Tag Archives: london

260. Kingsman: The Secret Service

In this episode I read out some poems written by listeners, and then it’s time for another episode of LFC (Luke’s Film Club). This time I’m reviewing the film Kingsman: The Secret Service. [Download]

Poems
Thank you for your poems in response to episode 258. I read some of them out in this episode. You can find the poems under episode 258.

kingsman_the_secret_service_ver7Kingsman: The Secret Service Film Review
Message from Dongsik (South Korean LEPSTER)
Luke, how are you?
It’s so abrupt but may I ask a favor of you?
Someday in your podcast, could you explain British culture in the film ‘Kingsman : the secret Seervice’? or just tell the audience about your thoughts on the film? If you don’t mind. For example, accent, clothes, social class, colin firth, whatever related to UK in the film. The movie really brings me back to UK. It’s so impressive to me.
I don’t push you, I kindly ask you, so I hope I could listen to those things in your podcast someday.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Trailer)

Overview
-What kind of film is it?
-Who directed it?
-Who is in it?
-What’s the plot?
-What did I think of it?
-Elements of British culture
Certain symbols or icons of Britishness or certainly London life.
Class: The upper class & the lower class.
Posh people & chavs/hooligans

Good Things
It’s fast & furious, it’s never boring, it is visually quite arresting, there are some great actors involved, some gripping moments of action, and some genuinely shocking and stunning moments. It’s pretty funny and entertaining.

Bad Things
It’s a bit too ‘laddish’ for me. It’s too violent (Did I say too violent? Me?) I’m okay with violence in films usually, but this seemed to go over the top, in one scene in particular – and seemed to just enjoy the cartoon violence a little bit too much, like in Kill Bill Vol.1. It has its cake and eats it too – it’s parodying all the clichés of spy films, but at the same time celebrating them, and bringing the genre back to a point before it was post-modern and deconstructed.

It seems to have the same values as an old Bond film from the 1970s. It’s stylish and very British, but also misogynistic and quite right-wing. The ending, for example, is like something from the end of a Roger Moore film, but even more suggestive and explicit. Perhaps I’m being old-fashioned or something, but I found it to be a confirmation of sexist stereotypes. I think it was misjudged and a bit clumsy to end on a moment like that.
*Spoiler alert* I explain the ending here… (no great surprises though)
Posh images: tailors on Saville Row and their suits, umbrellas, pinstripes, wood panelled offices and gentlemen’s clubs in Mayfair, glasses of whiskey, old school ties, the British Army & secret service, privilege, a sense of entitlement, disdain for the lower classes.
Lower class images: Council estates, pubs full of aggressive criminals, cockneys, young criminals & gang members, petty crime, drugs, alcohol, fast cars, domestic violence, an irresponsible Mum who is abused by a violent boyfriend, London grime music such as Dizzee Rascal (although this side of London life is better captured by Attack The Block), London youth dialect.

Culture clash – between working class and upper class.
Much of this iconography belongs to the world of movies, fantasy or simply to the past. Not many people dress like Colin Firth in this film, or indeed act like him.
Other film/culture references: James Bond, The Avengers, Michael Caine films like The Ipcress File, My Fair Lady, The Bourne Identity.

All in all, I think it will do well internationally. The audience in Paris seemed to enjoy it a lot. It will probably be a hit with young blokes around the world who get off on the values of old James Bond movies, and who like comic book violence and a bit of casual sexism too.

Have you seen this film? Would you like to see it?

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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!
vote for us_love english2

234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

Hi everyone, how are you doing? In this episode I’m joined again by my brother James. The last time you heard from him he was talking about how he had dislocated his shoulder after falling off his skateboard. In this episode he gives us an update on his shoulder injury and then we talk about the music (his “choons”) that he has been making recently. What is a “choon”? Basically, it’s a “tune” – a piece of music, typically a piece of dance music, hip-hop, house music, drum & bass or techno. When you hear a really good tune, it’s quite typical to say “Ah this is a CHOOOON!” My brother makes instrumental hip-hop CHOONS. You can hear him talking about his music making process in this episode. [Download this episode] Click here to download my brother’s album, called “JT2000 – Volume 4”.

