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541. What British People Say vs What They Mean

Examining British communication style and debunking a few myths about how British people communicate. This episode is based on a famous infographic called “What British People Say vs What They Really Mean” or “The Anglo-EU Translation Guide”. It contains lots of thoughts about how direct and indirect cultures communicate with each other, and some samples of business English, with a few improvised scenarios too! Transcript available.

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Transcript (below)

In this episode I’m talking about an infographic which is often shared online called “What British People Say vs What They Mean”. In the infographic there are three columns. One with sentences typically spoken by English people. The next column has what, apparently, British people really mean, and then the third column shows us the perceived meanings of those sentences by foreigners. It is supposed to highlight the indirectness of British English speakers and the how people from direct cultures often misunderstand us.

 

I’m going to go through the graphic line by line, discussing the language, talking about the indirect communication style of British people and discussing to what extent this infographic is true and how much is a stereotype.

This relates to several conversations I’ve had in episodes in the past, namely the ones about cultural differences with Amber & Paul, British humour with Amber and the one about language & culture with Alex van Walsum.

This chart often pops up online. You might have seen it. It’s shared on Facebook or Twitter, and people send it to me by email. People send this to me all the time, often accompanied with the question “Is this true?” It’s probably the infographic that I’ve seen more than any other. A while ago I shared it on my Facebook page and it got a big response with thousands of people seeing it and loads of comments.

The chart is anonymously written. It may have first appeared in an article on the Economist’s website. Apparently some people say it originated in a Dutch company that had dealings with the UK, which is interesting because the Dutch are known for being very direct in their communication, so through their eyes the Brits might seem excessively indirect. The infographic is sometimes entitled “What British People Say vs What They Mean” or the “Anglo-EU translation guide”.

Basically the chart presents a list of utterances, which it presents as typical things the British say in business situations, and then two other columns which represent what British people really mean when they say those things, and then how other people actually understand them to mean something quite different.

I think it’s based on communication and cultural differences between the UK and European neighbours. The underlying cultural difference is that in the UK we have an indirect communication culture, particularly with regard to saying negative things, and tend to signal their disapproval, disappointment, disagreement or offence in other ways – either by minimising the negative part, or using euphemism, which may be hard to understand to the untrained ear.

In my experience as an English person living in France, I find that it is definitely true that we have slightly different communication styles as a result of our cultural differences. But they’re just slightly different really.

One example of a difference between France and the UK is that generally in the UK our first interaction with people – especially people in service positions, e.g. if you’re going to the post office to collect a package which you’ve been told is there even though last time you went they claimed it definitely wasn’t there. So you have to go back and kind of complain and make them look again. In the UK my normal way of doing it would be to approach the situation in a nice way, using friendliness as a social lubricant to help things go more smoothly. Like “Sorry to bother you again! I went to the other post office and they told me the package is definitely here. Could you have another look for me? Thanks!” You kind of talk to that person like you understand how you’re personally putting them out, but between the two of you there is a friendly understanding. You’re nice to the person, even though technically they’re wrong and you’re sort of making a complaint. That’s how it goes much of the time – not every time of course. Often when Brits are unhappy with a service they will complain about it very directly. But many times you’ll see or hear Brits being pretty friendly when dealing with people in impersonal situations.

Now, that might actually be perceived not as a nice, informal gesture – but as fake, and two faced because in fact you’re actually not happy with the situation and you don’t know them personally, so why are you being all chummy?

In Paris, your first interaction would typically be a bit more formal and also a bit less friendly. If you’re all nice and friendly and you smile, you might be perceived as weak. That’s not to say that French people don’t smile – of course they do, but in that kind of service situation where you are making a complaint you’re likely to be serious and with a straight face. You can be completely straight about it and bring your unhappiness to the table. It’s normal to dig your heels in and argue a little bit before things then turn into a more amicable arrangement. It usually ends well, but there’s a bit of conflict at the start, for example saying “no” or “it’s not possible” at the beginning, before deciding later to ‘make an exception’.

I refer you to the episode with Alex Van Walsum who sums this up really well.

teacherluke.libsyn.com/391-discussing-language-culture-comedy-with-alexander-van-walsum

Episode 391 – play the bit

If you’re nice and you compromise from the start they’ll walk all over you without even realising it. So there’s conflict at the beginning until the thing finally gets resolved, and later on a relationship of trust might develop from the problem being fixed, but it comes after. I’m not saying in the UK we’re never direct or angry in that situation, or that in France people are never nice at first, I’m just saying in my experience it pays to be more formal and tough at the beginning or you’ll be taken for granted. Whereas in the UK my approach would be a bit different.

