Tag Archives: improvisation

484. Try not to Laugh on the Bus (with Paul Taylor)

A conversation with Paul Taylor involving several cups of tea, recipes for French crepes, our terrible rap skills, a funny old comedy song about English workmen drinking tea, some improvised comedy role plays and a very angry Paul ranting about bad customer service in France! Your challenge is to listen to this episode in public without laughing out loud, especially in the second half of the episode. Good luck, may the force be with you. Vocabulary list, song lyrics, definitions and a quiz available below.

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Episode Introduction (Transcript)

I’m going to keep this intro as brief as possible so we can get straight into it!

This one is a conversation with friend of the podcast, Paul Taylor. It was lots of fun to record, I hope it’s also lots of fun to listen to.

There are links, videos, word lists and song lyrics with vocabulary and definitions on the episode page on the website that can help you to understand and learn more English from our conversation.

There is some swearing in this episode – some rude words and things. Just to let you know in advance.

Try not to laugh on the bus while listening to this. That might be embarrassing. That is a challenge from me to you. Try not to giggle – because everyone will look at you and will feel either jealous or confused at your public display of the joy which will be bursting forth from your heart as you listen to Paul’s infectious laughter. No giggling or cracking up in public please. Get a grip on yourself for goodness sake.

Where’s Amber? All will be revealed.

Keep listening until the end of the episode for more additional extra bonus fun.

Alrighty then, that’s all for the intro, let’s go!

Vocabulary List

  • A crepe = a thin french pancake made from flour, milk and egg – all whisked together and then cooked in a pan
  • To whisk = to mix ingredients quickly with a fork or a whisk
  • To knead dough to make bread
  • To knead = to work/press/mix/fold dough with your hands when making bread
  • Dough = flour, water, yeast combined to make a soft paste, used for making bread
  • Cats go to the litter box, shit and then lick their paws
  • The litter box = the tray or box in your house that cats use as a toilet. It’s full of small stones, sand or something similar.
  • Paws = the hands and feet of a cat (or similar animals)
  • The Luke’s English Podcast Challenge – if you don’t know what a crepe is, leave a comment! You *might* get a picture of Paul as a prize.
  • Talking bollocks* = talking nonsense ( *bollocks is a rude word meaning testicles, or bullshit)
  • owzit gaan? = How’s it going?
  • It’s the first day back at school in France so everyone’s going mental
  • Going mental = going crazy, getting stressed
  • Anti-nuclear pens? = I suppose these are pens which somehow resist the effects of a nuclear attack. They don’t exist, I think.
  • www.youtube.com/watch?v=geEVwslL-YY
    • Losing your friends when they have kids – How having kids is like the zombie apocalypse (according to Paul)
    • “To put the kibosh on something” = phrase
      If someone or something puts the kibosh on your plans or activities, they cause them to fail or prevent them from continuing.
      [mainly US , informal]
      E.g. “Rattray, however, personally showed up at the meeting to try and put the kibosh on their plans.”
      “…software that puts the kibosh on pop-up ads if a user doesn’t want them.”
    • www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/put-the-kibosh-on
      Origin: Unknown origin :)
    • I’ll be tutoring my child in the ways of righteousness
    • A voice-over = some recorded speech used in advertising, TV, radio etc.

“Right said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins

A 1960s comedy record featuring some cockney workmen moving a heavy object and drinking lots of tea.

Lyrics [vocab explained in brackets]
“Right,” said Fred, “Both of us together
One each end and steady as we go.” [be careful, do it steadily]
Tried to shift it, couldn’t even lift it [move it]
We was getting nowhere [yes, it’s grammatically incorrect]
And so we had a cuppa tea and [ a cup of tea]

“Right,” said Fred, “Give a shout for Charlie.”
Up comes Charlie from the floor below.
After straining, heaving and complaining [making lots of physical effort] [complaining]
We was getting nowhere [also grammatically incorrect]
And so we had a cuppa tea.

And Charlie had a think, and he thought we ought to take off all the handles
And the things what held the candles.
But it did no good, well I never thought it would

“All right,” said Fred, “Have to take the feet off
To get them feet off wouldn’t take a mo(ment).” [those]
Took its feet off, even took the seat off
Should have got us somewhere but no!
So Fred said, “Let’s have another cuppa tea.”
And we said, “right-o.”

“Right,” said Fred, “Have to take the door off
Need more space to shift the so-and-so.” [the thing]
Had bad twinges taking off the hinges [sharp pains] [metal parts that attach the door to the wall]
And it got us nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea and

“Right,” said Fred, “Have to take the wall down,
That there wall is gonna have to go.”
Took the wall down, even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.