Small Donate ButtonJim’s Choons
Jim is quite modest about his music making, but for years he has been quietly producing lots of instrumental hip-hop on his own using an old Akai MPC2000, which is a bit of music making hardware used by some of the most well known hip-hop, drum and bass and techno producers from the past 15 years or more. Jim bought a second-hand MPC2000 about 5 years ago and he’s been learning how to use it, producing lots of tracks, and they’re getting better and better all the time, and now he’s at a point where he’s released a 10 track album which is available for purchase online via the website Bandcamp – click here to listen to or download the album. He doesn’t like to talk about his stuff too much because it’s very personal, but in this episode he was quite willing to talk about how he comes up with ideas and how he then turns them into pieces of music. In our conversation you’ll hear us using various technical language related to music and music production.

Download Jim’s Album
Jim’s album is available here: jt2000.bandcamp.com/releases
You can download it free, or if you think he deserves to be paid, you can choose to purchase the music and you can choose the price! $0 – $1,000,000 – it’s your choice.

Listen to Jim’s tune “Sympathy” (Unofficial remix of “Life’s a Bitch” by Nas) on YouTube here:

images

201. Nikolay Kulikov: A Russian Comedian in London

Nikolay Kulikov is an award-winning Russian screenwriter and stand-up comedian. This year he spent a couple of months living in London (and also briefly in Dublin) performing stand-up comedy. I saw one of his performances in English on video and thought he was very funny! So, I decided to contact him for an interview to find out more about him, his experiences learning English, his views on performing to British & Irish people, and how he feels about life in Russia these days. I hope you enjoy the episode! **Please be aware that this episode features some rude language and swearing** Right-click here to download.

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Here is an email I sent to Nikolay, inviting him to be on the podcast, and his reply:

Dear Nikolay,

My name is Luke Thompson and I am an English teacher and stand-up comedian. I do a podcast called Luke’s English Podcast. It has listeners all around the world, and many of them are from Russia. Recently one of my Russian listeners sent me a message with a video of you performing stand-up in Ireland. I thought it was really funny. You’ve got great jokes and a lot of talent.

I was wondering if I could interview you by Skype some time and feature the interview on the podcast. Essentially, I’m interested in your story. How did you learn English? What made you start doing stand-up? Where have you performed around the world? How is your comedy received in Russia, particularly some of the slightly controversial things you say about the place?

I think you’d be a great guest and my listeners would enjoy hearing from you. You will also be heard by thousands of people around the world so it would work as publicity for you too. Let me know if you’re interested in being interviewed over Skype some time, perhaps next week.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

Luke Thompson

Nikolay’s Reply:

Hi Luke!
It was a pleasure to receive such a wonderful letter.
Yes, let’s do this! I’ve got a lot to talk about and it can be real fun.
Next week is excellent.

ninja_tune_largeThanks to Anna Khazan and Natalia Dalik for bringing Nikolay to my attention and helping me to contact him. You’re my LEP Ninjas!

Nikolay’s Stand-Up in English in Ireland

Find Nikolay on Twitter, YouTube and VK Nikolay Kulikov
twitter.com/KolyaKulikov
www.youtube.com/user/krakvasha
vk.com/nobrainkolya

The Spoon Thing from The Matrix – “There Is No Spoon”
You might have heard Nikolay and me talking about a spoon in this episode, and wondered what we were talking about. You might have thought, “There is no spoon” – what do they mean? If you found that to be a little bit mysterious, let me explain it to you!

It’s from a scene in the movie The Matrix (1999).

