now I’m going to talk about you and your English over the last 12 months and into the forthcoming 12 months.

Usually in the New Year period I do some kind of New Year episode, and so I have been thinking “What can I say to my audience that will put them in the right mental space to help them learn English with my podcast in 2024? What inspiring words of wisdom can I impart? What sage-like advice can I give?” 

And after I had lowered my expectations for myself and just started writing, this is what came out. Listen carefully and hopefully you will get swept up in what I’m saying and the outcome will be that you’ll get a renewed sense of positivity and possibility for your English this year. Or maybe you’ll just have a nice relaxing sleep. I don’t know. Hopefully it’ll be good for you, either way. Just please be careful if you are driving or operating heavy machinery whil listening to this.

Remember, there’s a PDF for all of this and you can download it from my website. Just click the link in the show notes to find the episode page – the PDF is there.

It’s the new year period. This is a time when we look back and survey the year we’ve just completed, then look forward to the forthcoming 12 months and consider how we’re going to spend that time. I invite you to do that with me here in this episode. 

This is a podcast for learners of English. So, we’re going to focus on English of course. In this episode I want to encourage you and help you to take stock of your English learning at this moment in time.

First let’s look back and consider the last 12 months, and your English. 

Over the last 12 months

  • What kind of progress have you made in your English? 
  • What has worked for you? 
  • What have you done that has had a positive impact on your English?
  • What were some positive experiences and moments you had? 
  • What about negative experiences? What can you learn from them?

Grammar Pause

Note that I said “over the last 12 months” there and then used present perfect tense “What progress have you made?”. If I’d said “in 2023” then it would be past simple “What progress did you make?” “What worked for you?”. 

This is because “Over the last 12 months is an unfinished time period. Basically – don’t use past simple with unfinished time periods. 

For more details about present perfect (in fact, everything you ever wanted to know) then listen to premium series 12 – P12. That’s a premium episode. Did I mention my premium subscription? Again, get the details at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

So, those questions again.

Over the last 12 months

  • What kind of progress have you made in your English? 
  • What has worked for you? 
  • What have you done that has had a positive impact on your English?
  • What were some positive experiences and moments you had? 
  • What about negative experiences? What can you learn from them?

Perhaps you have no clear sense of what you’ve done or whether it’s been positive or negative. 

If that’s the case, if you’re thinking “errr, I dunno actually” it probably means that…

a) you haven’t really done much with English – and this doesn’t just mean “studying” in the traditional way, but just using English either in a productive way (speaking, writing) or receptive way (reading, listening). There hasn’t been much English in your life for the past 12 months, 

or… 

b) you’re just not being very mindful about your relationship with English or the things you do in relation to your English. Perhaps you’re not really that aware of the ways that you are learning this language. You listen to my episodes, do other things in English sometimes but you don’t reflect on it all in an objective way, or an academic way. 

To be honest, I doubt that you fit the description I just mentioned. I think most of my audience are pretty aware of their English.  

And in fact maybe you are very conscious of it, and take quite a  metacognitive approach to it – maybe you are constantly analysing and strategising the way you learn English, and applying different methods.

In any case, this is a moment when I invite you to be mindful about your English. 

Maybe you feel like you haven’t really noticed a significant improvement in your English recently, which is a very common feeling.

Is that you? Are you waiting for some kind of breakthrough moment? Do you feel like you’re on a long plateau? Do you feel like you made significant progress a while ago but nothing has happened more recently? 

Or maybe not, maybe you’re currently really excited because you’ve discovered new abilities, like a superhero in the first half of their superhero origin movie or something.

But it is very common to get stuck in the so-called “intermediate plateau” and if that is the case for you, then I will say these things: 

don’t give up, don’t stop, keep going. The progress might not be obvious to you, but it’s probably still happening and will be revealed later. You just have to be willing to stick with it.

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut, or stuck in a routine and it feels like you’re going over the same ground and you’re not climbing to the top of any mountains or getting any significant feelings of reward moments of triumph or glory.

But that’s ok. You can’t have those moments all the time. 

Sometimes they are few and far between. Sometimes those breakthrough moments in language learning, or those meaningful moments of magic are rare. 

But keep going. Sometimes there is a lot of progress being made, but it’s under the surface and you don’t notice it.  

