Tag Archives: pronunciation

586. The Importance of Listening

Recently I was reading a book about listening and learning English. This episode is a summary of what I read, including details of how listening fits in with learning English, some considerations of the importance of listening and also some tips for how to improve your English with audio.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]


Check out Cambly for 10 free mins of conversation with a native speaker
www.teacherluke.co.uk/cambly
Ambassador Code: teacherluke


Episode Transcript

This episode is all about the importance of listening in the learning of English. It’s full of various thoughts and reflections about this topic and my aim to a large extent is to give you ideas and inspiration to help you keep learning through listening and to keep doing it more effectively, also to consider some things we know about learning through listening, to encourage you to reflect and form some metacognitive strategies towards your listening and also to give you some practical tips to help you learn English through listening and to improve your listening skills. I suppose ultimately I’d like to develop your process of understanding the place of listening in your learning so that you can take more and more responsibility for that learning. So that’s what this episode is all about. It’s quite appropriate I suppose considering this is an audio podcast for learners of English and you’re listening to this as a way to improve your English through listening, it’s worth taking time to think about the academic points on this subject.

Before we start I just want to say to any premium subscribers that I’ve got a series of episodes probably coming out next week all about grammar, focusing on tenses. We’ll be looking mainly at present perfect, but also comparing it to other tenses. So it’ll be a sort of tense review, focusing mainly on present perfect. There’s also going to be a series about the language which came up in my conversation with James that you heard on the podcast earlier in the year. So, grammar stuff coming next week and vocabulary later. If you want to get access to that stuff and all the other premium content go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium

Recently I was thumbing through some books at work. One of the books was a copy of Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom by Tricia Hedge, which is something of a bible for English teachers. A lot of teachers use this book during their DELTA and CELTA courses as it is absolutely filled with insights about language teaching and learning, all based on academic studies done over the years. It is a great book and covers most aspects of the work of an English teacher, including how people learn English and how, accordingly, English teachers should adapt their teaching methods.

I remember reading the book intensely while taking my DELTA. You heard me talking about the DELTA course with Zdenek earlier this year.

So I remember reading the book very thoroughly when I was doing my DELTA. Can you believe it, that was 13 years ago! It stuns me to imagine that it was so long ago. Anyway, during that time, when I was taking the DELTA and I had nothing else going on in my life – I used to work, come home from work, make myself tea and then retire to my bedroom where I would listen to ambient music and desperately try to focus on my work without getting distracted by absolutely everything in the universe! Because, somehow, when you’re working – everything becomes a major distraction. Anyway, one of the books I used to pour over was this one. I had loads of post-it notes marking various important pages.

Anyway, the other day I was at work and I noticed the very same book on the shelf, so I picked it up and started thumbing through it. 13 years later my situation has changed a bit. These days I’m doing this podcast and the majority of the people I am essentially teaching English to are not in the same room as me, they’re not even in the same country and in fact the only way I can communicate with them is through the medium of audio. I can also write things and post pics and videos on the website, but most of my audience don’t check the website – only about 10% actually go to the page.

Anyway, the point is – it’s now all about listening, which is amazing.

One of my aims in the beginning was to get people listening more, and it’s working. I have always thought listening to English must be an essential way to learn the language. It’s got to be a vital part of the learning process, surely. It’s like music – there’s music theory, music technique and all that, but for most musicians the best way to learn how to play well is to listen to plenty of music, and to practise every day. Listening probably comes first, right? Then it’s a question of practice x 5 and trying to replicate what you’re hearing. But first you have to get to know what music can sound like and to hear the way it is produced. When I first learned to play the drums I became obsessed with listening to my favourite drummers, who were: Mitch Mitchell, Stuart Copeland and Ringo Starr. Playing the drums at the beginning gave me a sense of how the music was produced, so I could listen to those songs and hear what the drummers were doing. I knew how they were doing it – which parts of the kit they were hitting, how those sounds were made. It was all a question of practising until I could do it too. In most cases I couldn’t replicate what they were doing (except in the case of Ringo!) but in practising like that I developed my own style, my own ease, my own technique and ultimately I was able to do things on the drums, play the kinds of beats I wanted to play, fit in with a band in the way I wanted. Obviously, listening was vital. It sounds ridiculous, obvious, right? To learn music, you must listen to it a lot – pay attention to how it all works. It’s the same thing with learning a language.

Obviously there are differences – the thing about music is that you understand it from birth without having to learn it first, right? It’s just something you feel. But anyway, I think the point still stands – that listening is a vital part of the learning process, just like it is with music.

So, back to the book. Now I’m interested in listening and I’m interested in what Tricia Hedge has to say on the subject of listening. So when I had the book in my hands, I flicked straight to the sections about listening and I made a note of what I found there.

In this episode I’m going to explain some of the things I’ve read and reflect on them.

Academics often write that listening is overlooked in ELT

Think about the average English lesson. Most of the time is spent on other language skills and language systems.

Listening is one of the 4 Skills

It is one of the 4 skills and it is a very important part of Cambridge Exams such as FCE, CAE and IELTS. Those exams give equal weight to the 4 skills, so listening is 25% of the whole exam. Is 25% of your study time in class devoted to listening?

We don’t do much listening in class

The majority of classroom work is devoted to other things, probably speaking and writing skills, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I totally understand why. I wouldn’t spend all my time doing listening in my English classes. It wouldn’t make sense to get a bunch of learners of English together and just make them do only listening. Class time should be spent on other things, like communication skills, speaking and remedial work by the teacher.

We often listen to scripted listenings in class

Listening is in a lot of course books but the focus still seems to be on scripted dialogues which are designed specifically to present certain language, such as vocab or grammar. There just isn’t time to do extended listening, using unscripted dialogues that don’t follow a pre-planned agenda, but this is the sort of thing people need to practise listening to. Normal speech, which is a bit random, contains things like sentences that don’t end, false starts, moments when people talk over each other, moments of humour or spontaneous reactions and tangents in the conversation. So, real listening is overlooked.

Listening is vitally important in everyday life

The majority of interactions you will have will involve you speaking to a person, and it’s so important to be reactive to what they’re saying, and this relies on your ability to quickly follow what’s being said. It’s like fluency in a way – being able to follow fluid speech without thinking about it too much. That’s very important, of course.

Listening is linked to pronunciation and speaking

Raising your listening skills means raising your awareness of the connection between the written word and the spoken word – meaning that a good listener is able to recognise English as an oral language and this means being able to decode connected speech, elision of sounds, weak forms, how meaning is expressed through intonation and sentence stress. Getting good at listening means getting to know English as a spoken language. This in turn should help you make your English more natural, rather than just a version of the written language which comes out of your mouth, and that is a big problem. When I listen to learners of English (and I have met many thousands of them over the years) it’s amazing how often their mistakes are a consequence of them essentially speaking English as it looks when it’s written down. So many learners of English got to know English as a written language, to the point that the spoken version is so foreign to them that it’s almost like another language.

How much communication time do we spend on listening?

How much time do we spend on listening, when we communicate, compared to the other 3 skills? Research has been done into communication in English, focusing on the average time spent on the different skills of writing, reading, speaking and listening. How much time, on average, do we spend writing, reading, speaking and listening when we are communicating? The research shows that 9 per cent of communication time is devoted to writing, 16 per cent to reading, 30 per cent to speaking and 45 per cent to listening. (Rivers & Temperley 1978, Oxford 1993, Celce-Murcia 1995). There’s no doubt then that listening is really important and is perhaps the first thing you must master when you’re learning the language, followed by speaking. That’s if we decide that time spent during communication is the most important factor. Of course it depends on your situation. Maybe you work in an office and you have to write a lot of emails in English but you never speak it. I guess for you, writing would be the most important thing. But anyway, the numbers speak for themselves. We seem to spend most of our time listening. But we don’t spend most of our learning time on listening. The result is that when we are learning, we focus on learning words, learning structures and so on, but when we actually interact with the spoken version of the language, it all seems totally weird because the way we deliver those words and structures with our mouths often bears no relation to the English we have become familiar with during our studies.

Listening will be more and more important

Listening will only get more important. It’s almost definitely true that society in general is moving away from print media towards sound, so listening has become and continues to become more and more important as we move forward. Much more of our information comes through audio than ever before. With the internet a lot of the news we’re exposed to on social media is small video clips, we send each other audio messages, talk via Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp, there are frequent audio and video conferences at work, we have a plethora of podcasts available to us and much more than ever we are tapping into entertainment on a global level with platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime where there are loads of English language TV programmes in the original language version, perhaps with subtitles in your language. The internet has allowed us to use listening as the primary source of information transfer today. So, listening is more and more important all the time.

How do people learn English through listening?

But what do we know about how people can learn English from listening? How does this affect the way I can produce LEP and how my listeners can consume LEP?

Input vs intake

Comprehensible input

This is part of the theory of language acquisition which is very popular. The principle is that if learners listen to English which is understandable but slightly higher than their level, and they focus on understanding the message within a meaningful context, that they can then pick up the language as a by-product of the process. This is good news for LEPsters. It means that you can pick up the language from my episodes by listening carefully to the main message being communicated. By interacting with English like this, you’re just naturally exposed to language and learn the functions of phrases and grammar through context. The argument is that you learn a language when you can understand it, and the process of getting to fluent speech comes first through a lot of exposure to the language, at the right level. It’s important that you understand most of what you hear, and that allows you to learn the new things you are hearing.

Intake

This is the principle that people only learn from the bits which are genuinely important to them. Learners won’t learn everything they hear. They’ll be selective, based on their own personal motivations. For whatever reason, each person will value certain parts of the listening content more than others. This is the stuff they’ll really learn. This means, there are certain things that will make the listeners prick up their ears, and a lot of that is based on the preconceptions of the listeners, their values and so on. For example, learners might believe that they can only learn from an authority figure like a teacher, and therefore their words will carry more value and will become part of the intake. On the other hand, words spoken by someone they don’t respect will just go in one ear and out the other side. It’s not just respect of course. It could be other things. E.g. if a listener is an engineer, they’re naturally going to be more motivated towards the language of engineering. What this means for my podcast is that I have to constantly think of ways to keep you engaged in order to turn most of the listening input into intake. It also means trying to cover a wide range of topics, which I try to do. But I also think it’s something to do with being personable, real and relatable while talking. I try to always address my listeners and think about what it’s like for you and hopefully this keeps you focused, which is good for your English.

The point is that the language should be understandable yet not without challenge, and the content should be presented as valuable but with the understanding that you can’t please everyone all the time – that each individual brings their own personal motivation to the listening experience, which means that different parts are valuable to different people. Each person will focus their attention on slightly different parts based on their feelings and attitudes.

What can I do on LEP?

What I can try to do is make each individual feel personally involved, in any way I can. I believe this is done best when I address the listener directly and sometimes avoid speaking from a script. It’s more human and engaging to talk ‘off the cuff’. Also I should keep the topics varied and also have a variety of people on the podcast.

Why listening is more difficult than reading

The language is transient – I mean, the words are only audible for a moment before they disappear. You can’t normally go back and listen again, unlike when reading when you can simply read the sentence again or scan the text to find something again. Listening comes and goes into the ether very quickly. You need to learn to think in a slightly different way and get used to interacting with the listening text by remembering what is being said, predicting what’s going to come next, and so on.

The written word has a standardised spelling system which everyone more or less follows. Also there are gaps between words on the page, and punctuation to show when one sentence begins and ends etc. With listening you don’t get any of these things. It’s not standardised like writing. You’re dealing with a lot of diversity in terms of accent and different ways the language can sound (and English is an extremely diverse language in which there are many, equally valid, versions of the spoken word).

What can you do?

It’s important to bridge the gap between the spoken version of the language and the written version. One way to do this is to do plenty of listening and reading, so that you’re familiar with the conventions of both versions of the language, but also there are other things you can do.