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but the basic premise is that the human race has been enslaved by machines. The machines have connected everyone to a computer programme which replicates the real world. It’s an incredibly convincing simulation of real life. It’s so convincing that most people don’t realise that it’s just a dream, and that in reality they are slaves to machines. Some people have “woken up” and realised that the reality in which they are living is just a dream. Those people form a rebellion in order to fight against the machines. They are able to move in and out of the matrix whenever they want. One of the key members of the rebellion is a guy called Neo (Keanu Reeves). Some of the others believe he is the chosen one who will allow the humans to defeat the machines, but in order to do so he first has to learn to understand the nature of the matrix (in fact just a computer programme) and then to control it from within. In the first film we follow Neo as he learns about the matrix and begins to understand how to control it. One of the concepts at the heart of this film is that reality is just what we perceive – that there is no ‘reality’ there is just the way we perceive the world through our senses, and if you learn to control your senses, you can then control reality. The things we see are just our imagination. We’re living in a dream, and it may be possible for us to become lucid within the dream, and therefore control everything that happens all around us. It’s deep, man. There’s also some wicked kung fu.

So, the spoon thing.
There is a key scene in the film in which Neo learns about how to control the matrix. He encounters a boy who has learned to bend spoons using only the power of his mind. The boy holds up a spoon, and it bends. Neo is amazed and asks the boy how he does it. The boy says “You have to realise that there is no spoon. There is only you.” What he means is – you have to realise that the world you see is just created by your senses (which are being controlled by the matrix programme), so in order to bend the spoon you have to remember that the spoon does not exist, and that it is just the product of your senses. If you can control yourself, then you can control the world around you. Neo picks up the spoon and for a moment he manages to make it bend. This is an important moment for Neo, and after this he learns how to control the matrix, and then fight back against the machines which are enslaving the human race. You can see the scene below (YouTube video).

Some people think the film is a profound meditation about the nature of reality. Other people just think it’s an awesome kung-fu movie. For me, it’s a bit of both – philosophy and kung-fu. It’s a good combination!

192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.1)

This episode is all about common complaints made by foreign students living in London. It’s common to experience some level of culture shock when dealing with the realities of living in the capital city as a foreign visitor. In this episode I’ll try and clarify some of the confusions and frustrations relating to every day life in London. Click here to download this episode. Click here for part 2 of this episode.

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I lived in London for many years and while working as an English teacher there I heard a lot of complaints from foreign students. I also heard plenty of nice comments of course. But in this episode I’d like to focus on the complaints in order to try and explain or demystify them. Fair enough – some of the complaints are valid, but often they are the result of those students/visitors experiencing culture shock related to living in an environment that was not normal for them, or for which the cause was not obvious. It’s important to find reasons for cultural phenomena that you don’t understand because it prevents you from coming to false conclusions about that place. I don’t want people just assuming that the English people are just strange. I mean, we are a bit strange of course, just like anyone, but a lot of the things we do are quite normal when you see it from our point of view. So, what are those common complaints? And what are the reasons for these strange and annoying aspects to English life? Perhaps the Londoners have got it wrong and they do things in the wrong way, or perhaps the foreign visitors just don’t see the whole picture. Listen to find out more.

What’s in this Episode?
*There is so much to say on this subject that I expect it will be divided into two episodes!*
1. Some short interviews with my colleagues in London, in which we discuss these common complaints.
I wanted to find out if my colleagues could explain some of the weird or annoying things about life in London. You can hear our responses in this episode. Some expressions and phrases from that recording are written on this webpage (below).
2. My responses to the complaints, and some explanations.
I’ll try and explain the reasons for these particular aspects of London life as well as I can, and I’ll decide if the complaint is fair or not.

It’s not all Negative
The cup is usually half-full! Of course, foreign students in London have plenty of great things to say about the place. Certainly, there are more positive things than negative, but I find that when students have lived in London for a little while, and they start to come face to face with the realities of living here, they start to develop little gripes (complaints) about the place, which can confuse and frustrate them. Let me try and clarify!

The Complaints about Life in London (commonly said by students of English)
Here’s a list of some of the typical complaints made by foreign students studying in London, and some notes relating to my responses that you can hear in this audio episode. You might find some of the complaints bizarre – that’s normal. I found some of them really bizarre when I first heard them, but you have to remember that the people who said these things came from countries in which the situation is quite different. They’re all completely true, and very common comments. After each complaint I will judge of the complaint is “reasonable” or “not reasonable”, and then I will “reject” or “accept” the complaint. If you don’t agree with my decisions, leave a comment explaining why!