And Charlie had a think, and he said, “Look, Fred,
I got a sort of feelin’
If we remove the ceiling
With a rope or two we could drop the blighter through.” [an annoying person or thing]

“All right,” said Fred, climbing up a ladder
With his crowbar gave a mighty blow. [a heavy metal tool]
Was he in trouble, half a ton of rubble landed on the top of his dome. [broken pieces of rock] [head]
So Charlie and me had another cuppa tea
And then we went home.

(I said to Charlie, “We’ll just have to leave it
Standing on the landing, that’s all [the hallway on an upper floor]
You see the trouble with Fred is, he’s too hasty [in a hurry, rushing ;) ]
You’ll never get nowhere if you’re too hasty.”)

  • Getting queue jumped and dealing with unhelpful staff = when people skip ahead of you in a queue [a line of people waiting]
  • Luke struggles to understand how to deal with waiters and shop assistants who say “c’est pas possible” (French = it’s not possible)

Listen to Alexander Van Walsum talk to Luke about how to deal with “c’est pas possible” in this episode from the archive

391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Were you listening carefully?

Episode Outtro

That’s nearly the end of the episode, I hope you enjoyed it and you managed not to laugh out loud on the bus.

Don’t forget, you can see a list of vocabulary and expressions from this episode all on the website, including the lyrics to that song that you heard. There’s also a YouTube video of the song if you want to hear it again and make sure you’ve understood all of it. So check that out.

By the way, the mobile version of my site has now been improved thanks to a helpful listener called Sergei who gave me some CSS coding advice. So if you check the site on your phone now it should look much better than it did before, which will make it easier for you to check vocab lists, transcriptions and other content from your mobile device. Try it now – teacherluke.co.uk. You will find the link for this episode and all the others in the episode archive – just click on the menu button and then EPISODE ARCHIVE.

Don’t forget to join the mailing list on the website so you can get a link to each new episode page in your inbox when it’s published.

As I said, it’s nearly the end of the episode – but it’s not actually the end yet. There’s more. In fact, I’ve decided to give you a bonus bit at the end here, because I’m nice.

So, what’s the bonus bit?

The Bonus Bit – “The Expat Sketch Show”

On the day that Paul and I recorded this episode (and in fact the next one too) we also recorded ourselves improvising a short comedy sketch. I’m now going to play you that sketch.

The idea of the sketch is that I work in an office in Paris and my job is to interview ex-pats (foreign people who have moved to Paris) – I interview ex-pats for a position on a kind of scholarship programme where we subsidise their living expenses and help them integrate into the Parisian community and in return they contribute something to community in terms of work, taking part in cultural events or making any contribution that will benefit the cultural mix of Paris.

Paul plays 3 different ex-pats who have come into my office for an interview, and let’s just say that they’re not exactly the ideal candidates.

The whole thing was completely improvised, it’s full of rude language and it’s all just a bit of a laugh so here is the Ex-pat Sketch show with Paul. Have fun!

Thanks for listening to the episode everyone.

Have a good day, night, morning, afternoon or evening!


275. The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #2

100 episodes ago I recorded The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #1 – remember that? The point of that episode was to improvise a made-up story as a way of reviewing the first 50 phrasal verbs from my other podcast which is called A Phrasal Verb A Day. I had to just come up with a random story, and add in a load of phrasal verbs. Your task was to try and spot the phrasal verbs as I used them, while also following the story. It’s time to do it again because I’ve done over 100 episodes of A Phrasal Verb A Day. So now, in this episode I’m going to attempt to improvise another story using phrasal verbs #51-100. Click here to listen to The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #1.

Click here to visit Luke’s English Podcast on iTunes and leave a review. :)
Click here to visit A Phrasal Verb a Day on iTunes and leave a review. :)

A quick note about A Phrasal Verb a Day
Do you know about my other podcast? It’s a real thing, there are currently about 107 episodes available free for you. You can find all the details, every episode and the RSS feed and iTunes links on teacherluke.co.uk. Just click “A Phrasal Verb a Day” in the menu. You can also find it in iTunes. I started it at the beginning of last year and my aim was to record an episode every day. I managed to keep up that rhythm of one a day for the first few months, but then I found that I couldn’t keep doing them every day. So, the recording and uploading of APVAD has become very sporadic as my daily routine has been really hectic (as usual). But, it is still alive and kicking and I plan to go back to it regularly to upload more episodes. Eventually, the plan is to hit 365 episodes and then it will be finished. In each episode I teach you a different phrasal verb, give you explanations and provide loads of examples of the different meanings and other things you should know. There are also transcripts for all 104 episodes (to date). Phrasal verbs are a vitally important part of fluent and natural sounding English, and are often one of the hardest aspects of the language to learn. You can use my series as a way to get a grip on this difficult aspect of English. Listening to my short phrasal verb episodes regularly can make a really big difference to your English learning, so if you haven’t already done so I recommend that you check it out today. Teacherluke.co.uk and then click A PHRASAL VERB A DAY in the menu, or just google “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. You can subscribe to it in iTunes, download them, listen to them on my website or whatever is most convenient for you – just like episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.

