Tag Archives: podcast

534. Sugar Sammy Interview (Part 2) Language & Comedy

Part 2 of my chat with Canadian stand-up comedian Sugar Sammy, talking about his 4 languages, TV shows from our childhood, copying Indian accents, language-related controversy in Quebec, Sammy’s crowd-work skills, stories of difficult gigs in the UK, and our thoughts on recent Star Wars films. At the end of the episode you can hear my spoiler-free review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. Transcriptions and notes available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Sugarsammy.com – for news of Sammy’s live shows 

Introduction Transcript

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. Here is part 2 of my conversation with Canadian multilingual stand up comedy sensation Sugar Sammy.

In our conversation we’re talking mainly about language and comedy, and here’s an overview of the main points that come up in this episode:

  • First of all we talk about the 4 languages that Sammy speaks
    There’s a tangent about American TV shows that we both used to watch when we were children, and which actually helped Sammy to learn English when he was young.
  • Two of those American TV shows we mention include Knight Rider (the one in which David Hasselhoff drives around in a super cool black talking car) and The Dukes of Hazzard (the one about two brothers who live on a farm in Georgia who drive around Georgia in an orange Dodge Charger, being chased by stupid local police officers, doing lots of jumps and stunts in the car).
  • We talk about accents and copying accents: Specifically the question of whether I should do an impression of an Indian accent on stage, or if that would be inappropriate or unacceptable for some reason.
  • We discuss a language controversy that Sammy was involved in in Quebec, Canada – which included him receiving lots of criticism and even a death threat, essentially for performing a popular show in languages other than French – in Quebec (they are very protective of the French language there) It was quite scandal at the time.
  • We talk about what Sammy does on stage, especially his crowd-work, which is that skill of improvising moments of comedy by talking directly to members of the audience. This is something that Sammy is known for because he does it very well.
  • Sammy talks about some tough comedy gigs he has had in the UK over the years and tells us a story of how he once got heckled by an aggressive audience in Northern Ireland. Heckling is when audience members shout things at you while you’re performing. For a comedian it can be pretty difficult when you’re being heckled, but good comics are able to react and respond with funny “heckle put downs”, funny responses that turn an aggressive comment into a funny moment.
  • Then there’s a bit about Star Wars at the end – because like me, Sammy is a big fan.
    We talk briefly about Sammy’s favourite episode of Star Wars, what he thought of The Last Jedi and whether he is interested in seeing the new Han Solo film. When I recorded this interview I hadn’t seen Solo, but since recording it I have, so I will talk about the Han Solo movie briefly at the end of this episode, giving my non-spoiler review.

Don’t forget that Sammy will be touring parts of Asia soon – this year probably. He has gigs coming up in Malaysia and Singapore and will be organising dates in China and Japan. He also intends to visit Russia and South America to do shows at some point. So Sammy might be performing near you soon and you must go and see him. To get news of Sammy’s shows so you don’t miss him – visit sugarsammy.com and join his mailing list.

Now without any further ado, let’s continue listening to my conversation with the super cool multilingual comedian from Canada – Sugar Sammy.


Sugarsammy.com


Knight Rider

The Dukes of Hazzard

Peter Sellers in The Party (an English actor performing as an Indian character – it would be offensive but Seller’s impression is spot on according to Sammy)


Solo: A Star Wars Story (No-Spoiler Review)

Notes & Transcriptions

For those of you who are Star Wars fans – I’m now going to talk about the latest film, which in English is called “SOLO” – released last month.

This is a “star wars story” – not part of the Skywalker narrative.
It’s an origins story.
I was sceptical about the film.
Production for the film seemed troubled, which is usually not a good sign – but it’s not necessarily a guarantee of a bad film.
The original directors were fired by Kathleen Kennedy (head of Lucasfilm) because they took the film in a comedic direction and there was too much improvisation.
Ron Howard was brought in (a more conventional, reliable Hollywood guy) to fix it and bring it back in line.

Also there were doubts about the ability of Alden Ehrenreich to pull off the performance of a character who we loved so much, largely because of Harrison Ford’s star power.

I kept my expectations pretty low. I just thought – I’d like to see what happens, I just want to enter the world of Star Wars again and see what it’s like. I was ready to be disappointed though.

The film has underperformed at the box office. I’m not sure of the exact figures, but it’s taken less than it should have and might be considered as a financial failure, possibly even losing money for the studio in the short to medium term. It’s bound to make money eventually, long term, but the general feel is that it didn’t do as well as the studio hoped. Perhaps we’ve all had enough of Star Wars now. Star Wars fatigue, or maybe the fanbase has gone a bit weird. Star Wars has always been seen as an indestructible franchise. But the Last Jedi divided audiences, with quite a lot of fans absolutely hating it. Maybe Solo has suffered from the so-called Star Wars backlash.

But Solo isn’t really like The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have the same subtext of progressive politics, or themes that seem to subvert the core ideas of Star Wars. It’s pretty conventional and straightforward stuff.

What I liked

  • The performance by Alden Ehrenreich. He was charismatic, swashbuckling but also had a vulnerable side – the key things that Harrison Ford brought to the role originally. Han Solo has swagger and he’s really cool, but there’s something a bit vulnerable and loveable about him. He’s quite goofy and adorable, but also capable of being quite a ruthless fighter when necessary. It’s an interesting character and the actor did a good job of hitting those points. It’s not just a Harrison Ford impression. He seems to have got the spirit of Han Solo.
  • The dirty, gritty world.
  • Visual effects were incredible (although the whole film was very murky – intentional? Bad cinematography? I personally like that. I don’t need everything to be brightly lit like in the prequels. I like Clint Eastwood films that are full of shadow and darkness and you don’t see everything in bright contrast.)
  • The absence of Jedi and light sabres – it made a nice change. This was all about just having a good blaster at your side, knowing who to trust. It was like Rogue One in that sense. You got the idea that people could die – they weren’t immortal cartoon characters with superhuman abilities.
  • The train robbery scene was amazing, particularly the explosion at the end. I’m not sure why the empire needs to transport goods by train, considering they totally have spaceships, but it made for a good scene and made me think of old action movies and westerns that have action scenes on trains. The film was full of this kind of thing – standard movie tropes but in a Star Wars universe and I liked that. It was appealingly old school.
  • It was a slightly smaller story and that was appealing too. Sometimes you don’t want it to be about the huge Star Wars narrative about destiny and the force. Just a small, compact story about low-level gangsters is all you need.
  • Not too many geeky references to other films. There were some, but they were *fairly* subtle…
  • Nice chemistry between Solo and Chewbacca.
  • There are a couple of jokes which were not bad and pretty much in the spirit of the original films. They didn’t go overboard on the humour like in The Last Jedi, which a lot of the fans hated. I think the original directors probably had a lot more humour in it and after seeing the audience response to the humour in TLJ perhaps Kathleen Kennedy decided to replace them for a more serious director. There is a moment when Han Solo speaks Chewbacca’s language which was a bit over the top (if he speaks Wookie, why did he never do it in the other films – seems like a cheap trick, but it didn’t ruin the film for me.
  • Chewy has some badass moments.
  • Qu’ira’s character is interesting as a femme fatale. Emilia Clarke is very easy on the eye and I found her character to be interesting because I never knew where her loyalties were and there was always this sense that she was going to betray Han, and Han was sort of obsessed with her. It’s a bit like your first love – when, as a younger guy, you fall in love with a girl who might be slightly out of your league and you know she’s always going to break your heart.
  • Just really enjoyable. Woody Harrelson was a dependable screen presence as ever.

What I didn’t like

  • The cheesy musical score running through a lot of the scenes, as if we needed to be told how to feel and to make sure we didn’t get bored or anything
    Some cheesy clichés, which I can’t really remember now – but a lot of typical movie tropes and “yeah, right” moments.
  • There are probably some plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, there’s a moment when one character dies and I thought “why did that happen, it seemed completely unnecessary”
  • Some of the moments when they tried to link this film with the wider Star Wars universe – like linking it to some plot points in Rogue One – or just trying to include some of the large Star Wars themes – the birth of the rebellion. It seemed forced, and shoehorned – I mean, like they forced certain big themes into the film (no pun intended). It would have been better to make it a completely self-contained film without having to connect it to the broader world of Star Wars, the birth of the rebellion and all that.
  • Classic westerns like Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy (spaghetti westerns) are just about those characters in an isolated story. It would have been good to do something like that. Let the audience use their imagination to fit it in with the larger universe.
  • Also, it feels a little bit like Star Wars is pushing an ideological position these days, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I suppose it always was – the rebellion, the empire. It was basically about the struggle of local groups of freedom fighters against a vastly more powerful military dictatorship. But that message was usually delivered a bit more subtly in the original films. These days it’s like Star Wars needs to push this message a bit harder for some reason.

