Tag Archives: pronunciation

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 (!!!)

174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast

This episode contains lots of ideas, advice and suggestions for ways of improving your listening, reading, writing and speaking using Luke’s English Podcast. A transcript is available below. ;)

Download Episode  Small Donate Button
This should be a useful episode. I’m going to go through a whole bunch of ways that you can improve your English with Luke’s English Podcast. You’ll find a list of these points on my website. I’m going to expand on them here.

I’ll be talking about key areas: listening, reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and discourse. Much of what I’m saying is written on my website. Just find the episode called “How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast”. I’ve written a lot of this down because it contains lots of specific bits of information which I wanted to make sure I included. I try not to do too many episodes in which I read things to you. I promise that the next one will be unscripted. Anyway, I’ll do my best to make this sound as natural as possible, which is an art in itself. Actually, you could use this script to help you practise your pronunciation, you could record yourself reading this too, and compare it to my version. What are the differences in your version and mine? What can you learn from that? Record yourself doing it again, and compare that to your first attempt. It’s bound to sound a lot better. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll sound more natural and convincing with each attempt. More on that later.

For now, here is a list of tips and advice for learning English with LEP. ;)

Just listen
First of all, you don’t really have to do much more than just listen to the episodes. I realised some time ago that a lot of the students of English that I met at school in London did not listen to enough authentic English. They were willing to spend money and travel across the world in order to improve their English, and yet most of them, for some reason, were not prepared to take a bit of time every day to listen to something in English. Why? I think partly this is because they didn’t know what to listen to. A lot of people watch TV and movies in English. Fine. But honestly, that might not be the best way to improve your English. Film is very visual. A lot of what you understand from a movie is the visual storytelling. It’s important to just focus on the audio – on the language. So, a lot of students didn’t know what to listen to. They thought that they didn’t have much choice. Actually, there’s plenty of choice out there. The BBC has plenty of podcasts, there are loads of podcasts on different topics on iTunes – but they’re all made for native speakers. They’re too difficult to listen to, and ultimately, that’s not motivating. There are some podcasts out there which are made for learners of English, but a lot of them are just focused on language learning, at the expense of entertainment. They’re useful, but they’re a bit dull. This is less the case now, because 5 years after starting this podcast, there are more interesting things out there for learners of English, including my podcast. So I decided that I’d try and create something for learners of English to listen to that they would actually want to listen to, beyond just learning English. Ultimately, I think to listen to English for extended periods of time, you have to have an interest in what is being talked about, or you have to find it entertaining. Otherwise, it’s hard to really sustain your concentration and it becomes like a chore. There is real value in listening to English for extended periods of time, but it’s difficult to achieve because you get put off by not understanding things, or because the recording is a bit patronising and dull. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here too much, because I’m sure that my podcast is not always as entertaining or as engaging as it could be, but I think the only way to get people to keep listening, is to try and make it entertaining as well as informative about English. So, I record this podcast with you in mind, but I try to keep it as authentic as possible. I try to avoid being simplistic. I try not to grade my English too much. I know it might be challenging for you sometimes but I attempt to hold your attention by talking in an enthusiastic way about subjects which I personally find interesting. Hopefully, the result is that you keep listening, and that you feel personally involved in it somehow. Then, by exposing yourself to lots of English in this way, you are able to acquire the language – to pick it up, in a variety of ways.

Stephen Krashen & Language Acquisition Theory
Let me now refer to the language acquisition theory of Stephen Krashen. This theory is very well known among language learning theorists, and it underpins a lot of what we know about learning and teaching English. Krashen believed that there are two ways to develop our language learning skills. One is through language acquisition and the other is through language learning. Language acquisition means that it is possible for adults and children to learn language in a subconscious way – meaning, in a kind of passive way – by simply engaging with the language. The important thing is that you focus on the message in a bit of language. So, when listening to Luke’s English Podcast this means focusing exactly  on what I really mean, rather than just on the specific items of language I’m using. The primary focus is to just understand what I mean (hopefully at a fairly deep level – in order to laugh at something I’ve said, or feel moved by it) and then you kind of ‘pick up’ the language as a result of that. You might not be immediately aware that you’ve learned some new language in this way. In fact, this kind of acquisition probably informs your passive knowledge of the language. According to Krashen, another type of language development is language learning. This is when you focus on learning specific forms  – like studying grammar rules for example. It involves having some instruction by a teacher, perhaps in the form of error correction, or from a grammar book which explains the ‘rules of English’. The downside of this kind of learning is that it is rather dogmatic, can be boring, complex and abstract. It doesn’t necessarily replicate the organic way in which we pick up language as children, and doesn’t quite allow the subconscious acquisition of language that occurs from just engaging with the language in order to understand a message being communicated.

