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462. British Comedy: Bill Bailey

In this episode I talk to you about one of my favourite stand up comedians from the UK. We’re going to hear some of his comedy and use it to learn English.

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Introduction

I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Bailey since I first saw him on telly in the 1990s, and I’m glad to say I once saw him performing stand-up in Hammersmith, which is where Bill lives and I used to live too.

Who is Bill Bailey?

Bill Bailey (born 24 February 1964) is an English comedian, musician, actor, TV and radio presenter and author. Bailey is well known for his role in the TV show Black Books in which he plays the part of Mani, and for his appearances on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You, and QI as well as his extensive stand-up work, including his DVD specials such as “Part Troll” and “Dandelion Mind”.

Bailey was listed by the Observer newspaper as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy in 2003. In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the seventh greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
In this episode

This episode

In this episode we’re going to listen to some of Bill’s comedy and we’re going to understand it all so that you can hopefully enjoy it as much as a native speaker. So, lots of language, lots of listening and all the usual stuff.

Obviously, your enjoyment of comedy is subjective and what’s funny to one person isn’t funny to another, but the vast majority of what goes into appreciating a comedian is being able to actually understand the things they are saying. So, don’t judge it until you fully understand it.

I hope there’s a lot for you to learn from this episode and that you also enjoy it and find out about a very funny comedian, who has a lot of videos on YouTube and DVDs that you can buy and enjoy over and over again.

Let’s talk a little bit more about Bill Bailey and then hear some of his comedy.

Here are a few little things that you should know that might help you appreciate his humour a bit more.

Bill’s Appearance
He’s got quite a funny appearance. He looks like an old hippy (even though he associates more with the punk movement) – he has boggly eyes, a bald forehead, long straggly hair, a round face. That sounds almost mean, my description, but Bill is also a lovely person, quite sort of cuddly and is amusing just to look at. He uses his appearance well, making himself look like a crazy person. It helps gain laughs I think. Inside he is a very down to earth guy with a good sense of humour.

Type of comedy
A bit weird, a bit surreal, quite cerebral and intelligent, considering the stranger aspects of life. He’s the sort of comic that some people would say was “random” – meaning he is a bit strange and tends to look at life from a different angle. He doesn’t just do ordinary observational comedy, but instead his work is full of musical parodies and existential thoughts.

Music – parodies, mixing different styles together, observations about musical tropes.

Left-wing politics – He’s a member of the Labour party and his political views come into his comedy in various ways as he tends to make fun of capitalist culture and the establishment.

Drugs – they come into it sometimes when he makes reference to weed and generally it seems that Bill has probably taken a few drugs in his time, as is evident in his surreal style and his existential musings.

Hammersmith – this is where he’s from. It’s in West London where I used to live, but Bill also grew up in the West Country – so he has a slight west country accent, and Wales too. Generally though, he speaks a kind of RP with a West Country or London twang.

So let’s now listen to a few clips, and then I’m going to explain what you hear. There are so many clips on YouTube and I basically like all of them, but I’m going to play you probably about 5 things taken from various TV appearances and live shows over the years. You can find the embedded videos on the page for this episode.

Most of these videos showcase his musical talents as well as his comedy, his story telling and so on.

Let’s get started.

Beethoven loses a penny

Some vocabulary and language
A lot of institutions had to merge due to funding cuts
I attended the Bovington Gurney School of Performing Arts and Owl Sanctuary
I studied Beethoven.
A fascinating character.
A very lonely embittered man, a very drunken man, slovenly, covered in dust, and filth and beer. He was a very unpleasant man. He was prone to dark fits of temper. He would hurl stuff around the house and then scrawl sonatas on big blocks of cheese and then eat them to spite the world.
He channeled his anger into his work.
Rage Over A Lost Penny – inspired by an argument he had with his cleaning lady.
You know when you lose something… how frustrating.
Have you seen my penny?
Can you think where you last had it?
No I can’t remember where it is!
Have you checked your pockets?
Of course I have you stupid b*tch!