Language learning can be a weird thing. It can be hard to see it happening. It can be invisible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. 

With English you have to put in a lot of hours. You have to absorb a lot of language, and you have to do plenty of practice. Spending a lot of time on it is necessary, and so you have to see the bigger picture

Imagine it like a long journey. There might be times on that journey where you climb to very high points, like the top of a hill or mountain and you get a clear, dramatic sense of achievement. But at other times you have to travel along a long flat plain and it can feel like you’re not even moving at all. But keep going. You’re making progress, but you might not be aware of it. It’s not all going to be moments of glory and sometimes your progress is not fully visible to you, but it is happening. 

You also have to fail quite a lot – you’ve got to get things wrong a lot before you come back and get them right. This can make you feel disheartened, as if you just keep making mistakes.

But keep going. Don’t stop. This is all part of a process. People don’t improve in their language learning because they give up. So, keep listening, keep doing whatever you’re doing. Stay in the game. Keep your English alive in 2024, and there will come a time or a moment when the time you have spent with it will pay off somehow.

At the very least, you’re understanding everything I’m saying, right? You’re understanding this. You understand me and you’re also noticing that I’m using certain phrases and expressions, aren’t you?

I’ll sum them up for you later. Not all of them, but a lot of them – I’m talking about some of the little phrases I have just used (the ones which are highlighted in that lurid green colour on the PDF), like “breakthrough moments” or “few and far between” or “disheartened”. I’ll sum them up later, help you properly understand them, remember them, and pronounce them too.

You’re noticing those things, you’re hearing them, aren’t you? 

It’s all going in. That’s all fuel or food for your English, you know. 

And the more you are exposed to English as a living thing like this, the better your position is, as a learner of English. The better prepared you will be for the moments when you have to open your mouth and produce the language, or when you’re on the spot and you’re in conversation with someone and you have to understand what’s coming out of their mouth and then you’re suddenly having to respond, and these bits of English come to you, seemingly from nowhere. That’s all thanks to the fact that you’ve been keeping your English alive and at the very least listening to this podcast and keeping your ears open. 

If you feel stuck at the intermediate plateau, keep going, keep the faith, realise that there is progress being made but you might not notice it every day. Keep your chin up

But also consider shaking things up a bit, adopting some new habits maybe, and perhaps give yourself a challenge – maybe some kind of speaking challenge, or change the kinds of practice you’re doing, or perhaps add a bit of discipline into your routines with some other little exercises you could do. I’ll mention some ideas for that later. 

What have you been doing with your English?

Now, bear in mind that in language learning anything is probably better than nothing, so even if the only thing you’ve been doing in English is to listen to podcasts sometimes, watch some stuff in English or occasionally speak it when the need arises, then fine, that’s still good. It’s better than nothing. 

Also, if you’ve been listening to all of my episodes I must say that puts you in a select group of extremely special people. Not everyone listens to podcasts in English. If you’re in public, have a look around. How many of these other people listen to Luke’s English Podcast, or any other podcast for that matter, in English? 

Ah, yes, you are one of the special ones. You are part of that elite group of people who have access to this exclusive and slightly secret world. You’re one of the ones who not only knows what a podcast is, but also how to pronounce it, spell it and also listen to it regularly.

Anyway, listening to podcasts is definitely good for your English, even if it is the only thing you do. But I do recommend doing more than just listening. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Perhaps the worst things for your English are things like this…

a) doing absolutely nothing in English at all, and 

b) getting into a negative mindset in which you tell yourself that your English is no good, that you just can’t do it, or you’re one of those people who simply doesn’t have what it takes to use this language effectively. Never mind those negative thoughts. They will not help, so try not to say those things to yourself. Give yourself a break in 2024!

Everyone is naturally able to learn a language, you just have to maintain some good habits, a positive mental attitude, a sense of enjoyment and perhaps a sense of drive to push things further.

So, what have you been doing in English? What has worked for you? 

Can you recognise the things that have… 

a) helped you to make progress 

b) caused you to feel good about your English?

How can you put your best foot forwards and repeat some of the successes of the last year and build on them and generally move in the right direction, towards growth, progress and prosperity, in your English, but in your life?

