A conversation with Hadar Shemesh, a non-native speaker who has improved her English to a very high level, and who now shares her knowledge and experience with the world through her podcast and YouTube channel. Hadar describes her own experiences of learning English and mastering pronunciation. This episode is all about the voyage of discovery that is learning a language.
My friend Anna has written a book for children (7+) which has a full publishing contract and is available in all good bookshops now. The book tells the story of a boy who accidentally creates a monster when his secret collection of nose bogeys gets struck by lightning! This conversation includes lots of talk of snot and bogeys, as well as stories from Anna’s time as a travel writer.
Kate Billington returns to LEP for the third time, to drink tea, talk about my pod-room, learning the bassoon, exam results, learning Chinese, responding to listener comments and talking about her videos on TikTok.
British Council Mini-English Lesson on For & Since
Previous appearances on LEP
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you are doing fine out there in podcast land.
Kate Billington is back on the podcast today. Of course, you remember her from episodes 689 and 705.
If you heard those episodes I’m sure you will remember Kate and I know that a lot of you out there will be very happy that she is back again and yes, Kate’s return to this podcast is long overdue. She was a very popular guest when she was on the show before. So it’s great to have her back.
Some of you don’t know Kate because you haven’t heard those episodes but there’s no need for me to introduce her fully now in the intro because I kind of do that again during the conversation, except that Kate is an English teacher from England and we work together at the British Council.
People sometimes ask if Kate has her own podcast or YouTube channel or something, because they want to hear more from her.
Well, recently she started making videos for TikTok. We do talk about this during the episode, but that’s not until the end of the conversation, so I just wanted to give you a heads up about that right now at the start.
Kate is part of a team of teachers making content for the British Council’s channel on TikTok. You’ll see that they are making shorter videos (certainly shorter than mine) about things like British English idioms, culture and other entertaining bits and pieces. So, check it out – @BritishCouncilEnglish on TikTok. The link is on the page for this episode on my website.
So, what you are about to hear is another long and rambling conversation with a guest on my podcast. Hopefully you will stay engaged and entertained throughout while practising your English listening in the process.
All you have to do as you listen to this is keep up with the changes and tangents, and enjoy this conversational journey into things like how Kate helped me with the shelves in my pod-room, how Kate doesn’t agree with the way I arrange my books on those shelves, how it feels to be filmed while talking (and yes there is a video version of this on YouTube), we talk about Kate’s academic successes and failures (or maybe I should say “failure” because it seems there’s only been one, and I’m still not sure it counts as a failure), the Chinese classes that Kate has been taking recently, quite a lot of stuff about Korea (hello Korean listeners), our blood types and what they mean, how we both feel about getting older, and how we feel about certain other English teaching video content that you might find on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. All that, and much more, starting… now.
My dad has written a new book and he’s come on the podcast to tell us about it. The book follows the path of the river Avon as it flows through the middle of England, telling stories of key moments in British history, nature and the current condition of Britain’s rivers.
A conversation with Anna Tyrie from English Like a Native (YouTube, Podcast) about children, the way we talk to children, and vocabulary relating to children and childcare, and some special news from the Thompson family…!
Here is another episode with more English listening practice for you to get stuck into, and I have another guest on the show today.
This time it is Anna Tyrie from English Like a Native, the channel on YouTube. You might also know her from Instagram and TikTok.
Anna has recently set up a podcast too, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts. It’s called the English Like a Native Podcast.
In fact, on the same day we recorded the conversation for this episode of my show, Anna also interviewed me for her podcast and we had a good long conversation about all sorts of things. It was very nice to be interviewed by her. You should be able to find that episode on her show now. So if you enjoy this one, go ahead and listen to the one on Anna’s podcast too. You will find a link in the description 👆.
In this conversation: Get to know Anna a bit and talk a bit about her podcast and youtube channel and what the name really means.
The main subject – talking about children. We decided that we could talk about a particular topic for this episode and that topic ended up being children. I’ve had requests from listeners in the past for more on the subject of children and the English language, including the way we talk to children, the way we talk about children and the specific words for lots of things related to children.