Now, back to this episode.
It’s important to review vocabulary – it’s vital to go over language again and again and we also know that it’s important to get vivid and meaningful connections to words to help you remember them. Hopefully this story will help that process.

I’ve already gone through meanings and explanations of all these phrases in each phrasal verb episode. If you want to go back and study them in more detail, you can just go back to those individual little episodes – the links to all of them are available on the page for this episode. You’ll see a list, and you can click on each phrasal verb to listen to that episode.

In this episode let’s focus on you just noticing these phrases as they are used in natural speech within the context of a story. You’re going to play a game of Vocab Hunter! (exciting) Does that help to make it interesting? If you need extra excitement you can imagine you’re shooting the vocab from the sky whenever you hear it. You can even do a hand gesture, like you’re shooting a gun, like ‘pow’ every time you hear one. Obviously, watch out if you do that on public transport. People tend to be a bit funny about people pretending to shoot imaginary words that only they can see, while on a bus surrounded by people – but on the plus side, you’ll probably get an empty seat next to you and plenty of space to stretch out and really relax while you listen to this episode and play vocab hunter.

Anyway, as I was saying, it’s important to get used to noticing language as it is being used in context, rather than just being spoon fed vocabulary bit by bit, by a teacher, in a slightly mechanical way. Ultimately, it really helps you pick up language when you actually hear it being used to serve a communicative purpose. So your challenge in this episode is just to try to follow the story while noticing 50 phrasal verbs as they’re being used. The phrasal verbs will appear in alphabetical order. In fact, there may be more than 50 as I’m sure other phrasal verbs will just naturally crop up in my speech (there was one already – to crop up).

My challenge is just try try and make this a coherent story, while including all the phrasal verbs. I have no idea where my story is going to go! I just hope that it all makes sense and that I find a way to use every single phrasal verb in order.

It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be fun and I hope you enjoy the story. I will go through the list when I’ve finished so you will know which ones you should have noticed. Remember, the list of these phrasal verbs, with mini podcast episodes explaining each one, is available on the page for this episode.

So, let’s begin the phrasal verb chronicles, episode two – phrasal verbs 51-100.


272. The Bad Haircut Situation

In this episode we’re going to look at how to deal with sensitive situations in English, and that includes ways of delivering bad news or saying negative things. We’re going to consider ways of using language carefully in order to avoid upsetting people or making them angry. You’ll hear a discussion on this topic between Amber, Paul and me and then a few role plays in which we have to deal with some sensitive situations. Watch out for the specific language that we use.

“The Bad Haircut” – Imagine this situation:
You are at work on a Monday morning, and your colleague arrives. Your colleague’s name is Jane. She is a lovely person. She is kind, sensitive, and generous. She has also been a little bit under-confident recently, after she split up with her boyfriend, who she had been going out with for 4 years. The break up left her feeling a bit lonely and upset, but now she is feeling much better about herself and is ready to take control of her life again.

At the weekend Jane had her hair cut and she has chosen a new style. It’s really quite different to her previous style, and to be honest, it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t suit her at all, and it is not really a fashionable style either. Let’s say she’s added a fringe, she’s cut it shorter and she’s changed the colour. You’re thinking: “this is a bad move – she’s taken a step in the wrong direction with this new haircut”. She seems to be a bit unsure of herself, but she’s excited about her new hair, which obviously cost her a lot of money. You are the first person she has seen in the office. She says to you, “So, what do you think of my new hair cut?”

What should you say to her?

Now, think about this situation carefully. Consider these questions before you decide on your reponse.

1. How exactly will you phrase your response?
2. How honest will you be? Will you tell the truth or not?
3. How might your response affect Jane’s feelings?
4. How direct will you be?
5. What is the most normal, usual and common thing you would say to a friend in this situation? How would you say that in English?
6. If you were from a different culture, would that affect your answer?
7. How would an English person answer the question?

Jane: So, what do you think of my new hair cut?

Your answer: ______________________________________________(please leave your suggestion in the comments section)
Amber’s answer: Wow, you’ve completely changed! It’s completely new! It’s completely different! It’s a completely new look! (With a positive tone)
Paul’s answer: (If he noticed) It looks great!

Wrong thing to say: Don’t worry, it’ll grow out.
“it’ll grow out” = in time the hair will grow and the new style will disappear, and it will look better eventually.