Let’s try to maintain a positive cycle in 2024, where one good thing causes you to feel a bit more positive about your English, leading to a growing sense of confidence, which causes you to step outside your comfort zone a little bit more easily, and do something else with a bit more success, which again feeds into your positivity and sense of achievement, and this continues in a generally upward trajectory.


~ Let’s take a quick break here ~ 


To keep this simple, let’s consider these questions: 

  • What have been the good moments in your English learning over the last 12 months?
  • What were those situations? What exactly did you do? What happened? What caused you to feel an improvement in your English and the way you feel about your English?
  • How can you repeat those successes and build on them in the coming months?
  • And, if there were negative things – experiences or feelings in relation to your English, how can you learn from them?

To demonstrate this a bit, let me reflect on my learning of French, which admittedly I have not been engaging with properly (and there you see my somewhat negative attitude towards my relationship with French, revealing the frankly unhealthy condition of my French language learning).

Let me just reflect on my French here and consider my answers to the questions I have above.

Here are some notes which I will expand on.

The cooking class

  • Tell the story – where, when, who, what why etc…
  • The good things – I listened to what the others said and I copied them. I prepared myself in advance, in my head. I decided to just enjoy the moment. I went out of my comfort zone. I will remember the little things that I noticed and used.

Reading graphic novels

  • I love graphic novels in French and there are so many. I finished the series called L’Arabe du Futur, I’ve been reading one about the story of the making of Star Wars, one about an Indonesian woman who lives in France and observes funny cultural differences, one about crime and police in Baltimore which I found really difficult to follow, one about a journalist’s trip to North Korea and more. 
  • You can read direct speech.
  • There is awesome art work and the pictures definitely help to support my understanding. 
  • I get a sense of achievement from actually finishing the books. 
  • I have found something that I actually really enjoy doing in French. I don’t know why, but a lot of things turn me off. I find social interactions in French to be extremely painful.
  • I can go at my own speed (unlike TV shows which are harder to keep up with)
  • I tend to just read and read, and unfortunately I sort of skip over the phrases which I don’t understand or don’t know how to pronounce. I should actually stop and check those things, note them down, try to use them myself. (more comments on this kind of thing later)
  • There’s no audio though, so I can’t actually hear the pronunciation.
  • I should try reading other things like magazine articles or books. I did buy High Fidelity in French but just couldn’t get into the habit of reading it. I have quite bad reading habits actually, even in English. 

Open my ears and just listen to people around me

  • This really just means getting out of my bubble and noticing the French which people are using around me. 
  • Being part of conversations when lots of people are talking can be very overwhelming and exhausting. It’s all too much for me and I just become cut off from the French I’m hearing. As I’ve said before, I feel like I’m watching a game of tennis and after I while I just can’t see the ball any more. 

Being a bit more gregarious and outgoing – stop avoiding social interactions, take out my headphones and be a bit more present. 

Don’t beat myself up

Don’t care so much

Just enjoy it!

Lower my expectations for myself – take the pressure off my shoulders a bit

There are millions of other things I could be doing to improve my French – perhaps I’ll mention some of those things later – but you know what, part of what holds me back with my French is this sense of pressure that I should be a master language learner because I am a professional language teacher. I put a lot of pressure on myself and as a result I have a bad relationship with French and I often avoid it and avoid learning it. You heard me talk about some of these things in the episode with Fabio from last year. Episode 850 “Any Language You Want”, also the one with Rhiannon Carter. 

(This has become a therapy session now) 

Because I make it my business to help other people learn a language, and I do know a lot of methods and have so much pedagogy spinning around inside my head, and that is connected to job-related and career-related pressure, I am extremely aware of all the things I am not doing in my learning of French. I carry all of that on my shoulders and it causes me to feel quite ashamed of my language learning, and shame doesn’t help. It just kills that outgoing, curious, risk-taking, adventurous side that you need to encourage in yourself because that is so important in language learning. It also kills the motivation you need to push through things like slightly boring or unexciting language practice exercises you can do, which require discipline. 

There are also other reasons for my lack of progress including the fact that a lot of people just switch to English when they speak to me, I am actually more capable of having meaningful conversations in English than French, I can’t really speak French at home with my wife because our relationship is based in English and more. As I’ve said before, my French is not that great but my excuses are improving all the time. 

Anyway, I would like to take all that pressure off my shoulders and just come at this a bit more fresh, as if I have no idea that I’m climbing a big mountain – I’m just going for a great walk in the countryside and I’m enjoying the view.

