Tag Archives: english

572. Worst Stand-up Gig Experiences (with Amber & Paul)

Amber, Paul and Luke tell some stories of their worst ever stand-up comedy gigs. Expect some anecdotes about embarrassing and humiliating experiences on stage, and “dying on your arse”. Intro & outtro transcripts available + bonus audio in the LEP app. 

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Introduction Transcript

In this episode you’re going to hear a conversation with Amber & Paul – both regular guests on this show as you will know if you are a long-term listener.

I thought I could do this episode with no introduction, just jumping straight into the conversation, but I’ve decided that I do need to say just a few things before we start. I think it will help to put our conversation in context, which should help you understand it all and generally keep up with our fast talking. I know, I can’t help doing these rambling intros, but what are you gonna do? There ain’t nuttin’ you can do.

This conversation is quite fast

When I get together with Amber and Paul, we talk quite quickly and we talk about things that you might not know about, like things that we’ve seen and done together. That might make it hard for you to keep up and understand everything. So, a bit of context from me, now, might help. This is going to make this episode longer, but that’s ok isn’t it?

Amber, Paul and I are all stand-up comedians and in fact that is how we know each other. We all originally met while doing stand-up in English in Paris. Stand-up, you should know by now, is a form of comedy entertainment in which one comedian stands on stage with a microphone and tells jokes and stories to make the audience laugh.

Amber and I do stand-up on a kind of part-time basis while also doing other work but Paul is a full-time comedian, and is actually quite famous these days, particularly in the French-speaking world. He has made some TV programmes for French television and YouTube and also he has a one man stand up comedy show which has been very successful, playing to large theatres of people. Sometimes Paul invites other comedians to open his shows, which means doing 5-10 minutes of stand up in front of Paul’s audience, in order to warm them up before Paul takes the stage. So, you’ll hear us talking about when Amber and I opened for Paul in a big theatre recently.

And then we go on to talk about other stories and experiences of doing stand-up comedy over the years.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen stand-up comedy live in a club or theatre, or if you’ve watched a lot of stand-up on TV. It might not be a big thing in your country. But a great stand-up show is possibly the best kind of comedy entertainment because when it goes well, you laugh so much. You laugh until your face hurts. That’s how good it can be. That rarely happens with films in the cinema. When was the last time you went to the cinema and laughed all the way through, like, every 15 seconds you’re laughing? Well, a good stand up show will be like that.

A bad stand up show on the other hand, can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Good and Bad Stand-up Comedy Shows

But what makes a show good, or bad?

The thing is, as a comedian, after performing on stage even just a few times, you realise that it’s not just you, your jokes, your performance that make a show good. There are other factors involved that are terribly important for making sure a show is successful and that the audience have a good time. I mean, you can do pretty much the same thing – the same jokes, the same stories at one show and get lots of laughs, but then do it at another show in front of a different audience in a different room, with different conditions and it can get no laughs.

Certain things are vital, basically to make sure that the show goes as well as possible.

Obviously, you need a good performer with good material. But also, the audience need to be able to see and hear the comedians on stage, there shouldn’t be many other distractions in the room. The audience should be in the dark a little bit so they don’t feel too self-conscious. The audience should be sitting together, fairly close to each other and fairly close to the performers. They should be comfortable but not too comfortable and it helps to bring the comedians on and off the stage quite quickly, in order to keep the energy up. It also makes a difference how you introduce the comedians on the stage and have them exit the stage, in order to manage the expectations and the reactions of the audience and generally to make the audience feel like the performers know what they’re doing and make sure the audience remember the comedians at their funniest moments (e.g. to end on a laugh not a dead moment).

In fact, there are loads of little factors which you should get right in order to run a successful comedy show. It’s show business, basically.

But the thing about stand up is that if the show doesn’t go very well, then for the comedian it’s especially painful, because you’re basically up there completely on your own and you’re completely exposed. It’s not like in music when you can basically hide behind your song or your instrument and you probably have other musicians on stage with you. As a stand up if things don’t go well, you know about it instantly because nobody laughs and it’s like you’re dying up there.

On the other side of the coin, when it goes really well and the audience laugh a lot, it’s an incredible feeling for everyone, particularly the comedian. But any stand-up who has done even just a few gigs will have stories of both good and bad experiences. It’s particularly common for comedians to share with each other their stories of the bad experiences and the times when they “died on their arse” which is how comedians call having a bad gig. A gig, means a show or concert. Stand ups love to tell each other about difficult gigs they’ve experienced. It makes us feel better, and stories of failure are usually pretty funny, right?

I’m saying all this, because basically, in this conversation you are going to hear Amber, Paul and me talking about some good gigs we’ve had recently and then some stories of truly awful experiences of dying on stage, not literally dying because, well, if we had actually died on stage then we wouldn’t have been able to record this, because we would be dead. Maybe we could have come back as ghosts, or something, but ghosts can’t talk normally, because they’re ghosts and they’re made of clouds or whatever. Ghooooosssts teeeend to speeeeeeaaak like thiiiiiiis, that’s how ghosts speak. That’s is no good for podcasting or any form of communication really, except for scaring people out of an old house.

That’s the only time when ghosts speak, isn’t it? When some people enter their old house and they want to scare them away. Leeeeave this plaaaaaace. Etc. or maybe they want to steal their souls and they say “jooooooooin usssss!”

So no, hahahaha just being silly. The point is, you’re going to hear stories of us having bad gigs and as we say, “dying on our arses” but not literally, don’t worry.

I think that’s it for context. I hope you can keep up with this and that you enjoy another conversation with Amber and Paul.


Outtro Transcript

So, that was Amber, Paul and me, recorded in my flat just the other day. I hope you enjoyed listening to some of our stories of doing comedy there.

A couple of comments at the end here.

You’ll notice there wasn’t much from Amber in this episode. Paul and I did most of the talking I think. Perhaps we didn’t really let her get a word in, although I think she was happy, but still – sorry to the ‘Amberfans’ who missed out on some of her input and, yes, her lovely voice. I’ll make sure we get more Amber input next time they’re on the podcast, which should be fairly soon because Paul is now less busy than he was before and is more available for podcasting duties, not that it’s a duty.

There is Bonus Audio in the App

You will find nearly 20 minutes of bonus audio for this episode in the LEP app. Just tap the gift icon to access that. You’ll hear more of our conversation which wasn’t included in this episode because I didn’t want it to be too long. In that bonus audio we talk about more comedy-related topics, including what it’s like to receive negative comments on YouTube and also how Paul has been accused of stealing a joke from Louis CK, which is not true, he didn’t.

Joke theft is actually a very serious business among comedians. It’s one of the big no-nos and if you’re found guilty of joke theft, it can be very bad for your reputation and your career.

The thing is, it can be quite hard to work out if someone has actually stolen someone else’s joke, or whether the two people just came up with the same bit independently, which is possible – depending on the joke.

But Paul has been falsely accused of taking material from Louis CK, but he didn’t – they both just happen to have come up with the same joke.

Basically, this is a joke about how French people measure body temperature by sticking a thermometer up the bum. It seems most other countries just put it in the mouth or maybe under the arm, but the French – up the bum. This is an observation that Paul has been talking about on stage for several years, and Louis CK recently started talking about it too in his stand up (because these days he is with a French woman and has spent time in France). Some of Louis’ stand up shows have been leaked on YouTube, including that bit about thermometers. Also, Paul recently published a clip from his stand up show which included his thermometer joke. So some people have seen the videos and then mistakenly thought that Paul stole the joke from Louis. The fact is, they just both came up with exactly the same observation, independently of each other.

Paul’s been doing that material for several years at least and he has recordings to prove it.

Anyway, if you want to hear about the whole thermometer – bum – Louis CK – joke theft accusation scandal, then check out the bonus audio because we talk about that a bit, and a few other things too. That’s only in the LEP app, which you can get from the app store completely free.

In the app you can also get the full episode archive, plus loads of app-only episodes and content, plus the option to subscribe to LEP Premium content.

Register for LEP Premium to get episodes in which I teach you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation with PDF worksheets – all available in the app or online.

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

Join the mailing list on my website to get a link for the episode pages of new episodes when they are published.

Thank you again to Amber and Paul for being on the podcast.

Thank you to you for listening. I hope you enjoyed our stories of embarrassment and humiliation in this episode.

As ever, leave your comments on the website. Check the page for this episode where you will see some transcriptions and some videos, including footage of Paul dying on his arse at the French Football Awards and the vlog he made about it.

Keep in touch. Send me an email with your thoughts.

I’ve got more episodes about comedy coming up, specifically ones in which we listen to some clips and then understand them in detail.

You can look forward to that.

Have a wonderful day, morning, night, evening and please remember to be excellent to each other.

Speak to you again soon, but for now – goodbye!!!

Videos

Paul dies on his arse at the French Football Awards. It’s in French, but you can still see him ‘bomb’ quite badly – hardly anyone laughs at his comments and some people aren’t even listening to him (time code 48m29s)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkjqerWFPrI&feature=youtu.be&t=48m29s

Paul’s Vlog about the Football Awards, including video footage of the event and his reactions

570. Learning & Teaching English with Zdenek Lukas (Part 2)

Part 2 of my chat with Zdenek from the Czech Republic. In this one we talk about becoming an English teacher, taking the infamous DELTA teaching course, Zdenek’s podcast and board game, and some long-lost (and embarrassing) comedy YouTube videos I made in the pre-podcast days.

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Introduction Transcript

This is part two of this double episode featuring Zdenek Lukas from the Czech Republic.

Zdenek is an English teacher, a podcaster and a board game enthusiast. In this conversation we’re learning about Zdenek’s story. In part 1, which you’ve all listened to, we heard about how Zdenek learned English to a high level by working as a labourer and electrical fitter on a building site in East London. In this episode we continue the story by talking about these things:

  • Coming back to the Czech Republic and becoming an English teacher
  • The challenge of doing the DELTA (the notoriously difficult Cambridge Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, which is considered in the industry as the highest practical English language teaching qualification out there)
  • My story of failing one of my teaching observations when I did the DELTA in 2006 (Don’t worry folks, I took the teaching observation again and passed it by the way, my record and my reputation remain intact)
  • Teaching English when it’s not your first language – the preconceptions, challenges and possible advantages of that
  • Zdenek’s podcast – his inspiration, his reasons for doing it, what he does in his episodes and how the podcast fits in with his teaching and his life in general.
  • There is also a slightly embarrassing story from me about some lost comedy videos I made in the years before I started Luke’s English Podcast.
  • And finally we have Zdenek’s interest in board games, both as a teaching tool in the ELT classroom but also in English speaking gaming communities online using the Steam platform. Zdenek has in fact created his own board game which he hopes to get properly published in physical form in the future.

Enjoy!


Ending

So that was Zdenek from the Czech Republic.

If you would like to play Zdenek’s game online you need to download the Steam platform and then buy TableTop Simulator. Then, in the Workshop area you will find Zdenek’s game which is called Kingdoms of Deceit.

If you’d like more information about this, leave a comment on the page for this episode on my website. I expect Zdenek will be able to help you there.

Playing online games like Kingdoms of Deceit can be a great idea for your English and for your social life in general as Zdenek said. This sort of thing is a great solution to that problem of not being able to get social time in English. So, check it out, it could result in you making some friends online, having fun playing some virtual board games and improving your English in the process.

As I said, get Steam, then TableTop Similator and find Kingdoms of Deceit there. I’m pretty sure that’s how you’ll find it. If you have questions, just leave a comment on the episode page and I expect Zdenek will be able to respond.

Also, check out Zdenek’s English Podcast which you can find on iTunes and most other podcast platforms. He also has a Facebook group which you could join in order to keep in touch with him and his listeners.

You heard me mention those ridiculous videos I made with my brother, before I started LEP, the ones filmed in some woodland at the bottom of my parents’ garden, in which I’m a survivalist who gets everything wrong.

I did, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), delete and lose almost all of those videos, but I have realised that there is one that still exists and is still on YouTube. It’s just a few minutes long and you can see it if you like, by checking the page for this episode. I watched it again and it did crack me up a bit to be honest. Maybe those videos were funnier than I remembered.

In the video you’ll see me pretending to be a survival expert and doing various comical pratfalls (a pratfall is when you fall over, for comical purposes – I did a lot of pratfalls in this video, falling into hedges and actually injuring myself quite badly – I had scratches all over my arms which I had to cover up with long sleeves for a few weeks while teaching. I’m wearing an old safari suit from the 70s that my Dad had in the back of his wardrobe, which looks ridiculous and is too tight. Perhaps the funniest bits are when you can hear my brother trying not to laugh behind the camera. This is the least embarrassing video, which is why I didn’t delete it. Probably the most embarrassing thing about the video is my haircut, to be honest.

Unfortunately the footage of me jumping into a pond, being attacked by imaginary spiders and smearing myself in mud is lost forever. Unfortunately? Actually, it’s probably for the best…

Anyway, check out the video on the page for this episode if you like. It’s called How (not) to Light a Fire.

Alright then, that is it for this episode.

Thanks again to Zdenek for being on the podcast.

All that remains to be done is for me to remind you to check out my premium service at teacherluke.co.uk/premium for regular episodes in which I focus on teaching you vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Join the mailing list on my website to get an email in your inbox whenever I publish content on the website.

Also, follow me on Twitter, which is where I’m most active on social media. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast

Have a great morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will speak to you again in another episode soon!

Bye

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

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

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

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Introduction Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1 Summary

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

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

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

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

A few tangents:

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

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

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

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

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

Ending

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

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

Thanks for listening…

Bye!

Links

Zdenek’s English Podcast

Zdenek’s English Podcast Facebook page

Kingdoms of Deceit – Zdenek’s game on Steam

568. What is Luke’s English Podcast, and how can it help you with your English?

What are the aims & objectives for this podcast? How can you use it to improve your English? This episode is an introduction for new listeners and a reminder for long-term listeners: This is a podcast all about learning English through listening, while having some fun in the process. Transcript available.

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Episode Transcript

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to 2019! This is it! We’ve arrived.

That’s actually the 10th time I’ve said Happy New Year on this podcast (not in this episode) The 10th time I’ve said it in a podcast episode, in January, because this is the 10th year of LEP. This is the 10th January of LEP and the 10th new year podcast episode. Imagine that! In fact, you don’t need to imagine it, because it’s actually true and real. So, just know that! A decade of me doing this. Actually, the official 10 year anniversary is coming up in April. 12th April to be exact. There’ll be more on that later in the year I expect.

