Tag Archives: speaking

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.

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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!

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

415. With the Family (Part 3) More Encounters with Famous People

Here’s the final part in this trilogy of episodes recorded at my parents’ house on Boxing Day. In this one my mum, dad and brother tell us a few more anecdotes about their encounters with some well-known people.

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Introduction Transcript + some ad-libs

The conversation you’re about to hear was recorded with my family on the same day as the last couple of episodes. It was quite late in the evening, after my uncle and aunt had gone home and after dinner and number drinks had been consumed. Picture a very warm and cosy living room with a wood burning stove going in the background.

After listening to Nic describing his encounters with some famous rock stars earlier in the day, the other members of my family wanted to get in on the action too with their stories about brushing shoulders with the stars. So here are a few other anecdotes from my dad, my brother and my mum.

It turns out that my family have met some genuine legends. I didn’t even realise that a couple of these things had happened. You’ll have to wait and see who they are. But here are some slightly cryptic clues.

Can you guess which people I’m talking about?

  • One of the UK’s favourite authors who wrote a series of beloved books which have also been made into successful films.
  • A British comic actor who likes eating ice-creams and fighting zombies, criminals and aliens, in his movies (not real life of course).
  • A small but very important woman who often appears in public but is also a very private person.
  • A nonagenarian who once said that he was “the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” A nonagenerian is someone in their nineties – also, septuagenarian (70s) and octogenarian (80s).

There are others too, including an American punk rock star with lots of tattoos and muscles, a Shakespearean actor who has become a successful film director and an actor who had a bit part in the British TV series The Office.

I should perhaps remind you of several other anecdotes which you might have heard on this podcast before, which are mentioned in this conversation.

  • The time my brother ended up lost in Hastings and slept on a stranger’s sofa and woke up to discover the guy sitting in a chair next to him. Was the guy just friendly and welcoming, or slightly creepy? Originally told by my bro in this episode https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes
  • The time my mum met the King of Tonga. Originally told in this episode too https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes
  • The time I met comedian Eddie Izzard and was a bit lost for words. I sort of went to pieces a bit and made it really awkward and weird by saying “You’re in my head!” – not the right thing to say at all. Originally told be me in this episode https://teacherluke.co.uk/2014/06/10/184-lukes-d-day-diary-part-2/

Anyway, you can now sit back and enjoy some more time with The Thompsons.

***

Outro Transcript + ad-libs

Funny, isn’t he? My brother. I would like him to be on the podcast more often, if he’s up for it. The thing is that he’s a bit modest really and isn’t the sort of outgoing person who likes to broadcast his thoughts and opinions over the internet, although he obviously should because he’s got a lot to offer. He ought to do a podcast or something like that, right? He does have a YouTube channel but it’s mainly skateboarding. www.youtube.com/user/VideoDaze/videos

*All the background music in this episode was also made by James*

The people mentioned in this episode

If you liked this one, try listening to these ones

79. Family Arguments and Debates

322. With The Thompsons

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

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386. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 2)

Here’s part 2 of this episode about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. Click here for part 1 of this episode wp.me/p4IuUx-6Wl

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Measure your progress – test yourself

Take a test, do an IELTS or CAE simulation. Speak to people and see how it goes. Try to understand a TV show without help. Read authentic material. Try to do exercises meant for a specific level and see how it feels. Take FCE use of english sample papers. Take the grammar test at the back of Blue Murphy. Download Duolingo and take their level test.

Use DIALANG dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

DIALANG is an online diagnostic system designed to assess a person’s proficiency in 14 European languages.[1][2] Competences tested are reading, writing, listening, grammar and vocabulary, while speaking is excluded for technical reasons.[1]

DIALANG was designed primarily for European citizens to assess their language abilities in adherence to Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference – CEFR – as a basis for determining language proficiency. The CEFR is a widely recognized framework used to describe and measure the language proficiency level of a learner in a particular language.[1]

Dialang was funded by the SOCRATES programme and by some 25 institutions, largely universities, throughout the European Union.[3]

Also, ExamEnglish.com www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Practice practice practice practice practice (The 5 ‘P’s)

Practise using it! Again – a language partner on italki can help.

A note about using italki or any 1to1 lessons – make sure you know what kind of teacher you’re looking for. Be clear about what you want from lessons. If you want plenty of speaking, say so – be clear that you want a lot of language feedback. Bring topics yourself. Be imaginative and prepare questions, speaking tasks etc. If you need to do job interviews, ask to do that, and bring some materials to the lessons – e.g. job interview questions. The more involved you are the better. Know exactly what you want before you get into the lessons. In the first lesson or trial lesson, explain what it is you want to practise. This will avoid the trap of just talking aimlessly, or letting the italki teacher talk too much or make it all about them. I think a good italki teacher should do a lot of listening. Make sure you take time to show that you respect them as a teacher and that you’re glad to talk to them, but also make it quite clear what you expect from them.

Attitude

It’s how you perceive your progress. Where are your priorities? What’s making you feel like you’re not making progress? Perhaps you’re focusing on one thing too much that might not be that important. E.g. you might be frustrated that you can’t lose your accent, but in fact that doesn’t matter too much. Understand that some things will just never be perfect, and realise that you’ve made a lot of progress in other areas. Don’t get caught up on your accent – don’t let one thing hold you back. Keep pushing in other areas too.

Be positive!

Yes we can!

A lot of people just tell themselves they can’t do things.

A student of mine recently told me that she couldn’t speak English. She said “I think I can’t speak. I don’t know why but I just can’t speak English. What do you think?” I said – well, you can speak English because you’re doing it right now. What you mean is that it’s difficult.

When you experience resistance, don’t say “I can’t do this”, just say “this is difficult”. It’s all achievable with practice and the right attitude.

Goals

Give yourself little goals, not one big one. Learn English step by step. I know some students who have unrealistic goals, or at least goals that are too high. E.g. I want to become bilingual – it might be possible one day, but at the moment it’s probably best to scale it down to something more achievable, like I want to improve my accuracy, or I want to be able to speak on the telephone about my work more confidently. I want to improve my sales skills in English, for example.

Don’t create a vague goal like “I want to master English”. It’s built for failure.

Create specific goals that will allow you to define a specific set of actions to achieve it.

Goals are pointless unless you have a plan on how to achieve them.

Let’s use the CAE test as a standard. Cambridge English have put a great deal of time and effort into classifying and testing advanced English. Let’s use their test and their assessment criteria to create goals. You’ll see that there are a LOT of goals here! But the point is – they’re specific.

www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/cambridge-english-advanced-handbook-2015.pdf

I can/want to/will:

(let’s just use writing and speaking as an example or this will go on forever)

  • Writing
  • Write a structured ‘for and against essay’ in which I compare two opinions on a subject, write in the appropriate register, use the right linking phrases, develop arguments and give a persuasive point of view.
  • Write a business email with the appropriate style, including the right opening and closing parts and the appropriate phrases for making requests, agreeing, disagreeing, asking for and giving information.
  • Write a business report in which I give details of results, numerical data and recommendations for action to be taken.
  • Write a personal email in a friendly style.
  • Learn and use the appropriate phrases and style to achieve all those types of writing.
  • Speaking
  • Use a wide range of grammatical structures accurately and with the right amount of control (note that this aim focuses on being able to use the grammar not just understand it)
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary, especially on abstract areas which are unfamiliar. (again a focus on using vocab not just understanding it)
  • Produce longer pieces of structured spoken English with little hesitation, e.g. a 1 minute speech on any topic.
  • Speak clearly and intelligably (not with a perfect British accent!)
  • Use intonation and sentence stress to help me make a point
  • Interact naturally in conversation with others, including negotiating things, managing any breakdown in communication. (this is about effective communicative competence and comes from listening as much as from speaking but must be practised in the context of real communication)

You could even break those things down into more specific goals too. E.g. to be able to talk freely about finance, or to be able to write clearly about facts and figures, or simply to be able to say all the numbers and dates without hesitation.

That all might seem a bit challenging, but it has been proven time and time again that breaking down your learning into small yet achievable goals is the way to deal with the challenge.

Step by step

How do you eat an elephant – one spoon at a time. How do you climb a mountain – one step at a time. Don’t try to leap up it. Take it steadily – it’s a long journey but every step is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you take steps backwards and work out where you’ve gone wrong and then find the path again.

Repetition

Study the grammar again and again and again. Test yourself again and again. Learning a language is difficult. It takes time and effort. Accept that and just keep going day by day. In the end it will all pay off. When I first started teaching English I couldn’t understand a lot of the grammar. I had to study it for ages at the weekend before I taught it, but I learned my own grammar! It helps that I’m a native speaker, but understanding the rules was difficult for me too. Now I know it well and I think it’s because I put the time in and because there was pressure – I had to teach it. Also it’s because I studied and taught the grammar again and again. It’s the same with vocab, and with other areas like listening.

Listen to episodes of the podcast more than once, like this comment from Mayumi

MayumiM 3 minutes ago

Hi, hope you feel better than the day you recorded this episode. Your voice is kinda sexy like you mentioned and I’ll miss that when your voice is fully recovered, though.;) Anyway, you always keep encouraging us to keep listening even though we have some difficulties to understand everything and listen again. That totally worked this time for me. I’ve repeated last Ian Moore episode maybe 3 or 4 times straight. I could do this because the conversation was just fascinating. Maybe I could understand 70% at first and next time, 80% or more and at the end of this routine, I felt I could get almost everything! After that, I did with different episodes and it went well, too.

Thank you for encouraging us as always and I’m looking forward new episodes.

Enjoy it! Take stock. Enjoy the small victories. See progress as achievable.

Grammar

Spend some time learning grammar but do it selectively. Use the murphy grammar test to identify things you need to work on. Notice the grammar you’ve been studying in the real world. You’ll start to notice it everywhere.

Don’t get blocked by your grammar knowledge

I suggest studying the grammar, but sometimes you need to know when to just put the grammar rules away and use the force.

Listening and reading a lot are just as important in learning grammar as focusing on the rules. You need to have seen and heard a lot of grammar to be able to judge if something is right or wrong and to make sense of the rules. Always remember to understand and analyse the language in a meaningful context, not just abstract grammar rules. Everything comes back to the way the language is actually used, not the so-called rules on paper. Understanding this can help you study grammar more effectively.

Notice grammar in the real world. Make your own rules. Test them. Check them with the rule book. Keep going.

Writing to get through the Plateau

I should also mention that writing is a really important way to get through the intermediate plateau.

You can use it to help you find errors that you make in your language, correct them and learn to stop making them. Often these errors are simple fossilised mistakes that you know you shouldn’t make. Your own knowledge of the language plus any research you do can help you identify and correct the mistakes, making it less likely that you’ll do it again.

So you can correct yourself by doing some creative writing and then checking it carefully on your own. But also you might need someone to correct your writing or give you feedback. You might have a native speaker, a teacher, an italki teacher or a relative who can check your work, or  you can you have your writing corrected through sites like Lang-8 and LingQ.

Different skills in English are connected and mutually beneficial. There are basically 4 skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking, and they’re all connected. There are receptive skills like listening and reading, and then productive skills like speaking and writing. Listening is connected to speaking because it is the oral version of the language, and reading is complementary to writing because of the syntax, the spelling and punctuation.

Writing is also different to speaking in that you have more time to reflect on what you’re putting down. When speaking you have to be spontaneous and it’s linked to body language. Writing is a solo experience and that allows you to think more clearly about the language you’re producing.

Also, as you correct your writing, this will benefit your speaking by giving you an inner monologue which can be converted to speech. All in all, it’s a good idea to practise writing as well as speaking in order to improve your accuracy and fluency.

Enjoy it 

Enjoy the English you consume and produce. Follow your heart and focus on the aspects of language that you enjoy and that will keep you coming back. Take pleasure in the act of learning a language. Remember that it’s making you a much more rounded and multidimensional person.

Here are some motivational quotes

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
‒Sarah Caldwell

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
‒Chinese Proverb

To have another language is to possess a second soul.
‒Charlemagne

❝The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.❝ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Rapping with Fluency MC

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

 

385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 1)

This episode is about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. I’m talking about a very common phenomenon in English learning called the intermediate plateau. It usually happens at an intermediate level. I wonder if this applies to you? I would love to read your thoughts so please do write in the comment section.

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234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

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Subscribe to the mailing list to get a link to the page for each episode sent to your inbox.

LEP Anecdote Comp is almost closed. It closes today. Any entries I get after midnight today (CET) won’t count, and remember you only have 5 minutes. I’ll upload an episode v soon about that to tell you what’s going to happen next, and you’ll be able to listen and vote for your favourites.

So now, let’s talk about the intermediate plateau and how to push your English to new levels even if you feel like your progress has stalled.

Transcription / improvisation

Breaking the Intermediate Plateau

What is the intermediate plateau?  Why does that happen and how can you get out of it? Generally, how do you keep making progress with your English?

People often get stuck at an intermediate level. They feel their English is not improving as fast as before. In fact it feels like you can’t progress further and your learning is blocked. It’s very frustrating.

This applies to moving from intermediate to a higher level, but much of it can be applied to making progress at a higher level too.

What is intermediate?

Moving from intermediate to advanced is a tricky phase and it often takes longer than moving from elementary to intermediate. It’s harder to make the distinction between intermediate and advanced than it is to make a distinction between intermediate and elementary.

CEFR B1 descriptions

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

CEFR C1 descriptions

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

How do you know if you’re at the intermediate plateau? How do you know if your learning is at a plateau in general (not just at intermediate level)?

