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708. Tasha Liu from China (WISBOLEP Runner-Up) 🇨🇳

This conversation with competition runner-up Tasha Liu is a way to get to know Chinese culture in a more personal way including the story of how Tasha’s father gave up drinking alcohol, and other interesting details about real life in the world’s most populated country.

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Introduction Transcript (after the jingle)

Hello everybody,

How are you doing? Thanks for choosing to listen to my podcast today. I hope you enjoy it.

In this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with Tasha Liu from China, the listener of this podcast who came 2nd in the WISBOLEP competition.

Let me explain quickly what the WISBOLEP competition is, for that one person who doesn’t know.

If that’s you, and you don’t know what WISBOLEP is → Hello! I’m now going to explain it to you in one single sentence. You’re welcome.

Here it is. The competition, summarised in one single sentence.

WISBOLEP stands for Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast and is a competition I ran at the end of last year in which the prize was to be interviewed by me in an episode, the winner of the competition being the one who received the most votes from listeners after I played all of the 2-minute recordings sent in by the competitors in episode 692 of this podcast.

There you go.

Walaa Mouma from Syria was the overall winner. You may have heard her episode. It was published last month. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you do so! It’s episode 703 and Walaa explained in some detail how she improved her English to a good level, despite the hardships that she faced in her life. It was an inspiring episode, to say the least. We focused on Walaa’s approach to learning English – both her attitude and specific things she has done and continues to do to improve her skills. So the focus was definitely on learning English.

The conversation in this episode though, focuses mostly on cross cultural understanding.

Walaa is quite a hard act to follow, but we’re not comparing here. It’s not a competition you know! Wait, it is a competition, isn’t it? It totally is competition, isn’t it. It was a competition anyway. But for me, the competition part is done, and now it’s just a case of listening to LEPsters who were chosen by the people who voted in this competition.

And the spirit of this competition was always about this: Finding some interesting guests to talk to on the podcast and letting some LEPsters speak a bit and share their experiences. Let’s see what insights we can learn from other learners of English around the world. And let’s celebrate the citizens of LEPland! Everyone has a story to tell. We can all learn things from each other. All we have to do is just listen.

So, now that I have said that, here’s a brief overview of the content of this chat.

  • There’s a bit of “getting to know you”, as this is the first time I’ve ever spoken to Tasha, so we talk a bit about her studies, where she lives and so on.
  • Then we move onto the things she hinted at during her competition recording – and overall these things are ways to get to know China and Chinese culture a little bit more, in a personal way. So this is a cross-cultural exchange here and a chance to get beyond the stereotypes and cliches and find out some real things about life in the most populated country in the world.
  • There’s the story of how her father managed to stop drinking, which might tell us some things about family life in China.
  • Then we talk about some of the commonly-held beliefs about China (particularly beliefs held in the west) such as the way Chinese people eat (do they, as the saying goes, “eat anything with 4 legs except the table, and everything that flies except planes”? (and helicopters I suppose), or are they more discerning in their eating habits than that? Another assumption that people might have is that China is quite undeveloped in certain ways compared to the west, or how it could be ahead of the west in various ways too, like the way technology is used – payment systems for example, and the idea of the cashless society.

And there’s more detail about what it’s really like living in China today.

Just a heads up: There were some technical difficulties during the recording, due to a slightly poor internet connection between the two of us. This meant that sometimes we couldn’t hear each other properly or the connection just failed. I think I’ve saved it in the edit, but there may be a few moments where the bad connection affects our conversation. It shouldn’t be too bad, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

OK, now I’ve done my introduction, let’s get started properly, and here we go!


Ending Transcript

So that was Tasha Liu from China. It was really interesting to talk to her and I got that amazing feeling that you get when you actually talk to someone who lives in a completely different part of the world and in a different culture but you just connect as human beings.

That’s always special – talking to people from other places and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives and the fact that although we’re different in many ways, we’re also really similar in the fact that we’re still having human experiences ultimately.