Hello, I hope you are absolutely, totally, wholly and completely 100% fine, so that when someone asks you “how are you?” you can put your hand on your heart and say with total sincerity that you really are fine, like fine wine.

I’m doing alright thanks very much. Happy to be talking to you on the podcast in 2019. Here we are in the future.

I’d like to say a big Hello to any new listeners who might be listening to this for the very first time, right here, right now. I often get new listeners at this time of year. So, if you are a brand new listener, then “hello” and welcome to my podcast. If you’re a long-term listener then hello as well, nice to have you back, you’re looking great, would you like a biscuit, no, you’re on a diet? New year’s resolution. Good for you. Keep it up.

But hello to any new listeners I have. Welcome.

This is a podcast for people learning English, people who love English and anyone who is just interested by all the cool things that come to you when you choose to learn a language, in this case that’s the language we call English – British English to be exact. Thank you for choosing to listen to me in this episode and I hope you stick with us and join my audience of listeners all around the world.

Maybe you’re listening to this because you’ve made a new year’s resolution to improve your English and you thought “I’m going to improve my English in 2019 and start listening to a podcast” or something like that.

Well, I think you’ve come to the right place. Welcome, one and all.

What’s this episode all about?

This episode is a summary of what this podcast is all about – what is Luke’s English Podcast? And this is for the benefit of new listeners, and for the old listeners in case you’ve just forgotten or something, and also it’s a reminder of how you can use the podcast to improve your English.

I’m doing this in the general spirit of the new year period, which is often about re-evaluating what you’re doing, re-establishing your objectives and generally taking stock.

“Taking stock”, that’s a nice phrase. It means doing a general assessment of the present situation – having a look at what’s going on now, seeing what you’ve got and what you’re doing.

That’s “taking stock”.

You can say “I’m taking stock” or if you want to add something to the expression, you use ‘of’, so for example, “it’s normal at this time of year to take stock of things” or “take stock of your life”.

Taking stock is also something you do if you own a business – when you count all the stock you have in your shop or warehouse, for example. When I worked for a big music shop in Liverpool many years ago, we regularly had to take stock, or do a stock check. That basically involved counting all the CDs and DVDs we had in the store so we could be completely sure what we had, the value of what we had and so on, and that helped the store managers to manage the business effectively. In all honesty, doing the stock check at the shop completely sucked because you had to physically count every single item in the shop and do it while the shop was closed, which meant staying at work until it was very late and everyone was hungry and annoyed at having to count things all evening.

Hopefully taking stock of this podcast will be a bit more enjoyable than taking stock of many thousands of DVDs and CDs at 9.30 in the evening in a now defunct business which used to be located on Church Street in Liverpool.

We also take stock of our lives when we just evaluate or assess where we are, what we’re doing, what we’ve got and what we need. In this episode I’m welcoming new listeners and taking stock of this podcast, and just reminding everyone what it’s all about and what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and generally what you’re listening to.

My podcast episodes are quite diverse. I move around and talk about lots of different topics, but sometimes it’s worth just reminding ourselves that this is all about learning English, making sure we’re all enjoying it and knowing that there is method to the madness here.

I’m going to talk about

  • The aims of this podcast
  • Ways in which you can use this podcast to improve your English
  • How this podcast works and the different ways you can listen to it

The Aims of the Podcast

First of all, I think people should do more listening.

I want to help people to listen to more English, because I just know that it is a really important part of the language learning process.

I say “I just know” because, well, I do just know it, from my experience of being an English teacher for nearly 20 years.

I have realised that doing plenty of listening practice, with the right kind of audio resource, is a very healthy thing to do for learners of English. To be honest, it’s not just listening, everyone could do more practice in general, but people usually read, do grammar exercises, but listening seems to get a bit sidelined.

Just listening, regularly, is very healthy for your English.

That’s true and I think most people would agree with it.

However, the majority of learners I’ve met over the years during my career, just don’t do this.

Most people just don’t do enough listening while learning English.

I find it hard to understand how someone can think they can learn a language without actually hearing that language being spoken, a lot. How can you know the language if you haven’t actually heard it being used very much? I think the problem is really that people don’t know what to listen to, and find it hard to get listening into their everyday lives. Of course we now have all the films and TV series you can find online but I believe podcasts can really help people to get more English listening into their lives. I am a believer in podcasts, that’s why I have one.

It’s worth making a point here about the different types of listening you can do. Let’s say you’ve decided you need to do more listening, so what do you listen to? People often say “I’ll listen to the BBC News!” People often assume that listening to the news is the right thing to do. It can be great of course, and it’s better than not listening to anything, but I think there are probably better things to listen to than the news.

The thing is that the news is really hard to understand and the newsreaders don’t talk like normal human beings. They have a particular way of speaking and use particular words in a certain style. Nobody in the real world actually talks like that when they have normal conversations. Instead it’s better to listen to something more conversational and closer to the kind of English that you need – for socialising, for building relationships with people, for doing interesting presentations at work and things like that.

For example, let’s look at a quick dialogue. First the natural version, then the news version.

Hi Luke, how are you?

I’m fine thanks, you?

Pretty good thanks. Did you have a good Christmas break?

Yeah, it wasn’t bad thanks. I just spent a week at my parents’ place and ate far too much food and just generally relaxed with my family. It was nice.

Now the News version.

Hi Luke

Welcome to this conversation. Today’s top story – how I spent my Christmas holidays. This report, from me.

A traditional British Christmas has long been known to involve drinks, gifts, and a meal of roast turkey with vegetables and this year was certainly no exception. Local reports have indicated that the yuletide season was spent in the usual manner, with a gathering of family and friends who joined together at the family home where wine was drunk, turkey was consumed and, like many revellers during this festive season, falling asleep on the sofa was an unavoidable consequence typical of the season’s indulgences which certainly were a common sight this year in households all over the country…

So, the point there is – people might assume that the news is the right thing to listen to, but there are better options and podcasts are great, especially mine! (Other podcasts are available of course)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the benefits of listening. Instead I’ll just repeat that it’s very healthy for your English to listen to natural speech which is engaging and entertaining on a personal level, which is not too slow but also not too fast, which is clear, which you just enjoy hearing, and to do it regularly and hopefully for more than just a few minutes at a time.

So, my first basic aim is to help you to
Listen to more English
Listen longer
Listen more regularly

And to listen to the right kind of English speaking.

So, first and foremost, just listen. As a starting point or a foundation, just listen. That’s all you need to do. Just listen to my podcast, or indeed others because I didn’t invent this whole “speaking and recording your voice and putting it online” thing, of course.

I hope you enjoy it and actually want to listen to what I have to say because if you enjoy this, everything else becomes so much easier. Of course, my podcast won’t be for everyone, but I hope that you, yes you, actually choose to listen to this not just because you know you need to improve your English (because someone told you that you had to do it, like your Dad, or your boss, or if you work for your Dad, your boss, who is your Dad, your Dadboss) so don’t do it because you feel like you should but because listening to my episodes is somehow just enjoyable for you.

Another aim, and this is fairly obvious but it still needs to be said, is this. I aim to help you to improve your English (durr) to expand your vocabulary, to build your grammar, to increase your awareness of natural pronunciation in English which in turn should help you with your own pronunciation, or accent if you like.

Listening to my podcast can help you with those things, and it has helped lots of people. How do you know Luke? Because people write to me and tell me that it has helped, and I believe them! They tell me about their IELTS scores and also about how difficult it used to be to use English in the past, and how much better it is now after persevering with my podcast for some time (and no doubt doing other things which have helped – I can’t claim all the credit, no no, oh, oh you’re too kind, ok well if you insist, yes it’s all thanks to me).

So, I want to help you improve your English, and I am a teacher so that’s good isn’t it?

Yes, I am an English teacher, for adult humans and I have been for a long time now, but I don’t always teach English directly in normal episodes of this podcast.

I mean, these episodes aren’t really lessons in the traditional sense. In many cases I’m just talking to you about something that I just want to talk about or that I hope you will find interesting, because remember – the first aim is to help you just to listen to more English, regularly, for longer periods, long-term.

In some episodes I am definitely teaching you language points. There are episodes in the archive dealing with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation and these days I do plenty of direct language teaching in my premium episodes, which are available for premium subscribers. In those premium episodes I explain language, demonstrate it, give you tests and pronunciation drills, using my particular set of skills. “That sounds wonderful”, you must be thinking. “How do I sign up?” Well, you can sign up for LEP premium at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium. You’ll get access to all the existing premium episodes and any new ones when they are published, plus new phrasal verb episodes and more – all for the price of a coffee every month.

So, I do teach language more directly in the premium episodes, but the normal free episodes don’t always contain direct English language teaching. Instead, I mainly just talk to you – and this is my 18th year as a professional English teacher. I’ve got lots of experience of talking to learners of English, so in a way I just can’t stop teaching. Even when I’m just talking to you, I am still teaching you, even if it might not be 100% obvious. I explain things as I go, I try to talk clearly but also naturally. I try to use good microphones so you can hear what I’m saying.

I think I know what things my listeners will and won’t understand, and I keep this in mind at all times, while also just talking to you in what I hope is an engaging way, always trying to make sure you listen more, listen longer, listen regularly and listen long term, and if all goes according to plan, you enjoy it too.

How can I keep you listening?

  • I try to entertain you as we go – make you laugh sometimes (when you’re on a bus or walking down the street maybe), amuse you or just hold your interest somehow. Hopefully I manage to entertain you, I don’t really know. Only you can be the judge of that.
  • I make it personal – talk from the heart, talk about things I’m passionate about, put some soul into it, I hope. Hopefully this makes the podcast authentic and genuine, rather than just self-indulgent.
  • I tell stories about my life and about other things I know about.
  • I talk about language learning in order to give you ideas and keep you motivated.
  • I interview guests and just chat with friends and family. Many of my friends are stand-up comedians and it’s generally pretty fun and funny to talk to them, and members of my family are frequent guests on the podcast – my Dad for example often comes on to talk about politics (especially Brexit) and my brother and I like to talk about music and films. Sometimes I have other guests like people I don’t know as friends but who are interesting to feature on the podcast for whatever reason, like when I spoke to the linguist David Crystal.
  • I sometimes talk about silly things and just have fun talking nonsense for its own sake, but I also talk about serious topics when I’m in the mood.
  • I talk about culture – this means things like films, TV shows, comedy, music, also history and politics and stuff like that.
  • I explain comedy (often British) – stand up, TV shows, sketches, jokes etc – which is a complicated and yet very rewarding thing to do.

Talking about my podcast like this sounds a bit pretentious, I’m realising now. It sounds like I think it’s a really big deal, like a kind of charity that protects works of art or looks after the dreams of children or something. “Here are Luke’s English Podcast we are committed to honouring the legacy of William Shakespeare…“ or something. Obviously, it’s just a podcast, but I try to do my best to make it good.

All of it is designed to keep you listening, keep you interested in order to help you improve and maintain your English as we go along.

What have I learned about learning English, and how does this relate to the podcast?

Based on my experience, my academic reading and the many language learners I’ve met over the years, here are some important elements in learning a language and how this relates to my podcast.

It’s possible to talk about this forever, but I’m going to try and keep it simple by breaking it down into just 3 things: motivation, practice and time. There are other factors of course, but let’s just keep it simple at the moment.

Motivation
This is the main one. You have to want to learn the target language. If you don’t really want to learn the language, you probably won’t because learning a language means making personal choices about you and your identity and then devoting time to it, making compromises and perhaps letting some other things go while you prioritise your language learning.

You need to have internal personal reasons for learning the language. Nobody can learn a language for you and nobody can be motivated on your behalf. The motivation must come from you. So find your motivation for learning the language. Make your reasons for learning the language personal to you. Accept that you will have to sideline some other things and prioritise your learning of your target language. You might need to stop watching those crappy soap operas in your first language, for example, or just dump that boyfriend or girlfriend who really is no good for you and who doesn’t believe in you and your efforts to learn English and in fact is holding you back. Why are you with that person anyway? They’re no good for you. You’re worth so much more than that. If you’re in a loving and supportive relationship, or you’re single – you can ignore that bit.

Also, try if you can, to have a positive relationship with the language. Sometimes learning a language can be frustrating because it’s difficult. Let’s be honest. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need to talk about it all the time and there wouldn’t be a huge industry in language teaching and learning. It is difficult, especially if you want to get really good and especially if you’re learning the language as an adult who is also juggling lots of other things in your life.

Learning a language can be a challenge – an enjoyable challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

I know for many of you, learning English is just a great thing that you love doing and it’s sort of like your passion or maybe even your obsession and that is great. I have great respect for you because language learning is a great thing to do and is a really cool thing to be enthusiastic about.

But a lot of people do find it a challenge and find it hard to keep the motivation up.

The structure of the English language might be very different to your mother tongue. The pronunciation feels weird and unnatural. The spelling of words and the way they are said don’t match. In fact it’s all irritatingly confusing and illogical, and quite embarrassing when you get it wrong and you feel less intelligent than you are in your first language. In your first language you might be a truly awesome dude or dudette (or whatever the female equivalent of a dude is) but in English you might be reduced to more of a Mr Bean character. I don’t know, that’s how I feel in French a lot of the time, so maybe it’s the same for you in English, although having said that I’ve met quite a lot of listeners to this podcast and none of you were Mr Bean, not even a little bit. So, anyway… I’m saying that learning English can be difficult because it’s, well, it’s like we have a different word for everything isn’t it? It’s like a completely different language or something!

It can even feel like the language thinks in a different way to how your language thinks (if you know what I mean). You might not like feeling different or having to change a bit.

When you’re trying to learn a language you might feel out of your comfort zone. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Feeling a bit lost, puzzled, confused, frustrated – they’re all totally normal and natural reactions. You need to get over that feeling pretty quickly and weirdly learn to enjoy the feeling, and find ways to overcome it, and then just revel in those moments when you learn things and move forwards, opening up new avenues for yourself in the process.

Leave the negative thoughts behind, they’ll just hold you back. Stay positive at all times (just be blindly positive, constantly, like “hey, everything’s just great!!!”) and be stubborn. Don’t give up, and remember this – you are a natural biological machine designed to learn language. Your brain is totally designed to learn English and it can happen in a very natural way, you just have to kind of get yourself out of the way and let it happen.

Get yourself out of the way – I mean, don’t judge yourself too harshly, try not to worry about how cool you appear to other people, or whether you’re making mistakes or if you need to monitor your behaviour, just relax a bit and let the magic happen.