1. “Why do you have a separate hot tap and a separate cold tap? I’m always scaulding my hands.”
The old 2-taps issue! It’s due to the development of plumbing, lack of water pressure, and separate water supplies.
uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090125000341AAR51ic
Interview with Karen Robertson. Last year Karen contacted me after reading a blog post I wrote on “Two Taps in the Bathroom” on the London School of English Blog. She lives in London, but is originally from South Africa. She was studying a MA in digital journalism at London Goldsmith University, and was doing a video project on foreign students’ reactions to London’s plumbing system, specifically the two taps issue. She wanted to interview me for the project. I recorded the interview and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to let you listen to the conversation. Karen has researched the issue a lot and is able to give some pretty good reasons for the two taps in the bathroom mystery! (Karen gave me full permission to include this interview on the podcast).

2. “Why don’t you have electrical sockets in the bathroom? How am I supposed to dry my hair after I’ve had a shower and look in the mirror at the same time?”
This is because we consider it to be dangerous and there is legislation to protect people from being electrocuted.
singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/electrical-sockets-in-bathrooms-why-not

3. “The food is so plain and unhealthy”
Why is English food so bad? Most of the famous stuff is based on ‘working class recipes’ – the recipes of poor people who had limited access to ingredients and who had to make food that would keep or was portable. This food is often specific to local regions, and naturally people are proud of their local culture and so they celebrate the food, and it becomes part of our tradition. The rich people had food too, but it’s pretty exclusive stuff and very expensive. A lot of our good food is seasonal. A lot is cooked privately, at home. Also, we have been very international for many years. English food is Indian, Chinese, French etc. We eat YOUR food, thanks very much. I think it was John Cleese who said that English food is bad because we were too busy taking over the world to focus on cooking.
answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110123154803AAwbAhZ

4. “The weather is miserable. It’s always raining”
Why is British weather so bad? It’s not that bad, it’s just changeable. Geography – we’re far north of the hemisphere and that’s just what happens up there! Deal with it. Also, it doesn’t get foggy in London like the stereotype. That’s an old myth. We had the industrial revolution which brought lots of smoke which combined with fog from the river. The result was old victorian smog made famous by Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes stories and others. The weather’s not that bad really, just a bit grey and chilly. The rain means the country is very green. The weather in Paris is pretty much the same.
answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110613075947AABr8zK

5. “Why on earth do you drive on the left? It’s like you have to do everything differently here”
Why do the brits drive on the left? We’re not that stupid actually. We’ve been doing it for centuries, ever since it was normal to ride on the left as a way of staying safe (keep your sword in your right hand to defend yourself on horseback, etc). It should make sense, right? Remember, left is right, and right is just wrong! Also, it’s not just us. Plenty of others do it too including India, Japan, Australia and large parts of Africa. Sure, most of the world drives on the right, but it would be pretty hard for us to switch. Actually, our government is considering introducing a new law so that we will all drive on the right, but they’re going to phase it in over a 5 year period. First it’ll just apply to busses, and then cars, and finally motorbikes. Those last two sentences were a joke. Well done if you noticed :P
www.straightdope.com/columns/read/634/why-do-the-british-drive-on-the-left

6. “The trains are always late, and when they arrive they are full and I can’t get on!”
This is the result of a combo of one bad decision by the government, privatisation and a powerful union for the tube.
www.gizmodo.co.uk/2012/12/what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-british-trains/