I can’t go into it in more detail without spoiling the film.

Anyway, those were my thoughts about Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.

And I just talked about it there because it’s something Sammy and I discussed.

Let me remind you – sugarsammy.com to get news of his upcoming shows – possibly in a city near you soon.

Thanks for listening.

Other news

The World Cup is going on. I really want to talk about that a lot, like I did in 2014 – but I have so many episodes to upload! And I’m working on LEP Premium – basically making some episodes to upload soon and then I’ll launch it properly.

I usually worry when I have too much content to upload. I tend to think – if I upload too much (like loads of World Cup episodes) then people won’t be able to listen to it all and then they might just stop listening completely… they’ll think “Oh I can’t keep up and I don’t really like The World Cup so I’ll just move on to something else” and…

So, expect some WC episodes coming soon during the tournament, but if that’s not your cup of tea (or World Cup of Tea) then I suppose you can just skip them and know that it’s not all going to be about football forever.

Speak to you soon. Bye!

Luke

531. Crime Vocabulary Quiz (with Moz)

Test yourself and learn various verbs and nouns related to crime. Features some amusing chat and anecdotes with Moz from the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast. Transcripts and vocabulary available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

This episode is a chance for you to test your knowledge and probably learn some new vocabulary relating to crime.

In the last episode I talked to my friend Moz who, as we know, does a true crime podcast and organises murder-themed walking tours in London.

I thought that since we’ve been talking about crime, that I’d prepare a crime vocabulary quiz and use it to test Moz’s knowledge of different types of crime.

I’ve created a word list with nouns and verbs – names of crimes, the verbs associated with them and also what we call people who commit those crimes.

You can see the word list on the page for this episode if you want to have a look.

Otherwise, you can just listen on and see if you can guess the names of these crimes as well as their associated verbs and nouns.

This episode contains some swearing but none of the explicit imagery that we had in the last episode.

I’m focusing on general English here – the kinds of words that people generally use to talk about crimes. When talking about crime and crime there’s a wide range of vocabulary that exists. Some of it is the sort of official language used by the police or by the justice system, and some are slang words used by ordinary people.

The main aim here is to present the vocabulary that I think most people know and that most people use when talking about crime in general life. There is a lot more vocabulary on this topic of course, so there’s always more which I can cover in later episodes.

But let’s start now and you can see how many of these words you know, and don’t forget to check out the website if you want to see the list of crime words that come up in this episode. You can check their spelling, add them to your word lists and so on.

Right then – let’s get started!

Vocabulary List

Table

The words are also written in lists below so you can copy+paste.

Nouns (crime names)

  1. Theft / stealing
  2. Robbery
  3. Shoplifting
  4. Pick-pocketing
  5. Mugging
  6. Armed robbery
  7. Burglary
  8. Assault / Verbal assault / Sexual assault
  9. Arson
  10. Speeding
  11. Drunk driving / drinking and driving
    Drunk in charge of a vehicle / a pram (!) / a skateboard
  12. Fraud
  13. Manslaughter
  14. Revenge Porn
  15. Handling stolen goods / fencing (informal)
  16. Giving information to the police (not actually a crime)

VERBS

  1. To steal / to take / to snatch / to grab / to swipe / to nick / to lift
  2. To rob
  3. To steal from a shop
  4. To pick someone’s pocket
  5. To mug someone
  6. To rob / to be armed
  7. To burgle someone’s house
  8. To assault/attack someone
  9. To commit arson / to burn
  10. To speed / to break the speed limit
  11. To drink and drive
  12. To commit fraud
  13. To kill / to commit manslaughter
  14. Sharing explicit images
  15. To handle stolen goods / to fence (informal)
  16. To grass someone up / to inform the police

Noun (person)

  1. A thief
  2. A robber
  3. A shoplifter
  4. A pickpocket
  5. A mugger
  6. An armed robber
  7. A burglar
  8. An attacker / assailant
  9. An arsonist
  10. X
  11. A drunk driver
  12. A fraudster
  13. A killer
  14. X
  15. A fence (informal)
  16. A grass / an informer / an informant

Slang words for the police

The old bill, the rozzers, the filth, bobbies.

Useful links

www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime
www.met.police.uk/stats-and-data/crime-type-definitions/

528. The Royal Wedding (with Mum)

Talking to my mum about the royal wedding between Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. Describing the ceremony, the guests and the dress, and discussing the place of the monarchy in modern British life. Some transcriptions and vocabulary available below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello folks, welcome to this new episode.

How are you doing? I’m recording this in the middle of a thunderstorm. I don’t know if you can hear it. It’s quite dramatic. There’s been hail, there’s been lightning, there’s been thunder.

Here’s a new episode and it’s a conversation with my Mum about the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which happened last Saturday.

I also have some things to say about the British Podcast Awards and I know that I’ve spoken about this, probably too much, recently but I expect this will be the last I will say on the matter. The results came in at the weekend, and so I just want to explain what happened.

Some of you already know the results and that this year, unfortunately, I didn’t win one of the medals. No Bronze, Silver or Gold. However – I was in the top 10. I don’t know where (if I was 4 or 5 or 6 or whatever – but I was in the top 10, which actually is amazing considering the competition I was up against.

So, even though I didn’t get bronze, silver or gold – I do feel happy so thank you for your votes.

I’ll talk more about it at the end of the podcast, ok? OK

This morning I spoke to my Mum on FaceTime and we chose to talk about the royal wedding between Prince Harry & Meghan Markle which happened this weekend on Saturday. I expect you were aware of that – it was probably covered in the media and online. You might have watched it. I think it was live streamed on many channels and networks.

I don’t know what you think of the royal wedding – you might be fascinated by it, but equally you might be completely fed up with it. I don’t know where you stand! But since one of the purposes of this podcast is to provide you with authentic speech to listen to as part of your learning English routine, and we take a special interest in British things on this podcast (of course) the royal wedding seems like a logical thing for me to talk about, right? How could I not cover this?

Also, I have received a number of requests from listeners asking for me to talk about that. So, that’s what you’re going to get in this episode – a chat with my Mum all about the royal wedding, and hopefully we’ll cover it in a fairly broad way, dealing with things like the wider issues of monarchy in the modern age, some of the unconventional aspects of the ceremony and the different attitudes to the royal family that people in the UK have. Not everyone is a flag waving royalist – some people don’t really like the monarchy and see big weddings like this to be a waste of taxpayers money (although it’s not entirely clear how much of this was paid for by the taxpayer – as we established in the previous episode I did about Prince Harry & Meghan Markle, the royal family gets its money from a combination of public and private sources, and I think a lot of the costs of this wedding were privately covered) – anyway, plenty of people disagree with the wedding for various reasons. But also there are people, like me, who aren’t completely sure how to feel about the monarchy one way or the other, but are interested in events like the royal wedding just as a fascinating spectacle and something that reveals many aspects of life in our country, for good or bad.

I don’t need to do any more introducing at this point. Let’s just start listening to my conversation with my Mum and you can hear our descriptions of the wedding and what we both think about it all.

SOME BITS OF VOCAB

  • Staid
  • Traditional
  • High-bound
  • Stuffy
  • Worthy
  • Hushed and reverent
  • Solemn
  • Reserved
  • Stiff upper lip
  • Soberly
  • Animated
  • Gesticulating
  • vague, ambiguous and weird
  • Incoherent

Harry lifts Meghan’s veil and they say their vows

Reactions to Michael Curry’s Address

 

527. Can Paul Taylor Pass The UK Citizenship Test?

Testing Paul Taylor’s knowledge of British life, history and culture and discussing the “Life in the UK” citizenship test. Practise listening to British English natural speech, learn facts about the UK and have a laugh as Paul gets angry about this test for people who want to become UK citizens. Will Paul actually pass the test? Listen to find out what happens. Transcriptions and notes available.

[DOWNLOAD] [ITALKI OFFER]

This episode’s guest Paul Taylor is a British stand up comedian, living in France. Check out his YouTube channel here and Twitter here

Introduction Transcript

In this episode you’re going to listen to my friend Paul Taylor attempting to pass the UK citizenship test.

Every year thousands and thousands of people choose to become British citizens, for various reasons. This year one of those people is Meghan Markle, who is moving to Britain to marry Prince Harry – as everyone knows because it’s all over the news, probably all around the world. In fact the wedding is happening tomorrow! By the time you listen to this they will probably be married. I hope everything goes well for them.