Alright, so how does this apply to the way you can learn English? Well, I think it’s pretty important to get both aspects of language learning into your life. This is what I call “having a balanced diet”. You shouldn’t just study the grammar rules in a dogmatic way, although that is undeniably important. You should also attempt to just engage with the language as it is used in natural, authentic and meaningful situations. How can you do that? Ideally, this would mean going out into the world and doing things in English. In fact, this might be the best way to improve your English. If you get a job that requires you to use English all day you will improve quickly. It’ll be really hard, but you’d be forced to improve. That’s like a boot camp for language acquisition because you’re not really studying the language, you’re just attempting to survive in it. You’re really focusing on the communicative acts you are trying to achieve. You’re really focusing on meaningful messages, and you naturally learn the most direct and effective way to understand and communicate meaningful messages. You might not be able to do that in your life. You might not have access to native speakers in that way. So, my podcast can be a substitute. It’s not really the same as attempting to work in an English speaking environment, but the key point is that you can replicate aspects of that experience by just attempting to follow/keep up with what I’m saying, and do that regularly, over long periods of time, and you’ll pick up massive amounts of English.

So, just listen, try to follow everything I’m saying, try to enjoy it and engage with it, listen regularly, listen for extended periods. This will all contribute to your acquisition of English, as described by Stephen Krashen.

That’s language acquisition, but you can also do more traditional language learning alongside Luke’s English Podcast. First of all, outside of listening to the episodes, you can do your formalised language studying from a book or in class, and use LEP as a companion to that. Study the language, and then try to notice aspects of the language that you’ve studied in episodes of the podcast. For example, if you’ve studied verb tenses, you can listen to a story I’ve told on the podcast and try to notice those verb tenses, how I’m using them, how I’m pronouncing them, and so on. It can back up, confirm or clarify the language study you’ve been doing. You should always refer to authentic language usage as a way of checking language that you’ve studied.

Also, you can study the things I say in the podcast more directly. The podcast can be a study tool. Here are some ways you can do some active language study with the podcast:

Use transcripts
You could read a transcript and check new words in a dictionary as you find them. Pay attention to the way I use the words, including the grammatical context, collocations between words and pronunciation. Any new words or structures you find, make a note of them and practise using them yourself.

You could attempt to write your own transcripts. This reveals a great deal about the gap between the English you know, and the English that I use in the podcast.  Try transcribing a section of one episode. You could do an episode that has already been transcribed. Listen carefully to it, and try to write down every single word. There may be certain utterances that you just can’t identify. Mark them with question marks. Listen again and again. You could just focus on a specific 5 minute section of an episode. Keep listening until you’ve done your best. Now check the proper transcript for that section and compare it to what you wrote. What are the differences? Now you can identify the gap between what you understand, and what I said. Try to close that gap. Check the words you didn’t know. Identify why you missed the pronunciation of something. Think about how I say these words and phrases, and their definitions. Then you can start working them into your English when you speak. We’ll look at ways of developing your speaking in a few minutes.

A note on transcripts. You may be aware that a lot of my episodes have transcripts, which can really help you to study the language (although you shouldn’t read them all the time). But you can also contribute transcriptions to my website. If you fancy transcribing a few minutes of an episode, please send it to me and I’ll be able to correct it and publish it on my website. I have a transcript collaboration going on using Google documents. You might already know about this because I did an episode on that subject a couple of months ago. You can go to my website and click “transcripts” to find out more. Basically, writing transcripts of my episodes is not only a great way to use the podcast to improve your English, it also helps me to provide an even better service to my listeners.

So, Luke’s English Podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. Listen freely and just try to enjoy and understand what I’m saying, and let your mind naturally acquire the language, but also mix this with more formalised language study to get the full 360 degree effect.

You might think the formalised language study part of that is boring and time consuming. That’s fine. You don’t have to do any of that, but as a compromise, what you can do is just be mindful when you’re listening. Your first aim is to focus on the message, but you can also try to notice specific aspects of the language too. Try to identify words, phrases and grammatical structures. You don’t have to formally study them, just notice them as you hear them. Like “oh he’s saying depend on” so it must be “depend on” in English, not “depend of”. Things like that. Just be mindful when listening.

I record different types of episode here. My main aim is to engage you and keep you interested, while presenting English to you in an authentic way. In some episodes I try to draw your attention to the language more specifically. For example, I teach/explain/demonstrate vocabulary items referring to a topic, or bring your attention to an aspect of pronunciation. In those episodes, you can just chill out and follow what I’m saying, but you can be more active, and make notes of the vocabulary, try to remember phrases, listen again and pause the recording to test your memory.