7. “Why are there so many foreigners here? I haven’t met a ‘real’ English person yet”
Why are there so many foreginers here? Oh the irony. You won’t make many British friends with that attitude, except for UKIP or BNP members but they might not want to be friends with you in return. Generally, we’re a proudly multicultural place. Also, London is much more multicultural than other parts of the UK, so it’s not an accurate representation of the country as a whole. Take a good look around before making a sweeping judgement! Also, this is partly due to Britain’s past, particularly London. At one time, the British empire spanned the globe. We’ve had interests and dealings with many foreign countries for many years. We’re tied to plenty of foreign countries in complex ways. This is reflected in the fact that we have a multicultural population. Many people have come from our former colonies. Some were invited after the war. Also, lots of people just want to come to The UK because there are plenty of opportunities here, and why should they be stopped? It’s quite hypocritical to complain about the number of foreigners in London when you’re a foreigner (even if you’re just visiting for a while). London has an appeal for many people and for many different reasons. It always strikes me as ironic when a foreign visitor turns their nose up at London saying, “there are too many foreigners here”. What did they expect? Diversity is an integral part of London’s history and identity. Do they really expect some kind of Hollywood stereotype of London in which business men with top hats wander around empty streets like it’s the 1950s, saying “Good morning” with received pronunciation accents? Wake up and smell the coffee. Welcome to the real world in the 21st century. Multiculturalism may not be normal where you’re from but London is a proudly diverse place. Regarding immigration, some people in Britain believe it has gone too far, and maybe they have a case and the local culture is somehow being swamped, or maybe they’re just using immigration as a scapegoat for other problems. Whatever the case, personally I find it very disappointing to hear students complaining about London’s diversity. The bit about “I haven’t met a real English person yet?” – well, what is a real English person I ask you? Also, if you walk around with that kind of attitude, you’re unlikely to make good friends with many Londoners, except perhaps UKIP supporters.)

Vocabulary Extracts from the Conversation with my Colleages
Look at the following language from the conversations. These are vocabulary extracts from the conversation with my colleagues in London.
Look at the phrases:
Which topics were they about?
Can you remember what each person said about these things?

Listen again to the conversation and try to notice the phrases as they are used. In the podcast I’ll explain these phrases to you a little bit.

1.
Time and time again
Maybe it’s because it’s a much drier climate
Damp
A lot of English people are lazy when it comes to …-ing
We don’t have any call for other languages
Apart from English, learning languages isn’t fun

2.
Let’s see
The server
Stuff like that
I tend to agree
I can understand that
Get run over
We’ve got that weird mentality
We’re stupid aren’t we

3.
Come up with (come up with a list of things)
What do you reckon? I mean, like, why?
In the olden days
Environmentally friendly
Have something on tap
Plumbing
To have running water
To count yourself lucky

4.
I must dash
I’m sorry Luke, really, I have to dash

5.
They’re always griping and moaning
To be honest, they do like England a lot otherwise they wouldn’t come here
Get irritated
Incensed
Now tell me if this is weird, or not, right?
Washing up liquid
That could’ve been my house. That could’ve been me.
How else would you do it?
Sorry, I didn’t catch that
You have to soap them all individually, then rinse them
It’s got soap left on! It’s got the residue!
Can I just clarify what we’re talking about?
Put them under running water
Run them under the tap

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF THIS EPISODE.

177. What Londoners Say vs What They Mean

Here are some cliches that you might hear Londoners say, and some explanations of what they really mean.

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This podcast is based on an article from the trendy/hipster website “Buzzfeed”. It’s about some common things that Londoners say, and what they really mean. It’ll not only teach you some vocabulary, but will allow you to get under the skin of London and find out some real inside knowledge of what it’s like to live there for real.

I’ll go through the list and explain everything for you.

Article originally published on BuzzFeed here.
Photo illustration by Matt Tucker, Dan Kitwood / Getty/paulprescott72/Thinkstock