Anyway, there are lots of complicated requirements for becoming “naturalised” as a British citizen, including the fact that you need to prove that your English is at B1 level or above, and you have to pass the Life in the UK Test. This test is supposed to make sure that you have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK in order to integrate into British life. The assumption is that if you can pass this test then you know enough about life in the UK to be considered worthy of being a British citizen.

By the way, quite a lot of people fail this test. I was looking for specific data. I found that in 2016 about 36% of people failed the test. Just over a third.

  • What is the content of this test?
  • Do you think you have enough knowledge of “Life in the UK” to pass it?
  • What kinds of questions do you expect to find in this test?
  • Is the average British person able to pass the test? You would imagine so, right?
  • What can you, my listeners, learn from this in terms of “essential British knowledge” and useful British English vocabulary?
  • And can my mate Paul Taylor, who was born in the UK and has spent much of his life living there, pass this test?

Let’s find out as we take the British Citizenship Test in this episode.

A Long Episode!

This is a long episode, but there is absolutely loads of stuff that you can gain from this in terms of historical and cultural knowledge – both from the past and present, as well as vocabulary and general listening practice and also just the pure enjoyment of listening to Paul becoming increasingly angry about the content of the questions in this test.

Also, there is quite a lot of swearing in this one, and by swearing I mean rude words that you normally shouldn’t use in polite company because they can be very offensive. So, watch out for those rude words – either because you don’t like that sort of thing, or because you love to hear how people swear in British English. In either case – you have been informed – there is rude language in this episode.

So I suggest that you do listen to the entire thing, perhaps in several sections – when you press pause your podcasting app should remember where you stopped listening so you can carry on later. There are notes and scripts for the intro and outro to this episode on the website – so check them out.

Now, without any further ado, let’s get started…


THE “LIFE IN THE UK” CITIZENSHIP TEST

The test is computer based. Applicants coming in from outside the UK need a certain level of English and they need to take this test.

Requirements for British citizenship www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen

⬇Click the link below to take the same test we did

lifeintheuktestweb.co.uk/test-1/

Criticisms of the Test

A summary of criticisms and comments on how the test needs to be reformed www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/01/british-citizenship-test-meghan-markle-brexit-reform

The criticisms in a nutshell:

  • While it’s obviously good to know facts about a country’s history – what is the true purpose of a citizenship test? It’s to ensure that people understand the values of that country, and practical knowledge of daily life in order to help them integrate
  • The questions seem arbitrary and inconsistent
  • Fair enough, there are questions about certain key moments in our history and in our political system but a lot of important things are missing (e.g. the number of elected representatives in the devolved parliaments, but not the number of MPs in commons? The height of the London Eye?)
  • They won’t help people integrate, and they won’t help people just get by on a daily basis
  • It also doesn’t educate people about history – there’s no interpretation of why these things are important. If anything it will just piss people off.
  • What might be more helpful would be:
    • Teaching people social rules (e.g. how to order a drink in a pub)
    • Teaching people about common culture so they know what the hell British people are talking about half the time
    • Teaching people the essential basics of how to live – like, bank holidays, how to phone for an ambulance, how most Brits are shocked by things like animal rights or racial or sexist jokes

But it’s all wrapped up in politics and perhaps the people who wrote the test didn’t do it to help migrants – the opposite, maybe.

What would you include in the citizenship test?

The “Real” Citizenship test

This is an alternative test based on suggestions by British people on Twitter

realcitizenshiptest.co.uk/


‘Outro’ Transcript

I don’t want to extend this episode a lot more but I do want to say “nice one” for getting to the end of this one. I say that because I know it can be hard to follow about 90 minutes of native level speech in English, and Paul does speak pretty quickly as a few of you mentioned to me after hearing the previous episode with him.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – the more you listen, the better, and sometimes listening to fairly quick speaking can be really good training for you. It’s important to mix it up – sometimes listening to content that you understand without too much trouble, and sometimes listening to more challenging things. There is value in both, and basically the important thing is to keep going and not give up. If you’re listening to this it means you didn’t give up even if you didn’t understand everything. Nice one.

Then again, some of you might be thinking – Luke, it was a pleasure and I wish there was more! Well, in that case – great! I agree. This was a fun one.

There’s more to be said on the UK citizenship test so I might be doing another episode on this soon.

But for now – that’s it! Download the LEP App from the app store. Check out the extra content you can find there.

Have a great day, night, morning, afternoon or evening wherever you are in the world and whatever you’re doing. Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now… bye!

Luke

526. Being a Tourist (with Paul Taylor) + video

Catching up with Paul Taylor and talking about his recent trips to Japan & Barcelona, the pros and cons of being a tourist and some recommendations for people visiting London and Paris as tourists. Video available on the website and in the LEP app. 

Video Version

Audio Version


[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Paul’s Vlog #12

Last chance to vote for LEP in the British Podcast Awards before Thursday 17 May

Introduction

This is a rambling chat that I recorded with friend of the podcast and one of the original POD PALS) Paul Taylor on the rooftop of my flat on a nice sunny day recently. I filmed this one too and the video version is available on the website and in the LEP app. So, if you’d like to watch us in conversation on a nice sunny day, check the Videos category in the app, or the page for this episode on my website.

This conversation covers a few things, including what Paul has been up to recently, his new vlog which you can find on YouTube (search for Paul Taylor on YouTube), his recent holidays in Japan and Barcelona, and then we go on to focus on travel and tourism, including the good and bad points about being a tourist and a few of our recommendations if you’re thinking of travelling to Paris and/or London as a tourist.

Questions

  • What do you think about being a tourist?
  • When you visit a new place, do you always see the typical tourist spots?
  • What are the good and bad points about being visiting another country and wanting to have a special experience there?
  • How can you make sure you have a good tourist experience when you visit a new city or country?

Have a think about those things, and listen to hear what Paul and I have to say on the topic.

Enjoy!

Another episode with Paul will be arriving soon…

Luke

525. Ninja August / Podcast Corrections / Useful Japanese Cat (Listener Comments & Questions)

Responding to more comments and questions from listeners, including some rambling about public holidays in France, why May is like ‘ninja August’, some corrections to what I said about bats and Stephen Hawking on the podcast and the story of an amazing useful cat from Japan.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript (not 100% complete – listen to the episode to hear everything, including improvised moments)

In this episode I’m going to continue going through a list of comments and questions from listeners, while using those comments and questions as a springboard to ramble about this and that. Some of the questions are related to language, others are related to topics I’ve covered on the podcast recently.

I’ve got one hour before I have to go and pick up my daughter from day care, so let’s see what I can do in an hour. Let’s go!

LEP Premium is coming soon, but it’s not ready yet. Please don’t register until I announce it.

LEP Premium is not ready yet – I’ve had a few questions about this. Some listeners have found a sign-up form for it, but there’s not content available yet – so don’t sign up until I have made a proper announcement.
I have not uploaded any premium content yet – I’m working on the first episodes at the moment, but it’s coming soon.
So, wait until I say “GO” before you sign up.

I’ve got loads of work to do and I’m hoping to produce quite a lot of content this month, but it’s proving to be quite hard to get work done so far this month.

Public Holidays in France – “May is like the ninja August”

It’s May and in France and there are loads of public holidays – 4 in total, which is wonderful but it also makes things a bit complicated. It’s hard to get things done.

Doing the bridge, or “Le Pont”.

When public holidays land on a Tuesday or a Thursday it can really break up the week, and you have to squeeze all your work into just a few days. The first 2 weeks of May contain 4 holidays and this year the’ve all landed mid-week.

In the UK all our public holidays are moved to the nearest Monday.

In France they just land on the same dates every year and stay there.

This can work in your favour or against you. It’s a gamble!

In France people are very protective of public holidays and workers’ rights. In the past people had to fight very hard to get public holidays and they hold that right very seriously and protect it. Holidays have become an important part of French life (although people work very hard here too, despite the myth that people are lazy).

But the culture is different to, let’s say Japan, where people are given fewer holidays than France.

For example, it’s pretty normal for many people here to take the entire month of August off.

It’s difficult to get anything done, business wise, unless you’re a tourism company or you run a hotel for tourists or something.

So, in August nothing happens (it feels like). Back in the UK people still work – the kids are on holiday and you might take 2 weeks off during the summer but you still work during August. Things slow down a bit, but in France it’s much more noticeable. Certainly Paris changes a lot.

May in France is like ninja August.


I’m going to carry on responding to some questions and comments from listeners, like I started in the last one and we’ll see where this takes us.

So let’s carry on.