  • Listen and read at the same time
  • Dictation or listen + repeat dictations (use audio with a script)
    This allows you to turn an interconnected stream of sounds into sentences, words, syllables, phonemes.
    I’ve talked about this on the podcast before and I will no doubt talk about it again because I think it’s a great technique and in fact I’ve been working on some content which is designed specifically for this technique. Basically, listen to some audio, repeat what you hear bit by bit, then compare it to the script. You can then do things like use a pen to mark emphasis, intonation, connected speech, pauses on the script, then record yourself reading out the script, then try and replicate the main ideas without reading (it doesn’t matter if you say it differently – it’s not a memory test, you just have to communicate the main ideas in your own voice – and you might find that you remember some of the lines that you repeated before. You can also try writing down what you’re hearing and comparing that to the script as well. All of it can help you turn fluent speech into individual words, phrases and sentences, helping you work on pronunciation and speaking skills too.
  • Engage with the subject, not just the language. We know that we tend to understand what we hear more when we are engaged in the subject. This means that you should think about the topic being talked about and perhaps predict some of the things we’re going to hear. Basically, before you listen to something, just take a moment to make sure you are intellectually and perhaps emotionally engaged in that subject. Find some way to relate it to yourself personally. Use your imagination to picture the whole subject, issues relating to it and the things which might be said. We know that this helps you to listen more accurately, rather than just going straight into the listening, cold.
  • Learn the phonetic chart and practise it. Get an app, like Sounds or Sounds Right by the British Council. Do all the exercises, learn the phonetic alphabet. These are the basic building blocks of English and can really help you to break down, recognise and replicate sounds, words and so on.
  • When you’re repeating, pay attention to the emphasis. Which word in a sentence is being emphasised? Why? When you repeat, try to say the whole sentence like a word with the emphasis on the same part that you heard it. This can help you not only learn good sentence stress (which arguably is the most important factor in pronunciation) but also can help you identify the key information when you are listening.
  • Listen to a variety of things. Different genres of audio tend to follow their own “macro-script”, meaning that they follow the same kinds of conventions. For example, listening to the news you’ll notice certain things they always say, certain things that they only do on the news. Sports reports have their own characteristics, political speeches have their own style, a radio drama sounds unmistakably like a radio drama, an academic lecture sounds like an academic lecture, etc. You’ve got to get used to recognising certain conventions of different types of audio recording. So listen to a variety of audio.
  • But also, listen to the same thing again and again. Listen to your favourite English podcast every day for a month. You should wait about a month before you make a judgement. Listening to just one episode isn’t going to make a huge difference. Listening to many episodes, regularly, over a longer period – this is what makes the difference. It is a compound effect and to an extent it’s not even noticeable, but keep it up! This is one of the main issues today. People want instant, measurable results, but the reality is that language learning occurs over time and is sometimes not noticable. It sort of happens under the surface. But you have to be in it to win it. If you don’t use it you lose it. So keep listening every day for at least a month, then you’ll see that suddenly you can understand more and more and a whole new world of English can open up for you.
  • Listen to things you enjoy and are really motivated to hear. This helps turn input into intake.
  • Listen several times.
  • Don’t assume that movies and TV series are the best things to listen to. They tend to focus on visuals first. There’s music and other sound effects which actually get in the way. Sometimes dialogue is so naturalistic that it’s kind of impossible to follow. Often I can’t actually hear what’s being said in movies. Audio podcasts are probably better because they’re made for you, and you can just focus on the English exclusively. But, of course, if you like watching films in English don’t let me stop you. If you’re a big fan of the MCU for example – go ahead and watch Avengers: Endgame in English, twice!
  • Watch out for subtitles. Watching Netflix with English subtitles is something that everyone assumes is a great idea, and it is good. You can read what you’re hearing, notice the way the written language is expressed in speaking, you can pick up new words and phrases and so on. But for working on listening skills alone, it’s important to try some other ideas. For example, try to spend time listening without subtitles, then rewind and listen to that section again with subtitles and see what you’ve understood. Use subtitles or scripts after you’ve listened, in order to identify which bits you got and which bits you didn’t. But don’t get too used to always having subtitles when you listen, because this means you don’t develop proper listening skills. Also, don’t feel you always have to have the subtitles on or off. Switch between having them on, having them off, watching scenes several times with and without subtitles. Good learners of English actively use TV and films and think outside of the box a bit. It’s not just a case of switching Netflix to English and then just relaxing on your sofa.

Another thing is this – if you listen to podcasts a lot, then you’re immediately pushing yourself ahead of your peers who don’t do this. Think of the advantage you’re getting over other people who just don’t do any listening.

Motivation, reducing anxiety and building confidence. Listening a lot can really help you with these things, because you become friends with the spoken word. Imagine if you’re a regular and long term LEPster and you have to do a listening test. While other people are probably panicking because listening is a nightmare for them, for you it’s like you’re entering your comfort zone. Make listening your friend. Get to know the spoken version of the language and get a leg up on the competition.

So finally, the points are…

  • Listen a lot! Yey! This is probably good news because if you’re a regular listener to this podcast you just need to keep going! Keep it up!
  • Listen to various things. I’ll try and keep it varied here, but consider checking out some other things. Check out BBC podcasts on different subjects and shop around a bit.
  • Use some techniques, like listening and repeating audio that has a script and learning the phonemic script.
  • But ultimately, just relax and enjoy the process! Take time to reflect personally on what you’re listening to and enjoy yourselves!

I am sure that many of you have some interesting things to add here – either stories of how you’ve improved your English through listening, or specific things that you do relating to learning through listening. So please, add your comments under this episode. Your input is extremely valuable because as well as all these academic studies that underpin many of the things in this episode, it’s the testimony and personal experience of people who have learned English to a decent level that is what counts. So, please, tell us your stories, give us your thoughts regarding learning through listening.

And thank you for listening to this!

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

Mailing list – Subscribe in the top right corner of this page

Follow me on Twitter @EnglishPodcast (You can check my Twitter feed below)

Let me know your thoughts and experiences of learning English through listening. Leave a comment below.

584. Posh or not posh? (Part 3) with Amber & Paul

Amber & Paul join me to talk again about poshness, posh accents and posh celebrities. This episode is full of different British accents – posh, RP and regional differences. It’s also full of comedy and I found myself laughing out loud while editing this, especially the interview with the football player that Paul tells us about. I hope you enjoy it.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Are these celebrities posh or not? What are the features of posh accents, RP and regional accents in the UK?

Kate Beckinsale

Victoria Beckham

Sadiq Khan

Kenneth Branagh

Stephen K Amos

Elton John

Daniel Craig

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling

George Martin

Jacob Rees Mogg (again)

Danny Dyer

Keep adding your videos of British celebrities in the comment section. Are they posh or not posh?

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

485. & 486. Difficult Words to Pronounce in English (with Paul Taylor) (Parts 1 & 2) + video

This is a double episode with two audio episodes on one page, and it’s going to be really useful for you because it’s all about difficult pronunciation in English. Listen to Paul Taylor and me discussing the tricky relationship between spelling and pronunciation. There are lots of jokes, impressions, funny accents and useful comments about this important area of the English language. Use this episode to avoid some very common mistakes in English pronunciation, and try not to laugh on the bus while you’re listening! Check this episode page for word lists, transcriptions and my video of 40+ difficult words to pronounce in English.

Part 1

Part 2

[DOWNLOAD PART 1] [DOWNLOAD PART 2]


british humour posterLuke’s British Council Teacher Talk – “What is this, British Humour?”

I’m doing another talk on the topic of humour at the British Council in Paris on 19 October. It is also being live-streamed on Facebook. Details below.

Click here to reserve (free) tickets if you’re in Paris.

Click here for the British Council France Facebook Page for the live stream – Thursday 19 October at 19:00 Paris time (CET).


Difficult Words to Pronounce in English: Notes, Word Lists and That Useful Video (below)

  • Focus /fəʊkəs/
  • Fuck us /fʌkʌs/
  • Sting /stɪŋ/
  • Boy George /bɔɪ ʤɔːʤ/
  • Spandau Ballet /spændɑː bæleɪ/

What problems do French people have with pronunciation in English?

  • /h/ sounds
  • /th/ sounds

Part 1 ends here… Part 2 continues below!


  • /r/ sounds
  • Some vowel sounds, particularly certain ‘long’ and ‘short’ sounds, such as…
  • bitch” /i/ and “beach” /i:/
  • shit” /i/  and “sheet” /i:/
  • voiced and unvoiced sounds
  • Paul’s “how to beatbox” with boots and cats

The words & phrases from the TOPITO article – “The Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English – the hell of /th/ sounds

1. I have a sore throat
2. Squirrel
3. Throughout
4. Bewildered
5. Hierarchy
6. Anaesthetize
7. Threshold
8. Worthlessly
9. Worcestershire
10. William Wordsworth

The TOPITO article (it’s in French by the way) www.topito.com/top-trucs-durs-dire-anglais

An academic “focus” on French people speaking English, from Frankfurt University

Phonology
There are some differences in the sound systems of the two languages that can cause French learners problems of comprehension and speech production. Spelling errors may result from the frequent lack of correspondence between the pronunciation of English words and their spelling.

A typical pronunciation problem is the inability to correctly articulate the vowel sounds in minimal pairs such as ship / sheep, live / leave, full / fool. Because the tip of the tongue is not used in speaking French, learners often have problems with words containing the letters th (/θ/ /ð/), such as then, think and clothes.

Another common feature of English spoken by French learners is the omission of the /h/ sound at the beginning of words. This sound does not exist in French and leads to problems such as ‘Ave you ‘eard about ‘arry?, or overcompensation by pronouncing the /h/ in words like hour, honour.
French learners typically have problems with the unpredictable stress patterns of English words, particularly of cognates. (Word stress in French is regular.) Learners may also be unwilling to engage in the prevalent vowel reduction of unstressed syllables in English. Consider, for example, the way that English native speakers swallow the first syllable of the word tomorrow (t’morrow). These problems result in the stereotypical staccato French accent of beginning learners.

From Frankfurt International School Website esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/french.htm

TH sounds

/th/ can be voiced [ð] or unvoiced [θ]

A quick guide to producing TH sounds:

  • Stick tongue out slightly
  • Let air pass under/through teeth and over the tongue
  • You don’t need your lips!
  • It’s not /f/ /s/ /d/ /v/ or /z/
  • It’s [ð] (voiced) or [θ] (unvoiced)

Watch my video (below) for more help with /th/ sounds.

More words which learners often find difficult to pronounce

  • Architecture /ˈɑː.kɪ.tek.tʃər/
  • architectural /ˌɑː.kɪˈtek.tʃər.əl/
  • Drawer /drɔː/
  • Colonel /ˈkəːn(ə)l/
  • Comfortable /ˈkʌmftəbəl/
  • Pronunciation /prənʌnsɪˈeɪʃən/
  • Recipe /ˈresɪpi:/
  • Scissors /ˈsɪzəz/
  • Strengths /streŋkθs/
  • Clothes /kləʊðz/
  • Eighth /eɪtθs/
  • Queue /kjuː/
  • Fruit /fruːt/
  • Sixteenth /sɪkˈstiːnθ/
  • Eighteenth /eɪˈtiːnθ/

“Ghoti” is pronounced “fish” (is it?)