***Please be aware – there is some rude language and swearing in this episode***

1. “London prices” — Rip-off prices.
2. “Sorry” — I’m not sorry.
3. “Sorry” — You have just trodden on my foot, and I loathe you with every fibre of my being.
4. “Excuse me” — You have paused momentarily at the ticket barrier and I am boiling with rage.
5. “My fault entirely” — Your fault entirely.
6. “I’m fine, thanks” — I am barely managing to conceal a churning maelstrom of emotions.
7. “How are you?” — Fine. Just say fine.
8. “See you Saturday!” — Don’t forget to email me twice to make sure that we’re actually meeting on Saturday.
9. “Let’s have lunch” — Let’s walk to Pret and back as fast as we can.
10. “I’m having a party in Wimbledon, come along” — Please travel for four and a half hours as I live in the middle of bloody nowhere.
11. “Open for business” — Oligarchs welcome.
12. “Centre of global finance” — Money launderers’ paradise.
13. “My commute? It’s not too bad. About average” — It involves three modes of transport, takes hours each day, and is slowly crushing my spirit.
14. “Could you move down a bit please?” — I’m not asking, I’m telling.
15. “Could you move down a bit please?” — I am seconds away from a devastating mental collapse.
16. “Could you move down a bit please?” — If you don’t, I will start killing indiscriminately.
17. “Due to adverse weather conditions” — It was a bit windy earlier.
18. “Due to the wet weather conditions” — A tiny amount of rain has fallen.
19. “Please take care when…” — Don’t you dare blame us if…
20. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused” — Via the medium of this dehumanised pre-recorded message.
21. “Due to a signalling failure…” — Due to an excuse we just made up…
22. “Rail replacement bus service” — Slow, agonising descent into madness.
23. “There is a good service on all London Underground lines” — Though this very much depends how you define “good”.
24. “Planned engineering works” — That’s your weekend plans fucked, then.
25. “Would Inspector Sands please report to the operations room immediately” — Ohgodohgod everybody panic, we’re all about to die.
26. “Annual fare increase” — We’re rinsing you suckers for even more money. Again.
27. “House party in Tooting? See you there!” — South of the river? No fucking chance.
28. “I live in Zone One” — I am unimaginably wealthy.
29. “The area is really up and coming” — Only one tramp shouts at me in the morning.
30. “Vibrant” — Actual poor people live here.
31. “Gentrification” — I am so glad they’re rid of the poor people.
32. “Gentrified” — Oh bollocks now I can’t afford to live here either.
33. “Efficient use of space” — Microscopic.
34. “Studio flat” — Bedsit.
35. “Incredible potential” — Absolute shithole.
36. “Affordable” — Uninhabitable.
37. “Deceptively spacious” — Basically a cupboard.
38. “Good transport links” — There’s a bus stop 10 minutes’ walk away.
39. “Authentic” — Fake.
40. “I just bought a flat” — My parents just helped me buy a flat.
41. “Swift half” — Many, many, many, many halves.
42. “Quick pint” — In the pub until closing time.
43. “We’re going on a date” — We’re getting pissed together.
44. “Picnic” — Daytime piss-up.
45. “Barbecue” — Piss-up in the garden.
46. “South London” — Here be monsters.
47. “West London” — Here be posh people.
48. “East London” — Here be young people.
49. “North London” — Here be newspaper columnists.
50. “Oxford Circus” — Roiling hellscape.
51. “Tech city” — Bunch of start-ups you’ve never heard of.
52. “London has some of the best restaurants in the world” — So how come I always end up at Nandos?
53. “London is full of cultural delights” — Which I never visit.
54. “Gourmet coffee” — Ludicrously overpriced coffee.
55. “Exciting pop-up restaurant” — You guys like queuing, right?
56. “We have a no bookings policy” — We hate our customers.
57. “This pub has character” — This is not a gastropub, and I’m scared.
58. “Traditional boozer” — Pub that does not serve wasabi peas.
59. “What do you do?” — How much do you earn?
60. “He works in finance” — He’s a psycho.
61. “He works in media” — He’a a wanker.
62. “He works in PR” — He’s a bullshitter.
63. “He works in tech” — He’s got a blog.
64. “Working hours” — Waking hours.
65. “Greatest city on earth” — Apart from New York.
66. “You know what they say: He who is tired of London…” — I am so tired of London.

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!

169. A Cup of Tea with Daniel Burt (Part 1)

[1/2] Daniel Burt is a journalist, comedy writer and performer from Melbourne, Australia. He writes for two big newspapers in Australia, he worked as an intern at Late Night with David Letterman, he has his own page on Wikipedia and in his work he has interviewed Matt Smith, David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which means he has met 2 Doctor Whos Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and The Hobbit! Wow.  In this episode you can listen to us talking about diverse topics such as Australia’s relationship to The Queen & The Commonwealth, his work as an entertainment journalist, his time living in New York, the David Letterman show, Will Smith, show business, and zombies…

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I’m very pleased to have Daniel on the podcast for a number of reasons:
a) He is a bright, witty guy with lots of things to say, and he can talk the hind legs off a donkey (not literally, that’s just an idiom which means he can talk and talk!)
b) He is from Australia, so you can listen to his genuine Aussie accent and hear some authentic Australian English.
c) He has met Sherlock Holmes, Bilbo Baggins, Doctor Who and others.