We’re talking about 2 things – what your level is, and the progress you’re not making.

How do you know if you’re intermediate?

Take a test, use the criteria for the CEFR, consult your teacher. (See links to tests below)

ExamEnglish www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Dialang dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

How do you know if you’ve reached a plateau – probably at intermediate level?

You started with a low level of English and have made some effort to pull yourself up to a functional intermediate level. Perhaps you studied, maybe you have lived in an English speaking environment in which you were forced to learn the language.

You can basically express yourself and get by in most situations, but when you’re under stress or when it’s a new situation your English crumbles.

Or perhaps you have a jagged profile – you might be good at one area, but other areas are really weak. E.g. you might be good at reading and writing but your spoken English is a disaster. Or perhaps you’re great at oral communication but you can’t write full sentences, can’t spell etc.

You can talk, laugh and have fun in English when you’re with fellow non-native speakers, but as soon as you’re with a group of natives, you suddenly feel lost and don’t understand the humour.

If you really concentrate and focus you can watch a film or TV in English and understand most of it – especially with English subtitles, but if you go to the cinema full of native speakers and watch a comedy film or something you realise how little you understand because everyone else is laughing but you’re just sitting there. You assume that everyone’s a bit stupid or that they have no taste. In fact, you just don’t understand the jokes.

Why do people hit an intermediate plateau?

You can basically survive with an intermediate level of English. In fact, you can get by with about 3000 words whereas the average native speaker is able to use about 20,000. This is the difference between a basic operational intermediate level of English and a fully rounded vocabulary of a native speaker.

Suspected learning curve. You expect learning to be linear. When you start you learn rapidly, the curve is steep. When you have got through the early stages and you can basically express yourself and understand others. It’s harder to see progress. Your progress becomes more shallow and there’s less stress involved.

People expect the learning to continue in a straight line of progress, but they don’t realise that it goes up and down.

The actual learning curve is more like a bell, and it involves many ups and downs too.

The more of a language you learn, the less there is to learn. It’s a process of diminishing returns.

Comfort zone.

Goals and study habits are not well defined. Often the first goal is just to get out of that painful confusion you experience at the start. When you hit intermediate your goals need to be more achievable and specific. Then you need to match them with an organised study plan.

How to break through the intermediate plateau and continue making progress

There’s no magic formula or single way to do it. It comes down to attitude, time and practice.

The study methods you used to get to intermediate might need to change.

Merely ‘getting by’ in the language is not enough any more. You need to explore, push it further, test yourself and increase the challenge.

Follow just one subject in a lot of depth

You want to develop a more advanced level of vocabulary and grammar, especially the vocab but there is so much of it! How can you cover it all? Instead of just scraping the surface of a few topics, try going into loads of depth in just one or two topics.

Following a subject you’re fascinated in will take you down a rabbit hole of English and you will learn a great deal of more complex language on the way. It’s hard to learn all the English of everything, so focus on one specific thing and let that be your entry point to advanced English.

This means finding loads of information on this single topic you’re interested in – reading articles and books about it, finding podcasts and videos about it, video documentaries on youtube and so on. For example, right now I’m reading about The Beatles in French and it’s much better than just reading stuff I don’t care about and it keeps me interested.

Learn how to talk and write about your specialist subject too. Learning one thing in a lot of detail is more achievable than trying to learn the vocabulary of everything. You will learn tons of vocabulary about the subject but also you’ll learn the kind of English you need to construct and understand complex and in-depth ideas – so, not just technical terms but also complex sentences, grammatical forms and linking devices.

Challenge

One of the reasons you made so much progress before was that everything was a challenge. You met a lot of resistance. It was frustrating but you pushed through. Now there is less resistance but don’t stop pushing. Challenge yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone, teach the language to someone else – or at least prepare yourself as if you’re going to teach, find your weaknesses and push them. Don’t give up. Jump in at the deep end and try to swim.

Habit

Honestly – how many of you are going to do all these things? Not many of you. You’ll probably listen and agree but not take action. Right there – that’s where the difference is between progress and not progress. Choose to do even a couple of these things and you’ll be on the right path. Just make a few little changes and do them regularly and it should become part of your habit. Build habits into your life.

Exposure

Exposure to some comprehensible input combined with some stuff on the verge of what you don’t understand. Some stuff that’s fairly easy to follow, and some stuff that’s hard to follow. So, that means listening to podcasts like this in which you understand quite a lot, but you’re also challenged sometimes, but it also means reading and listening to content designed for native speakers. Get an audiobook, get some real books, listen to BBC radio, subscribe to some podcasts for native speakers (listen for some recommendations soon).

236. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 1)

237. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 2)

Vocabulary & Mnemonics

Keep an organised notebook for vocabulary and use some mnemonic techniques. They’re proven to work again and again, but how many of us use them?

Listen to an old episode of my podcast called Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English.

Basically, the trick with remembering vocabulary is to a) link the new memory to an existing memory and b) make new memories visual, vivid and attached to a space that you know in the real world. This sounds a bit strange, but it’s proven to work. If you can attach a new word to an existing word somehow, perhaps with a very vivid picture in your mind perhaps connected to a space you know, like your house, then memories will stick like glue.

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

Part 2 coming soon…

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377. Holiday in Thailand (Part 1)

This episode contains stories and descriptions of my recent holiday in Thailand. You’ll hear some facts about Thailand, some descriptions of Bangkok and a few stories about funny experiences that happened while we were there. Part 2 is coming soon. More details and transcriptions below. Enjoy!

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Transcript

Hello everybody, I’m back from my holiday so here is a brand new episode for you to listen to. If you’re new to Luke’s English Podcast, then “hello” and welcome to the show. I have no idea how you found the podcast. It was probably on the internet, that’s how it normally happens. I doubt that you actually tripped over it in the street or anything. Oops ,what’s that – oh, it’s Luke’s English Podcast. I might as well have a look. You probably found it online, perhaps through iTunes or a friend recommended it to you perhaps. In any case, regardless of how you found me, welcome. My name’s Luke – and this is my podcast. It’s primarily for learners of English although I also have native English speakers listening to this too. In these episodes I talk to you in a personal way, telling stories, sharing some things about my life, discussing different topics, teaching you English and giving you the motivation to improve your English for yourself. I try to keep the podcast varied and I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything at all as long as it’s interesting. I’m an English teacher from the UK. I speak British English – with a standard accent from the South East of England. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years so I have lots of experience to draw from. I’m also a stand-up comedian which means that when I’m not teaching English or doing the podcast I like to stand up in front of audiences of people and make them laugh with jokes and stories and things. I regularly perform comedy shows in Paris.

One of the principles which underpins what I do in episodes of this podcast is the understanding that simply listening to natural, spontaneous speech is a vital part of the process of learning English to a good standard. Obviously, you have to get an understanding of the grammar rules, develop an extensive set of active vocabulary, practise pronouncing the language and so on, but doing plenty of listening is an essential foundation. I usually recommend that LEP is best enjoyed as part of a balanced study program. For example I suggest that you also do plenty of speaking in order to activate the English that you passively pick up from these episodes. There are lots of ways to improve your English and you can just listen to previous episodes of the podcast to get my advice on that. At the very least, you can just relax and enjoy listening to my words on a regular basis, and I hope that it’s a fun process too. Certainly, I am sure that my podcast can really help all the other aspects of your English, not just your listening. I also believe it’s important to listen to English which is spoken at a pretty natural speed, which is spontaneous (i.e. not just written from a script) and I think you should listen regularly for fairly long periods, long term. Make it a part of your lifestyle to listen regularly and don’t give up.

I want my podcast to help you to do exactly those things, and so I try to make my episodes genuine, personal and humorous. So, if you’re new to the podcast – welcome and thanks for listening. I hope you stick with it. I believe that if you do continue to listen, you’ll see significant results in your English. Check out the episode archive on my website teacherluke.co.uk and you’ll see that you have plenty of other episodes to explore and enjoy.

If you’re not new to the podcast, and you are in fact a long term LEPster then welcome back! How are you? I hope you’re well. Did you have a good August? Have you listened to all the episodes I published before I went away? I hope so.

In any case, here is a new episode of this podcast and it is about my recent holiday in Thailand.

Holiday in Thailand

Yes, we went to Thailand this year and I’m going to tell you about it in this episode. In fact, in this one I’ll talk about these things:

  1. Why we went to Thailand
  2. Where we went in Thailand
  3. The things most people know about Thailand
  4. Some things you might not know about Thailand
  5. A few anecdotes about what we did and saw during the holiday
  6. A few dodgy jokes!
  7. An embarrassing story involving nudity
  8. A sad old memory that came back to me at a specific moment in the trip
  9. A mouse-related update (if you heard the last episode of the podcast, this will make sense to you)

We got back just the other day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged. I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning. My body is still on Thailand time, so at about 5AM my body woke up saying “hey it’s time to get up and go walking around temples in very hot temperatures! We’re on holiday come on!” No doubt I will randomly fall asleep this afternoon when my body decides that it’s bedtime. I have a sun tan – correction, I had a tan, until the flight back. As a very white English man, I have a slightly tricky relationship with sun tans. At the moment I am sporting the typical English man’s tan.

I have no idea how long this episode will be but I can just split it up into different chapters and it’s all good.

You will find some of this episode transcribed on the episode page on my website. Not all of it is transcribed, but a lot of it is, and you can read my notes too, which might be a good way to check out the spelling of any words you hear me use. They might be written on the page. By the way, if you’re just reading this – I strongly recommend that you listen instead of reading. Remember, anything that is written here is supposed to just accompany what I’m saying in the audio recording.

Why did we choose Thailand?

– My wife and I wanted to go somewhere exotic and far away (we want to explore places which are a bit further before we have kids)
– A break and a chance to get away from it all
– Never been before
– We like food !
– It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do – city, culture, beaches
– It’s not too expensive

Why didn’t you do an LEP Live event?

It was a holiday – so I was not working. That means I didn’t organise some sort of LEPster meet-up, or live podcasting stand up comedy extravaganza. I didn’t meet up with Olly Richards even though I have since learned that he was out there too learning Thai – no, it was all about walking around sweating, visiting temples, sweating, exploring street food markets, sweating, worrying about food poisoning, sweating, going to the beach and sweating there, learning how to cook local food, eating the local food with lots of chilli, sweating, doing yoga and meditating, drinking water and sweating! Just the average holiday abroad for a British person!

Where did you go?

In a nutshell, here’s where we went.

Bangkok for a few days, then up north to Chiang Mai for a few days, then down south to Koh Samui for a few days and then back to Bangkok for a few days and then home! Boom!

That’s the usual tourist route. It’s Bangkok in the middle, temples, treks into the forest, elephants, night markets and cooking classes in the north, then islands, beaches, diving, snorkelling and full moon parties in the south.

We didn’t go to the islands on the west side like Phuket because of the climate in August.

Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions – some bombings, which was a bit worrying. We even considered not going, but then we thought – well, we live in Paris and we’ve got as much chance of being blown up there as in Thailand, so what the hell!

In fact our time was very peaceful.

Usual things people think about Thailand

The most typical clichés or stereotypes about Thailand: Busy, crowded, amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, weird sex tourism in Bangkok, ladyboys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, westerners being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2 (Tiger uppercut), snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

That’s partly true (perhaps for the average western tourist) but obviously it’s not the full picture, especially for the locals.  I will go into more detail about what it’s really like in this episode.

Things you might not know about Thailand

1. Full name of Bangkok. It’s the longest city name in the world. “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

2. Thailand, or “Prathet Thai” means “land of the free”…

3. Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded. Well done Thailand.

4. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands. The most famous ones are in the south, and they are beautiful. Probably the most well known is Koh Phi Phi, which is where The Beach was filmed. (By the way, it’s a rubbish film)

5. It’s illegal to leave the house without underwear on. I don’t know how they enforce this law. Are they doing random underpant checks?

6. Thai currency is called the Baht and it’s illegal to step on Thai Baht. Now, you might be thinking – well, I don’t every go around stepping on currency anyway, so that’s not a problem. But the point is that this is because of the high level of respect that the Thai people have for their royal family. Like in the UK, a picture of the monarch appears on every bank note and the image of the monarch cannot be desecrated, in fact it is a crime to disfigure a picture of the king or queen in any way. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like the UK, and they hold their king and queen in high esteem. There are lots and lots of images of them all over the country, sometimes you find little shrines in the street devoted to them.

7. The feet are considered to be very unclean (both clinically and spiritually) and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine because I literally never do that anyway. I’m sure I heard someone do standup about that and I can’t remember who, but it was very funny.

8. Similarly, the head is the highest point on the body and is considered to be sacred, so don’t touch it, slap it, poke it or whatever. In the west you might rub someone on the top of the head as a sign of affection, or whack someone round the back of the head to express annoyance. Don’t do that in Thailand. To be honest, I wasn’t going to do that either. I rarely touch the head of random strangers that I meet in public. I certainly wouldn’t slap the back of the head of someone. E.g. “Waiter, excuse me – we asked for 2 bowls of rice and you gave me one! Can we have another one? Thank you!” SLAP. No.

9. 95% of people are buddhist. It’s quite common to see Buddhist monks walking around. We talked to one of them and I’ll explain what he said later in this episode. Also there are buddha statues everywhere. There are thousands of them. It’s just buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha. Climb to the top of a mountain, there’s a buddha. Inside a cave? Buddha. Under a nice tree? Buddha. Inside this big temple? Buddha. In front of the big buddha statue, lots of other buddhas. In front of them, buddhas. Buddhas everywhere – which is great. They are beautiful, peaceful images and of all the religions I think Buddhism perhaps makes the most sense. Just try to reach a higher level of consciousness. Realise that everything is connected and that there is one universal vibration which passes through the entire universe. Reject selfish and materialistic urges in favour of achieving individual spiritual enlightenment. Fine.