It’s easy to forget but I feel like as humans we have many more things in common than differences. We’re all humans living on earth (as far as I know – you might be an alien on another planet as far as I know) but we’re all having a human experience ultimately, and so there are many more things that unite us than divide us, aren’t there?

I’m sounding a bit pretentious there, possibly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Here are some reflections – just things that I thought about after having that conversation.

These are reflections about cross cultural understanding.

When we think about other cultures or experience them, there is a tendency to not fully understand those other cultures, and as a result we jump to conclusions about them, probably based on the fact that we’ve never had proper experiences of those cultures, never met or talked to those people properly and never observed things from their point of view. This is normal I suppose because we can’t always be everywhere and see everything.

We end up with limited views of other cultures, which might also be informed by other people’s attitudes, like “these people are just unsophisticated” or “it’s such a backward society” and this could be in any direction. It could be, in a broad sense – the west looking at the east, or the east looking at the west, and not just east and west, any culture thinking about another culture – we often don’t see the whole picture. We are all humans, but there are all sorts of complicated reasons why we behave or live slightly differently.

We are all the same, but our contexts are different.

That’s it really. I could ramble on more, but I think I’ve said enough.

I wonder what your thoughts are, now that you’ve listened to this conversation.
What reflections do you have?

I found it really interesting to talk to Tasha, and I just want to thank her again for telling us her stories, and for being willing to share her comments about her country. Also, congratulations to her! 2nd place is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

Right then. More competition runners up will appear on the podcast in due course.

Next up in the WISBOLEP series will be William from France. That will probably arrive in a couple of episodes’ time. I had a really nice conversation with him, which I think was just as insightful as the other WISBOLEP conversations we’ve had so far. If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Tasha and the one with Walaa, then I think you’ll like hearing William’s story as well.

That’s coming up on the podcast soon.

I’m working on new content all the time, including new Premium episodes which will arrive in the LEP app before too long.

LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

LEP App teacherluke.co.uk/how-to-download/get-the-lep-app/

707. [2/2] Let’s Play Another Text Adventure Game – “Zombolocaust” by Peter Carlson

Continuing the text adventure game about the zombie apocalypse from episode 706, with text on the screen so you can read with me while you listen. Video version available. Play the game with me – follow the links below. [Part 2 of 2] Listen to part 1 first!

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Works best on full-screen mode. Don’t forget to like & subscribe folks! 👍

Links

Play “Zombolocaust” by Peter Carlson textadventures.co.uk/games/view/5kjlubyvzuitox6z52xipq/zombolocaust

Text Adventures website www.textadventures.co.uk

Part 1 of this episode wp.me/p4IuUx-oBr

Part 1 on YouTube

705. Kate Billington Returns (and she brought cake)

Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.

You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to. 

But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes. 

You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available). 

The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.

In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do. 

Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.

So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress. 

Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.

Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.

Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.

OK? Alright. 

So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.


JINGLE

You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast. For more information, visit teacherluke.co.uk


Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington. 

Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.

There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today. 

The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment. 

After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.

Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself. 

Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.  

Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation

I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.

Tinnitus

  • What is tinnitus?
  • Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
  • Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?

Maelstrom

  • My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes. 
  • What is a maelstrom?

Violent

  • We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
  • I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way) 

Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)

  • Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older? 
  • Why would this be the case?

Cake & Eating Cake

  • What kind of cake did Kate bring this time? 
  • What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.

Grooming

  • What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
  • Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word? 
  • Why did I use it? 
  • Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.

Derren Brown (hypnotist)

How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?

That’s it for the questions.

As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.

Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington. 

OK, here we go! 


Links & Comments

Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show

Some Listener Comments from Episode 689

Tang Qiongyu

Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.

However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财(gōng xǐ fā cái)means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”(xīn nián kuài lè).

By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋

IcyFlame 

Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.

Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!

Reda Zaouiri

If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)

There you go luke !

Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)

Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”

Ps 2 : Hooray for becoming a Chef !

All the best !

Alexandr Suvorov (Friend of the podcast)

Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere. 

Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.


Ending

Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.

Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆

Some other vocabulary to clarify

To flatter someone / flattery

This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.

“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.

Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)

But

Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:

“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”

Or
“Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.

Savour / savoury

To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.

Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)

I think that will probably do for now!

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

More episodes coming soon, including some conversations with WISBOLEP runners-up, and other things in the pipeline.

Thank you for listening!

Leave your comments in the comment section below 👇

704. The Rick Thompson Report: Brexit Update (February 2021)

Talking again to my dad about UK politics and current affairs, focusing on the latest developments in Brexit, plus a bit of weather and sport. What does Rick think of the government’s trade deal with the EU? How does it affect Northern Ireland? And where are all the benefits promised by Boris Johnson & co? Listen to hear my dad explain complex things in plain English. Full transcript and text video available.

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703. Walaa from Syria – WISBOLEP Competition Winner 🏆

Walaa Mouma from Syria has an amazing and inspiring story for all learners of English around the world, and some specific tips on how to improve your English long-term. Listen to this episode to hear all about it. Transcript and text video available.

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Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

702. Emergency Questions (with James)

Listen to Luke and James talking about various topics as we answer questions from the book “Emergency Questions” by comedian Richard Herring. Text video and full transcript available.

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

Song – The Urban Spaceman by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858579321/

701. Legal English with Louise Kulbicki

Discussing some of the most important terms and concepts in legal English, while also learning about key cases through some amusing stories, with legal English trainer Louise Kulbicki.

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700. Marooned With My Music: Luke Thompson

Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)

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My 8 Musical Choices

The Return of the Los Palmas 7 by Madness

Cheese & Onions by The Rutles

We’ve Got Johnny Wells by Booker T & The MGs

And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles

To Each His Own by Patrice Rushen

Tone Twilight Zone by Cornelius

Bach Cello Concerto in G Major (Yo Yo Ma)

Rule My World by Kings of Convenience

Full Spotify Playlist including loads of music I couldn’t choose as part of my 8 pieces

699. Welcome (back) to Luke’s English Podcast / FAQ (January 2021)

Wishing everyone a happy new year and taking stock of the main aims and methods of this podcast, plus some frequently asked questions. Video version available on YouTube.

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Episode Notes & Transcript

In this episode the plan is to wish you a happy new year, welcome back all my regular listeners (and maybe some irregular listeners too) and also say a big hello to any new listeners who might have just discovered this podcast and are wondering what it’s all about. I normally do episodes like this at the start of the year because at this time, during the new year period, it’s normal to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, perhaps make some new year’s resolutions and generally try to pick up some good habits for the year to come – and that often includes working on your English and trying to find good listening resources to help you do that. 

So, in this episode I’d like to welcome you to LEP or welcome you back to LEP, just summarise what this podcast is all about, restate my objectives for doing this and generally make sure we are all on-track for a good year of podcasting and learning English in 2021.

I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions. These are the questions people typically ask me when they find out that I have a podcast for learning English and they want to know more. 

So during the episode, you’ll learn or be reminded of what the main ideas are for this podcast, what teaching principles this is based on, what my methods are, what you can expect from my episodes in general, how you can use them to improve your English and also some info about me too, because it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re listening to, isn’t it? I have always found, as a teacher, that it really helps when I put my personality into my English lessons. It just seems to make things more enjoyable and effective for the learners. Not because I have an award-winning personality or anything, but just that I think learning a language is a deeply personal process and so it makes sense to have a more personal approach to teaching it as well as learning it. It helps if you know who I am. It gives you context, it brings the language to life and it’s just more fun too, isn’t it. If you like, as you listen to this, you can imagine we’re in a cafe or something (even though I’m doing all the talking – but you can pause me at any time and put your thoughts into words if you want. I can’t hear or respond to you, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it? That’s the least you can say about my podcast , haha, “Well, it’s better than listening to nothing”)

By the way, other podcasts are available of course. As you probably know, there are quite a lot of podcasts for learners of English including ones by the BBC and other ones by other people, and they’re great, but obviously I hope you listen to my podcast, don’t I?