Things to improve

  • Attitude (I’ve just talked about that – just take it easy on myself, basically)
  • Keep a vocabulary/grammar note book → just a notebook, or perhaps notes on my phone, where I can note down or jot down any little things which I notice and would like to remember. Little phrases, little bits of grammar or structures that keep coming up, little reminders of pronunciation. I can check an online French dictionary or even ChatGPT or other online tools like DeepL translator. Online translators can be extremely useful tools – just don’t use them to cheat (to writing all your emails and stuff), use them to help you learn.
  • Check my note book later and remind myself of what I noted down.
  • Practise by testing myself – simply covering up some words with my thumb, reading things out loud and then running them through Google Translate to hear them said, in order to check my pronunciation (Not translating, just making Google Translate say the French I’m learning)
  • Devote just 10 minutes a day to doing some reading or listening in French and then investigating the language I notice with my note book.
  • Try to convert listening to speaking, and reading to writing. Repeat some of the things I’ve heard. Write down some of the things I’ve read. ChatGPT can help with the writing – just ask it to correct you and perhaps explain your errors. Other chatbots are available of course. And I only mention ChatGPT here in case you can’t find or can’t afford a human teacher.
  • Consider taking some one-to-one lessons with a human being perhaps on iTalki.

    I have to sort out my time management for this. All my time is used up at the moment, but I should make time.

Questions for you

  • What do you think of the things I just said? 
  • I mean, did it make you think of your situation at all?

Maybe it just made you think of me and my language learning. To be honest, I don’t really want you to analyse and diagnose my language learning situation. I’m not looking for advice or help with my French, I’m just using it as a little example.

  • Did it encourage you to reflect on your English?

I strongly suspect that your English is better than my French, so your concerns might be a bit different to mine.  You’re probably looking for ways to get out of the intermediate plateau, or ways of progressing to a very proficient level of English. I have people with a pretty wide variety of English levels listening to this, from pretty low-level people who only just manage to follow what I am saying (you have my respect) to non-native speakers who are really advanced and even teach English as a living, and who just enjoy listening to another teacher do his thing, and want to maintain their level and keep their English alive and fresh (you have my respect too).

Anyway, with my own example as a case study, I gave some suggestions of little ways to work on your language there, beyond just listening to this podcast. 

Maybe that can give you some inspiration or ideas.

But really, the main thing I want to get across to you here is the importance of having a positive relationship with the language you are learning.

So, for me and my French, the things I will hold in my mind are

  1. The positive experience I had at the cooking class
  2. The comfort and enjoyment I experience from reading graphic novels in French

Hey! Leave a comment!

I have something to ask you. Please comment on this episode. Spread some positivity in the comment section. I want to encourage you to give any positive comment that you can right now. This will be good for you as it will help you realise something positive about your English and will give you a little bit of writing practice, but it will also be good for everyone else because it can help to create a good vibe and also can give people some inspiration and some general support in their English learning.

  • What positive experiences have you had with English?
  • What do you love about learning English?
  • What little methods, exercises or resources have helped with your English?
  • What have you enjoyed in English lately?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Summary 

Sometimes I worry that I am too wordy and the main core message of what I am saying gets watered down by the slightly long-winded way in which I put things. It’s probably fine and I just worry too much about these things, or something. Anyway, I want this episode to be clear, so I’ve asked ChatGPT to summarise the things I just said to you. I entered the text which I wrote on my sofa over the last few days and which I have read to you, and asked it to summarise it for me. 

This is what it wrote.

Here’s what it said. 