This is an old attempt to prove that English spelling makes no sense. Note: David Crystal doesn’t agree.

ghoti

www.neatorama.com/trivia/2012/09/09/Ghoti-is-Pronounced-Fish-in-the-English-Language/

David Crystal disagrees with this “ghoti” (See below)

Some Words with Silent Letters

  • bomb
  • climb
  • comb
  • crumb
  • debt
  • doubt
  • government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4)

More here: mywords.cle.ust.hk/sir/silent_words.php

Also

  • Business /ˈbɪznɪs/ or /ˈbɪznəs/
  • Busy /ˈbɪzi:/
  • Derby (place and a horse race) /ˈdɑːbi:/

L/R (Often difficult for Japanese speakers, or people from East Asia in general)

  • Roller coaster
  • Rarely
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry

My name

  • Luke (correct) /lu:k/
  • not:
  • Look
  • Luck
  • Mr Luck (the most common wrong version, especially in writing)
  • Teacher luck pot cat? (teacher luke podcast)
  • Ruke
  • Ruku
  • Rook
  • Duck??
  • Mr Luke (still not correct – it’s just “Luke” or “Mr Thompson”, although Moz called me Mr Luke as a sort of joke)

Thompson /tɒmpsən/

  • Often pronounced “Tom-sun” in France
  • and pronounced “Tom-pu-son” in Japan

Some rude or funny tongue twisters read by Paul and me

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
(not rude)

Red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry…
(not rude)

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.
(don’t say “fucker“)
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
(don’t say “shit“)
One smart fellow; he felt smart.
Two smart fellows; they felt smart.
Three smart fellows; they all felt smart.
(don’t say “fart”)
I’m not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig pluckers’ son,
But I’ll pluck figs
Till the fig plucker comes.
(don’t say “pig fucker“)
Fire truck tyres
(repeat it – don’t say “I fuck tyres”)
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Not a punt cut square,
Just a square cut punt.
It’s round in the stern and blunt in the front.
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Six stick shifts stuck shut.
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.

(don’t say “cunt” – really, don’t say that word, it is extremely rude)

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
(not rude)
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
(not rude)
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
(not rude)
 

Betty Botta bought some butter;
“But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So it was better Betty Botta
Bought a bit o’ better butter.

(not rude)

www.fun-with-words.com/tong_rude.html


Pronunciation practice – repeat after me!

There’s no quiz for this episode – instead I thought I’d make a video so you can practise your pronunciation by repeating after me. Word list with definitions below.

Word List + examples [The definitions are in brackets]

  1. Sore throat – I’ve got a sore throat today [a painful throat, because you have a cold]
  2. Squirrel – I saw three squirrels in the park [cute little animals with bushy tails that live in the park]
  3. Throughout – Squirrels live in this park throughout the year [all the way through]
  4. Bewildered – I was bewildered by all the options [confused]
  5. Hierarchy – There’s a flat hierarchy in our company [a system of levels]
  6. Anaesthetist/Anaesthetise – It’s the job of the anaesthetist  to anaesthetise the patients with an anaesthetic [to give someone an anaesthetic – something which stops you feeling pain]
  7. Threshold – If you earn more than £70,000 you enter the next tax threshold [a level or point where something ends and something else begins]
  8. Worthlessly – I was worthlessly trying to impress her by showing off [in a worthless way – with no worth or no point]
  9. Pass the Worcestershire sauce, would you? [a kind of brown sauce for giving flavour to food]
  10. William Wordsworth was a wonderful writer
  11. live / leave – You have to live a little before you leave this world
  12. ship / sheep – we put all the sheep onto the ship, so the ship was full of sheep
  13. full / fool – The room is full you fool!
  14. Architecture – I love the architecture
  15. Architectural – The architectural style is fascinating
  16. Drawer – The knives and forks are in the top drawer on the left [for example, where you keep the knives and forks in the kitchen]
  17. Colonel – Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken [a senior officer in the army]
  18. Kernel – Pine kernels can be a delicious addition to a salad [a nut]
  19. Comfortable – Are you comfortable? Would you like a pillow?
  20. Pronunciation is important. You have to pronounce words properly.
  21. Recipe – Can you give me that delicious cake recipe? /  This is a recipe for disaster! [the instructions for how to make certain food]
  22. Scissors – Do you know where the scissors are? [a tool for cutting paper or fabric]
  23. Strengths – What are your strengths and weaknesses? [strong points]
  24. Clothes – I bought some new clothes today.
  25. Months – She’s 18 months old now.
  26. Eighth – Henry the Eighth was a Tudor king of England
  27. Queue – Sorry, are you in the queue? Are you skipping the queue? Sorry, the end of the queue is back there. Yes, we’re all queueing up, we’re not just standing here. Unbelievable. [a line of people waiting for something]
  28. Fruit – Do you have any fresh fruit?
  29. Sixteenth – It’s the sixteenth of October
  30. Eighteenth – It’s the eighteenth of November
  31. Thirteenth – it’s Friday the thirteenth
  32. Thirtieth – it’s the thirtieth of December
  33. Bomb – There was a bomb scare in the station. People were talking about a bombing. I remember when the IRA bombed Oxford Street. [an explosive device]
  34. Climb – Do you want to go climbing with me next weekend? I’m going to climb that mountain on Saturday. You climbed it last year didn’t you? [to go up something steep like a ladder,  a hill or a mountain]
  35. Comb – I’m just combing my hair with a comb. [something that you use to make your hair straight]
  36. Crumb – Why are there lots of bread crumbs on the table? Have you been cutting bread here? There are lots of crumbs everywhere. Can you clean them up please? [little bits of bread or other food]
  37. Debt – (Many students leave university with) thousands of pounds of debt. [money which you have to pay back to someone after you borrow it]
  38. Doubt – There’s no doubt about it. It’s a brilliant film. [something you’re unsure about]
  39. Government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4) The government is yet to make a statement.
  40. My name is Luke  (not Mr Luck) Thompson
  41. This is a podcast – not a postcard, or potcard, or pot cast or pot cat. It’s podcast.

 See Paul’s One Man Show #Franglais – http://paultaylorcomedy.com/

By the way, if you’re in France, you really should see Paul’s one man show called #Franglais because it is back in theatres for another run. A lot of the comedy in his show is based around pronunciation differences, including the way people say his name, the way French people say funny things without realising it and more. Check out paultaylorcomedy.com for more information.

Here’s David Crystal’s response to “GHOTI” = FISH

Remember that thing that goes around the internet about how “Fish” should be spelled GHOTI?

Basically David Crystal believes that English spelling is not actually senseless, chaotic or mad. It is complex but it’s not completely random. In fact it is the end result of a fascinating process of development that can tell us a lot about the rich history of the English language.

From a Guardian review of his book “Spell It Out”

‘Crystal shows a brisk impatience with the tradition that likes to pretend that English spelling is senseless. The famous suggestion that you could spell “fish” “ghoti” (gh as in “rough”, o as in “women” and ti as in “motion”) is a witticism often ascribed to George Bernard Shaw but, Crystal says witheringly, has been doing the rounds since the middle of the 19th century. It is, he argues “complete naughtiness. The spelling ti is NEVER used with this sound at the end of a word in English, and the spelling gh is NEVER used with this sound at the beginning of a word.” It doesn’t do, then, to simply throw your hands up and say: “Isn’t our language mad?” The real story is much more interesting than that.’ www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/14/spell-it-out-david-crystal-review

You can read more about the interesting story of English spelling and what it can teach us about the history of the English language by reading David Crystal’s book “Spell It Out”, which I expect is available from any half-decent book shop.

454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

455. David Crystal Interview (Part 2) Questions from Listeners

So, that’s it for this double episode then, thanks for listening!

  • Join the mailing list!
  • Don’t be a ninja hiding in the shadows – write something in the comment section
  • Be excellent to each other and party on!

Luke

470. Understanding the Liverpool Accent

Helping you to understand and appreciate the Liverpool accent and Scouse English, featuring clips of comedy a short history of Liverpool and interviews with famous footballers, actors and musicians.

Small Donate Button
[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript – Introduction

Hello listeners – how are you doing? In the last episode we listened to some comedy routines by Scouse comedian John Bishop and I said we’d take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, break it down, listen to some more samples and also learn some typical words you might hear being used in Liverpool. So that’s the plan in this episode. All about the Liverpool accent.

There’s nowhere in the UK quite like Liverpool. You probably know it as where The Beatles came from, or because of the football clubs LFC and EFC. Perhaps some of you have visited it or studied there are students, because it’s a big university town.

I lived there for 4 years as a student.

My feelings when I moved there:
It’s definitely in the north! Up north.
First time I lived in the north, and there is a north/south divide in the UK
Climate is different
People are different to the people anywhere else – they’re cheeky, chatty, tough, humourous, a bit tricky sometimes, proud and also quite sentimental and sensitive about the city.

The place has a particular history that isn’t shared by other towns in England. Its cultural mix is different to the rest of the country. The accent in particular is very distinctive, and it’s confined to just the local Liverpool area – a relatively small space when you consider the accent diversity in other larger countries where the same accent may be heard for many miles, like for example in Texas. In England our accents are very specific and very local. Travel 30 minutes by car from Liverpool to neighbouring Manchester and the accent is very different and this is largely because of the history of Liverpool as an international port and the rich diversity of influences.

This is a corner of the country with a strong character and a recognisable accent to go along with it.

Scousers, or people from Liverpool are instantly recognisable by their accent. The sound of a Liverpool accent instantly conjures up certain images, certain cliches, certain reference points and a certain history which is unique to that part of the country.

In this episode the plan is to investigate the Liverpool accent, and to some extent the dialect, listen to some samples, find out some of the pronunciation features, and consider a little bit of Liverpool’s history and culture. We’ll listen to a few different people speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you to understand it all, and I’m sure you’ll pick up some nice vocabulary on the way – and not just local slang words but words that everybody in the country uses but which the Scousers might just pronounce in their own way.

The aim is to broaden your horizons, broaden your exposure to different accents and to help you get a full appreciation of English in all its forms.

The Milk Advert on TV

Let’s start with an advert that used to be on the TV and which millions of British people watched many times – The famous milk advert.This is what the whole nation (of my generation) might think of as a sample of Scouse English. Many of us heard it lots of times growing up and a lot of us even learned it. I used to be able to recite it word for word when I was a kid.

Picture two children from Liverpool who have been playing football in the garden. They come into the house to get something refreshing to drink from the fridge (or should that be “fridge”). One asks for lemonade, the other one chooses to drink milk because it’s “what Ian Rush drinks”.

Ian Rush was a famous footballer in the 80s. He played for Liverpool for years and scored many goals for them. He was Welsh. By the way, you should also know that there is a place in England called “Accrington” (north of Manchester) and their football team (Accrington Stanley) aren’t very good – so Accrington Stanley is a reference for an unknown football team that nobody wants to play for.

Audio sample 1 – The Milk Advert

Lee Mack making fun of the Scouse accent

Features of the Liverpool Accent

Let’s now take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, considering some of the main features that make Scouse English different to the kind of RP that I speak. Then we’ll listen to some more samples of Scouse speech and you can see if you understand them.

 

Consonant sounds

  • /k/ can become /x/ like in “loch” “Accrington Stanley” “milk” “Lee Mack”
  • /r/ sounds – alveolar tap “accrington stanley” “I’m afraid I’m not from round here” “alright”
  • /t/ can sound like /s/ “butter” “I’m going to go into town later, do you want something” “Come on then mate, let’s start. Come ed, Let’s get started.”
  • /g/ is pronounced not just with the /ŋ/ but all the way to a /g/ sound “sing” “singer” “Ere mate are you a singer? You gonna sing us a song?”
  • And yet sometimes it’s completely dropped like in “Eh mate what are you doing?” – “what are yew dewin? What are youse doing coming over here like that?” “Milk, that’s disgusting”
  • /h/ sounds are often dropped “That has never happened to be honest”
  • /d/ sounds instead of /th/ sounds – “They do though don’t they though?”