Keep an open mind, don’t let yourself get blocked, don’t worry about mistakes too much, feel good about your progress, and just learn from any errors that you make.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re not making progress and you’ll be disheartened and maybe even depressed at times – you might think, “that’s it I’m a lost cause”. That’s ok, that’s normal too. Keep going. You’re not a lost cause. Learning a language is a long term thing, and there might be periods when you feel you’re not learning that much, but you’ll be surprised. Often the learning process is not completely obvious to us. You might not realise it but your brain is dealing with the language work you’re doing. Sometimes there’s a period in which you feel you’re not making progress, but your brain is working hard and as long as you’re still interacting with the language, using it, listening to it, consuming and producing it, working to memorise words, your brain is working on doing it better and better all the time, and one day you’ll make a breakthrough and you’ll realise the difficult times were worth it because you were making progress without realising it.

So, choose to be positive. Choose to keep your chin up, enjoy the small bits of progress, celebrate larger moments of progress, remember that people all over the world, every day, have the same struggles as you. It’s all normal. Keep going, you’re on the right track, don’t stop. I should turn this into a motivational song, shouldn’t I?

Basically, motivation is really important.

Practice
This means that you need to actually do things! In a simple way this means you need to speak a lot, read a lot, listen a lot, write a lot and perhaps do some old fashioned language work with a grammar book, vocabulary book or pronunciation book (with CDs or something) or do some other clever little techniques using online resources or just a dictionary or audio with a transcript – more on that later.

Practice is like money in the bank. The more you put in, the more you get out (unless there’s a huge banking crisis caused by dodgy bankers gambling with our money – but in the language learning bank, this never happens so don’t worry. Your English is safe, even with Brexit and all that stuff.)

You’ve got to put the work in to get the benefit out again later. The best thing is that if you are motivated the practice doesn’t feel like work, it’s just something you enjoy doing. That’s where the motivation comes in – it is the fuel that lets you do all the practising. There are lots of different kinds of practice which I will talk about later in this episode, which admittedly could turn into another one of those massive episodes that I do. Seriously, I don’t always set out to make long episodes, they just happen. Clearly the universe or The Force or whatever wants me to make longer episodes because even when I set out to do a reasonably brief episode, they end up pretty long. This episode was supposed to be just a quick re-cap of my aims for doing this podcast, and now it’s become something of a marathon episode all about how to learn English.

Ah well, who’s complaining? Are you complaining? Nope. Good. I don’t know why you would complain anyway. Why would you not want more of this? I know why, because it doesn’t perfectly match the length of your commute to work. I think that’s the only reason, or perhaps because as a learner of English it’s a bit too hard to concentrate on listening to English for more than say 30 minutes at a time.

That’s probably the good reason for making shorter episodes and I know that’s true, but I’m sorry – don’t blame me, blame the general shape of the universe because it just seems that I can’t do this stuff in just 30 minute chunks. It just doesn’t come out like that, so I suppose some of you will just have to use that pause button. That’s why god invented pause buttons and podcast apps that remember where you pressed pause last time, right? Right.

So, anyway, I was talking about the importance of practice.

Just remember the 5 Ps – practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.

Nobody learned to play a musical instrument by reading musical theory, they did it by practising day after day. It’s the same with language learning. Practice day after day after day after day, which becomes week after week, month after month, year after year and decade after decade. This is just the first decade too. We’ve only just started!

It’s not just what you know, it’s what you can do. It’s not about knowing grammar rules, or knowing words, it’s about being able to do things in English.

So, open your mouth, speak (it does help if you open your mouth first before you speak, by the way) listen for enjoyment and interest, read for pleasure, write something that’s meaningful and will be pleasant for the person who might read it. It’s all about communicating ideas, and making English a part of who you are.

You own English by the way. It’s your language too. That’s the cool thing about this language. It’s open source. So start using it to express yourself right now.

Time
Here is some basic maths, I think. I have an equation for you.

(practice + time) x motivation = progress

I’m not a mathematician, and that’s just a mathematical metaphor rather than a real equation, but anyway, the point is – you need to invest time into learning this language.

Practice regularly, practice for longer than just a few minutes, practice long term – you’ll need to keep practising your English forever! It might never be perfect because guess what? Perfection doesn’t exist. Nobody is completely perfect at English or any language, to be honest. You might think that Stephen Fry (random example) is perfect at English, but I guarantee that he often struggles to find the right words, he often has difficulty when writing, he stammers sometimes when he speaks and makes mistakes here and there, he probably feels bad about something he said slightly badly once, he reads a massive amount and probably listens to a ton of radio, podcasts and audiobooks. His English is excellent, but it’s not perfect, because perfection in language is an absolute concept that in reality is sort of impossible to achieve. There is no end point called “perfect” in language, I think. It’s just a continuum. That’s a nice word, “continuum” because it has two Us right next to each other. I don’t know any other words in English (or any other language for that matter) that have two Us right next to each other like that. OK so I’ve just Googled it and it turns out that I do know another word with two Us and it’s “vacuum”, which is also a nice word.

Anyway a continuum is basically a long line, rather than a series of points. Imagine a line with an arrow on the end, it just keeps going.

So in this language learning journey that you’re on, there might be no destination and the sooner you realise that the better. It’s all about the journey.

Or maybe it’s better to make the comparison with learning a musical instrument. Nobody practices an instrument and then one day just stops playing and says, “that’s it, I’m done! I’ve finished! I have learned music. Now I can rest” because you have to maintain your skills, you have to commune with the music every day, you have to keep your hands or your body in shape to be able to reach all the notes you need to reach. You need to play music every day to just maintain your level! Language is the same I think.

So, spend time on it – regularly, for longer periods, long term.

And just regularly listening to this podcast – at the very least – will help as a kind of foundation.

How to use this podcast to help your English

So, as I’ve just said, regularly listening to my podcast can definitely help you and as a constant, basic thing in your life you should keep doing that – listen regularly, listen for longer periods and listen long term… to my podcast or any podcast that works for you. Other podcasts are available of course. Just pick the one that works for you. Yes, films and TV shows can also be good but that’s slightly different because with films and TV series you’re in front of a screen, locked to the show, perhaps reading subtitles, but certainly only doing that – only focusing on the show, which is great but that’s the only thing you can do while you’re doing it. With podcasts you can listen while you’re doing something else, which is a big advantage when it comes to saving time.

So, the basic thing is just listen.

But what else can you do? What other kinds of practice can you do? And how can this podcast fit into that?

*Luke talks a bit about learning English as a child and learning English by ‘survival’ (e.g. moving to a new country and having to learn English to work or get by every day)*

I’ve talked about this before in previous episodes, for example episode 174 (How to learn English with LEP) and also some other episodes, like the ones about Breaking the Intermediate Plateau and various others I’ve recorded over the years.

It all depends on what kind of learner you are and what works for you. I think there isn’t one universal method which always works for everyone.

You have to choose the kind of practice that works for you, fits into your lifestyle and matches your motivation. And that’s a good thing – a lot of people worry about whether they’re doing the right thing and whether they’re following the right method. Just do what works for you, because all roads lead to Rome. As long as you’re practising, staying positive, staying motivated, enjoying it mostly, and spending time on practising your language, that’s great. Find the thing that works for you and that’s great. Often the best methods are the ones that just make you feel good while you’re practising, although saying that it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t be lazy. But at the same time it’s better to be doing something rather than nothing.

I mean, some people think “I’m not practising my language learning in the right way therefore I won’t do it at all” which is a big mistake. In language learning something is always better than nothing. So interact with English regularly, even if you feel like it’s not 100% the best method in the world, it’s better to do that than nothing at all. For example, if all you do is just listen to my podcast and don’t really do anything else, that’s ok. I would encourage you to do other types of practice too, but certainly only listening to my podcast is by no means a bad thing. If it’s a case of “only listen to a podcast in English without doing other work” or “don’t do anything at all” – only listening to the podcast is a far far far better option, obviously.

That seems obvious, but I know from experience (and personal experience as a learner of French) that we are all likely to think “Oh, just listening to this podcast episode is not going to solve all my language learning problems, so I’ll just do something else instead”. That’s human nature. But listening to the podcast episode or reading a few pages from that book or whatever it is that you’re doing with your English, is always better than just doing nothing!

So, just sitting back with your headphones on and listening to me, or listening to someone else on another podcast, that’s totally fab and brilliant and magical even if it is the basic minimum you can do.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this podcast works best as part of a balanced diet. I mean, you’ll make more progress if you combine listening with other, more active forms of practice.

You should also be doing plenty of speaking, ideally in conversation with real people in English, preferably with native speakers (but not necessarily) and you should be doing reading and writing practice as well. Reading is really important because, basically, you’ve got to see the language as well as hear it. Remember, language exists in many forms and you have to be familiar with it an all those forms – you need to be able to write it (spelling, grammar, structure, understanding the conventions of certain kinds of text – like how to organise an essay, a letter, a report, an email, an informal text etc) you need to be able to read it – in various forms – books, articles, etc. You need to be able to understand it when it is spoken (listening skills) in order to identify the main topic, but also to get the nuances like small details, attitude of the speaker and the ways in which words might be joined together and how different accents sound, and you need to be able to speak the language – which means being able to convey exactly what you mean fairly quickly, confidently and with some nuance too.

To get the fully rounded and complete English that you need, it’s important to work on those 4 skills. You also need to work on language systems like grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation because these are the building blocks of the language. But remember that those building blocks are always used to express an idea, to communicate a message and that is the main point of language – it’s there to communicate a message, so always prioritise the effective communication of your message. That’s the most important thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should ignore accuracy (meaning – correct grammar, correct word usage, correct spelling etc) no – accuracy is also important of course. What I mean is that it’s best to practise using language for communication, rather than just doing mechanical practice of grammar for example. So, my point here is that English is something you can do not just something you know. Focus on being able to do things in English, like for example being able to tell stories about yourself (you know those little stories about our lives that we all have, like the story of our career, or the main relationships in our lives etc). That’s just one example. In a wider sense, this all means that you need to let English into your life in a personal way and learn how to use English to express yourself as a person. It’s not just about knowing the right irregular verb, or knowing the rule for how past perfect is used.

Studying grammar definitely helps…

But here are some ideas about how this podcast can help you with your English, and specific things that you can do, using this podcast, beyond just listening to it regularly.

First of all, you should become a premium subscriber (as you know) because in those premium episodes I actually cut out a lot of the annoying work that you’d normally have to do and kind of hand all the language to you on a plate, with practice exercises and some pronunciation drills and everything, so that will certainly help you maximise your learning with my podcast.

But in terms of other things, here are some ideas.

More Ideas for How to Work on your English (with and without this podcast)

  • Be mindful and notice language – this just means paying attention to the language as you hear it – try to notice features of grammar, certain phrases, ways in which words join together in fluent speech. Noticing or being mindful – it just means paying attention really. You can mke mental notes as you listen, just going “oh, it’s interesting how he’s using ‘will’ to talk about the future here and “going to” there, or “ooh how did he structure that sentence about the past?” and stuff like that. You can skip back and listen to bits again. You can make actual notes on paper, on a computer or on a phone. You could push it even further and transcribe parts of an episode. Transcribing is a super-duper mindful listening exercise because you end up having to focus on every single minute detail when you’re transcribing and it forces you to really pay attention. There is a transcription project for this podcast which is run by listeners. You can join in – more info in a minute.
  • Check the pages for episodes where a lot of the language will be written – you might find words written there – words or phrases you didn’t know but you heard me using. You can then just notice them, or copy+paste them into your word lists or your flashcard apps or whatever sweet technological wizardry you like to use.
  • You’ll often find transcripts there too, which is nice.
  • Shadowing – this means repeating after me. You can talk along with me, if you can keep up, or pause the podcast and repeat what I’m saying.
  • Responding to what I’m saying – in your head, out loud, on paper or in the comment section on the website. Respond to any part of an episode with your own thoughts. It can make it more like a conversation. You could even just pause the podcast and talk for a little bit on your own. It doesn’t mean you’re mad or insane anything. It’s ok, you can tell the doctors that I told you to do it – I mean talk to yourself, not rob a bank or anything. I will not take responsibility for your criminal tendencies or your language learning – both are ultimately your responsibility.
  • A little bit of humour there, hahhaha ha ha ha yes it certainly helps the language learning process doesn’t it… (awkward)
  • Language exchanges – find someone who speaks English who wants to learn your language. Do 30 minutes in English, 30 mins in your language. It helps if you find someone who is actually serious about doing it and isn’t a total time waster. You might need to shop around and you might have a few disappointing experiences before you find the right person.
  • You can set up language exchanges with other users on italki and it’s free.
  • LEP meetups, or at least chat with friends – organise social events in English, like board game sessions or whatever. Check my website for Meetups, or organise one and tell me about it and I’ll advertise it on the podcast. Give me plenty of notice. You can also check websites like meetup.com to see if there are English language events happening in your area.
  • Italki lessons – get some private tuition with a teacher on italki
  • Peer groups – find groups of like-minded individuals to share the language learning journey. The comment section on my website might be a good way to start. Try leaving some friendly responses to other people’s comments. You might end up in a Skype group, chatting with friendly people in English.
  • Getting your errors corrected – I think there are services online that will correct your writing, but honestly I’m not sure where they are. If you know of any, let us know in the comment section. I haven’t actually googled it, maybe you could do that, with you know, the internet.
  • Self-correction – use your passive knowledge of grammar, spelling, vocabulary to correct your writing. I think I’ve got more to say on this in a minute.
  • Grammar books – go through the exercises and try to get them right (of course – it would be weird if you tried to get them wrong) read the grammar rules or should I say “guidelines” because they can be a neat shortcut to understanding how the language really works and also try to notice the language you’re studying and use the grammar book to confirm what you’re hearing in the real world. For example, you could study some language in your grammar book and make a point of trying to notice it being used in the English you’re reading or listening to.
  • Write a diary – write things in English every day. Even if it’s boring stuff like “I went to work and then got a headache because my boss stresses me out and then I had some cake”. It doesn’t matter what it is really, just find your voice in English and write something every day, even if nobody else reads it, it’s still good practice.
  • Write your ideas down without worrying too much about being correct, then read it again and correct it like a teacher, then write the thing again. You could write a response to a topic in the podcast for example, or if it’s your diary just write what you did using past tenses all the time and express your feelings and describe what you want to happen in the future and things like that.
  • Write imaginary letters or emails, or maybe write real emails to, like, real people! Find a pen friend. Again, there are websites that can help you find a pen friend. Like I said before – google it! I can’t do absolutely everything for you. If you can’t find a real pen friend, just use your imagination!
  • Read graded readers (books adapted to your level) they’re published by Penguin, Black Cat and other publishers. You might find some in your library or perhaps just buy some from Amazon or another bookseller that pays its taxes (ooh controversial). Graded readers are books which have been adapted to different levels of English. They are easier to read and this is a good thing because reading normal books in English can be crushing and difficult so what’s the point, and with graded books you get the satisfaction of finishing a book in English.
  • Record yourself and listen back to it
  • Use my TED talk technique
  • Transcribe portions of my episodes – and join the Orion Team
  • Write comments in the comment section and chat with other listeners. Feel free to discuss ideas and things, but always try to be friendly and respectful – which is a good exercise in life in general.
  • Listen to episodes several times if you can. You’ll notice so much more on repeat listens.
  • Loads of things to do, and there are more ideas out there – feel free to share them in the comment section.