The text you provided is an extensive reflection on English language learning and personal experiences related to language acquisition. The author encourages listeners to assess their progress over the past year, emphasizing the importance of reflective practice and mindfulness in language learning.
The piece delves into various aspects:
1. **Looking back:** Encouraging individuals to consider their progress in English over the past year. Reflecting on what has worked positively, identifying experiences that have impacted learning, and acknowledging both positive and negative moments.
2. **Acknowledging learning challenges:** Addressing the common feeling of being stuck in the “intermediate plateau” and offering encouragement to persist despite feeling stagnant. Emphasizing that progress may not always be immediately visible but is still happening.
3. **Adopting a positive attitude:** Encouraging a positive mindset, emphasizing that failures and setbacks are part of the learning process. Highlighting the importance of perseverance and staying committed to learning.
4. **Suggestions for improvement:** Offering personal experiences with learning French and outlining strategies for improvement, such as keeping a vocabulary/grammar notebook, practicing reading and listening, and exploring speaking opportunities.
5. **The importance of enjoying the learning process:** Stressing the significance of enjoying the journey of learning a language and removing self-imposed pressure to achieve perfection.
6. **Encouragement for sharing experiences:** Inviting listeners to share positive experiences, effective learning methods, and resources in English.
7. **Future goals:** Posing questions about how individuals want to spend the next 12 months, emphasizing the value of enjoying time spent learning English, and expressing enthusiasm for continuing the podcast journey.
Overall, the text serves as a reflective guide, encouraging learners to consider their language learning journeys, embrace challenges, find joy in the process, and engage with the learning community by sharing experiences and positive energy.

A note about AI chatbots like ChatGPT

Sometimes listeners on YouTube post AI-written summaries of my episodes in the comment section and they’re usually a bit wrong, for example the AI seems confused by moments of humour or comedy in my episodes, or by funny little conversational tangents and doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between those tangential moments and the main topic of the episode, and so its summaries are a bit off the mark. I’m talking about Tammy AI here. I don’t know if it uses the same engine as ChatGPT. Anyway, that summary which ChatGPT gave me for this episode is good and I’m happy with it. 

By the way, I’m not relying on ChatGPT here, overusing it and becoming dependent on it. I say that because I think some people out there are wary of ChatGPT and see any use of it as being a slippery slope to over-reliance on it and therefore a sort of slipping of standards. But I think that AI can be used sparingly and to good effect, and that summary is an example of that. It came up with that summary in seconds. I read it, checked it and decided to use it.

Speaking challenges

I said before that I would give you some ideas for speaking and writing challenges. So here are some things you can do to work on your productive skills in English.

Working on your speaking

In a perfect world you will have people to talk to, and you can just have these long conversations, practise expressing yourself for long periods until you are really tired and that night you fall asleep with your mind whizzing and whirring with English words, structures and pronunciation. But, for so many of you out there, you don’t have this opportunity.

You could try joining a community of English speakers. For example, Zdenek has a Discord server called The Achievers Chamber which is a place where you can practise speaking with other learners of English who have a similar level to you. https://teacherzdenek.com/?page_id=2816 

Or you can go to italki.com www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk and find a person there to talk to, or a teacher to have lessons with. There are teachers from all over the world including the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, USA etc. 

You have to pay for this of course, and sometimes it can take time to find the right teacher or conversation partner for you, but it can be an effective way to find someone for speaking practice with feedback and also lessons for specific purposes. By the way, if you use my link you can get a $10 voucher when you buy some lessons on italki www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

You could also enrol in language classes in a language school near you, like The British Council, and you’ll probably find that they offer courses which include lessons on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and all that stuff. You might not find specific classes only for speaking and feedback though. You’ll have to check the BC’s website for more information. See if they have a teaching centre near you, and what services they offer. They also have online courses. https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/adults  

But even if you can’t access English speakers or teachers for conversations and language feedback, you can still find ways to practise your speaking on your own. You just have to think outside the box a little bit and be prepared to do something that seems a bit unconventional, like speaking to yourself. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re weird, and if someone overhears you and wonders what you’re doing, just say “it’s ok – there’s nothing to worry about – Luke told me to do it.” and they’ll say “Who is Luke?” and then you’ll have to just make them listen to LEP and then they’ll become LEPsters and my evil plan will finally come to fruition and I’ll take over the world. 

Talk to yourself

Just try talking to yourself, out loud, in English. There are many things you can talk about or try to do (there are ideas coming). 

Simply the act of attempting to express yourself out loud in English is good practice. When you get stuck and you realise you don’t know how to say something you want to say, you can just go to Google Translate (other translators are available – DeepL for example) and just write what you want to say in your language and translate it into English. You can also press the “audio” button to hear how to pronounce it. 

This is not cheating. It’s using Google Translate as a tool.

You might think that Google Translate is a bad thing, it’s cheating, it’s lazy, it’s bad for your English or it’s unreliable. Well, it’s actually pretty good I find, as long as it’s not the only thing you are working with.