So, what’s this podcast? How can it help your English? Who are you listening to? Those are the sorts of questions we’ll be covering, but also plenty of other random bits and pieces.

JINGLE

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to the podcast! I hope you had a fairly good holiday period – as good as it can be during this mad mad time that we are all living in. When’s the world going to go back to normal? When’s that going to happen? We don’t know. Was it even normal in the first place? Probably not. In any case – I hope you’re well and that you’ve started 2021 in a reasonably positive frame of mind and that you’re ready to embark on some new audio adventures with me and my podcast.

If you are a brand new listener – then welcome. I really hope you simply enjoy listening to me talking to you, or talking with my guests in English in these episodes. I hope that this will help you to get regular English listening practise into your life, and that you enjoy it too.

Because enjoying your listening practise is so important. This will help you to listen regularly, listen for longer periods of time and listen long-term in your life as well. 

We all know that it is very important and useful to listen to plenty of clear, natural English, spoken at a fairly normal speed, focusing on a variety of topics. 

Reading is good. Studying grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation – that’s good. Doing plenty of speaking practice is really important. Watching videos in English is helpful. But do not underestimate the importance of just listening to English – for as long as possible each time. That’s what this podcast aims to help you do – at a very minimum. There is more to it than that of course. A lot more. But basically – I want you to do more listening in English.

The first and most basic aim of this podcast is just to help you to get more English in your life through listening to the spoken word – listening to English as it is spoken naturally, by me in this case, and my guests.

Let’s go through my list of frequently asked questions, which will form the backbone of this episode, which is probably quite long.

  • What is this podcast?
  • Is it for me?
    • It’s for everyone, but it might be difficult if → You’re lower than an intermediate level (intermediate might be hard – you’ll have to be extra motivated) or you are a really visual learner. (My wife doesn’t listen to podcasts – even in French. She can’t really do it. She feels she has to close her eyes or do nothing else, whereas I love just listening to audio and it works really well for me – better than watching videos because I can multi task)
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • Why did you start doing this podcast?
  • Who are you Luke? I mean, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your career so that we can feel totally confident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re just some guy who can speak English?
  • Will it really help my English to listen to this? 
    • Yes.
  • How do you know?
    First-hand accounts from listeners.

Common sense. Of course. It’s about a billion times more effective than listening to nothing at all. Plus, what else are you going to do? Watch Netflix with subtitles (yes, do that too, but switch the subs off sometimes) REad books (yes definitely – both graded and non-graded ones if you’re ready) Speak English with people you know who speak English (yes) Take English classes (good idea as long as you take part properly and take responsibility for your learning too). You can do all of those things. But I don’t want to make this complicated. Listen to my podcast regularly and it will help with your English. 

Academic studies I’ve done – while preparing my teaching qualifications I read a lot of books and other texts based on proper academic studies into how people learn languages. 

Professional experience after having met many thousands of learners of English from many places, and working with them closely to help their English. Observing what works for them, what people respond to, the realities of learning a language. 

All of that has shown me that regularly listening to something like my podcast can help your English a lot. I could go into that more (and I have in previous episodes) but that’s all I will say at this point.

  • Will it help me improve my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?
    • Yes, both directly (when I teach language) and indirectly (through exposure). I can also help you think about the way that you learn, which can make you a more skillful and effective learner.
  • What’s your method then, Professor Thompson?
    • 5 Ls, 5 Ss, 5 Ps, being a smart-learner, the 5 Ms, DISCIPLINE, commitment.
      There are many ways to approach language learning. You have to choose one that works for you and that helps you to keep doing it even when it’s tough.
      Basic: Get as much English into your life as possible and make it meaningful. Hopefully I can help by giving you something you enjoy and want to listen to.
      More complex: Be a conscious learner too → notice structures and phrases, notice pronunciation (how I say things), try to record them, understand them in context, remember them, record them and repeat them. My premium content is designed specifically to help you do that. I cut out a lot of the annoying work and put it all on a plate for you. Just listen, follow the PDFs and do what I tell you to do – memory tests, repeat after me etc.
  • Can I really learn English on my own, only by listening to you Luke? 

