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377. Holiday in Thailand (Part 1)

This episode contains stories and descriptions of my recent holiday in Thailand. You’ll hear some facts about Thailand, some descriptions of Bangkok and a few stories about funny experiences that happened while we were there. Part 2 is coming soon. More details and transcriptions below. Enjoy!

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Transcript

Hello everybody, I’m back from my holiday so here is a brand new episode for you to listen to. If you’re new to Luke’s English Podcast, then “hello” and welcome to the show. I have no idea how you found the podcast. It was probably on the internet, that’s how it normally happens. I doubt that you actually tripped over it in the street or anything. Oops ,what’s that – oh, it’s Luke’s English Podcast. I might as well have a look. You probably found it online, perhaps through iTunes or a friend recommended it to you perhaps. In any case, regardless of how you found me, welcome. My name’s Luke – and this is my podcast. It’s primarily for learners of English although I also have native English speakers listening to this too. In these episodes I talk to you in a personal way, telling stories, sharing some things about my life, discussing different topics, teaching you English and giving you the motivation to improve your English for yourself. I try to keep the podcast varied and I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything at all as long as it’s interesting. I’m an English teacher from the UK. I speak British English – with a standard accent from the South East of England. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years so I have lots of experience to draw from. I’m also a stand-up comedian which means that when I’m not teaching English or doing the podcast I like to stand up in front of audiences of people and make them laugh with jokes and stories and things. I regularly perform comedy shows in Paris.

One of the principles which underpins what I do in episodes of this podcast is the understanding that simply listening to natural, spontaneous speech is a vital part of the process of learning English to a good standard. Obviously, you have to get an understanding of the grammar rules, develop an extensive set of active vocabulary, practise pronouncing the language and so on, but doing plenty of listening is an essential foundation. I usually recommend that LEP is best enjoyed as part of a balanced study program. For example I suggest that you also do plenty of speaking in order to activate the English that you passively pick up from these episodes. There are lots of ways to improve your English and you can just listen to previous episodes of the podcast to get my advice on that. At the very least, you can just relax and enjoy listening to my words on a regular basis, and I hope that it’s a fun process too. Certainly, I am sure that my podcast can really help all the other aspects of your English, not just your listening. I also believe it’s important to listen to English which is spoken at a pretty natural speed, which is spontaneous (i.e. not just written from a script) and I think you should listen regularly for fairly long periods, long term. Make it a part of your lifestyle to listen regularly and don’t give up.

I want my podcast to help you to do exactly those things, and so I try to make my episodes genuine, personal and humorous. So, if you’re new to the podcast – welcome and thanks for listening. I hope you stick with it. I believe that if you do continue to listen, you’ll see significant results in your English. Check out the episode archive on my website teacherluke.co.uk and you’ll see that you have plenty of other episodes to explore and enjoy.

If you’re not new to the podcast, and you are in fact a long term LEPster then welcome back! How are you? I hope you’re well. Did you have a good August? Have you listened to all the episodes I published before I went away? I hope so.

In any case, here is a new episode of this podcast and it is about my recent holiday in Thailand.

Holiday in Thailand

Yes, we went to Thailand this year and I’m going to tell you about it in this episode. In fact, in this one I’ll talk about these things:

  1. Why we went to Thailand
  2. Where we went in Thailand
  3. The things most people know about Thailand
  4. Some things you might not know about Thailand
  5. A few anecdotes about what we did and saw during the holiday
  6. A few dodgy jokes!
  7. An embarrassing story involving nudity
  8. A sad old memory that came back to me at a specific moment in the trip
  9. A mouse-related update (if you heard the last episode of the podcast, this will make sense to you)

We got back just the other day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged. I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning. My body is still on Thailand time, so at about 5AM my body woke up saying “hey it’s time to get up and go walking around temples in very hot temperatures! We’re on holiday come on!” No doubt I will randomly fall asleep this afternoon when my body decides that it’s bedtime. I have a sun tan – correction, I had a tan, until the flight back. As a very white English man, I have a slightly tricky relationship with sun tans. At the moment I am sporting the typical English man’s tan.

I have no idea how long this episode will be but I can just split it up into different chapters and it’s all good.

You will find some of this episode transcribed on the episode page on my website. Not all of it is transcribed, but a lot of it is, and you can read my notes too, which might be a good way to check out the spelling of any words you hear me use. They might be written on the page. By the way, if you’re just reading this – I strongly recommend that you listen instead of reading. Remember, anything that is written here is supposed to just accompany what I’m saying in the audio recording.

Why did we choose Thailand?

– My wife and I wanted to go somewhere exotic and far away (we want to explore places which are a bit further before we have kids)
– A break and a chance to get away from it all
– Never been before
– We like food !
– It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do – city, culture, beaches
– It’s not too expensive

Why didn’t you do an LEP Live event?

It was a holiday – so I was not working. That means I didn’t organise some sort of LEPster meet-up, or live podcasting stand up comedy extravaganza. I didn’t meet up with Olly Richards even though I have since learned that he was out there too learning Thai – no, it was all about walking around sweating, visiting temples, sweating, exploring street food markets, sweating, worrying about food poisoning, sweating, going to the beach and sweating there, learning how to cook local food, eating the local food with lots of chilli, sweating, doing yoga and meditating, drinking water and sweating! Just the average holiday abroad for a British person!

Where did you go?

In a nutshell, here’s where we went.

Bangkok for a few days, then up north to Chiang Mai for a few days, then down south to Koh Samui for a few days and then back to Bangkok for a few days and then home! Boom!

That’s the usual tourist route. It’s Bangkok in the middle, temples, treks into the forest, elephants, night markets and cooking classes in the north, then islands, beaches, diving, snorkelling and full moon parties in the south.

We didn’t go to the islands on the west side like Phuket because of the climate in August.

Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions – some bombings, which was a bit worrying. We even considered not going, but then we thought – well, we live in Paris and we’ve got as much chance of being blown up there as in Thailand, so what the hell!

In fact our time was very peaceful.

Usual things people think about Thailand

The most typical clichés or stereotypes about Thailand: Busy, crowded, amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, weird sex tourism in Bangkok, ladyboys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, westerners being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2 (Tiger uppercut), snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

That’s partly true (perhaps for the average western tourist) but obviously it’s not the full picture, especially for the locals.  I will go into more detail about what it’s really like in this episode.

Things you might not know about Thailand

1. Full name of Bangkok. It’s the longest city name in the world. “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

2. Thailand, or “Prathet Thai” means “land of the free”…

3. Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded. Well done Thailand.

4. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands. The most famous ones are in the south, and they are beautiful. Probably the most well known is Koh Phi Phi, which is where The Beach was filmed. (By the way, it’s a rubbish film)

5. It’s illegal to leave the house without underwear on. I don’t know how they enforce this law. Are they doing random underpant checks?

6. Thai currency is called the Baht and it’s illegal to step on Thai Baht. Now, you might be thinking – well, I don’t every go around stepping on currency anyway, so that’s not a problem. But the point is that this is because of the high level of respect that the Thai people have for their royal family. Like in the UK, a picture of the monarch appears on every bank note and the image of the monarch cannot be desecrated, in fact it is a crime to disfigure a picture of the king or queen in any way. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like the UK, and they hold their king and queen in high esteem. There are lots and lots of images of them all over the country, sometimes you find little shrines in the street devoted to them.

7. The feet are considered to be very unclean (both clinically and spiritually) and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine because I literally never do that anyway. I’m sure I heard someone do standup about that and I can’t remember who, but it was very funny.

8. Similarly, the head is the highest point on the body and is considered to be sacred, so don’t touch it, slap it, poke it or whatever. In the west you might rub someone on the top of the head as a sign of affection, or whack someone round the back of the head to express annoyance. Don’t do that in Thailand. To be honest, I wasn’t going to do that either. I rarely touch the head of random strangers that I meet in public. I certainly wouldn’t slap the back of the head of someone. E.g. “Waiter, excuse me – we asked for 2 bowls of rice and you gave me one! Can we have another one? Thank you!” SLAP. No.

9. 95% of people are buddhist. It’s quite common to see Buddhist monks walking around. We talked to one of them and I’ll explain what he said later in this episode. Also there are buddha statues everywhere. There are thousands of them. It’s just buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha. Climb to the top of a mountain, there’s a buddha. Inside a cave? Buddha. Under a nice tree? Buddha. Inside this big temple? Buddha. In front of the big buddha statue, lots of other buddhas. In front of them, buddhas. Buddhas everywhere – which is great. They are beautiful, peaceful images and of all the religions I think Buddhism perhaps makes the most sense. Just try to reach a higher level of consciousness. Realise that everything is connected and that there is one universal vibration which passes through the entire universe. Reject selfish and materialistic urges in favour of achieving individual spiritual enlightenment. Fine.

10. It’s a very hot place – especially Bangkok. The hottest time of year is April where temperatures rise to 40 degrees C or more, with high humidity levels too. In August it’s the rainy season but it still gets really hot – it was regularly in the high 30s and with very high levels of humidity. Showers that happen in the evenings are a welcome break from the heat!

Read more about this on ‘the internet’ http://matadornetwork.com/trips/19-things-probably-didnt-know-thailand/

Bangkok

There are lots of stories about it, like the dodgy ping pong shows, the sex tourism and other weird and lewd things, but of course not everywhere is like that. We avoided the dodgy tourist parts such as Patpong, where there are these weird sex shows. Now, while I am quite curious to learn about the bizarre skills that some women have developed – I mean, some of the things are quite impressive. For example, apparently in these shows, some women are able to launch ping pong balls across the room – and not with their hands if you know what I mean, and some of them can even write letters with a paintbrush or pen, again, not with their hands. THat’s actually quite impressive, but I don’t really need to see it, and apparently the people who run the shows are very dodgy indeed and they lure you in with false prices and then when you try to leave they force you to pay a lot of money and it gets pretty ugly, so no thanks. No ping pong shows for us.

A mix between the chaotic and slightly sketchy places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and the more modern JPN, particularly parts of this area where we stayed.

The streets are vibrant, chaotic, noisy, smelly, polluted, full of life. Scooters, cars, crossing the road. Nobody walks! Traffic is incredibly busy. There’s an amazing metro system called the sky train. Tuk tuks, taxis and so on.

Lots of street food, with people cooking all sorts of things on little mobile carts – chicken skewers, lots of seafood, noodles, fruits like mango and some things I didn’t recognise. People eat in the street sitting on little plastic chairs.

Incredible Japanese BBQ. Daimasu.

Massages

Onsen experience

Expectations vs reality.
Naked bald midget.
Only had a tiny towel. Not big enough to go around me.
A bunch of other naked guys, including a group of old men in the corner watching. They broke off their conversation to have a look at me when I walked in.
Only foreigner there.
Not normal in my culture.
I felt really embarrassed. Not because of my size – because I have nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Some might say I’m gifted, I would prefer to say I am average for a guy of my height, but I should add that I have massive hands and feet. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t really need to be ashamed of myself but this was very awkward for me but because I’m not used to being seen, and the natural response is to be self-conscious about your size, even in front of other men. You might think it’s not important what other guys think, but I’d never had to rationalise it before and the fact is, is still matters for some reason.
Size is important, even when it’s other guys. I can’t really explain that.
Of course I shouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but I’m English and it’s just part of our culture. First we don’t ever get naked in a public situation, except perhaps at a sports club but then it’s brief.
Also, for some reason it feels like you’re being judged. I did feel judged. I felt incredibly self co anxious.
Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, maybe not, but people weren’t shy about having a look. The old guys stopped their conversation to take a look at me. Others turned their heads etc.
Nerves = natural body response to protect the Crown Jewels.
Stayed in jet bath.
One by one the guys came over to the adjacent bath and had a look at me. Every time I thought “oh for fucks sake!”
I stayed there for 20 minutes not knowing where to look and absolutely boiling!
Tried to make a break for the next nearest bath but it was the cold one – no way.
Went for the soda bath. High CO2 apparently good for me but I thought I was going to die.
Left and got changed.
An absolute fountain of sweat.
Wife waiting for me, totally dry.

The massage was quite brutal, but ultimately nice.

Holiday = sweating, great discomfort, great comfort and relief, good food, discomfort, sweating, relief, sweating etc.

Rude massage joke

 

Thanks for listening – subscribe to the email list at the top-right of the page. :)

Luke

340. LEP Photo Competition Results & Winners / It’s LEP’s 7th Birthday

In this episode the results & winners of the LEP photo competition are announced, and – it’s the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast! This episode is long but you don’t have to listen to it in one go. You can listen, pause, do something else, listen later and so on. Enjoy!

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Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please because the results of the LEP photo competition are here. Try to contain your excitement. I know we’ve all been waiting for weeks with bated breath to know who has won this most prestigious of prizes, but you can now relax and breathe normally because the wait is over! Yes, in this episode I’m going to give you the results of the photo competition. I’ll tell you the winners and the runners up, I’ll describe the winning photos in some detail including my thoughts and feelings about them, and later in the episdoe I’m going to ramble on about some other stuff.

Also, this is the 7th birthday of my podcast!