British Podcast Awards

First of all, I’d like to remind you to please consider voting for Luke’s English Podcast in the British Podcast Awards. I need as many votes as I can get if I’m going to stand a chance of competing with some of the big names in UK podcasting. I’ve been a UK podcaster for ages and ages and it would be cool to get some recognition from the UK podcast community. It would also be ace to get a TEFL podcast into a winning position in order to represent the learning English community and the teaching community. So, please vote!
www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote or click the vote button on my website :)

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote

Shout out to Jack

Thanks Jack for adding lists of vocab under episodes, including many of the episodes in the archive. Check the comment section for Jack’s lists.

Jack always pesters me for a gift, sometimes for no apparent reason, but I suppose this time he deserves something for adding these useful vocab lists to the pages.

So Jack, on my recent trip back to the UK I picked something up for you. I know you’re into cars, so let me hand you the keys to a 1975 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. This is the ultimate in classic British luxury motoring, at the time it was released this was absolutely the top of the range in terms of comfort, style and quality and remains to this day a symbol of British class and sophistication. It doesn’t get better than this. With its massive V8 engine delivering 190BHP , steel frame, vacuum assisted brakes, power steering, manual 3 speed gearbox and top speed of 106mph this is a precision machine from the golden age of British motoring. Admittedly this 43 year old vehicle is no longer top of the range and can’t compete with modern day equivalents such as the high performance luxury models produced by Bentley, but for a leisurely drive through the British countryside in the most quintessentially British manner this has to be the number 1 choice. They don’t make them like this any more. The engine delivers a powerful, stately and commanding sense of control and the ride is so utterly smooth and poised that you can enjoy afternoon tea and cake with guests in the back without spilling a drop on the leather upholstery. It oozes charm, it breathes refinery, it is the epitome of retro British eccentricity. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.
Here are the keys Jack… just the keys I’m afraid. I can’t actually pin down the car itself… It’s somewhere… it’s definitely somewhere…

Podcast Corrections

As Blind as a Bat

Message:

Hi Luke,

In episode 516 with Beatle Paul you explain the following idiom:
as blind as a bat = totally blind
I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses!
(Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes.)

That’s not quite true:
The following two phrases are from the English Wikipedia and explain the vision of bats
1. The eyes of most microbat species are small and poorly developed, leading to poor visual acuity, but no species is blind.
2. Megabat species often have eyesight as good as, if not better than, human vision. Their eyesight is adapted to both night and daylight vision, including some colour vision.[84]

So what you state is true only for the subspecies megabat, whereas microbats are nearly as blind as a bat, but not quite.

Greetings from good old Germany, Heiner

Ah, thanks for the clarification. In my defence we don’t have many megabats in the UK. The majority of our bats are microbats, so perhaps that explains how the phrase entered common parlance, because in our experience our bats usually have poor eyesight, although to say that they are blind is actually not true.
But the correction still stands.

I said bats actually have good eyesight. But that only applies to megabats, whereas microbats actually do have relatively poor eyesight (although they aren’t actually blind).

Apologies to the microbat or megabat community for getting that one wrong!

No, but seriously, it’s good to get corrections like this in order to prevent the spread of misinformation, which happens every day.

Stephen Hawking

ALSO a correction about Stephen Hawking from FB, probably more important than the bat one to be honest!

Hi, Luke, how are you? How’s your family?

I’m fine, thanks for asking. :)
I’m a med student in Brazil and as I was listening to the episode you did on Stephen Hawking, I couldn’t help but clarify some things you said about his disease. I hope you don’t mind, but since I know you are curious about almost anything, I’m sure you won’t.
You said that his kind of motor neurone disease affects the brain. It actually affects neurons outside the brain. These neurons are responsible for making our muscles produce movements (that’s why it is called a motor neurone disease). This disease is also known as ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
You also said that his disease affected his central nervous system, but it actually affected his peripheral motor system. We have neurons throughout our bodies. Everything in the brain and in the spinal cord is our central nervous systems. Neurons outside these structures belong to the peripheral nervous system.
Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was created to increase the awareness of ALS. And it worked! Donations coming from the challenge helped researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to find out one gene that is involved in the disease. This finding can help in future therapy development.
I hope my explanation was useful and not too boring. Thank you so much for all your work in making this podcast.

Cheers,
Klenisson

Useful Japanese Cat

Dear Luke, how are you? This is Yuko, a Japanese expatriate living in New York,
and suffering from an incurable condition – “anglophilia” (Luke: an obsession or fondness for all things English).
In the episode “talking about pets”, your brother repeatedly mentioned the unusefulness of cats as opposed to dogs. (Luke: Yes, I was wondering if people would be bothered by the things that were said in that episode. James seemed to pick on small dog breeds and also vegan dog owners for some reason, and we also suggested that cats were essentially self-interested animals who somehow have managed to make us their slaves, suggesting that dogs perform far more useful roles in society in general… but…)

I just wanted to show you the exceptions.
There are some cats who worked as a station master in a Japanese train station.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tama_(cat)

Are they not amazing?
Yuko

 

Thanks for listening!!

LEPSTERS – ASSEMBLE!

524. Tricky Pronunciation Debates / “Either” “Neither” / Song + Comedy Sketch

Talking about words which can be pronounced several ways, words which are often pronounced incorrectly by native speakers and the debates, arguments and frustration that arises between native speakers as a result. Includes the “You Say Tomato…” song and the Grammar Nazi sketch, explained. Transcript & notes available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript

Welcome to episode 524 of this podcast for learners of English. You know what, I’m going to start this one with a poem that I’ve just written. Anyone who’s heard my so-called poetry before will know that I’m no Bill Shakespeare ok? Anyway, here is my work of genius to kick off this episode.

Here’s a new episode, 1, 2, 3
I’ve got no idea how long this will be
It could be one or two episodes. Let’s see.
I suggest you make a nice cup of tea
Put your feet up on the settee
Get your headphones on your head and when you’re ready
You can focus your attention like it’s a master’s degree
Or simply drift off and relax like you’re floating on the sea
The main thing, for me
Is that you listen carefully
And enjoy this episode of Luke’s English Podcast
Which is completely free.

Moving on…

Coming up in this episode

You can expect a rambling monologue from me which is recorded and presented for you to listen to as part of your ongoing mission to improve your English based on the principle that listening regularly, and for longer periods, is a good way to learn the language, pick up vocabulary, become more familiar with features of pronunciation, develop your instinct for correct grammar and natural English usage while maintaining a strong connection to English as a living and breathing communicative force which exists within us and without us, through us and between us, binding the galaxy together across borders, distinctions, barriers, obstacles and through various dimensions of time and space, leading to rising levels of value, status and quality in diverse and mutually beneficial ways. Basically, listening to this is good for your English, and that helps you to communicate with people from different countries, and that’s good.

Here’s an overview of the things I’d like to cover in this episode, which might become several episodes in fact…

Overview

  • Tricky Pronunciation Debates (arguments about words that people seem to pronounce differently, and also words that people pronounce wrong)
  • Podcast corrections (some comments from listeners with a few corrections)
  • A useful Japanese cat
  • The odd meaning of “Yeah, right”
  • How to actually answer the question “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”
  • Doing impressions of accents from different countries, and whether this is unacceptable or even considered racist in some cases – for example, I can copy the accent of a cockney, I can copy the accent of an American guy, but can I copy the accent of an Indian or Nigerian person? It’s a bit of a cultural minefield… let’s investigate.
  • The benefits of repeat listens – listening to episodes more than once
  • What does the word “podcast” actually mean?
  • Why you need to take extra care while listening to LEP.
  • The phrase, “Don’t be shy, give it a try”

And maybe some more comments about this and that, depending on the time available…

This is all based on comments and questions I’ve had from listeners through various channels…

Unexpected vocabulary question – among / between

What’s the difference between ‘between‘ and ‘among‘?dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/between-or-among
Mingling among the people
Let’s mingle and socialise!
To mingle = to move around among a group of people in order to socialise and talk to everyone

British Podcast Awards

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Before we go any further, I need to tell you that I’m in the running for the British Podcast Awards Listener’s Choice Award this year. Someone informed me on Twitter that they found my podcast listed. OK then, so this is where I implore you to vote for me in the award.

Now, I have an army of Ninjas ready, primed to do my bidding. I have tens of thousands of you, by my reckoning, although I only ever hear from a tiny slice of that audience – a small percentage of you visit the website, leave messages, leave iTunes reviews, actually get in contact with me, download the app, join the mailing list etc… But if I could just mobilise you all and turn you into an international army or something, then I could take over the world!!! Assuming that you’re all capable people of course.

But the thing is, I don’t want to take over the world. What I want to do is to make podcasts, help you learn English, make you laugh on the bus sometimes, tell you stories, talk to guests, pay the bills, raise my family, put food on the table – AND WIN THE LISTENERS’ CHOICE AWARD AT THE BRITISH PODCAST AWARDS.