I always recommend my podcast as “part of a balanced diet” and that does include doing other things, especially plenty of speaking practise with real people, probably qualified teachers who can help give you bits of feedback and correct your errors, but also just speaking with people helps you develop the social side of using in English for communication. 

I should also mention writing and reading of course, but since this is an audio podcast we focus mainly on the spoken version of English.

  • What level is it for?
  • Should I do anything else, other than just listening? 
    • Share your thoughts in the comment section on my website – practise little bits of writing there and chat with other listeners.
  • Your episodes are quite long. Aren’t they too long, in fact?
  • How should I listen? (the technology you can use, what you can do while listening, where you listen, how often you listen)
  • Are there transcripts for these episodes?
  • What’s your accent Luke?
  • Do you only have native speakers on your podcast?
    Most of the time my guests have English as a first language, but sometimes I talk to people who have learned English in adulthood because these people are extremely inspiring as they have done what so many people want to do, and they have great insights into the process of learning English and it’s also really important for you to listen to non-native English speakers speaking English too because it’s vital to hear a variety of English being spoken in your life. English is a diverse language. There are many people around the world using it and speaking it in slightly different ways. It’s important for you to be able to understand all those different varieties. This is true for the different accents and dialects in native English speakers too – you should become accustomed to hearing English spoken with various regional accents. If you only ever listen to my standard RP which is probably very clear to your ears, you might not be able to understand others. Also I really want to encourage you to love the different regional accents and to see their value. Sometimes learners of English will say that they only want RP and they see other accents as somehow being “lower forms of English” with less value. I don’t agree with this of course. The idea that a regional accent makes you sound uneducated or even lazy or something – that idea deserves to stay in the 1950s where it belongs. 

Having said that – let me put my cards on the table and be as clear as possible.

What accent should you develop in English?

The first thing is that you need to be clear. People need to understand you. Work on that.

It’s a good idea to pick a certain accent which you can use as a model. This is the accent/pronunciation you can aim for or try to copy. Why not choose RP? It’s a perfectly good choice as most people will be familiar with it. If you have a particular reason for wanting to copy a regional accent, then go for it. Perhaps you live in the north of England and you want to do things like your neighbours. Or maybe you just love a certain regional accent for personal reasons and you’ve decided that this is the one for you. That’s fine too. Go for it. Try to keep things natural. I could talk about this more but I won’t go on about it too much.

Basically – I love all the accents in English. I really do. But I would probably recommend RP as the one to go for, just because it’s still a standard form. I know someone is thinking “but only about 5% of English speakers use RP” yes – but I can’t think of another accent which is more common. Think of British accents in a pie chart. There isn’t one accent that really dominates that chart, I expect. Each segment in the chart is probably around the same size. So which one do you pick? Again, I think RP is fine and makes sense because it’s a standard. I don’t mean you should speak like a posh person, like The Queen or something, because that would be weird. 