Daniel is noteworthy enough to have his own page on Wikipedia. Click here to read it.

Daniel is a writer so naturally uses a lot of colourful language, descriptive vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. He also speaks pretty quickly in an accent that you might not be familiar with so listen closely. A transcript should arrive before too long but if you have any questions about words or phrases from this episode, please leave them in the comments section, with a time-code. ;)

This is a two part podcast. In part 1, this one, Daniel and I talk about these things:
The Zombie Apocalype
– Is my apartment safe?
– Would Daniel survive a zombie attack? Is he too complacent?
– Are people who like zombies all loners?
– Is Luke a loner?

Daniel’s Coin-dropping Habits
– Why can’t Daniel hold onto coins when shop assistants give him change?
– Why does he always drop coins onto the floor?
– Is it because Australian notes are so shiny and slippery, that the coins just slide off?

– Or is it just because he is socially awkward or nervous for some reason?
The Queen on Australian money
– How does Daniel feel about it?
– What’s the role of The Queen in Australian life?
– Will Australia leave the commonwealth and become fully independent?
Daniel’s work as an entertainment journalist
– Does he really have a Wikipedia page about him?
– What was it like living in New York?
– What was it like working for David Letterman?

Seeing Will Smith in the audience at a Parisian cabaret show
– Did he enjoy the show?
– What was the audience’s reaction to seeing Will Smith in the crowd?
– Did it affect the performance?
– What are the secrets of show business?
-And what does “getting jiggy with it” actually mean?

I’ve divided this into two episodes. So, stay tuned for details about his meeting with Sherlock Holmes, The Hobbit and Doctor Who in part 2.

Our conversation begins pretty quickly after we’d already been talking for about half an hour before turning on the microphone. Let me give you some context so you can hit the ground running.

Before turning on the microphone, we were talking about some of our favourite TV shows. I mentioned that I watch The Walking Dead, which is a show about zombies. I like zombies and that kind of thing, I’m sick and twisted in that way. Daniel doesn’t watch the show, and he isn’t a big zombie fan. He said he thought you’d need to be a bit of an idiot to get bitten by a zombie, because they’re so slow. Surely you’d see the zombie coming, and you’d just get out of the way, quite casually. I disagreed, and explained that getting bitten by a walker is easier than you might expect. Zombies might seem slow, but if you get complacent – over confident and too relaxed, that’s when you might be caught by surprise. If a zombie is walking towards you, he’s pretty slow so you might think you’re safe, but they’re unpredictable. What might happen is that the zombie gets about 3 metres away, and gets excited because he can smell your brains, and he trips slightly and starts to fall forwards. This means that his falling increases his speed and the momentum carries him to you faster than you expected. The next thing you know, you’ve got a zombie on top of you, and while you’re trying to deal with him, another one might have arrived behind you quietly, without you realising, and then you’re bitten, double bitten by two members of the undead. Then, later on, you’re a zombie too. Uhhh brains! Daniel didn’t realise this could happen. I reassured him, by explaining that up in my flat we would be quite safe from zombies because I’m up on the 6th floor, and my door is very strong. But that you still shouldn’t get complacent, even then. You can never be too safe from zombies, because, well, anything can happen. For example, let’s say, on the other side of the city, some guys have managed to escape from a zombie infested building by flying off the roof in a helicopter. “Ooh, that was close – good thing we had this helicopter!” But one of the guys in the chopper has been bitten, and he didn’t tell the others! He was too ashamed, too embarrassed. He kept it secret. Big mistake! Within minutes, he’s turned into a zombie, and he starts attacking the pilot. Trying to eat his brains. Horrible! The pilot gets bitten and he turns into a zombie too. Now you’ve got a zombie flying a helicopter. In the confusion the helicopter crashes onto the roof of my building – the pilot and passengers are all zombies, and they crawl from the wreckage and climb through a hole in the wall, into my living room, and Daniel gets bitten. Not me of course, I’d be ready with a cricket bat or a hammer or something. Maybe a crossbow. It would be tough, but I’d deal with them. Daniel though – he’d be beyond dead at that point, the poor guy. And why? Because he got complacent. Or zombies could manage to get to the 6th floor in a lift, by accident. Or just thousands and thousands of zombies could surround my building, and eventually break in by smashing all the windows and doors. Don’t worry though, it’s very unlikely to happen… or is it?…
So, that’s some context to the conversation I was having with Daniel before starting the recording. Now you can enjoy some chat with my Aussie mate Daniel. Enjoy!