Last year, we got close. We got into the top 3. You did me proud. #TeamLEP got this podcast into 3rd place- the bronze medal position. Legions of LEpsters came out of the woodwork and voted for the podcast, and I actually got into the top 3. I know I was in bronze position because the BPA tweeted about it on the awards night and I have a screenshot of the tweet.

They have never since said it was a bronze medal. Ever since they’ve just put me in the runner’s up category with load of other podcasts. I don’t know why they dropped my bronze medal status – maybe they wanted to promote the other podcasts who they put in the runners up category, but anyway I was v proud to be a runner up, especially considering the other podcasts that were also runners up and especially the winning podcast, which is my fave podcast, Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review, produced by the BBC. #SoProud

Anyway, let’s see if we can do it again.

So, LEPsters of the world, unite and take to your computers and mobile devices – go to www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/ and search for Luke’s English Podcast. Fill in the details and submit your vote. Voting closes on 17 May 2018. So we have 2 weeks to kick this into overdrive.

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Let’s make history people.

LEP Premium – Coming Soon

Still before we start, I just want to mention: Premium – coming soon.
LEP Premium is all about me making LEP work as a proper service beyond it being a free podcast.

You might be wondering when this is going to “drop”. I’ve had a couple of questions about it. App users might have noticed that a little “Premium Sign In” option has appeared in the settings menu.

I’m not going to talk about it at length now, but it’s in the pipeline like I said before.
Essentially, the premium subscription will be a way for you to support LEP with a monthly or annual subscription while allowing me to deliver more language and teaching-oriented content (episodes will be specifically about teaching you language, rather than the diverse topics, conversations and rambling that you get in normal episodes) direct to your phone or computer.
I’m doing this using a platform provided by my host – Libsyn, the biggest podcast host in the world. They’ve basically finished setting up my platform now and I am going to produce some premium content before launching it properly, probably later this month.

I’m calling it Premium content because that’s what Libsyn call it. Honestly, I’ve always tried to make all my content “premium” but there it is. In any case, I will as ever, try my best to make the content as good and useful as possible, but with these episodes the plan is to really get down to the business of language teaching. There will be fun and all that too – like in the examples I can improvise to demonstrate the language I’m teaching, but the focus will be on the language primarily – and I think that will go really well with the normal episodes. In many cases it will be a close-up look at the language that’s come up naturally in episodes.

Anyway, that’s enough about that for now. Let’s move on.

How do you pronounce “either”?

Language question – I’d normally leave this for a language episode, like the sort of thing you’ll get in LEPP episodes, but I’ll deal with it here anyway.

Benedikt from Austria, living in Switzerland

Either or either

How do you pronounce them?
Are they the same word?
Are there some times when you say it one way or the other way?
E.g. either we stay or we go (eye-thur) – two different options
I haven’t done it either (eee-thur) – other uses

Luke
They’re both correct.
Same word, same thing.
There’s no difference.
It doesn’t change depending on the situation. It’s exactly the same word with two possible pronunciations.
Everyone will understand you, however you say it.
Eye-thur or ee-thur
Some say that “eye-thur” is more British
And “eeee-thur” is more American.
I often say “eye-thur” but honestly I think I also say eeeethur too and I’m really British.
In fact, thinking about it I probably say eeether just as often as either. (often – that’s another one!)
I think it’s also possible for one person to say them both and there’s no rhyme or reason why it comes out one way or the other. (no rhyme or reason = with no obvious explanation)

Yes, this also applies to “neither”.

It’s a very common issue. English is a very diverse language, and there are some words that culturally we pronounce differently (e.g. American and British English or smaller regions like areas of the UK) and sometimes these are even at an individual level. Some people say “either” others say “either”. It’s no big deal actually.

More words with several pronunciations

Some more examples:
Neither and neither
Potato (US vs UK, but also around the UK)
Tomato (US vs UK)
I’ve chosen ‘tomato’ and ‘potato’ specifically, because they’re in a famous song about this subject.
Often (no difference – just two ways, “offen” is perhaps the original version but with a ‘t’ is fine too)
February
Loads of examples from UK & US English, e.g. “schedule” – another story for another time.
Situations where the word stress seems debatable or people get the word stress wrong (sometimes this is just Brits saying words with American word stress, and other Brits getting pissed off… e.g. my parents)
Harassment (first syllable UK, second syllable US)
Controversy (conTROversy in the UK, CONtroversy in the US – but the Cambridge Dictionary site lists both as being standard to the UK – and lots of Brits still get annoyed when they hear other brits say CONtroversy)
Vulnerable (my Mum insists that it’s only pronounced with the “l” but Cambridge Dictionary says it’s ok without too)
Mischievous (Correct = “mischivus”, not – “mischeevious”, although we do say the noun “mischief”)
**NOTE: “mischivus” is the only correct way to pronounce mischievous. **
**ALSO NOTE: I’m not using phonetic symbols on the website here because I don’t have time and this is an audio podcast not a blog, remember! Listen to the episode to hear how I am pronouncing the words
GIF (moving images which are easily shared on the internet)
Is it “gif” or “jif”?
www.11points.com says:
11 | GIF
Pronunciations: gif, jif
The Internet had come to a decent consensus on the pronunciation of GIF, which is remarkable, of course, since the Internet has never come to a consensus on anything. Everyone was cool with the hard G pronunciation. It sounded better, wouldn’t lead to confusion, and was logical, since GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. And that’s where the debate SHOULD have ended.
But earlier this year, Steve Wilhite, the man who invented the GIF format for CompuServe, talked. And he said, with conviction: “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

You say tomato and I say tomato (song)

Going back to “either” “neither” “tomato” “potato” and this whole subject – there is a famous song about it, from back in the 1930s.

“Shall We Dance” (1937) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

00:44 seconds

Lyrics
Things have come to a pretty pass (come to a pass = happened, come to a certain situation)
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that,

Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don’t know where I’m at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:

You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let’s call the whole thing off. (call it off = cancel it)

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off

In most of those cases both words are probably right, but perhaps with some regional differences.

Then there are examples of words that some people say differently, but are generally considered wrong and are worth watching out for. These are the ones that will annoy people – but to be honest if you’re a non-native speaker you’ll probably be forgiven.

The biggest ‘crime’ is when a Brit says these and another Brit hears it, and their blood pressure rises.

Examples: (listen to the audio to hear the pronunciation)
Pronunciation
H
Nuclear” (new-cue-lur) should be new-clee-uh
ETC
Espresso
Prescription
Specific
Arctic
Ask” (this might have racial connotations but I’m not sure)

Some people (who are very particular about this kind of thing) get very upset about it, a bit too much probably…

The Grammar Nazi Sketch – from BBC comedy series “That Mitchell & Webb Look”

How do you say your acronym again? (H H H)

As you can see I didn’t talk about the other points in the overview at the beginning of the episode, but you’ll hear that stuff in forthcoming episodes of the podcast.

Thanks for listening!

Luke

520. Idioms Game & Chat Part 2 (with Andy Johnson) + 18 More Idioms & Vocab Items Explained

The second part of my chat with Andy Johnson. Listen out for 18 more idioms which will be explained later. Topics include: Twitter abuse, the other Andy Johnson, training for the London Marathon + more. Transcripts and vocabulary definitions below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

In this episode you can continue to listen to a conversation I recorded with Andy Johnson just the other day. The language focus in this double episode is on idiomatic expressions.

In fact we’re playing a sort of idioms game. The rules of the game are that before having the conversation Andy & I had to prepare 3 idioms each. By prepare I mean to just think of 3 idioms, or flick through an idioms dictionary and pick 3 that you quite like. Then during the conversation we had to try and insert the idioms naturally, without drawing too much attention to them. Just to slip them in completely naturally. The challenge is that we both, at the end of the conversation, have to try and identify which expressions the other one had prepared in advance.

During the whole conversation lots of idioms just came up naturally. In part 1 I went through a lot of them – there were about 25 idioms in the first part. I explained them all at the end.

Do you remember them all? Here’s a quick reminder.

Idioms from last time:

  • to bring someone up to speed
  • to have beef with someone
  • to hold a grudge against someone
  • to have a score to settle with someone
  • to jump the gun
  • to be the butt of a joke
  • bad blood
  • to take something on face value
  • to be a piece of cake
  • not my cup of tea
  • to hit the nail on the head
  • to stick out like a sore thumb
  • to shoehorn something in
  • to do something on the spur of the moment
  • to be on the doorstep of
  • to be two/three sheets to the wind
  • to be half cut
  • to creep out of the woodwork
  • to feel peckish
  • to be jaw-dropping
  • to be eye-opening
  • to shine a spotlight on something/someone
  • to call someone out for doing something
  • to slag someone off

Again, I explained all of those at the end of part 1. Only 1 of those idioms was prepared in advance. All the others just came up on the spur of the moment.