OK – how are you all doing? Feeling motivated? I should certainly hope so!

To recap – the main thing I want you to do is to listen – listen more, listen regularly, listen for longer periods and listen long term. Hopefully my podcast can help.

Also, through listening you can certainly improve your English significantly, but it’ll help if you do other things too, you get creative with it, you use your imagination and you let yourself go a bit. OK? OK!!

What does this mean to me personally?

For me this podcast is a labour of love – with more emphasis on the love than the labour. I mean, I work hard on this, but mainly it’s something I just love doing, which makes it not feel like work. The Chinese philosopher Confucius may have said “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” (People say Confucius said this)

This podcast project (which also includes my website, my premium service and other things like occasional videos) this is where I use my professional skills as a teacher to make my content, but also I get to use this as a platform for my creativity, for interviewing interesting people and for rambling on about topics that I personally find fascinating.

Also, it’s a great joy for me to be able to share my culture and my language with my listeners who come from all around the world, and who often contact me on social media, by email and in the comment section of my website, where there are regular commenters who have created something of a community of friendly LEPsters.

Most of my listeners are ninjas – not literally (although who knows) No, what I mean by ninjas is just people who stay hiding in the shadows, listening intently but never revealing themselves or getting in touch with me. Every now and then a ninja will emerge from the shows, send me a message or leave a comment on the website and then disappear forever.

In my experience, the vast majority of my audience are lovely, like-minded people who are united by their interest in learning English and hopefully the sorts of things that get talked about on this podcast.

My top ten countries, right now, at the time of recording this, are (in reverse order):

10. Ukraine
9. Italy
8. Germany
7. Poland
6. Korea
5. UK
4. Spain
3. Japan
2. China
1. Russia

The chances are, you are currently living in one of those places. If so, “HELLO”. If you are living in another country, then I would like to extend a very warm “HELLO” to you too. In fact, I think there might be more people listening outside of those top 10 countries, but you’re all spread out across different parts of the globe. The top 10 countries represent where my audience kind of bunch up together. According to my online stats, I have listeners in about 200 countries. So, if you are not in the top 10, then HELLO! And please tell some of your mates about the podcast in order to get your country into the top 10. Russia, Japan and China are the usual winners of this weird International Premiership of Countries I have going on here. Those countries also have pretty large populations, which might have something to do with it. India is #28 by the way. I don’t really understand the statistics to be honest, except that people in the world listen to me talking and that’s marvellous.

So, this podcast is my personal project and it is also now a source of income for me. My free episodes are sponsored by italki and Spoken all of whom offer services for improving your English in ways that go well with this podcast. For example with italki you can get regular speaking practice into your life. Those sponsors support the free episodes and they also offer you discounts and stuff like that. Then, my premium subscription service also helps me put food on the table and pay the rent, as well as cover the costs of running this whole project – and there are costs involved! Hosting all my audio and video content, hosting my website, the costs of recording equipment that helps me keep the sound quality as high as possible so you can hear every word I say without having to damage your hearing in the process!

Also, my work is supported by my audience who send donations to me as an expression of gratitude. Thanks guys.

All in all, the podcast now helps me to live my life, and do certain basic and vital things like support my family, buy food in the supermarket, buy nappies for my daughter, train tickets to see my family, and other essentials like proper tea bags from Marks & Spencer and biscuits and cake and stuff. Let me tell you, it is a wonderful thing that I can do something I love (podcasting) in order to help me do other things I love (like drinking tea and buying cinema tickets) and to provide things for people I love (my wife and daughter).

How does this podcast work and how can you listen to it?

Well, you’re listening to it now so I guess you’ve pretty much worked this one out, but still, it’s worth just telling you a few things about how this works.

Listen on a computer, or listen on your phone. There may be other ways to get it. The podcast is on Spotify as well…

Listen on your phone
Most people listen using a podcasting app on their phone, for example the Apple Podcasts app or maybe the equivalent podcast app on Android phones. Other podcasting apps are available, like PocketCasts, CastBox, iVoox etc, but of course truly the best way to enjoy listening to this podcast on your phone is to use my app – the Luke’s English Podcast App, which is available free from the app store. Why is it better Luke? Well, it does pretty much the same things that those other apps do (like you can download episodes into the app for offline listening, or you can change the playback speed, select your favourite episodes and stuff), but there’s quite a lot of bonus content in the LEP app – some episodes contain bonus audio clips (like bits I’ve edited out of the episode) and loads of other stuff – in fact there are loads of videos, about 150 short episodes about phrasal verbs – all in the LEP App and available free.

You can also access my premium episodes using the app. Just login with your premium details and bob’s your uncle – all the premium content is right there for you to enjoy in your own time.

So, in my opinion, the best way to listen on your phone is through my app, and I consider the LEP app to be the home of LEP on your phone.

So, most people listen to the podcast on their phone, probably while riding a bus or something like that. That’s the cool thing about audio podcasts. You can listen to them while you’re doing other things, which allows you to get more English into your life by multitasking.

It’s not like watching English videos on YouTube or Netflix, which require 100% of your attention. You can listen while doing the housework, walking down the street, sitting on the loo or many other things that we all have to do no matter where in the world we live.

On your computer
It’s also possible to listen to the podcast on your computer, probably on my website where you’ll find the entire archive of episodes (and I’ve done episodes on loads of different topics – have a look and you’ll see). The advantage of listening on your computer is that you can check out the notes, transcripts and other useful information which I present on the pages for these episodes. Also, you can leave your comments in the comment section, read other people’s comments and all that stuff.

All the premium content is also available via my website.

By the way, if you want more details about the premium content and how to register for it, just go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium which you really should do if you want your life to be even more awesome than it already is.

A good way to get easy access to the website pages for episodes is to join my mailing list, which is on the website, in the top right HAND corner of every page. Join the mailing list and you’ll get an email whenever I upload a new episode, or something else on the website, and sometimes I upload website-only content like perhaps a letter from me, a music mix, my appearances on other people’s podcasts or videos (sometimes I’m interviewed by other people – usually about something humour-related) and things like that. So join the mailing list. You’ll get an email in your inbox with a link when I upload something, click the link and it’ll take you straight to thAT page.

That’s probably enough now isn’t it?

OK, so that was my chance to take stock, re-state some of the aims of this podcast, and help us put our best foot forwards in 2019.

As ever I am always happy to read your comments and emails. If you have any thoughts about any of this, about my podcast, about your English, about tips for improving your English, or if I’ve missed something please write a comment or send an email through the website or the app.

I look forward to recording more episodes of this podcast for you in the coming months, and there will be conversations with my Dad, with Amber & Paul, more episodes about British Comedy, more stuff about accents, premium episodes with language teaching and plenty of other things coming.

Thank you for listening to my podcast and for being wonderful human beings.

Have a great day, morning, evening, night or whatever time of day it is out there in LEPland.

Speak to you again in the next episode.

Bye!

🎁 Listen to this episode in the LEP App for 10+ minutes of bonus audio 🎁

Search the app store for Luke’s English Podcast App.

567. Alternative Christmas Stories & Poems / Beatles / Happy New Year from LEP!

This is the last episode of LEP before the end of 2018.

It’s Christmas and New Years Eve is approaching, so it’s time for the traditional Christmas episode of LEP! In this one I’m going to read some Christmas stories and a couple of poems which are a bit different to the normal stuff you get at this time of year. Also, keep listening for a funny appearance by The Beatles.

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Episode Transcript & Notes

Luke, I know that it’s Christmas and it’s a time of giving, but why are you uploading so many episodes at the moment? We can’t keep up!

The Christmas holiday is about to start and I’ll be quiet for a few weeks, so I’m giving you quite a lot of stuff now for you to listen to while I’m away.

That includes this episode in which I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a Happy New Year too, then ramble to you a little bit and then tell you one or two Christmas-themed stories, read a couple of Christmassy poems and there will be an appearance by The Beatles as well, as you’ll hear later on.

First of all, a bit of a ramble (not too long).

I’ve uploaded a lot recently. New free podcast episodes, new phrasal verb episodes and new premium episodes. It’s quite a lot of stuff, which might be difficult to keep up with, but as I’ve said, I won’t be uploading for a few weeks so it should be enough time for everyone to catch up.

Just yesterday I uploaded another series (3 parts) of premium episodes for December, and that is all about language from the Alan Partridge episodes I did in October. They were popular episodes and they were full of really nice language – I mean, descriptive vocabulary and noun phrases I used to talk about Alan, and also various other expressions, phrases and bits of grammar that came up in the clips that we listened to. So I devoted a couple of Premium episodes to that and also the usual memory tests and pronunciation drills. PDF worksheets are available for all the premium episodes.

There are also new phrasal verb episodes in the premium package now too, and more arriving on a regular basis.

If you want to become a premium LEPster, go right ahead, be my guest. You’ll get access to all of the premium content in the ever-growing library, and all the stuff that will be published in the future too. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium to get started. Also, you’ll be supporting the podcast with a small monthly contribution – about the price of a coffee or beer every month.

I tell you what, I am super duper chuffed to finally be making premium episodes and having this project alongside the normal episodes of the podcast. I hope those of you out there who are premium Lepsters are getting into the work I’ve been doing. Thank you for your support for the podcast too. You’re making it possible for me to spend more time on this, and that’s going to help me to improve and develop what I’m doing.

It’s been a pretty good year for LEP with lots of episodes about different things. I hope you’ve enjoyed them all and found them useful for your English. The year started with the birth of our daughter, and I talked about it in episode 502 – that’s about 65 episodes ago, can you believe it? I’ve done 65 episodes of the podcast this year, plus all the premium ones. Quite a productive year. Episode 502 – that’s when you first heard my wife’s voice on the podcast.

Sometimes during the year I think you heard the voice of my daughter in episodes, when I was recording stuff while she was in the flat with me. That may happen more and more as she grows up.

She’s not really speaking yet, although she is walking. She is making more and more complex noises though, not exactly speaking but making sounds with different bits of intonation and stuff – things that sound like questions, things that sound like “yaay” etc. She’s started doing this thing where she lifts objects to her ear and kind of goes “hello?” as if she’s speaking on the telephone. No idea where she got that from because we usually use headphones when we’re on the phone at home.

She also understands various things that my wife and I say to her, in both languages. She’s very fond of pointing at things too and kind of going “huh??”, like “What’s that??” As she speaks more, I’m sure I’ll record her sometimes so you can hear her learning to speak over the next few years. I’m looking forward to doing that.

A shout out to my students at the British Council

I teach 4 groups of students at the British Council at the moment, across different levels. They’re all adult learners of English and we’ve had some great classes over the last year. Hello, if you’re listening. I want to share a video that some of them were involved in.

So, at the BC in Paris we offer a social programme called English Extra, which involves things like social events, drinks, talks by teachers and guests (I did one about British humour if you remember) and also weekend trips to London. The idea is that it gives our students more opportunities to socialise in English and get more talking time in English, basically. Also, it’s just a lot of fun and we have some really outgoing, funny and social people in our adult classes at the moment, including in my classes, which is great because it means we have a lot of fun while also learning English. So, some of them went to London recently and as part of the trip they made a little video for YouTube. It’s called How Much do Londoners Know about France? The students went around, interviewing British people in the street, asking them various questions about France. The results are pretty embarrassing, I must say!

The average Londoner doesn’t seem to know that much about their nearest continental neighbours! To be honest, I wonder if the same would be true about the French, in fact I think it would be. Anyway, the video is pretty funny and I want to share what my students did, so check it out – you’ll see the full video on the page for this episode. I also shared it on social media today.

My students at the British Council made this video in London

Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you have any plans?

What are you doing for Christmas? Is it something you celebrate in your country? Do you have any plans?

This year we’re going to spend some time with my wife’s family in France on the 24th and 25th – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, doing Christmas the French way, which involves Champagne (of course – although I’m off the booze at the moment – might have to make an exception for Christmas) and then on Boxing Day (which is now also our daughter’s birthday, the poor girl! It’s no fun to have your birthday at Christmas) we’re going to the UK to spend about a week with my parents in their house, which will be great. My Mum and Dad are looking forward to seeing us, but mainly they want to see their granddaughter. It’s cool, she seems to get a boost when she sees them. It’s funny, she loves music and will dance and clap her hands when you play music to her. I am currently educating her in the ways of The Beatles, by playing Beatle music to her every day. It might backfire and she’ll end up sick of it, I don’t know. Hopefully she’ll grow to like their music like I do and my parents do too.

So I’ll be on holiday from the moment that I publish this episode until some time in early 2019. I’m not sure when the podcast will be back exactly. But you’ve got plenty of content to keep you busy in the meantime, right? All the recent episodes and the premium content. By the way, in those premium episodes it’s not just all serious and boring language work. I like to have a laugh there too, it’s just there’s more of a focus on teaching you language and helping you to practise your pronunciation.

Right, so that’s enough rambling.

‘Alternative’ Christmas Stories / Poems / Jokes + The Beatles

I was scouring the internet for good stuff relating to Christmas – stories, mainly. I wanted to read a good Christmas story or a couple of short stories or something. I haven’t found much! Most of the stuff I found is quite cheesy and crap to be honest so it’s been a bit difficult to find the right things.

So, this year, after searching and thinking, I’ve come up with one funny little story, some slightly odd poems, a funny Christmas tradition and The Beatles…

As I said, most of the stories with a Christmas theme that I found online were quite cheesy and cliched, and that’s a bit dull. But I did find several stories which are a bit different or maybe you could say alternative. By that I mean they take a different look at Christmas time.