Also, I’ve just realised that this is the 7th birthday of LEP! It’s been almost exactly 7 years since I uploaded the very first episode of Luke’s English Podcast. So, this is not just the photo competition episode but also the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast too! Wow. Has it been 7 years? 7 years of my life have gone into this project. I have put a huge amount of time and energy into this over the years and I’ve loved every moment of it. Time flies doesn’t it. Yes it does. I’ll talk more of birthday-related things later, but if you’re feeling like you want to congratulate the podcast, celebrate the birthday, send me a card or a gift, or say thank you for my work or something like that, and you’re wondering what the appropriate thing to do is – well, here are some suggestions:

You could…

  • leave a lovely comment on the website explaining briefly what LEP means to you. It’s always nice to read your feedback and it helps the podcast because new visitors will see that I have an active, engaged, positive audience and that the podcast is good. It’ll help me reach a wider audience.
  • give the podcast a review on iTunes. This is really important actually – lots and lots of new people come to my podcast through iTunes and many of them will look at the reviews. So, if you enjoy this podcast and you feel it’s made a difference to your English, leave me a good review on iTunes. Lots of other people will see your review and it will really make a difference to the reputation of the podcast. Just go to itunes.apple.com/fr/podcast/lukes-english-podcast-learn/id312059190?l=en&mt=2 , view the podcast in iTunes and leave your review.
  • the most sincere way to say thanks is to leave me a donation via paypal. You should be able to find a button on every page of the website that says DONATE. This is the most sincere way you can thank me, because it’s like an investment in the podcast. Any contribution you make will support the podcast directly because it’ll help me to cover costs, such as website hosting and other payments, and because it just means I can do things like buy my wife lunch or something, and that’s important for my quality of life and my energy, which then feeds back into the podcast.

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Prizes

There will be more birthday celebrations later but first let’s get back to the photo competition, and here is just a quick reminder of what’s up for grabs in terms of prizes (this is where things get very dramatic and exciting – the tension is almost palpable isn’t it?!) First place will get two prizes: an LEP mug and another gift of the winner’s choice (so, another mug, a t-shirt, a pad or a tote bag), the two runners-up will receive one prize: an LEP mug each, and then there’s a surprise 4th prize, in a category that I’ve just added, for the winner of the Luke’s Choice Award (a gift of the winner’s choice from the gift shop).

I know some of you might be listening to this thinking – “What competition?” “What’s he talking about?” If that’s the case it probably means you haven’t listened to episodes 313-327 and so you’re blissfully unaware of this photo competition. Either that or you just forgot about it, or you had your memory wiped by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones or something. So, if you don’t remember, go back to episode 313 and 327 to remind yourselves of this competition and to find out more details.

Hey, don’t skip this episode, alright?

Some of you might also be thinking, “Oh, very good Luke, very good, but I might skip this episode because I’m not involved in the competition because I didn’t send a photo and I didn’t vote and yada yada yada”. First of all I should say that I would be deeply shocked and saddened if you skipped an episode. I mean really. It would upset me very much and it would be a huge trauma for me. I might have to go and have a lie down or a cup of tea, just to get over the emotional impact of knowing that you’d decided not to listen. In fact, I’m feeling very emotional about it right now just thinking about that… But if it makes a difference to you I’d like to say – I do hope you stay and listen, because I think there are some good things to be gained from listening to this, and I’ve got some biscuits here. Don’t you want a biscuit?  Anyway, this episode is not just about announcing the winners, but it’s also about describing some of the popular photos using words, in English, and sharing thoughts and feelings with the LEP community.

Yes, I will be describing and commenting on the photos during the episode – so you’ll hear some descriptive language. I suggest you check the page for this episode to see the pics I’m talking about. Also, in episode 327  I taught you some very useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures, which should be very important if you’re taking a Cambridge exam, or if you’d like to learn some useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures. So, that’s back in episode 327.

Summarising the Competition

Just in case you don’t know, or you’ve forgotten or something, let me quickly sum up the competition again.

Some time late last year I opened up this new contest. I got the idea originally from a Long Term Lepster (LTL) called Guillaume who suggested it to me ages ago by email. He said, “Hey why don’t you do a competition in which you ask your listeners to send you photos of them listening in different situations, and you could share the photos on your website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something?” and I thought, hmm, a competition in which my listeners send me photos of them listening in different locations and I could share the photos on my website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something, that’s not a bad idea! And so I decided to do just that, and in episode 313 ( I think) I said, “I’m launching a competition in which you my listeners can send me photos of you listening in different locations and I’ll share the photos on my website and people can vote for their favourites and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. All you have to do is take photos of yourself listening in different situations and I can share them on my website and everyone can vote for their favourite ones, and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. What do you think?”
And people said “What? Sorry, can you repeat the sentence?”

Most people seemed up for the competition, which was nice.

There was just one condition , I said – “you have to include something that proves that you’re listening. So, that could be some headphones in the pic, or an LEP logo, or something like that.”
And that’s exactly what happened, everyone sent me pictures of themselves listening in different situations and I shared them on the page for episode 327 and then everyone voted for their favourite ones. I say, everyone – I actually don’t mean everyone – not everyone in the world. I didn’t get 7.125 billion votes, and not even everyone who listens to this podcast voted. In fact, just a small fraction of my listeners voted – which means that there’s a good chance that you, listening to this right now, yes you, the one with the ears – there’s a good chance that you didn’t take part in this at all. And I’d like to ask you why not?? What were you doing? Did you have something better to do? I can’t imagine what could be more important than voting in this competition! Except maybe writing a report for work or something – in fact there might be lots of things that stopped you from voting maybe you were going food shopping to buy food to keep you and your family alive, maybe you were cooking dinner and you couldn’t vote, eating dinner, feeding dinner to your family or friends, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, digesting food (I can’t vote I’m busy digesting), washing clothes, wearing clothes (sorry, I couldn’t vote, I was too busy wearing clothes), taking your clothes off in the evening – that’s time consuming, sleeping, being woken up by your alarm, putting your alarm on snooze, going back to sleep again, being woken up by your alarm again, putting it on snooze again, going back to sleep again, being woken up by the alarm AGAIN, and putting it on snooze AGAIN, then suddenly realising that you’re really late, smashing the alarm with a hammer, jumping out of bed, putting your clothes back on, having a shower, changing your clothes because they’re all wet, going to the toilet, taking another shower, cancelling 3rd world poverty, making coffee, leaking sensitive legal documents to the media that reveal the hoarding of massive amounts of secret money by a law firm based in Panama as part of a huge multinational tax avoidance scheme involving the leaders of many developed countries and various semi-legal tax avoidance schemes in offshore accounts based in tax-havens all over the world revealing incredible levels of alleged corruption at the highest level, eating a banana, going to work. You know, just the usual daily chores that take up our time. Maybe you were doing one of those things, and you couldn’t vote in the competition. I understand! That’s fine! I think that most people for one reason or another decided not to take part in the competition, and probably said to themselves – “Who? Me? Send pictures of myself listening in different situations so that Luke can share them on his website and then people can vote for their favourite pictures and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something? That sounds nice, but sorry Luke I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment – I’ve got a big meeting with the boss this morning, and I’m trying to learn phrasal verbs, I’ve got to shred a few documents at the Panamanian law firm where I work and I have a conference call between with David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and some other world leaders that I have to attend to, and I have to eat these biscuits and I’ve got to escape from this pink gorilla that’s chasing me and I’m trying to learn the phonemic script to improve my English pronunciation… so I can’t do it I’m afraid, I can’t vote – but carry on anyway, it sounds like a lovely plan.”

Right. Are you following this?

I’m just saying that most people didn’t get involved in the voting, but that’s totally fine of course, and in a way it’s perfect because if 7.125 billion people had voted and sent me photos, I would have been impossibly busy over the last few weeks and my website would have crashed and so on… So, all’s well that ends well.

Total number of votes and photos? In fact I received a grand total of about 115 photos and then a total of about 270 votes.

Why did I do the comp?

I wanted to see things from your point of view a bit. Obviously, I do these podcasts on my own, mostly. Sometimes I’m joined by other people, which is lovely. But usually I just sit here on own (sad, lonely music?), I record episodes, publish them, read comments from some of you, and watch the download numbers go up and up and I think – who are all these people? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they thinking? It turns out, you’re all just normal human beings (which shouldn’t be a surprise) – I mean, you’re all normal people (I say normal, of course you’re all extraordinary) but seriously, you’re ordinary people just going about your lives in different countries, in different weather conditions, in different environments and you find time to listen to this podcast while you’re doing it. There’s a pretty diverse range of people out there in different situations, but the cool thing is that you’re all united by the fact that you listen to this podcast. You’re united by other things too of course, like the fact that you’ve all got legs (although, saying that I realise that some of you might not have legs of course and that’s great) or you’re united by the fact that you live on earth and other things, like that you need to drink water regularly, breathe air, eat food, go to the loo sometimes, we’re all united by these things, you probably like eating good food – who doesn’t? and you probably don’t like it when you have a stone in your shoe, it’s annoying when your neighbours play loud music all night, sometimes you run out of sugar or milk or, err, rice, and you get angry, like “Why don’t we have any sugar left!? Oh god!!!” or you find it embarrassing when you drop something in public or you trip over in the street and you’d love to get more sleep in the mornings. Yes, you’re all united by those things, but you’re also united by the fact that you all listen to this podcast.

In all seriousness, I can’t really overstate how amazing that is. It’s amazing. It is amazing. It’s amAAAAYzing. OK? Thanks for listening and thanks for your photos & votes.

But really, I was quite surprised at what a fun and even touching experience it was to look at all the photos that were sent. Did you check out the page for 327? It was a genuinely lovely experience, that was just a little bit heartwarming. Unless you’re a steel-hearted terminator of a person, who doesn’t let emotion defrost the edges of your frozen heart, I imagine that you felt it to be quite sweet as well, to look at all these pics of people around the world.

Not all the photos were outstanding works of photographic genius of course. In fact many of them were probably taken right at the moment that you were listening to episode 313 when I said “just take a pic while you’re listening – just take a pic of whatever you can see right now” and that’s exactly what a lot of you did – so there are some photos of computer screens, or mobile phones, or views from car or bus windows and stuff, but these pictures do have interesting details in the background or on the edges of the frame – just revealing little things that show us the things we have in common but also differences like which part of the world you’re in, or what your life is like – for example, the weather, the landscape, your working environment, other people we can see in the pictures, public spaces, etc.

Luke gets deep and meaningful

I’d like to take this opportunity to get deep and meaningful now and say some profound things about what your contribution to this photo competition means to me personally, and the way it represents something special as we move through life in this crazy world we call ‘earth’, struggling to make sense of what’s going on around us and searching for some oasis of calm and some sincere sentiments outside the usual banal nonsense we are exposed to in the media and in advertising. So, here’s some profundity for you.

So here we are, all living on this planet. We all lead these separate lives in different places with our own unique problems, stresses, responsibilities etc, but at the end of the day when we put our heads down to go to sleep, or when we lose a sock in the washing machine, or when we put our headphones on to listen to LEP, aren’t we all the same in some ways? We essentially care about the same things, don’t we? Despite being in different countries, divided by political boundaries, geo-cultural distinctions, ethnic and religious differences, we are all connected. We live pretty similar lives and we share the world together (cheesy). Things we do, even small things, affect the world around us, and affect other people’s lives – even people we can’t see might be inadvertently affected by our actions in some way, and what’s good for other people is good for the world ultimately is good for us too. You know, it’s like what Cypress Hill said – “What goes around comes around”. (Cypress Hill – “What go around come around!” – I couldn’t have said it better myself, except that it’s “what goES around comeS around”, but other than that, well done Cypress Hill.)

OK this might sound bit cheesy and naive but I think it’s true, and what I’m trying to say is that it’s stupid to divide ourselves up into little groups and isolate from each other, alienate people, stigmatise or scapegoat people and point the finger at others for being different. We should celebrate our differences, like our different customs and behaviour but we shouldn’t let those differences drag us into fighting each other on behalf of people who just care about their own power. Yeah man. Deep. OK, that was a cheesy and slightly preachy message there, but there it is. I think there’s a place for a little bit of cheese and maybe the odd bit of preachiness on this podcast sometimes because I enjoy the fact that my podcast is something that crosses borders and I think these things need to be said. It’s nice. If you don’t agree that we’re all interconnected in complex ways and that humans all basically deserve to be treated with respect, and that we have more things in common than differences – if you don’t agree with me, then leave your comments on the webpage unless you’re too busy shredding documents in an office somewhere.