Listen in comfort, and enjoy the experience. Krashen also writes about the affective filter hypothesis. This relates to the conditions in which learning takes place, and how these can have a big effect on the successful acquisition of language. Basically, good conditions for learning are: motivation (the listener really wants to hear what’s being said, and is keen to learn the language), high self-esteem and relaxation. These things allow the flow of acquisition to move freely, without being blocked. Mental blocks occur when the learner is stressed, anxious or feeling bad about themselves. This creates a mental block to the acquisition of language. I guess this relates to one of those situations in which you’re in an unhappy language class. You feel stressed because of pressure from the teacher or from the judgement of your classmates, you feel low self-confidence because you don’t get any positive reinforcement from taking part in a communicative exchange and you’re just not enjoying the experience of being there in the classroom. As a result, there is a kind of mental barrier which really prevents you learning anything. In fact, it might even make it worse because you associate learning English with painful or boring classroom situations. The advantage of Luke’s English Podcast is that the emphasis is on fun, a lot of the time. You have nothing to fear or worry about when you listen to this. In fact, it can be an extremely pleasurable experience. I’m not just bigging myself up here. I know what it’s like to listen to your favourite podcast. It’s quite a personal experience. I listen to Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review Podcast on my way to work, and I can’t begin to explain the joy of listening to it. They’re like my friends, and I’m sharing a really nice conversation with them. I listen to their voices in private, through headphones, while I’m sitting on a smelly underground train with miserable people all around me, but I’m in my comfort zone. In fact, sometimes I’m disappointed when I reach my metro station, because I just want to keep listening to the podcast. Hopefully, listening to Luke’s English Podcast is a similar experience for you. That’s certainly the idea. This should be a personal and enjoyable experience for you, and I invite you to just enjoy being part of the podcast community, and remember that all around the world there are other people like you, listening to me ramble on about stuff. There’s no chance of the affective filter giving you a mental block in this situation because you should be in your comfort zone. That’s the advantage of podcasting. You really can listen to this whenever and wherever you want, and you are free to get as comfortable as you please. As I’ve said before, feel free to listen to this in the bath, on the loo, or as you softly and slowly drift off to sleep at night. Of course, you can also listen at your desk, with a pen in your hand, or while typing, in order to make notes or write transcripts. You can also sit up and read transcripts. It’s up to you. The main thing is to just enjoy yourself and let the English go into your head. Just imagine that my voice is bouncing around inside your mind, and lots of the words, and sounds are sticking in there.

You should certainly listen to episodes more than once. In fact, if you’re interested in really learning English from this podcast, I think it’s vital to listen several times. Once is not enough. In fact, you might only scratch the surface if you listen just once. Listening again and again will allow you to get really familiar with what’s being said. You’ll notice and remember things that you didn’t catch the first time. Repetition is really important as a way of helping your brain notice patterns. After a couple of listens, you’ll remember certain phrases, bits of intonation or responses and they will be reinforced when you listen again. It might be asking too much of you, but you could even start to remember and repeat some of the things you’ve heard on Luke’s English Podcast. I don’t necessarily expect you to repeat everything I say, but perhaps you could memorise the lines of a comedy sketch that I present to you, and then repeat the lines to yourself or your friends, or just while you’re listening again. I’m a bit of a geek and I love Star Wars. When I was a kid I used to watch Star Wars on heavy rotation. I’d watch it again and again. Now I can remember all the lines from the film. In fact, I don’t just remember the lines, I remember the bits of music and sound effects too, as they occur in the film. It’s the same with Monty Python films and sketches. I’ve watched them so many times that I can repeat a lot of the script from memory, and in fact some phrases from those movies have found their way into my vocabulary. You can do that too, by listening to episodes more than once, and listening to some comedy sketches which I present to you many times. Soon I’ll be doing an episode about Monty Python. For some reason, Monty Python’s sketches are very memorable. In fact, there are several generations of people in the UK and America who grew up watching Monty Python films and who are able to recite whole sketches to each other. Again, you can do the same thing, realise that there are some terrifically funny things in English, and use that as a way to pick up language.

There are a number of different areas to focus on with English.
4 skills:
Listening
Reading
Writing
Speaking

Language systems:
Grammar
Vocabulary
Pronunciation
Discourse

Listening
I’ve already talked a lot about the benefit of just listening for fun, or listening in a more active way. I did mention that it’s good to be comfortable when listening. I should add too that I think it’s important to try and listen to things that you don’t completely understand. It’s fine to listen to things that you don’t understand completely, and the general opinion on this seems to be that you should push yourself when you listen, and don’t get put off if there are things you don’t understand. It’s in that challenging experience that your brain is really piecing things together. For example, if you struggled to understand my conversation with Daniel Burt, that’s fine – in fact, that struggle is good. Listen again, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Push through those moments when you don’t understand. Keep going. Don’t let confusion stop you.
Also, try to identify subtle differences between accents. You may only notice little differences at first, but eventually you’ll be more and more aware of the differences between accents. Eventually, you’ll be able to say “this guy is from the north of England”, “This one’s from Australia” or whatever.

Reading
Reading transcripts on my webpage.
Outside of the podcast – read a variety of texts. Again, try to find things that you enjoy. You should also be aware of your purpose for learning the language. What are you going to use English for in the future? You may need to read emails, or business reports. It may be worth reading articles that talk about business trends. Otherwise, just reading any well-written text for enjoyment is a really good way to improve your literacy. I must add a page on my website with recommendations for reading. There’s loads of reading you can do – blogs, newspapers but also books which you can download free online. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning to give you a list of some good things to read.