We talk about our own kids, and specifically about how we communicate with them, typical things we say to them (in English of course), how we should be careful about the things we say to our kids, the ways adults adapt their English when talking to little children, including examples of so-called “baby talk” or “parentese” and then there is a sort of quiz at the end with questions about specific English words for lots of the different objects, toys and bits of useful equipment that we use with babies and little kids.
As you know I have a daughter and she is 5 so a lot of that baby stuff almost seems like a distant memory now, but, well, it’s high time I remembered all of that vocab again now because – drum roll… yes, my wife is pregnant again and we going to have another baby!
Yes we are delighted.
Thank you – because at this moment of course you are now saying…
“Wow, that’s fantastic! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” and then all the typical questions will come to mind, including:
Can I ask when the baby is due?
Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl? Would you like to know?
Are you ready?
Do you have any ideas for names?
How’s your wife doing, is she ok?
How does your little daughter feel about it? Is she excited?
I’m sure I’ll talk about it again in another podcast, but I thought I would let you know now.
Of course the child hasn’t even been born yet, so there’s a long way to go.
But all being well, in July there will be a new Thompson arriving 😊
I don’t know how that will affect the podcast.
Of course it’s probably going to disrupt things to some extent as I will be busy at home, with my wife, looking after the baby, helping my wife with anything if she needs it, taking care of our daughter, trying to keep things ship shape and under control and generally just being at home focusing on the family.
So I won’t be able to do much podcasting around the time of the birth and in the weeks after. Who knows, maybe I’ll disappear completely for July and August, or maybe I’ll find a way to keep podcasting.
Maybe, if I’m organised and industrious enough, by the time the baby arrives I will have recorded lots of episodes beforehand, which I will be able to publish over the summer, or maybe I’ll dig into my archives for some unpublished or lesser-known material, which a lot of people haven’t heard – like app-only episodes from the LEP App (which is now defunct by the way).
In any case, there might be some kind of disruption to the show. Thank you for your understanding and your patience and your lovely messages of congratulations and support, which you are welcome to write to me.
Obviously, I’ve just said thank you for a thing you haven’t even done yet, which is kind of against the rules, but anyway. There it is. We’re very happy. We’re hoping everything goes well. I’ll probably talk about it a bit more in another episode later on.
So, now let’s get back down to earth here because this is a conversation with Anna from English Like a Native, getting to know Anna a bit and then talking about the English which we use with kids, about kids and for all the bits and pieces involved in looking after kids.
By the way, this conversation was recorded in January, which is why I say “It’s January” at the start. I probably didn’t need to say this, did I? You probably have the deductive skills to work out that when I say to Anna “it’s January” it’s because we recorded that in January. But just in case you were worried that I don’t know what month it is, don’t worry, I do know what month it is, what year it is and generally where I am and what’s going on. OK, fine.
I will speak to you a bit again at the end, but now let’s get started with the interview right now.
Ending Transcript / Notes
Thanks again to Anna.
You can find a vocabulary list and notes on the page for this episode on my website if you want to check specific words.
A reminder – after recording this, Anna interviewed me on her podcast and as I said earlier we had a good long conversation about lots of things, with little stories and jokes and stuff. A long conversation. I think it was even longer than the one you just listened to. I’m wondering how Anna is going to deal with that, but you can find out for yourself by listening to that episode on Anna’s podcast- English Like a Native, which is available wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks for listening everyone.
Have a lovely day, morning, evening or night etc. Goodbye!
Baby-talk in English
Examples of baby talk in English
Wee / Wee-wee / pee / pee-pee
Poo / poo-poo
Dog / doggy
Cat / kitty
Icky – disgusting
Bedtime stories / Story time
Tummy / Belly
Mummy / Daddy
Grannie / Grandad
Yuk / yukky
Common words and phrases relating to babies/children/childcare
This list includes words and phrases which came up in the quiz.