So, back to the photos

Seeing people’s working lives – it’s awesome to observe the different types of work that my listeners do, and there are some interesting things in there, like Julia from Russia who works with gold for example.
Multitasking – it’s great to see so many people managing not just to listen to the podcast but also to do other things at the same time – like playing the piano, cooking, driving or in some cases answering the call of nature – (that means going to the toilet – yes I got a couple of pics of people listening in the loo). Good work (not for the toilet thing – I’m not judging you based on your performance in the toilet) but good work for the multitasking if that’s how you listen to this podcast!
Babies listening – There are a couple of little babies (newborn ones) listening too, which I do think is a good way to get the kids started on English. I wonder what this new generation will be like in English – the generation who will grow up with access to English online. It’s possible to raise kids with good English if you just let them interact with it from an early age. It’ll definitely help. Obviously, you should speak to them and get them to speak to you in English too. Hunter in Taiwan – I’m happy to see he’s smiling while listening to the podcast!
I know that some of my episodes are really long. I’ve spoken about how I think that’s good for your English. But I realise that your time is precious and I think it’s just brilliant  that you choose to spend that time listening to this.
So, as ever – thank you for devoting your time to this podcast. I’m glad my work is appreciated.
Obviously it’s a free podcast and I do this in my free-time so really it’s you who should be thanking me – writing me heartfelt messages filled with praise and admiration, sending me generous donations and and religiously recommending my podcast to every single person you meet (literally everyone) but nevertheless, thank you for devoting your time to LEP. In fact, joking aside, many of those things are true – I really do get regular messages from my listeners telling me how appreciative they are. In fact, you may have sent me an email or written a comment or something saying thank you and I appreciate that. Your feedback is great.

Also, congratulations to you for having the sense to listen to a podcast to improve your English, because in my professional opinion it’s a very good thing for you to do and it should give you an edge over other people who don’t do it. Obviously you should also do other practice as well, to activate your English including doing plenty of speaking if you can find ways to do that. But, you know, congrats for adding an English language podcast to your lifestyle. It’s BOUND to have an impact on your English.

So, now that I’ve rambled on about the podcast for a while let me now ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS of the competition and DESCRIBE THE PHOTOS in more detail. (why did I put those words in CAPITALS? …I don’t know – it just seemed more EMPHATIC!)

PHOTO COMP – RESULTS

4 prizes: 2 runners up, the winner, and the Luke’s Choice Award.

RUNNERS-UP (a mug each)

RUNNER UP (3rd place) Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener? 20 votes.

Walter near Milan in Italy - highest listener?

Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener?

Thoughts: This is simply an amazing view and it looks like the perfect place to listen to the podcast. Walking in the mountains must be invigorating and energising, and I hope you also get some mental stimulation from the podcast while you’re doing it. I also like the composition of the photo.

RUNNER UP (2nd place)

Photo title: Sergio’s illustration of me as a Jedi in training / Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! Total = 22 votes

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I'm Luke Skywalker, finally.

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I’m Luke Skywalker, finally.

Here’s a closer look at that illustration:

This is Sergio's illustration of me as a Jedi in training. :D There's another photo in the competition with Sergio doing the drawing - I consider them to be the same pic (this one https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/20/327-the-lep-photo-competition-please-check-out-the-photos-and-vote/sergio-tellez-lep-jedi)

Note: Just describe the photo. What’s yoda whispering in my ear? “Mmmm, strong in the ways of podcasting you have become, but incomplete your training is.” Why master Yoda? What must I do to become a true Jedi Master of English Teaching? “Hmmm, monetise your podcast you must! Yes! Create online courses! Download them people will! Help them learn, you can! Video courses you could produce, yes! Study packs, pdf worksheets. Publish and sell your own materials online you must. Only then, a Jedi you will be.” OK master Yoda. I’ll try. “Hmm speak not of “TRY”. DO or DO NOT. There is no ‘TRY'”. Your voice is a bit weird master Yoda, are you ok?

Thoughts: A lot of effort went into this. The illustration is great, particularly Yoda. You’ve also done a pretty good job of capturing my face, probably based on just one photo. Also, the picture shows a lot of things like the fact that you’re listening while drawing, you’re a Star Wars fan, and you’re aware that I am too. It shows that you’ve been paying attention! I am Luke Skywalker after all. It’s really funny and nice!

OVERALL WINNER (1st place) (a mug + t-shirt, bag or pad)

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework (29 votes)

Gabriella in Italy - listening while doing the housework

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework

Thoughts: This is a great pic because it shows very clearly the way that many people listen to the podcast – while doing something else. Gabriella is obviously very clever to combine the two, and she seems so happy! Big smile on her face, and it’s just a very striking and colourful picture. There’s something appealing about it. It’s a slice of life. We have a glimpse into your home, and we get a sense of how much you enjoy listening to the podcast. Lovely stuff!

Luke’s Choices for Honourable Mentions (from ones that didn’t win) – and one of these will receive a Luke’s Choice Award (a mug)

These are photos that didn’t win or get runners up prizes, but which I’d like to mention because I like them.
Esther and so many ginger biscuits 9
Dima Okun – listening all the time! 8
Lеksandra Sokolova – an artist who listens while illustrating – sashasokolova.com 8
Denis (Bosnia and Herzegovina) during his Orchestra Rehearsal 9
Thavorn Twinant from Thaliand in San Francisco 10
Hunter in Taiwan listening with 14 day old son 12
Zdenek_Lukas in Czech Republic 13
Sylke Strüber and her pet dog Robin in Germany 13
Meliana and bear in Wroclaw (in Poland), which is this year European Capital of Culture 15
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Alexander in hospital in Russia – don’t worry he’s ok – and he’s listened to every single episode of LEP while recovering.
Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1 (stayed up all night studying and then chose to listen to my podcast – instead of crashing out in bed, exhausted – you’ll go far my friend)

The ‘Luke’s Choice Award’

This is an award given to one of the photos that didn’t win, but which I personally like.
I like them all, but of the ones that didn’t win, this one stood out for me.

The award goes to:
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets (5 votes)

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Why have I chosen this one?

It’s a slice of life. First of all, we get a sense of daily routine. It seems so busy, with other people cycling past. A sense of movement. A sense of multiculturalism. Environmental issues – with he pollution. A sense of urgency. Although it was probably taken very quickly and it’s essentially a selfie, I like the composition, with the cyclists moving past in the background and to the side, with Daria on the left, quite close engaging us with those lovely blue eyes. It makes me wonder what she’s thinking while surrounded by all this traffic. It must be a stressful daily commute, but she seems calm while listening to the podcast. And she l looks like a ninja, which is cool.

If you’d like to buy some merchandise, click the image below to visit the LEP GIFT SHOP.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Other entries and their votes

Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1
Amir Khosh – the Dentist who listens to LEP 1
Sara Viñas in Beijing China with a mask for pollution 1
Gabriel Reis 1
Armando Torres driving in Mexico with the iztaccihuatl volcano in the background 1
Mohsen from Iran 1
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Vlad from Kharkiv in Ukraine, where it looks very cold indeed 1
Alex from Spain making delicious chocolate cookies with the kind help of her two girls 1
Valtesse Maria Thompson – hashtags are enough proof! 1
basma-salman listening in bed I think! 1
Mike in Sri Lanka or India 1
Ewelina – keep on running! (with headphones on) 1
Carolina from Santiago Chile 1
Amaia Garcia – Bilbao in Basque Country – Guggenheim museum 1
Emília Hosszú – she nominated herself in the most boring category – in the UK I think 1
Julien the French stonemason 1
Emma Lee – LEP Ninja from Australia – in her 6 year old son’s room 1
Adam from Poland, now a sheet metal worker in Leicestershire in England 1
Irina Lavrova – another frozen Lepster! 1
Tania from Chile now in Munich 1
Aine Ito – LEP Ninja from Japan now studying in Edinburgh 1
Farid from Algeria now living in Montreal Canada 1
Tetsro – shaving in Japan with Philip’s shaver – did you ask Philip before you borrowed it? 1
Junji Yanagi, from Japan, who prefers walking than taking the train because it gives him more time to listen to LEP – 2
Jonatan Uriel Vidal Carmona in Mexico City 2
Francesco Lotto – a foggy day in Italy 2
romana from höflein, austria – running betwen vineyards 2
Anthony CP from Spain – listening in Northern Ireland 2
Ivan Irikov at the Gym 2
Anna Maria Chachulska (Polish girl living in Netherlands) and Kermit and a gin and tonic 2
A lovely photo of Renato in a typical listening situation 2
Guillaume driving with The Thompsons in Switzerland 2
Ariel Tsai (from China) marking her students homework 2
Quyền Cao commuting and listening 2
Sebastian from Poland – feeling good after a 5 km jog 2
Sergey Abakumoff – somewhere in Russia – spot the headphones 2
Alexey Алексей keeping an eye on the road in Russia 2
playdoh crow multitasking with a nude_potato 3
Mamen – waiting for the snow in Biescas in Spain 3
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Kaline who listens everywhere! 3
Vasyl Usik on a bike ride in Ukraine 3
Sylke from Germany 3
Marina F with her listening partner – Daniel 3
Achim Winter – Cooking with Luke 3
Facundo Vilicich with a skipping rope in the PLaza Malvinas 3
huda s – favourite place for listening 3
Maxi from San Nicolás, a small town of Argentina – with the view from his kitchen and a cup of mate (local tea) 3
Paulina from Poland – listening in the morning. 3
Hideki from Japan and the Tokyo Skytree 4
Marina in Moscow 4
Jose, who listens while running to the toilet 4
Sabine from Germany – starting the day brushing her teeth in English 4
Leila somewhere in Russia 4
Carlos Rodríguez from Chile – multitasking 4
Alessandro from Rome on a ferry from France to England 5
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Kristina listening at -20 degrees C 5
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets 5
Charleston from Brazil – on the way to his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night 6
Julia from Minsk in Belarus 6
Eric in France – raising a glass to LEP 6
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Julia from Russia – a restorer who works with GOLD – note the golden LEP 6
Cristian cooking for his British fiancee – who also is a lepster 7
Joanna from Poland and her comments! 7
Kristina in Moscow – smiling despite the snowstorm 7
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Serezha Sergey from Moscow 8
Weijia Wang from China 9

Other stuff

Crikey! It’s the 7th birthday of LEP! I completely forgot about that!

Top countries by download over the last 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, year.

Nicknames for LEPsters

I expect I have many types of listener. Some of you have been listening for ages, some might be quite new. Some of you leave comments, some don’t. Some of you use transcripts, some just listen. I was thinking of nicknames I could use to refer to the different types of listener I have.  Here are a few ideas. They’re mainly acronyms. *Let’s see how many of these nicknames I can actually remember in the future! and Let’s see how many get adopted by you*

LEPsters (all people who listen)
LEP Ninjas (People who listen but never comment, or people who comment rarely, or people who comment anonomously and then slip away into the darkness)
DLLs – Dedicated Language Learners (obviously that’s everyone – but these are people who really go all out to learn using the podcast, like listening numerous times, repeating what they hear, keeping vocabulary records, studying transcripts, or using any kind of serious work ethic while listening)
Dudes – Anyone (men or women) who just likes to chill out while listening. You might have a cup of tea and lie down on your nice rug and just listen for the pure enjoyment of it)
Civilians or “muggles” (People who don’t listen and who have no idea that it exists)
Splitters! (People who used to listen, but decided to stop for some reason – especially if they listen to OPP but not mine)
Scrubbers! (People who know the podcast exists but just ignore it, choosing not to listen)
Passive smokers / Second hand LEPsters / Significant Others (Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends or husbands who listen because they’re with another LEPster)
Younglings (Kids who listen to the podcast)
Comrades – I’m referring to fellow English teaching professionals who listen to this podcast. I have a special sense of solidarity with other English teachers.
All creatures great and small (any animals who listen)
Aliens (just aliens – I imagine they’re scanning all broadcasts on earth)
NSA Agents (Those American secret service agents who are listening to this – imagine Agent Smith from The Matrix)
LTLs (Long Term Lepsters – people who have been listening for years – maybe since 2009 – early adopters)
Newbies – Anyone who’s just started listening recently.
The Lost Adventurers – Listeners who are quite lost  because they just don’t really understand what’s going on in episodes, but they keep pushing forwards anyway, searching for the truth. I imagine you sort of lost in the jungle, slashing at the foliage with a machete, trying to find the path that will lead you to the temple of English enlightenment.
Transcribers (LEPsters who take part in the transcription process)
Audiophiles (People who have downloaded audiobooks from Audible)
Talkers (People who talk on italki)
Cowboys / gunsligners = people who think I talk too much “You talk too much”
Readers (People who just read the show notes and transcripts, but don’t actually listen to the episodes)
Multitaskers (people who listen to LEP while doing other things)
Philanthropists (people who donate money to the podcast out of generosity and kindness)

I’m sure you could think of plenty of other types of listener. So, I invite you to think of other names and add them in the comment section.

POLL – What are the most common types of listener? Complete this poll to find out!