10. It’s a very hot place – especially Bangkok. The hottest time of year is April where temperatures rise to 40 degrees C or more, with high humidity levels too. In August it’s the rainy season but it still gets really hot – it was regularly in the high 30s and with very high levels of humidity. Showers that happen in the evenings are a welcome break from the heat!

Read more about this on ‘the internet’ http://matadornetwork.com/trips/19-things-probably-didnt-know-thailand/

Bangkok

There are lots of stories about it, like the dodgy ping pong shows, the sex tourism and other weird and lewd things, but of course not everywhere is like that. We avoided the dodgy tourist parts such as Patpong, where there are these weird sex shows. Now, while I am quite curious to learn about the bizarre skills that some women have developed – I mean, some of the things are quite impressive. For example, apparently in these shows, some women are able to launch ping pong balls across the room – and not with their hands if you know what I mean, and some of them can even write letters with a paintbrush or pen, again, not with their hands. THat’s actually quite impressive, but I don’t really need to see it, and apparently the people who run the shows are very dodgy indeed and they lure you in with false prices and then when you try to leave they force you to pay a lot of money and it gets pretty ugly, so no thanks. No ping pong shows for us.

A mix between the chaotic and slightly sketchy places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and the more modern JPN, particularly parts of this area where we stayed.

The streets are vibrant, chaotic, noisy, smelly, polluted, full of life. Scooters, cars, crossing the road. Nobody walks! Traffic is incredibly busy. There’s an amazing metro system called the sky train. Tuk tuks, taxis and so on.

Lots of street food, with people cooking all sorts of things on little mobile carts – chicken skewers, lots of seafood, noodles, fruits like mango and some things I didn’t recognise. People eat in the street sitting on little plastic chairs.

Incredible Japanese BBQ. Daimasu.

Massages

Onsen experience

Expectations vs reality.
Naked bald midget.
Only had a tiny towel. Not big enough to go around me.
A bunch of other naked guys, including a group of old men in the corner watching. They broke off their conversation to have a look at me when I walked in.
Only foreigner there.
Not normal in my culture.
I felt really embarrassed. Not because of my size – because I have nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Some might say I’m gifted, I would prefer to say I am average for a guy of my height, but I should add that I have massive hands and feet. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t really need to be ashamed of myself but this was very awkward for me but because I’m not used to being seen, and the natural response is to be self-conscious about your size, even in front of other men. You might think it’s not important what other guys think, but I’d never had to rationalise it before and the fact is, is still matters for some reason.
Size is important, even when it’s other guys. I can’t really explain that.
Of course I shouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but I’m English and it’s just part of our culture. First we don’t ever get naked in a public situation, except perhaps at a sports club but then it’s brief.
Also, for some reason it feels like you’re being judged. I did feel judged. I felt incredibly self co anxious.
Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, maybe not, but people weren’t shy about having a look. The old guys stopped their conversation to take a look at me. Others turned their heads etc.
Nerves = natural body response to protect the Crown Jewels.
Stayed in jet bath.
One by one the guys came over to the adjacent bath and had a look at me. Every time I thought “oh for fucks sake!”
I stayed there for 20 minutes not knowing where to look and absolutely boiling!
Tried to make a break for the next nearest bath but it was the cold one – no way.
Went for the soda bath. High CO2 apparently good for me but I thought I was going to die.
Left and got changed.
An absolute fountain of sweat.
Wife waiting for me, totally dry.

The massage was quite brutal, but ultimately nice.

Holiday = sweating, great discomfort, great comfort and relief, good food, discomfort, sweating, relief, sweating etc.

Rude massage joke

 

Thanks for listening – subscribe to the email list at the top-right of the page. :)

Luke

346. Rambling on a Friday Afternoon

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms / More NY Stories / Politics / Leicester City / Google Adverts
Welcome back to another podcast episode. It’s nice to be back in your headphones or speakers. In the last episode of this podcast I talked to you about some recent bits and pieces such as the ELTon award nomination, my recent trip to New York and some other stuff. I also gave you a language task to keep you on your toes. I’m going to continue along the same lines in this episode and I have a list of things here to talk about and we’re going to continue with the language spotting exercise.

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It’s a Friday afternoon, I’ve just seen the latest Marvel movie, the weather is mad, and I’m going to talk to you about various things again but first I’ve got to respond to a couple of comments that have arrived here on my website in just the last hour.

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms Listed Below

But first…

Some comments from listeners

Abensour • 4 minutes ago
Hello Luke, Your podcast is fantastic.
Nevertheless, could you please speak a bit faster. I guess you must lower the pace when you record your podcasts and it would be very interesting to hear you with your natural english speaking pace.

Jeremie • 1 minute ago
By the way, I am a french listener as well! :)

Wesley
Hello Luke and LEP listeners,
It’s with absolute delight that I receive the news that LEP has been nominated for the 2016 ELTons and I genuinely believe other long-term listeners share the same feeling. The British Council and Cambridge English couldn’t have a better candidate for the Digital Innovation category.
One thing that troubled me though was when Luke said it was unlikely that he could win. Luke, I don’t know if you’re being far too English or just trying to be modest but, as I see it, you shouldn’t take this defeatist attitude and underestimate yourself. As you said, LEP is a project you have been working on for over seven years and it keeps getting better as time goes on. Because you’re kind-hearted and keep LEP free, people all over the world listen to you. Your episodes have millions of downloads and are a complete success and, even though you’re up against five other great nominees, I cannot conceive why LEP might not be in the running for the award.
LEP is innovative because it allows learners to listen to genuine English – rambling included – outside a classroom environment. Everyone who has reached a proficient level knows how important being in touch with the language is in order to learn it well. LEP is great because it enables us to hear natural English for pleasure and entertainment or while doing housework, cooking and commuting to college. I am not aware of any other equivalent English teaching resource that suits our busy lives just as well as LEP. I believe any sensible judge on the panel will allow for all those reasons when they vote.
I wish you luck and I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
All the best,
Wesley

Language Task – Spot the Phrasal Verbs & Idioms

So, that language task from the previous episode was to listen out for a few phrasal verbs and idioms that I’d taken randomly from a dictionary and which I tried to insert into my speech, seamlessly. You had to identify the ones I had added. The purpose of that is to encourage you to notice lexical items – to notice vocabulary. It’s a good habit for a learner of English. On one hand just follow what I’m saying and connect with that, but also try to notice features of the language you’re listening to. That’s what I’m encouraging you to do.

I chose 5 phrasal verbs and 5 idioms and I managed to slip in just one of those phrasal verbs and two of the idioms.
Remember what they were?

There was “to come up against” something.
Also, “to be on the edge of your seat”
and “to get your knickers in a twist”

There were also plenty of other bits of vocabulary which just cropped up in the episode, including these ones:
– to listen out for something
– to watch out and look out for something (not too complicated)
– to keep your eyes peeled
– to prick up your ears

So, as we move forwards now, watch out for the 4 remaining phrasal verbs and 3 remaining idioms. I’m not telling you what they are in advance. It’s up to you to identify them. You’ll probably hear a few phrasal verbs and idioms, but which are the ones that I took from the dictionary? When we get to the end of this episode I’ll tell you the phrases, and clarify them for you, because I’m nice.

Keep reading – the phrasal verbs and idioms are listed below.

Topics in Today’s Ramble

In this one I’m going to carry on just talking about various subjects, including a couple of other anecdotes about New York, some comments about politics in the USA and in the UK at the moment, some more rambling about movies, and various other bits and pieces that will crop up as we go along.

I’ve got no idea how long this is going to take of course! I could talk the hind legs off a donkey this afternoon, but as ever I’ll just divide the whole thing into several more episodes if necessary. Ultimately – it’s all spoken English from me to you, so here we go…

Some more anecdotes about the time spent in NYC
– The hasidic jews jamming in the music store

– Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar

– Billy Cobham at the Blue Note

Politics
The American presidential elections – Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
London Mayor – Sadiq Khan is the new mayor
The EU referendum / Brexit
The Panama papers
These are very important political issues that really deserve to be covered in proper depth, and I plan to do that.
I’m particularly keen to talk about Brexit in one more special Brexit themed episodes.
Leicester City won the Premiership.
Small club, 5000-1 odds of winning. The title has been dominated by the big names. Leicester is in the East Midlands and it’s less famous than a lot of the other big cities in England but this is going to help. All in all it’s just fantastic to see a smaller club win this title. They were absolutely fantastic.

Google Adverts
I bought some new trainers online and now the internet is madly trying to get me to buy them again. WTF?

Movies
I’ve just seen the new Marvel movie and also there’s a new Star Wars film coming this Christmas, but that’s going to come in another episode soon…

The Phrasal Verbs & Idioms – Definitions and Examples

Thank you to a LEPster called Valeriya for writing these vocabulary notes in the comment section for the benefit of all listeners.

Valeriya: I wrote some notes. Hope they will be useful for the LEPstors.

to ease off/up – to gradually stop or become less
e.g. At last the rain began to ease off.
e.g. I am leaving soon, but I am just waiting for the traffic to ease off a bit.

to ease off/up – to start to work less or do things with less energy
e.g. As he got older, he started to ease up a little.

to ease off/up – to start to treat someone less severely
e.g. I wish his supervisor would ease up on him a bit.

to fork out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something, probably spend a lot of money in one go in order to buy something; to spend a bunch of money on something in one purchase
e.g. If you advertise nice guitars to me for a long enough period of time, eventually I will fork out on a new guitar.

to splash out (on something) – spend a lot of money on something; to spend a lot of money on something which you want but do not need
e.g. He splashed out on the best champagne for the party.

to go down with something – you catch an illness, you get sick; you become sick; to start to suffer from an infectious disease
e.g. Half of Martha’s class has gone down with flu.

to come down with something – to get an illness; заболеть чем-либо
I came down with the flu at Christmas.
e.g. You need to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, so you’ve got lots of vitamins, because if you don’t, you might come down with a cold.

to bring the house down – if someone or something brings the house down during a play or show, they make the people watching it laugh or clap very loudly; you make everyone laugh as part of a performance; to put on a really great performance and to be a huge hit; to make a group of people or an audience react in a very enthusiastic way, especially by laughing
e.g. I saw Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar, and he absolutely brought the house down.

to go on the offensive – you begin to take strong action against people who have been attacking you
e.g. The West African forces went on the offensive in response to attacks on them.

to go on the offensive – to begin to attack or criticize someone who you think is attacking you
Under pressure from his critics, the minister decided to go on the offensive.
Luke was going on the offensive about Google’s Advertising.

to go on the defensive – in an attitude or position of defense, as in being ready to reject criticism; you start defending yourself or something
e.g. He’s so sensitive. Whenever you give him any feedback he immediately goes on the defensive.

to take/bring somebody down a peg or two – to do something to show someone that they are not as good as they thought they were; to lower someone’s high opinion of themselves
e.g. He’s one of these super-confident types who really needs to be brought down a peg or two.

to dabble in something – to try an activity but not seriously, just as an experiment to see if you like it. To do something for a short time, or not regularly, in order to see if you like it. To do something sometimes, but not in a fully serious way, only in a casual way.
e.g. He dabbled in left-wing politics at university.

343. The Interactive Lying Game (with Amber & Paul) / Descriptive Adjectives with T / Three is a Magic Number

In this episode I’m joined by podcast pals Amber & Paul and we’re playing the Lying Game again, but this is a special version because this is The Interactive Lying Game. I know it’s exciting. Try to control yourself. Details below.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK? Click the box below to jump to the polls and cast your votes.

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Just in case you don’t know what the lying game is (and that’s the lying game not the lion game), let me bring you up to speed.

So, where shall I start? Well, this is the universe, ok? In that universe there’s a tiny little galaxy, and in that tiny galaxy there’s an even tinier solar system with this little sun, and spinning around it there are some little bits of dust called planets. We’re on one of them. It’s called earth. Ok, got it? On earth there’s this thing called the internet, and that’s basically used for watching cat videos, sharing selfies, and listening to this podcast and for security services to spy on people’s internet usage to see exactly which cats are being watched, what is contained in those selfies and what kind of stuff is being talked about on this podcast. That’s pretty much all you need to know I think, regarding context. So there you go, do you feel up to speed now?

Oh yes, the lying game.

The Lying Game is a speaking game which I play in my English classes sometimes, because you know, I’m an English teacher – do I need to explain that too? No? OK, I’ll just get on with it. So, I also play the lying game on the podcast sometimes when I’m joined by Amber & Paul.

Here are the rules of the game

1. Someone makes a statement about themselves – it can be anything really, but usually it’s a statement about something they did in the past. The statement can either be true or a lie.
2. The other competitors then have to decide if they think it’s true or a lie, but before doing that they ask loads of questions in order to investigate the statement. The speaker has to respond.
3. The aim for the other competitors is to work out if the statement is true or not. The aim for the speaker is to try and fool the others.
4. After loads of questions have been asked, the competitors say if they think the statement is true or a lie, and justify their decisions.
5. The speaker then reveals if it’s true or not. Everyone goes crazy!
6. Any competitors who guess correctly get one point. The speaker gets a point for any wrong answers. So, when three people play, the speaker can get a maximum of 2 points per round, and the competitors can get a maximum of 1 point. Everyone gets a turn at being the speaker.