Writing
Again, this is not one of the things that I focus on a lot on Luke’s English Podcast. The focus is mainly on spoken English. However, transcribing podcast episodes can be good for your writing. You could also write your own blog which contains your opinions or your outlook on a topic. Feel free to write a response to episodes of my podcast in the comments section. You should aim to concisely express your opinion, in a structured way, using the most appropriate words you can find (perhaps including some words you’ve picked up from that episode of the podcast). Think about the person reading the comment – make it easy and enjoyable for them to read, and focus on stating very clearly and efficiently exactly what it is you want to say. Considering those ideas can help you to make your writing more effective.
If, however, you need to practise writing for the IELTS test, you will need to do more specifically focused writing practice, probably using an IELTS preparation book, or following an IELTS course of some kind. My podcast can help you with general skills (vocab, etc) but for specific kinds of writing work, you should do some specific writing practice. Practice practice practice. As I said before – to get the best out of Luke’s English Podcast, use it as part of a balanced diet.

Speaking
Perhaps the best way to improve your speaking is to actually practise it in real-life situations. The requirements of that situation will train you to say the right things at the right time, with the right tone. You should certainly be aware of how intonation is important in affecting a message. These are things you can learn from trying to enter into meaningful acts of communication and learning from your mistakes. You might also need a teacher to actively correct your errors. But, you can definitely use Luke’s English Podcast to improve your speaking too. Let’s look at some ways to do that:
Just try to take some aspects of my speech and apply it to your speech. You could just add some words or phrases you’ve heard from me, and use them yourself. Or you can pick up some speech patterns, pronunciation from me and add that to your speech too. If you like, you could use my speaking as a kind of model for your own speech.
More specifically, you could copy and repeat some of my sentences. Listen to a line I say, and then repeat it and try to sound exactly like me. You could listen to phrasal verb episodes, and whenever I present an example sentence, pause the episode and repeat it after me. Keep doing that until you feel you’re version is pretty similar to mine. So, just listen and repeat until you’ve worked out how to make the same sounds as me. Think about vowel & consonant sounds, combinations of consonants and how to make those sounds with your mouth, think about connected speech – what happens when words are pronounced fluently together in a sentence – they might get pronounced differently, certain sounds may be dropped when words are linked, and some sounds may be added when words are linked too. Pay attention to these aspects of pronunciation. I should do a whole episode on connected speech, and it’s one I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages.
Pick an extract from the podcast, with transcript, and record yourself saying it. Compare your version with my version. Then, work on the transcript. Underline the stressed words, add lines to represent pauses for emphasis, identify word links in pronunciation. Listen to me saying that extract again, and check your ‘sound scripted’ transcript. Now record yourself doing it again, this time adding the intonation, pausing and sentence stress. Compare that to the original. This can help you develop awareness, and control of speech patterns.
Record yourself just talking in response to one of my podcast episodes. If I’ve talked about UFOs for example (not yet, but I will!) then you could record yourself talking about UFOs too. Try to include any words I’ve presented to you on that topic. If you like you could leave an audio comment on my Audioboo page, and let the world know how you feel about something.
Or, you could start doing your own podcast, like Zdenek from Zdenek’s English Podcast. He’s not a native speaker, but following a suggestion in one of my episodes he decided to do his own podcast. He now has followers and listeners and he’s really into it. Listening to his episodes I get the sense that his confidence is developing and he’s finding his own voice. It must be very good for his English (which, of course, is already excellent). You could do it too if you want.
The main thing is practice. Use as many opportunities to practise as you can. Join clubs to meet English speakers. Use the internet. Find groups on Meetup.com in which people are doing language exchanges. Put yourself outside your comfort zone. Don’t be shy, give it a try. Take the initiative. No-one can do the speaking for you. There’s no shame in making mistakes. You have to be in it to win it, so open your mouth and get talking. Remember that English is about what you can do, not just about what you know. Be active, find your voice in English. If you’re in a classroom – don’t be one of those quiet students. It’s completely up to you to start talking, and why not do it in the safety of a language class. That’s the whole point! Speak up in class and use that as a safe place to experiment and make mistakes. Experiment! Switch off your editor! Don’t listen to the voice in your head which is telling you to keep quiet, or telling you that you can’t say something because it might be wrong. It does not matter if you’re wrong. Remember that you have to say something wrong about 5 times before you get it right. Get through those 5 times nice and quick, and then you’ll be fine! Sometimes, opening your mouth is the hardest thing to do, but once you’ve started speaking it gets easier. Keep up the momentum. Keep your voice warm. Stay positive, enjoy expressing yourself. Your teacher will love it if you are an active member of class. In fact, you need to prove to your teacher that you’re making an effort. We always like those talkative and positive students. Use that to your advantage – you’ll be more likely to get good grades, and get levelled up. Be nice, be friendly, be talkative. But also listen to others and help them too. That’s a recipe for success for any language learner!
Actually, I just sent Zdenek a message and asked him for his comments on the subject of using LEP to improve your English (particularly speaking) and here are his comments, which I agree with wholeheartedly. In fact, before I read his comments it may be necessary to remind you that Zdenek is a well-qualified teacher of English from the Czech Republic who lived in the UK for a number of years and who has got a master’s degree in English Language. So, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. I’m sure many of you listening to this have similarly good advice and comments on this subject. I am very keen to encourage you to share that information – you can leave text or audio comments under this episode. So here are Zdenek’s comments:
How can listening to LEP improve your speaking skills? It can mainly improve the following skills/subskills:
1) listening (obvious)
2) reading, spelling (reading scripts, additional notes)
3) writing, spelling (script, feedback or thanksgiving emails to Luke),
4) grammar (listening to grammar patterns as part of exposure theory)
5) vocabulary (learning new vocab also guided by the exposure theory),
6) pronunciation (passive listening)
As for the speaking, it is a different question. If you want to improve your speaking through LEP, you have to approach this actively. Not everyone is willing to do this. Some people tend to be shy, have approach anxiety etc…and prefer listening to the podcast as passive recipients. That is fine. However, here are some suggestions on how you can actually improve even your speaking skills.
1) Contact someone via LEP community. There are a lot of interesting people eager to learn English from all around the world. Contact those who have a similar level as you – this way you can both benefit and learn from each other and no one will get bored. Ideally, have an interest in common (sci-fi films, sport, you already have one important topic in common = LEP)…try to befriend these people, add them on facebook, start skype conversations with them or something.
2) Record yourself speaking about a topic. Ask yourself questions related to LEP. Answer these questions or just practice vocabulary Luke teaches you. Listen back to yourself. Try correcting your errors. Re-record. Compare your recordings you made some time later to see your improvements.
3) Record comments in Audioboo (max 3 minutes) –why is everyone so shy? Is everyone afraid that they will be judged? Who cares? Just be friendly and you should be accepted by the community. Luke is a teacher. He deals with mistakes every day. We all make mistakes. Never be afraid to make mistakes. A man who never made mistakes, never made anything. Are you afraid to take on a challenge and face our greatest fear – public humiliation? Well don’t be! If we fight it actively without fear, we can significantly improve our speaking skills this way.
[I just want to add a couple of points here about making a fool of yourself, my experience of speaking French, and of fear of public speaking]
4) Try running your own podcast. Most of you can do it. Again it is only about facing your fears of making mistakes and exposing yourself to the public. This podcast can be just for you and your friends. I make loads of mistakes in my podcast and I am a teacher. I feel ashamed; I have to edit them out. But if you are not teachers, why worry? And even as teachers? You shouldn’t worry.
5) You can always speak to yourself in the mirror and go crazy. Become the next Hamlet. Speaking is not about passivity so move your arse and find some interaction
Note: By following these tips, you will work on your English speaking skills, pronunciation (actively), grammar, vocab (you can focus on trying to use expressions Luke has taught you), listening skills (as you listen to your friends talking for example). There are so many benefits to active speaking practice.