325. Catching Up with Oli / Future Predictions (Part 1)

Here’s a 2-part episode featuring a conversation with my cousin Oliver in which we talk about first some challenges he faced over the last few years (including dramatic things like a scooter crash, a tropical disease, a burglary and how he completely flooded his own house) and then some more positive things about being a father and predictions for how society will be different in the future. Also, listen for some general news and announcements about Luke’s English Podcast.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Announcements & News

  • I hope you enjoyed the episodes I recorded as a tribute to David Bowie. Unfortunately, so soon after we lost Bowie, the news came that another great person has died – the British actor Alan Rickman, who like Bowie was 69 years old and died from cancer. He’s most famous for playing the part of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and the part of Hans Gruber the bad guy in the film Die Hard with Bruce Willis – both very enjoyable and distinguished performances, but he played many other roles too. Alan Rickman was known for his sardonic humour, his wonderfully rich and unique voice, and for bringing a great amount of weight and humanity as well as humour to his roles. He will be missed too.
  • And, I haven’t even mentioned Lemmy – the lead singer of the group Motorhead, who also died recently. Lemmy played a massive part in the invention of heavy metal music, and was generally a huge personality in the world of British rock. He was on the scene all the way from the 60s until this year when he passed away due to cancer. Lemmy was known for his gravelly voice, his appearance (he looked like a biker dressed in leather with big mutton-chop sideburns and moles on his face – he wasn’t a pretty guy like Bowie by any means), his hard-drinking speed fuelled lifestyle and his bizarre obsession with Nazi regalia – clothing, weapons and so on from the Nazi era. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just liked the designs and imagery from that time – it had nothing to do with the ideology, and at heart he was just committed to playing loud and fast music and living a loud and fast lifestyle – and he will surely go down in history as a true legend of the music world. So, that’s three people, at least. So, can famous British people stop dying please!? If we carry on at this rate there’ll be none left by the end of the year.
  • But let’s not dwell on these dark things any more! I’m glad to present you this episode today because this one is all about the future, and new life because my cousin Oli is going to be a Dad for the first time – his wife is expecting a baby daughter at any time, so let’s look to the future, with new life and positivity and all that stuff! We’ll start that in just a minute, but first – a little bit of admin…
  • The comments issue on the website is fixed. I just needed to do a few updates. You can now post comments on the homepage again. No worries!
  • Email subscribers – are you still receiving emails when I post new episodes? I had a couple of messages from listeners recently who said they hadn’t received emails with new episodes. How about you? If you’re an email subscriber, could you let me know if you received emails for the David Bowie episodes, the episode called With the Thompsons, and the Star Wars spoiler review.
  • Picture comp is finished – so, don’t send me any more photos please! Thank you for the photos I have received in my email account, and, of course, I have loads of pictures. They’ll go up on the website soon and you can pick your favourite. I’m a little bit concerned about how that’s going to work because there are about a billion photos, but I’ll work something out.
  • I’ll be meeting Paul and Amber again soon. Firstly to catch up with them both – because quite a lot has happened since we last spoke on the podcast. Amber went to Costa Rica, and Paul Taylor is now something of a celebrity as his comedy video about kissing in France went super-viral over the last few weeks. His video, “Paul Taylor – La Bise” is about his frustration with the French custom of kissing people when you meet them. It was uploaded onto Robert Hoehn’s YouTube channel French Fried TV on new year’s day and within the space of just a few days it got over 1 million views. He was featured on lots of French websites, radio and TV, and then the video went global on the BBC’s website and more. Paul also has a new solo comedy show every Saturday (as well as the one with me on Thursdays) and it’s completely sold out for the next 10 weeks or something. Wow! Remember when he was on this podcast talking about how he quit his job to do comedy? Remember how difficult it was in Edinburgh? Well, things seem to be working out for him now! Good news!

  • Also, I hope to get Amber and him on this podcast again (if he’ll come on now that he’s such a big celebrity) in order to do that interactive version of the Lying Game – remember that? Listen to “318. The Rematch (Part 2)” to find out the details. Basically, this is a chance for you to get involved in another version of the lying game.  All three of us said some statements, and you now have to write questions in the comments section for episode 318. IN the episode we’ll ask each other your questions, and answer them. Then you can decide if they’re true or lies. Again, listen to 318. The Rematch (Part 2) for all the details (listen until the end).

Introduction to this Episode

As you know at Chrimbo I want back to the UK and stayed with my family, and with my cousin at his home in Bristol. It’s been a while since he was last on the podcast, and quite a lot has changed with him. In our conversation we talk about lots of things and I really think this is an interesting episode, and a very valuable one from a language point of view. The topics we talk about are diverse and quite in-depth and as a result we use lots of different features of grammar and vocabulary. I always encourage you to notice language while listening to native speakers on this podcast, so try to do that in this episode if you can. First we talk about what happened to Oli since the last time he was on the podcast, so watch out for the ways in which we talk about the past – tenses, and other forms. Oli faced a few difficulties and challenges, so watch out for the ways he describes those things. Essentially, he tells me a few anecdotes about some of his difficulties in London, watch out for past tenses and so on. Then we talk about the future, and about various predictions for the next 10-20 years, so naturally you can try to notice the specific language, tenses and modal verbs that we use to describe the future, make predictions and make judgements about the future. As well as that, there’s a lot of vocabulary related to technology, transport and communication.

In my opinion this is a very useful conversation for you to listen to. I loved catching up with Oli and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it, and by the way, listen all the way to the end to hear Oli play a bit of guitar – and he’s a really good guitarist.

That’s it!

olipodnew1

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

Chatting and rapping with Jason R. Levine aka Fluency MC! [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’m feeling pretty excited today because I’ve got a bit of a celebrity on the podcast. Jason R. Levine, also known as Fluency MC is something of a legend in the world of online English language teaching. He’s become pretty well known on YouTube in particular for his videos in which he uses hip hop to bring a fresh approach to teaching English. Jason raps his English lessons, and many of those raps have become YouTube sensations – for example “Stick stuck stuck” the past participle rap (over 2.5million views on Youtube), and the present perfect rap which is a full on explanation of the grammar rules for the present perfect tense, delivered in rhyme. But, Jason is not only a teacher who raps – a look at Jason’s CV shows that he is involved in a number of very interesting English teaching projects – he leads workshops, has published material and is an English specialist for the US department of State – which makes him sound like a government agent, and he has a very interesting academic and personal background which has led him to take this fresh new approach to language teaching. On the musical side, Jason raps but he also plays the drums like me, and he DJs and produces his own tunes. There’s so much to ask him and so much to talk about, and hopefully Jason will do some rapping on Luke’s English Podcast too, and who knows – I might even get involved in that as well. You can look forward to all of it in this episode. (In fact, if you listen to the whole episode you will hear both Jason and me rapping on some of my brother’s music)

I’ve never met Jason before, this is the first time I’ve spoken to him in fact. I always thought Jason lived in New York, but a while ago I was on Facebook and I saw a photo of him in Paris and I assumed he’d visited for work or for a holiday, so I sent him a message saying “next time you’re in Paris, how about an interview for LEP” and he wrote back saying “Actually, I live in Paris”. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. What are the chances of that!? So naturally, I thought I’d take the opportunity to hook up with him and interview him for the podcast, and he’s sitting right next to me now so let’s get started…

Links
Click here for Jason’s YouTube Channel
Click here for colloandspark.com Jason’s website
This is FluencyMC’s Facebook page

Questions & Stuff
These are some questions that we covered in this episode of the podcast.
I’m really chuffed to have you on the podcast Jason, because as we heard in my introduction you’re sort of a living legend of English teaching. Are you famous?
What are you most known for?
What other projects are you involved in?
Where are you from?
What did you study at university?
How does psychology come into your teaching method?
How long have you been teaching?
How did you get into it?
When did you first start rapping in the classroom? Was there one particular time when you first did it? What happened?
You travel quite a lot, teaching in different locations. Do you always rap in class?
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
How is rapping a part of that?
What are the reactions of your students to your method?
What’s collo and spark? Can you explain that?
Is it related to mnemonics?

FluencyMC on YouTube
This is the original video of Jason rapping “Stick stuck stuck” – just about 3.5minutes of one of his lessons.

Luke’s Rapping (Lyrics Below)

Here are the lyrics of my rap at the end of this episode!

The Well-Spoken MC (Lyrics)
Microphone check one two one two
Let me introduce myself to you
My name’s Luke
I’m an ordinary dude
I like food, I wear shoes
I like to watch YouTube
I’m just like you,
or maybe Doctor Who
when I’m in a good suit
I’m feeling in the mood

from time to time
I like to unwind
I Drink a bit of wine
and try to write a rhyme
and when I combine
all of this all online
then surely it’s a sign
it’s my time to shine,
cos I like to feel fine
I do it all the time
and in my mind
I’m going to get mine

It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen…

I get dizzy
with a bit of thin Lizzy,
while drinking some fizzy
getting busy with Queen Lizzy
I’m a gentleman
With a lesson plan
I’ll Help you understand it with a diagram
Of different tenses
and complex senses
or ways of saying sentences with different kinds of emphases
Yes
You could say I’m blessed
With a CELTA and a DELTA and my CV’s fresh!
I teach pronunciation
Throughout the nation
To stop alienation
Caused by poor articulation
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track

Cos I speak like a native
and I’m here to get creative
and I have already stated
that I’m very qualificated
I’ve got a wide CV
an even wider TV
which I’d like you to see
in Confidentiality
Because between you and me
and the deep blue sea
One day I’m going to be
On the BBC

Because I’ve got that BBC style
The one that makes you think for a little while
about the way most newsreaders speak
It sounds as if they’re trying to repeat
Sentences of information But With crazy intonation
and weird enunciation that’s clearly fascinating
And at the end of every news report
There is a summary of sorts
Of all the main sports, and some afterthoughts
Where the main news anchor
Turns to the camera
And delivers an answer
in the form of a mantra
This is the voice of the BBC,
and while you’re sitting there drinking cups of tea
We’re working away inside your TV
And on the screen you will surely see
that I go by the name of the Well-Spoken MC

Good night
FluencyMCPIC

251. Welcome to LEP / 16 Things You Should Know about LEP

The podcast has been nominated in the Macmillan Dictionary Award and the voting is now open here www.macmillandictionary.com/love-english-awards/voting-blog-2014.html

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When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.

In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!

16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.

2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.

3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!

4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.

5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.

6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!

Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.

There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.

7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!

8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.

9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.

10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!

11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.

12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.

13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!

14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.

15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.

16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!

If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
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179. The Ramblings of an Exhausted Teacher

Last night I couldn’t sleep, and so today my mind has turned into jelly. Let me tell you all about it.

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In this episode I talk to you, in a rambling way, about diverse topics such as:
Dwayne’s English Podcast
Being kidnapped by aliens from Mars
Exam fatigue
Trouble sleeping last night
English at 7.30AM!
The rotten contents of my brain!
Selling Luke’s English Podcast
Saying “Hello” to you
Having a conversation with you
“The best laid plans of mice & men”
The university course I’ve been teaching
Sleep (high-energy bit)
What are you doing?
On a bus
Signalling to another person that you’re a LEPer (secret codes)
Giving a wink to a stranger
On a train
Trains and lifts in movies (Bruce Willis)
My brain is on its last legs

THANK YOU! (Transcripts, donations, reviews)
A special hello to the NSA secret agents
Hello to Yannick
Twitter – it’s what you make of it
Whatever
Normally on Luke’s English Podcast
BBC meeting: Prioritising Luke’s English Podcast
This really is the end
Be nice to each other
;)

Lovely to talk to you,
Goodnight

Luke

jellyPODPIC
Thanks for listening ;)

174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast

This episode contains lots of ideas, advice and suggestions for ways of improving your listening, reading, writing and speaking using Luke’s English Podcast. A transcript is available below. ;)

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This should be a useful episode. I’m going to go through a whole bunch of ways that you can improve your English with Luke’s English Podcast. You’ll find a list of these points on my website. I’m going to expand on them here.

I’ll be talking about key areas: listening, reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and discourse. Much of what I’m saying is written on my website. Just find the episode called “How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast”. I’ve written a lot of this down because it contains lots of specific bits of information which I wanted to make sure I included. I try not to do too many episodes in which I read things to you. I promise that the next one will be unscripted. Anyway, I’ll do my best to make this sound as natural as possible, which is an art in itself. Actually, you could use this script to help you practise your pronunciation, you could record yourself reading this too, and compare it to my version. What are the differences in your version and mine? What can you learn from that? Record yourself doing it again, and compare that to your first attempt. It’s bound to sound a lot better. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll sound more natural and convincing with each attempt. More on that later.

For now, here is a list of tips and advice for learning English with LEP. ;)

Just listen
First of all, you don’t really have to do much more than just listen to the episodes. I realised some time ago that a lot of the students of English that I met at school in London did not listen to enough authentic English. They were willing to spend money and travel across the world in order to improve their English, and yet most of them, for some reason, were not prepared to take a bit of time every day to listen to something in English. Why? I think partly this is because they didn’t know what to listen to. A lot of people watch TV and movies in English. Fine. But honestly, that might not be the best way to improve your English. Film is very visual. A lot of what you understand from a movie is the visual storytelling. It’s important to just focus on the audio – on the language. So, a lot of students didn’t know what to listen to. They thought that they didn’t have much choice. Actually, there’s plenty of choice out there. The BBC has plenty of podcasts, there are loads of podcasts on different topics on iTunes – but they’re all made for native speakers. They’re too difficult to listen to, and ultimately, that’s not motivating. There are some podcasts out there which are made for learners of English, but a lot of them are just focused on language learning, at the expense of entertainment. They’re useful, but they’re a bit dull. This is less the case now, because 5 years after starting this podcast, there are more interesting things out there for learners of English, including my podcast. So I decided that I’d try and create something for learners of English to listen to that they would actually want to listen to, beyond just learning English. Ultimately, I think to listen to English for extended periods of time, you have to have an interest in what is being talked about, or you have to find it entertaining. Otherwise, it’s hard to really sustain your concentration and it becomes like a chore. There is real value in listening to English for extended periods of time, but it’s difficult to achieve because you get put off by not understanding things, or because the recording is a bit patronising and dull. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here too much, because I’m sure that my podcast is not always as entertaining or as engaging as it could be, but I think the only way to get people to keep listening, is to try and make it entertaining as well as informative about English. So, I record this podcast with you in mind, but I try to keep it as authentic as possible. I try to avoid being simplistic. I try not to grade my English too much. I know it might be challenging for you sometimes but I attempt to hold your attention by talking in an enthusiastic way about subjects which I personally find interesting. Hopefully, the result is that you keep listening, and that you feel personally involved in it somehow. Then, by exposing yourself to lots of English in this way, you are able to acquire the language – to pick it up, in a variety of ways.