So that means that in this episode there are still 5 more pre-prepared idioms left.

Having checked part 2, I can tell you that there are about 18 idioms in total. So, listen carefully to the rest of our conversation and try to spot expressions which you think might be the idioms I’ll be defining later. 5 of them were written down by us in advance and slipped into the conversation as part of the game, the others just happened naturally.

There’s also plenty more nice, useful vocabulary that you might not know coming up, so listen carefully – there’s a lot to learn from this episode.

In terms of the topics in the conversation, in this one you’ll hear us cover Andy’s experience of being abused or angrily criticised on Twitter, my experiences of facing audiences as a stand up comedian, how there is another Andy Johnson in London who also looks a little bit like Moby and who used to play football for England, Andy’s training for the upcoming London Marathon and then the results of the idioms game – with our comments about the idioms we noticed (or didn’t notice).

And as I said, I’ll also be explaining all the idioms and more vocabulary at the end of the conversation in the final part of this episode, so keep listening for some clarification of things you might not have understood or noticed.

But now, let’s carry on with the conversation and hear about Andy’s experience of facing criticism on Twitter because of a misunderstanding about his presentation about Millennials in the workplace. By the way, for more information about Andy’s talk on millennials and to find out what millennials are (if you don’t know) let me recommend that you listen to episode 424 in which I spoke to Andy and his colleague Ben about it in more detail.

424. With Andy & Ben from The London School of English (Part 2)

You can find the link on the page for this episode with all the other notes and stuff, or in the episode archive.


The conversation continues…

Luke & Andy’s Idioms Game – The Results

Ones Andy thought Luke had pre-planned: (actually, none of them were pre-planned)

  • Two sheets to the wind = drunk
  • To pull the rug from under you / to pull the rug from someone’s feet = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them

Luke’s pre-planned idioms

  • To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
  • To be a dead ringer (for someone) = to look exactly like someone else
  • To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger

Ones Luke thought Andy had pre-planned

  • It’s the cross I bear = a burden that you have to carry or live with
  • to be half-cut = drunk
  • To slag someone off = to abuse or criticise someone in quite a rude way

Andy’s pre-planned Idioms

  • It’s the cross I bear
  • To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    (Also – to put someone on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect)
  • Jaw-dropping / to make your jaw drop = surprising, amazing, astonishing (in Part 1)

…the conversation ends.


Sponsor Andy & help support The Christie Foundation Trust

Click here for Andy’s JustGiving page for his sponsored Marathon www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andybjohnson

Also via PayPal www.paypal.me/andybjornjohnson


Vocabulary List – Idioms and Other Expressions You Heard in this Episode

At least 18 Idioms and some other nice bits of vocabulary to learn

  • You are a bit of a dead ringer for Moby (I forgot to mention this one in part 1)
    To be a dead ringer for someone = to look exactly like someone
  • They’d all got the wrong end of the stick, but they were all slagging you off.
    To get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand the situation
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a rude way
  • It was really eye-opening how quickly it can escalate and how people can latch onto something and they can completely turn it and twist it.
  • eye-opening = surprising and something you learn from (in part 1)
  • Jaw-dropping = amazing, astonishing (in part 1)
  • To latch onto something = to become firmly attached to something (physically), to strongly accept an idea with enthusiasm – just get fixed on one idea quickly and firmly
  • How did it feel to receive all that heavy-handed criticism?
    Heavy-handed (adj) = too strong, using much force than is necessary. E.g. heavy-handed policing.
  • I sent the guy a message, the guy whose tweet caused the kerfuffle
    A kerfuffle
    = A disturbance, a fuss, noise, a confusing and complex situation. E.g. She caused quite a kerfuffle when she sent out that letter accusing them of cheating.
  • I was thanking him for sticking up for me.
    To stick up for someone 
    = to defend someone, to back someone up.
  • If you stand on a pedestal and you give your opinion on things, you’re always setting yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    To stand on a pedestal = to put yourself in a position in front of everyone
    To set yourself up for something = put yourself in a position where something can happen. E.g. set yourself up for success, set yourself up for a fall, set yourself up for people to have a go at you.
    Heckling (see below)
  • Also – to put something on a pedestal = to admire or respect someone so much that you think they’re perfect, to idolise or idealise someone
  • People react quite strongly to that especially when it’s posing some kind of threat to the status quo of their work
    to pose a threat to something (not really an idiom) = to present a possible danger to something
    The status quo = the present situation
  • People might feel like these new things are, like, pulling the rug from under them.
  • It’s like pulling the rug from under their feet.
    To pull the rug from under someone = to suddenly take away help or support from someone, or to suddenly do something that causes many problems for them
  • Heckling – meaning someone in the audience shouting out when someone is speaking publicly
  • I got an injury and it got worse and worse and worse throughout the week. I couldn’t run for 5 weeks. I had physio, I had acupuncture, I had ultrasound. (not idioms)
    To have physio  = physiotherapy
    ultrasound, an ultrasound scan = a sort of scan that uses sound as a way of seeing inside your body, as an alternative to an x-ray, to check for injury or maybe a baby (but not a baby in Andy’s case. “What seems to be the problem Mr Johnson? Well, my knee is really playing up. It’s very stiff and painful when I walk. Let’s have a look, if you’d like to just lie down here we’ll start the ultrasound. Oh, oh… Mr Johnson, it appears that you’re pregnant. What?? Yes, that’s right, you have a baby in your knee. But how is this possible? I’ve been using contraception! hahaha, etc)
  • The physio used to be the physiotherapist for Fulham Football Club. (person)
    A physio = a physiotherapist (person)
  • When I walked in he did a double take (thinking that Andy might be the other Andy Johnson, who used to play for Fulham FC)
    To do a double take = to look at something briefly, then look away and look back again very quickly! It’s really funny and comical! Also you can do a triple take and a quadruple take for maximum comic effect.

  • A bit of a mover and shaker in the world of football, this Luke Thompson
    A mover and shaker (in the world of …) = a powerful person who influences people and initiates events.
  • Any little problem gets exacerbated when you’re running a marathon.
    To exacerbate something = to make something worse (not an idiom)
  • It seems to be, touch wood, it seems to be OK.
    People say “touch wood” as a superstition to wish themselves luck or for protection against bad luck. It’s like saying “fingers crossed”.
  • Do you have a full slap-up breakfast or is it just a banana to keep the wolf from the door?
    slap up (adjective) = excellent, first class – used with food. A slap up meal. A slap up breakfast. It’s usually used in an enthusiastic and informal way to talk about a full meal.
    To keep the wolf from the door = to eat just enough food to prevent hunger, to stave off hunger
  • You go out too fast so after 6 or 7 km you’re knackered!
    Knackered (adj) = extremely tired (British slang)
  • Everyone’s in the same boat. They’ve trained for ages. There’s the music and the camaraderie, they’re running together. Everybody just goes off far too quickly.
    To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation
  • The charity is something that’s very close to my heart.
    It’s very close to my heart = it means a lot to me, it’s important to me
  • When you’re wishing someone luck you say “break a leg”.
    Break a leg = good luck! Have a good show!
  • The leg refers to a limb – an arm or leg, but also a large piece of wood like a beam, or branches of a tree. A large piece of wood can be a limb.
  • In comedy, when you have a really good show, you raise the roof. (the roof comes off because the audience are laughing and applauding)
    So, break a leg means “I hope you have such a great show that the roof comes off the building!”
  • I was using it in a very irreverent way, a very light-hearted way. (talking about the phrase “the cross I bear”)
  • I’m all at sea = I’m confused and not sure what to do

Come on!!! That must be useful to you! A huge slice of English learning cake there for you to feast upon. You could feed a whole family on that for about a week in some places!

Again, what do you think of the idea of this paid premium membership system?

Sign up to be a premium member for a nominal amount per month, per 6 months or per year.

Get access to a certain number of language-related episodes of LEPP (LEP Premium) per month. The episodes would be available in the app or on a website. Episodes would mostly deal with language that has come up naturally in conversations on LEP – like what I’ve done here, or in the recent grammar episodes. Yep, language related but with the usual funny examples and explanations. Also there would be more phrasal verb episodes and probably other things because I would want to reward my premium lepsters or PLEPSTERS, so I’d probably offer little videos and other things too. All for the price of a beer or a sandwich for me per month.

That’s something in the pipeline at the moment.

Why aren’t you just doing it now Luke?