Activity arch / baby arch / arch toy
Baby bouncer (like a small deck chair)
Baby carrier / sling
Baby fence / play-pen / baby-gate
Baby-grow (a one-piece outfit that babies wear)
Bib (to catch or protect against food that falls while they eat)
Blanket (a lot of children have a special blanket that they use as a comforter)
Bottle (for milk)
Breast pump (a device which allows the mother to pump her milk into a bottle)
Changing mat (where you change the baby’s nappy)
Cot (where the baby sleeps – a bed with high sides so the baby doesn’t crawl out of bed)
Drool bib (to absorb drool which comes out of the baby’s mouth when teething)
Dummy / pacifier (what the baby sucks while sleeping)
Flannel (an absorbant cloth)
High-chair (what the baby sits in while eating)
Mobile (the thing that hangs above the bed and gives the baby something to look at)
Nappy (US English: diaper)
Pram / pushchair (UK) buggy / stroller (US)
Rattle (a toy that the baby can shake to make a rattling noise)
Talcum powder / talc (powder which can be put on the baby’s bum to keep it dry)
Teddy bear / stuffed toy
Teether / Teething toy(for teething babies) (something the baby can chew while the teeth come through)
Steve Kaufmann is a very prolific language learner. He has learned at least 20 languages to varying degrees during his life. Some of them he learned during his career as an international diplomat and businessman, and others he has learned during his (semi) retirement. In this interview Steve talks about his language learning experiences, methods and motivations. We talk about various metaphors and similes for language learning including ocean voyages 🚢, cows 🐮, skiing ⛷ and cutting grass🏡, and I ask Steve about cross-cultural experiences he has had during his career. There is a video version but only the audio version contains my intro and ending rambles about getting my hair cut and how you need to remember that you’re a baby cow-shark on skis 🐄🦈🎿😅.
Professor David Crystal returns to talk about his latest books, and more. The first book is all about the art of conversation in English, and the second one is a spy thriller inspired by real events. David Crystal is one of the world’s leading linguists and an expert on the English language. He is also a national treasure and it’s a treat to be able to talk to him in this episode. Video version also available on the Luke’s English Podcast YouTube channel.
Part 2 of my chat with Canadian stand-up comedian Sugar Sammy, talking about his 4 languages, TV shows from our childhood, copying Indian accents, language-related controversy in Quebec, Sammy’s crowd-work skills, stories of difficult gigs in the UK, and our thoughts on recent Star Wars films. At the end of the episode you can hear my spoiler-free review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”.Transcriptions and notes available.
Hello, welcome back to the podcast. Here is part 2 of my conversation with Canadian multilingual stand up comedy sensation Sugar Sammy.
In our conversation we’re talking mainly about language and comedy, and here’s an overview of the main points that come up in this episode:
First of all we talk about the 4 languages that Sammy speaks
There’s a tangent about American TV shows that we both used to watch when we were children, and which actually helped Sammy to learn English when he was young.
Two of those American TV shows we mention include Knight Rider (the one in which David Hasselhoff drives around in a super cool black talking car) and The Dukes of Hazzard (the one about two brothers who live on a farm in Georgia who drive around Georgia in an orange Dodge Charger, being chased by stupid local police officers, doing lots of jumps and stunts in the car).
We talk about accents and copying accents: Specifically the question of whether I should do an impression of an Indian accent on stage, or if that would be inappropriate or unacceptable for some reason.
We discuss a language controversy that Sammy was involved in in Quebec, Canada – which included him receiving lots of criticism and even a death threat, essentially for performing a popular show in languages other than French – in Quebec (they are very protective of the French language there) It was quite scandal at the time.
We talk about what Sammy does on stage, especially his crowd-work, which is that skill of improvising moments of comedy by talking directly to members of the audience. This is something that Sammy is known for because he does it very well.
Sammy talks about some tough comedy gigs he has had in the UK over the years and tells us a story of how he once got heckled by an aggressive audience in Northern Ireland. Heckling is when audience members shout things at you while you’re performing. For a comedian it can be pretty difficult when you’re being heckled, but good comics are able to react and respond with funny “heckle put downs”, funny responses that turn an aggressive comment into a funny moment.
Then there’s a bit about Star Wars at the end – because like me, Sammy is a big fan.