Stephen Krashen & Language Acquisition Theory
Let me now refer to the language acquisition theory of Stephen Krashen. This theory is very well known among language learning theorists, and it underpins a lot of what we know about learning and teaching English. Krashen believed that there are two ways to develop our language learning skills. One is through language acquisition and the other is through language learning. Language acquisition means that it is possible for adults and children to learn language in a subconscious way – meaning, in a kind of passive way – by simply engaging with the language. The important thing is that you focus on the message in a bit of language. So, when listening to Luke’s English Podcast this means focusing exactly  on what I really mean, rather than just on the specific items of language I’m using. The primary focus is to just understand what I mean (hopefully at a fairly deep level – in order to laugh at something I’ve said, or feel moved by it) and then you kind of ‘pick up’ the language as a result of that. You might not be immediately aware that you’ve learned some new language in this way. In fact, this kind of acquisition probably informs your passive knowledge of the language. According to Krashen, another type of language development is language learning. This is when you focus on learning specific forms  – like studying grammar rules for example. It involves having some instruction by a teacher, perhaps in the form of error correction, or from a grammar book which explains the ‘rules of English’. The downside of this kind of learning is that it is rather dogmatic, can be boring, complex and abstract. It doesn’t necessarily replicate the organic way in which we pick up language as children, and doesn’t quite allow the subconscious acquisition of language that occurs from just engaging with the language in order to understand a message being communicated.

Alright, so how does this apply to the way you can learn English? Well, I think it’s pretty important to get both aspects of language learning into your life. This is what I call “having a balanced diet”. You shouldn’t just study the grammar rules in a dogmatic way, although that is undeniably important. You should also attempt to just engage with the language as it is used in natural, authentic and meaningful situations. How can you do that? Ideally, this would mean going out into the world and doing things in English. In fact, this might be the best way to improve your English. If you get a job that requires you to use English all day you will improve quickly. It’ll be really hard, but you’d be forced to improve. That’s like a boot camp for language acquisition because you’re not really studying the language, you’re just attempting to survive in it. You’re really focusing on the communicative acts you are trying to achieve. You’re really focusing on meaningful messages, and you naturally learn the most direct and effective way to understand and communicate meaningful messages. You might not be able to do that in your life. You might not have access to native speakers in that way. So, my podcast can be a substitute. It’s not really the same as attempting to work in an English speaking environment, but the key point is that you can replicate aspects of that experience by just attempting to follow/keep up with what I’m saying, and do that regularly, over long periods of time, and you’ll pick up massive amounts of English.

So, just listen, try to follow everything I’m saying, try to enjoy it and engage with it, listen regularly, listen for extended periods. This will all contribute to your acquisition of English, as described by Stephen Krashen.

That’s language acquisition, but you can also do more traditional language learning alongside Luke’s English Podcast. First of all, outside of listening to the episodes, you can do your formalised language studying from a book or in class, and use LEP as a companion to that. Study the language, and then try to notice aspects of the language that you’ve studied in episodes of the podcast. For example, if you’ve studied verb tenses, you can listen to a story I’ve told on the podcast and try to notice those verb tenses, how I’m using them, how I’m pronouncing them, and so on. It can back up, confirm or clarify the language study you’ve been doing. You should always refer to authentic language usage as a way of checking language that you’ve studied.

Also, you can study the things I say in the podcast more directly. The podcast can be a study tool. Here are some ways you can do some active language study with the podcast:

Use transcripts
You could read a transcript and check new words in a dictionary as you find them. Pay attention to the way I use the words, including the grammatical context, collocations between words and pronunciation. Any new words or structures you find, make a note of them and practise using them yourself.

You could attempt to write your own transcripts. This reveals a great deal about the gap between the English you know, and the English that I use in the podcast.  Try transcribing a section of one episode. You could do an episode that has already been transcribed. Listen carefully to it, and try to write down every single word. There may be certain utterances that you just can’t identify. Mark them with question marks. Listen again and again. You could just focus on a specific 5 minute section of an episode. Keep listening until you’ve done your best. Now check the proper transcript for that section and compare it to what you wrote. What are the differences? Now you can identify the gap between what you understand, and what I said. Try to close that gap. Check the words you didn’t know. Identify why you missed the pronunciation of something. Think about how I say these words and phrases, and their definitions. Then you can start working them into your English when you speak. We’ll look at ways of developing your speaking in a few minutes.

A note on transcripts. You may be aware that a lot of my episodes have transcripts, which can really help you to study the language (although you shouldn’t read them all the time). But you can also contribute transcriptions to my website. If you fancy transcribing a few minutes of an episode, please send it to me and I’ll be able to correct it and publish it on my website. I have a transcript collaboration going on using Google documents. You might already know about this because I did an episode on that subject a couple of months ago. You can go to my website and click “transcripts” to find out more. Basically, writing transcripts of my episodes is not only a great way to use the podcast to improve your English, it also helps me to provide an even better service to my listeners.

So, Luke’s English Podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. Listen freely and just try to enjoy and understand what I’m saying, and let your mind naturally acquire the language, but also mix this with more formalised language study to get the full 360 degree effect.

You might think the formalised language study part of that is boring and time consuming. That’s fine. You don’t have to do any of that, but as a compromise, what you can do is just be mindful when you’re listening. Your first aim is to focus on the message, but you can also try to notice specific aspects of the language too. Try to identify words, phrases and grammatical structures. You don’t have to formally study them, just notice them as you hear them. Like “oh he’s saying depend on” so it must be “depend on” in English, not “depend of”. Things like that. Just be mindful when listening.

I record different types of episode here. My main aim is to engage you and keep you interested, while presenting English to you in an authentic way. In some episodes I try to draw your attention to the language more specifically. For example, I teach/explain/demonstrate vocabulary items referring to a topic, or bring your attention to an aspect of pronunciation. In those episodes, you can just chill out and follow what I’m saying, but you can be more active, and make notes of the vocabulary, try to remember phrases, listen again and pause the recording to test your memory.

Listen in comfort, and enjoy the experience. Krashen also writes about the affective filter hypothesis. This relates to the conditions in which learning takes place, and how these can have a big effect on the successful acquisition of language. Basically, good conditions for learning are: motivation (the listener really wants to hear what’s being said, and is keen to learn the language), high self-esteem and relaxation. These things allow the flow of acquisition to move freely, without being blocked. Mental blocks occur when the learner is stressed, anxious or feeling bad about themselves. This creates a mental block to the acquisition of language. I guess this relates to one of those situations in which you’re in an unhappy language class. You feel stressed because of pressure from the teacher or from the judgement of your classmates, you feel low self-confidence because you don’t get any positive reinforcement from taking part in a communicative exchange and you’re just not enjoying the experience of being there in the classroom. As a result, there is a kind of mental barrier which really prevents you learning anything. In fact, it might even make it worse because you associate learning English with painful or boring classroom situations. The advantage of Luke’s English Podcast is that the emphasis is on fun, a lot of the time. You have nothing to fear or worry about when you listen to this. In fact, it can be an extremely pleasurable experience. I’m not just bigging myself up here. I know what it’s like to listen to your favourite podcast. It’s quite a personal experience. I listen to Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review Podcast on my way to work, and I can’t begin to explain the joy of listening to it. They’re like my friends, and I’m sharing a really nice conversation with them. I listen to their voices in private, through headphones, while I’m sitting on a smelly underground train with miserable people all around me, but I’m in my comfort zone. In fact, sometimes I’m disappointed when I reach my metro station, because I just want to keep listening to the podcast. Hopefully, listening to Luke’s English Podcast is a similar experience for you. That’s certainly the idea. This should be a personal and enjoyable experience for you, and I invite you to just enjoy being part of the podcast community, and remember that all around the world there are other people like you, listening to me ramble on about stuff. There’s no chance of the affective filter giving you a mental block in this situation because you should be in your comfort zone. That’s the advantage of podcasting. You really can listen to this whenever and wherever you want, and you are free to get as comfortable as you please. As I’ve said before, feel free to listen to this in the bath, on the loo, or as you softly and slowly drift off to sleep at night. Of course, you can also listen at your desk, with a pen in your hand, or while typing, in order to make notes or write transcripts. You can also sit up and read transcripts. It’s up to you. The main thing is to just enjoy yourself and let the English go into your head. Just imagine that my voice is bouncing around inside your mind, and lots of the words, and sounds are sticking in there.

You should certainly listen to episodes more than once. In fact, if you’re interested in really learning English from this podcast, I think it’s vital to listen several times. Once is not enough. In fact, you might only scratch the surface if you listen just once. Listening again and again will allow you to get really familiar with what’s being said. You’ll notice and remember things that you didn’t catch the first time. Repetition is really important as a way of helping your brain notice patterns. After a couple of listens, you’ll remember certain phrases, bits of intonation or responses and they will be reinforced when you listen again. It might be asking too much of you, but you could even start to remember and repeat some of the things you’ve heard on Luke’s English Podcast. I don’t necessarily expect you to repeat everything I say, but perhaps you could memorise the lines of a comedy sketch that I present to you, and then repeat the lines to yourself or your friends, or just while you’re listening again. I’m a bit of a geek and I love Star Wars. When I was a kid I used to watch Star Wars on heavy rotation. I’d watch it again and again. Now I can remember all the lines from the film. In fact, I don’t just remember the lines, I remember the bits of music and sound effects too, as they occur in the film. It’s the same with Monty Python films and sketches. I’ve watched them so many times that I can repeat a lot of the script from memory, and in fact some phrases from those movies have found their way into my vocabulary. You can do that too, by listening to episodes more than once, and listening to some comedy sketches which I present to you many times. Soon I’ll be doing an episode about Monty Python. For some reason, Monty Python’s sketches are very memorable. In fact, there are several generations of people in the UK and America who grew up watching Monty Python films and who are able to recite whole sketches to each other. Again, you can do the same thing, realise that there are some terrifically funny things in English, and use that as a way to pick up language.

There are a number of different areas to focus on with English.
4 skills:
Listening
Reading
Writing
Speaking

Language systems:
Grammar
Vocabulary
Pronunciation
Discourse

Listening
I’ve already talked a lot about the benefit of just listening for fun, or listening in a more active way. I did mention that it’s good to be comfortable when listening. I should add too that I think it’s important to try and listen to things that you don’t completely understand. It’s fine to listen to things that you don’t understand completely, and the general opinion on this seems to be that you should push yourself when you listen, and don’t get put off if there are things you don’t understand. It’s in that challenging experience that your brain is really piecing things together. For example, if you struggled to understand my conversation with Daniel Burt, that’s fine – in fact, that struggle is good. Listen again, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Push through those moments when you don’t understand. Keep going. Don’t let confusion stop you.
Also, try to identify subtle differences between accents. You may only notice little differences at first, but eventually you’ll be more and more aware of the differences between accents. Eventually, you’ll be able to say “this guy is from the north of England”, “This one’s from Australia” or whatever.

Reading
Reading transcripts on my webpage.
Outside of the podcast – read a variety of texts. Again, try to find things that you enjoy. You should also be aware of your purpose for learning the language. What are you going to use English for in the future? You may need to read emails, or business reports. It may be worth reading articles that talk about business trends. Otherwise, just reading any well-written text for enjoyment is a really good way to improve your literacy. I must add a page on my website with recommendations for reading. There’s loads of reading you can do – blogs, newspapers but also books which you can download free online. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning to give you a list of some good things to read.

Writing
Again, this is not one of the things that I focus on a lot on Luke’s English Podcast. The focus is mainly on spoken English. However, transcribing podcast episodes can be good for your writing. You could also write your own blog which contains your opinions or your outlook on a topic. Feel free to write a response to episodes of my podcast in the comments section. You should aim to concisely express your opinion, in a structured way, using the most appropriate words you can find (perhaps including some words you’ve picked up from that episode of the podcast). Think about the person reading the comment – make it easy and enjoyable for them to read, and focus on stating very clearly and efficiently exactly what it is you want to say. Considering those ideas can help you to make your writing more effective.
If, however, you need to practise writing for the IELTS test, you will need to do more specifically focused writing practice, probably using an IELTS preparation book, or following an IELTS course of some kind. My podcast can help you with general skills (vocab, etc) but for specific kinds of writing work, you should do some specific writing practice. Practice practice practice. As I said before – to get the best out of Luke’s English Podcast, use it as part of a balanced diet.