Sometimes this difference gets the better of me. I might go to a restaurant and say “Do you have a table for two at 8?” and the guy says “It’s complicated” or “No, it’s not possible” and I smile and say “OK, that’s a pity, thanks for your help!” and then leave. But what I often don’t realise is that “No, it’s not possible” is just the starting point. What you should do then is wait and just not take no for an answer. Wait and say “Is there anything you can do?” and dig your heels in a bit. Often, after a bit of digging, you might get a result. But you have to push through a little barrier first in many cases.

The point is that the words we use and the messages we convey are often quite different, and messages are often subject to various cultural codes which allow the people involved to truly understand what is being said vs what is the intended meaning, or illocutionary force of something.

Or more simply, in indirect cultures we don’t always say exactly what we mean, and it depends on the other person to decode the intended meaning of our messages. This is more common in some cultures than others, and this kind of indirectness does have a social function. If you’re from a direct culture, you’re less likely to be able to decode the messages and that’s where the misunderstandings happen.

That brings us to this chart of what British people say vs what they mean.

This chart essentially targets this cultural and linguistic point quite specifically, and while there is truth in it, I think the chart is not completely accurate.

Nevertheless, let’s go through what Brits say vs what they mean and see what we can learn.

One of the most important problems with this chart is the lack of context and the fact that these are spoken phrases written down, so none of the intonation is included. Intonation and context are vital in the way these messages are delivered and understood.

Without the context and intonation, this chart makes Brits look incredibly devious and two-faced. It also makes other people seem pretty dumb and naive.

On balance, what do I think of this?

It’s exaggerated. Brits are not as stuffy, awkward or unable to say what we mean as this seems to suggest. It’s slightly old fashioned too.

Also it’s not really fair on foreigners who aren’t that stupid.

I think it originally came from the Netherlands (who we do most of our business with in the EU) and they’re known for being a very plain talking, direct culture. So, this is perhaps from the dutch point of view, which exaggerates things further.

There is a point being made too, which is that the English say the opposite of what they mean, which is not true. Direct cultures tend to view indirect ones as being two-faced, hypocritical and even duplicitous. We do speak indirectly, perhaps downplaying negative things and attempting to use tact and diplomacy but it doesn’t stretch to being deceitful. For the English it’s a way to keep things nice and to sugarcoat our formal relationships. It’s a respectful distance which has been in the culture for a long time. We might be a bit indirect by dutch standards, but we know what we’re talking about. We understand what each other means, because we know the codes. So it’s a functional communication system, and just another way to share ideas while getting on at the same time.

Another point is that you could argue that it’s specifically English, rather than British because there is a slight cultural difference between the English and the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and even Cornish people, who might be more direct. Anyway, I know plenty of English people who are perfectly capable of being direct and saying exactly what they mean.

Also, there may be a class issue here. I think this relates to certain kinds of middle class or upper class English people, who tend to communicate like this, especially in a formal situation. There are certainly plenty of English people who are very direct in their communication style.
The situation is also important. Most of these phrases are used at work where diplomacy is important. In social situations these same people might be extremely direct, for example with friends who you make fun of and speak to without any kind of filter.

The sentences are out of context, so it’s not obvious how the phrase is intonated or what other phrases are used around it. Written down like that it has no nuance and can make the Brits look like pretty awful. So, this graph is designed to make people laugh and illustrate a tendency for Brits to be a bit indirect, but it is by no means a flawless guide to British communication style.
It’s a bit black and white. In fact there are plenty of UK individuals who are more direct than this, and EU individuals who are indirect. It’s a bit “them and us”, a bit ‘black and white’ and therefore a bit unfair.

It’s not just Brits. There are plenty of other cultures or individuals who also communicate like this. Canadians, for example, are well-known for having a polite and indirect communication style.

While there is definitely an underlying point being demonstrated by the chart, taking it on face value makes British people seem insincere and sneaky – which is a common criticism of us by European people with direct communication styles. Whereas us Brits see our communication style as diplomatic and avoiding conflict and essentially all about being nice, other people think we are not being honest, straight or sincere. We just don’t want to be too negative or nasty, but we come across as being unsure of ourselves, weak or untrustworthy. Equally, from the other side, Brits think the French can be wilfully difficult, stubborn and problematic because of how direct they are with negative comments. We also find the Germans – who tend to state things exactly as they are, to be cold and humourless with their ultra-pragmatic approach which doesn’t involve much small talk or ‘window dressing’. It’s tricky isn’t it!

In English we like to sugarcoat things. Not every culture does that. Some do it more than us.
Of course it doesn’t always go like that and most of the time communication happens without problems and it’s all fine. For example I have had many many exchanges with people from many different cultures including those from direct cultures and they’ve been absolutely lovely, but then again I am quite culturally aware and able to minimise this sort of thing by recognising the importance of saying exactly what you mean. I imagine that when people from other countries do business with Brits who are not used to cross cultural communication that sometimes there is friction and it’s often related to these cultural differences.