There’s also ChatGPT with the Google Chrome extention “Voice control for ChatGPT, which allows you to just ask questions to ChatGPT, get it to translate things for you, and listen to it say its responses. You can control things like speaking speed and different accents. It’s no replacement for speaking to an actual human, but if you see it as a tool for certain kinds of controlled practice, it can be pretty useful!

So, consider using things like Google Translate or ChatGPT as tools to help you practise speaking on your own. 

If you don’t know what to talk about, here are some ideas.

  1. Commentary
    Give a commentary of all the things you are doing while doing them.
  2. Commentary in the past
    While you are doing things, talk about them as if they happened in the past. Imagine you’re in the future and you’re describing all the things you did.
  3. Shadowing
    Listen to a short audio clip or video in English and try to imitate the speaker’s pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm. Repeat the sentences or phrases immediately after hearing them. There are specific episodes in the premium subscription designed to help you do this.
  4. Record yourself
    Pick a topic or a short passage (maybe a topic from a podcast episode, or a passage from an episode with a transcript – like a story episode), read it aloud, and record your voice. Then, listen to the recording and analyse your pronunciation, intonation, and fluency. Take note of areas that you could improve.
  5. Monologue or ramble challenge
    Choose a topic or an object around you and talk about it for a few minutes as if you’re giving a presentation. You can discuss its features, uses, history, or any related information.
  6. Role play
    Act out conversations between different characters or personas. You can use scripts from movies, TV shows, or even create your own scenarios. This helps with practicing natural language flow and expressions. Also, you can just talk to yourself. Try it now! (I’ll demonstrate it if you like)
  7. Describe and Explain
    Take an object, a picture, or a scene and describe it in as much detail as possible. This exercise helps in expanding vocabulary and enhancing descriptive skills.
  8. Debate with yourself
    Choose a topic you’re interested in and argue both sides of the debate. Express your opinions, provide reasons, and counter-arguments as if you were having a real discussion.
  9. Storytelling
    Create and narrate stories. It can be a personal experience, a fictional tale, or a summary of a book or movie. Just describe what happened. My StoryTime episodes in the premium subscription are specifically designed to help you do this. 
  10. Sing along and karaoke
    Practice singing along to English songs. It can help with pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. You can also find karaoke versions of songs on YouTube with the lyrics on the screen and sing them as if you’re performing. Just remember that songs often break the rules of grammar and pop songs are usually sung in an American accent, not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.
  11. Read Aloud
    Choose a book, article, or any text in English, and read it aloud. Focus on clear pronunciation, appropriate pauses, and intonation as if you’re narrating it for an audience. If you also have the audio version of that text, you can listen to it and compare it to your version. I talked about the benefits of doing this in episode 794. 

If you have other cool ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Remember, the key to improvement is regular practice. Mix and match these activities based on your preferences and gradually increase the difficulty level as you progress. But remember, self-assessment and feedback are really important for monitoring your improvement.

Again, consider recording yourself and listening back. 

Also consider using Voice Control for ChatGPT and talking to it, and then ask it to give you feedback. You can say “I am going to speak English to you. Can you give me some feedback on my English, and correct some of my errors?” Then speak for a few minutes. It will focus on things like grammar and vocabulary, rather than pronunciation though. But if you notice that you’re saying certain words and ChatGPT is hearing other words, it might mean you are pronouncing those words wrong, and then it;’s time to use Google Translate to check the pronunciation of the word or words you’re having trouble with. Of course, good online dictionaries have phonetic translations and audio recordings too.

Writing challenges

  • Write a diary or journal
    YOu can simply describe the things you did, or write about your feelings. Either way, it’s good to get into the habit of trying to express yourself in written English.

But it’s important to remember that we normally write certain kinds of text and so you should probably practise writing in these modes.

Here are the kinds of text you might have to write. This is the sort of thing that comes up in writing sections of Cambridge Exams

  • A for/against essay
  • A business report or academic report with an introduction, findings and conclusion
  • An informal letter to a friend or family member describing an event or planning something
  • A formal business letter to get or give information
  • A business proposal (similar to a report but with a recommendation at the end)
  • A short fiction story
  • A covering letter or personal statement for a job application

Again, I am going to refer to ChatGPT here, but there’s no denying how helpful it can be here, in lieu of a real human teacher.