Starsky & Hutch and the jazz news

Things you need to know about Starsky & Hutch – it was a show about two cops in the 1970s with groovy music

Dramatic cop action, sometimes they were on a stakeout, they drove a cool fast car, they had an informant called Huggy Bear, sometimes they’d have fights with criminals, mafia guys etc, they’d often have car chases and they’d always drive down alleyways with lots of cardboard boxes and they’d drive through the boxes because it looked good on TV.

Stephen Hawking / A Brief History of Time

Learning Chinese – Owl story

Doorbells

 

410. Teaching 12 Idioms in the Street / On the Set of Paul’s TV Show (with Amber)

Amber & I teach you 12 idiomatic English phrases while attending the filming of an episode of Paul’s TV show on the street in Paris. See below for videos and photos, and a list of the idioms with definitions.

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Introduction

In the last couple of episodes do you remember what happened? Do you remember what our plans were? Yes, Amber & I talked about Christmas and all that. But also, you might remember that we were planning to go and visit Paul on the set of his TV show and record a podcast while we were doing it, and that’s what we did last Thursday afternoon. We went to the 7th Arrondissement – a rather posh district on the left bank of the river Seine. We saw the film crew, a few scenes being filmed and Amber & I even appeared in one of those scenes as extras in the background. When the video is released you’ll be able to see us, briefly! It will be the one about French cinema, when that is released. By the way Paul’s TV show is broadcast on Saturday evenings on French TV station Canal+ and then released onto YouTube the following week. His YouTube channel is called “What the Fuck, France?”

Unfortunately they weren’t filming in the English pub as expected because they did that in the morning – so no beer or crisps or warmth or beer. Instead we joined them while they were filming in the street outside a little church. So, a street, a church and no warmth or beer.

Despite the harsh conditions and lack of beer I brought my recording equipment and we did a podcast while standing around with the film crew there, and all the local Parisian people in the street going about their lives, walking past us and even talking to us at certain moments.

You’re going to hear descriptions of what was happening during the recording, and some general chat with Amber. There were also a couple of moments where Paul stopped shooting and came over to join us, with a few other people too in some cases, including Robert Hoehn who you might remember from the “Have you ever…?” episode recently.

As well as the conversation and descriptions, there’s some English teaching in this episode because while standing there on the street I realised I had 12 idioms in my pocket, written on little bits of paper. Of course I did because as an English teacher that’s the kind of thing I have in my pocket – a bunch of idioms in pieces of paper. It pays to always be prepared as an English teacher! I sometimes have teaching materials in my pocket or up my sleeve! I actually had the idioms on me for another podcast episode that I’d planned ages ago but didn’t do – but the idioms came in handy this time and provided us with some teaching content for you.

All of the idioms you’re going to hear were taken from the Oxford Idioms Dictionary and I chose them quite carefully because I think they’re all expressions which are commonly used today.

You can find the list of those idioms on the page for this episode. I wonder if you know them all. You might know some, but do you know them all, and do you use them?

Now, I could list them all for you here in the introduction in advance, and even teach them to you in advance, but I’m not going to do that because I want to encourage you to notice them for yourselves. That’s a good skill to develop if you can. You should always be on the lookout for bits of language which you can identify and eventually make part of your active vocabulary. So, listen carefully to notice the idioms, and then keep listening because in the second part of the lesson Amber & I explain all the idioms for you.

So, that’s what you’re going to get – a podcast recorded in the street in Paris, with all the sound effects of what was happening around us, a couple of guest appearances, and then 12 common English idioms taught by Amber and me!

So, I hope you are feeling comfortable and that you’re cosy and warm – because it was bitterly cold on the streets of Paris when we recorded this! I recommend listening to this one when you are indoors, with the heating turned on and a hot drink nearby, or if you are outside make sure you’re wearing a pair of thick woolen mittens or gloves and a warm hat – unless of course you’re in a hot place like Australia or something, in which case you can just bask in the hot weather and try to avoid being bitten by a snake or spider or something. If you’re in Brazil then go to the beach or something like that and get ready for that big party you’re going to have on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, now let’s go back in time to last Thursday afternoon on the very chilly streets of the 7th Arrondissement of Paris with a film crew and rich old Parisian ladies walking around, and let’s begin the episode, and remember – can you spot the 12 idioms, do you know them and can you use them? Here we go.