That might sound unnecessarily complicated but to keep it simple – all you have to do is just listen to the game, and try to guess if we’re lying or telling the truth. You can make your judgements by completing a simple poll on the page for this episode – and no you don’t need to give your email address or anything like that, it’s all open and free :)

The scores so far

To be honest, I can’t really work out the scores so far! The main thing is that I think Amber is the reigning champion so far because she’s probably the cleverest member of the team. I’m in second place because I’m ok at the game but my weakness seems to be that I can’t lie and I’m too gullible and trusting because I always believe that people are telling the truth, so I lose points sometimes because of that. Paul is in 3rd place and he always loses these games because he tries to be too tactical, and he always focuses on using strategies just to prevent Amber from winning, and those strategies always backfire in his face and he ends up coming third almost every time. He should just trust his instincts like a Jedi.

So, let’s see if Paul can finally win a game!

The Interactive Lying Game – The Rules

Here are the rules for this version:
In episode 318 Paul suggested that we do an interactive version of this game in which listeners send in their questions in response to our statements.
So we told you our statements, and then the LEP listeners wrote lots of questions on the page for episode 318.
In this episode we’re going to ask each other those questions.
You have to listen carefully and decide if we are telling the truth or telling lies.
Check out the page for this episode and you’ll find interactive polls where you can choose TRUE or LIE for each person. Please vote for each one.
Then, the next time we get together we’ll count all your votes. The winning person is the one who has fooled the most people.
So, it’s quite simple really – just listen to this episode and then go to the page on the website and vote using the online polls.
Then, later on we’ll reveal the truth, we’ll count the scores, and find out the winner!

THE STATEMENTS AGAIN

So, do you remember the statements from Amber, Paul and me?
Here’s a reminder:

Amber: I helped in the making of the film “Something’s Got To Give”
Luke: I accidentally knocked down a wall in a friend’s house in Japan
Paul: I used to get bullied by Guy Berryman, the bass player from Coldplay

What do you reckon, are they the honest truth or just a tissue of lies? Would you like to find out more? Are you ready to become a kind of psychological detective?

Yes, you are? Right then, without any further ado, let’s find out more as we listen to the podcast pals, aka The Truthful Trio or should that be the Treacherous Three. One thing’s for sure – it’s time for triple trouble, with Amber, Paul and me… Here we go…


*Jingles*
*The Interactive Lying Game Begins*


QUESTIONS FOR AMBER

Antonio
Amber: Who asked you for help? Were you an employee or it was a school exercise?

Mollie
Amber, how did you help in the making of the film ” Somethings Got To Give” ?

Anonymous • 4 months ago
Amber: Why did you help?

Krizzztofer • 3 months ago
Amber: Why aren’t you on the staff list on imdb.com ? (I love you BTW!) :-)
To listeners – please use the Donate button sometimes! Luke really deserves it! He does an incredible job. You don’t need to spend 100 pounds, but think about it – if everyone can give just 1 or 2 pounds…???
It’s not fair to get everything for free. Just think how much money we spend everyday for stupid things like smoking (I mean some of us, I gave up ;-). I If you send just 1pound – you invest in Luke and… in yourself! If you listen to this podcast – you really invest in yourself!

Hiroshi • 3 months ago
Amber:  Is your help reflected in the film? If so, how did you feel when you saw the film?
Do you think you can work as filmmaker?
Do you want to be an actress?

Lê Vũ QC • 4 months ago
To Amber:
1. How did you help? Were you in the movie?
2. Did you get paid? If yes, how much?
3. Could you name some of the members of the cast and tell us what the movie was about?
I hope my questions will get picked :) I enjoy you guys’ conversations tremendously.
QC.

Mariam • 4 months ago
To Amber:How did you get asked to participate in that? When and where was that? How were you chosen? How did you feel about it? What did you do? Can you describe how the filming went or at least the thing you were involved in?
Looking forward to hearing from you :)

Yaron • 4 months ago
The questions for Amber are: How did you help in making this movie (What was your role? did you direct it :) ? )… It is very difficult to ask more questions, since the question are really depend on how this help was given…..  Were you familiar with one the film production members (the script writer / editor /other)?

Mark (@nicknamemark) • 4 months ago
Amber: have you ever got in touch with the executive caster/core actor?

Antonio • 4 months ago
Amber: who asked you for help for this movie?

-e- • 4 months ago
Amber: Your style and your voice are as beautiful as Marilyn’s appearance was… but now I don’t believe you ;)
So, no questions but I have to say, enjoyable episode again! Thanks
-e-


QUESTIONS FOR LUKE

Antonio
Luke: how did you do it?

Mollie
Q1 : Luke , what was your friend’s name ? Is it he or she ? Is he or she Japanese ?

Anonymous • 4 months ago
Luke: What was reaction of your friend when you did it?

Krizzztofer • 3 months ago
First of all – this Lying Game series is a masterpiece!
Luke: How much did you drink? :-) (How much had you drunk?)

Hiroshi • 3 months ago
Luke: I accidentally knocked down a wall
Was that wall made out of paper or something like that? Usually you can’t knock down a wall.
Were you injured?
Were you dancing in the room? How you can knock down a wall? Kicked?

Lê Vũ QC • 4 months ago
To Luke:
1. What kind of house was that? Was it old or new, traditional or modern? Was the wall made of wood or concrete?
2. What was the relationship between you and that friend? Do you guys still keep in touch?
3. How did she/he react?

Mariam • 4 months ago
To Luke: Why were you in your friend’s house? Was it a traditional Japanese house with paper walls? (can you describe the house)? How did that happen? What was your freind’s reaction? Did you pay for the charges of fixing it? I can go on but I think it’s enough ;)

Yaron
This interactive version is a good idea Paul – well done!
Luke: I have no question for you. I’m sure that you are telling the truth :) …. just kidding… my questions to you are: What was the wall was made of (bricks, autoclaved aerated concrete, paper, Other)? How did it happen? Did you do it with bare hands or with some tool (like hammer for example)?

Mark (@nicknamemark) • 4 months ago
Luke: what about your location specifically in Japan? Does your friend’s city have many wooden houses?

Antonio
Luke: How did you put down the wall?

-E-
Luke: I think you are way too well-behaved a guy to knock anything down :) but maybe you did it….
Luke Thompson
Even though I slapped a teacher on the back of the head?
-E-
Yep, good question!
Nowadays students are allowed to do nearly everything as you know but if a teacher slightly touches a student, he or she gets into trouble…
So maybe you Luke are “the roof of all evil ” ! Your slapping has been the example for later generations… ;)
Anyway, Season’s Greetings
-e-
Luke Thompson
“The roof of all evil” I like it!
But it’s the *root of all evil.
I prefer being the roof though.


QUESTIONS FOR PAUL

Hiroshi • 3 months ago
Paul: I used to get bullied by Guy Berryman, the bass player from Coldplay.
You were misunderstanding his name as Guy Bullyman when you were young, right?

Hitoshi • 3 months ago
Paul: I used to get bullied by Guy Berryman, the bass player from Coldplay.
How old were you?
How did he bully you?
Could you manage to stop it?
Do you want to see him now?
What would you say and do if you saw him?

Antonio
Paul, what Job did you have at this time?

Mollie
Q2 : Paul , when did you get bullied by Guy Berryman ?

Anonymous
Paul : Where were you educated? how old were you? Did Guy Berryman know his bandmates at that time?

Krizzztofer • 3 months ago
Paul: How old are you? (it seems you are too young, Guy is 38:) )

Lê Vũ QC • 4 months ago
To Paul:
1. When did that happen and what did you do when that happened?
2. Do you still know Berryman or are you just strangers now?
3. Why did he bully you? Was it because he was just an asshole or something?

Mariam • 4 months ago
To Paul: When and where was that? How old were you (both)? Was he in the band yet around that time? How did he bully you (what did he say or do)? How did you react?

-e-
Paul: Who the hell could have bullied you? .. It definitely can’t be true!

Yaron
The questions for Paul are: What was your age at the time? How many times did he bully you? Where did it happen? Why did he bully you? Can you think why he did it to you?

Mark (@nicknamemark) • 4 months ago
Paul: How old were you when you were bullied? If this happened in school, would you like to give us the school name?

Antonio
Paul: What was your job at this time?

David Beckham’s greasy curtains

Go Greased Lightning!


WHAT DO YOU THINK? DO THE POLL AND ADD YOUR COMMENTS

[socialpoll id=”2352258″]
[socialpoll id=”2352259″]
[socialpoll id=”2352260″]


AMBER, PAUL & LUKE – THE PODPALS – NICKNAMES & ACRONYMS

Amber, Paul & Luke – We Need an Acronym or Nickname (don’t we?)
It’s always lots of fun when they’re on the podcast and according to comments it looks like you, the listeners, agree. In fact, people seem to feel that Amber, Paul and I form quite a successful podcasting team, so naturally we need a nickname or an acronym for the three of us.

You heard us mention a couple of ideas for acronyms or nicknames in the previous episode, but we didn’t decide on one.

So, I want you the listeners to help me choose a good acronym or nickname for us.

Here are some suggestions:

Acronyms
PAL (pal = friend, mate)
APL (apple?)
PLA! (?)
LPA! (?)

Feel free to create another acronym perhaps featuring the letters of our first names and surnames too.
A for Amber
P for Paul
L for Luke
M for Minogue
T for Taylor
T for Thompson
So, that’s – A P L M T T
Players of Scrabble will notice that there’s just one vowel in there and 5 consonants, two of which are T, which makes it quite hard to form a word – so good luck with that!

Superhero team names, like The Fantastic Four (The + adjective + word for three things)
Here are the ingredients:
Words for “three things”
Three
Trio – a group of three people, like three singers
Triptych – a set of three works of art, like three paintings that go together
Triangle – a geometric shape with three corners and three sides
Tripod – a stand with three legs, e.g. a camera tripod
Tricycle – like a bicycle but with three wheels
Triforce (for Legend of Zelda fans) – The Triforce (トライフォース, Toraifōsu ?) is the golden triangle, made from three other golden triangles arranged together. It comes from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series of video games. Referred to as “The Golden Power” in ancient Hyrulian literature, it is an omnipotent sacred relic, representing the essence of the Golden Goddesses who created the realm of Hyrule. The triforce as a symbol also appears in Japanese history as a icon representing an old Japanese family, I think.
Trident – a brand of chewing gum, but also a three-pronged spear carried by Poseidon the god of the sea and also Britannia the female personification of Great Britain. Both Poseidon and Britannia carry tridents. Trident is also the name of the UK’s nuclear weapons system, based in Scotland.
Team – you know what that means.

Adjectives beginning with T (these ones don’t really go with ‘Three’)
Terrific – great, or big, very good
Triumphant – victorious, having won in battle
talkative – talk a lot
Tantalizing – having or exhibiting something that provokes or arouses expectation, interest, or desire, especially that which remains unobtainable or beyond one’s reach
tangential – tending to go off on tangents, the tendency to get diverted (quite appropriate)
tasteful – having good taste
talented – having talent
tactical – having tactics or strategy
tasty – delicious

Adjectives beginning with Tr (these ones go nicely with ‘trio’)
trustworthy – you can trust us
tranquil – peaceful, calm or silent
transcribed – our words have been transcribed perhaps as part of the transcript collaboration
trendsetting – to be one who sets trends or creates trends, the state of being a trendsetter
truthful – honest, telling the truth
trivial – not important
trilateral – involving three sides or groups, like a trilateral trade agreement between three nations, or a trilateral decision
transcendent – higher or better than other things, rising to a new level, perhaps surpassing normal states and into a higher plane
tremendous – a large amount, or very good
tragicomical – both sad and funny at the same time

Adjectives beginning with TH (these ones go nicely with ‘Three’)
thorough – detailed and careful, going through something in great detail and covering it fully and carefully
thoughtful – thinking a lot, particularly about others
therapeutic – bringing therapy
thrilling – exciting
thunderous – very loud, like thunder
thickheaded – stupid

Also
Triple Trouble
The 3 Musketeers
The Podpals
? something else ?

OK, THERE’S NO NICKNAME POLL – Just add your suggestions in the comment section please :)

But here are a few ideas:

Triple Trouble
The Podpals
The t_____________ trio
The t_____________ three
The t_____________ team


Song: Three is a Magic Number by Bob Dorough

Chords & lyrics tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/bob_dorough/three_is_a_magic_number_crd_1761209id_21082015date.htm
343PIC

331. How’s your English? (and why speaking is so important)

Hi listeners, I’ve got a big big slice of podcast pie for you in this episode because I’m going to talk to you about some important considerations for language learning, some ways that you can push your English to new levels with LEP, and I’m going to talk about italki, which is a really great service that you can use to arrange conversations with native English speakers online from the comfort of your own home, and why as a listener to this podcast, you should check it out. There is also a transcript for this episode already available at teacherluke.co.uk so check that out too. Now, let’s get started.

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First of all, hello! How are you? I hope you’re well.
Here’s a new episode to listen to. I’m very glad to see that recent episodes have been popular with the LEP community. Episode 330 about Grand Theft Auto was particularly popular. I’ll have to do more of that sort of thing in the future.