We talk briefly about Sammy’s favourite episode of Star Wars, what he thought of The Last Jedi and whether he is interested in seeing the new Han Solo film. When I recorded this interview I hadn’t seen Solo, but since recording it I have, so I will talk about the Han Solo movie briefly at the end of this episode, giving my non-spoiler review.
Don’t forget that Sammy will be touring parts of Asia soon – this year probably. He has gigs coming up in Malaysia and Singapore and will be organising dates in China and Japan. He also intends to visit Russia and South America to do shows at some point. So Sammy might be performing near you soon and you must go and see him. To get news of Sammy’s shows so you don’t miss him – visit sugarsammy.com and join his mailing list.
Now without any further ado, let’s continue listening to my conversation with the super cool multilingual comedian from Canada – Sugar Sammy.
Peter Sellers in The Party (an English actor performing as an Indian character – it would be offensive but Seller’s impression is spot on according to Sammy)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (No-Spoiler Review)
Notes & Transcriptions
For those of you who are Star Wars fans – I’m now going to talk about the latest film, which in English is called “SOLO” – released last month.
This is a “star wars story” – not part of the Skywalker narrative.
It’s an origins story.
I was sceptical about the film.
Production for the film seemed troubled, which is usually not a good sign – but it’s not necessarily a guarantee of a bad film.
The original directors were fired by Kathleen Kennedy (head of Lucasfilm) because they took the film in a comedic direction and there was too much improvisation.
Ron Howard was brought in (a more conventional, reliable Hollywood guy) to fix it and bring it back in line.
Also there were doubts about the ability of Alden Ehrenreich to pull off the performance of a character who we loved so much, largely because of Harrison Ford’s star power.
I kept my expectations pretty low. I just thought – I’d like to see what happens, I just want to enter the world of Star Wars again and see what it’s like. I was ready to be disappointed though.
The film has underperformed at the box office. I’m not sure of the exact figures, but it’s taken less than it should have and might be considered as a financial failure, possibly even losing money for the studio in the short to medium term. It’s bound to make money eventually, long term, but the general feel is that it didn’t do as well as the studio hoped. Perhaps we’ve all had enough of Star Wars now. Star Wars fatigue, or maybe the fanbase has gone a bit weird. Star Wars has always been seen as an indestructible franchise. But the Last Jedi divided audiences, with quite a lot of fans absolutely hating it. Maybe Solo has suffered from the so-called Star Wars backlash.
But Solo isn’t really like The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have the same subtext of progressive politics, or themes that seem to subvert the core ideas of Star Wars. It’s pretty conventional and straightforward stuff.
What I liked
The performance by Alden Ehrenreich. He was charismatic, swashbuckling but also had a vulnerable side – the key things that Harrison Ford brought to the role originally. Han Solo has swagger and he’s really cool, but there’s something a bit vulnerable and loveable about him. He’s quite goofy and adorable, but also capable of being quite a ruthless fighter when necessary. It’s an interesting character and the actor did a good job of hitting those points. It’s not just a Harrison Ford impression. He seems to have got the spirit of Han Solo.
The dirty, gritty world.
Visual effects were incredible (although the whole film was very murky – intentional? Bad cinematography? I personally like that. I don’t need everything to be brightly lit like in the prequels. I like Clint Eastwood films that are full of shadow and darkness and you don’t see everything in bright contrast.)
The absence of Jedi and light sabres – it made a nice change. This was all about just having a good blaster at your side, knowing who to trust. It was like Rogue One in that sense. You got the idea that people could die – they weren’t immortal cartoon characters with superhuman abilities.
The train robbery scene was amazing, particularly the explosion at the end. I’m not sure why the empire needs to transport goods by train, considering they totally have spaceships, but it made for a good scene and made me think of old action movies and westerns that have action scenes on trains. The film was full of this kind of thing – standard movie tropes but in a Star Wars universe and I liked that. It was appealingly old school.
It was a slightly smaller story and that was appealing too. Sometimes you don’t want it to be about the huge Star Wars narrative about destiny and the force. Just a small, compact story about low-level gangsters is all you need.
Not too many geeky references to other films. There were some, but they were *fairly* subtle…
Nice chemistry between Solo and Chewbacca.