Here’s a template for a ChatGPT prompt which you can use to create writing tasks.

Write this prompt. You can change the underlined part depending on what kind of writing you want to practise.

Can you give me a short writing task to help me practise my English? I’d like to write a business email. Can you give me some feedback on my writing, and also provide me with an example answer for your task?

ChatGPT will give you the task, then tell you to write your text as a reply and it will give you some feedback. It will also give you a sample answer to your task which you can use as a model to copy / get ideas from. 

Here’s ChatGPT’s response to my prompt:

Absolutely! Here’s a scenario for your business email:
**Scenario: You work for a software company and need to email a client regarding a delay in delivering a project. The client has been eagerly anticipating the completion of the project and is expecting it by the end of the month. Craft an email to notify the client about the delay, explain the reasons behind it, and reassure them about the revised timeline.**
When you draft your email, make sure to maintain a professional tone, be transparent about the situation, offer apologies for the inconvenience caused by the delay, and propose a revised timeline or solution.
For feedback and an example answer:
When you’ve written your email, you can share it here for review and feedback. Additionally, I’ll provide an example email response for the scenario described above:
Subject: Update on Project Delivery Timeline
Dear [Client’s Name],
I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to provide an update on the status of the project we’ve been working on.
Regrettably, I must inform you that there has been a slight delay in the delivery of the project. We understand the importance of this project to your business objectives, and please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this delay may cause.
The primary reason for the delay is a need for additional testing and refinement to ensure the final product meets the high-quality standards we’ve committed to delivering. Our team encountered unexpected technical issues during the final phase of development, which required more thorough testing and adjustments than initially anticipated.
We are fully committed to delivering a flawless product that exceeds your expectations. To ensure the highest quality and functionality, we estimate that the project will be completed and ready for delivery by [Revised Date].
Rest assured, our team is actively addressing the challenges, and we are implementing strategies to expedite the process without compromising the quality of the final product.
In the meantime, we will provide regular updates on the progress to keep you informed about the status of the project. Your satisfaction remains our top priority, and we appreciate your understanding and continued trust in our services.
Should you have any questions or require further clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Best regards,
[Your Name][Your Position][Your Contact Information]
Feel free to use this example as a reference while drafting your email. Once you’ve composed your message, share it here for feedback, and I’ll be glad to assist further!

So, you can use that prompt to ask ChatGPT to give you similar tasks, feedback and model.

By the way, I couldn’t help having a bit of fun with ChatGPT and I decided to write a really terrible response to the task it gave me. I just wanted to see what feedback it would give me.

Here’s my answer to your task.
Sorry mate but I ain’t done that thing you wanted cos sh*t got intense and I had to stay at home. Sorry about that can you give me more time though and it’ll get done proper innit bruv. Alright boss.

Here’s the feedback ChatGPT gave me. It showed great restraint here. If one my my students had given me this work I would not have been quite so professional I think.

Your message has a casual tone, which may not be suitable for a professional business email. To maintain a more formal and professional approach, consider the following revised version:
Subject: Extension Request for Project Delivery
Dear [Client’s Name],
I sincerely apologize for the delay in delivering the project as initially planned. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances arose, requiring my urgent attention and presence at home.
I understand the importance of this project and the inconvenience caused by this delay. I assure you that I am fully committed to completing the project promptly and to the highest standard possible.
Could I kindly request an extension of [X amount of time] to ensure the project is finalized thoroughly and accurately? This additional time will enable me to dedicate the necessary focus and effort to ensure a successful outcome.
I appreciate your understanding and flexibility in this matter. Please be assured that I am prioritizing the completion of the project and will strive to exceed your expectations.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
Best regards,
[Your Name][Your Position][Your Contact Information]
This revised version maintains a polite and professional tone while effectively communicating the need for an extension. Feel free to incorporate this structure and tone into your future business emails for a more formal and appropriate approach.

OK, so that brings us to the end of this episode.

Well done for getting to the end. I trust you have not turned into a skeleton with headphones on. Do let me know that you are still breathing and that you found this episode to be useful.

What about that vocabulary highlighted in that lurid green colour on the PDF?

As I said before, I will devote a premium episode (maybe a series) to this vocabulary. So, you’ll need to be a premium subscriber to get that. Did I mention my premium subscription at all?

www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

But here is a list of all those highlighted expressions for your reference.