Should we always tell the truth to people?
What if they’re a close friend?
Should friends always support you, or should they sometimes disagree with you if it’s necessary?
Does this change when ‘the stakes are high’?
Is this also different between different countries, or is it universal?

The Importance of Language
It’s in these difficult situations that language becomes vital – we need to be diplomatic in order to prevent problems, to keep relationships sweet, and to avoid big arguments or hurt feelings. You need to be able to use language very carefully sometimes – but how? What are the approaches and phrases that you can use to achieve these things? Let’s look into it in this episode. We’re also going to play around and improvise a few scenarios in which people have to deliver some pretty bad news, which should be fun.

Cultural Aspects
– How would different cultures react to the same situation?
– Are British people more awkward (than other countries)?
– Do we have many social codes? What are they?
– Does our language define us? Or do we define our language? (e.g. French has more formality in it – does that make them more aware of formality codes in their behaviour too?)
– Are Americans more relaxed and laid back than the Brits?

Social Codes
According to Amber’s German friend who has lived in the UK and in France: It’s possible to break cultural codes in France and you’ll be forgiven because you’re foreign, whereas in Britain they still have lots of social codes but they pretend they don’t have any! So when foreign people break the codes, even subtle ones that we aren’t aware of, Brits might get offended!
Perhaps this means the French are a lot more frank and open about having social etiquette, whereas the Brits like to think they are informal and relaxed, when actually they have social etiquette too, which you have to be aware of.

What are those behaviour codes in the UK?
There are codes around giving and receiving compliments.
Here’s the wrong way:
Girl 1: Oh those are very nice earrings.
Girl 2: Thank you. [Didn’t say anything else – which comes across as rude and inconsiderate]

It shows that there are lots of codes that most people don’t even realise exist.

Here’s the correct version:
Girl 1: Oh those are very nice earrings you’re wearing. [Paying a compliment]
Girl 2: Oh thanks! Yeah, I just picked them up in a car-boot sale (a market). I love your dress. [Being modest, then returning the compliment]
Girl 1: Oh, this old thing! It’s just been in my wardrobe for ages, and I just threw it on this morning! [Being modest]
It seems to be normal to be very modest about compliments in the UK, certainly for girls. Is it the same for guys?

Is this just the British/English? How do you react in your country when someone compliments you?
Generally speaking, the English tend to be quite self-effacing and modest, and we don’t like people who are arrogant and who show off.

What about the difference between Americans and British people?
Americans tend to sell themselves more.
The British tend to be more self-effacing and modest. Paul doesn’t want to come across as being arrogant.

Do men and women have the same social codes?

Careful and Diplomatic Language
Choosing what to say in situations like this requires diplomacy and careful attention to language.

Difficult Situations
In this episode we’re going to consider the language you would use in situations like this. Here are some categories:

  • Giving some bad news when it’s your fault (admitting to something)
  • Giving some bad news when it’s not your fault (reporting/announcing something)
  • Requesting something that you shouldn’t be requesting
  • Saying no to a request
  • Saying that you can’t do something
  • Explaining something that could cause someone to get upset or angry

Role Plays for Improvisation
How about these difficult situations? What would you say?
Listen to Luke and his friends improvising the situations. Try to notice specific language they used.

1. You agreed to look after your friend’s dog (you didn’t want to do it) and while looking after it, the dog ate your nice handbag. You’re really angry. Tell the friend.
Here’s some language used:
– There was just one thing…
– He’s a bit of a chewer…
– I wouldn’t normally mind, but…
– Oh no!
– I’m so sorry

2. You have to explain to your family or your partner that the internet has to be cut off to save money. Your partner is a total geek who pretty much lives online constantly, and can’t imagine a world without it.
– I think we need to reduce some of the expenditure that we have so we’re not always in debt
– It seems like the biggest expenditure now is the internet
– Why don’t we just potentially cut off the internet in the house
– Maybe you can go out more


175. The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #1

This is both a phrasal verb review, and a random made-up story. 50 phrasal verbs reviewed within the context of a completely improvised comedy story. Click here for The Phrasal Verb Chronicles #2.

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I decided to do this episode as a way to remind you of the first 50 phrasal verbs I’ve taught you in my Phrasal Verb a Day series of mini-episodes. When I’ve reached 100 phrasal verb episodes, I’ll do another episode of The Phrasal Verb Chronicles, to help you remember #51-100.

Here are the phrasal verbs I use in this episode. Can you notice how I use them in my weird story? You could also attempt to make up your own story using these phrasal verbs. You don’t have to do all 50. Try just using 5, then 10, then 20 and so on. Eventually you should be able to make meaningful sentences using all the phrases.

I wonder what you think of the idea of “Story Time Club with Luke from Luke’s English Podcast”? Let me know ;)