These stories and poems are quite weird and a bit dark too in some places, but I’ve decided that’s ok because I’d rather have some weirdness and funniness than the usual Christmas stuff about sleigh bells, reindeers and all those other cliched tropes of Christmas – not that there’s anything wrong with that, I do love the cosiness of Christmas when you’re indoors with your family (as long as you’re not trying to kill each other), eating nice food (prepared by someone else possibly, probably your Mum or my Mum in this case – thanks Mum) and generally having a lovely and jolly time. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – that’s what Chrimbo is all about. But I’m sure you’re getting plenty of that stuff everywhere else, in shops, bars, on TV, on the radio, online etc. I don’t know where you are, but certainly in the UK you start to get inundated with the usual Christmas stuff from as early as November these days, and it starts to become a bit annoying after a while.

For example – Christmas songs…

“Well the weather outside is.. blah blah.. and the blah is blahdy blah blah, let it snow let it snow let it snow!”

“Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose…”

“Driving home for Christmas…” etc

Nothing wrong with that stuff really, but it is everywhere, all the time.

So instead of that kind of stuff, here are some alternative takes on Christmas time. Some funny(ish) stuff, some weird stuff, some slightly disgusting stuff, some slightly dark stuff and then The Beatles as well, as you’ll hear later.

Let’s start with a funny little story I found on a website called www.funny-jokes.com

The Missing Five Pound Note

Chippenham George worked for the Post Office and his job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day just before Christmas, a letter landed on his desk simply addressed in shaky handwriting: ‘To God’. With no other clue on the envelope, George opened the letter and read:

Dear God,

I am a 93 year old widow living on the State pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had £100 in it, which was all the money I had in the world and no pension due until after Christmas. Next week is Christmas and I had invited two of my friends over for Christmas lunch. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. God; can you please help me?

Chippenham George was really touched, and being kind hearted, he put a copy of the letter up on the staff notice board at the main sorting office where he worked. The letter touched the other postmen and they all dug into their pockets and had a whip round. Between them they raised £95. Using an officially franked Post Office envelope, they sent the cash on to the old lady, and for the rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of the nice thing they had done.

Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter simply addressed to ‘God’ landed in the Sorting Office. Many of the postmen gathered around while George opened the letter. It read,

Dear God, 

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your generosity, I was able to provide a lovely luncheon for my friends. We had a very nice day, and I told my friends of your wonderful gift – in fact we still haven’t got over it and even Father John, our parish priest, is beside himself with joy. By the way, there was £5 missing. I think it must have been those thieving fellows at the Post Office.

George could not help musing on Oscar Wilde’s quote: ‘A good deed never goes unpunished’

And now, three poems by modern authors. Poems like these are good. They’re written in plain English and they have a rhythm and rhyme to them. It’s a good idea to practise saying them yourselves. See if you can get the rhythm right.

An alternative Christmas Poem from Roald Dahl

Mother Christmas
“Where art thou, Mother Christmas?
I only wish I knew
Why Father should get all the praise
And no one mentions you.

I’ll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he’s done it all.

So Hail To Mother Christmas
Who shoulders all the work!
And down with Father Christmas,
That unmitigated jerk!”
[c. RDNL]

Explain some of the vocab.

Alternative Santa: A Christmas Poem

Roger McGough by the way is from Liverpool and was part of a poetry group there in the sixties called The Scaffold. Another member of The Scaffold? Mike McCartney – Paul’s brother. We used to read Roger McGough’s poems when we were children. He used to write a lot of funny little poems for kids, but some of his work is actually really good for adults. It’s not too fancy or pretentious, it is written in plain English and for me it does exactly what poetry should do, makes you feel something inside. I also like his brief style. Less is more.

By Roger McGough

‘I’m fed up looking like Father Christmas,’
Muttered Father Christmas one year
‘I need a new outfit, I must move with the times
So for a start, it’s goodbye reindeer’

He googled Alternative Santas
And was amazed at the stuff that appeared
He got rid of the holly-red costume
Had a haircut, and shaved off his beard

Spent his days in front of a computer
In a cave hollowed out of the ice
Wearing a tee shirt emblazoned Merry Xmas
And jeans (Amazon, Armani, half price)

Couldn’t wait to straddle his snow-ped
(The bargain he’d bought on eBay)
A rocket-powered silver toboggan [sledge, sled or sleigh]
His supersonic sleigh

Then one morning he thought, ‘Oh why bother
Delivering presents by hand
When it could all be done online
Busy parents will understand

We are lucky to live in a digital age
Where the aim is access and speed
SantaNet I’ll call the system
‘Santafaction guaranteed’

And that was years and years ago
Times that children barely know
Midnight mass and mistletoe
Christmas carols and candle glow

Sleigh bells ringing across the snow
And Santa singing Yo ho ho
For that was years and years ago
And that was years and years ago.

This poem appeared in the Telegraph on December 7th, 2013

Hmmm, but what does it mean?

This next one starts out quite sweet, but it gets a bit dark. I think it’s a brilliant poem though, even if it is quite sad.

The Trouble with Snowmen by Roger McGough

‘The trouble with snowmen,’
Said my father one year
‘They are no sooner made
than they just disappear.

I’ll build you a snowman
And I’ll build it to last
Add sand and cement
And then have it cast.

And so every winter,’
He went on to explain
‘You shall have a snowman
Be it sunshine or rain.’

And that snowman still stands
Though my father is gone
Out there in the garden
Like an unmarked gravestone.

Staring up at the house
Gross and misshapen
As if waiting for something
Bad to happen.

For as the years pass
And I grow older
When summers seem short
And winters colder.

The snowmen I envy
As I watch children play
Are the ones that are made
And then fade away.

Roger McGough

Something a bit disgusting, or is it? An odd Christmas tradition from Catalonia. The Caganer.

Catalonia is a region in Northwestern Spain. Barcelona is the most famous city there. Some of you may be there right now. Lovely part of the world.

Apparently they have a slightly odd tradition there. The Caganer. It’s a little figuring of a man pooing on the floor. Yuk, disgusting! You might think, but actually it’s a long-standing tradition in the region and is a symbol of good luck and also renewal for the coming new year.

This is an article from nowIknow.com (I brilliant email list with fascinating and funny little stories every day)

The Tradition of Christmas Poo in Catalonia

Christmas Poo

Do you have any slightly odd or funny Christmas traditions or new year traditions?

A Beatles Christmas Record 1964 (one that my Mum had in her record collection)

Why are we going to listen to this? It’s interesting, funny, charming and silly and maybe you’ve never heard The Beatles speaking before.

Every year The Beatles recorded a Christmas message for their fans. The message was distributed to members of the fan club on floppy 7 inch ‘vinyl’ (but not vinyl, it was plastic or something) records. My Mum was a member of the fan club in the 60s and she got these records in the post, I think. She still had them as James and I were growing up, and we used to listen to them as children too. I think James is now the owner of these records. I sincerely hope that he’s looking after them because they will be worth quite a lot of money one day. I’ve seen them on eBay for over £300.

As well as being great song-writers, The Beatles were naturally very funny. They were quick-witted, silly and surreal. Part of that is because of they were from Liverpool, and Scousers naturally are very witty people, but partly because John, Paul, George and Ringo were talented and funny in their own right. They did not take themselves seriously at all, which is one of the reasons they were so charming.

You can see this in their films, but their humour came out best when they were just being spontaneous in interviews and in situations like this where they’re in the studio reading out some comments that were written by someone else, maybe a member of staff from the record company. They are supposed to be reading out the messages but they can’t help fooling around, and the results are pretty funny. Their sense of humour is still fresh I think, even though this was over 50 years ago.

Here are some things you should look out for as you listen to this clip.

First they seem to run towards the microphone and then run away again at the end.

The text they are supposed to be reading was written by someone else, and was written by hand, so they have some trouble reading it and make a few mistakes sometimes. There are also a few little ad-libs here and there. John keeps saying it says here, to show that he’s reading someone else’s words.

Paul: (thanking the fans) Don’t know where we’d be without you

John: (instantly) in the army perhaps

Paul: I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to the records as much as we’ve enjoyed melting them! I mean, making them.

Paul: That’s all, except to wish you a Happy Christmas and a very new year. (A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)

John: (coughing loudly) Thanks all for buying my book and there’s another one out pretty soon, it says here. (clearly reading from a text). It’ll be the usual rubbish but it won’t cost much. You see, that’s the bargain we’re going to strike up. I write them in my spare time, it says here.

Paul: Did you write this yourself?

John: No, it’s somebody’s bad handwroter. (you expect him to say handwriting). Thanks a lot and a happy Christmas and a merry goo year. (goo is like slime or mud or something…)

George: I’d like to thank you for going to see the film. ‘SPECT (I expect) a lot of you saw it more than once. We had a quiet time making it. (George misreads the text and corrects himself) Actually we didn’t ! We had a great time making it. The next one should be completely different (he goes into a strong Liverpool accent) This time it’s going to be in colour. (John: Green)

When Ringo speaks, it’s just funny. I can’t explain why. I think it’s the way he delivers these pre-written lines in a slightly awkward and sweet manner. It’s just Ringo being Ringo. While he’s speaking someone drops something in the background and he says casually “Who’s droppin’ that?” They were natural and never cheesy or contrived, and that was very different at that time. They were very real, in a very formal world of show business.

Ringo: Those airport receptions knocked us out, man, great! (to knock someone out = to amaze/surprise someone)

At the end they break into a rendition of “Oh can you wash your father’s shirt, oh can you wash it clean?” which is probably some old song that people used to sing.

They run away again at the end.

Another Beatles Christmas record – 1965

This is the one from 1965, a year later.

More things to listen out for

Check out the nice crackling vinyl sound.

Paul: Got to thank everyone for all the presents this year

John: especially the chewed up pieces of chewing gum (I think they did receive this kind of thing), and the playing cards made out of knickers (not sure about that – they probably did receive home-made playing cards and stuff, and perhaps some knickers too!)

John: (in a weird creepy voice) On behalf of George and I, I’d just like to thank you for… (inaudible)

Paul: Well Ringo, what have we done this year?

Ringo: Well, I see you haven’t shaved again.

John starts singing a made-up song in a strong Scottish accent, with lyrics which are hard to understand because sometimes Scottish people speak in a dialect that English people don’t understand. John used to make up nonsense poetry and songs on the spot. He had a surreal sense of humour.

The band then go into a version of Auld Lang Syne which is a traditional Scots-language poem written by George Burns, the famous Scottish poet. It’s a song which is sung in Scotland and many parts of the English speaking world in order to celebrate new year’s eve. The boys here do a silly version of it. They continue to make up silly nonsense as they carry on recording the Christmas record. It’s as if the record company people, or whoever ran the fan club had just given up on writing messages for them, and have just let them record any old nonsense into the microphone, which is great for us!

John improvises a song which sounds like an Elvis record and Ringo shouts “Copyright John!” meaning that he can’t sing that because it’s protected by copyright. Paul then puts on a heavy working-class Liverpool accent and says “What are we gonna do that’s out of copyright?” and John replies (in the same accent) “How about we’ll gather lilacs in an old brown shoe?” I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe this is just an old reference that I don’t get, or it’s just John talking nonsense again, but I do like the way they go into these different accents all the time.

Apparently they were always like this, including when recording their albums in the studio. In fact it was their sense of humour that got them a recording contract with George Martin at EMI.

He was more impressed by their general humour than their music (in the beginning), although they proved themselves in the music department later, of course.

The boys do silly accents of old people and weather reporters on the radio. They do a Bob Dylan impression at one point.

John begins singing a made-up Christmas song and the lyrics end up becoming weird noises, then the others join in.

John was often the leader when it came to being ridiculous and absurd, but they were all so close and so quick that they could all keep up with it too.

John: (in a strong Liverpool accent) This is Johnny rhythm saying good night to youse all and god bless youse.

Paul: (in the same accent) All right well, ehhh, that’s got it done then. What are we gonna do now?

George: (Scouse accent) Has he turned it off? (listen for the way he says “turned” – “teeeeeerned it off” – that’s the Liverpool accent, the Scouse accent – exaggerated)

Paul or Ringo: Have you turned it off, la? (‘LA’ is a Scouse word meaning “Lad” or “mate”)

And that’s the end of their Christmas record for 1965.

I think we’ll leave it on that note then, eh?

All right then. Merry Chrimbo and have a very new year all right?

Speak to you in 2019. All the best!

Luke

 

Additional

Previous Christmas Episodes (Just in case you’re looking for more stuff to listen to during the break!)

A couple of years ago I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It’s still available in the archive, if you want a nice Christmas story, sort of a bed time story (episode 320).

In fact there are a few Christmas episodes in the archive, if you’re feeling festive. You might have heard them already, but maybe you haven’t, or maybe it’s time to revisit them if you’re looking for more podcast action during the Christmas break.

From memory I remember one with my brother which I recorded in London, called “Christmas, it’s all about Family” (episode 78) and we aimed to chat about Christmas but ended up rambling about lots of other things, which was good fun.

The first time I spoke to Paul Taylor on the podcast was about 5 years ago, in December 2013 and we talked about Christmas traditions and his plans for the holidays (episodes 158 & 159).

I spoke to my mate Raphael Miller once at Christmas time and we did a fairly long episode called The A to Z of Christmas, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about British Christmas culture (episode 160).

I spoke to Amber in 2016 and we chatted all about Christmas traditions again, with lots of funny anecdotes about things like my Dad’s competitions and games which he organises every year, and her son’s behaviour at Christmas time (406 A CHRISTMAS MEGARAMBLE with AMBER).

Last year was a bit of a blur because we were expecting the arrival of the baby, but I had a bit of a Christmas ramble in episode 501 I think, with some listener correspondence (including an email from Jesus) and I sang a Paul McCartney song I think (episode 501).

There are also a few episodes recorded with my family at Christmas time, which is sort of a tradition. These episodes: 79, 322 & 413. Not sure if I’ll get the chance to do that this year, we will see.

566. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 6) 2018 with Amber Minogue

The final part of this series about trending words and issues in 2018, this time with friend of the podcast Amber Minogue. Join us as we talk about jogging, picking up litter, bird watching, VAR & football, veganism, ethnic diversity in Hollywood and more. Notes available.

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Episode Introduction

Here is the 6th and final part of this series about The Collins Words of the Year and in this one I’m still talking to my friend Amber (a friend of the podcast – one of the POD-PALS as you know) about this list of words chosen by the Collins Dictionary team for 2018.

These are words that were used a lot this year, probably because they reflect various issues which are big at the moment and which lots of people are talking about in the media, online and in normal life. Interestingly, it seems that the issues of the moment are things like: the environment, climate change, Brexit, identity politics, mental health, relationships, diet, lifestyle trends, technology, football, gender relations, race relations and the latest dance craze.

So, these are the things we’re talking about in this series. I’m happy to be joined by Amber because it means there are some unexpected funny moments, conversational tangents and general laughter. In this one for example, we end up talking about obsessional bird watching, Marvel movies and what Scarlett Johansson is like in real life.