  • Listening for understanding others 
    Listening in order to develop your pronunciation
  • How do I pronounce your name, actually?
  • How do I pronounce the name of the podcast?
  • What sort of episodes can we expect?
  • What are your favourite episodes?
  • You’re on episode 699 of LEP. Do you have anything special planned for episode 700? No, I don’t! I think it will just be another episode this time. I can’t think of anything specific I can do. Maybe I will do a YouTube livestream “Ask Me Anything” kind of thing. I’ll see. I know that if I do a YouTube live stream then you will all want to know about it in advance. This isn’t always possible. You’ll just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel. 
  • What are LEPsters?
  • Where are your listeners? 
    • In many places around the world! All over the world.
  • Why do you talk about ninjas sometimes? What are LEP Ninjas?
  • Can you explain the Russian Joke please? No. 
  • What do you think of Brexit? It’s a bad idea. I think it was an opportunity for a bunch of nutters to take control of my country and push it in a different direction. I think it’s the wrong direction, but now we have to live with it and make it work. I am not a fan of Boris Johnson and his gang. I feel they’re doing a bad job. That’s probably enough politics isn’t it. Oops, nearly slipped on politics there. Watch out everyone, there’s some politics on the floor. Don’t step in it. “Can someone clean that up please?”  (I have made that joke before)
  • Do you have a team of people helping you to do this? No, it’s just me. 
  • Can we see you perform stand-up comedy on stage?
  • Are you married and do you have kids and stuff?
  • What’s your favourite football team?
  • Do you like music? Do you play music? Do you have any songs stuck in your head today?
  • Can you sing songs for us on the podcast sometimes?
    Yes, I do that occasionally, when I feel inspired to do it. I’m not the greatest singer or the greatest guitarist. I’m just learning. But I love it and I feel moved to do it. If I do sing in an episode, most of the time, I do it right at the end of the episode so that people who might not like it don’t feel obliged to listen to it. But the ones who like hearing my versions of other people’s songs (I usually sing cover versions of songs) those people can listen and hopefully enjoy hearing me. I always make an effort to sing clearly so you can hear all the words of the song. I also don’t use any reverb to cover up the imperfections in my voice or guitar playing. I just get the guitar on my lap, point the microphone somewhere between the guitar and my mouth and do my best.
  • Are you on YouTube?

Yes, I have a YouTube channel as you may know. 

I post my audio episodes there, usually with a single static image. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the best way to listen to my content, but I guess if you are sitting at your computer, perhaps doing something else (like gaming or working or something) then it’s convenient to have one of my episodes running in the background. But also, YouTube’s automatically generated subtitles are usually pretty accurate. When I’m talking on my own, the accuracy is about 95% but when I’m with guests that accuracy can drop to about 85-90% I think. That’s not 100 perfect, but it’s pretty good. 

I’m always working on ways to deliver 100% correct transcripts to you because I know how useful and important they are. To an extent I’m just waiting for the technology to catch up. I think it won’t be long before automatic transcriptions are basically perfect but we’ll see.

I’ve been working with some new software which is quite mind-blowing. I don’t want to make any promises about it because I’m just experimenting with it at the moment, but basically it allows me to generate transcripts for episodes in a really convenient way, then edit those transcripts quite easily while also editing the audio. This is too complicated to get into now.

  • Have you forgotten anything? 

Yes, I am certain that I have forgotten to mention something really important, and someone is going to think “Hey you forgot to mention this specific thing! Or You didn’t mention this specific person!” Sorry about that.

You ramble quite a lot Luke, you sometimes talk too much and repeat yourself a bit. 

Yes, I do. Sue me. To paraphrase Shakespeare: There is a method in my madness.

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. The actual line from the play is ‘Though this be madness yet there is method in it’.

The main message I want to give you here is this: 

  • Listen to my episodes regularly and enjoy doing it.
  • Download my app to get easy access to all the episodes on your phone. (more than in Spotify and anywhere else)
  • Become a premium listener if you want to go further in your learning with me.
  • Don’t be a ninja – come out of the shadows and write a comment from time to time.

That’s it.

Thanks for listening. 

Happy new year.

Take care and be excellent to each other.

Speak to you next time.

Bye bye bye bye bye

697. 11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020, Explained

Going through 11 topical Christmas jokes for 2020, then a ramble about podcast statistics for 2020 and more… Merry Christmas everyone!

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Introduction Transcript & Jokes

Hello listeners, 

How are you doing today? I hope you are feeling fine. Are you feeling festive? Is it even possible to feel festive this year? Hopefully you’re finding a way to keep your spirits up as we speed towards Christmas.

I’m attempting to get the conditions just right here. I’m wearing a warm sweater, a nice thick pair of socks and I’ve got a log fire going on here (I haven’t really – it’s just a video loop of a log fire – I couldn’t have a real fire going,  it’s far too warm for that, I’ve got the windows open! But let’s imagine I’m in front of a lovely cosy warm log fire and that it’s all snowy and freezing outside and I’ve just taken some time out from wrapping presents and drinking brandy to do this recording for you.)