There are a couple of jokes which were not bad and pretty much in the spirit of the original films. They didn’t go overboard on the humour like in The Last Jedi, which a lot of the fans hated. I think the original directors probably had a lot more humour in it and after seeing the audience response to the humour in TLJ perhaps Kathleen Kennedy decided to replace them for a more serious director. There is a moment when Han Solo speaks Chewbacca’s language which was a bit over the top (if he speaks Wookie, why did he never do it in the other films – seems like a cheap trick, but it didn’t ruin the film for me.
Chewy has some badass moments.
Qu’ira’s character is interesting as a femme fatale. Emilia Clarke is very easy on the eye and I found her character to be interesting because I never knew where her loyalties were and there was always this sense that she was going to betray Han, and Han was sort of obsessed with her. It’s a bit like your first love – when, as a younger guy, you fall in love with a girl who might be slightly out of your league and you know she’s always going to break your heart.
Just really enjoyable. Woody Harrelson was a dependable screen presence as ever.
What I didn’t like
The cheesy musical score running through a lot of the scenes, as if we needed to be told how to feel and to make sure we didn’t get bored or anything
Some cheesy clichés, which I can’t really remember now – but a lot of typical movie tropes and “yeah, right” moments.
There are probably some plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, there’s a moment when one character dies and I thought “why did that happen, it seemed completely unnecessary”
Some of the moments when they tried to link this film with the wider Star Wars universe – like linking it to some plot points in Rogue One – or just trying to include some of the large Star Wars themes – the birth of the rebellion. It seemed forced, and shoehorned – I mean, like they forced certain big themes into the film (no pun intended). It would have been better to make it a completely self-contained film without having to connect it to the broader world of Star Wars, the birth of the rebellion and all that.
Classic westerns like Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy (spaghetti westerns) are just about those characters in an isolated story. It would have been good to do something like that. Let the audience use their imagination to fit it in with the larger universe.
Also, it feels a little bit like Star Wars is pushing an ideological position these days, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I suppose it always was – the rebellion, the empire. It was basically about the struggle of local groups of freedom fighters against a vastly more powerful military dictatorship. But that message was usually delivered a bit more subtly in the original films. These days it’s like Star Wars needs to push this message a bit harder for some reason.
I can’t go into it in more detail without spoiling the film.
Anyway, those were my thoughts about Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.
And I just talked about it there because it’s something Sammy and I discussed.
Let me remind you – sugarsammy.com to get news of his upcoming shows – possibly in a city near you soon.
Thanks for listening.
The World Cup is going on. I really want to talk about that a lot, like I did in 2014 – but I have so many episodes to upload! And I’m working on LEP Premium – basically making some episodes to upload soon and then I’ll launch it properly.
I usually worry when I have too much content to upload. I tend to think – if I upload too much (like loads of World Cup episodes) then people won’t be able to listen to it all and then they might just stop listening completely… they’ll think “Oh I can’t keep up and I don’t really like The World Cup so I’ll just move on to something else” and…
So, expect some WC episodes coming soon during the tournament, but if that’s not your cup of tea (or World Cup of Tea) then I suppose you can just skip them and know that it’s not all going to be about football forever.
Sugar Sammy is a very popular and famous comedian from Canada. He’s often described as Montreal’s #1 stand up comedian. He speaks 4 languages, he has performed comedy in lots of countries. He might be coming to your country soon to make you laugh. Ladies and gentlemen – meet the wonderful Sugar Sammy!
Hi everyone. This is quite a special episode because of today’s guest. I’m talking to a really famous comedian, so it was quite a thrill for me and I really hope that it translates into a good listening experience for you too and that it grabs your attention and not just because it’s a chance to practise your listening in English.