I hope you enjoy our conversation. I’ll speak to you again on the other side (not in the spirit world, I mean, on the other side of this conversation).

OK, let’s carry on then, with the next word from the Word of the Year list, which is plogging. What’s that then? Well, listen on and you’ll find out…


Plogging

Noun: a recreational activity, originating in Sweden, that combines jogging with picking up litter

Comes from the Swedish word plocka “to pick” + jogging

  • Do you do this?
  • What do you think of littering?
  • Have you ever seen anyone littering?
  • Do you ever say anything to people who litter?
  • Why do people drop litter? What excuses do they give?

Birdwatching 

Footage of flocks of Starlings, as mentioned by us. They’re actually called bird murmurations.

Twitchers

VAR

Abbreviation: video assistant referee

Some notes about VAR – *not actually said in our conversation*

It seemed to create a fairly clean World Cup – cleaner than others in the past, but still not perfect of course. It didn’t stop Neymar from diving, but it did make him look stupid. It’s hard to say if it was a resounding success. For clear “black and white” decisions, it seems to work. Offside, ball across the line, etc. But when there’s still a human element of subjective judgement, it’s still doesn’t quite solve the problems. For example, judging whether a handball is intentional or not – sometimes slow motion can make it look intentional when it’s not.

There’s some doubt over whether it really is fair. Sometimes you see mysterious committees of people discussing the decisions in the VAR room. Some people jokingly called it the Vladimir Assisted Referee, I suppose as a suggestion that it could still be subject to corruption somehow – especially since you can’t hear what is being said in the VAR room. People still disagreed with a lot of the VAR decisions.

Also it meant this was the WC with the highest number of penalties ever. It has changed the game a little bit. We’re still working out how to use it well.

Vegan

Noun: a person who refrains from using any animal product for food, clothing, or any other purpose

No animal products at all.

  • Pros and cons of a vegan diet?
  • Have you ever eaten at a vegan restaurant?
  • Would you consider going vegan?

Whitewash

Verb: to cast a white actor in the role of a character from a minority ethnic group or to produce a film or play using white actors to play characters from a minority ethnic group

E.g. casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Dr Strange. The character is Asian in the comic books. Tilda Swinton is a white British woman.

Is this an example of “whitewashing”? Was the character of The Ancient One already a racial stereotype anyway?

Other examples might include Scarlett Johansson as Major in Ghost In The Shell and Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger.


Episode Ending

Right! That’s it! The Words of the Year series is done! We survived!

It was a bit tricky there in places as there were some controversial topics that can be difficult to talk about without getting some people’s backs up, but I think it was good to have Amber with me for the last two episodes. There was a bit more levity there I think.

Levity (noun) = humour or lack of seriousness, especially in a serious situation. It’s like making things a bit lighter than they are.

Levity is often a good thing, because I (personally) don’t like things to get too heavy and for people to disagree with me angrily. I just want everyone to like me and for everything to be ok and never to be challenged or disagreed with in any way, he said, jokingly.

What else do I have to tell you? 

At the beginning of part 4 I mentioned the last-minute special stand up show I was doing with Paul at The Comedy Store in the UK.

The Comedy Store

The show

Meeting some LEPsters. Nice to meet you!

People keep telling me they like the British Comedy episodes. I plan to do more. They just take a bit of time to prepare.

People also like the storytelling episodes. Again, I plan to do more of them! They take time as well, if I’m writing the stories myself. Also I’m a bit reluctant to read out other people’s stories all the time, because they’re not mine, you know. There are royalty free stories in the public domain, but they’re not always perfect (too long, old fashioned language). But we will see.

If you like my storytelling episodes, there are quite a few in the archive. They’re in two categories I reckon, maybe 3 categories.

Cat. 1 – telling a pre-written story, written by me or another author. E.g. The Mystery Story (29) and The Mystery Continues (30), and The Hyde Park Mystery Story (in the App – App-Only Episodes category), also The Hitch-hiker by Roald Dahl (545),  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (320), the Victorian Detective online text-adventure mystery stories (338, 339, 425, 426)

Cat. 2 – telling a story which I’m making up on the spot. Improvised stories (usually quite stupid and comical) like The Pink Gorilla Story (125) and The Pink Gorilla Story 2 (400), The Talking Dog Story (153), The Prawn Story (166) and the Phrasal Verb Chronicles parts 1 and 2.

Cat. 3 – just episodes with some anecdotes and stories from my life. Check out episodes in the archive with the words “anecdotes” or “story/stories” in the title.

(Hi Cat! 3 Cats, in fact!)

So there are some storytelling episodes in the archive and in the app that you might not have heard, and which you can check out. But I do plan to do more of that kind of thing. My episodes have always been quite diverse and I aim to keep it that way. I’ve got more interviews with guests coming up as well in the future.

Feel free to send me your suggestions, if I think they are doable I will add them to the ever growing to-do list. It’s very easy to make the list! It’s harder to make the episodes actually happen.

Also, do check out LEP Premium. There are about 23 episodes/videos now available, plus some phrasal verbs and more content coming every month. To sign up for LEP Premium go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

That’s it! I expect to talk to you again in some form before the Christmas holidays. We are going to the UK to spend a week at my parents’ house. I have no idea if I will get a chance to record anything with my family while we’re there. I will see. You can expect more episodes to arrive in the New Year, and hopefully one before Christmas. We will see.

But for now though, that’s it.

Speak to you soon, bye!

565. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue

Talking to my friend Amber about some trending vocabulary and hot topics from 2018, like plastic pollution, dance crazes and the Brexit backstop. Includes discussion, language explanations, David Attenborough impressions and more. Notes available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello! How is Podcastland at the moment? How is LEPland? Does it look like Lapland at the moment? (It’s Christmas at the time of recording)

*Luke rambles a little bit about Lapland (a part of Finland where Father Christmas comes from) and LEPland (an imaginary place, populated by LEPsters – listeners to this podcast).*

This is episode 565 and it’s called The Collins Words of the Year (Part 5) 2018 with Amber Minogue. So…

I hope you’ve been enjoying this series about the words of the year. I expect you’ve already heard parts 1-4, which were about the words chosen from 2017. It’s now time to move on to the words from this year, from 2018.

Just a reminder – these are words selected by the makers of the Collins Dictionary for a list that they publish every year, their Words of the Year. The words are chosen because they’ve been used a lot this year and because they touch upon some big issues of the moment. So, this is interesting for LEP because of the vocabulary involved but also because it gives me a chance to talk about some trending issues of the moment, on this podcast.

Check out the page for this episode on the website where you’ll see the words (so you can be sure you know how they are spelt), and also various other notes, links and videos. The notes in particular contain other words and phrases that you will hear in these episodes, and this can help you to learn those bits of language too.

So now let’s move on to the words from 2018, this year. Just two more episodes to go in this series. I’m very happy, in this one, to be joined by Amber, so I hope you enjoy listening to the two of us wittering away, and going off on various tangents and telling little stories and so on, as we discuss the Words of the Year for 2018.

So, here we go…


Amber is raring to go! = she’s ready and eager to start

Single-use

Adjective: made to be used once only, and then thrown away or destroyed

It’s almost always followed by the word ‘plastic’

  • Single use plastic
  • Single use plastic bags
  • Single use plastic cutlery
  • Single use coffee cups
  • Single use straws
  • Single use hypodermic needles

In many cases “single-use” is the way the industry says “this is designed to be used once and then just thrown away”. It means “disposable”.

Vocabulary: Verbs for what you do with rubbish

  • to get rid of something
  • to throw something away
  • to chuck something away/out
  • to discard something
  • to dispose of something

Also

  • rubbish (UK) / trash (US)
  • litter (rubbish thrown on the floor)

Have you seen Blue Planet 2? It’s one of the UK’s most-watched documentary series. It’s incredible. It featured a whole episode about how the oceans are being devastated by pollution of various kinds, particularly plastic and it really brought the message home to viewers in the UK.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use (Greenpeace UK)
  • Carry a reusable bottle. In the UK we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day! …
  • Say no to plastic straws. Plastic straws are bad news for our oceans. …
  • Avoid excessive food packaging. …
  • Use refill stations for detergents. …
  • Say no to disposable cutlery. …
  • Get your milk delivered. …
  • Avoid microbeads. … (tiny bits of plastic often used in exfoliating products)
  • Carry a shopping bag.

Just a few small changes by everyone can make a big impact on this problem.

9 ways to reduce your plastic use

Reduce – reuse – recycle

Backstop

Noun: a system that will come into effect if no other arrangement is made

We think of Brexit and the Northern Ireland problem, and the fact that everyone keeps saying that we need a ‘backstop’ in the event of a no-deal. A backstop then is a kind of fallback position or a plan B that we can use if no other arrangement is made.

  • The Irish backstop
  • The border backstop
  • The Brexit backstop

This comes from baseball originally, but it’s been used so much because of Brexit and the Northern Ireland border issue.

Can you explain the Northern Ireland border issue?

*The following notes about the Brexit backstop were not actually said in the episode*

Ireland/N.Ireland is where the only land border between UK and EU will/would be. This is an issue because nobody wants a hard border there. It brings back painful memories of the troubles, when border posts were often the targets of bombs. We just don’t want to go back to those times in any way. Things are still sensitive there and we all want to maintain the peace. Putting a hard border there with border posts might trigger the conditions for conflict again.

So, the UK and EU have both agreed to a guarantee that there won’t be a hard border there. This arrangement is known as the backstop. It’s a safety net to prevent a hard border. As far as I can tell, it’s not very well-defined and it’s not really a good solution because it effectively guarantees some kind of soft border and various advantages for Northern Ireland in which people and goods there will be able to move across the border without having to stop and be checked thoroughly.

Even though Theresa May is guaranteeing that the border issue won’t be a problem because we’ll find a solution and we have this backstop guarantee, The UK and EU are both unhappy with this. The EU are unhappy because it’s essentially like leaving the back door open. You can’t really have an open spot in one part of the EU’s border without it compromising an essential aspect of EU membership, which is the protection of the free trade zone. The UK aren’t happy because Scotland will feel it’s unfair. “We want special treatment too. How come people of N Ireland get this soft deal (moving in and out of the EU freely, while not being part of it) and we don’t? We don’t even want Brexit in Scotland.” This could be a flashpoint for Scotland leaving the UK and the breakup of the UK. It’s just another crack in the whole Brexit shitplate. (Shitplate isn’t really a word. I just came up with it, and I think it means a plate made of shit, which now has a crack in it)

(the) Floss

Noun: a dance in which people twist their hips in one direction while swinging their arms in the opposite direction with the fists closed

This is the latest dance craze.

Describe it

Swing your arms with fists clenched in front and behind your body, while swinging (not twisting) your hips from side to side. It’s more difficult than it looks.

A Brief history

Some time in 2016 a kid with a backpack posted a video of himself doing the floss. It went viral. Then in 2017 Katy Perry filmed a video featuring the floss and it went stratospheric. She then featured backpack kid in a performance on SNL and loads of people posted videos of themselves flossing, tutorial videos and all that, and everyone started doing it.

It completely passed me by, I’ll be honest! Because I’m both too old (because it’s not part of my world) and too young (because I don’t have kids at the right age to know about it).

Other dance crazes from history

The twist, the loco-motion, the mashed potato, the watusi, the funky chicken, the hitch hike, the YMCA, the running man, the robot, the moonwalk, the macarena, Gangnam style, etc etc.

Gammon

Noun: a person, typically male, middle-aged, and white, with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union

A pejorative term describing a certain type of person. What’s the profile of a typical ‘gammon’?

Appearance
They’re called gammons because of the way they look – they’ve often got these pinkish faces, flushed skin, maybe it’s because of age or drinking or something, but the term is used because they look like gammon.

What’s gammon? It’s a kind of cooked ham, which is a standard pub meal. Gammon steak with chips, maybe egg and a slice of pineapple too.

Attitudes
You often see them on the TV, particularly on shows like Question Time asking angry questions and generally acting like stereotypical small-minded little Englanders. They’re always disgusted, outraged, angry, shocked, and seem to imagine that Britain was best when it was bombing or being bombed by the Germans. 

“We got through WW2, we can get through Brexit!” (a lot of people didn’t get through WW2 though, did they?)

BBC Question Time “Gammon of the Week” (Welsh edition)

The gammon backlash
There is a backlash to this term, from the people targeted by this word. They’re now saying it’s a form of racism.

Is it a racist term?

Arguably the word “gammon” is a form of racist abuse, targeting a certain type of lower-middle class or working class, middle-aged white male. It’s a form of name-calling, which is never good in a civilised debate.

Gaslight

Verb: to attempt to manipulate (a person) by continually presenting them with false information until they doubt their sanity

This word has come up on the podcast before! It’s almost as if us talking about it brought it back into the popular consciousness.

Have you ever been gaslighted? Do you know any cases of it?

MEL B said she was gaslighted by her husband (see link)

www.theguardian.com/music/2018/dec/01/mel-b-i-got-used-to-lying-i-didnt-want-anyone-to-find-out

Gaslighting / Hobson’s Choice / Burlap Sack – Do you remember when Amber and I talked about these words before? 

Amber and I have discussed gaslighting before on this podcast. We also talked about some other phrases we’d noticed a lot. That was in episode 431 of this podcast.

431. Restaurants & Hotels / Really Strange TripAdvisor Reviews (with Amber)

MeToo

Adjective: denoting a cultural movement that seeks to expose and eradicate predatory sexual behaviour, especially in the workplace

Talked about it on the podcast with Jessica from Honestly English.


If you don’t know what plogging is and you would like to know, you’ll have to listen to the next part of this series, which will be part 6 in fact – that’s episode 566, coming very soon (possibly available now in fact, depending on when you’re listening to this).

So that was us talking about single-use, the Northern Ireland backstop, the floss, gammons, gaslighting and MeToo.

Not much conversation between us about #MeToo there, mainly because I’ve already talked about it on the podcast recently and I don’t want to go over the same ground again. You can go back to episode 556 if you want to hear more. We talked positively about it. Obviously, #MeToo is a complex issue which has its critics as well.

For example, I’ve put a video on the page for this episode in which a few comedians from the States talk  about the #MeToo movement (Bill Burr is one of them) in a more critical manner, not just ranting against it for whatever reason, but having an intelligent conversation expressing some degrees of scepticism and all that.

So, if you want, have a look at the video, it’s on the page for this episode. (below)

Otherwise, just stick around for the next part in which we talk about plogging, (and explain what it is – and there’s nothing sexual about that, I think!) and tons of other stuff.