New-Look Episode Archive
Have you listened to all the episodes of LEP? If not, maybe it’s because you don’t know which episodes to choose. You might not know where you can find them all.
If you’re subscribed with iTunes you can access all the episodes in the RSS feed. But, I’ve recently added a new episode archive with descriptions of the content and language in each episode of this podcast. Check it out. If you haven’t listened to the back catalogue and don’t know what is contained in all those episodes, have a look at the new archive by clicking on ALL EPISODES in the website menu. You’ll find links to all the old episodes and now you’ll see that each episode is accompanied by a description of the topic and theme, including the language focus in particular episodes, so you know what to look for. There are loads of classic episodes of Luke’s English Podcast just sitting there in the archive, waiting for you to listen to them. Remember, you can download them all individually from the website, and there are lots of transcripts available too. So, if you’re ever caught waiting for new episodes – just ask yourself the question, “have I listened to all the previous ones?” They’re all there, available for you, free.

How’s your English? Let’s talk about learning a language
More and more every day I am coming face to face with experiences of language learning. Either other people, like my students or the people who email me every day, or me – because I’m a language learner too – struggling to learn French.
I’m constantly aware of our need, in this incredibly interconnected world, to speak foreign languages. For you and my students it’s English. For me it’s French.

A lot of people struggle to push their level up
Some people don’t know how to do it. I meet so many students in language schools who know they need to improve their English, but they don’t know how to do it, so they just sign up with a language school and to an extent, they then expect us to do all the work for them. Not all of them are like that, some students do exactly the right things – but some students seem subconsciously to think that by signing up to the course and simply being in the room, that’s all they need to do. People like that tend to be the worst students because they don’t take responsibility for their own learning. It’s not necessarily their fault, because they just don’t realise that there is a better way to learn another language.

Like, a lot of people don’t realise they have to connect with English on quite a personal level, regularly and for extended periods of time. It’s not just a skill to add to the CV. Learning a language has to become part of who you are. The more you put your time and personality into it, the better the outcome.

A lot of people probably don’t realise that this podcast exists for example, or at least they just wouldn’t even think about listening to podcasts regularly in English, or they might listen a bit but just give up after a while because it’s too difficult.

That’s a pity because I think there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from my episodes, and from many other podcasts – I really hope so anyway because that’s what I’m trying to do with Luke’s English Podcast – I hope it’s more than just a thing for learning English, but that rather it’s something that helps you learn and which you just enjoy listening to as a human being, or not – you might enjoy listening to it as some other life-form, but I imagine most of my listeners are humans. I know I have a few dogs, and some fish listening to this, at least – but mainly, homo sapiens. Whatever you are, if you’re a long-term listener I think you’ll agree that regularly listening to my episodes will give you an edge over the people who don’t. It’s quite simple really.

So, what I’m saying is – there are bad language learners and good language learners. The bad ones do things like sign up for language courses, expect that to be enough, sit in language classes, expect to be spoon fed, but don’t take responsibility for their own language learning. Good language learners know that learning a language is all about taking responsibility for your own learning, and making an effort to get some English into your lifestyle, on a regular basis, by experimenting with new ideas and new platforms. You don’t give up when it gets challenging and in fact you enjoy the whole process of doing it!

I have over 300 hours of content here on this podcast – and that’s a lot of English to listen to. That’s a lot of words, a lot of grammar and pronunciation that you can hear and it’s definitely going to be a great injection of proper English into your brain.

But, you and I know that listening to this and enjoying it is only part of what you could be doing to seriously push your English into overdrive. You’re probably aware that, despite listening to this, your English could still be so much better and that you’re capable of so much more. You could be more fluent, more accurate and more confident.

The cool thing is that all these things are achievable, and that is more true now than ever before.

You know that you can really accelerate your learning if you choose to. The power is in your hands. If you want to, you can take your English to the next level. It’s just a question of putting in the time and effort and finding ways that work for you.

Here are a few suggestions for how to push your English in other ways, beyond just listening. Now, some of you might be quite content just to listen – and of course you can do that, but I would like to reach out to you here and ask you to just stop for a moment and question yourself  – are you satisfied with your level of English? What more could you be doing to improve it?

Here are some techniques for the motivated LEPster who wants to do more than just sit back and listen.

Listen to episodes several times
This is really important. It allows you to not only understand the content much better, but will also allow you to notice specific phrases and then remember them over time. If you hear phrases or even grammatical structures and certain bits of pronunciation again and again, they will really stick in your memory and become part of your English. For example – I know a lot of the lines from the first Star Wars film. They’re absolutely stuck in my mind and they even come out in my speaking sometimes. How do I remember these lines so easily? Just because I’ve watched the film a lot of times – and weirdly, I even enjoy it more each time as well. In fact, having watched Star Wars a lot, I feel like it’s part of who I am now. If I’d just watched Star Wars once, I’d never remember any of the lines. There’s absolutely no way I would be able to see Star Wars once, then walk out of the cinema and quote lots of lines of dialogue after just one viewing. It took multiple views before the dialogue stuck in my head. It’s exactly the same with the podcast. Listen more than once and the language will stick much more easily.

Use the transcripts
There are transcripts available for lots of episodes of LEP and you really should be using them. They took a lot of work to produce, either by me, members of my family or by listeners who take part in the transcript collaboration project – and if you have done that, then you deserve a medal because, as well as the long list of fully transcribed episodes on the website, there is another very long list of transcripts which are also complete but haven’t been checked by me yet. They’re all available on Google docs and the links are on the transcript collaboration page. So, there are more transcripts available than you might think. The transcript collaboration has been going for several years now, it’s really quite a big project! Writing transcripts is time consuming and we wouldn’t be doing it unless it was really useful for you, my listeners. So please use the transcripts which are provided! Here are some ways to do that…

Read transcripts while I’m talking – just listen and read at the same time. You could print out the transcripts, or just read them on your phone or tablet while you listen. Reading the words while you hear them will allow you to do a number of things: it’ll help you to remember the words better because you’re not just getting an aural picture of the word, but a visual one too, and many of us have very visual memories. Words exist as physical entities in our minds – they have a shape, they have a sound, they have spelling and they have muscle memories too. By shape I mean simply the way the word looks – that means its spelling, but also just the general visual characteristics of a word – the length and other visual characteristics. Apparently, when we read we don’t just look at the individual letters and put them together, but we recognise the first and last letters and the rest is just a general shape. So, it is important to get to know the shape and spelling of words in order to keep them recorded as visual entities in your mind. Words are also sound memories – what they sound like, and muscle memories – how it feels to say them. There are many aspects of a word, and the more of those aspects you cover, the more 3 dimensional the word will be and therefore the better you will remember it. So, reading the words while listening will help to tie the visual side to the aural side. It’ll allow you to remember them better, and later on to spell them too. Repeating words or sentences will help to develop the muscle memory too – attaching that to the aural and visual pictures that you already have. You should learn words in 3D – that means listening to them and reading them.

Also, reading while listening may help you to notice particular high-frequency features such as collocations or grammatical structures. If you’ve printed the scripts, you could highlight these things with a highlighter pen, or select them on a computer and record them in your own lists and check them again later.

Just read them, and then listen to the episode later
If you just want to focus mainly on listening skills, but would still like to get the benefit of having seen the words too – just separate those two things. First, listen to the episode, try to understand it, then read the script and understand more, then listen again and see if you notice a difference.
You can break up the script and episodes and just focus on chunks or parts of episodes.
You can print the scripts and then write notes on them as you listen, or highlight particular phrases or aspects of pronunciation.

Take some of the words and keep them in word lists
Highlighting words in scripts is good, especially if you go back and read them later, or find ways of remembering those things. Also, you can print out the script and then have fun highlighting certain words with one of those brightly coloured highlighter pens – that’s always fun isn’t it – there’s just something satisfying about using a highlighter, but remember that the highlighter itself won’t learn English for you – you’ll need to go back to those words again and again in order to really learn them.

You can copy+paste words into your own vocabulary lists – then find ways of working on those lists in your free time, repeating words, testing yourself, putting them into sentences and so on. Just make sure that you’re applying some kind of process to your learning – don’t just mindlessly read through your word lists – you need to work with the words, and push them into your mind in various ways. Remember the episode I did in the past about using mnemonics and memory techniques (listen to it here teacherluke.co.uk/2014/02/05/167-memory-mnemonics-learning-english/). There are a lot of words for you to remember. You have to think outside of the box in order to keep those words in your head.

You can use flashcard apps to help you do this, or just a notepad. Try to record and repeat words in sentences, not just on their own. Consider how the words interact with other words – because they do that, words – they don’t exist on their own, they are always with other words.  Are there any particular collocations or grammatical features of these words – e.g. do they take a particular preposition? If it’s a noun, what is the verb that collocates with it? For example, if the word is “homework”, what’s the verb? It’s “do”. What about “housework”? (It’s “do” as well) What about the DIY (ok, that’s “do” as well – yes, all those examples take “do” as their verbs). Another consideration is the word family. What are the other words in the word family? Noun, verb, adjective, adverb forms. Are there any opposites or synonyms? Are they followed by -ing or infinitive forms? For example, the expression ‘used to’. You shouldn’t just record ‘used to’ but also ‘be used to + -ing’ and ‘get used to + -ing’.

Getting to know one word often means getting to know all the other words that they live with. Beyond just recognising words in phrases you could also use a good dictionary – like perhaps a collocations dictionary to help you make your lists, and make sure you go back to those lists and study/practice/test yourselves! You could get a dictionary like the Oxford Collocations Dictionary, or use one online. I found one today that looks great. It’s called the Online Oxford Collocation Dictionary. Search for a word and it will show you all the verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives that collocate with it, with examples. Here’s a link with the word “memory” oxforddictionary.so8848.com/search?word=memory

Also, try to practice producing your target words, not just recognising them. That means when you do some studying with your word lists, you should read out those words and sentences aloud, not just read them in silence.

Try to avoid simply converting words from your language into English and back again. Try to do it all in English.

Since these transcripts are in text form, you can do all sorts of things with the words on your computer. For example, you could create your own worksheets using the transcripts. Import the text into Microsoft Word, then gap certain words (you can select certain words and gap them all automatically), or gap random words, then print the worksheet you’ve produced, and then go back to it later and try to add the words from memory. You could remove all the punctuation and put it back in later. You could remove all the verbs and then put them back in the correct form. You could remove all the prepositions and put them back in later. You don’t have to do it to the whole text, you could just choose certain bits. Be selective about which bits of transcript you work with – for example, it would be a good idea to focus on part of an episode in which someone tells a story, or in which there’s lots of technical language that you don’t know.

Be your own teacher, create your own tests and exercises. You can do that. It will help.

Recording yourself reading transcripts
You could take a transcript and read it out loud. Try to sound exactly like me, or just try to read out the script in a natural way, as if you were talking to real people and you had to make it interesting. You could record yourself reading the script and then compare it to the original recording of me. See the difference, and try to copy my voice.

Shadow the way I speak when you’re in the car
If you listen while driving – that’s the perfect time to do some speaking in private. You can use the privacy of the car to do some speaking. You could try shadowing me – that means repeating everything I’m saying while I’m saying it! Don’t do this when you’re in conversation, it’s seriously annoying (I had a few students who used to try and mouth the words I was saying as I said them – weird) but you can do it in private. Either you repeat it after I’ve said it, or you allow your mouth to vaguely follow what I’m saying as I’m saying it.

Listen at different speeds – slower or faster
A lot of audio software and podcast apps allow you to speed up or slow down episodes. Why not try listening to an episode really fast the first time round, then slowing it down. You might find that after fast listening you’re suddenly able to understand normal speaking much better. It’s a bit like training in the mountains – you let your body get used to running with less oxygen, and then when you run at a normal altitude your body is tuned and able to consume much more oxygen and by comparison you’re much stronger and faster. If you get used to listening at a fast pace, you could become an amazing listener at normal speed. Alternatively, you could listen to an episode slowly to try and focus on specific things that you missed before. The main thing is – experiment with different listening speeds – and remember, if you listen faster you can listen to more because the episodes will be shorter.

Pause the podcast to say something
Remember, you have a pause button. You can use it to pause the episode when you have a thought or idea and just say your response. Again, this will work better if you’re in private so people don’t think you’re crazy, talking to yourself. You might be listening to an episode, and someone says something and you have a response. Pause the podcast and say your response, to yourself, to your pet cat, to the wall, to your teacher, to your friend who also listens.
And you don’t have to wait until a specific thing comes up. You could decide to stop every 10 minutes and summarise what has been said in the last 10 minutes, by saying it out loud. Try to use language which you’ve heard in the podcast.
Imagine: you listen, and every 10 minutes in you pause, summarise and respond, then continue. That way a 1 hour podcast will also involve you summarising and responding in your own words six times. That’s quite a lot of speaking, as well as listening.

Use episodes of LEP as the basis for discussions or activities with your speaking partner
If you have a language partner for practising English, or if you have one to one lessons with a teacher, you could take inspiration from LEP. I’ve done lots of episodes with speaking games like “The Lying Game” the vocabulary games with Amber & Paul, the difficult situation role plays, the random discussion questions with my family, the bank robbery activity, the 1 minute challenge, the A to Z game and all the topics and interview questions I’ve used in episodes over the years. You could recreate speaking tasks from episodes of the podcast, in your own lessons or language exchanges. Check the pages for each episode and see if there are questions or other notes that you could use for your lessons or speaking sessions.


 

So there I’ve just explained a few ways to be a more active listener. That’s all going to help you, definitely. Even just listening to these episodes and enjoying them means you’re certainly getting a leg up on the competition, especially those losers who don’t even know LEP exists! But being proactive and finding new ways of pushing your English with LEP is definitely going to help too.