Speaking
Perhaps the best way to improve your speaking is to actually practise it in real-life situations. The requirements of that situation will train you to say the right things at the right time, with the right tone. You should certainly be aware of how intonation is important in affecting a message. These are things you can learn from trying to enter into meaningful acts of communication and learning from your mistakes. You might also need a teacher to actively correct your errors. But, you can definitely use Luke’s English Podcast to improve your speaking too. Let’s look at some ways to do that:
Just try to take some aspects of my speech and apply it to your speech. You could just add some words or phrases you’ve heard from me, and use them yourself. Or you can pick up some speech patterns, pronunciation from me and add that to your speech too. If you like, you could use my speaking as a kind of model for your own speech.
More specifically, you could copy and repeat some of my sentences. Listen to a line I say, and then repeat it and try to sound exactly like me. You could listen to phrasal verb episodes, and whenever I present an example sentence, pause the episode and repeat it after me. Keep doing that until you feel you’re version is pretty similar to mine. So, just listen and repeat until you’ve worked out how to make the same sounds as me. Think about vowel & consonant sounds, combinations of consonants and how to make those sounds with your mouth, think about connected speech – what happens when words are pronounced fluently together in a sentence – they might get pronounced differently, certain sounds may be dropped when words are linked, and some sounds may be added when words are linked too. Pay attention to these aspects of pronunciation. I should do a whole episode on connected speech, and it’s one I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages.
Pick an extract from the podcast, with transcript, and record yourself saying it. Compare your version with my version. Then, work on the transcript. Underline the stressed words, add lines to represent pauses for emphasis, identify word links in pronunciation. Listen to me saying that extract again, and check your ‘sound scripted’ transcript. Now record yourself doing it again, this time adding the intonation, pausing and sentence stress. Compare that to the original. This can help you develop awareness, and control of speech patterns.
Record yourself just talking in response to one of my podcast episodes. If I’ve talked about UFOs for example (not yet, but I will!) then you could record yourself talking about UFOs too. Try to include any words I’ve presented to you on that topic. If you like you could leave an audio comment on my Audioboo page, and let the world know how you feel about something.
Or, you could start doing your own podcast, like Zdenek from Zdenek’s English Podcast. He’s not a native speaker, but following a suggestion in one of my episodes he decided to do his own podcast. He now has followers and listeners and he’s really into it. Listening to his episodes I get the sense that his confidence is developing and he’s finding his own voice. It must be very good for his English (which, of course, is already excellent). You could do it too if you want.
The main thing is practice. Use as many opportunities to practise as you can. Join clubs to meet English speakers. Use the internet. Find groups on Meetup.com in which people are doing language exchanges. Put yourself outside your comfort zone. Don’t be shy, give it a try. Take the initiative. No-one can do the speaking for you. There’s no shame in making mistakes. You have to be in it to win it, so open your mouth and get talking. Remember that English is about what you can do, not just about what you know. Be active, find your voice in English. If you’re in a classroom – don’t be one of those quiet students. It’s completely up to you to start talking, and why not do it in the safety of a language class. That’s the whole point! Speak up in class and use that as a safe place to experiment and make mistakes. Experiment! Switch off your editor! Don’t listen to the voice in your head which is telling you to keep quiet, or telling you that you can’t say something because it might be wrong. It does not matter if you’re wrong. Remember that you have to say something wrong about 5 times before you get it right. Get through those 5 times nice and quick, and then you’ll be fine! Sometimes, opening your mouth is the hardest thing to do, but once you’ve started speaking it gets easier. Keep up the momentum. Keep your voice warm. Stay positive, enjoy expressing yourself. Your teacher will love it if you are an active member of class. In fact, you need to prove to your teacher that you’re making an effort. We always like those talkative and positive students. Use that to your advantage – you’ll be more likely to get good grades, and get levelled up. Be nice, be friendly, be talkative. But also listen to others and help them too. That’s a recipe for success for any language learner!
Actually, I just sent Zdenek a message and asked him for his comments on the subject of using LEP to improve your English (particularly speaking) and here are his comments, which I agree with wholeheartedly. In fact, before I read his comments it may be necessary to remind you that Zdenek is a well-qualified teacher of English from the Czech Republic who lived in the UK for a number of years and who has got a master’s degree in English Language. So, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. I’m sure many of you listening to this have similarly good advice and comments on this subject. I am very keen to encourage you to share that information – you can leave text or audio comments under this episode. So here are Zdenek’s comments:
How can listening to LEP improve your speaking skills? It can mainly improve the following skills/subskills:
1) listening (obvious)
2) reading, spelling (reading scripts, additional notes)
3) writing, spelling (script, feedback or thanksgiving emails to Luke),
4) grammar (listening to grammar patterns as part of exposure theory)
5) vocabulary (learning new vocab also guided by the exposure theory),
6) pronunciation (passive listening)
As for the speaking, it is a different question. If you want to improve your speaking through LEP, you have to approach this actively. Not everyone is willing to do this. Some people tend to be shy, have approach anxiety etc…and prefer listening to the podcast as passive recipients. That is fine. However, here are some suggestions on how you can actually improve even your speaking skills.
1) Contact someone via LEP community. There are a lot of interesting people eager to learn English from all around the world. Contact those who have a similar level as you – this way you can both benefit and learn from each other and no one will get bored. Ideally, have an interest in common (sci-fi films, sport, you already have one important topic in common = LEP)…try to befriend these people, add them on facebook, start skype conversations with them or something.
2) Record yourself speaking about a topic. Ask yourself questions related to LEP. Answer these questions or just practice vocabulary Luke teaches you. Listen back to yourself. Try correcting your errors. Re-record. Compare your recordings you made some time later to see your improvements.
3) Record comments in Audioboo (max 3 minutes) –why is everyone so shy? Is everyone afraid that they will be judged? Who cares? Just be friendly and you should be accepted by the community. Luke is a teacher. He deals with mistakes every day. We all make mistakes. Never be afraid to make mistakes. A man who never made mistakes, never made anything. Are you afraid to take on a challenge and face our greatest fear – public humiliation? Well don’t be! If we fight it actively without fear, we can significantly improve our speaking skills this way.
[I just want to add a couple of points here about making a fool of yourself, my experience of speaking French, and of fear of public speaking]
4) Try running your own podcast. Most of you can do it. Again it is only about facing your fears of making mistakes and exposing yourself to the public. This podcast can be just for you and your friends. I make loads of mistakes in my podcast and I am a teacher. I feel ashamed; I have to edit them out. But if you are not teachers, why worry? And even as teachers? You shouldn’t worry.
5) You can always speak to yourself in the mirror and go crazy. Become the next Hamlet. Speaking is not about passivity so move your arse and find some interaction
Note: By following these tips, you will work on your English speaking skills, pronunciation (actively), grammar, vocab (you can focus on trying to use expressions Luke has taught you), listening skills (as you listen to your friends talking for example). There are so many benefits to active speaking practice.

Thank you Zdenek. As I said before, I welcome your comments too. Let’s share our thoughts on this subject together. It’s time for my LEP ninjas to come out of the shadows and deliver some powerful advice! LEP NINJAS – ASSEMBLE!!!

Regarding language systems, I have some things to say about grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and ‘discourse’.
To be honest, I’ve already spoken enough about grammar & vocab. Let me just remind you of the theory of ‘exposure’. I have talked about this before. The idea is that by listening to lots of English over extended periods, you’re feeding your subconscious with all the patterns of English usage. Your brain is hearing all these patterns of English, including frequent word combinations (like prepositions), tenses, features of pronunciation etc. Ultimately, it all goes into your head, and informs your sense of instinct for the language, so that when you come to do a test in English, you feel the answer. You know that this particular preposition goes with this particular verb, just because you’ve heard it a number of times before and so it feels natural. Feed your head with English. Feel the English rather than knowing it. Use the force young jedi, and remember, the force will be with you… always. Oh, and don’t forget – you’re never too old for this. Language study is a great way to keep your mind fresh and supple. My grandfather is over 90 years old and he’s still really sharp. Perhaps this is because he’s still going to French and Spanish classes on a regular basis.

Regarding pronunciation – a lot of the tips you’ve been given here will help with that. But, I just want to add that improving your listening skills will naturally improve your pronunciation skills too. The two things go hand in hand. The more you’re able to understand natural spoken English, the more you are able to decode the sounds used to make it. Understanding this natural sound code can allow you to start using it too. There is a direct connection between listening and pronunciation, but to fully reap the benefits, you need to need to actively practise pronunciation. The methods I’ve mentioned already in this episode – repeating, recording, re-recording, comparing, speaking in front of the mirror, etc – they’re all good approaches to practising and improving your pronunciation. Don’t be shy, give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, just things to gain. Go for it!

As for discourse, this is really about how you structure your speaking. How do you link your ideas up? When you listen, try to notice any specific phrases I use to link my ideas together, move from one topic to another, deal with moments when I don’t know what I’m saying and so on. What are the tools I use to perform certain functions. Can you identify these things and take them on yourself? Try talking about a topic for 5 minutes. See how difficult it is to talk on your feet. Do it again and again until you develop methods of thinking and talking at the same time. Listen to discussions and focus on the ways in which people interrupt, agree, disagree or whatever. Think about the way we use the language to be polite or indirect. How is humour added to what we say? How does intonation affect the hidden meaning behind our words? Explore these ideas when you listen, and then test them out in your speaking.

That’s it for this episode. I hope you have found it motivating, and inspiring. Leave your comments, and I wish you all the very best of luck keeping up your English. I’m sure you’re doing great. Well you must be, because you’re already listening to Luke’s English Podcast – and long may it continue.

BYE!

173. The Curse of The Lambton Worm

Listen to a disturbing story from English folklore about a horrendous and mysterious worm.

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Introduction
The Lambton Worm is a legend from the north east of England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, in the town of Lambton and at Penshaw Hill which is between Durham and Sunderland in the north east of England. It is one of the area’s most famous pieces of folklore, having been adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats, which are still performed to this day. I’m going to keep up that tradition here on Luke’s English Podcast by telling you my version of the story.

The tale is about a man called John Lambton, who was the heir to the Lambton Estate in County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm (dragon) that had been terrorising the local villages. As with most myths, details of the story change with each telling. I’m not from that part of England, but I love this story because I remember reading about it in a book of monsters that my brother used to have when we were kids. Remember before I told you about a ghost book that I used to own when I was a kid? Well, my brother had a similar book, from the same series, and it was all about monsters. I was fascinated by these books (Click this link to read some pages of those books!) So was my brother. I remember there was a picture of John Lambton fighting the worm, and a brief account of the story. It was fascinating, horrific and exciting for me as a kid, and the memory of the story has stayed with me. There’s just something about an old scary story that really excites me. I think this one must be a good one because it has endured for hundreds of years. It dates back to the time of the crusades, so about 1,000 years ago – medieval times. If a story survives that long, being told over and over again and being handed down through the generations, it must mean there must be something in it which interests people.

This is a local legend from country Durham and I expect it’s a strong part of their local culture. There’s an old folk song which tells the story, and it is still sung in old pubs by beer-drinking men with beards and acoustic guitars. I love those old folk songs. It’s proper traditional culture, as performed and told by real local people. I’m not from that part of the country, I’m from the midlands, and the south, but the story means something to me because of the connection I have with it from childhood. Also, I just think that you might like to hear it.

I’m going to tell you the story in my own way. It’s normal for folk tales like this to be changed by the storyteller, and there is no official version of the story – just a general outline. The details get adapted and improvised by each storyteller. So, I’m going to give you my version, which means that I will stick to the main elements of the story, but yes, as usual I will be improvising a lot of other details too. The challenge for me is to try and make it engaging, and entertaining and understandable for you. As well as practising your English, we can also consider what makes a good story. I think it’s about the passion of the storyteller, and the attention to certain details. Your challenge is to follow the story, and perhaps learn it well enough to be able to tell your friends, if you fancy that. Just remember to mention that the roots of this story are in the folklore of the county Durham area, in the North of England. It’s important to remember that this is a bit of local culture. If you’re from that area, and you’re  listening to this – I hope you don’t mind my version of the story, and realise that, really, I love this story too and I’m just adapting it a little bit for the purpose of letting people practise their English listening.

lambton worm pic

Illustration by John Dickson Batten from More English Fairy Tales.