Thank you for listening to my podcast. That’s pretty much the end of this episode. Just a couple of reminders before we finish…

Become a Premium LEPster and get access to the growing library of Premium episodes of this podcast. The premium episodes all focus on language. Often I use conversations I’ve had on the podcast, mine them for vocabulary and grammar (I dig out the vocab and grammar) and then present that language to you in the clearest and most helpful way that I can. They’re basically English lessons from me, with pronunciation drills, PDF worksheets and everything. When you sign up for Premium you get access to all those episodes, plus all the new ones which come out every month. A Phrasal Verb a Day is now in the premium package, which means new mini phrasal verb lessons on a regular basis, plus little bonuses here and there like video versions of some episodes of the podcast and so on. That’s all available for the price of a coffee, tea or beer once a month, and by the way I don’t necessarily use that to drink coffee, tea or beer – the money helps to support this podcast and the time I spend on it. To sign up go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Sign up to the mailing list on my website to get a link in your inbox whenever I upload normal episodes of this podcast. You can use that link to go straight to the episode page where you’ll find the notes, scripts, videos and the comment section. Also, if I post website-only content, you’ll get emails for that too, and sometimes I do upload website-only stuff, including music mixes, DVD commentaries and other stuff that doesn’t go on the podcast. Just go to the website and sign up for the mailing list there, it’s free.

Also, check the episode archive for everything I’ve uploaded to this website.

That’s it then, I’ll speak to you again very soon in the 6th and final part of this episode and then you can hear all about plogging and what the hell it actually is!

Thanks finally to Amber for being my guest in this episode.

Speak to you in the next part. Bye!


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

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

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PART 4 Transcript – 99% complete

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

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

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

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

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

OK let’s carry on.

(the) Gig economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some more bits of vocabulary

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

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

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

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

OK, so you get the idea.

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

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

Zero-hours contracts

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

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

Q: What are zero-hours contracts?

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

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

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

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

Q: Why are they controversial?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re really awful for workers’ rights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Message:

Hi Luke,

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

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

563. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 3)

More vocabulary explanations & discussion of big issues, including how social media affects our worldview, the pros and cons of fidget spinners and debates about gender identity, including thoughts on the new female Doctor in Doctor Who. Transcript available.

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Part 3 – Transcript (99% complete)

Welcome back to part 3 of this series I’m doing about the Collins Dictionary Words of the Year. I’m going through the list of words from 2017 and then the plan is to move onto the words for 2018 and talk about them with Amber. She’s coming round here tomorrow morning actually.

So the Words of the Year – Collins select these lists of words every year, based on which words they’ve noticed being used a lot in this 12 month period. They’re not necessarily new words, and they might be phrases made from existing words. The main thing is that these words have risen in use significantly during the period and as a result they tap into issues, events and feelings that are very current.

Talking about the words of the year on the podcast is both a way for me to explore some vocabulary and also just talk about some issues of the moment.

Check the page on the website for this episode in order to see a lot of the things I’m saying written there, as transcripts and for other information.

Talking about these words, and discussing them also involves using various other useful bits of vocabulary that you can learn from me. Listening to episodes of this podcast can help you raise your level of English, starting with your listening skills – but the benefits to your English can be many, including developing your awareness of pronunciation, expanding your vocabulary, noticing aspects of grammar and all of this helps you with your speaking skills too. That’s the plan. Certainly, listening regularly, listening for longer periods and listening to something that I hope holds your attention – this is all really healthy for your English, so let’s keep going.

I have 6 words/phrases to deal with in this episode, so let’s not hang about.

In part 1 of the series I talked about how Collins uses data to make its dictionaries and other language reference books and I talked for quite a long time about the phrase fake news which topped their Words of the Year list for 2017.

Then in part 2 I talked about other words in the list for 2017, including antifa, corbynmania, and cuffing season. 

I’ve got 6 words left. Let’s see if I can deal with them all in part 3 here. Let’s go.

Echo chamber

noun: an environment, especially on a social media site, in which any statement of opinion is likely to be greeted with approval because it will only be read or heard by people who hold similar views .

The concept is, that if you live in an echo chamber, you only ever hear your own opinions coming back to you.

Echo (a verb and a noun) is when you make a sound and it travels away from you and then bounces off a surface and comes back to you. It’s like if you’re in a huge hallway and you go “hello!” and you then hear your own voice coming back to you, saying “hello!”

Hello hello hello ? ? ?

Echo echo echo ! ! !

So the echo chamber idea – when you live in a world in which you only ever hear or read your own ideas.

Nowadays there is so much media content out there, including news and just different opinions and comments about the world, and we have the ability to filter out certain things.

Eventually, if you only choose to see or hear things that you like, you’ll never hear about any conflicting opinions, you’ll never face disagreement, contradiction, challenge or other points of view. This can be quite dangerous. It makes you soft and unprepared for your ideas to be challenged. It can make you small minded because you only get a blinkered view of the world – you don’t get exposed to different opinions and it makes you unaware of what’s really going on in the world. It’s like living in a bubble. When something big happens, it can seem totally shocking and unbelievable.

Weirdly, in this super connected world, we are less and less connected and more and more divided, as we put ourselves into these more carefully defined personal categories and only receive information that fits with that category, we become more separated from the experiences of other groups of people.

That’s the theory behind the expression, echo chamber. Generally, this expression is a buzz word for this whole phenomenon.

Filtering out opposing viewpoints and living in a bubble.

These circumstances can push us away from each other, and make it harder to understand different opinions.

The results of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election in 2016 were both greeted with disbelief and shock by some people. The people on the losing side could not understand how their opponents refused to have their opinions changed by apparently reasonable arguments, while the winners remained convinced of the rightness of their own cause.

Basically, we were surprised and shocked by the existence of other points of view. Experts said that this situation was due to many people living in an ‘echo chamber’, where they only hear the views of people who share and reinforce their own opinions. This is increasingly possible when people form online communities that exclude any voices that challenge or threaten them.

For example, a lot of people no longer read newspapers or get their news from the TV. Instead they perhaps just look at Twitter to see what’s going on, but on Twitter you choose each and every account that you follow so you cherry pick the content, rather than just receiving the same information as everyone else.

Also it’s quite common to block people who disagree with you or argue with you. The result is an echo-chamber. And it’s not just for people who didn’t vote for Trump or Brexit. There are right-wing echo chambers too, including social media sites that welcome the types of opinions that are not really accepted by more conventional social media. So everyone is capable of living in an echo chamber.

The term ‘echo chamber’ originally referred to a room that scientists constructed to create echoes for use in sound recording or experiments.

Echo chambers are used to create real echoes which can be used for music or sound recording, instead of relying on digital echo (delay) effects.

Often the best echo chambers for music are bathrooms because they have those shiny ceramic tiles that let the sound bounce around nicely. That’s one of the reasons it’s nice to sing in the shower. Your voice echoes off the tiles and it sounds pretty good!

The idea of an environment where you can hear your own voice repeated back to you made this a perfect metaphor for the world of social media, where many people only talk with those who agree with them, thus creating a rather distorted picture of what the world is really like.

Do you live in an echo chamber?

A real echo chamber in a music studio. Actual echo chambers are used to create genuine echo and reverb effects. Check it out! What a cool studio!

Fidget spinner

noun: a small toy comprising of two or three prongs arranged around a central bearing, designed to be spun by the fingers as means of improving concentration or relieving stress.

This is so 2016/2017. I don’t know if people still use them or talk about them. Perhaps kids these days have moved on and talking about fidget spinners is not cool at all.

They look a bit like little wheels and you hold them between your fingers, flick them and they spin around and around quite satisfyingly. They’re fun to just fidget with, and fidgeting with them is quite addictive.

So, it’s just a fun toy that spins in your hand, right? No arguments and politics here, right? Nope – even fidget spinners divide people too!

Let’s look at the for & against.

For
It’s fun!
People say they’re good for kids with ADHD and autism.

From iheisthmus.com www.theisthmus.com.au/2017/06/fidget-spinners-the-for-the-against-the-important/

The biggest argument from the pro-spinners side is that they are a useful tool for kids with ADHD, autism, anxiety, and other similar conditions. Occupational therapist Sandra Mortimer said “It can help with emotional regulation for children feeling anxious, worried and nervous.”

While there is no academic research about fidget spinners in particular, fidget tools (such as putty and stress balls) have long been known to help with this. The lack of specific academic research is to be expected though– fidget spinners are only a few months old, and research takes literally forever (well, a really long time at least).

There are some pretty cool creative uses for it (although as far as I can see this just means letting them spin in different places). E.g. balance a spinner on your fingers, make them spin on a table and see how long it spins, throw them between your hands while they spin, spin them and switch them onto different fingers, spin it and put it onto your nose, etc…

Against
As a fidget tool – it’s not a very good one. It’s big, it requires hand eye coordination so kids have to look at it – so it’s actually very distracting. It’s hard to just spin it in your hand and not look at it. So you can’t use it while working for example, or just have it in your pocket. It tends to use all your concentration.

It’s just an annoying trend and they’ll probably be forgotten in a few years until they come back as the latest nostalgia toy.

Have you ever used one?

Do your kids have them?

Gender-fluid

adjective: not identifying exclusively with one gender rather than another

So, it means when people don’t feel they have a fixed gender. They might feel male sometimes and female at other times and perhaps even feel like they belong to some other gendered category that we don’t even really have the language to describe.

Oh no, we’re back on difficult territory again! This is another minefield of a topic.

Now I remember why I kept putting off doing this episode! Too many trigger warnings, potential problems and complexity! But it’s a big subject at the moment, so let’s have a look…

This word relates to people who don’t identify as having a fixed gender.

Noun: gender fluidity

Some quick examples from a Google News search for “gender fluid”.

Pearl Mackie: It’s 2017- the Doctor is gender fluid
PinkNews-Dec 15, 2017
Outgoing Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie has responded to the backlash against a female Doctor, saying that the Doctor is gender fluid and the gender of the actor doesn’t matter.

Loki will be pansexual and gender-fluid in new Marvel novel
Washington Blade Dec 13, 2017
Marvel is releasing a series of three novels focusing on anti-heroes in 2019. One novel will focus on Loki, Thor’s adopted brother and nemesis. Author Mackenzi Lee took to Twitter to answer questions about the project and informed fans that Loki is “canonically a pansexual and genderfluid character.”

Men in skirts: gender-fluid fashion is no longer a novelty
Times LIVE-Dec 14, 2017
The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Zulus, Scots and countless others didn’t wear trousers and no one thought of them as effeminate. [Luke: I challenge anyone to find a bunch of Scottish men in kilts and to tell them they are effeminate! Ha! Good luck with that pal.] The same could be said of jewellery and many other fashion items. We spoke to a couple of experts to find out why gender-fluid fashion is trending.

Some people see this as progress, others see it and just get really angry. They get ‘triggered’ by it, using that expression again from part 1 of this series.

I’m just not going to get into it at great length because I exhausted myself with “fake news” and “antifa” and I’m going to take a pass on this one.

Do you have an opinion on this?

It’s complex. It’s not just – do you mind that people define their identity outside the traditional binary gender roles. It’s not just that. It’s also things like how this affects various changes in society. Some people think it’s all progress, others are really losing their minds about it, other people are just putting their foot down and saying “wait, I don’t mind how you identify – you’re free to be whoever you want, but don’t force me to change my world” – that type of thing.

Gender-fluid people or transgender people are saying “Hey, it would be really nice and respectful if you could just acknowledge my identity and perhaps make a few changes to make me feel like I belong in this world – like maybe you can use different language to make me feel accepted – in fact, we’re working on making it illegal to refuse to do so”, and those who disagree are saying “you can’t force me to do things like use certain language by law”  – and then other people are far less respectful and reasonable in their dialogue, and there’s just a lot of abuse and hate speech flying around too. And then there are people like me who are going “what? Sorry, what? Who said… wait? Who’s right? What’s going on? What year is it???”

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning Doctor Who again.

The 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker

So, as you may know, Doctor Who is a British science fiction TV show that’s been on television longer than a lot of people have been alive. I think it has the record as the longest running TV series ever, having started in 1963 and still going strong today.

In a nutshell, Doctor Who is about a time-travelling alien (who looks human and speaks English and everything) who travels around in a blue police box, generally saving the earth. It’s a lot of fun and is very inventive, creative and funny and many generations of people in the UK grew up as children watching the show. My parents grew up with it, my brother and I grew up with it, our nieces and nephews are growing up with it.

The character, called The Doctor, has actually died lots of times, but every time the Doctor dies – usually when he comes to the end of his current life-span, he regenerates in a new form.

Basically, at the end of a season the Doctor dies and then is reborn but with a new actor in the next season (or series as we usually say in British English actually!)

It’s a really cool way of keeping a TV series going. Each new incarnation of the Doctor is different in that they have a certain look, they have certain characteristics – brought by the different actor in the role each time, but also the Doctor always maintains certain core characteristics like charisma, leadership, strength, courage, eccentricity, humour, love for the humans and a desire to protect us, certain human companions and the blue spaceship or TARDIS (actually a craft that travels through both space and time).

There have been loads of actors playing the doctor over the years, and millions of us are very affectionate towards this character and the actors who have played him (or her).

Then this year, the producers of the show decided that the new Doctor would be played by a woman. Jodie Whittaker was chosen – a good British actress. So now, The Doctor is a woman. It turns out, the Doctor is a gender-fluid character. She doesn’t always regenerate as a man, she can regenerate as a woman too. Naturally, a lot of people were really pissed off, saying things like “The Doctor is not a woman! You’ve ruined this character and my memories of childhood! Stop this PC nonsense from infecting everything! This is just the loony left at the BBC trying to infect everything with poisonous feminism! Leave our TV characters alone!”

I read some comments saying things like, “It’s The Doctor, not The Nurse – he should be a man!” A lot of it is just sexism. I understand that people don’t like change, and this character is very close to people’s hearts, but there’s actually no reason why The Doctor can only be male. It’s a fictional time travelling alien from another planet, that changes shape when it dies. I think it can turn into a woman, that’s fine!

I haven’t actually seen any of the episodes in their entirety. I must admit that these days whenever I watch Doctor Who, I’m just completely confused! It’s great and there’s something very comforting about the fact that the show still going after all these years, but the storylines always confuse me completely. I have seen clips of the new Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker and it looks good. She’s funny and a bit weird and charismatic and that’s the spirit of the character. I personally don’t mind that the doctor is a woman at the moment. I think the writers can do whatever they like with the character.