I’m in Paris at the moment. I’m not making the usual trip with my wife and daughter back to England to see my parents and brother this year, because of obvious reasons. It’s a Parisian Christmas this year, which is also very nice. “Christmas in Paris is such a wonderful thing, red wine and roses, are perfect for staying in” – you could imagine some crooner singing that.

2020 is nearly at an end. It’s been a weird year hasn’t it!?

In this Christmas episode I’m going to go through 11 Christmas themed jokes that might put a smile on your face. These jokes make fun of the year that we’ve just had to deal with – 2020.

I’m going to tell you 11 jokes, then explain them of course one by one, and then I’ll have a bit of a ramble about podcast statistics, upcoming episodes and my best wishes for Christmas.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

What is a Christmas cracker? What is a Christmas cracker joke?

I probably explain this every Christmas time, but let me cover it again briefly. The Christmas cracker joke is a hallmark of a normal Christmas at home with the family. Everyone’s gathered around the table for a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings and of course there are Christmas crackers decorating the table, one placed in front of each chair.

A cracker is like a tube which is pinched at both ends, and inside the tube there’s a paper party hat, a toy or puzzle or tool and a joke. The jokes are usually pretty awful things like “What does Santa have for breakfast? Snowflakes”. That kind of thing.

I did an episode last year about Christmas cracker jokes, it’s episode 631. teacherluke.co.uk/2019/12/16/631-29-awful-christmas-jokes-explained/

But this year I have trawled the internet for some alternative jokes that have some topical elements focusing on things like the British government, the coronavirus and things like that.

These jokes are being shared all over the internet on a lot of newspaper websites at the moment. They’re trending at the moment, especially the one about Dominic Cummings. 

It would be good if Christmas crackers contained more topical jokes like these each year, instead of things like “How does Santa keep track of all the fireplaces he’s visited? He keeps a logbook.”

So I’ll read through the jokes, then I’ll explain them one by one. Let’s see how many of these you can get. It might also be a way to review some of the themes which have dominated our lives this year, certainly in the UK.

After I’ve been through the jokes I’m going to have a bit of a ramble again, and will do a little review of the year in podcasting, and wish you all a merry Christmas again.

By the way, this is the official Christmas episode. Happy Christmas everyone! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I’ll say simply “Seasons greetings to one and all!” Also, happy new year and good riddance to 2020.

There will be one other episode arriving after this one – that’s an episode with Paul and a hint of Amber too. I’ll release that during the holidays. Then I might take a bit of a break during the holiday, but I’ll be working on premium stuff to be uploaded when possible, and I’ll probably be doing a few little interviews, maybe a conversation or two with James, Dad, Mum. Those will probably be published in the new year, but we will see.

In any case, let’s now go through this list of dodgy jokes for Christmas 2020 and then I’ll ramble on to you a bit more.

11 Christmas Cracker Jokes for 2020

Let’s see how many of these you get. They’re either word jokes or cultural references to things that have happened this year. Also, there are bound to be words and phrases to learn here, and I will be going through all that properly during this episode.

  1. What is Dominic Cummings’ favourite Christmas song?
    Driving Home for Christmas
  2. Why are Santa’s reindeer allowed to travel on Christmas Eve?
    They have herd immunity
  3. Why couldn’t Mary and Joseph join their work conference call?
    Because there was no Zoom at the inn
  4. Why can’t Boris Johnson make his Christmas cake until the last minute?
    He doesn’t know how many tiers it should have
  5. How is the pandemic like my stomach after Christmas?
    It’ll take ages to flatten the curve
  6. How can you get out of talking to your boss at this year’s staff Christmas party?
    Just put him on mute
  7. How is Christmas exactly like your job?
    You do all the work and some fat guy in a suit gets all the credit.
  8. Why is Parliament like ancient Bethlehem?
    It takes a miracle to find three wise men there.
  9. Christmas dinner is a lot like Brexit. Half the family were told they needed to make room for Turkey, so opted to leave Brussels.
  10. Why doesn’t Jeremy Corbyn ever visit Santa?
    Because he struggles in the poles.
  11. Why was the snowman looking through the carrots?
    He was picking his nose.