The Main Elements of the Story
Note that I use past tenses to tell my story (past simple, past perfect & past continuous) but below the story is presented using present tenses.
John Lambton is the heir to the Lambton Estate – so he’s a young member of the gentry. A landowner from a fairly rich and well known family in the area.
He’s a rebellious character.
He skips church and he skips school.
He doesn’t care. He just loves fishing. He disrespects his parents.
He skips church one Sunday, and goes fishing.
He meets an old man – an old hermit, who tells him that no good will come of skipping church. He ignores the old man, and yet it puts him in a bit of a bad mood.
He catches nothing all morning.
Then, as the church bells are ringing for the end of service, he gets a bite on his line.
It’s a powerful bite and he has to wrestle hard to bring in the catch. The water crashes around and gets deeply churned up. He fights hard and brings in his catch.
It’s a truly disgusting and horrifying catch.
It’s a slimy and wriggly black worm. It’s dripping slime, it’s writhing and snapping, and it stinks.
He brings it to rest on the soil. It sits there breathing, completely malevolent. It has 9 holes down the side of its mouth, and John can’t really make sense of its other features. It’s really weird, and makes him feel sick.
He pukes, quite hard. What the hell is this thing?
He takes another look at it, and it opens its eye. It’s yellow and red, and it seems to look right into his soul.
This is a life-changing moment, although he doesn’t realise it.
At that moment, the old man reappears, and says with some certainty that he senses the work of the devil, and that Lambton is now responsible for this worm.
Lambton can’t throw it back, so he quickly puts it in his basket, to carry it home.
On the way back, the basket is so heavy and the worm keeps thrashing around inside it, and hissing. Even when it’s still, the basket seems impossible to carry. It’s so heavy, but also, he feels miserable. The good mood he was in at the beginning of the day has been replaced by a very grim feeling of depression. It’s like he’s suddenly aware of all the time he has wasted, and how everything seems quite hopeless, including his family  life.
He can’t take it any more, and feeling desperate, he chucks the worm into a nearby well. The worm struggles quite a lot, but down it goes. Lambton waits to hear the worm hit the bottom, and it does, after a pause, with a splash.
He quickly goes home.
Feeling guilty, and more aware of his responsibilities, he decides to join the army in order to fight in the crusades, as much out of guilt as duty to his family and the church.
He goes to Palestine to fight in the crusades. He’s away for 7 hard years in which he sees many things, makes many friends and sees many friends die in battle. He becomes a man.
Meanwhile, back at home, the worm is still alive in the well. The well becomes infected, and causes anyone who drinks from it to become violently ill, and die, with horrible symptoms.
The worm grows inside the well, and after it has reached a massive size, one moonlit night, it slides out from the well, and it’s massive. It wraps itself around the local Penshaw Hill – several times, and lies there waiting, warming itself in the morning sun. It’s a hideous and vicious creature. It has small legs, with claws on the end, which it uses to scrape and scratch the earth. It is incredibly long, and it slithers like a snake. It’s covered in smooth yet tough scales. Around its head it has a mane of rubbery spikes. The 9 holes that run along the side of its face, under its jaw, ooze a nasty black slime which burns the grass and sends an evil black smoke into the air. It coughs up the bones and remains of the bodies it has eaten, leaving this foul waste on the ground wherever it rests. Its eyes are yellow and deep, and malevolent. It has rows of razor sharp teeth like a shark’s except that they’re black and yellow, and his eyes, like that of a shark, roll back into its head when he takes a bite, leaving him looking white-eyed and blind during its moments of feeding frenzy.
It attacks a local farmer, squeezing him to death after he tries to fight it with his pitchfork. It then eats all his cattle, and his dead body, before returning to the hill.
It then terrorises the area, eating cattle and sheep, and wild animals.
The countryside becomes deathly silent, as it is all scared or killed by the worm. It’s a foul and sickening presence which seems to poison the earth wherever it goes.
Its confidence grows and it enters town.
The town mayor, as an attempt to distract it, empties all the milk supplies from the market into a trough in front of the town hall. The worm eats it all, and returns to the hill, where it sleeps.
The best men of the town get together a fighting force and arm themselves with the best weaponry they can find, and go to attack the worm, but it’s in vain as the worm is very strong and ruthless. Whenever anyone manages to slice the worm, the pieces, shuddering, just grow back together again. The worm seems indestructible.
For the next 7 years, the town gives the worm almost all of its supplies of milk in order to satisfy it. The worm grows bigger, and the town gets more and more exploited, until people are starving to death, and all life is sucked out of the place. When no milk is provided, the worm angrily attacks the residents, killing and eating men, women and children.
John Lambton returns from the crusades a scarred man, but a man nonetheless. He has learned how to fight, and he carries a sword and a suit of armour.
He sees the state of the town, and learns about the worm from his father.
He realises it is the same worm that he discarded all those years ago, and immediately realises that he is responsible for the curse and must fight the worm himself.
He visits a local wise woman for advice. She tells him that the worm has cursed him, his family and the town, and that only he can kill it.
She tells him to visit the blacksmith, and to have spikes and blades fitted to his armour, and that he must  lure the worm into the river Wear before doing battle.
She also tells him that to lift the curse, after killing the worm, he must kill the next living thing that he sees.
Lambton gets his special suit of armour made, and arranges with his father that when he has killed the worm, he will blow a note on his hunting horn as a signal that he has won and that the father must release Lambton’s favourite hunting hound. The hound will run straight  to him and Lambton will kill it, lifting the curse.
He heads towards the hill and finds the worm.
The worm recognises him and uncoils itself from the hill, hissing, puking black bile and generally being hideous.
Lambton realises how difficult this will be because this worm is really big and strong looking. The worm approaches and he backs away.
He walks backwards towards the river, the worm steadily moving nearer and nearer, flanking him. Lambton gets very tired just walking in the armour – which is extra-heavy because of the fittings.
Eventually, he enters the water, which is cold.
The worm slides down the bank and raises itself up to strike.
They fight and whenever the worm attempts to coil itself around Lambton, it gets sliced up on the blades and spikes.
Lambton is so tired that all he can do is just try not to be washed away by the current. He hacks at the worm and struggles to breath. The fumes from the worm are poisonous. Each time parts of the worm are hacked off, they are washed away, and eventually, just a section of the worm is left and Lambton hacks off its head. The pieces can’t join back together and the worm is no more.
Lambton blows a note on his horn, but his father is so happy to hear it that he forgets to release the hound and instead he runs to see John. Lambton sees him , and is dismayed. he can’t bring himself to kill his father, and so the go back to the house and he kills his hound.
The wise woman appears and tells him that despite killing the worm, he failed to lift the curse and that for 9 generations, the Lambtons will not die in their beds.
injured and sick, Lambton collapses.
That’s the end of the story.

What does this all mean? You tell me.

This curse seems to have held true for at least three generations, possibly helping to contribute to the popularity of the story.
1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig.
2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor.
3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield.
9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on 26 June 1761.
(General Lambton, Henry Lambton’s brother, is said to have kept a horse whip by his bedside to ward off violent assaults. He died in his bed at an old age.)

The Old Folk Song
Here is Tony Wilson singing the folk song in the local dialect
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsO7SeCvgMw&w=500&h=375%5D
Song Lyrics
Here are the lyrics with some meanings added too. Remember, this is sung in an old dialect. Not many people actually speak in this dialect any more, although there is a distinct accent from that region.

One Sunda morn young Lambton went
A-fishing in the Wear;
An’ catched a fish upon he’s heuk (=caught) (=his hook)
He thowt leuk’t vary queer. (=thought looked very strange)
But whatt’n a kind ov fish it was (=what kind of)
Young Lambton cudden’t tell-
He waddn’t fash te carry’d hyem, (=could not be bothered to carry it home)
So he hoyed it doon a well (=threw it down)
Chorus
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, (=Be quiet, boys, shut your mouths)
An’ aa’ll tell ye aall an aaful story, (=I’ll tell you all an awful)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An’ Aa’ll tel ye ‘boot the worm. (=about)
Noo Lambton felt inclined te gan (=go)
An’ fight i’ foreign wars.
He joined a troop ov Knights that cared
For nowther woonds nor scars, (=neither wounds)
An’ off he went te Palestine
Where queer things him befel,
An varry seun forgat aboot (=very soon forgot about)
The queer worm i’ tha well.
But the worm got fat an’ grewed an’ grewed,
An’ grewed an aaful size;
He’d greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes.
An’ when at neets he craaled aboot (=nights) (=crawled around)
Te pick up bits o’ news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He’d milk a dozen coos. (=cows)
This feorful worm would often feed (=fearful)
On caalves an’ lambs an’ sheep,
An’ swally little bairns alive (=swallow) (=children)
When they laid doon te sleep.
An when he’d eaten aall he cud (=all he could)
An’ he had had he’s fill,
He craaled away an’ lapped he’s tail (=wrapped)
Ten times roond Pensha Hill.
The news ov this myest aaful worm (=most)
An’ his queer gannins on (=goings-on)
Seun crossed the seas, gat te the ears (=soon) (=got to)
Ov brave an’ bowld Sor John.
So hyem he cam an’ catched the beast, (=home he came and caught)
An’ cut ‘im in twe haalves, (=cut him in two-halves)
An’ that seun stopped hes eatin’ bairns
An’ sheep an’ lambs an’ caalves.
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the foaks (=now you know how all the folk)
On byeth sides ov the Wear (=both)
Lost lots o’ sheep an’ lots o’ sleep
An leeved i’ mortal feor. (=And lived in mortal fear)
So let’s hev one te brave Sor John (=let’s drink to brave Sir John)
That kept the bairns frae harm, (=from)
Saved coos an’ calves by myekin’ haalves (=making halves)
O’ the famis Lambton Worm. (=famous)

172. British Comedy: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

Listen to two comedy sketches from the 1960s, learn some popular cultural history, pick up some vocabulary and hear some posh English accents.

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I highly recommend that you purchase this BBC DVD of The Best of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore. It’s really funny!

Introduction (with transcript)

Hello everyone, welcome to the podcast.
In this episode we’re going to listen to a sketch from a comedy show called “Not only.. but also”, which was first broadcast on the BBC back in the sixties, when TV was in black and white and there were only 3 channels.

I’d love to tell you all about this show, and the people who made it. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are basically the fathers of modern British TV comedy. I’d love to tell you all about how before Monty Python even existed, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore were doing surreal, satirical and anti-establishment comedy on BBC TV, and getting huge audience ratings, and inspiring generations of people. I’d also love to tell you more about the history of British comedy, because for some reason it’s very important to me. It’s one of my favourite subjects. It just feels significant, and I want to share it with you. Listening to these things is good for your English, but ultimately the reward is even greater than that – you can enjoy listening to something that’s a little bit special. But I also realise that you might not have the same level of slightly fanatical interest in the history of comedy, as I do. I could bang on about some comedians from the 1960s, but you might think “this is interesting Luke, but let’s just listen to some of their work shall we?” So, I’ve decided to just skip through all the stuff about the history of comedy and go straight to a couple of sketches, tell you about them, help you to understand them, and then later in this episode I’ll give you a little history lesson on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and their place in the history of pop culture, and then not only will you be able to enjoy their comedy, but you’ll learn more about British cultural history.

So, let’s focus on the sketch. I’m just going to explain the context for you and then you can listen to it, and see if you get what’s going on.

First sketch: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore “A bit of a chat” aka “The facts of life”
In this scene you’ll hear a father talking to his son about a slightly sensitive topic. The scene was written and filmed in the early sixties, probably 1964.

First, just listen (there is a script below, but try listening without it first)
Just listen to this and try and work out what is going on. Then I’ll explain things, and you can hear it again. There’s a script available for this sketch on my webpage.
As you listen you should try to work out what’s happening here. Why is this such a strange conversation? And why is the audience laughing? You might need to “read between the lines” which means look beyond what is just being said in order to discover the hidden meanings or suggestions at work.

How much of that did you understand? Did you get the humorous aspects of it? Let me explain the context, and the main points of the sketch.

*Sketch starts – “A Bit of a Chat”*
(See below for the script)

What happened?

Context
What do you know about Father/Son relationships in the UK in the 1950s & 60s?
They were more formal, especially among upper-class or upper-middle class families. Sons would call their father ‘sir’. They’d be very respectful, as if talking to someone of much higher status. They probably didn’t spend a lot of time together. These days, fathers and sons from normal middle-class families are quite close. They share quite a lot, and are able to talk quite openly about sensitive subjects like relationships or sex education. It might be embarrassing for the boy, but basically, the father feels quite comfortable doing it, and it’s normal and accepted. Back in the 50s or 60s, it wasn’t exactly the same. I suppose British men were less ‘in touch with their feelings’ and found it very awkward to discuss sensitive personal topics openly. Instead they may have dealt with them in the same formalised and distant way as they would talk about other topics. Also, we wonder how much most people really knew about sexual education in those days. Back in the 1950s or early 60s, before the era of sexual liberation, I think that a lot of people were completely in the dark about reproduction and all that kind of thing.
How about now? Are people more comfortable when talking about topics such as reproduction and sex?
Not completely, but certainly more so than 50 years ago.

The Class System & Boarding Schools
A little bit about the class system – particularly the upper class.
Nowardays, most people are middle class. In fact, many people believe that we don’t have a formalised class system these days. 50 years ago, the UK was more divided by class. Lower class (working class), middle class and upper class. Let’s look at traditional upper class culture. The upper class, or upper middle classes were considered to be:
Wealthy, educated, respectable and quite formal. Not liberated sexually, but bound by polite & formal social conventions. They would have been quite prudish about sex, finding it very embarrassing to talk about the subject. Many of the men would have been educated in exclusive, single sex boarding schools, which by all accounts would have been pretty cold, very formal and quite brutal. The boys never mixed with girls and grew up to be pretty clueless about sex. Kids and their parents didn’t spend a lot of time together, because of the boarding schools, and a father was more like a master than a friendly Dad.