But, I haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room. This is the thing that’s missing from the whole arrangement and that I haven’t talked about, because previously it was a bit of a problem, but not so much any more.

What does “the elephant in the room” mean?

What’s the elephant in the room that I’m talking about? I’m talking about the fact that LEP doesn’t give you everything you need for your English. That shouldn’t be a shock of course, because I’ve always said the podcast is best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet – I mean, that you get best results by combining listening to this with other things, such as study and speaking practice. But certainly what I haven’t mentioned so far is that the podcast certainly can’t give you the one thing that you really really need to make rapid progress in English, and that’s the chance to practice speaking with native speakers.

Beyond adding habits and techniques into your lifestyle and getting regular exposure to authentic English with the podcast, the best way is to push your English is to do plenty of speaking. Speaking speaking speaking – in authentic conversation with native speakers. That’s definitely the fastest way to push your fluency, accuracy and range of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to the level that it needs to be. Natural conversation with native speakers, hopefully teachers who understand your situation and can help you with error correction and explanations, and by listening to you more.

So, I haven’t mentioned it because I’ve known that for many of you that’s just not possible, and it’s something I can’t provide through the podcast. It’s always been hard to develop your speaking skills through this podcast, and so you need to find native speakers to talk to – but as I said, that might not be possible. It may be that there are just no native speakers in your area to talk to, or if there are native speakers, it’s difficult to get to know them, even if you live in London where native speakers are much harder to find than you might expect. The same goes with teachers – there might not be many native teachers who you actually like and who can teach you regularly on a 1 to 1 basis.

Now, maybe you’re lucky and you live in a situation in which you can speak to native speakers regularly. But I know that even when you live in the country of the language it’s still hard to meet the right people and find the right teachers. For example, for many students or foreigners living in London, it’s hard to make friends with local Londoners. They’re just a bit distant and tend to stick to their own little circle of friends.

So, essentially – although it’s vital for your English, regularly speaking with native speakers is also one of the most difficult things to achieve, because of access or lack of choice.

So, despite this lack of speaking practice, I imagine you just keep going, trying to learn or maintain your level of English as well as possible, without enough contact with natives. You listen to the podcast when you can and you love it when new episodes come out, and although you have plenty of feelings and ideas in your mind when you listen, you don’t have anyone to express them to. You might take English classes but it’s still not enough, especially if you’re in a group. You might find other opportunities to speak to natives, but it still might not be sufficient or convenient.

What you really need is need a regular person – a language partner or an individual teacher who you can rely on and who knows how to talk to you as a learner of English. Someone who is available at the right time, not too expensive or inconvenient.

Even me in France, I have native speakers of French all around me. I mean, I’m married to one for goodness sake! But none of them are quite suitable as a language teacher somehow. For example, my wife and I have already established our relationship in English and it’s hard to switch to French because there are just too many personal things going on in our lives and it’s not practical to speak French. Also, I don’t want her to think I’m stupid or anything (because I am pretty stupid in French).

I could go on a mission to find an individual teacher or someone who’s willing to do a language exchange with me, but honestly, I’d rather just go online, browse some teachers, find someone easily and schedule some one to one speaking lessons on Skype so I can choose exactly when and where the sessions will take place (my home) and it won’t be too expensive. I don’t want the hassle of having to go out, arrange a place to meet (if its my home that means cleaning the place up) – if it’s the teacher’s home that means travelling and extending the time I have to devote to it. If it’s a public place that means putting up with the fact that strangers around me are listening to my lesson and probably judging me and my teacher. I need an online service which completely cuts through all that annoying stuff. I’ve been looking for a service like that and I’m really pleased today because I’ve found the perfect one. I can now arrange all my French lessons and conversation classes online, and do them all online via Skype and all from the comfort of my own home. There are loads of teachers to choose from. I can have trial sessions with some of them and then pick any one that I want. Then I can schedule lessons according to my timetable and I don’t even need to leave the house. Also, prices are cheaper than they would be with a teacher or in a classroom. Of course, it’s online via videoconferencing software, which is not quite as good as being in the same room, but honestly – after 10 minutes you just don’t notice it any more and anyway – communicating via Skype is the future (in fact, it already is the present). So, I have found this service and it’s called italki. The super duper cool thing is that italki is also in English (in fact English is their #1 language) and they have thousands of teachers and native speakers that you can talk to right now.

The service is called italki
Some of you might be aware of italki already, which wouldn’t be a surprise because italki is one of the fastest growing websites in the language learning sector at the moment.

Have you heard about it?
Either you have, or you will, because it’s awesome.
Ok, so italki is an online community where you can find language partners and teachers for online lessons or conversations.
It’s not a surprise really that italki is one of the fastest growing websites, because now that Skype video calls are such good quality it makes total sense to use that for connecting students and teachers, and it’s a great way to cut out the middle man, avoid having to travel long distances, and get all the benefits of individual tuition. I think it’s going to make a huge difference to the way people learn languages in the future. This basically gets around the age-old problem of having no access to native speakers.

italki used to be a social network where you could find a language partner but over the last year or so it has grown a lot and they’ve just launched their new service, and it’s really smart, professional and high quality. It looks very good and loads of people are using it every day to learn languages and that includes these super motivated language learners called polyglots that speak like 10 languages at the same time. I’ve been interested in polyglots for a while and I’m in the process of contacting some of them for interviews on LEP. I’m talking about people like Olly Richards, Richard Simcott and Benny Lewis who are making a career from the fact that they speak lots of languages. Now these guys swear by italki – and if it’s good enough for them, I think it’s good enough for us, right.

Some of you already use italki and you’re going – “yep Luke you’re preaching to the converted. I already use italki. Been there done that, got the t shirt. In fact that’s how I know the phrase “been there, done that, to the t-shirt” – because I religiously listen to your podcast and I practise your language on italki. It helps me remember stuff like “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”.

Anyway, why are you now going on about italki so much Luke? Do you work for them now is that it?
No, I don’t, but I’m happy to say that after discovering them I did send them an email and ask if they wanted to sponsor the podcast. I’ve been searching for new sponsors for ages, and italki just seemed like the ideal sponsor. They offer a good service, for learners of English, in any country, it’s all online. They’re friendly people, it’s professional, and it’s growing fast. I’m happy to say that they responded to my email positively, and I’ve been talking to someone from the italki team and we have arranged a sponsorship deal for LEP which I am very happy about because it’s going to be mutually beneficial. Beneficial for everyone basically – you, me and italki. It makes total sense all round.

Now, let’s just talk about sponsorship for a moment
You should know that sponsorship for LEP is absolutely necessary – it’s important to understand that, especially if you don’t get it. This podcast must have sponsors – it’s the only way for the podcast to keep going, and for it to stay free. I have to be able to justify spending time on this. Now, I do spend time on the podcast – I do it all myself. I could spend that time on other things that would be much more profitable. I could use all my hours doing one to one lessons with university students or business people in Paris, or on Skype and that would make me more money than I earn from LEP. But I would rather spend time on this than almost any other job, and the only way to do that, while keeping the podcast free for you, is to have a sponsor that I mention briefly in my episodes.

I would rather do this podcast than work on one to one lessons or teach in language schools, and I expect you would also like me to continue doing this too. Well, sponsorship is the way I can achieve that.

Also, you should know that sponsorship is absolutely the standard for monetisation for podcasts today. All the big podcasts I listen to, unless they’re done by the BBC, have sponsors. I’m glad that my podcast is popular enough to attract sponsors. It means I’m doing something right.

So, sponsors are necessary for this show, and for me it’s vital to find a sponsor that offers you a quality service that can really make a difference to your English.

It’s been hard to find the right company. I’ve had Audible for a while now, but I’ve continued to look for other services that you might like.

Audible are great – those audiobooks are brilliantly produced, of excellent quality and it’s a good offer – 30 day trial and a free audiobook. You can’t argue with that. That’s staying open by the way. You can still get a free audiobook from Audible by going to teacherluke.co.uk/audible

But I think italki are an even better service for my listeners – in a more profound way for your English. You already have a lot to listen to with LEP – in fact, Audible are a sort of competitor for me. By sticking a 15 hour audiobook in your phone I’m giving you the choice of listening to me or listening to the book – I hope you choose me first! Anyway, you already have tons of stuff to listen to – either from me or from audiobooks, but speaking to native speakers is going to be so good for your English, and that’s what italki would allow you to do.

So I am really pleased that after checking out my podcast and my website the people at italki are really keen to work with me and to sponsor the podcast. So yes I have managed to secure italki as my new sponsors and I’m very happy to recommend them to you. The cool thing is that you can get free teaching time in italki if you’re an LEP listener. They’re offering all my listeners 100 lesson credits, which is about $10 of free teaching – that’s equivalent to about an hour.  Just go to teacherluke.co.uk/talk to check out italki, look at some teachers, start talking to people, and you can get 1hr of free lessons too. Nice.

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

italki
Let me just tell you a bit more about italki and how to use it before I move on to talk more about how to improve your English.
They already have over 2,000,000 language learners using the platform.
You can learn pretty much any language.
Of course, English is the most popular language and there are more English teachers and tutors on there than other languages.
So, after going to teacherluke.co.uk/talk you sign up free, like a social network.
Then you decide which language or languages you’re interested in. Let’s say English.
Then you can choose to find either ’Professional Teachers’ or ‘Community Tutors’. Professional teachers are qualified to teach English as a foreign language. There are professional teachers that specialise in different skills, different types of English (e.g. business or IELTS) and they’ll guide you through the learning process. It’s just like having 1to1 lessons with a teacher in a language school or in your own home, except that it’s done using video conferencing software, like Skype.
Then there are ‘community tutors’. Essentially, they’re not qualified teachers but they are educated native speakers of English who are passionate about sharing their language with you and helping you to practise communicating and developing your fluency. They’re also cheaper than the professional teachers. There are some great community tutors on italki and they’re a really really good option for those of you who need to talk to native speakers of English and have a more limited budget. In fact, I think that the community tutors could be the best thing about italki – friendly native speakers of English who are available and ready to talk to you right now, and cheaper than teachers.
But it’s not just teachers and tutors, italki offers you plenty of other content too.
There is a whole community of people on italki, because not only is it a marketplace for teachers, it’s also a social network for language learners. It’s a really cool place to hang out if you’re learning a language, and it’s better than other social networks like Facebook, because all the people who are on italki’s forums and blogs are motivated language learners – they’re not just there to make stupid comments and waste time like on Facebook.
So, there’s the social networking side.
Also, italki publishes lots of articles and blog pieces about language learning. There’s already a large catalogue of interesting and useful articles which you can access.
And finally, (and this may be one of the best features of italki) you can arrange language exchanges with speakers of other languages. This is a great option for people who are on a really tight budget. There’s bound to be people out there who want to speak your language, so check out the community and look for people who speak your target language (English) and who want to practice speaking your language too. You could find some great language partners for language exchange (one of the oldest ways to get speaking practice at no cost) and in the process you can make some awesome friends around the world and just have a lot of fun while doing it. Who knows, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with someone in another country.

So there you have it – italki is a bit more than you might think. Now, you can talk to native speakers of English regularly, and from your own sofa, and they have tons of other services and a whole community of like-minded people. There’s a reason why italki sponsors LEP – it’s because they are the perfect service for you my listeners, and I wouldn’t promote them if I didn’t think it was useful.

I realise I’m talking about italki quite a lot in this episode. I’m not going to go on about this subject a massive amount in every single episode in the future – my episodes will run as they normally do, and I’m still free to talk about whatever I want to talk about – I will just mention italki at the start of episodes or at the end too just to remind you of the offer.

Generally, this is all very good news for LEP and is a big step in the right direction for me and for all of us. :)

Right, so now I’ve introduced the new sponsor, let’s get back to the subject of you and your English, specifically the importance of speaking for learning English, and why being a regular listener of Luke’s English Podcast gives you a big head start if you’re going to work on your speaking skills.

The importance of speaking, and how that is connected to regular listening
We know that all the areas of English are linked, so first of all improving your listening will have an effect on your pronunciation and speaking, and probably your vocabulary and grammar too. Then, following that up with regular speaking is a great combination for faster fluency and linguistic control.

I’m really convinced that regularly listening to this podcast and engaging in an authentic way with the things I’m saying and the sentiments I’m expressing – either humourous, serious, mysterious, factual or whatever –  is going to make a great difference. My professional knowledge tells me that’s true, but also my experience. First of all, I get messages all the time from listeners who swear that the podcast has helped them a lot – either by giving them confidence, better vocab or by generally improving their English to help get a higher score in an IELTS exam. But also, I’ve had first hand experience of listeners making progress with this. I’ve spoken to listeners a number of times and have noticed how their English has improved. I know people who started listening with next to no English, and have got to the point where they understand everything and can also speak and make themselves understood, and of course they have my accent and my speech patterns! It’s weird!

By listening you’re exposing your ears to a whole other side of the English language. If you think about it, there are 2 things: English as a written language (you read it, you write it, it’s visual and physical) and then English as a spoken language (you hear it, you don’t see it, you produce it physically using your body as an instrument). They’re two different beasts. If you just work with the written version, you’re only getting half of the story. By listening you’re engaging with that other type of English – the spoken version. Spoken English has been around longer than the written version. Stories and knowledge have been transferred orally for many many years and this form of communication was around before people developed written language.

Also, speaking is a very immediate and lively from of English. Spoken English takes many forms because of different accents, and is closely tied into codes of behaviour and body language. It can be much harder to understand spoken English, especially if you are used to reading all your English, and need a script of what is being said. So, regularly listening to authentic conversations can really give you an edge, certainly over the majority of people out there who have spent more time on reading and writing than on listening and speaking.