Vowel sounds

  • /ɜː/ like “bird” becomes [ɛː] like “air” – “work”, “first”, “bird” “Are you always the first one to get to work in the morning”
  • /a:/ sounds in the south are like /æ/ in the north (normal in the north generally) “bath” “grass” “laugh”
  • But sometimes it goes wider like aaaa in “card” or “pokemon cards”
  • /ʊ/ in book sounds like /u:/ “book” (but not every time – sometimes they say it like me, and words like ‘took’ and ‘look’ are often pronounced. I don’t know why it’s “book”)
  • /-er/ sounds at the ends of words normally pronounced with schwa sound are pronounced with an /e/ sound “computer” “teacher” “fitter” “singer”
  • /ʌ/ becomes like /ʊ/ or /ɒ/ “but erm… shut up” “shut up will ya”
  • “Errrm“
  • /eə/ sometimes becomes /ɜː/ – “hair” “over there”

All those features are interesting, but there’s a good chance that all just went over your head. Really the best way to get used to hearing scouse English is just to listen to some people using it.

Audio Sample 2 – Jamie Carragher “Butchers” the English Language

Just listen and tell me these things:

  • Who is he?
  • What’s he talking about? (general subject)

Audio sample 3 – Stephen Gerrard, former England captain

  • What is he looking forward to?
  • Is he worried about the regime change with Fabio Cappello (known for being a discipinarian)
  • Does he have a message of hope for England fans?
  • What would it mean to David Beckham to achieve 100 caps?

Audio Sample 4 – Wayne Gerrard – a spoof of Scouse footballers by Paul Whitehouse

Wayne Gerrard (spoof)

Language:

  • Just get my head down
  • Let my feet do the talking
  • Very pleased for the fans
  • Very pleased for the manager
  • One game at a time
  • Keep my head down
  • Let my football do the talking

A short history of Liverpool

Liverpool is in the north west of England. It’s a port town on the river Mersey, just where the north coast of Wales meets the west coast of England.

Liverpool started as a small trading port probably in the 13th or 14th centuries.
By the 17th and 18th centuries it was the primary port for trade with Ireland. There was lots of trade with Ireland, and also ships coming from Norway and Sweden or other scandinavian countries.

The industrial revolution, globalisation and Britain’s colonialism meant that Liverpool became a hugely important port for British ships heading to the Americas in the 19th century.
As a result by the mid 19th century, Liverpool was a hugely important city for trading with the new world.

The population of the city grew quickly with amazing diversity – everyone from around the world was there, including large numbers of Irish and Welsh workers, scandinavian sailors but also Chinese workers, Caribbean workers associated with the slave trade.

Liverpool was one of the most important and most impressive cities in the world at this time.
It was sometimes called the New York of Europe, and you can see evidence of that in some of the buildings – parts of the city resemble some of the style of New York buildings, especially in the old part of town and by the docks.

The diverse history is still evident in the cultural make-up of the city. There is still a large Chinese community and also many families of Caribbean origin in parts of Liverpool.
The biggest influences though were the Welsh and certainly the Irish communities who moved in for the manual work that was available there in the 19th century. Liverpool is heavily influenced by the Irish, and it was described as the capital of Ireland just because so many Irish people lived there.

All of these influences can be heard in the Liverpool accent – some Irish, some features of Welsh (which is a totally different language to English) and also some scandinavian influences and many others that make Liverpool so different. That’s also combined with the local Lancashire accent too. All of it combines to create this particularly rich and vibrant form of English.
The city was very rich and very important during the industrial revolution, but conditions for many people were appalling – living squeezed into dirty and dangeous slums.

Gradually Britain’s position as the global industrial imperial power started slipping, and the two world wars sped up that process. Many young men were killed in World War 1, and between the two wars Liverpool was partly redesigned with many residential areas being built around the outskirts of the city, and lots of the people who previously lived in the slums being relocated there. This changed the nature of the city, with large outlying residential areas with row upon row of terraced houses.

World War 2 was devastating to Liverpool as it was the target of bombing raids by the Luftwaffe. Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool got pounded by bombs night after night and lots of buildings were destroyed, and they stayed destroyed for many years.

When the Beatles were growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s it was common for children to play in bombsites – in the remains of buildings destroyed by bombs, and even when I was living there in the 1990s I saw lots of empty spaces in residential streets where buildings used to exist but still hadn’t been replaced since the war.

With the end of the industrial revolution, Liverpool’s importance slipped and basically since WW2 Liverpool has been a rather tough place to live, with various social problems, unemployment, poverty, and perhaps the sense that the city has been somewhat ignored or forgotten by the country which used to rely on it so much.

These days the city is known for The Beatles, the football clubs and players, some cultural things such as the vibrant art scene and just the scouse people themselves who are known for their humour and their unique character.

Here’s a female voice – Jennifer Ellison, an actress from Liverpool.

Audio sample 5 – Jennifer Ellison “Mum of the Year Awards 2013”

Vocabulary

Here are some bits of the dialect or just typical sounding words.

To be honest, you hear most of these things in many parts of the country, but listen out for how scousers would say these things.

  • ‘Me’ not ‘my’ – “You’ve broken all me biccies!”
  • ‘You’ (plural) – ‘youse’ “Youse are all a bunch of bleedin eejits”
  • Adding “me” at the end of a sentence starting with ‘I’. “I’m dead hungry, me.”
  • Mate – “Alright mate, are you a student?”
  • “Sound” – “He’s alright isn’t he, him? Yeah, he’s sound.”
  • “Boss” – That’s boss that. Have you played FIFA. It’s boss.”
  • “made up”
  • “Eeeerm”
  • “Eh!”
  • “Alright?”
  • “Laa”
  • “Ta-raa”
  • “See ye later”
  • “Come ed”
  • “Go ed” “g’wed”
  • “Alright! Calm daaaawn!” (cliche)
  • “Bevvies”
  • “Nice one son”
  • “Gutted”
  • “Scran”
  • “bevvie”
  • “Bacon barm” – “two bacon barms please”
  • “brekkie”
  • “Chocka block”
  • “Like” – “I was like, walking down the Scotty road and I seen these two like students.”

Lots of people in the UK got to know Scouse very well from watching Brookside, a soap opera that started in the 80s. It was about middle class and working class life in Liverpool and it often showed scenes of social problems including frequent arguments between the main characters. This helped to build the stereotype that Scousers are argumentative and prone to social problems.

Audio sample 6 – Brookside argument

Summary

  • 3 people – Barry, Barry’s mum and Billy
  • Barry wants his money
  • But the account is £500 short
  • Because his Mum lent it to someone else (Billy)
  • So, let’s cut out the middle man, give us the money
  • He hasn’t got it – he needed it to pay the mortgage and the car
  • Barry gets angry with Billy saying “you’ve got it made here”
  • Barry is angry with Billy because he’s borrowing money from his Mum
  • “I’m going to have to go back to the car fella, tell him I can’t have the car”
  • You’ve screwed up our Christmas!
  • Then he pushes him.

Cliche

This cliche of argumentative Scousers was summed up in a series of sketches on a comedy TV show called Harry Enfield’s TV Programme.

This cemented the stereotype of Scousers as:

  • Argumentative & violent – often fighting and infighting
  • From large families with lots of brothers
  • Always wearing shellsuits
  • Unemployed – around the house all day
  • With mustaches and curly permed hair

Audio sample 7 – Harry Enfield – The Scousers (the cliched view)

Language:

  • Alright, calm down calm down.
  • Are you telling me to calm down?
  • Alright you two, break it up!
  • What’s going on here eh?
  • Friggin
  • Do you have to make such a friggin fuss about it?
  • Just keep out of it Barry.
  • Are you telling me to keep out of it?

The Beatles

The Beatles are also famously from Liverpool, but nobody seems to really speak like them any more. The accent has become more nazal and harsher. The Beatles spoke in this kind of “Beatle voice” which you don’t hear so much any more.

You can hear the scouse in their voices though if you listen carefully.

Audio sample 8 – Beatles

 

Audio Sample 9 – Local documentary on YouTube

Mini doc www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIcPTpWq5jY

456. Conclusions about Language Learning from the David Crystal Interview (Part 1)

Discussing and clarifying what David Crystal said in episode 454. Conclusions about language learning and linguistics.

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript

Here we are back once again with an episode of this podcast for learners of English. This one should contain insights about the English language and the process of learning that language, straight from the horse’s mouth.

That’s an expression, “straight from the horse’s mouth” which means you get information directly from a reliable and trusted source. In this case that source (or horse) is Professor David Crystal, who of course isn’t a horse – that would be very bizarre. No, he’s of course, he’s not a horse, he’s a great expert on the English language, the author of many books, known by anyone studying linguistics, he’s described as the world’s leading voice on language. I was very happy to have that leading voice on my podcast and there’s certainly a lot of good information to take in – whether you’re learning English or simply interested in languages and what makes them tick.

In this episode the plan is to go through some of the ideas David talked about and see if I can point out some specific bits of relevance for learners of English.

Let’s unpick the wise words of Prof David Crystal and really clarify some truths, tips and general conclusions about language learning, and perhaps explain some of the vocabulary you heard as well.

Essentially, I am going to repeat the main points DC made here, but the aim is to clarify it all and make it a bit more digestible. I will constantly be attempting to answer the question – how is this useful for learners of English? So, you should be able to take away quite a lot from this episode, in combination with the other two.

Is grammar glamorous?

Glamour and grammar come from the same word – because grammar, language etc used to be considered like magic. But grammar seems to have lost its magic these days, in the way people think about it. These days its considered to be boring, prescriptive and all about rules you learned at school.

It’s not glamorous if you study it like they used to in school. Just parsing sentences and working out what the part of speech is.

It only works if you ask why people are using those forms.

Semantic (focusing on meaning) vs pragmatic (why people say the things they say).

Understanding the motivations of the people who use grammar (the pragmatic side) is the interesting part and that’s when grammar really comes alive and becomes glamorous in the old sense of the word.

For learners of English this means exploring not just the form of the language you’re studying but also the reasons why each different form is used. The challenge is to get the semantic side and the pragmatic side into your studies.

So, don’t just study grammar rules on their own in a list. You need to examine the living language and notice those forms and the way they are used to perform specific functions.

Can you learn English without studying grammar?

Children do it, and you can do it too but it takes a long time for all the language to be assimilated by exposure. You can cut out a lot of that time by studying the rules. As adults we can apply what we already know and take apart the language by studying. So, studying grammar is an essential part of the learning process and goes together with a more long-term process of acquiring English through exposure.

But it’s no good just learning the rules and being able to explain it all on paper, you have to know when and why and where all the grammar is used. So it’s about applying yourself to the pragmatic aspects of the language you’re using and letting that guide your choice of language.

So, as I’ve said before – listen a lot, read a lot – like this podcast or any other material you fancy, but it’s best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Do some grammar work too, like self-study exercises in English Grammar in Use or another decent workbook, but make sure you are always asking yourself – why are these people using this language like this? How are the motivations affecting the choice of words and structures? When you’re doing your listening try to notice bits of language which you’ve studied. Could you say the same thing another way? What would be the difference and how is language related to that. Try experimenting with different ways to put something and get used to the slight nuance it adds. E.g. using a passive structure or an active one.

I know you’re not actually an English teacher, but do you have any tips for learners of English who want to improve their grammar?

No! Not a teacher!
Some linguistic-y tips – basically to know what all the grammar is, but also to be aware of the English that’s being used in the real world and how all that applies to the grammar you’ve studied.

I would add:
don’t be afraid of it, it’s more interesting than you might think, you might need to learn some abstract terms but don’t be put off, the more you learn the more you can learn, always look for examples.