Vocabulary
It seems that very posh people, from this period, often don’t really say exactly what they mean. They might make something sound more trivial than it actually is. For example “I had to give someone rather a ticking off” = means “I quite forcefully reprimanded someone for doing something wrong”
rugger – rugby
grubby – dirty / muddy
having a crafty smoke – secretly having a cigarette
give someone rather a ticking off – telling someone off
it’s a filthy habit – it’s a dirty habit
to cope with someone – to deal with someone
to get up to something – to do something (naughty)

Remember – it’s all about reading between the lines. What’s really going on? What really happened?

What does each line of dialogue really mean. E.g. the line about “there’s a cup of tea in here if you’d like one” means – come and sit down because I need to talk to you. The lad doesn’t want to, because, well, it’s probably awkward to talk to the old man, and this sounds like it could be serious.

Let’s listen to it again now, and consider each line, what is going on, and what is funny.

Second Listen

Questions
What does the Father want to talk about?
Why does the Father feel he has to talk about this?
What does the Father mean by “The opposite number?”
Why does the Father talk about sitting on a chair, etc?
Who is Uncle Bertie?
What is Uncle Bertie’s relationship with the boy’s mother?

A Bit Of A Chat (Script)
Roger, aged almost eighteen, arrives home from school, whistling: All Things Bright and Beautiful. His Father wants to have a bit of a chat with him about something. Just, a bit of a chat…
Father: Is that you, Roger?
Roger: Yes, father.
Father: There’s a cup of tea in here, boy, if you’d like one.
Roger: It’s very kind of you, sir, but I’ve just come in from rugger, and I’m a bit grubby. I think I ought to go and have a shower first, sir.
Father: Well pour me a cup, there’s a good chap, would you?
Roger: Certainly sir, yes, of course.
Father: Thank you. How was school today?
Roger: Oh, much as usual, thank you sir, but I caught someone having a crafty smoke behind the wooden building. I had to give him rather a ticking off — such a filthy habit, you know.
Father: It’s a filthy habit, Roger.
Roger: There we are, sir. Now, if you’ll excuse me.
Father: Roger.
Roger: Yes sir?
Father: Er — sit down. Roger, your mother and I were having a bit of a chat the other day, and she thought it might be a good idea if I was to have a bit of a chat with you.
Roger: Er… a bit of a chat, sir?
Father: A bit of a chat, yes, Roger, just…
Roger: Er…
Father: A bit of a chat.
Roger: What about, sir?
Father: Well, there’s nothing to be worried about, Roger, it’s just that, er, well, to be perfectly frank… how old are you?
Roger: Well, to be perfectly frank, sir, I’m coming up to eighteen.
Father: Coming up to eighteen…
Roger: Well, on the verge of…
Father: On the verge of eighteen… Yes, well, I thought it might be a good idea to have a bit of a chat now, because I remember, from my own experience, that it was when I was just, you know, coming up to eighteen…
Roger: On the verge…
Father: …on the verge of it, that I first began to take a serious interest in the – um – in the – er – opposite… the opposite… number. Now I don’t know, Roger, if you know anything about the method whereby you came to be brought about.
Roger: Well, sir, some of the boys at school say very filthy things about it, sir.
Father: This is what I was worried about, and this is why I thought I’d have a bit of a chat, and explain, absolutely frankly and openly, the method whereby you, and everybody in this world, came to be. Roger, in order for you to be brought about, it was necessary for your mother and I to do something. In particular, it was necessary for your mother… it was necessary for your mother – to sit on a chair. To sit on a chair which I had recently vacated, and which was still warm from my body. And then, something very mysterious, rather wonderful and beautiful happened. And sure enough, four years later you were born. There was nothing unhealthy about this, Roger, there’s nothing unnatural. It’s a beautiful thing in the right hands, and there’s no need to think less of your mother because of it. She had to do it – she did it – and here you are.
Roger: Well sir, it’s very kind of you to tell me. One thing, actually, slightly alarms me; um, I was sitting in this very chair yesterday sir, and I vacated it, and the cat sat on it while it was still warm. Should we have it destroyed?
Father: Its a lovely chair, Roger…
Roger: I mean the cat, sir.
Father: Destroy… oh, no Roger, you don’t understand. This thing of which I speak can only happen between two people who are married. And you’re not married.
Roger: Not yet, anyway sir.
Father: Not to the cat, in any case. Well, Roger, now that you have this knowledge about chairs and warmth, I hope – I hope you’ll use it wisely, and take no notice of your school friends, or what Uncle Bertie may say.
Roger: Dirty Uncle Bertie they call him.
Father: Dirty Uncle Bertie – and they’re right, Roger. Bertie’s a dirty, dirty man. He’s been living with us now for forty years, and it does seem a day too much… You know, if it hadn’t been for your mother, Roger, I don’t know where we would have been. She’s the only person who can really cope with Uncle Bertie, she’s the only one who can really deal with him. I don’t know if you realise this, Roger, but your mother even has to sleep in the same bed as Uncle Bertie, to prevent him getting up to anything in the night. If only there were more people like your mother, Roger.
Roger: Well, I’m very pleased that you’ve told me this, sir, because, as I say, I’m very glad I don’t have to believe all those filthy things that the boys at school say, and only yesterday, Uncle Bertie said to me…
Father: Take no notice of Uncle Bertie, Roger! He’s a sick, sick man, and we should feel sorry for him.
Roger: Well, I’ll try, sir… well.. thank you sir. Er – I wonder if I should take a cup of tea up to mother, while…
Father: I – er – I wouldn’t do that, Roger – she’s upstairs at the moment, coping with Uncle Bertie…
Roger: Poor Uncle Bertie…
Father: Poor Uncle Bertie…

And here’s the garden party sketch. It comes from another great BBC TV show called “The Fast Show”, which was Johnny Depp’s favourite British TV show.

The Psychiatrist Sketch (Script)

Braintree: Come in.
[Enter Roger.]
Hullo, Roger.
Roger: Hullo, Dr Braintree.
B: Hullo, come in.
R: I’m sorry I’m late.
B: That’s quite all right – how are you?
R: I’m very well, thank you.
B: Would you like to sit down, or would you prefer to lie.
R: Uhm, I’ll sit, thank you.
B: Right, well, sit down. Tell me, how are you in yourself?
R: I’m feeling just great.
B: Oh, this is terrific.
R: Yes, and it’s more than I expected from our sessions. You know, if anyone had told me that talking to psychiatrists could have help me at all, I would have laughed in their faces.
B: Yes.
R: But I can honestly say that our little chats together have really been of tremendous help to me.
B: I’m so glad, Roger: of course a lot of people are instinctively suspicious of psychiatry, but it can help at times.
R: Well, I really think it can, because you know, I’ve got so much self-confidence now. I’m much less self-conscious in the company of the opposite sex, whichI wasn’t, as you know.
B: Yes, yes, yes, yes. You’re less inhibited, are you?
R: [Suggestively] Oh yes, I should say so.
B: Good, this is terrific.
R: And the wonderful thing about it all is … well, I’m in love.
B: Well, this is wonderful news, Roger – you’re in love. – With a woman?
R: Yes.
B: So much the better – that’s terrific.
R: You know, it’s so wonderful to be in love – I can’t tell you the absolute joy I have. … this girl, this creature
[emotional]
, this goddess …
R: I mean, she’s
B: Yes …
R: She’s so, you know, it’s so right. Everything is so wonderful, you know.
B: Yes, yes – you really click together.
R: Yes. Oh, it’s so marvellous, but – the only trouble is that, apart from this wonderful light-hearted love I have, I seem to be saddled with this tremendous burning sense of guilt.
B: You have guilt as well as love: well, this is unfortunate, Roger. You know, sex is the most wonderful natural, healthy thing in the world. There’s no reason at all to have any guilt about it. I mean,why should you have guilt about sex?
R: Well, it’s not really as simple as that, you know – it’s rather difficult to explain. Uhm, I don’t reallyknow where to start. It’s rather difficult to explain. Uhm, I don’t really know where to start.
B: Well, begin at the beginning. That’s always the best place. What’s the girl’s name.
R: [Pause] Stephanie.
B: Stephanie. That’s a lovely name, isn’t it – well, my wife’s name in fact, isn’t it?
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
B: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
B: No, it’s Stephanie.
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie: it’s your wife.
B: Oh, you’re in love with my wife, Stephanie. Well, this is a perfectly understandable thing, Roger. She’s a very attractive woman – I married her myself. I don’t see why you should feel upset about that.
R: But she’s in love with me.
B: Well, this is again perfectly understandable, Roger. I mean, you’re a perfectly attractive human being, as I’ve told you over the last few weeks. There’s nothing repulsive about you, is there? There’s no reason why a highly sexed woman such as Stephanie shouldn’t fall in love with you. And I must explain to you, Roger, that I’m a very busy man: I have many, many patients to see – I see rather less of my wife perhaps than I should, and I think it’s very understandable she should seek some sort of companionship outside the marriage – I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all.
R: But she’s not seeking anything outside marriage – nor am I. We want to get married.
B: Well, this again is perfectly understandable. After all, you’re two young people in love and you want to express your feelings within the confines of a bourgeois society through marriage. I think it’s very appropriate.
R: The awful thing is, you see – I should feel so grateful to you for what you’ve done. And all I can feel is this burning jealousy – I can’t bear the thought of you touching her.
B: Well, of course, I understand this. One is tremendously possessive about someone one loves … it would be unhealthy not to have this jealous reaction, Roger.
R: But don’t you see – I hate you.
B: Of course you hate me, Roger.
R: I hate you for being so near her.
B: Yes, of course you hate me, Roger. You love to hate the one who loves the one you hate to love the one you hate. This is a very old rule, Roger – there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. It’s absolutely reasonable.
R: Don’t you understand – I want to kill you.
B: Of course you want to kill me. Because by killing me , Roger, you eradicate the one you hate. This is a perfectly natural reaction, Roger.
R: You’re so reasonable, aren’t you.
B: Yes, I am.
R: [Getting cross]
You understand it all so much …you are so logical.
[Gets up to strike him.]
B: Yes, I am – it’s my job.
R: I’m going to have to kill you
now
!
B: Ah – Roger – this is a little inconvenient, because I have another patient a six-thirty and then there’s someone else at seven after that. I wonder if you could make it some time next week.
[Standing over him.]
Could you make it early in the week, say?
R: [Pause – relax] When do you think?
B: How are you fixed on Wednesday morning? Say nine-thirty – would that be convenient?
R: Yes, that’s perfect.
B: Right, well, if you could pop along at nine-thirty and kill me then.
R: Once again, Doctor Braintree, I’m amazed, you know, really. I’m so grateful to you for showing me the way.
B: That’s what I’m here for, Roger.
R: Thank you very much. Thank you.
B: And with a bit of luck, this should be the last time you need to visit me

Comments
I think it’s pretty clear what’s funny about this. The psychiatrist has cured Roger and he feels so happy to be in love, but it turns out that Roger is in love with the Psychiatrist’s wife Stephanie. The psychiatrist doesn’t fly into a jealous rage – in fact he’s ridiculously logical and reasonable about it. This sketch allows us to imagine what the psychiatrist must be like at home – so reasonable all the time, he must be no fun at all. No passion, just plain dedication to his job; the rational understanding of psychology at the expense of natural human emotions and feelings, which is unnatural and ridiculous, as well as frustrating. It could be a wider statement about psychiatry, but let’s not analyse it too much. It’s just funny listening to the reactions, and the nicely written lines.

Vocabulary
There may be some words and expressions that you don’t know, or that could be useful to you. Let’s have a look:

terrific
our little chats together have really been of tremendous help to me
I’m much less self-conscious in the company of the opposite sex, which I wasn’t, as you know.
B: Yes, yes, yes, yes. You’re less inhibited, are you?
you really click together.
I seem to be saddled with this tremendous burning sense of guilt.
There’s nothing repulsive about you
There’s no reason why a highly-sexed woman such as Stephanie shouldn’t fall in love with you
You want to express your feelings within the confines of a bourgeois society through marriage.
I can’t bear the thought of you touching her.
Because by killing me , Roger, you eradicate the one you hate.
If you could pop along at nine-thirty and kill me then.

That’s it! Don’t forget to listen several times to get the full benefit!

Feel free to leave comments and questions below.

Thanks for listening,

Luke

171. A Cup of Tea with Daniel Burt (Part 2)

[2/2] Here’s the second part of my conversation with Daniel Burt, who is a journalist, comedy writer and performer from Melbourne, Australia.

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In this conversation we talk about these things:
Daniel’s move to London
Aussie pubs in Paris and London
Cliches about Australian people
Australian pronunciation
Typical Australian English phrases
The Australian character and national identity
Australian politicians
The future of Australia & Australia’s image of itself
Sport & competition
Interviewing Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Matt Smith & David Tennant (Doctor Who)

To contribute a few minutes of transcription for this episode, click here to work on the google document:

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

All the best,
Luke

Daniel’s Video Showreel
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9V3cKGvISU&w=500&h=281%5D