Daniel’s Video Showreel

In part 2:
Daniel’s move to London
Cliches about Australian people
Typical Australian English phrases
Australian pronunciation
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)

156. British Comedy: Ali G

Check it! This is the first in a series of episodes about British comedy. In this one we look at a character called Ali G. In the episode I’ll explain everything you need to know about him, then we’ll listen to an interview from his TV show and I will explain all the language and vocabulary that you hear. In the end, you’ll understand all of it, just like a native speaker innit.


Right-click here to download this episode.
Aiiiight?! So, in this episode you’ll learn about lots of things, including some slang vocabulary, some pronunciation features of a London dialect, and some terms relating to education. You’ll also learn more about British pop culture.

Please be aware that there is some explicit content and rude language in this episode. The audio that you will hear contains some adult content including references to sex and drugs. If you’re easily offended then watch out! If you don’t mind, then great! Let’s have a good time learning some more British English, shall we? Yes Luke! Ok great…

NUFF RESPECT! Below you will find vocabulary definitions and other notes, and a youtube video for the interviews you hear in this episode of the podcast. I recommend that you watch the videos – it will help you to enjoy the comedy more. BOOYAAA!

Vocabulary Definitions and Notes
Here are some bits of language you’ll hear in this episode.
Ali G – Education. An interview with Sir Rhodes Boyson. Slang terms are written in italics.
Corporal punishment = this is a kind of physical punishment which used to be used in schools as a way of instilling discipline into childen
a cane / to cane someone / to get caned / to be caned = a cane is a long, thin stick which is used to hit a child as punishment. The word is also a verb (regular)
to get caned / to be caned = this is also a slang expression which means to get  stoned/high on cannabis/weed/marijuana
my main man = this is a slang expression to refer to someone you like or someone you respect a lot

wicked! = a slang term meaning “brilliant!”
respect = this is said just to show respect to someone – “respect man” “nice one”
you have to have a good cane = in its slang sense, this means you have to smoke a lot of weed
“they have more boning experience than anybody else”
boning = having sex
a boner = an erection
me feelin dat (I’m feeling that) = I understand that, I get that impression
for real = definitely
to deal in ounces, half ounces, quarter ounces, eighths of ounces = in the UK cannabis is usually sold by the ounce, quarter ounce etc
one ounce (1 oz = about 28 grammes)
he’s down for a 40 year stretch = he’s going to prison for 40 years / he’s facing a 40 year prison sentence
“boys would spend all their time chasing muff”
muff = a woman’s ‘private parts’, her genitals, her vagina
“I got an A+ in pounani”
pounani = the same as muff !
you know what I’m getting at = you know what I’m trying to say, you know what I’m suggesting

Video of Ali G interviewing Sir Rhodes Boyson
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV1fq75aWtY&w=500&h=375%5D
Sacha Baron Cohen on Letterman
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrBfaUDUlt4&w=500&h=375%5D
Sacha Baron Cohen won the outstanding achievement to comedy at the British Comedy Awards
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcjpP6dKuS0&w=500&h=281%5D
Fluency MC’s Present Perfect Rap (what do you think?)
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDl3T339718&w=500&h=281%5D