If you listen a lot you can really explore the way that sounds are used to create words and how those words connect to each other, and how the whole thing is interpreted by stress patterns and intonation in the voice. English has a rhythm and an accent that you can never find in the written version. The voice is used as a delivery system for English, and it’s vital that you get to know how that works. And to do that, you just have to listen to it. Also, regular listening exposes you to so many words and grammatical structures that you start to develop an intuition over grammar, and that’s the best situation to be in. You know the answer is right because it just feels right after having heard that particular phrase or prepositional collocation many times already. It just feels like the right answer, but you don’t have the rule. Now you’re thinking like a native speaker. The rule doesn’t matter – all that matters is that you’re familiar with the right kind of English. Listening to the podcast regularly is a great way to work on those things.

But speaking is absolutely vital, especially if you want to make fast progress and become a good communicator. That requires some practice and a positive attitude. The good news is that if you’re a regular listener to this podcast you have a head start, because having this podcast as a platform you can really push your spoken English further and faster. In fact, as well as giving you a foundation of passive knowledge from listening this podcast can give you lots of inspiration and information which you can use to push your speaking. First of all, you’re already interacting with the language in its spoken form by listening a lot. Your brain is already used to listening. This should make it much easier to then respond by speaking yourself. In fact, by listening and thinking, you’re already engaging the part of the brain involved in spoken communication. You’ll be more familiar with accent, rhythm and intonation and so it’ll be far less foreign for you to produce those sounds that you know quite well. In terms of topics and ideas, hopefully the conversations and topics that I cover in this podcast are exactly the sorts of topics that you could talk about in speaking lessons or conversations that you might have – and I’m assuming you’re considering working on your speaking for a bit. In your lessons you could use topics or activities that you’ve heard in this podcast. I think it’s time to activate the passive English which you have in your possession.

I’m glad about that because I think my podcast club, my LEPSters, ninjas, jedi knights, followers or whatever are my special team and I’m glad when you get a head-start in something. I think that people who want to improve their speaking (and I meet them all the time) and who HAVEN’T listened to this, are definitely at a disadvantage. Imagine starting conversations in English when you haven’t listened to any episodes of this or any other podcast. It would be like starting all cold, with no English on your mind, and no sense of how to create spoken discourse or understand the person you’re talking to. It would be like starting from scratch. So, hopefully my podcast is like lubrication for your brain, or brain training – to keep yourself fresh and ready for action. And you should activate that English as much as possible for quicker progress.

Some evidence for the importance of developing your speaking skills
Just in case you weren’t convinced of the importance of speaking, here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to focus on using speaking as your way of mastering communication in English, alongside regular listening.

First of all, top language educators and examiners like the British Council, International House and Cambridge University all stress the importance of speaking skills for achieving anything in English and this is reflected in the courses offered by those institutions and the way they run their courses, with many of these top schools putting a lot of emphasis on speaking and communication skills work in their lessons. It’s generally well known that speaking skills in English are learnt most quickly through engaging in communication activities directed by teachers in which you can really improve your spoken fluency through practice and feedback. Also, any Cambridge exam involves a speaking test which is worth at least 25% of your mark.

Improving your speaking also has knock on effects in other areas. It can help you to tune your ear while listening, improve your vocabulary and grammar and also feed into your writing, which can become faster and more expressive. The fact that it is instant and dynamic makes speaking a faster way of working on your English.

Comments about speaking from the website of Gerald Gillis, writer and public speaker
Here are some comments by respected public speaker Gerald Gillis who hits the nail on the head regarding how speaking skills are vital for success in business. Much of what he says can be applied to other areas of life. Originally posted on his website here www.geraldgillis.com/importance-speaking-skills/

The four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all interconnected. Proficiency in each skill is necessary to become a well-rounded communicator, but the ability to speak skillfully provides the speaker with several distinct advantages. The capacity to put words together in a meaningful way to reflect thoughts, opinions, and feelings provides the speaker with these important advantages:

• Ability to inform, persuade, and direct. Business managers, educators, military leaders, lawyers, and politicians, among others, seek to develop their speaking skills to such a level that they are transformed into Jedi master communicators. (OK, he didn’t write Jedi masters, I added the word Jedi) Speaking clearly and confidently can gain the attention of an audience, providing the golden opportunity for the speaker to make the message known. Wise is the speaker who gains and then holds the attention of an audience, with well-chosen words in a well-delivered presentation, forming a message that is effective, informative, and understood.

• Ability to stand out from the rest. When one thinks of speaking skills, one tends to think of it as a common skill. Think again. The ability to stand before others and speak effectively is not an ordinary ability. Many people are deathly afraid of public speaking; others have little ability to form thoughts into sentences and then deliver those words in a believable way. The bad news is that at any given moment the world has precious few with the speaking talents of, say, Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy. The good news is that a speaker whose skills are honed and developed with constant application and hard work can stand out.

• Ability to benefit derivatively. Well-developed verbal skills can increase one’s negotiation skills. Self-confidence is improved. A growing sense of comfort comes from speaking in front of larger and larger audiences. A reputation for excellence in speaking can accrue over time, thereby imparting a certain credibility to the speaker.

• Career enhancement. Employers have always valued the ability to speak well. It is, and always will be, an important skill, and well worth the effort in fully developing. This is especially evident when talking about English as a second language.

I can add a few other things: developing relationships – good speaking skills give you confidence which helps to install a feeling of trust into your relationships. You can truly be yourself, and this is very charming indeed. In fact, a confident, charming speaker of English from another country, speaking with a slightly different accent can be very seductive to native speakers of English – I might hasten to add that speaking good English will not just open doors, it could open legs too(if you know what I mean).

OK, so there it is. I hope you’re feeling fully motivated and ready to push your English onwards and upwards.

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

Don’t forget to check out italki and have a look at some of the qualified teachers and native speakers who can either give you lessons or give you conversation practice. Remember that if you choose to buy some lessons, as a listener to LEP italki will give you 100 ITC as a discount for being a listener to LEP (italki credits) – and 100 credits is worth about 10$ and is around the price of a 1 hour session. So, you can get a your first 1hr lesson free. That discount is applied when you make your first purchase. If you don’t want to buy, that’s fine – you can just go on and check out all the different teachers and people – they’re mainly English speakers from the UK – perhaps some professional teachers living in the UK, or native speakers who with someone who are really interested in sharing their English with you. A lot of those teachers and tutors offer trial lessons at discounted prices, so you can check out a few people before you decide on your favourite. Visit teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started.

Just before we finish, I want to show you how committed I am about continuing to develop Luke’s English Podcast, and how getting the right sponsor is going to allow me to apply myself to this even more seriously than before. It’s a step towards me being able to eventually quit my job and do this full-time – something perhaps I should have done earlier. But anyway, I think you’ll agree that anything which makes it possible for me to spend time on the podcast is very good for you because you’ll get more free content and episodes that I’ve taken time to produce.

So, just to convince you of my good intentions for LEP, I’ve written a list of aims for this project. Aims are things you want to achieve. It’s important to have aims – not just in teaching (any good teacher will establish aims for each lesson) but as a language learner (you need achievable aims to give your learning some structure and some reward) and as an entrepreneur or anyone who’s trying to achieve something. Aims give you achievable targets that will guide you in whatever you’re doing. You should set aims for your learning of English. Here are my aims for episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.

LUKE’S ENGLISH PODCAST – 10 AIMS

  1. To provide a resource of authentic native English speech for learners of English to use for improving their English.

  2. To inform my audience about methods and strategies for improving their English.

  3. To educate my listeners about the English language by explaining or providing examples of grammar.

  4. To enrich the vocabulary of my listeners by presenting and teaching natural English usage in context.

  5. To entertain my audience by producing fun and interesting content specifically targeted at learners of English as a second language.

  6. To highlight particular aspects of English (language) culture including themes about Britishness, accounts of key moments in history, politics and the arts, with a particular focus on comedy and films.

  7. To develop the communication skills of my listeners by focusing on approaches to spoken discourse and interaction with interlocutors.

  8. To raise awareness of many features of British English pronunciation and provide practice of repeating certain phrases or constructions with a focus on connected speech.

  9. To keep my audience engaged in the listening process long term, by providing a resource to help them laugh while they learn.

  10. To dominate the world with an army of LEP ninjas equiped with biscuits and good English. …Ok, one of my listeners (Chriss) asked me to add this as an aim for my podcast, and sometimes I think it’s true that I have started a cult :)

That’s the end of this episode about learning, listening, speaking and my new sponsor – italki.

I’ll be back soon with a really interesting interview with an English guy who can speak 8 languages, and plenty of other episodes on different topics.

Don’t forget to go to the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk to read a transcript of everything I’ve said here.

That’s it! Speak to you soon. Bye!

308. The Lying Game (Part 1)

Hello, welcome back to LEP. This episode is called the lying game, and it’s one of those ones in which I play a speaking game with my friends Amber and Paul. A transcript for the first 15-20 minutes is available here on the page for this episode. In the introduction you’ll hear me welcome new listeners, talk a bit about my speaking speed on the podcast, mention the importance of listening to native speakers of English (even if it’s a bit difficult to understand every word) and explain some of the content of the conversation you’ll hear between Amber, Paul and me. Then, the speaking game begins properly. I really hope you have as much fun listening to this as we did recording it, because we really enjoyed ourselves! In part 2 (coming soon) you’ll hear the conclusion of the game and I’ll explain how I use this activity with my students in my English classes.

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Introduction Transcript Starts Here (+ more information below)
Hello, welcome to LEP. This episode is called the lying game, and it’s one of those ones in which I play a speaking game with my friends Amber and Paul.

Before you listen to that, I’d like to just say a few things here at the beginning of the episode. Firstly, hello to all my regular listeners, the LEPsters as they are sometimes known. How are you all? I hope you’re fine and having a lovely day or night or evening or morning or whatever time of day it is. Thanks for recent comments on my website. It’s always nice to read your messages. Recently I did episodes about The Battle or Britain and Back To The Future, and I’m feeling a lot of love in the comments section – particularly from my Polish listeners because of things I said in episode 303, which is really great. It’s very motivating to read the positive things you have to say in response to my episodes. I do think about my podcast a lot, and I always hope that you’re enjoying it and finding it useful. So, your comments are valuable bits of encouragement. Thanks also to those of you who have never left a comment on my website in your life – you’re my ninja listeners, and I think there are a lot of you out there, choosing to remain silent in the shadows, but listening to everything.

Secondly, just in case you’re new to LEP, let me just quickly introduce myself. My name is Luke Thompson and I’m an English language teacher from England, which is in Britain, which is in the UK, which is in Europe, sort of. I’m originally from London (in the south-east) but I went to university in Liverpool (in the north-west) and I also spent many years growing up in Warwickshire which is near Birmingham, which is in the midlands, which is in England, which is in Britain, which is in Europe, which is on Earth… etc. OK, I’ve been teaching English for nearly 15 years, wow has it been that long? Time flies when you’re having fun, and I do enjoy my job. I’m DELTA qualified, and in my career I have taught English to adults and children from many different countries, at many different levels, at many different times of the day – morning, afternoon, evening and at night sometimes, in any season, in all weather conditions – rain, snow, hail, wind, lightning, and even during a couple of earthquakes. I’ve taught courses in general English, business English, academic English, English for exams, English for doctors, English for pharmacists, English for engineers, English for lawyers, English for HR, English for secretaries of state, English for journalists, English for unemployed people, English for retired people and English for people who haven’t chosen what to do with their lives yet. Basically, if you need English, I’m your man. If I was a superhero for English teaching, you could call me Englishman! Which is appropriate, because I am an English man. Haha, I’m just joking, I’m not a superhero, I’m just an ordinary humble man, well as you can hear from this introduction I may not be that humble, but I am a man – definitely, I checked this morning. I am proud to be an English teacher – a profession which includes many bright and brilliant people all around the world, who have either chosen this vocation, or just ended up doing it because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives. As well as being an English teacher, I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I’m a podcaster. I do a podcast for learners of English called Luke’s English Podcast. You should listen to it. It’s quite popular and I have lots of downloads these days. I’m happy to say that I have a lovely community of people around the world who regularly listen to my podcast episodes in order to improve their English, but also (hopefully) because they just enjoy listening to each episode I produce. Did I mention that the podcast has won a few awards? No. Ok, well, the podcast has won a few awards. Am I sounding a bit arrogant? I hope not. I don’t mean to sound full of myself, I really don’t – it’s just that sometimes I think I should try and sell myself on the podcast, just a little bit, to remind you who I am. I don’t mean to just go on about myself a lot because it’s a bit self-indulgent isn’t it? But I do think it’s important to convince you that listening to this is very good for your English, and that you should keep doing it. It’s not just me who says that, I also have lots of testimonies from listeners of my podcast who have commented on my website, saying some very positive and nice things indeed, like this one which arrived just a couple of days ago, from someone called “Teddy WS” who simply wrote Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 18.02.11“Thank God I find this page.” He sounds a bit desperate maybe, like he’s been walking through some kind of English teaching desert, and my website is like an oasis for him, where he can drink from this refreshing wellspring of natural English. It’s certainly a positive endorsement.