Also, it could be related to writing style in emails where this kind of thing becomes so much more obvious. I can imagine foreign people receiving English emails and wondering what exactly the person means – like the example of my wife and the castle.

For example, apparently when the German company BMW took over the British car manufacturer Rover, it took ages for BMW to fully understand the extent of the problems at Rover because all the British staff minimised the problems or spoke in slightly vague euphemisms. The Germans were not able to decode the embedded negatives within the Brits’ responses.

E.g. “We’ve had a few slight issues on the production line. Staff have expressed some preference for a longer break during the afternoon shift.” How big are those problems on the production line exactly? It would probably be worth investigating them further rather than assuming they are just “a few slight issues”.

Overall, I think there is truth in this chart, which is why it’s such an enduring success online, but it’s not totally true. The truth is that Brits put a positive shine on things as a social lubricant (sugarcoating) and it works within indirect cultures, whereas direct cultures say things as they are which can make them seem unfriendly or cold hearted yet ultimately more sincere. Neither approach is better than the other, they’re just alternatives.

Really, it’s about context. With indirect cultures, the indirect style probably feels more natural, with direct cultures it’s the other way around. The problems arise when the two cultures get together and then misunderstand each other. For the chart, more perspective and context is required to really understand what’s going on, and to avoid knee-jerk reactions. I say knee-jerk reactions – these are sort of quick, instant responses that happen without thoughtful consideration (like when a doctor taps your knee and it jerks forward without you thinking about it). Those things might be to conclude that Germans have no sense of humour, French people are willfully difficult and don’t want to work, English people are hypocrites who don’t say what they mean.

Simple binary comparisons of language without context like this can foster unbalanced opinions which can lead to or reinforce resentment and things like that. The final point is that despite our communication style, we’re still just as fair-minded, honest, trustworthy, narrow minded, dishonest and untrustworthy as anybody else! Don’t jump to conclusions and never let cultural differences cause you to make fast judgements about people without seeing the whole picture!

“The British are too polite to be honest, whereas the Germans are too honest to be polite.”
Source: www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13545386

538. World Cup 2018 [2] The Second Round / Listener Comments

Talking about the second round of the World Cup in Russia, including comments about the teams, the games, the issues, England’s penalties vs Colombia and the way football commentators speak. Listener comments are read out. Notes available.

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Notes & Scripts

Not very much planned here. I’m just going to spill my thoughts into the microphone. Some comments from the comment section.

Sorry if I miss anything! I’m bound to miss a few things because there are lots of details in this World Cup and it’s hard to cover them all. I’m just going to look at the wallchart and see what I can say, while also reading out some comments.

One of the highlights of this competition so far has been listening to English TV presenters and commentators say “Nizhny Novgorod”. The other day one of them said “Nizzy novgarad”. I feel vindicated. It’s not just me.

My World Cup Wall Chart

Comments

Zdenek Lukas • 8 days ago
I have managed to see about 80 percent of the games so far. What a fantastic world cup this has been. Loved the way it panned out for Argentina going through in the end, very impressed by performances of Croatia, Belgium, and Colombia. No idea who will win, but my personal favourites are Belgium, Spain, pretty much any South American team that gets to the knock out stages, and of course Germany. Lineker would say that football is a beautiful game, and at the end Germany always win. And we are probably gonna see one surprising team in the semis. Of course seeing England lift the trophy would be luketastic! Also I am gonna be in England when this would potentially be happening. Fingers crossed. As an Arsenal fan though, I must say I am hoping Kane doesn’t get the golden boot. Just kidding, I wish him all the best and then he could join a new much more decent club in new season as a world cup winner.

Sergio Téllez Pinilla • 8 days ago
Neymar is a clown.

Francisco Espínola • 8 days ago
I´ve always thought of that…but now the truth has been revealed…¡Luka Modric is your secret brother!! hahaha very funny of you to comment on that.

Maxim
Don’t you know we are living in Matrix?Just some malfunction in multivariate imposing reveals the fact that we are all connected to sole upper identity. When we look at Luke and Luka our brain computers gets glitching and …Boom,Bob’s your uncle,we see what we see.

Zielak 146 • 8 days ago
Hi Luke, first of all I am Polish and I am disappointed about Poland team. I expected more after what they achieved on Euro 2016 in France and now we are going home :) In my opinion the best team is Belgium, I think they can reach final but we will see what they show against England :) I also appreciate Croatia who play nice football :)
There aren’t clear favourites. Argentina, Germany, France, Brazil, they don’t play as well as we expected.