As long as the writing is still good, the acting is good, the general hallmarks of Doctor Who are still the same, I think it’s ok.

I’d be more upset if the writers of Doctor Who changed something more important about the character – like deciding she now shouldn’t have a sense of humour, or that she should stop caring about people, or that she loses the Tardis or something like that. That would be worse. The Doctor becoming a woman – doesn’t really change the spirit of the character that much and if anything it brings something fresh to the role, and it looks like Jodie Whittaker is great and loads of fun, like the Doctor should be.

So, female Doctor Who – why not?

But I don’t think this really counts as proper gender fluidity actually, because it’s a fictional alien character. I think gender fluidity is more likely to impact our lives in more real ways than this. Like for example how it is affecting language and conversations about language.

For example, what pronouns do we use to refer to people who have different gender identities, like people who identify as neither a woman nor a man, or some other gender which is a combination of both somehow. People might say “I feel that I am neither a man nor a woman” “I’m both and the language doesn’t have the words to reflect that, so we need to introduce some new words to include us, because if we’re not included in the language, then the culture is extremely prejudiced against us.” Also, trans-gender or gender-fluid people can feel very rejected or unrepresented or offended when their identity isn’t recognised by people, specifically when the wrong pronouns are used.

Pronouns – words like he, she, her, his and so on.

So some people want to introduce new pronouns to reflect the diversity of gender identities out there and they want to introduce new laws which say it’s technically a hate crime to use the wrong pronouns. 

I don’t know if this kind of thing has ever happened before and there are several debates combined in this. There’s the “Do people have the right to change their gender if they feel that way?” and in my opinion I kind of think, well, why not I think people should be allowed to do what they want. But a second debate is, “Do they get to legislate what language we can and can’t use?”

Forcing people to use certain forms of language by law – I just don’t know what to think about that. That does seem a bit like controlling people’s freedom to use language, but this whole thing exists in a very fuzzy and grey area involving freedom of speech and also the problem of hate speech and so on… It’s a moral maze.

And so, that’s where we’ll leave this subject. I’d like to think it’s ok for me not to have an opinion on some things. That’s my “I have rights” card here – I claim the right to just not have an opinion, thanks very much. I’m not ready to decide what I think about it all yet, and that’s ok. I’m allowed to do that, and so are you.

I know, you’re not even asking for my opinion, right? And I have no duty to give you my opinion.

Anyway, it’s interesting and you’re hearing all the words I’m using to talk about it, right?

This is the end of part 3! This series is longer than I expected. Part 4 coming soon…

Dictionary definitions – Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

562. The Collins Words of the Year (Part 2)

Vocabulary explanations and discussions of hot topics from the last couple of years. Talking about some controversial political stuff like the rise of fascism and anti-fascism, the relative popularity of UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, and how the winter season changes people’s feelings about romance and relationships. Transcript available.

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Episode Transcript (99% complete)

Right, so this episode series is all about the Collins Words of the Year. You’re listening to part 2, now. Obviously I recommend that you listen to part 1 of this first because that’s how numbers work. 2 generally comes after 1. You knew that already.

You can do what you like of course. You could listen to part 2 first and then listen to part 1. Maybe English is your favourite subject, not maths, so ok feel free to just forget about numbers and sequences and just listen on.

The Collins Words of the Year

Collins is a company that makes dictionaries and every year they release a list of their “words of the year”. These are words that have been used a lot in the last 12 months and seem to sum up the general mood of the moment. The words represent things that have been happening in culture, politics and general life during the year.

In this series I’m talking about the Collins Words of the Year for 2017, I know that’s last year but the words are still very relevant to what’s going on now in 2018 when I’m recording this.

I’m defining the words and then just talking about how they relate to what’s going on at the moment. When I’ve been through the words for 2017 I’m going to go on to the words for 2018, hopefully joined by Amber, for a bit of conversation rather than just me ranting or rambling on my own.

In 2015 the Collins word of the year was binge-watch. In 2016 it was Brexit.

In the last episode I talked a lot about fake news which was the word of the year for 2017.

So let’s keep going through the rest of the word list for 2017 now then.

Antifa

noun: (1) an antifascist organization (2) a member of an antifascist organization
adjective: (3) involving, belonging to, or relating to an antifascist organisation

I think Antifa are mainly in the USA, but there are probably similar counter-protest antifascist groups in other countries. Antifa though is mainly a US term for a US phenomenon. Having said that, with the pervasiveness of the internet, this word and its associated ideas and vocabulary has spread to many areas of the English-speaking world, because much of the time these so-called fascists and anti-fascists are clashing with each other online, not just within the borders of a particular country.

Certainly, I keep seeing arguments in comments sections of different websites, like YouTube, Twitter etc. I know, I probably shouldn’t read those comment sections because it’s like entering the sewer system or something – it’s smelly and you might catch something down there, but I can’t help myself, I always get fascinated by the often angry comments that people write and the petty arguments and stuff.

It’s often very unpleasant and you can read some shockingly racist views and other ideas that are quite depressing. I find it both amusing and disturbing how even some innocent YouTube videos about non-controversial topics have comment sections which descend into awfulness.

So anyway, the word ‘antifa’ probably relates to people in physical spaces in the USA, but this whole topic area extends beyond those borders when you’re online, in English.

Antifa is a kind of reduced portmanteau word – anti-fascist, reduced to antifa. As Trevor Noah on the Daily Show said,  the name is quite convenient for anti-fascist demonstrators because you don’t need to be able to spell fascist to be able to use it. By the way, fascist is spelt f a s c i s t.

Oh god. This topic’s a bit heavy isn’t it! Fake news in the last episode got a bit deep and dark, and now we’re talking about fascism and stuff. I promise there are more light-hearted words in this list, ok? Fidget spinner is one of the words that’s coming up – that’s less heavy and political, isn’t it? So, don’t worry, fidget spinners are coming, although the world has probably moved on from fidget spinners already, hasn’t it?

Anyway, this word is antifa and it’s kind of all about punching fascists, like Captain America. OK, here we go then.

What I’m going to do here is read from a page on the BBC’s website. Some people listening might say that is biased information because it isn’t negative enough or critical enough of anti-fascists, but I would say that this is just information about Antifa and if you read or listen objectively you’ll see it neither glorifies nor condemns the movement, just describes who they are, what they want and what they do.

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/X56rQkDgd0qqB7R68t6t7C/seven-things-you-need-to-know-about-antifa

The main thing is that Antifa became a phenomenon since Trump’s inauguration in 2016 and continued through 2017 and beyond in response to the rise of the far-right in many places.

The story here is – the far-right are rising. What’s the solution to that? Punching them in the face? I don’t know. That’s not all Antifa do of course, as we just read in that article. According to Antifa, the usual legal methods for resisting this “creeping authoritarianism” are not working because the system doesn’t properly deal with it. They might cite the fact that US President Donald Trump belongs to this movement that they’re fighting against and is kind of the figurehead for it, so to Antifa protesters, the current political administration is part of the problem, and so they take matters into their own hands.

Basically, this shows the extent to which the USA is divided – you have groups fighting online and in the streets. It’s not just the USA too – groups with strongly different ideological or political opinions are clashing all over the place. The far right are rising in many areas and so are groups that want to resist them.

What about in your country? What is the status of the far-right there? Are they actually in government or having a significant influence on the government? Does your political system provide adequate opposition to the current administration? In what way? What kind of movements and counter-movements are there, and where are they? Is there fighting going on? Where is it happening? Between who, and why? Are fascists and anti-fascists clashing? What are the reasons for this and how is it affecting society?

By the way, fascist is a dirty word isn’t it? I mean, not many people these days are proud to call themselves fascists, are they? Some people are, but I think generally the word is not favourable because it obviously has so many negative connotations that people, understandably, want to distance themselves from the word.

What’s more common is that people use the word fascist against anyone they don’t agree with and who they see as exercising too much authority or power. Fascist is generally used as a term of abuse, I think. Everyone seems to get called a fascist these days – including the far right mostly but also movements that come from a left-wing and liberal position, like social justice campaigners or the political correctness movement, who basically want to create equal opportunities for everyone – they just want a level playing field and they get called fascists sometimes by people who see them as being too controlling and even oppressive with their methods of trying to achieve equality, which is ironic.

It’s like right-wing people say “Hey, the way you’re trying to force us to treat everyone equally and fairly is too controlling, it’s fascist! You don’t get to force me to give everyone a fair chance, that’s fascism!” Pretty weird.

But I think in most people’s minds, the word fascist is still associated with things like racism, sexism, homophobia, authoritarian power, militarism and the silencing of political opposition.

I’m sure I’ve got some people listening to this who will feel it necessary to defend the fascists, or to redefine fascism as actually something really quite nice, reasonable and positive – like “hey, it’s just people trying to defend their interests”, but there it is, I think in general, as I said, fascism is still defined in negative terms, and why not?

Going back to the point – this is one of the words of the year because it shows that fascism is on the rise again – or arguably has risen again, and so this response to it – Antifa – be it violent or non-violent, has also risen too, and this is the story.

I’m not going to attempt to deal with this subject any further in this episode of this podcast for learners of English, so I am now stepping away from the topic slowly… Just back away from the whole area Luke… carefully now. Be careful not to trip up on anything, just back away nice and slowly, move away from the subject and close the door quietly…

Corbynmania

noun: fervent enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party

Oh god, more politics.

This is a bit 2017. I think Corbynmania is arguably over now.

We’ll see how things pan out with Brexit. Corbyn still might end up being our Prime Minister if that’s possible, if we have a general election because Parliament loses confidence in the government over a failed Brexit deal and if Labour win the election, we might end up with Jeremy Corbyn as PM.

Try to sum up Corbynmania.

I’ve moved from one political hot potato to another here…

Basically, Jeremy Corbyn is the opposition leader and he doesn’t really fit the ‘mainstream’ profile of a political leader. He’s pretty popular with younger voters who might be university students – the sorts of people who are quite left-wing and don’t like modern Conservative policy and even the policies of the New Labour movement which was created by people like Tony Blair.

Corbyn’s vision for the UK is more like old-fashioned democratic socialism. He doesn’t look or sound like the kind of slick, career politicians you see on TV. He’s a bit like Bernie Sanders in the USA. He’s older, grey, has a beard. In a way he’s like a kind of Obi-wan Kenobi figure, but that doesn’t mean to say everyone loves him, it’s just that the people who do like him, really like him and in 2016 and 2017 this meant a lot of younger voters.

At the Glastonbury music festival in 2017, Corbyn went onto the main stage and delivered a big speech in front of a cheering crowd of music fans flying flags with hearts and rainbows and so on and posters saying “bollocks to Brexit” and things like that.

He’s a bit like the anti-Trump (or in the UK that means anti-conservative or anti-right) and his speech actually included a lot of messages directed at Trump and his policies, for example saying we need to knock down walls between people, not build them up. “Build bridges not walls” and pushing the message that it’s unfair that there’s so much poverty in our society when some people are so very rich. It’s like what Bernie Sanders says – there’s something deeply wrong with our society when a tiny percentage owns the vast majority of the resources and the capital, and this is because of a huge imbalance of power – the 1% owns all the money and therefore also has the power, and are untouchable, and the Conservative government or the establishment don’t do enough to redress this imbalance.

The Glastonbury speech was mainly about those kinds of liberal values and the crowd loved it.

To be fair he was preaching to the converted but anyway, it showed that he’s got a lot of fans.

Not everyone loves him though, of course. He has critics and his party, The Labour party has lots of internal problems – they’re split over the direction Corbyn wants to go and other issues.

Some people feel that Corbyn is too radical or idealistic and that with him as leader, Labour doesn’t stand a chance of winning a general election because he doesn’t attract people from the centre or right, he just appeals to his fans more and more strongly. Maybe we can hear some of that speech.

He sort of stole the show at Glastonbury actually. What does that say about the current situation, that a politician making a speech can be the most popular or talked about event at a huge music festival? Perhaps it shows that politics is alive and well, or that our music scene is terrible, I’m not sure.

A quick dip into the comment section of that video?

The positive
mkur 1 year ago 
If Teresa May did this, she’d get lynched! Never known so many people take to a political leader like they have Jeremy Corbyn. Long may it continue. Corbyn for PM! (121 likes)

Gstar Warmed 1 year ago
The most important political leader of this generation, demanding peace, equality and socialism. This is an incredible moment. JC4PM (146 likes)

The negative
Dave Lombardo1 year ago
You think the uk is fuked now,it will be totally fuked if he bocomes pm…. (3 likes)

The Truth (1 year ago)
Bahahahaha Corbyn, Glastonbury, and the champagne middle-class socialist Glastonbury kids are delusional. (4 likes)

baldieman64
1 year ago
“if you can see that far, look on the wall right over there that surrounds this wonderful festival. There’s a message on that wall for President Donald Trump. Do you know what it says? Build bridges not walls”.
Hilarious!!!!
You couldn’t make it up..
The message is painted on a wall. A wall that exists to keep out those who haven’t contributed to the cost of making the festival happen. Kinda like a border…. (2 likes)

Moving on…

Cuffing season

noun: the period of autumn and winter, when single people are considered likely to seek settled relationships rather than engage in casual affairs

“Cuffing” means to become locked to something with handcuffs. To be cuffed to something – attached to something with handcuffs. I suppose “cuffing season” then means when people get attached to each other, permanently. The idea of handcuffs can either be negative – like being caught by the police and jailed, or it can be kinky – using handcuffs during kinky sex.

But “cuffing season” isn’t really negative and although it might involve sex it’s more about intimacy and making a permanent commitment to being with just one person. Cuffing season refers to this period of the year when people feel like settling down with one person in a secure relationship. Perhaps it’s because during the winter it gets dark and cold and you want one person who you can snuggle up with and feel secure with. It seems that people perhaps are more likely to get into serious long-term relationships at this time of year. I don’t know if there’s any real research to back this up.

From personal experience I can say that I first got together with my wife in the winter, so maybe there’s some truth in this idea. What about you? Are you in a committed relationship? When did you first get together and get serious about each other? Was it in the autumn or winter, during “cuffing season”?

I’ve never actually heard anyone say “cuffing season”. I’ve never used the term. I don’t think people actually say it a lot, but it is the sort of language you might read in articles about lifestyle and relationships. Sometimes these buzzwords are just used a lot in the media, rather than in every day conversation.

Cuffing Season (from the Metro – December 2017)

Read through this article – do you relate?

metro.co.uk/2017/12/07/5-things-that-happen-during-cuffing-season-7133783/

When did you meet and get together with your partner?

How do you deal with the dark and cold periods of winter?

Part 3 coming soon…