Thanks Teddy, that’s nice. Now, admittedly, Teddy did make a mistake in his comment – he wrote  “Thank God I find this page” and it should be “Thank God I found this page” but to be fair, he has only just found the page, and he has been walking through a desert for days and days, and he probably hasn’t listened to many of the episodes yet. I expect if Teddy writes on the page again in a few months, after he’s listened to more episodes and refreshed himself, he won’t make a mistake like that. I certainly hope so. Teddy, if you’re listening – don’t feel bad about making that mistake – mistakes are an essential part of the learning experience. Just brush it off, carry on and try not to do it again. By the way Teddy, I’m looking forward to reading another comment from you on my site in the future.

The main philosophy of my podcast is to give learners of English the chance to listen to authentic British English as it is really spoken. Sometimes it’s just me talking, sometimes I have interviews and conversations with friends, family or other interesting people. I try to keep it real – meaning I try not to adapt my language level too much. I don’t want to talk to you in a very simple way because that’s not how people usually speak in the real world. I think I speak clearly on the podcast, but at a fairly normal speed. I believe, ultimately, that’s better for your English.

So, it’s better for your English in the long run, but in the short-term, you might find it difficult to understand every single word I say, or every single word my friends say. So, I often remind you, that if you don’t understand what I’m saying or if you get lost during conversations on the podcast – keep listening! Keep going! Don’t be put off when you lose the thread of the conversation. Persevere, don’t give up. In the long run, it will be better for your English. So don’t stop.

If you want to pay close attention to every single word, and study those words, you can. Many of my episodes have transcripts, or at least some notes which you can read. You can then study the words and phrases I’m using and improve your English that way. Or, you can simply relax and listen to the episodes wherever you are in the world – just find a comfortable place, or even an uncomfortable place – it doesn’t matter that much, but comfortable is better, just put your headphones in, or turn your speakers on, and just listen for fun. It should be enjoyable to listen to English. It doesn’t have to be a boring study exercise. So, I invite you to just relax, kick off your shoes, make a cup of tea, listen to my episodes, and enjoy doing it. :)

This episode is entitled The Lying Game. The title of the episode has absolutely no connection to the things I’ve just said to you in the opening minutes of this introduction.

No, the reason this episode is called The Lying Game, is because in a few moments you’re going to listen to my friends and me playing a speaking game which involves either lying or telling the truth. It’s just a fun guessing game that involves some lying. So that’s why this episode has that title.

So let me tell you what you can expect from this 2-part episode of LEP.

What’s The Lying Game? This is a speaking activity I play with my students in my English language classes. In this episode you’ll hear me playing this game with my friends Amber and Paul, who are native speakers of English.

In a few minutes the episode is going to start (we haven’t started yet, this is still the introduction). I just wanted to say right now, that this was a very fun conversation for Amber, Paul and me. We really enjoyed talking and playing the game. I hope you enjoy it too. The thing is, we got pretty excited during the game and so we speak pretty quickly and sometimes we speak over each other. That might make it difficult for you to understand everything that’s being said. Still, like I said a few moments ago – keep listening anyway, even if you don’t understand everything. OK, I think I’ve made my point about that now!

The recording begins mid conversation. Let me just tell you a few things to help you understand what we’re saying, right from the beginning.

You’ll hear me say to Paul, “Do you really think I change the way I speak?” This is because Paul thought I sometimes change my voice when I’m recording the podcast. Like, I have a podcast voice that comes on when I start recording. We agree that it’s quite normal as a way of catching the attention of the audience from the beginning, or “pulling people in” as Paul says.

Just a couple of other things that will help you understand the beginning of the conversation:

Paul starts whispering subliminal messages into his microphone. This is because just the other day he was on a “film shoot” and he did that to the sound man – he whispered into the microphone and only the sound man could hear him. Just for fun.

I make a (lame) joke about something Amber says about it being a grey day. I thought she said ‘grade A’, referring to the sofa she was sitting on. A grade A sofa would be a top quality sofa. My sofa on the other hand is not that good, so it’s more likely to be a grade B or grade C sofa.

Then we make a few references to things you won’t know about, like my stand up routine, and a joke I made earlier about Philips lightbulbs, you know the technology company called “Philips”. Watch out for that. We found is hilarious. You might be confused by it. Let me know.

Then I realise that we’re having too much fun, and that could be annoying, like my favourite film critic Mark Kermode says that comedy is hard work. If people say they had fun making a comedy you’ll know it’s not funny.

It looks like they had a lot of fun making it which is always a recipe for disaster, when it comes to comedy. Because most really funny comedies are not fun to make – On reviewing Mortdecai 23 Jan 2015 show

So I hope that is not the case for this episode.

So, after that Mark Kermode reference, we settle down a bit, the conversation continues, we talk a bit about lying, and we start playing the game.

OK, I’m now going to stop explaining everything before it’s happened, and just let you listen to the episode. So, here we go!

Intro 2 (This is the second introduction which I say at the beginning of the conversation with Amber & Paul!)
Sometimes I play a fluency speaking game with my students, which involves telling lies. I call it The Lying Game. It’s an imaginative title. It’s just a fun game to practice giving information, and forming questions. I’ve been using it in class for years and it’s always a pretty popular exercise. This time on the podcast I thought I’d play the game with some native speakers. When you listen you can focus on noticing these things: question forms, how people describe events in the past (tenses and pronunciation of ed endings), how people describe present habits (verb forms and adverbs – not just present simple tense) and also the intonation that we use when asking questions in a suspicious, open or challenging way.

With me I have Paul Taylor & Amber Minogue.

How are you?
Do you think you’re good liars? Are you gullible?
Do you ever lie in your life?
Is it wrong to lie? Is it ever ok?
Are you ready to play the game?

Rules

  1. Tell us something – it could be something that happened in the past, a habit, someone you’ve met – anything about you that we don’t already know. Try to make it interesting – partly ridiculous, partly believable.
  2. We will then interrogate you about it, asking you all sorts of questions to investigate your statement. You can expand on it. This is the hilarious bit where we’re not sure if you’re lying or not. Ha ha ha.
  3. Then, when we’ve run out of questions we will say if we think you’re lying or telling the truth, justifying why we think so.
  4. Then, reveal if you were lying or not. It’ll be dramatic and entertaining.
  5. Points: For everyone who guesses wrong, you get two points. Every person who guesses correctly gets 1 point.
  6. Everyone has a go, and at the end we count the scores to see not only who is the best liar, but also who is the most gullible or untrusting person. If you’re gullible, you won’t score much. If you’re too trusting, you won’t score much either. If you’re a bad liar you won’t score much, if you don’t appear trustworthy you won’t score well either. So, the winner of this game will be some kind of psychopath, basically. Or, the winner will be a good liar and good at detecting lies too.

Luke, Paul and Amber’s Statements from the Game

Luke: I once met Dave Grohl (drummer from Nirvana, singer in Foo Fighters) at a buddhist temple in Japan.

Paul: I once spent Valentine’s Day with Elijah Wood and John Hurt.

End of part 1! You can hear Amber’s turn in the next episode, where you will find out what happens and who wins the game in the end! (exciting)

Scores at the end of part 1
At this stage, the scores are like this:

Luke – 2 / 0   Total = 2 points

Amber – 1 / 1   Total = 2 points

Paul – 0 / 2   Total = 2 points

So it’s even stevens!

Listen to part 2 (coming soon) in order to hear Amber’s story, and to see who wins.

The photo of Dave Grohl that I took on my J-Phone:
Dave Grohl

:) Thanks for listening!

The Invention of Lying – Film by Ricky Gervais

Woman with crossed fingers

297. Using Humour in the IELTS Speaking Test (With Jessica from All Ears English)

On the podcast today I’m talking to Jessica Beck who has been working in English language teaching for over 10 years. She is an instructor, a teacher trainer and an author of 14 textbooks for learning English. You may also know Jessica from her work on the IELTS Energy Podcast (www.ielts.allearsenglish.com), which is part of the All Ears English. I talked to Gabby and Lindsay from AEE on LEP last year about culture shock, remember that? Well, Jessica is part of the All Ears English team, and is known there as the “Examiner of Excellence”. So, she knows a lot about the IELTS test, and he’s got some good advice for any of my listeners who plan to take the test, including how you can improve your speaking score if you have a good sense of humour. If you’re not planning to take the test, these skills can also be applied to your use of English in general life too.

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Jessica has kindly written a blog post which includes the tips and useful language she mentions in this episode. You can read that blog post below.

I expect that most of you know what the IELTS test is, In fact, I have done an episode about IELTS before on LEP in which I went through every part of the test in one episode, dispensing various bits of Jedi wisdom to help you get a better score. That episode is called “Tips and Tricks for the IELTS Test”, and is episode number 254 of Luke’s English Podcast.
Check it out here www.teacherluke.co.uk/2015/01/22/254-ielts-tips-tricks/

For those that don’t know, IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and it’s now the world’s #1 test of English language level. The test measures your English in 4 areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking. The maximum score in each area is 9 (expert user) and the lowest is 1 (total beginner). Lots of universities, employers and other institutions around the world require an IELTS score as requirement for entry, and 7 is usually the target score, sometimes it’s higher, sometimes lower depending on the institution. Cambridge University in the UK for example requires a minimum of 7.5 overall, with no less than 7 in any of the categories. So, if you want that place at a great British or American university, the first challenge is often to get a really good IELTS score, and what you need is good advice and strategies to help you do your best.

So, in this episode we’re going to meet Jessica, and talk specifically about the IELTS speaking test, in which you have a 15 minute interview with an IELTS examiner and your spoken English is tested in a few ways. Jessica has loads of tips for the speaking exam, and I’m hoping that she can give us some advice on how having a sense of humour can get you a better score in the test. So listen for some more top tips for IELTS in this one.

Also, what do you think would happen if I took the IELTS speaking test? Well, listen to the whole episode and you’ll find out…

Now, let’s meet Jessica the “Examiner of Excellence”.

Read Jessica’s Blog Post:

Humor Increases IELTS Speaking Scores

 Say what??!!

 I’m serious. It does.

 By Jessica Beck from All Ears English IELTS 

Many students, and teachers, for that matter, view all exams as formal and academic. Because of this, they believe that on these exams, test-takers must behave, speak, and write in an academic, formal style all the time.

While this may be true for some tests, there are many reasons why an IELTS candidate should not behave this way on the Speaking exam.

As we discussed on the podcast, a common mistake students make is not learning about what the IELTS examiner is looking for.

Students often look at example questions, memorize high-level words and phrases, and believe this is enough.

It’s not!

You must know what you are graded on, and where to use these words and phrases.

Your score, which can be from 0 to 9, is broken down into 4 aspects- Fluency and Coherence, Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation.

You can read definitions of the band scores in each aspect at www.ielts.org/pdf/SpeakingBanddescriptors.pdf.

What you must notice about the band score descriptors is that the examiner wants to hear a range from you- a range in vocabulary, in your ability to communicate about a variety of topics, and in your pronunciation.

The fact is that in Parts 1 and 2 on the IELTS Speaking exam, almost all of the questions are about you. They are personal and informal. Therefore, if you answer these questions in a formal way, you are showing that you do not have a range of communication ability and that you are unable to talk about personal, informal topics.

So, where does humor come in? How does it help you raise your score? Read on!

  • Humor helps you improve your pronunciation score. It helps you relax, allowing you to show your personality and use emotion in your voice. Showing relaxed and expressive pronunciation can push this score up to a 7 or higher!
  • It improves your fluency and coherence score. If you are able to answer some informal questions with a few informal anecdotes, or very short stories, about yourself, this will show that you can communicate appropriately and effectively in informal speaking situations.
  • It improves your vocabulary score, because you show you can use appropriate vocabulary to the question, and you have some knowledge of more interesting words and phrases. Showing the examiner a range of informal vocabulary in Parts 1 and 2, and formal vocabulary in Part 3, pushes your score up to a 7 or higher.
  • NOTE: Even though I’m encouraging you to communicate in a relaxed way, this doesn’t mean that you slump your shoulders and provide one word answers. You must always sit and behave respectfully, and ALWAYS answer in complete sentences.

We gave some examples of how to answer in a humorous manner on the podcast, and the phrase “self-deprecating” came up a few times.

Self-deprecation is the ability to make fun of yourself, or to share information about yourself that shows you make mistakes.

This is a humble way of communicating, and it can endear you to your listeners.

This is true on the exam and in real life!

For example, if the examiner asks, “Do you enjoy taking photographs?” A self-deprecating answer would be, “I’ll admit, I actually love taking selfies. I know this is a silly habit, and that is honestly a bit embarrassing, but I take selfies absolutely everywhere- at home, on the bus, walking up the stairs, waiting for my dry cleaning. However, I post almost none of them, so I guess it’s not that horrible of a habit!”

Other phrases you can use to introduce answers like this are: You won’t believe this, but…, This is crazy, but… and I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but….

An excellent way to prepare to communicate in this way, on the exam and in real life, is to watch stand-up comedy, or see/listen to interviews with stand-up comedians.

Some podcasts that I recommend are Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, a news quiz with three stand-ups, How Did This Get Made, a show with 3-4 stand-ups who talk about really bad (but sometimes popular!) movies, and Comedy Bang Bang, an interview show with hilarious skits.

If you challenge yourself to experience this type of Western, English humor, not only will this help you communicate impressively with the IELTS examiner, but it will also help you talk naturally with native speakers, and understand more jokes in movies and TV shows.

Have fun and get your target score!

Click here to get the 7 Easy Steps to a 7 or Higher on IELTS 

Jessica Beck is the IELTS professional at All Ears English IELTS. She has helped hundreds of students reach their target score through her simple, step-by-step systems and strategies. Learn more with Jessica on the IELTS Energy Podcast in iTunes.
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