DID YOU NOTICE THIS VOCABULARY IN THIS EPISODE?

I’ll be explaining all of this in an upcoming Premium episode. 

  • watch out for some of the words and phrases highlighted in lurid green on the PDF
  • A lot of people will be turning over a new leaf and trying to make a fresh start with their English. Is that you? 
  • It’s a podcast for learners of English. I’m Luke. Hence the title of the show – Luke’s English Podcast. 
  • There are audio versions and video versions of this podcast. Let me explain that to the uninitiated
  • If you’re already initiated into the world of podcasting, that all might strike you as being very obvious
  • I just love doing this podcast and hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off on you and will encourage you in your journey
  • What inspiring words of wisdom can I impart? What sage-like advice can I give?” 
  • And after I had lowered my expectations for myself and just started writing, this is what came out. 
  • Listen carefully and hopefully you will get swept up in what I’m saying and the outcome will be that you’ll get a renewed sense of positivity and possibility for your English this year. 
  • This is a time when we look back and survey the year we’ve just completed, then look forward to the forthcoming 12 months and consider how we’re going to spend that time.
  • I want to encourage you and help you to take stock of your English learning at this moment in time.
  • “errr, I dunno actually”
  • you’re just not being very mindful about your relationship with English 
  • you’re not really that aware of the ways that you are learning this language
  • ou listen to my episodes, do other things in English sometimes but you don’t reflect on it all in an objective way
  • To be honest, I doubt that you fit the description I just mentioned. 
  • in fact maybe you are very conscious of it, and take quite a  metacognitive approach to it – maybe you are constantly analysing and strategising the way you learn English
  • Are you waiting for some kind of breakthrough moment?
  • Do you feel like you’re on a long plateau?
  • You just have to be willing to stick with it.
  • Sometimes you get stuck in a rut, or stuck in a routine
  • it feels like you’re going over the same ground 
  • getting any significant feelings of reward moments of triumph or glory.
  • You can’t have those moments all the time. Sometimes they are few and far between.
  • With English you have to put in a lot of hours.
  • you have to see the bigger picture
  • Imagine it like a long journey. (trip, journey, travel)
  • But at other times you have to travel along a long flat plain and it can feel like you’re not even moving at all. 
  • This can make you feel disheartened
  • the time you have spent with it will pay off somehow.
  • the more you are exposed to English as a living thing like this, the better your position is,
  • when you’re on the spot and you’re in conversation with someone
  • keep going, keep the faith,
  • Keep your chin up.
  • consider shaking things up a bit, adopting some new habits maybe
  • watch some stuff in English or occasionally speak it when the need arises
  • I must say that puts you in a select group of extremely special people.
  • this podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet.
  • getting into a negative mindset
  • one of those people who simply doesn’t have what it takes to use this language effectively
  • you just have to maintain some good habits, a positive mental attitude, a sense of enjoyment and perhaps a sense of drive to push things further.
  • How can you put your best foot forwards and repeat some of the successes of the last year and build on them
  • this continues in a generally upward trajectory.
  • To demonstrate this a bit, let me reflect on my learning of French
  • Here are some notes which I will expand on.
  • Reading graphic novels
  • This really just means getting out of my bubble
  • I just become cut off from the French I’m hearing
  • Being a bit more gregarious and outgoing 
  • Don’t beat myself up
  • part of what holds me back with my French is this sense of pressure that I should be a master language learner 
  • you need to push through things like slightly boring or unexciting language practice exercises
  • just take it easy on myself, basically
  • notes on my phone, where I can note down or jot down any little things which I notice
  • I don’t really want you to analyse and diagnose my language learning situation
  • I strongly suspect that your English is better than my French
  • Sometimes I worry that I am too wordy and the main core message of what I am saying gets watered down by the slightly long-winded way in which I put things. 
  • The piece delves into various aspects
  • its summaries are a bit off the mark
  • some people out there are wary of ChatGPT and see any use of it as being a slippery slope to over-reliance on it and therefore a sort of slipping of standards
  • AI can be used sparingly and to good effect
  • you are really tired and that night you fall asleep with your mind whizzing and whirring with English words

my evil plan will finally come to fruition and I’ll take over the world.