Thank you Zdenek. As I said before, I welcome your comments too. Let’s share our thoughts on this subject together. It’s time for my LEP ninjas to come out of the shadows and deliver some powerful advice! LEP NINJAS – ASSEMBLE!!!

Regarding language systems, I have some things to say about grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and ‘discourse’.
To be honest, I’ve already spoken enough about grammar & vocab. Let me just remind you of the theory of ‘exposure’. I have talked about this before. The idea is that by listening to lots of English over extended periods, you’re feeding your subconscious with all the patterns of English usage. Your brain is hearing all these patterns of English, including frequent word combinations (like prepositions), tenses, features of pronunciation etc. Ultimately, it all goes into your head, and informs your sense of instinct for the language, so that when you come to do a test in English, you feel the answer. You know that this particular preposition goes with this particular verb, just because you’ve heard it a number of times before and so it feels natural. Feed your head with English. Feel the English rather than knowing it. Use the force young jedi, and remember, the force will be with you… always. Oh, and don’t forget – you’re never too old for this. Language study is a great way to keep your mind fresh and supple. My grandfather is over 90 years old and he’s still really sharp. Perhaps this is because he’s still going to French and Spanish classes on a regular basis.

Regarding pronunciation – a lot of the tips you’ve been given here will help with that. But, I just want to add that improving your listening skills will naturally improve your pronunciation skills too. The two things go hand in hand. The more you’re able to understand natural spoken English, the more you are able to decode the sounds used to make it. Understanding this natural sound code can allow you to start using it too. There is a direct connection between listening and pronunciation, but to fully reap the benefits, you need to need to actively practise pronunciation. The methods I’ve mentioned already in this episode – repeating, recording, re-recording, comparing, speaking in front of the mirror, etc – they’re all good approaches to practising and improving your pronunciation. Don’t be shy, give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, just things to gain. Go for it!

As for discourse, this is really about how you structure your speaking. How do you link your ideas up? When you listen, try to notice any specific phrases I use to link my ideas together, move from one topic to another, deal with moments when I don’t know what I’m saying and so on. What are the tools I use to perform certain functions. Can you identify these things and take them on yourself? Try talking about a topic for 5 minutes. See how difficult it is to talk on your feet. Do it again and again until you develop methods of thinking and talking at the same time. Listen to discussions and focus on the ways in which people interrupt, agree, disagree or whatever. Think about the way we use the language to be polite or indirect. How is humour added to what we say? How does intonation affect the hidden meaning behind our words? Explore these ideas when you listen, and then test them out in your speaking.

That’s it for this episode. I hope you have found it motivating, and inspiring. Leave your comments, and I wish you all the very best of luck keeping up your English. I’m sure you’re doing great. Well you must be, because you’re already listening to Luke’s English Podcast – and long may it continue.

BYE!