Learning about why certain grammar forms are used really opens up the way you can see language. For example, learning that passive forms are used when you don’t want to mention who did the action allows you to see all those situations. You might want to write an impersonal formal letter, or give a general notice, or describe a process or simply talk about something that happened to someone without constantly talking about who did it. E.g. imagine a story about a guy who is a victim. People keep doing things to him but you want the guy to be the centre of the story. Like, John was kidnapped. He was bound and gagged and thrown into the back of a taxi. It took two hours for him to be rescued.

You wrote a political history of grammar in the UK (published online at www.davidcrystal.com)
What relationship does the average Brit have with grammar today?

Essentially, Brits have an up and down relationship with grammar, based on the fact that grammar study came in and out of fashion and grammar was learned in a two-dimensional way. People are often a bit prescriptive about grammar as they think it should be about rules and regulations, but they’re really only attempting to impose controls over something which evolves over time.

Knowledge of Grammar in the UK
In the 50s kids all learned basic grammar at school, getting examined at 16. Told to identify parts of speech in a sentence.
Then it went out of fashion in the 70s.
Several generations of kids who didn’t study any grammar at all.
Now they’ve grown up and some of them are teachers.
They don’t know any grammar.
The ones who grew up in the old style had learned grammar.
The younger ones were teaching but had no knowledge of grammar.
“The baby had been thrown out with the bathwater”
A language awareness programme was brought back, with a modicum of grammar back in the syllabus/curriculum.
David had to do lots of basic grammar training for these teachers. He wrote “Rediscover Grammar”.
Now, it’s back again.
Kids are examined for their ability to recognise parts of speech and do sentence parsing.
But the semantics and pragmatics aren’t there – it’s just mechanical analysis of sentences. Some teachers are very unhappy.

Now there are 3 types of audience.
The oldies who are in their 60s who know about the old style grammar teaching,
The middle generation, some of whom know a lot about grammar and some who don’t.
Then the modern generation for whom grammar is back. They have to come to terms with it.

One positive thing for learners of English is that you probably know more grammar than the average native English speaker. You should feel quite good about that.

Questions about language from Amber & Paul

People complain about the decline of the English language. Are standards of English declining?

That Q comes from 2017 but you can see exactly the same question being raised at any time.
The English language is in a state of terminal decline. (according to people)
This also applies to spelling and pronunciation and punctuation, plus discourse politeness. Grammar gets more mentions because there’s less of it to complain about than say ‘vocabulary’. Grammar has only 3000 or so basic points of grammar to master.
So, people feel that if you can’t manage that then there’s something serious to worry about.
People look to contemporary examples to justify their complaints.
IN the 1860s it was because of Americans.
Today the internet gets a lot of the blame, especially texting, tweeting, SMS.
Uneducated people will blame what they sense to be a reason for what they perceive to be a decline.
But when you study it you realise there’s no correlation between the signs of decline and the features they mention.
Usually people cite old prescriptive rules.
You should never end a sentence with a prep. You should never split an infinitive.
The English language has survived very well even though people have been breaking these so-called rules for 200 years.
This is the man I was talking to. – Any modern person realises it’s a stylistic distinction. “To whom” is more formal.
The informal usage also has a history as old as the English language. It’s in Shakespeare. “To be or not to be, that is the question… Or fight others that we know not of.” (ending a sentence with a prep – Hamlet)
It’s a huge puzzle to understand why the old grammarians decided to be so prescriptive.
They were blinded by their views.

For learners of English – realise that the language is always in flux. Keep up with it. Remember also that some people have slightly traditional views about language. E.g. more people in the world say “schedule” with a /k/ sound, but I continue to say “Schedule” with a /sh/ sound because it annoys people to do it the American way. Similarly, I think there’s nothing too bad about splitting an infinitive, but I tend to avoid it because it makes people a bit annoyed too.

They’re grammar nazis who don’t know what they’re talking about, but as far as they’re concerned, they’re right.

It’s not such a big problem for learners of English really. You have your own issues with accuracy. But remember that everyone struggles a bit with the language, even native speakers. We should have a progressive view of how language rules evolve, but a lot of people don’t share those views.

If you encounter people who say “It’s the death of the English language”, they’re talking out of their bum. Remind them that English is alive and well and shows no signs of dying, quite the opposite. They’re just being reactionary and hyperbolic.

Language Death

Almost half the languages in the world are endangered.The reasons are many. It could be linguistic genocide – forbidding the use of the language, or opting not to use it for political reasons (e.g. because you want to side with a particular faction on your country), but when a language is endangered, when another language starts taking over the functions of that language, people no longer find themselves able to use that language for everything – certain facilities kind of disappear because people have got used to doing it in the other language.

Welsh is quite successful these days because of activism, but a few years ago English was taking over Welsh, and also some rules of Welsh grammar weren’t being used. You get a sense that the structure of the language is declining. Certain Welsh structures stopped being used. It looked like a kind of structural erosion of Welsh, because of the influence of English. Vocab is more common – many foreign languages contain English words. #Franglais

But there’s no hint of decline in relation to English which is actually going from strength to strength. Spoken by 2.3 billion people. It’s nowhere near death.

They just mean it’s changing, it’s not death.

Language change is difficult for lots of people to take and they talk about death but it’s irrelevant. The only languages that don’t change are dead ones. They go in very unexpected directions and you can’t predict them.

Petty language gripes don’t bother him. They don’t bother me either.

Partly it’s to do with identity – people are annoyed that British identity is changing or being influenced by American identity. But getting annoyed at the language usage, which is a symptom, is a bit redundant.

Some people don’t like change at all, but David sees it as a natural part of the way languages develop. Be like David.

My mate Paul often says that we’re actually using the language incorrectly because there are more non-native speakers than native speakers of English. Is he right or talking nonsense.

Error: Talking about right and wrong.
Correct: The perception that there are more non-natives than natives.

It’s a global situation now, not local (e.g. North vs South England). Global language differences are the same as local ones – equivalent – just different communities using English differently, on a global scale.

Now it’s Irish English, Indian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English, Singaporean English and many many more including French English, Japanese English and so on – all versions of English spoken by people who have learned it to a proficient level as a 1st or 2nd language.

It’s just different communities that are right in their circumstances.

Standard English and non-standard English.
Standard English is traditionally viewed as the correct version, but NSE has it’s own justification. There are reasons why non-standard English exists and they’re perfectly good ones. Non-standard English and standard English are equal in terms of their status.

A standard promotes intelligibility. Standard English has lots of users, but there’s also a huge number of dialects (international), many different kinds of English reflecting community backgrounds. You can’t say “right and wrong” in these circumstances. It’s just a number of different communities using English in a way that is appropriate for their conditions.

When you start looking at individual cases like a foreign learner is breaking a rule of standard English, then you’ve got a transitional situation. BrE and AmE. They coexist. It’s not possible to say “wrong” or “right” when millions of people are using both versions.

In China there are very fluent speakers of English, not learners but proficient speakers, who have developed a certain usage which is basically Chinese English. Local features of grammar and vocab don’t keep communities apart, we just learn to understand each other.
“Informations” vs “information” – no problem of intelligibility.
Anyway, Chaucer wrote “informations”.

These small differences are expressions of identity and rarely get in the way of intelligibility. This is one of the reasons the UK has proud diversity in its English accents. They’re all statements of local identity, and although we see the differences, we are able to communicate with each other.

It’s a Q of whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate for that circumstance and the two criteria are
Intelligibility – do we understand you. If we understand you, it’s appropriate.
Identity – differences are an expression of local identity. Lang is adapted to reflect the locale, especially the vocab – all the reference points to important things in culture. Local terms, idioms, expressions etc.
If the English you use is wrong for that context because of the way it expresses a certain identity then you have a problem of appropriacy.

If Ali G went to the Houses of Parliament to speak with politicians and civil servants, his English would be considered inappropriate (even if intelligible) because people would think it’s not the proper way to address people and so on. Similarly if Theresa May went to a skatepark and tried to talk to some locals, she’d have a hard time as well.

English is always in tension between intelligibility and identity (against global anonymity)

Local versions need to be different enough to express their identity, but not so different that nobody understands them.

My French students feel a bit bad about their pronunciation.
Do they need to worry?

This is perhaps the #1 concern of my French students who judge each other harshly for their accents and also feel bad about it. It may be the same in your country, but I find in France people are very disdainful of a strong French accent. I don’t mind that much.

The bottom line is, once upon a time they would have felt bad because people would have said “you’re speaking English badly” and that’s not so long ago.

Now, there is no such thing as a single version of universal English accent. RP is spoken by less than 2% of the population of England. It’s a minority accent but a powerful one.

Why should people be expected to speak this minority accent when other accents are now considered acceptable in their own right.

RP is important because of tradition but miniscule compared to American, Indian and so on. It’s no longer possible to condemn an accent because it doesn’t fit in with this small version of the language. You have to analyse it on its own terms, with its local identity. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the need for intelligibility.

So the main thing is – can we understand you? If “yes” then no worries. Does it matter if you sound a bit French? What’s wrong with sounding French?
I was very impressed by Emmanuel Macron who made a speech in English. It wasn’t perfect, but he got his message across and it showed him to be a really open, confident, modern person. Compare that to Francois Hollande who couldn’t string a sentence together. You don’t need to speak English perfectly in the traditional sense, but you do have to speak it. Stop worrying about being 100% accurate – concentrate on being 100% intelligible. The main criteria is “can you express what you want to say?” not “can you express this flawlessly?”

“But my accent isn’t good”
Well, develop a different mindset. Start thinking more positively about all this!
“I don’t speak received pronunciation” (french accent)
“Well nor do I!”
Mixed accents are the norm everywhere.
English accents are much more mixed than ever before.
There are now hundreds of millions of people who understand each other but have local accents as a reflection of their national pride.
Why are the French worried about sounding French?
There’s nothing wrong with sounding a bit French. (But it’s hard to convince them of this – French people can have very negative views about some things, especially their position on the world’s stage – they beat themselves up quite a lot, which is odd. In comedy, they seem ok about being insulted about their national character. They quite enjoy the masochistic approach it seems! Either that or their just happy to have a foreign comedian talking about French things during a show, even if it is criticism. Making fun or insulting people is quite normal in French comedy – I think this is linked to the way French people often beat themselves up about stuff like English.

The main job of the teacher is to expose the students to a wide range of accents. Let them hear the English in different accents, to prepare for the real world, to develop a sense and an awareness of diversity which inevitably will help to change their mindset.

*By hearing lots of different types you get more of an overall understanding of the entire language and how it can have a core structure which is changed slightly in different versions of English.

So – I should keep playing you extracts of English spoken in a variety of accents so that you can hear the whole range.

But also, don’t get hung up on your accent too much. It’s very hard to cut out the traces of your origins, and it’s unnecessary. Just focus on being intelligible – fix your pronunciation, vocab, grammar, punctuation etc following this criteria and you’ll be on the right path.

END OF PART 1 – PART 2 COMING SOON

276. Q&A Session #5

Hello and welcome to another episode of the podcast. If you’re new to LEP then you should know that this is a long-running podcast for learners of English. The idea is that I provide you with regular content to help you improve your English. My intention is to provide you with listening material that is not only good for your English but also a pleasant and fun experience to listen to. Check out teacherluke.co.uk where you can add your email address to the mailing for new episodes, or find my podcast on iTunes where you can also subscribe. There are lots of transcripts, discussion forums, videos and all kinds of other stuff at teacherluke.co.uk so check it out. If you’re an old listener, then ahoy there! Welcome back to the good ship LEP.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD] [AUDIOBOOK OFFER]

I’m in the skypod again to record another episode and this time I’m responding to more questions from my listeners. These are all questions that found their way to me via the discussion forum or as comments or emails.  This one is Q&A Session #5.