Yes, good question. I’ve been talking about this sort of thing for ages. It’s slightly harder than you might think actually. The thing is, I really want it to work. I want it to be worthwhile. That means finding a model that works. I think now I’ve got the app and I can offer paid content in the app, that is the right platform. Now it’s just a case of making it happen. Enthusiastic responses from you would certainly give me a boost. I think it would be really great. I just hope you realise that too.

Anyway, you can contact me about it if you like, using the usual methods.

Join the mailing list.

Download the app.

Nice one for getting to the end of this episode. Imagine all that English that has gone into your brain. That’s good! Nice one. Give yourself a pat on the back. I think you can agree that your English is better now than it was before you started listening to this, can’t you? I think you can agree with that statement.

Alright, time to go.

Speak to you soon! Bye!!!

Luke

519. Idioms Game & Chat (with Andy Johnson) + 25 Idioms Explained

A conversation with Andy Johnson including loads of idiomatic expressions and their explanations. First you can listen to a rambling chat with Andy and then I’ll explain 25 idioms that came up during the conversation. Part 2 coming soon… Transcriptions, Vocabulary list & Definitions available.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction Transcript

Hello folks – in this episode I’m talking again to Andy Johnson from The London School of English, and while we’re talking we’re going to play an idioms game, so you can practise your listening with this conversation and also learn some natural English expressions in the process.

Alright Andy? I’m going to do the introduction to this episode, with you here. Sometimes I’ll check in on you, just to see if you’re still there and to see if you’re ok with what I’ve said. OK?

Andy’s been on the podcast a couple of times before but if you haven’t heard those episodes here’s some intel on Andy J, to bring you up to speed. This is the Andy Johnson Fact File.

Andy Johnson started out working in marketing before becoming an English teacher. He’s been teaching English for … a number of years (I think it’s about 15 years now). He did the DELTA qualification at the same college as me (name of that college? That’s UCL in London) and has worked for The London School of English for over 10 years, first as a teacher and now as the Director of London School Online – that’s the London School’s online operation, and yes – I’m calling it an operation, which makes it sound either like they’re surgeons, or special agents and perhaps they are somehow a combination of both of those things – but for online English courses. London School Online offer various online courses for learners of English and other things of that nature. Get more details at www.londonschoolonline.com

Actually the correct link is www.londonschool.com/lso

Andy is a runner. He runs marathons, which is great considering he nearly lost a leg when he was younger, and when I say “lost” a leg I don’t mean that he just couldn’t find it for a while, like “oh where’s my leg? I put it down a earlier and I can’t find it… Ah, there it is! Oh, I nearly lost a leg there!” no, I mean he nearly had to have it removed permanently, which sounds like it was a very frightening and horrible experience. There’s an emotional and inspirational story that explains what happened, which you can hear if you listen to episode 472 when Andy talked about it.

472. Andy Johnson at The London School (Part 2) Why Andy runs marathons

So, despite an early issue with his leg, Andy is a runner and in fact at the moment he is training for the London Marathon which happens next month.

Andy is married and has two children who are boys. He sometimes steps on pieces of their lego, which I understand is incredibly painful. Lego comes from Denmark but Andy Johnson is half Swedish.

But Sweden and Denmark are both scandinavian countries, so the link still works somehow.

However, this does not lessen the pain he experiences when he steps on Lego.

Andy has a good joke about Swedish military ships having barcodes so that when they come into port they can “scan the navy in”, which sounds like “scandinavian”. It’s a good joke, despite the way I just told it just then.

As an English teacher Andy often attends teaching conferences where he presents talks to other English teaching professionals. Previously we talked about his talk on millennials in the English language classroom which he has done at various conferences including the IATEFL conference, which is like the Glastonbury Festival but for English teaching.

Andy also looks a bit like Moby (the American musician, DJ, record producer, singer, songwriter, photographer and animal rights activist) but a better-dressed version. Sometimes people mistake him for Moby, with hilarious results, as we have heard on the podcast before.

So, Andy is like a better-dressed, half-Swedish half-English English teaching Moby look-a-like who runs marathons, steps on his kids’ lego and talks about teaching English to millennials at conferences. But he’s so much more than that.

Andy Johnson everybody…

Spot the Idioms

As well as having a conversation, in this episode we’ve also decided to play a game as a way of including a language-focus – in this case idioms. You have to spot at least 6 idiomatic phrases in this conversation, although there will definitely be more than 6.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms to include in our conversation.

What are idioms?

Remember – idioms are fixed expressions with a particular meaning – a meaning that might not be obvious when you take them on face value. The meaning of the phrase is different from the words used in the expression. They don’t have a literal meaning.

Really common idioms (which you probably already know) are things like “That was a piece of cake”, meaning “That was easy” or “It’s just not my cup of tea”, meaning “I don’t really like it”. Those two are really common and well-known ones that just happen to involve food. A third example might be “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there” – to hit the nail on the head, which we use when someone has made exactly the right comment – the sort of comment which perfectly explains or sums up the situation. “Well, you’ve really hit the nail on the head there”.

Andy and I have both chosen 3 idioms – but we haven’t told each other what they are yet. We’re going to play a little game while taking part in our conversation.

Idioms Game

The rules of the game are this:

  • We have to seamlessly include the idioms into the conversation. We should find a way to include the idioms in a natural way – so they are used correctly for the context of the conversation, and not too obviously. They shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, for example.
  • Both of us have to try and identify which idioms we chose, and when we hear them – write them down.
  • At the end of the conversation we will state which idioms we thought were the the pre-prepared ones. For each correctly identified pre-prepared idiom, we get a point.
    It is possible and indeed encouraged to slip in some other idioms as distractions, but these must not be pre-prepared. They can only be expressions that could naturally have come up in moments during the conversation.

So basically – I have to spot Andy’s 3 pre-prepared idioms, and he has to spot my 3 pre-prepared idioms.

A strategy could be – to insert your pre-prepared idioms into the conversation without them being too obvious, while perhaps attempting to distract each other or tempt each other with other idioms that we just include on the spur of the moment.

You can play too, ladies and gentlemen. Try to spot the 6 idioms we have pre-prepared. Also watch out for any other expressions that might not be on our lists, but which are worth learning too, like for example “to stick out like a sore thumb” or “on the spur of the moment”.

At the end I’ll go through all of the idioms and clarify them.


Conversation begins – and then pauses before Andy tells us about being abused on Twitter.


More Transcript…

Hi everyone,

I’m pausing the conversation right there. Andy is about to tell us about he got abused on Twitter, but you’ll have to wait until part 2 to hear that story and the rest of the conversation and the results of our idioms game.

But Luke, why are you pausing here?

The whole conversation went on for about 90 minutes and this time I thought I’d split it into two episodes – mainly because I want to take a bit of time to highlight certain features of language that you have heard already in the conversation, namely – all the idioms that have come up so far. We’re focusing on idioms in this one.

You know that we’re playing an idioms game in this episode and I wonder if you’ve been paying attention, trying to spot the idiomatic phrases that we prepared in advance.

But as well as the pre-prepared expressions, there are loads of other ones that are just coming up naturally.

So I’d like to highlight all the idioms which have come up so far. I’ve listened back to the conversation and made a list of all the idioms I could hear.

Let me now go through them. I’m not going to tell you which ones are the pre-prepared ones, except to say that only one pre-prepared idiom has been used in the conversation so far. That’s one out of the 6 pre-prepared ones. Only one has been used so far. The other 5 will come up in the next conversation.

So, I’m not telling you which one that is. What I am going to do though, is explain every idiom that has come up in part 1.

Here we go.