173. The Curse of The Lambton Worm

Listen to a disturbing story from English folklore about a horrendous and mysterious worm.

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Introduction
The Lambton Worm is a legend from the north east of England in the UK. The story takes place around the River Wear, in the town of Lambton and at Penshaw Hill which is between Durham and Sunderland in the north east of England. It is one of the area’s most famous pieces of folklore, having been adapted from written and oral tradition into pantomime and song formats, which are still performed to this day. I’m going to keep up that tradition here on Luke’s English Podcast by telling you my version of the story.

The tale is about a man called John Lambton, who was the heir to the Lambton Estate in County Durham, and his battle with a giant worm (dragon) that had been terrorising the local villages. As with most myths, details of the story change with each telling. I’m not from that part of England, but I love this story because I remember reading about it in a book of monsters that my brother used to have when we were kids. Remember before I told you about a ghost book that I used to own when I was a kid? Well, my brother had a similar book, from the same series, and it was all about monsters. I was fascinated by these books (Click this link to read some pages of those books!) So was my brother. I remember there was a picture of John Lambton fighting the worm, and a brief account of the story. It was fascinating, horrific and exciting for me as a kid, and the memory of the story has stayed with me. There’s just something about an old scary story that really excites me. I think this one must be a good one because it has endured for hundreds of years. It dates back to the time of the crusades, so about 1,000 years ago – medieval times. If a story survives that long, being told over and over again and being handed down through the generations, it must mean there must be something in it which interests people.

This is a local legend from country Durham and I expect it’s a strong part of their local culture. There’s an old folk song which tells the story, and it is still sung in old pubs by beer-drinking men with beards and acoustic guitars. I love those old folk songs. It’s proper traditional culture, as performed and told by real local people. I’m not from that part of the country, I’m from the midlands, and the south, but the story means something to me because of the connection I have with it from childhood. Also, I just think that you might like to hear it.

I’m going to tell you the story in my own way. It’s normal for folk tales like this to be changed by the storyteller, and there is no official version of the story – just a general outline. The details get adapted and improvised by each storyteller. So, I’m going to give you my version, which means that I will stick to the main elements of the story, but yes, as usual I will be improvising a lot of other details too. The challenge for me is to try and make it engaging, and entertaining and understandable for you. As well as practising your English, we can also consider what makes a good story. I think it’s about the passion of the storyteller, and the attention to certain details. Your challenge is to follow the story, and perhaps learn it well enough to be able to tell your friends, if you fancy that. Just remember to mention that the roots of this story are in the folklore of the county Durham area, in the North of England. It’s important to remember that this is a bit of local culture. If you’re from that area, and you’re  listening to this – I hope you don’t mind my version of the story, and realise that, really, I love this story too and I’m just adapting it a little bit for the purpose of letting people practise their English listening.

lambton worm pic

Illustration by John Dickson Batten from More English Fairy Tales.