I’d like to know what do you think about Maradona’s behaviour at the match against Nigeria? :) I’m looking forward to next episode about World Cup :) Sorry if I made any mistakes :)

Timur Sivakov • 8 days ago
Hi Luke,
I think Belgium has a big chance to win the World Cup.
They have very strong midfield, and also Lukaku is an amazing player. Croatia are good too. I have a question to you: Have you ever wanted to work as a sports commentator? I mean, the way you speak is pretty much like english commentators do.

aulo Henrique Oliveira • 7 days ago
I´m Brazilian and, apart from thinking that the team is playing slightly better than in the last Cup, I´m not sure we´ll make it to the finals. Really like how Belgium and Sweden have been playing.
Just for the record, everybody here dislikes the way Neymar has been acting up in the first matches.
Finally, I´m sorry for Germany getting out so soon but we had our little revenge If you sum up their game scores you get 7×1 ha-ha (sarcastic laughs)

Aslan Oguzbay • 6 days ago
Brazil are going to take the trophy, mark my words!

Yaron
Wow! Germany are out. As “Die Mannschaft” supporter I’m very disappointed… I hope that it will be a wake up call for “Die Mannschaft”, and that they will come back stronger and “hungrier” to win in the next world cup.

Good luck for the teams that still in the tournament…

Maxim 4 days ago
Ok.Messi is packing for home,as well as Ronaldo.Let’s look forward for tomorrow’s matches.I hope Luca Modric will crack Denmark’s defense lines😉.Absolutely spectacular championship heralding that the era of young players has finally come. And Mbappe is definitely one of them.

Pierre 4 days ago
Yep ! Mbape did a great game and he’s only 19 years old.

Nick3 days ago
Spanish players were pressing very hard and our players were struggling to stand that pressure. And the duel at the end was absolutely spectacular!!! So, of course big thanks to the both teams for the game.

Zdenek Lukas 2 days ago
Nick I will be honest with you, I saw the match and I a bit am conflicted. On the one hand, I really don’t like if team defend 90 minutes with 11 men win matches like that, but on the other hand, I am happy for Russia because they are the host and this is always great for the atmosphere of the entire tournament and because you guys fought really hard. Besides Span didn’t deserve this match because they didn’t take enough risks. So overall, a big surprise, but as a neutral I will take it :)

Nick2 days ago
I think it was the only way to win the game. And they did it. It was a smart move, more chess than football :)

Sebastián Juambeltz yesterday
Hi Luke!!
Uruguay passed the exam. What do you say about this? I am from uruguay and i am very proud of this. URUGUAY NO MA!!!.
Do you know that Uruguay is the team that won more international championships? It is alway an understimated team. We won 2 olympic 2 word cup 15 american cup.
Know the history about this great selection team from Uruguay!!
Thank you for all your work here!! It is almost great than uruguayan team.
See you..

Yaron yesterday
Oh Luke…. what a pressure… finally England wins a penalty shootout in the world cup. Happy for you. Good luck in the quarter-final.

Syntropy yesterday
Luke, congratulations on the England football team’s victory!!
They finally broke their penalty shootout curse :D

Zdenek Lukas22 hours ago
Dier scoring that penalty was the most emotional moment of the World Cup for me so far :)

Elena Konyukhova10 hours ago
World Cup in Russia seems to be lucky for England, they are doing really well. They might have more fans here.

Guardian Article

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/03/world-cup-russia-england-fans

537. How Olly Richards Learns a Language (Part 2) Intermediate Plateau / The Magic of Story / Pronunciation & Personality / Classroom vs Self-Guided Learning

The rest of my conversation with polyglot Olly Richards, talking about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, the magic of story, pronunciation and identity issues, and self-guided learning.

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Intro Transcript

Welcome back to this double episode in which I’m talking to language learner and polyglot Olly Richards all about how to learn languages as an adult.

Olly speaks 8 languages and spends a lot of time working on language courses, and giving advice on his podcast and blog, which are called “I will teach you a language”.

2 years after our last conversation it was interesting to catch up with Olly and see if his approach to language learning has developed.

In this episode I talk to Olly about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, we go into details about the magic of story and how important it is in language learning, we discuss the connection between pronunciation and personality and wonder if the main problem people have with pronunciation is actually an identity issue. There are also comments on learning in the classroom vs self-guided learning.

There’s loads of great advice in here. For premium subscribers I’m doing a video which will sum up the main points and clarify them a bit. That will be available shortly in the app and online for premium members.

But now let’s continue listening to Olly as we have the rest of our conversation about language.

—–

That’s it – I don’t need to say much more!

www.Iwillteachyoualanguage.com

Premium subscribers you’ll get a video summary from me soon.

Sign up for premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium if you know what’s good for you!

Speak to you soon.

Bye.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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