The 12 Idioms

  1. To cost an arm and a leg = to be expensive (those cameras must have cost an arm and a leg)
  2. As a rule of thumb = as a general rule
  3. To flog a dead horse = to be futile
  4. To get back to the drawing board = to start again
  5. To be over the moon = to be delighted
  6. To hit the nail on the head = to say something which is totally accurate
  7. To drive someone up the wall = to drive someone mad / to make someone very annoyed
  8. To find your feet = to establish yourself
  9. Break a leg! = good luck! (for performers)
  10. Hold your horses! = hold on! Wait! Slow down!
  11. To go the extra mile = make an extra effort
  12. The ball is in your court = it’s your turn to make a decision

Also

  • To get fired / to be let go
  • A housewarming party
  • To see red
  • To have your cake and eat it too

Over to you!
What is your version of the idiom “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”?

Photos & Videos

Introduction

In the street

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

 

with Josephine (costume lady), Vlad (Director of Photography) & Robert Hoehn

The finished episode of WTF France

This is the episode that was being filmed during this episode. Check out the cameo apperances by Rob (2:26), Amber (2:30) & me (2:35).

Outro (with mistakes & no edits!)

Other stuff

Message from a Chinese LEPster about “Pudong” near China

I’d like to just clarify something that was said on the podcast in episode 408 when Paul and I made some silly jokes about the word “Pudong” and we talked about Pudong area near Shanghai in China. Paul brought it up when we were talking about pudding and none of us were too sure about the name Pudong and what it really means. I got a message which clarifies that.

Here’s the message from Sylvia from China. I was a bit worried that she was offended by our crappy jokes (particularly mine), but she assures me that she’s not offended and that she still loves us, so that’s alright. In any case I wanted to read this out because it’s got proper information about Pudong. If you remember, Paul said that he wasn’t sure exactly what the name meant and that one of our listeners could clear it up. Well, here is that clarification.

Dear Luke,

I want to make several things clear here in episode 408, in which Paul talked about Pudong in Shanghai. I live in Shanghai now, and the content of the conversation made me a bit uncomfortable.

1. It’s not ‘Pudong River’, it’s called ‘Huangpu River’.
2. It is ‘Pu’, not ‘Poo’.
3. ‘dong’ in Chinese means ‘east’, Chinese character ‘东’.
4. ‘Pudong’ is an area, which is on the east bank of the Huangpu River.
Pudong is situated on the east coast of the Huangpu River of Shanghai, and sits at the intersection of China’s coastal belt for international trade and the Yangtze River estuary. It is backed up by the Yangtze River Delta urban megalopolis and faces the boundless Pacific.

Pudong New Area (“Pudong” or the “New Area”), in eastern Shanghai, is named because it is located to the east of the Huangpu River.

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Now Pudong New Area has become the economic, financial, trade and shipping center regionally and internationally. In 20 short years, a dramatic change has taken place in Pudong, changing from farmlands into high buildings and from out-of-the-way villages into a prosperous urban area. Pudong has become the “Pearl of the Orient” with world attention, acclaimed as the “epitome of Shanghai’s modernization” and the “symbol of China’s reform and opening up”.

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Cruising on the Huangpu River, you can see many European style buildings on the western bank, because Shanghai used to be a foreign concession before 1949. At that time, Shanghai was known as the ‘paradise of foreign adventures’. Many foreigners, mostly Europeans, came to try their luck here. That’s why you can see buildings of different architectural styles here, Spanish, Greek, Roman and Russian. While on the other bank, skyscrapers in the Pudong New Area rear high into the sky, which were all built by Chinese people after 1990.