You know that as well as being an English teacher and a podcaster, I’m a stand up comedian, which means that I go onstage in front of audiences and try to make them laugh – by telling jokes, telling stories and doing voices. Stand up comedy is huge as a form of entertainment, and arguably as an art form – particularly in the English speaking world. In Paris, where I live, there is a stand up comedy scene in English. It’s pretty small – there are not that many English speaking comedians and shows in English, and in some ways that’s actually really cool because I get to meet and hang around with some pretty famous people who come here to do comedy. For example there are the professional French comedians who also perform in English, and I’m talking about people like Gad Elmaleh (the biggest French speaking comedian in the world) who I have kind of met (I said hello to him and we performed on the same show) and other French comics like Yacine Belhousse and Noman Hosni (who have been on this podcast), but also comedians who come here from other places like the UK, the USA or Canada to perform their comedy in English or maybe in French – people like Eddie Izzard, Ian Moore and so on. Basically, because it’s a small scene I get to meet and hang out with some really great comedy stars.
That’s how I met today’s guest – Sugar Sammy who comes from Canada.
Sugar Sammy is a genuine star of comedy. He’s probably the biggest name I’ve ever had on this podcast. I had David Crystal of course – the famous linguist. You know I’m interested in language and language teaching, so David Crystal was a big guest for that reason but I’m also obsessed with stand up comedy and Sammy is massively famous in the world of stand-up especially in Canada, and I’m lucky to be friendly enough with him to get him on this podcast.
Some information on Sammy
In terms of his background, he was born and grew up in Montreal, Canada – a bilingual city. The official language there is French but everyone can speak English too.
In total he speaks 4 languages – English, French, Punjabi and Hindi – and he does stand up comedy in all of them.
He is of Indian origin. I’m not sure of the details but I’m guessing that his parents or maybe even his grandparents moved to Canada from India at some point. Anyway, this is why he can speak Punjabi and Hindi – both Indian languages.
He has a list of accomplishments and awards as long as your arm. I don’t know how long your arm is, but I’m assuming it’s very long because so is this list.
(A list as long as your arm – it’s just a phrase meaning “a long list”)
A quick look at his Wikipedia page tells you about his achievements:
He’s done sold out one man shows, HBO comedy specials, his own TV shows, he’s opened for Dave Chappelle, he gets featured in newspapers and photographed by paparazzi.
One of his main accomplishments is that he was the first to perform a successful bilingual show in Quebec – a place which is notorious for how it protects French as the official language, so performing in English, Punjabi and Hindi there was actually a very controversial thing to do.
He once performed in front of over 115,000 people at the end of a 420 show tour at the Just For Laughs festival in 2016.
Sammy has performed all around the world in the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, England, Australia, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, China, India, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Northern Ireland, Dubai, Haiti New Zealand and South Africa, where his one-man show sold 15,000 tickets.
And that’s just in English. He also has a successful comedy career in French.
As a stand up comedian I would describe him as confident, charming, very sharp, good at imitating different accents, good at playing with cultural stereotypes, excellent at exploiting people’s cultural assumptions and very very quick when it comes to doing crowd work – improvising off the interactions he has with members of the audience.
His shows always include a lot of improvisation in which he talks to the people on the front row and always manages to turn the interactions into very funny moments of comedy.
If you want information on how to see Sammy on stage, go to his website sugarsammy.com
You can see him performing in French in Paris at the Alhambra theatre, and later this year he is going to tour internationally – and he has plans to visit parts of Asia – including Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan and potentially even more places. So, seriously – watch out for Sugar Sammy doing shows in your country soon and I really recommend that you get out and see him.
Sugar Sammy is a world-class comedian and a really cool guy and I’m pleased to have him on the podcast.
In terms of his English and his accent – he is a Canadian native speaker of English, so he has a typical Canadian accent, which for many people is indistinguishable from a sort of standard American accent. I can usually hear the difference between Canadian and American accents I think, but it’s a very subtle difference. Basically, in many cases Canadian English is very close to American English.
Our conversation focuses on comedy, language and various issues relating to both of those things.
I’ve divided the conversation into two parts, which should make it easier for you to listen to. Our conversation moves pretty quickly. It might be difficult to follow – depending on your level of English. You can see as you listen to it. Part 2 will be available soon.
I think we’re lucky to be able to listen to Sammy on this podcast. I feel very grateful to have been able to sit down and talk to him for over an hour. As you are all learners of English I hope that this provides you with the interesting, engaging and authentic English listening practice that you’re looking for. I won’t say any more in the introduction here. It’s time to just start listening to my chat with Sugar Sammy.