The Main Elements of the Story
Note that I use past tenses to tell my story (past simple, past perfect & past continuous) but below the story is presented using present tenses.
John Lambton is the heir to the Lambton Estate – so he’s a young member of the gentry. A landowner from a fairly rich and well known family in the area.
He’s a rebellious character.
He skips church and he skips school.
He doesn’t care. He just loves fishing. He disrespects his parents.
He skips church one Sunday, and goes fishing.
He meets an old man – an old hermit, who tells him that no good will come of skipping church. He ignores the old man, and yet it puts him in a bit of a bad mood.
He catches nothing all morning.
Then, as the church bells are ringing for the end of service, he gets a bite on his line.
It’s a powerful bite and he has to wrestle hard to bring in the catch. The water crashes around and gets deeply churned up. He fights hard and brings in his catch.
It’s a truly disgusting and horrifying catch.
It’s a slimy and wriggly black worm. It’s dripping slime, it’s writhing and snapping, and it stinks.
He brings it to rest on the soil. It sits there breathing, completely malevolent. It has 9 holes down the side of its mouth, and John can’t really make sense of its other features. It’s really weird, and makes him feel sick.
He pukes, quite hard. What the hell is this thing?
He takes another look at it, and it opens its eye. It’s yellow and red, and it seems to look right into his soul.
This is a life-changing moment, although he doesn’t realise it.
At that moment, the old man reappears, and says with some certainty that he senses the work of the devil, and that Lambton is now responsible for this worm.
Lambton can’t throw it back, so he quickly puts it in his basket, to carry it home.
On the way back, the basket is so heavy and the worm keeps thrashing around inside it, and hissing. Even when it’s still, the basket seems impossible to carry. It’s so heavy, but also, he feels miserable. The good mood he was in at the beginning of the day has been replaced by a very grim feeling of depression. It’s like he’s suddenly aware of all the time he has wasted, and how everything seems quite hopeless, including his family  life.
He can’t take it any more, and feeling desperate, he chucks the worm into a nearby well. The worm struggles quite a lot, but down it goes. Lambton waits to hear the worm hit the bottom, and it does, after a pause, with a splash.
He quickly goes home.
Feeling guilty, and more aware of his responsibilities, he decides to join the army in order to fight in the crusades, as much out of guilt as duty to his family and the church.
He goes to Palestine to fight in the crusades. He’s away for 7 hard years in which he sees many things, makes many friends and sees many friends die in battle. He becomes a man.
Meanwhile, back at home, the worm is still alive in the well. The well becomes infected, and causes anyone who drinks from it to become violently ill, and die, with horrible symptoms.
The worm grows inside the well, and after it has reached a massive size, one moonlit night, it slides out from the well, and it’s massive. It wraps itself around the local Penshaw Hill – several times, and lies there waiting, warming itself in the morning sun. It’s a hideous and vicious creature. It has small legs, with claws on the end, which it uses to scrape and scratch the earth. It is incredibly long, and it slithers like a snake. It’s covered in smooth yet tough scales. Around its head it has a mane of rubbery spikes. The 9 holes that run along the side of its face, under its jaw, ooze a nasty black slime which burns the grass and sends an evil black smoke into the air. It coughs up the bones and remains of the bodies it has eaten, leaving this foul waste on the ground wherever it rests. Its eyes are yellow and deep, and malevolent. It has rows of razor sharp teeth like a shark’s except that they’re black and yellow, and his eyes, like that of a shark, roll back into its head when he takes a bite, leaving him looking white-eyed and blind during its moments of feeding frenzy.
It attacks a local farmer, squeezing him to death after he tries to fight it with his pitchfork. It then eats all his cattle, and his dead body, before returning to the hill.
It then terrorises the area, eating cattle and sheep, and wild animals.
The countryside becomes deathly silent, as it is all scared or killed by the worm. It’s a foul and sickening presence which seems to poison the earth wherever it goes.
Its confidence grows and it enters town.
The town mayor, as an attempt to distract it, empties all the milk supplies from the market into a trough in front of the town hall. The worm eats it all, and returns to the hill, where it sleeps.
The best men of the town get together a fighting force and arm themselves with the best weaponry they can find, and go to attack the worm, but it’s in vain as the worm is very strong and ruthless. Whenever anyone manages to slice the worm, the pieces, shuddering, just grow back together again. The worm seems indestructible.
For the next 7 years, the town gives the worm almost all of its supplies of milk in order to satisfy it. The worm grows bigger, and the town gets more and more exploited, until people are starving to death, and all life is sucked out of the place. When no milk is provided, the worm angrily attacks the residents, killing and eating men, women and children.
John Lambton returns from the crusades a scarred man, but a man nonetheless. He has learned how to fight, and he carries a sword and a suit of armour.
He sees the state of the town, and learns about the worm from his father.
He realises it is the same worm that he discarded all those years ago, and immediately realises that he is responsible for the curse and must fight the worm himself.
He visits a local wise woman for advice. She tells him that the worm has cursed him, his family and the town, and that only he can kill it.
She tells him to visit the blacksmith, and to have spikes and blades fitted to his armour, and that he must  lure the worm into the river Wear before doing battle.
She also tells him that to lift the curse, after killing the worm, he must kill the next living thing that he sees.
Lambton gets his special suit of armour made, and arranges with his father that when he has killed the worm, he will blow a note on his hunting horn as a signal that he has won and that the father must release Lambton’s favourite hunting hound. The hound will run straight  to him and Lambton will kill it, lifting the curse.
He heads towards the hill and finds the worm.
The worm recognises him and uncoils itself from the hill, hissing, puking black bile and generally being hideous.
Lambton realises how difficult this will be because this worm is really big and strong looking. The worm approaches and he backs away.
He walks backwards towards the river, the worm steadily moving nearer and nearer, flanking him. Lambton gets very tired just walking in the armour – which is extra-heavy because of the fittings.
Eventually, he enters the water, which is cold.
The worm slides down the bank and raises itself up to strike.
They fight and whenever the worm attempts to coil itself around Lambton, it gets sliced up on the blades and spikes.
Lambton is so tired that all he can do is just try not to be washed away by the current. He hacks at the worm and struggles to breath. The fumes from the worm are poisonous. Each time parts of the worm are hacked off, they are washed away, and eventually, just a section of the worm is left and Lambton hacks off its head. The pieces can’t join back together and the worm is no more.
Lambton blows a note on his horn, but his father is so happy to hear it that he forgets to release the hound and instead he runs to see John. Lambton sees him , and is dismayed. he can’t bring himself to kill his father, and so the go back to the house and he kills his hound.
The wise woman appears and tells him that despite killing the worm, he failed to lift the curse and that for 9 generations, the Lambtons will not die in their beds.
injured and sick, Lambton collapses.
That’s the end of the story.

What does this all mean? You tell me.

This curse seems to have held true for at least three generations, possibly helping to contribute to the popularity of the story.
1st generation: Robert Lambton, drowned at Newrig.
2nd: Sir William Lambton, a Colonel of Foot, killed at Marston Moor.
3rd: William Lambton, died in battle at Wakefield.
9th: Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on 26 June 1761.
(General Lambton, Henry Lambton’s brother, is said to have kept a horse whip by his bedside to ward off violent assaults. He died in his bed at an old age.)