A Spoonful of Mustard – June 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm
Hello Luke,
This particular question has been bothering me for donkey’s years. Even though it may sound a bit silly, I would be most grateful should you answer it seriously. Let me put you in the picture.
Essentially, the question stems from a sci-fi film I watched a couple of years ago. A part of the plot is set on a planet that orbits three stars in a solar system a zillion light years away from the Earth. At some point in the film, a bunch of fugitive inmates gets stranded on the deserted surface of this remote planet. By and by, the presence of the three stars in the sky dawns, literally and figuratively, on the gang, and one of them yells out, unconvincingly acting-wise, ‘it’s got three suns!’
This particular usage of the word ‘sun’ baffles me. Even though it is crystal clear what the protagonist means, it seems to me he should have said, ‘it’s got three stars!’ since ‘sun’ is the name of the star the Earth goes round. On the other hand, another question comes up: if you were on a planet in a different solar system, could you get a suntan or, indeed, go sunbathing? Could you enjoy watching awe-inspiring sunrise over there, or you would have to resort to relishing observing Alpha Centauri-rise or something of the same sort?
Based on your expert knowledge, what do you think of all this?
All the best,
A Spoonful of Mustard

Luke: So, can we call the stars orbited by other planets in the universe “suns”. Yes, I think we can. I would say that a star being orbited by planets is a sun. We call our sun ‘the sun’ because, for us, it’s the only one. We know there are others, but this is the main one for us. It’s like “Let’s go to the pub” – here we mean our local pub, the one that we live near. Any pub can be “the pub” – it depends where you live, or where you are at that time. If you live near The Kings Head – that’s The Pub. If you live near the Golden Lion, that’s “the pub”. Similarly, if you live on earth then the star at the centre of our solar system is “the sun” but I would say that if you live on another planet in another solar system (please leave a comment if you do – we’d love to hear from you) then I think it’s fair to say that you could call your local star, “the sun” too, or perhaps “our sun” or even “suns” if there are several.
“Look at the sun” means our local sun. But if you were on another planet, and that planet orbited a star – I think it would be fair to call it a sun as well.
Luckily, I don’t think this is something that troubles most of you on a daily basis. :)

Anonymous – April 26, 2015 at 2:09 pm – in the comments section of my website.
The difference between can and can’t.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=cahVeRxiZBc
I personally found this extremely difficult to catch! I hope this can help somebody.

Luke:
I think there are a few points to deal with for this question. Also, there are several ways of saying the word can, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on – there’s the British way and then the wrong way. Haha that’s a joke. No really, Americans and Brits say the words slightly differently. We’ll come to that in a moment. I’m dealing with the UK version of “can” and “can’t”.
1. The difference between the words when they’re not in a sentence. Can /kæn/ can’t /kɑːnt/ – mainly it’s about the vowel sound (can is short, can’t is long) but also that can’t has a /t/ sound at the end.
2. When the words are used in the middle of a sentence, fluently. Firstly, there’s the issue of the weak form of ‘can’ with a schwa sound, and with ‘can’t’ the /t/ sound can disappear, making it sound a bit like ‘car’.
Weak form of ‘can’
Yes, I can do that. Here, can is /kən/
Elision of /t/ in ‘can’t’
Sorry, I can’t do that. I can’t see it. I can’t wait. – in all of those, the /t/ of ‘can’t’ disappears.
It’s normal for /t/ and /d/ sounds to be lost when followed by another /t/ or /d/ sound, but it’s not just then. Frankly, /t/ sounds are often dropped in fluent speech.
Sorry, I can’t eat it.
So, can and can’t sound alarmingly similar sometimes. But they’re not the same. Native speakers can identify the difference. There is a difference, it’s not telepathy, although context may help too (like, tone of voice or body language)
The key thing is that the vowel sound is still long.
“I can meet you at 3.”
“I can’t meet you at 3.”
Can you hear the difference?
How about the tone or intonation of the sentences?
Listen to these sentences, am I saying ‘can’ or ‘can’t’? Sometimes my intonation or other words might help. Repeat the sentences after me.
a. I can be there earlier if you need me to.
b. I just can’t work this one out.
c. I can just do it for you if you want.
d. You can just take the bus, it’s much easier.
e. He can’t get any reception in his room, so he’s going to use the landline.
f. They can just download it and stick it on the laptop.
g. You can’t help me with this can you?
h. I can’t stop thinking about last night.
i. It can be a bit difficult to hear the difference between can and can’t sometimes, can’t it?

3. American English may be a bit different. “can’t” might sound more distinct.

Daniel – June 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm
Hello Luke,
First of all, I want to say I regard your work with podcasts the best I’ve ever seen for ESL learners so far. You show a 100% spontaneous conversation in English that supports listening skills a lot. Thanks mate!
Getting back to my question for you I have to tell you I’m trying to learn how to speak with authentic British accent, but, it seems the process to me is becoming increasingly slow. I’ve been  self-taught for more than 2 years. In fact, I want to sound like you,and, so that, at the moment, I try to mimic you by memorising what you say and then repeating that as many times as possible. Am I in the right technique? I’m not so sure about that!I’d like some guidance from you as regards the pronunciation learning. So,here are  my questions: how could somebody speed up the process of internalising the British accent ? What method you’d suggest to come near faster and effectively to this accent? Thanks in advance for your attention.

Luke: This kind of relates to the question from Edgar. Let’s say you’ve decided to learn to speak with a British accent (Standard Received Pronunciation I imagine – because there are many British accents, as you know). How can you do it? Here are some ideas: Learn the phonemic script. Learn all those sounds and symbols. This is the palette of English. Once you learn all the sounds that are used in English, you’ll be able to identify and hopefully copy the sounds as they are used by people. Learning the phonemic script is like learning the musical theory. Transcribe words and sentences in phonemic script, and then check a dictionary. Yes, do plenty of listening and repetition. Use the BBC’s pronunciation pages for help www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/pron/ Use a mirror to see the way you are pronouncing words and compare that to the videos on the BBC’s pronunciation page. Listen to loads of British English and just have fun trying to copy it. Think about things other than the vowel sounds – e.g. intonation, certain phrases that are typical, rhythm, the attitude and mentality, body language. These can all be tags to help you learn. But again, the main thing is that you speak clearly and that you are yourself. Don’t fake it too much, except for fun. If possible, spend time with lots of British people – humans are designed to adapt to be similar to those around us (if you just relax and let it happen) and so spending time with Brits is perhaps the best way. Go drinking with British people! If you can’t do that, just keep listening to Luke’s English Podcast, it’s bound to rub off on you.

Naz – June 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm
I just wanted to ask about my personal problem with English . I know many people have some problem with spoken English but some of them are lazy and they don’t study hard and they are often just complaining. But I am not a lazy person and everyday I regularly try to study English.
I’ve been living in London for two years. When I came here I didn’t know any English words except “yes or no” , couldn’t understand what people talk about. But later I discovered your website and another amazing website like yours. I’ve been listening regularly your podcasts. Now My English has evolved without any course. It really helped me and I appreciate and I am really grateful. Thank you very much for this selfless labour.

My problem is that I can’t make a kind of self-confidence about speaking. My personality doesn’t allow me to speak confidently. I can’t say any words in English especially while I am in Turkish communities who are speaking very well. I am a high perfectionist person and my subconscious is ordering me an excellent speech. I feel like I will not speak without having a perfect fluent English and accent. I never will have this perfection but I cannot tell myself it somehow.

Only for this reason I missed many opportunities about my job in the UK.(architecture) I wish I could see my life from a higher level…

I am sure you will give me some advice about my issue.

Thank you very much,

Naz…

Luke: You’ve got to stop judging yourself. Just relax and try. Nobody starts perfect, you have to fail before you get there. People respect bravery. Be brave, make errors, don’t let them bother you, learn from your mistakes and carry on. Nobody is judging you that much! You’re too hard on yourself. People will respect you for making the effort. I’ve seen it time and time again in classes, and I’m guilty of it myself too – the ones who make progress are the ones who don’t care about making mistakes in front of everyone. They speak up, the make some mistakes (not that many really) and they improve, and they move up to the next class. Everybody respects them. Everyone looks up to them like they’re extraordinarily confident. It’s not a magic quality that only some people have, it’s just about having priorities. Prioritise your learning, your progress and your communication. They’re more important than total perfection. Also, do it step by step. Every successful interaction or bit of communication is something to celebrate and feel good about. You need positive reinforcement and stimulation when you’re learning. Be happy about the progress you’ve made. You’ve done well. Now choose to proceed with confidence. It really is a choice.

Phil – June 13, 2014 at 4:41 pm
Dear Teacher Luke,

I just wanted to ask about the subjunctive mood. I’m still quite confused about it and even my English teacher was not able to answer my questions (she is american, from Chicago).

Partly, I think it may be due to the incorrect use of the subjunctive that many native speakers do and partly to the fact that it is actually a hard topic. I’ve read some grammar websites and that just made me even more confused.I understand that there’s a slight difference between BrE and AmE sometimes too.

THANK YOU =D
CHEERS

Luke: Could you give me a more specific response?

Here’s another example from Phil (I asked him for a more specific example)
Phil: Ok =D
All right I know (from Beyoncé) that I am supposed to say ‘if I were a boy'(though I am actually a boy…Well I conveyed the message at least). On a website I read that there’re actually 2 tenses (present and past subjunctive) but only for the verb ‘to be’ there’s a difference (be and were). For all the other verbs there are the present and past tenses that are actually the same (like work and work). here is the website www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-subjunctive.htm do you think it’s trustful? And I really wonder if this part is really correct (copied and pasted):

Notice that in these structures the subjunctive is always the same. It does not matter whether the sentence is past or present. Look at these examples:

Present: The President requests that they stop the occupation.
Past: The President requested that they stop the occupation.
Present: It is essential that she be present.
Past: It was essential that she be present.

Thank you Teacher Luke =D whichever comment on this matter will receive my deepest gratitude.

Luke: I’ll refer to a couple of web pages for this. This one for a brief explanation of its form and use: www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-subjunctive.htm (Englishclub.com)
This one has some lists of verbs and expressions which are followed by the subjunctive www.englishpage.com/minitutorials/subjunctive.html (englishpage.com)
P.S. in my zombie episode in which I looked at conditionals, I didn’t say “If I were a zombie”, I said “If I was a zombie” – technically not correct, but so many people do it that it’s considered ok if a bit colloquial.
Q&A5

251. Welcome to LEP / 16 Things You Should Know about LEP

The podcast has been nominated in the Macmillan Dictionary Award and the voting is now open here www.macmillandictionary.com/love-english-awards/voting-blog-2014.html

[Download]Small Donate Button
When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.

In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!

16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.

2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.

3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!

4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.

5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.

6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!

Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.

There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.

7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!

8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.

9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.

10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!

11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.

12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.

13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!

14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.

15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.

16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!