A Year in Podcasting

Top 20 episodes this year

I released about 100 episodes this year, including all the premium content and other bits and pieces I’ve created and uploaded this year. That’s got to be the most productive year ever for LEP.

I guess since COVID-19 came along I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this year. Not much travelling and as a result I was very productive and you were also very attentive, listening more this year than in previous years. 

In 2020 the podcast got over 13 million downloads (13,663,983 to be exact – at the time of counting – 18 December 2020), which is awesome and I think it’s the biggest year so far. 

Here are the top 20 episodes from 2020

  • 676. David Crystal: Let’s Talk – How English Conversation Works
  • 660. Using TV Series & Films to Improve Your English
  • 661. An Englishman in Los Angeles (with Oli)
  • 682. Key Features of English Accents, Explained
  • 655. Coping with Isolation / Describing Feelings and Emotions – Vocabulary & Experiences
  • 663. The Lockdown Lying Game with Amber & Paul
  • 637. 5 Quintessentially English Things (that you might not know about) with James
  • 640. IELTS Speaking Success with Keith O’Hare
  • 673. Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks (with James)
  • 669. How to Learn English

Here are the top countries for 2020

It’s the usual list to be honest!

  • 20 Australia
  • 19 Hong Kong
  • 18 Saudi Arabia
  • 17 France
  • 16 Brazil
  • 15 Vietnam
  • 14 Thailand
  • 13 Turkey
  • 12 Italy
  • 11 Ukraine
  • 10 Korea
  • 9 Germany
  • 8 Spain
  • 7 United States
  • 6 United Kingdom
  • 5 Poland
  • 4 Taiwan
  • 3 Japan
  • 2 Russia
  • 1 China

Top Podcasting Platforms

How are you listening?

  • Apple Podcasts App
  • Spotify
  • Chrome – which must be Google Podcasts I expect, or maybe web browsers.
  • Castbox
  • PodcastAddict
  • The LEP App

Upcoming stuff

Paul’s episode (with a hint of Amber)

Maybe something with James in which we ramble about a load of nonsense. 

Something about The Mandalorian (perhaps with James, perhaps with someone else) but I don’t know all the comic book backstories and even the animated series like Star Wars rebels. 

Some kind of Rick Thompson report, but we might be waiting until Brexit day, when the transition period ends. Boris Johnson is attempting to create a deal but there’s no way that deal would be better than just being in the EU itself, and anyway he probably won’t even get a deal at this rate. Will there be huge disruption at the borders, lack of stock in the shops and other repercussions?

Gill’s book club – 1,2,3,4 by Craig Brown – the book about the Beatles. McCartney III is out now by the way.

I keep wanting to do something about the Beatles but the topic is so huge that it’s hard to cover it all. Perhaps what I can do is a rambling story of the Beatles episode or series which tells the story, and it is an epic story with many elements to it. It’s hard to tell it because there are 4 people involved and more, but I might have a go at it. I could just try and do it all from memory. Probably be a 10 part series or something like that!

WISBOLEP conversations. These will be dotted out over the next few months I think. 

More conversations with guests.

I have something in the pipeline about legal English, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds as we look at various aspects of the law and legal English, including stories of landmark cases involving dead snails and jaffa cakes. It should be a bit of an eye opening episode if you’re unfamiliar with legal English, but also just the thing you want if the world of law is your thing.

But now I will bid ye farewell for the time being.

When the Paul episode drops it probably won’t have a long intro or anything. It’ll go straight into the conversation. When I talk to you again, I’m not sure but it shouldn’t be too long before new episodes start arriving again.

So, merry Christmas one and all, seasons greetings and a happy new year to you and yours. Stay safe, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again next time.