The Old Folk Song
Here is Tony Wilson singing the folk song in the local dialect
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsO7SeCvgMw&w=500&h=375%5D
Song Lyrics
Here are the lyrics with some meanings added too. Remember, this is sung in an old dialect. Not many people actually speak in this dialect any more, although there is a distinct accent from that region.

One Sunda morn young Lambton went
A-fishing in the Wear;
An’ catched a fish upon he’s heuk (=caught) (=his hook)
He thowt leuk’t vary queer. (=thought looked very strange)
But whatt’n a kind ov fish it was (=what kind of)
Young Lambton cudden’t tell-
He waddn’t fash te carry’d hyem, (=could not be bothered to carry it home)
So he hoyed it doon a well (=threw it down)
Chorus
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, (=Be quiet, boys, shut your mouths)
An’ aa’ll tell ye aall an aaful story, (=I’ll tell you all an awful)
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An’ Aa’ll tel ye ‘boot the worm. (=about)
Noo Lambton felt inclined te gan (=go)
An’ fight i’ foreign wars.
He joined a troop ov Knights that cared
For nowther woonds nor scars, (=neither wounds)
An’ off he went te Palestine
Where queer things him befel,
An varry seun forgat aboot (=very soon forgot about)
The queer worm i’ tha well.
But the worm got fat an’ grewed an’ grewed,
An’ grewed an aaful size;
He’d greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes.
An’ when at neets he craaled aboot (=nights) (=crawled around)
Te pick up bits o’ news,
If he felt dry upon the road,
He’d milk a dozen coos. (=cows)
This feorful worm would often feed (=fearful)
On caalves an’ lambs an’ sheep,
An’ swally little bairns alive (=swallow) (=children)
When they laid doon te sleep.
An when he’d eaten aall he cud (=all he could)
An’ he had had he’s fill,
He craaled away an’ lapped he’s tail (=wrapped)
Ten times roond Pensha Hill.
The news ov this myest aaful worm (=most)
An’ his queer gannins on (=goings-on)
Seun crossed the seas, gat te the ears (=soon) (=got to)
Ov brave an’ bowld Sor John.
So hyem he cam an’ catched the beast, (=home he came and caught)
An’ cut ‘im in twe haalves, (=cut him in two-halves)
An’ that seun stopped hes eatin’ bairns
An’ sheep an’ lambs an’ caalves.
So noo ye knaa hoo aall the foaks (=now you know how all the folk)
On byeth sides ov the Wear (=both)
Lost lots o’ sheep an’ lots o’ sleep
An leeved i’ mortal feor. (=And lived in mortal fear)
So let’s hev one te brave Sor John (=let’s drink to brave Sir John)
That kept the bairns frae harm, (=from)
Saved coos an’ calves by myekin’ haalves (=making halves)
O’ the famis Lambton Worm. (=famous)

171. A Cup of Tea with Daniel Burt (Part 2)

[2/2] Here’s the second part of my conversation with Daniel Burt, who is a journalist, comedy writer and performer from Melbourne, Australia.

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In this conversation we talk about these things:
Daniel’s move to London
Aussie pubs in Paris and London
Cliches about Australian people
Australian pronunciation
Typical Australian English phrases
The Australian character and national identity
Australian politicians
The future of Australia & Australia’s image of itself
Sport & competition
Interviewing Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Matt Smith & David Tennant (Doctor Who)

To contribute a few minutes of transcription for this episode, click here to work on the google document:

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

All the best,
Luke

Daniel’s Video Showreel
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9V3cKGvISU&w=500&h=281%5D

156. British Comedy: Ali G

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

73. Steve Jobs


Right-click here to download this episode.
Listen to Steve Jobs’ famous speech to graduates of Stanford University, read the transcript, notice some useful features of English, and learn some important lessons about life.

Tributes to Steve Jobs from Reuters News Feed
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama was among the many people who paid tribute to Steve Jobs, calling the Apple co-founder a visionary and great American innovator.

“Steve was among the greatest of American innovators — brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it,” Obama said of Jobs, who died on Wednesday.

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

The president was joined by political, technology, entertainment and business leaders around the world in paying tribute to Jobs. A selection:

BILL GATES, MICROSOFT CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN

“Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor.”

STEPHEN ELOP, NOKIA CEO

“The world lost a true visionary today. Steve’s passion for simplicity and elegance leaves us all a legacy that will endure for generations. Today, my thoughts, and those of everyone at Nokia, are with the friends and family that he leaves behind.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY ON FACEBOOK

“His capacity to revolutionize entire sectors of the economy by the power of imagination and technology is a source of inspiration for millions of engineers and entrepreneurs across the world. His efforts to render new technologies more attractive and simple to use have made a success of businesses that have changed the world of computing, the distribution of cultural content, telecommunications and even animated cinema.”

RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO OF NEWS CORP

“Today, we lost one of the most influential thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs of all time. Steve Jobs was simply the greatest CEO of his generation.”

Full Reuters Article Here: mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE7950GT20111006?irpc=932

Steve Jobs’ Stanford University Speech
This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife, except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We’ve got an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out later that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college. This was the start, in my life.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and thankfully I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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Watch a video of the speech here:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc&w=480&h=360%5D