I’m stopping the conversation there. The rest will come in part 2.
Sammy is excited about new people… and win them over.
So, I wonder how this is for you. How is this for you so far?
I said already that for me it was a thrill to record this conversation – partly because Sammy is a top comedian and it feels like a privilege to be able to interview him, but also because it’s just loads of fun to talk to him and hang out with him.
But how’s it going for you? Are you alright? I certainly hope you’re enjoying this as much as you actually should be enjoying it. Because, just in case you didn’t realise, you really should be enjoying this quite a lot.
I expect you are enjoying it like I am, but it’s probably a bit hard to follow in places. It’s probably been quite difficult to follow everything, – but of course it depends on your level of English, you listening skills.
But if it is hard to follow sometimes, then I’m not surprised! First of all, you’re probably listening to this because you’re learning English, in which case, if it’s hard to follow everything in a native-level conversation like this then that makes total sense and is completely normal. You’re not a native speaker so it’s bound to be more difficult. What I’d say to you is – keep listening, keep practising. You can understand conversations like this 100%. It takes time and practice, and motivation and positivity, but you can definitely do it.
Also, let’s not forget that in episodes of this podcast I often play you natural conversations between friends that are not graded. Nobody’s trying to simplify their English or anything. It’s also spontaneous and fast like a normal conversation. So, I am not surprised if it’s difficult sometimes. That’s normal. This is not a listening exercise in a coursebook published by Oxford University Press. The recordings you get in those publications are usually scripted, and graded to make them easier to understand – even at advanced levels. For example, Headway Upper Intermediate and Headway Advanced.
They’re easier, aren’t they? Don’t get me wrong, they’re good publications, but they go for a different approach. They grade their listening materials. My conversations aren’t graded. In fact I specifically ask my guests to speak naturally – because I want them to be natural and I want them to still be funny and relaxed because for me what we might lose in terms of intelligibility we gain in authenticity and in humour, basically.
Right. So listening to this conversation with Sugar Sammy is the real thing, so it’s normal if it’s pretty tough, but for me this is a good strong way to work on your English. It’s a bit like high-altitude training – when people train high in the mountains where there’s less oxygen. It’s hard, it’s strenuous, it’s challenging, but when you go back down to lower altitude levels where there’s more oxygen, you’re suddenly much more effective and the training really pays off.
Anyway, speaking for myself, this was a really fun episode to do and if I were you I would listen to it several times to squeeze maximum enjoyment out of it – because I promise you that if you listen again you’ll understand and therefore enjoy it even more, and then you can also get stuck into part 2 which may already be available for you.
Come on people. Seriously, you’re getting more than your money’s worth here are you not?
Check out the page on the website for some more details, including a transcription of my intro and ending to this episode, a video of Sammy improvising on stage talking to an Iraqi guy in the audience who has moved to Texas, also you can see video of Bill Hicks and his routine about being asked “What are you reading for?” and a video of the extraordinary Russian singer Vitas doing his song 7th Element.
Thanks for listening. Get my app from the app store to get all my episodes on your phone plus loads of bonus content and access to premium episodes when they are available.
Here’s part 2 of this conversation with my Mum in which you can hear us wittering on about the bookshop where Mum works, some of the books she’s read recently, and some of her podcast and film recommendations. Vocabulary is explained at the end, and there’s a vocabulary list with definitions available below.
sewers = the underground tunnels that carry all the toilet waste (i.e. the piss and shit) away
Lots of entericdiseases
entericdiseases= diseases caused by unclean water
Entirely preventable diseases, but not easily treated
to prevent a disease = to ensure that a disease never infects people
to treat someone / to treat a disease = to give treatment to people who are suffering from a disease
to cure someone = to make a disease disappear completely, through treatment
They find the sewer and they blow it up so the authorities have to replace it
to blow something up = make something explode
How did they blow it up? With a bomb? With some sticks of dynamite.