If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
vote for us_love english2

230. Can You Learn a Language in 6 Months?

Small Donate ButtonThis episode is based on a TEDx presentation by Chris Lonsdale, who claims that any normal adult can learn a language within 6 months. Is that really possible? What method of learning does Chris propose? How does this relate to listening to Luke’s English Podcast? You can see the video of Chris Lonsdale’s talk, with a transcript below. [Download]

[socialpoll id=”2230442″]
Chris Lonsdale’s TEDx Talk (transcript below)

Transcript of Chris Lonsdale’s Presentation
How to learn any language in six months: Chris Lonsdale
Have you ever held a question in mind for so long that it becomes part of how you think? Maybe even part of who you are as a person? Well I’ve had a question in my mind for many, many years and that is: how can you speed up learning? Now, this is an interesting question because if you speed up learning you can spend less time at school. And if you learn really fast, you probably wouldn’t have to go to school at all. Now, when I was young, school was sort of okay but I found quite often that school got in the way of learning, so I had this question in mind: how do you learn faster? And this began when I was very, very young, when I was about eleven years old I wrote a letter to researchers in the Soviet Union, asking about hypnopaedia, this is sleep learning, where you get a tape recorder, you put it beside your bed and it turns on in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping, and you’re supposed to be learning from this. A good idea, unfortunately it doesn’t work. But, hypnopaedia did open the doors to research in other areas and we’ve had incredible discoveries about learning that began with that first question.
I went on from there to become passionate about psychology and I have been involved in psychology in many ways for the rest of my life up until this point. In 1981 I took myself to China and I decided that I was going to be native level in Chinese inside two years. Now, you need to understand that in 1981, everybody thought Chinese was really, really difficult and that a westerner could study for ten years or more and never really get very good at it. And I also went in with a different idea which was: taking all of the conclusions from psychological research up to that point and applying them to the learning process. What was really cool was that in six months I was fluent in Mandarin Chinese and took a little bit longer to get up to native. But I looked around and I saw all of these people from different countries struggling terribly with Chinese, I saw Chinese people struggling terribly to learn English and other languages, and so my question got refined down to: how can you help a normal adult learn a new language quickly, easily and effectively? Now this a really, really important question in today’s world. We have massive challenges with environment we have massive challenges with social dislocation, with wars, all sorts of things going on and if we can’t communicate we’re really going to have difficulty solving these problems. So we need to be able to speak each other’s languages, this is really, really important. The question then is how do you do that. Well, it’s actually really easy. You look around for people who can already do it, you look for situations where it’s already working and then you identify the principles and apply them. It’s called modelling and I’ve been looking at language learning and modelling language learning for about fifteen to twenty years now. And my conclusion, my observation from this is that any adult can learn a second language to fluency inside six months. Now when I say this, most people think I’m crazy, this is not possible. So let me remind everybody of the history of human progress, it’s all about expanding our limits.
In 1950 everybody believed that running one mile in four minutes was impossible and then Roger Bannister did it in 1956 and from there it’s got shorter and shorter. 100 years ago everybody believed that heavy stuff doesn’t fly. Except it does and we all know this. How does heavy stuff fly? We reorganise the material using principles that we have learned from observing nature, birds in this case. And today we’ve gone ever further, so you can fly a car. You can buy one of these for a couple hundred thousand US dollars. We now have cars in the world that can fly. And there’s a different way to fly that we’ve learned from squirrels. So all you need to do is copy what a flying squirrel does, build a suit called a wing suit and off you go, you can fly like a squirrel. Now, most people, a lot of people, I wouldn’t say everybody but a lot of people think they can’t draw. However there are some key principles, five principles that you can apply to learning to draw and you can
actually learn to draw in five days. So, if you draw like this, you learn these principles for five days and apply them and after five days you can draw something like this. Now I know this is true because that was my first drawing and after five days of applying these principles that was what I was able to do. And I looked at this and I went ‘wow,’ so that’s how I look like when I’m concentrating so intensely that my brain is exploding.
So, anybody can learn to draw in five days and in the same way, with the same logic, anybody can learn a second language in six months. How? There are five principles and seven actions. There may be a few more but these are absolutely core. And before I get into those I just want to talk about two myths, dispel two myths. The first is that you need talent. Let me tell you about Zoe. Zoe came from Australia, went to Holland, was trying to learn Dutch, struggling extremely … a great deal and finally people were saying: ‘you’re completely useless,’ ‘you’re not talented,’ ‘give up,’ ‘you’re a waste of time’ and she was very, very depressed. And then she came across these five principles, she moved to Brazil and she applied them and within six months she was fluent in Portuguese, so talent doesn’t matter. People also think that immersion in a new country is the way to learn a language. But look around Hong Kong, look at all the westerners who’ve been here for ten years, who don’t speak a word of Chinese. Look at all the Chinese living in America, Britain, Australia, Canada have been there ten, twenty year and they don’t speak any English. Immersion per se does not work. Why? Because a drowning man cannot learn to swim. When you don’t speak a language you’re like a baby and if you drop yourself into a context which is all adults talking about stuff over your head, you won’t learn.
So, what are the five principles that you need to pay attention to? First: four words, attention, meaning, relevance and memory, and these interconnect in very important ways. Especially when you’re talking about learning. Come with me on a journey through a forest. You go on a walk through a forest and you see something like this. Little marks on a tree, maybe you pay attention, maybe you don’t. You go another fifty metres and you see this. You should be paying attention. Another fifty metres, if you haven’t been paying attention, you see this. And at this point, you’re paying attention. And you’ve just learned that this is important, it’s relevant because it means this, and anything that is related, any information related to your survival is stuff that you’re going to pay attention to and therefore you’re going to remember it. If it’s related to your personal goals then you’re going to pay attention to it, if it’s relevant you’re going to remember it.
So, the first rule, the first principle for learning a language is focus on language content that is relevant to you. Which brings us to tools. We master tools by using tools and we learn tools the fastest when they are relevant to us. So let me share a story. A keyboard is a tool. Typing Chinese a certain way, there are methods for this. That’s a tool. I had a colleague many years ago who went to night school; Tuesday night, Thursday night, two hours each night, practicing at home, she spent nine months, and she did not learn to type Chinese. And one night we had a crisis. We had forty- eight hours to deliver a training manual in Chinese. And she got the job, and I can guarantee you in forty-eight hours, she learned to type Chinese because it was relevant, it was meaningful, it was important, she was using a tool to create value. So the second tool for learning a language is to use your language as a tool to communicate right from day one. As a kid does. When I first arrived in China I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, and on my second week I got to take a train ride overnight. I spent eight hours sitting in the dining care talking to one of the guards on the train, he took an interest in me for some reason, and we just chatted all night in Chinese and he was drawing pictures and making movements with his hands and facial expressions and piece by piece by piece I understood more and more. But what was really cool, was two weeks later, when people were talking Chinese around me, I was understanding some of this and I hadn’t even made any effort to learn that. What had happened, I’d absorbed it that night on the train, which brings us to the third principle. When you first understand the message, then you will acquire the language unconsciously. And this is really, really well documented now, it’s something called comprehensible input and there’s twenty or thirty years of research on this, Stephen Krashen, a leader in the field has published all sorts of these different studies and this is just from one of them. The purple bars show the scores on different tests for language. The purple people were people who had learned by grammar and formal study, the green ones are the ones who learned by comprehensible input. So, comprehension works. Comprehension is key and language learning is not about accumulating lots of knowledge. In many, many ways it’s about physiological training. A woman I know from Taiwan did great at English at school, she got A grades all the way through, went through college, A grades, went to the US and found she couldn’t understand what people were saying. And people started asking her: ‘Are you deaf?’ And she was. English deaf. Because we have filters in our brain that filter in the sounds that we are familiar with and they filter out the sounds of languages we’re not. And if you can’t hear it, you won’t understand it and if you can’t understand it, you’re not going to learn it. So you actually have to be able to hear these sounds. And there are ways to do that but it’s physiological training. Speaking takes muscle. You’ve got forty-three muscles in your face, you have to coordinate those in a way that you make sounds that other people will understand. If you’ve ever done a new sport for a couple of days, and you know how your body feels? It hurts. If your face is hurting you’re doing it right.
And the final principle is state. Psycho-physiological state. If you’re sad, angry, worried, upset, you’re not going to learn. Period. If you’re happy, relaxed, in an Alpha brain state, curious, you’re going to learn really quickly, and very specifically you need to be tolerant of ambiguity. If you’re one of those people who needs to understand 100% every word you’re hearing, you will go nuts, because you’ll be incredibly upset all the time, because you’re not perfect. If you’re comfortable with getting some, not getting some, just paying attention to what you do understand, you’re going to be fine, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll be learning quickly. So based on those five principles, what are the seven actions that you need to take?
Number one: listen a lot. I call it Brain Soaking. You put yourself in a context where you’re hearing tons and tons of a language and it doesn’t matter if you understand it or not. You’re listening to the rhythms, you’re listening to things that repeat, you’re listening to things that stand out. So, just soak your brain in this.
The second action: is that you get the meaning first, even before you get the words. You go “Well how do I do that, I don’t know the words?” Well, you understand what these different postures mean. Human communication is body language in many, many ways, so much body language. From body language you can understand a lot of communication, therefore, you’re understanding, you’re acquiring through comprehensible input. And you can also use patterns that you already know. If you’re a Chinese speaker of Mandarin and Cantonese and you go Vietnam, you will understand 60% of what they say to you in daily conversation, because Vietnamese is about 30% Mandarin, 30% Cantonese.
The third action: start mixing. You probably have never thought of this but if you’ve got ten verbs, ten nouns and ten adjectives you can say one thousand different things. Language is a creative process. What do babies do? Okay: Me. Bat(h). Now. Okay, that’s how they communicate. So start mixing, get creative, have fun with it, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to work. And when you’re doing this you focus on the core. What does that mean? Well with every language there is high frequency content. In English, 1000 words covers 85% of anything you’re ever going to say in daily communication. 3000 words gives you 98% of anything you’re going to say in daily conversation. You got 3000 words, you’re speaking the language. The rest is icing on the cake. And when you’re just beginning with a new language start with the tool box. Week number one in your new language you say things like: ‘how do you say that?’ ‘I don’t understand,’ ‘repeat that please,’ ‘what does that mean,’ all in your target language. You’re using it as a tool, making it useful to you, it’s relevant to learn other things about the language. By week two that you should be saying things like: ‘me,’ ‘this,’ ‘you,’ ‘that,’ ‘give,’ you know, ‘hot,’ simple pronouns, simple nouns, simple verbs, simple adjectives, communicating like a baby. And by the third or fourth week, you’re getting into what I call glue words. ‘Although,’ ‘but,’ ‘therefore,’ these are logical transformers that tie bits of a language together, allowing you to make more complex meaning. At that point you’re talking. And when you’re doing that, you should get yourself a language parent. If you look at how children and parents interact, you’ll understand what this means. When a child is speaking, it’ll be using simple words, simple combinations, sometimes quite strange, sometimes very strange pronunciation and other people from outside the family don’t understand it. But the parents do. And so the kid has a safe environment, gets confidence. The parents talk to the children with body language and with simple language they know the child understands. So we have a comprehensible input environment that’s safe, we know it works otherwise none of you would speak your mother tongue. So you get yourself a language parent, who’s somebody interested in you as a person who will communicate with you essentially as an equal, but pay attention to help you understand the message. There are four rules of a language parent. Spouses by the way are not very good at this, okay? But the four rules are, first of all, they will work hard to understand what you mean even when you’re way off beat. Secondly, they will never correct your mistakes. Thirdly they will feedback their understanding of what you are saying so you can respond appropriately and get that feedback and then they will use words that you know.
The sixth thing you have to do, is copy the face. You got to get the muscles working right, so you can sound in a way that people will understand you. There’s a couple of things you do. One is that you hear how it feels, and feel how it sounds which means you have a feedback loop operating in your face, but ideally, if you can look at a native speaker and just observe how they use their face, let your unconscious mind absorb the rules, then you’re going to be able to pick it up. And if you can’t get a native speaker to look at, you can use stuff like this: [slides].
And the final idea here, the final action you need to take is something that I call “direct connect.” What does this mean? Well most people learning a second language sort of take the mother tongue words and take the target words and go over them again and again in their mind to try and remember them. Really inefficient. What you need to do is realise that everything you know is an image inside your mind, it’s feelings, if you talk about fire you can smell the smoke you can hear the crackling, you can see the flames. So what you do, is you go into that imagery and all of that memory and you come out with another pathway. So I call it ‘same box, different path.’ You come out of that pathway, you build it over time you become more and more skilled at just connecting the new sounds to those images that you already have, into that internal representation. And over time you even become naturally good at that process, that becomes unconscious.
So, there are five principles that you need to work with, seven actions, if you do any of them, you’re going to improve. And remember these are things under your control as the learner. Do them all and you’re going to be fluent in a second language in six months.
Thank you.