Vocabulary List + Definitions

Idioms and Expressions that you can hear in this episode (Part 1)

  • Here is some intel on Andy J to bring you up to speed.
    Intel = intelligence. This is just information but it’s a word used by the secret service. “Our agents have collected some valuable bits of intelligence.” “What’s the intel on the British Prime Minister’s security guards?”
  • To bring someone up to speed = to give someone the latest information so they are as informed as everyone else. “Hi, welcome back. Let me bring you up to speed on where we are with the negotiations.”
  • If Swedes have beef with anybody it’s with the Norwegians
    To have beef with someone = to have a complaint to make about someone/something, or to have a long running resentment or grudge against someone/something. E.g. you hear this a lot in rap music. Let’s say Notorious BIG insulted Tupac (maybe he said something about his mum) and then Tupac had a beef with him. (he also held a grudge against him and had a score to settle with him)
  • You’re holding a grudge against someone = you have an long running bad feeling against probably because of something bad that happened in the past. E.g. Mike stole Dave’s girlfriend, and so Dave’s had a grudge against him ever since. Murray has had a grudge against Nadal ever since he humiliated him in front of the crowds of spectators at Wimbledon a few years ago. Obama made a joke about Trump and so Trump had a grudge against him. He had beef with Obama.
  • You’ve got a score to settle with someone = you need/want to take revenge on someone
    Have you got your idioms Andy? I’ve already used one. I think I might have jumped the gun a bit there.
  • To jump the gun = to do something too quickly. Like runners who start the race before the gun.
  • Swedes use Norwegians as the butt of a joke
    The butt of the joke = the object of the joke. E.g. Years the Irish were the butt of a lot of jokes in England.
  • There’s some bad blood between the two of them.
    Bad blood = a bad feeling between two people because of something that happened in the past
  • A meaning that might not be obvious if you take them on face value.
    Take something on/at face value = you just accept something as the way it is, without realising there is a deeper meaning, or another aspect to it. E.g. if you take an idiom on face value, you might take it literally without realising it has another meaning. Or you might take a joke on face value, and not realise it’s a joke – take it literally.
  • That was a piece of cake = easy
  • It’s just not my cup of tea = I don’t really like it
  • You’ve really hit the nail on the head there = you said exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment
  • The idioms shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb = to be very obvious or different from the surroundings or other things
  • You shouldn’t shoehorn them in = force them in unnaturally
  • To include some unprepared idioms on the spur of the moment = on impulse, without planning in advance
  • The Notting Hill Carnival goes on just on the doorstep of the London School = very close to a building
  • The guy was clearly half-cut = drunk
  • He was sitting on the barrel, two sheets to the wind = drunk (also – 3 sheets to the wind)
    www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/three-sheets-to-the-wind.html
  • Did you ever have those socks with the days of the week on? Oh man, that was a minefield.
    A minefield = a very difficult situation in which failure or problems are very likely to happen so you need to take great care.
  • Wait, what’s a street walker? You’re going to have to spell it out.
    A street walker / A lady of the night = a prostitute
    To spell it out = to make it absolutely clear
    It made her look like a lady of the night.
  • What’s amazing is how many trolls creep out of the woodwork on international women’s day.
    to creep out of the woodwork = (a negative expression) when people who are previously hidden or silent, reveal themselves or their opinions.
  • If you’re feeling a bit peckish and you eat your thumb, the thumb will grow back.
    Peckish = a bit hungry
  • It’s jaw-dropping the amount of misogyny that comes out on days like this
  • It’s really eye-opening.
    Jaw-dropping = surprising and amazing. It makes your jaw drop open. Wow!
    Eye-opening = surprising and you learn something new from it
  • For him to shine a spotlight on these people and to call them out for their ignorance and their general dickish behaviour, while still raising money and raising awareness for the cause, I just thought it was really really good.
    to shine a spotlight on someone = bring attention to someone. Like pointing a theatre spotlight on someone on stage.
    To call someone out for something = to publicly bring attention to someone’s bad actions (Hey everybody – this guy criticised millennials!!)
  • Who is this guy to slag off a whole generation?
    To slag someone off = to criticise someone in a really unpleasant way. (a slightly rude expression)

Now that’s the end of the idioms in this episode.

There are more in part 2 and there should also be a bit at the end where I explain the vocabulary too.

I think this is really useful when I do this. What would really help you now is if you listened to the conversation again. Now that I’ve highlighted the idioms, listen to the conversation again and I 100% promise you that you will notice them more easily and you are also far more likely to remember them and be able to notice them again.

Listening to conversations I have on my podcast with my guests is definitely important, but I think that just highlighting some of the language you’ve heard by picking out certain phrases, repeating and explaining them – this can make a crucial difference in your ability to really learn English from my episodes.

It’s something I think is valuable and I’m looking at ways of introducing this sort of thing more permanently.

For example – an idea I’m thinking of and I’m nearly ready to do it – would be to introduce a paid premium service for just a few Euros a month, where you’d get regular language review episodes where I go through language you’ve heard in episodes. The episodes would be available to premium subscribers in the app and online via a computer.

Preparing language reviews is time consuming for me and adds a lot more work than just preparing a conversation, recording it, editing it and publishing it as a free podcast. I have to listen again carefully, note certain language features and then spend time clarifying them on the podcast.

A paid premium subscription option would allow me to do it more properly and regularly and would mean my time and work is being rewarded, and you’d get really valuable episodes in which I explain the language you’ve heard but might have missed in episodes.

Let me know what you think. From your end, it would be like this. You could sign up for LEP premium online via my host Libsyn. You’d need to pay a little bit of money per month, not that much – probably just the price of a pint of beer per month for me. Then you’d be able to sign into my app and get access to a certain number of premium episodes. Those episodes would be primarily about language. I do various types of episode on LEP – some of them don’t involve language teaching or a language focus although of course it’s all good for your English because you’re getting valuable exposure to the language and I’m here to help. BUt the premium episodes would all be about language and mostly they’d involve me explaining, clarifying and demonstrating English that you’d heard occuring naturally in normal episodes of LEP. So they’d be like Language Review episodes. You’d be able to listen to normal episodes of LEP and then several Premium episodes too which would explain, clarify and expand on the vocab, grammar or pronunciation you’d heard in the normal episodes.

I’m also planning to include other things for the premium package – including finishing off APVAD. I think the only way I can continue the phrasal verb episodes is if they’re part of a premium package.

And don’t worry – if you can’t get the LEP app, you’d still be able to access premium content from a computer on the premium page.

Anyway, this is in the pipeline. Things move a bit slowly here at LEPHQ but I’m getting there.

In the meantime, get the LEP app. More free extra stuff keeps popping up there. I recently uploaded Episode 518b which is part 2 of the grammar questions episode. Check it out.

Also, sign up to the mailing list on the website if you haven’t already done that.

Time to go now!

Speak to you again with Andy in part 2 of this episode where you’ll learn some more idioms and also find out what happens in our idioms game.

Cheers!

Bye.

Luke

517. Professor Stephen Hawking (An Obituary)

I woke up this morning to the news that Stephen Hawking had died and I thought – I really must talk about this. He was a British scientist who must be considered one of the most significant people of recent years – a brilliant mind who contributed so much to our understanding of the nature of reality itself while also struggling against some extreme personal difficulties and for those reasons he’s a great inspiration to many people around the world.

In this episode I’m just going to talk about him, his life, his achievements and how he will continue to be an inspiration to people for many years to come. Let’s learn some English along the way. Vocabulary list & links available below.

[DOWNLOAD]

BBC Obituary

www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-15555565

Adversity, challenge or difficulty can somehow focus you and force you to concentrate your energy in one direction. It must have been tough, but it’s almost like he thrived on the adversity.

Hawking’s popularity in China

Hawking was popular and inspirational all over the world, but according to a BBC News report he was particularly loved and respected in China.

www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43395650

Hawking talks about depression

As well as contributing so much to our understanding of the universe, he also was an inspiration to people struggling against difficulty of various kinds – both physical and mental.

Stephen Hawking Has a Beautiful Message for Anyone Suffering From Depression

A scene from The Theory of Everything

Hawking interviewed by John Oliver (Hawking obviously had a sense of humour)

Monty Python – The Galaxy Song

This is a song written by Eric Idle, for Monty Python’s film “The Meaning of Life”.
Hawking agreed to record a version of this song for Monty Python’s recent live shows.
It’s all about how we should remember that in the context of everything, our problems are actually rather small and insignificant, and by extension we should realise that there are no frontiers in our minds and we should realise that many limitations that we feel inside ourselves are actually imposed on us by ourselves.

Lyrics & ukulele chords: stewartgreenhill.com/ukulele/TheGalaxySong.html

Vocabulary which came up in this episode

  • motor neurone disease
  • he was left almost completely paralysed
  • a tracheotomy
  • a layman’s guide to cosmology
  • He was reportedly offered a knighthood in the 1990s but later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
  • He was renowned for his extraordinary capacity to visualise scientific solutions without calculation or experiment.
  • Undeterred by his condition, he continued his work
  • his condition inevitably made him dependent on others
  • Police questioned several people about allegations that he had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse
  • He was known to be an erratic, almost reckless driver of his electric wheelchair
  • the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called “vomit comet
  • “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster”
  • aliens might just raid earth of its resources and then move on
  • Stephen Hawking: China’s love for the late physicist
  • the world mourns Prof Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76
  • His 2006 visit to China was covered with breathless excitement
  • the adulation and respect he has always commanded in China is perhaps in another universe altogether
  • a role model ideal for the Chinese state to champion emerged.
  • the Chinese government preaches that scientific prowess is crucial to the country’s future power
  • he didn’t let it deter him from doing his best to live fully and passionately
  • If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you
  • My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field