a bomb = an explosive device
sticks of dynamite = things that look a bit like candles but they explode because they’re made of nitroglycerine (not wax) and have a fuse (not a wick)
It starts out with this man who starts out being incredibly idealistic and wanting to improve things and he gradually gets worn down by the system and ends up becoming one of these quacks who gets himself popular with people who have lots of money and treats them for things they haven’t really got, before he’s finally brought up short
to start out = to start from the very beginning
to be idealistic = to base your behaviour on certain ‘ideals’ or ‘principles’ even if it’s impractical or unrealistic. It’s a bit similar to ‘naive’.
to get worn down by something = to become weaker because of difficult experiences over time
aquack = a fake doctor
to bring someone up short = to suddenly stop someone doing something, often with a surprise
to be brought up short (passive version) = to suddenly be stopped (by something) in what you are doing, often with a surprise
It’s quite moving = makes you feel a strong emotion
There’s this characterarc of this guy who starts out innocent and gets seduced by the money
a character arc = a narrative or storyline for a particular character which changes from the start to the finish
There’s lots of parallels (with today)
parallels = similarities
there’s a lot of parallels / there’re a lot of parallels
It espouses socialist ideas
to espouse something = to support it (usually a way of life)
a heck of a lot (of something) = a lot (but emphasised with ‘a heck of’ – also ‘a hell of a lot’)
It’s about class, it’s about post-traumatic stress after the First World War, it’s about families losing sons
PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder = emotional distress or shock which continues in your life after experiencing extreme danger or stress. It’s common in soldiers who have experienced the shock of combat in war.
If English is your second language it can be a bit of a slog sometimes to keep going (reading)
People say he (Louis Theroux) is faux naive. He comes across as innocent so he has to ask questions to find out what’s going on.
to be faux naive = ‘fake’ naive – pretending to be naive
to come across as something = to give an impression of something – e.g. he comes across as a really nice guy (he gives the impression of being a nice guy). Tom Cruise comes across as being a really friendly, fun and hardworking person. I wonder if he is like that in real life. I expect he is hardworking, but I wonder if he really is that friendly and fun all the time.
He looks a bit dorky, goofy, geeky.
All these are words to describe someone who is not cool. They’re very similar yet slightly different in meaning.
dorky = unfashionable, awkward, not socially relaxed and laid back, a bit uptight and uncool.
goofy = just a bit ridiculous, but also in appearance – perhaps with teeth that are sticking out or big glasses, big ears – ridiculous looking features. Think of Goofy from the Disney animations.
geeky = interested (maybe obsessed) by things like computers, comics, science fiction rather than people. (Louis Theroux definitely isn’t a geek, but he comes across as geeky)
He’s quite tall. He’s a bit gangly. His arms and legs are very long.
gangly = a description of physical appearance – tall and thin with an awkward appearance and a clumsy manner
He’s got this awkward Britishness.
Awkward is a word that comes up a lot in my conversations. I often say that British people seem awkward, that I felt awkward in a situation, or that a particular situation was awkward. Louis Theroux can be described as having awkward Britishness.
Awkward = uncomfortable, not completely relaxed and loose, a bit embarrassing, a bit shy
Do you fancy him?
to fancy someone = to find someone physically attractive, in a sexual way (but this is the sort of word that teenagers use)
He’d spend time with all sorts of weird fringegroups
fringe = edge
fringe groups = groups that exist on the edge of society, e.g. cults, religious sects, conspiracy theorists, extremists etc
His naive awkward English friendliness is very disarming and as a result people open up to him
to be disarming (adj) = to make people less hostile or aggressive, perhaps by being charming.
to open up (to someone) = to become more open and revealing with people, e.g. to start talking about personal things
He’d lost the knack of being able to read for pleasure
the knack of doing something = a particular and skillful way of doing something. E.g. There is a certain knack to closing the bedroom door silently in my flat. You have to pull the handle down, pull the door in slowly, let the handle go back and then pull the end of the handle until you hear a little ‘click’. There’s a knack to doing it. In this case, my dad has lost the knack of being able to read for pleasure. ‘to lose the knack of doing something’ is a common way to say that you have lost the specific ability to do a certain thing.