Comments Thread from YouTube

sorin86yt

Incredible stupid ideas. An incredible collection of sophisms. A stupid guy who has no idea about language learning. And it is supported by “studies”. Of course, you can “speak” Chinese in 10 days, but that will be “hello” and “thank you”. This video is a mockery. This moron cannot even understand the role of grammar. Grammar is not some torture that you sadistically apply to students. Grammar is the short(est)cut to make students understand how that language works: This moron doesn’t even know that there are a lot of people who can’t even speak their mother tongue properly. But “EVERYBODY” will learn a foreign language in 6 months. Will they go to their jobs in the mean time? Take care of their family matters? Sleep? Follow his advice and you’ll speak that language the way lowly-educated immigrants do.

 

 

Marcus T Anthony

Have you considered the possibility that you don’t understand the subject matter? What would happen if, instead of opposing ideas which contradict yours, you tried embracing them?

 

 

Radouane Rabei

I don’t know how or where you get the nerve to be able to say something like ‘Incredible stupid ideas’ and ‘A stupid guy who has no idea about language learning.’ when everything you say after that proves, you actually know absolutely nothing about language learning. How many languages did you have to learn other than English?

 

If it takes you 10 days to learn “hello” and “thank you” in Chinese, or any other language for that matter, that’s called a learning disability, you might wanna have that checked.

 

I learnt to speak English a while back in less than six months, but English is not the best example because it is such a practical language (you use 30% less words in general to say something in English than you would if you say it in French), I honestly think it is one of, if not the easiest language to pick up, I love it

 

Here is another genius statement

 

‘Grammar is the short(est)cut to make students understand how that language works’

 

I was perfectly fluent in French before I knew anything about French grammar, and in fact for French that would be the long(est)cut, French is a very impractical language, with ridiculous grammar rules.

 

This man in the video talks a lot of sense, if you really apply everything he says it would take the average person less than six months to speak any language pretty well, I have done it myself twice, and seen it done countless times with friends I grew up with .

 

Does this mean we should all start fires at our local libraries, and ban language classes, no of course not

 

Are you gonna be perfect in that language in six months, no, but it will be much easier for you to learn grammar after if you still really want to.

 

sorin86yt

+Marcus T Anthony Actually, no, I haven’t. I have 20+ years of experience in language tutoring. I tried some of the new stupid fast-food methods and they are what they are: deceptions. All these fast-food ways have appeared for commercial reasons. They fool potential clients that learning can be miraculously shortened, and also that any moron can learn a foreign language. This way language teaching businesses attract more clients willing to take short-cuts. There are also a lot morons exited by “revolutionary” ideas, like teenagers, and really believe that the man who will live 300 years is already born.

 

 

Jaime Benito de Valle Ruiz

For your information, Chris is almost native-like in Mandarin (I’ve heard him), so I am sure he knows a thing or two about learning a difficult foreign language well, regardless of what is trying to sell us. How about you? I guess you must have mastered dozens of languages to make your claims about how stupid these methods are, right? What he is saying overlaps a lot with the advice I’ve heard from others polyglots, so I don’t think it is as silly as you think… unless you are the indisputable king of languages, that is.

 

By the way, while I first had a placement in a language school, I saw a few students becoming reasonably fluent in other languages within 4 months, to my surprise, and a lot of them within 6 months, and I don’t mean saying hello and goodbye, but maintaining a fluent conversation for hours on topics as complex as politics or sociology, or discussing their cultural or banking problems, as well as being able to read a newspaper without effort and comfortably watching movies without subtitles. Granted, some occasional mistakes here and there sometimes, but good enough to function efficiently in a professional working environment (where they also say hello and goodbye too).

 

One last thing: almost no native speaker in any language has any conscious knowledge of their own grammar. Grammar is great for understanding how a language works, if that is what you want, but it won’t even guarantee that you’ll be able to speak or even understand the language. Grammar is to languages a bit like a book of human physiology is to playing a sport. And I know because I am a grammar freak.

 

Paul Coffey

+sorin86yt Given your 20+ years of tutoring experience, I’m curious to hear what alternative methods you would propose.  Like many of the people who have left comments here, my lived experience of getting to fluency in two new languages (Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese Chinese) matches very closely the methods that Chris is talking about.

 

For example, he talked about acquiring the language based on prior understanding (i.e. the comprehensible input approach).  Based on my experience in China, I found that watching movies in their original English, and then repeatedly watching them with the Chinese audio dubbing, was very useful to me.    Watching them in English allowed me to first understand the story, and then re-watching them in Chinese enabled me to take advantage of the comprehensible input environment.

 

Having said that, I’ve only got my own personal experience to go by.  Clearly, your own experience is somewhat at odds with what Chris is saying.  Could you share a little more about what has worked for you?

 

 

Truthseeker1961

People like ”sorin86yt” who have been deeply entrenched in their respective fields ALWAYS have knee-jerk reactions to new ideas and new methods because THEIR way is the ONLY way, and they don’t want to hear anything about it outside of their norm, and the 6 people who ”liked” his comment are staunch defenders of the status quo no matter what advances are introduced now, or anytime in the future.

 

 

sorin86yt

I kinda knew I was going to stir up such comments from delusional people. However, Youtube comments is not the right place for scientific debates.

 

Almost each minutes of this video contains something stupid. We can only try to point out some of the cheats. The most obvious one is the arbitrary duration: 6 months! Why 6 months and not 6m and 1w? Or 5m and 2w? What exactly does that person do during those 6 months? Only travelling by train in that country? Do they sleep? Do they have a job? Do they see after their family? Are they healthy?

 

Any competent language teacher will tell you that “6 months” is meaningless. The learning process is estimated by professionals in HOURS!!!! Take my intermediate-level English course. The “average” student (“average” – another approximation that kills the idea of a fixed time) will need about 80 hours of instruction with the teacher, and then about the double in individual study (homework, practice, listening etc). A rough total of 240 hours. What is that in calendar time? Nobody can foresee!! If the student happens to have a lot of time to dedicate to the foreign language, let’s say 6 hours/day, we calculate 40 days, which happens to be about 5 times faster that the moron in the video claims. :)  (Not mentioning that 240 hours mathematically equals 10 full days!). However, this doesn’t happen in real time. That “average” student has a job, a family, a hobby, (a disease maybe?), he has to sleep, to eat, to drive… Eventually, it comes down to about 6 hours/week (2 in class and 4 outside), which suggests 40 weeks (a little more than 9 months, not bad, huh?). However, that too rarely happens in real life. In a nine months’ time both the student and the teacher will have holidays, or business travels, or sick leaves… It may go up to 1 year and beyond. BUT the orientation line is always the number of hours. Not X months.

The next level of deception in this video is about the student. Who is that student? Whoever has ever taught anything knows students are of various “speeds” (because of talent (of course, talent matters hugely, morons!), previous knowledge, motivation, practice environment, how serious the student is about learning….). What is “6 months” for a student might be “3 months” for another one or “12 months” for another one (or even “never”!).

 

This video looks just like a stupid teleshopping presentation where they want to make us believe that the kitchen knife is the most spectacular invention of mankind.

 

224. Pronunciation: Verb Tenses & Connected Speech

This episode focuses on how sentences are pronounced quickly by native speakers. This is invaluable knowledge which will help you to take your listening and your pronunciation to the next level! Right-click here to download.

Small Donate ButtonThis is the episode I promised to record at the end of episode 176. In that episode I focused on the major verb tenses in English and I explained their meaning and uses. This episode is the sequel to that one, and it focuses specifically on the pronunciation of sentences containing a range of verb tenses.

You know when you hear a native speaker talking quite quickly? It sounds like all the words are joined together, or some of the words are being swallowed or something. It’s difficult to understand them, or to pick out every single word. Sometimes it’s hard to identify subtle differences between verb tenses. Well, just like in any language, English has features of connected speech which make it sound like whole sentences are just long words with all the sounds connected together. I want to help to demystify this for you. I want to help you to understand connected speech in English. It’ll help your listening comprehension, and it will improve your pronunciation too. So, let’s look at these features of fluent English pronunciation, focusing on sentences containing various verb tenses.

Here are the features of pronunciation I focus on in this episode
– Linking (consonant to consonant, consonant to vowel and vowel to vowel linking)
– Elision of sounds (some sounds are ‘elided’ or removed when consonants link together)
– Intrusive sounds (sometimes vowels are linked to other vowels with intrusive sounds like /j/ or /w/)
– Weak forms and ‘schwa’ sounds /ə/ (in unstressed syllables and unstressed words in sentences)
– Sentence stress (the rhythm of a sentence)

Here are the sentences I repeat in this episode
Listen carefully, and try to repeat them after me. Try to focus on the natural way I say the sentences, and try to notice the features of connected speech I’m highlighting. Don’t forget the meaning of the sentences. For an episode which deals with the meaning & use of these different tenses, click here to listen to episode 176.

Present simple
I teach English at a university, and I’m teaching first year students of law at the moment.

Present continuous
I’m from London, but at the moment I’m living in Paris.
I teach English at a university, and I’m teaching first year students of law at the moment.

Past simple
(for) I lived in West London for a long time.
(sequence of finished actions) My Dad was promoted and got a job in the midlands, so we moved there, and stayed for many years. I went to university in Liverpool and lived there for 4 years, and then I moved back to Warwickshire.

Past continuous
I’d finished uni and I was working in a pub, not really going anywhere.
It was while I was living in London that I came up with the idea of launching an amazing podcast for learners of English
.
I was walking down the street and this guy came up to me and started talking, but I couldn’t understand him

Used to do vs.
Get used to doing
– It used to be quite difficult, because I couldn’t speak the language but I’m getting used to it now.

Present perfect
I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve visited Notre Dame. I’ve been to Shakespeare and Company. I’ve tried lots of delicious French wine, but I still haven’t done everything.
Today I’ve drunk a bit too much coffee so I’m pretty hyperactive. Normally I drink tea, but more recently I’ve been drinking coffee. I’ve had about 9,000 cups already today.

Present perfect continuous
I’ve been doing lots of comedy. I’ve been doing lots of gigs.
I’ve been working at the university.
I’ve been recording episodes of the podcast
I’ve hardly had time to sit down and just read my book in silence.

Past perfect
That’s when I decided to become an English teacher.
I’d finished uni and I was working in a pub, not really going anywhere.
When I first came here, I’d never visited Paris before, but my girlfriend had told me a lot about it, so I was kind of prepared.
Past perfect continuous
As well as studying at university and college, I’d also been playing in lots of bands over the past few years, but it hadn’t really worked out, so I needed to think of something else to do.

Going to / present continuous
We’re going to visit New York next month
– I might do a special report from New York
– We’re going to stay in an AirBnB apartment that we’ve found
– We’re planning the trip at the moment.
– We’re flying there in the middle of April. It’s going to be good.

Future with will (not plans, but judgements, opinions, predictions)
Who knows, maybe the LEPPERS will one day rise up.
Hopefully it’ll last. Hopefully they’ll take me on again.
England will probably win.
We probably won’t win. I imagine it will be someone like Spain or Brazil.
1st Conditional
We probably won’t get to the final, but if we do it’ll be amazing.
Who knows what I’ll be doing
Hopefully I’ll still be recording episodes of LEP

Future perfect
Hopefully, I will have done many more episodes of LEP and perhaps I will have expanded my work online in some way.
Future perfect continuous (in a 1st Conditional structure, no less!)
If I’m still doing Luke’s English Podcast , I will have been doing LEP for 15 years.

Future perfect continuous passive!
I will have been being listened to for 10 years (!!!)