Luke, welcome to China, welcome to Shanghai, welcome to Pudong. And I hope when Paul comes to your place again, you can show him this, and let him make it clear.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Luke
I’m sorry this made you uncomfortable. No offence intended – I was just making a joke, and failing (as usual). I appreciate the information about Shanghai – would you mind if I read out your message on the podcast?

Sylvia
hello Luke
I knew it was a joke, that’s okay. It’s just that Pudong New Area has alway been a prosperous Area in my mind, but from now on everytime i think of it or come to there it will remind me of those jokes you made…Haha…
It would be great if you could read it on the podcast. Because i don’t want Paul to mislead people around the world thinking that China has a ‘poo dong river’. You can say my name, that’s okay.
And I know Amber And Paul didn’t mean any offence.
Always love you!
Sylvia

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Don’t forget to check out Spoken. 2 free lessons and then 20% off! English lessons for Professionals on WhatsApp, sent straight to your phone by an English teacher. www.getspoken.com/lep

243. A Life-Changing Teaching Experience in Ghana


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Hello and welcome to another episode of Luke’s English Podcast! In this episode I’m going to interview my friend Mike Bruce about his recent teaching experience in Ghana in West Africa. Mike is an old friend and colleague of mine, he’s originally from Scotland, although he doesn’t have a particularly strong accent, and he has lived and worked in places all over the world. I’ve known him for about 13 years and he was one of the first people I ever worked with as a language teacher in Japan. Mike has an amazing CV. He’s taught in lots of countries around the world. He’s very highly qualified, and as well as teaching students of English as a second language he also teaches teachers how to teach. So, he’s pretty much a Jedi Master of English teaching in my opinion.

Mike recently came back from a teaching mission in Ghana, and judging by the Facebook photos and statuses, it was quite an epic experience for him. I thought it would be interesting to talk to him about it on Luke’s English Podcast. My aim for this interview is to have a bit of a chat with Mike, just a bit of a chat, introduce him to the LEPsters? LEPans? LEPians?LEPenese? LEPlanders? LEPish? LEPaholics? and then find out about his African teaching experience.

Below you’ll see questions and notes I used during the interview, and a slide show of Mike’s pictures.

Click here to read more about the Ghana Education Project.

Background
How do we know each other?
What do you remember about that time in our lives?

Mike’s CV
How did you get into teaching in the first place?
How long have you been teaching?
Where have you worked/lived in the past?
Which place was memorable it you? (And why)
What do you do professionally these days?

Ghana
Tell me about the Ghana experience.
Why did you go?
What was the mission? What did you expect?
What were you concerned about or looking forward to?
What were your first impressions?
What were the challenges?
What were the great things?
What did you learn from the experience?
Has it changed you as a teacher? And as a person?

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MikeBrucePODPIC

238. Prepositions (Part 1)

In this episode I decided to teach you about prepositions! Yes! Everyone’s favourite words in English! OK, that’s sarcasm – most learners find prepositions to be confusing and frustrating. However, the episode didn’t quite go as planned and I didn’t manage to deal with the subject as I had intended. Nevertheless, this episode contains some comments and information about prepositions, which works as an introduction to other episodes on the subject. Listen to this one before you listen episode 240, which deals with the subject in more depth. [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’ve been meaning to do this episode for ages and now finally I’ve managed to get round to it. Well, that was the plan anyway.

Following notes I made over a year ago (which weren’t actually finished) I thought I would be able to deal with this topic without much preparation, but prepositions tend to be complex little creatures to get a hold of, and the topic proved too slippery to deal with fully in this episode, so I have promised to continue the series in the next episode, when we will look at the way prepositions collocate with other words.

So for this episode, I didn’t manage to succeed in my overall mission, but you can see this as like ‘part 1’ in a series about prepositions.

What? Another series? Yes, that’s right! The next episode will focus on ways prepositions collocate with verbs, and will feature an improvised courtroom drama featuring a whole list of verb + preposition collocations. You’ll just have to wait for that one. But for now, join me as I begin to explain prepositions, and end up going on about poor sales techniques and why you shouldn’t buy an iPhone 3 from me. Enjoy!
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