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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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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…

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

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

355. EURO 2016 Football: Hooliganism & Violence in Marseille / England vs Russia

In this episode I talk about the EUROs including how it feels having the championship here in France, the violence in Marseille that occurred between English fans, Russian fans, local French fans and the French police this weekend, and the England vs Russia game that happened on Saturday. I welcome your comment on this subject so please share your thoughts under the page for this episode. A transcript is available for 95% of this episode.

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image: UEFA.com / background music: me!

Transcript (95% complete)

The EURO Football Championship has started and it’s happening in France! I’m going to do a few episodes about it as the competition progresses, a bit like I did for the World Cup two years ago. I love international football competitions but I’m not a huge expert on the subject of football, so please leave your comments with all your opinions, questions and points of view as we continue through the tournament. I can then read them out in future episodes. I’m sure a lot of you out there know more about this than me, so why don’t you contribute some content for my episodes? Just leave comments on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk – not the main page, let’s keep the football chat on the EURO 2016 pages, which you will find in the Episode Archive or on the sidebar of every page on my site. I will mention a few questions for you later in this episode.

Regarding episodes in this series – essentially I’m going to record something when there are things to say, like before or after a big game (especially if it’s England – because I’m an England fan), when there are some big events to discuss or when there are some LEPster comments to share.

So, let’s talk about the EUROS.

I understand that you might not be a football fan, or that your country is not represented in this tournament (e.g. if you’re in Asia or South America). I hope you’ll keep listening anyway – because it’s not just about 22 guys kicking a ball around a green rectangle. There’s usually some drama and action involved, and the context of international relations being played out on a football field is usually pretty interesting, especially when there are also events off the pitch too, like the violence that’s been going on in Marseille this weekend. There’s more to talk about than just football. But, there’s football too! That means goals, upsets, victories, losses, penalty shootouts, surprises and the disappointment of being an England fan.

There’s a lot going on in France at the moment.

The weather – rain, thunderstorms and floods. Homes have been flooded and people have been stuck in their cars because of flooding and stuff. But it’s not that bad of course – the vast majority of people are unaffected by that, but certainly we’re all feeling a bit fed up with the incessant rain over here!

Also, the strikes – trains have been cancelled, journeys disrupted, and also rubbish collectors are on strike. There were piles of rubbish in the street, which was pretty smelly and disgusting.

Also, there has been a tense atmosphere here since the terrorist attacks that happened in Paris last year and in Belgium this year. There are soldiers on the streets and there’s a sense the people are expecting something bad to happen especially because there will be large crowds of people in public areas and lots of tourists in town because the Euro 2016 Championship and the eyes of the world, certainly the eyes of Europe, are now on France.

So, there has been a distinct lack of buzz about the football in Paris, but I think that now the competition has started people will get into the spirit of it and people will get excited, especially since France won the opening game and the competition is now underway.

I do love international football competitions.

I really hope that France do well this time. I think the country could really do with a lift.

The UK is well represented this year too, with England, Wales and Northern Ireland all qualifying.
Of course, I’m English born and bred, so I am an England fan, which is a slightly mixed blessing.

I’m also behind Wales and Northern Ireland. I would really like to see them do well because they rarely get a lot of success in international tournaments like this. They’re generally regarded as ‘minnows’ (small fish – small teams) but let’s see what they can do. Wales are not looking too bad this year and Northern Ireland haven’t qualified for an international tournament like this in 30 years so this is a good opportunity for them. Also, our neighbours the Republic of Ireland are in the tournament too.

Another ingredient in the mix here is the EU referendum which will arrive in week 2 of the tournament. I think that’s an important part of the wider context because there are British teams in the tournament and it will just add some significance to the events on and off the pitch, and could perhaps heighten the tension of the action.

Violence in Marseille

And talking about heightening the tension, there’s yet another factor in play now and that’s hooliganism. Just this weekend, English fans were involved in violent clashes with local French fans, Russian fans and the local French police on the streets of Marseille.

That’s really shameful. First of all I think that the violence is mostly instigated or carried out by a minority. There’s a small minority of English fans who are basically hooligans – people who are just up for a fight. Most people just want to come and enjoy the football and probably have a good time in France, but these hooligans will get drunk and lairy – they drink loads of beer, take their shirts off, start singing and probably act in a very aggressive and threatening manner, in public areas that are usually nice calm places where people are dining outside restaurants or enjoying a drink in the evening.

The thing is, this is a very tense time in France because of the terror attacks and the police have probably been prepared to react strongly to violence. They probably won’t tolerate a lot of public disturbance, and in fact have responded pretty strongly to what looks like just noisy singing and general public drunkenness that the English football fans are famous for. As a result the French police on Friday evening attempted to move in on the football fans and clear them away from a popular part of the city for tourists. The football fans responded by throwing bottles and then the police went into full crowd control mode and shot tear gas at the crowd, and then started beating up fans. Then on Saturday, England fans and Russian fans clashed a bit outside the stadium.

During the game things seemed to be peaceful in the crowd as the match went on, but at the end of the game some Russian fans launched one or two flares at England fans, and as the game ended Russian fans broke through some security guards and attacked the England fans, who tried to run away. There was also a loud bang in the stadium near the end of the game, you might have heard it. I think that was a firework that was set off inside the stadium by a Russian fan.

How on earth these fans managed to get flares and a firework into the stadium when France is on such a high terror alert, I don’t know. In fact all of this violence is particularly worrying and irresponsible because everyone is on edge because of the threat of another attack. Everyone needs to just chill out and bring down the tension.

On the streets of Marseille after the game some violence continued between these different factions, and apparently the metro in Marseille was closed, taxis and busses stopped running. The city centre sounds it was a bit like a war-zone. It’s ugly and disappointing and makes me feel ashamed.

Certainly the media in England and lots of public figures are condemning the violence and strongly criticising this violent element we have in our fans, and I agree – it’s shameful that a few idiots give us all a bad name. But, there are also lots of reports coming in from eyewitnesses who say that it’s not just English fans acting like hooligans. Apparently there are other elements at work too, including local French fans and the Russians.

According to these reports from people on the street, via Twitter and Periscope and other platforms, the English fans were getting drunk in the street in the main tourist area near the port in Marseille, singing and acting aggressively, when they were attacked in coordinated movements by groups of local French fans, who apparently arrived quickly and started throwing bottles at the England fans, who responded in the same way.

Similar things happened with the Russian fans who it is reported started fights with the English. This is what I’ve read and seen on Twitter and on bits of video taken on the streets. Apparently the streets were covered in broken glass and about 30 people were injured. Two English fans are seriously hurt and may be in critical condition – one was kicked in the head a number of times and another one had a heart attack. The French police fired tear gas into the crowds to keep them back. Any fans that got close to the police were hit with batons. They also used water canons to keep the crowd at bay. The English fans responded by going berserk and throwing bottles, chairs and even tables in response.

Apparently UEFA are investigating the violence in the stadium, which appears to have been started by the Russian. I expect there will be some form of punishment given out to both sets of fans. In fact, I’ve just heard that UEFA have opened up a disciplinary procedure against the Russian Federation because of the conduct of their fans in the stadium. I just hope that all the peaceful fans aren’t affected by this, like if there is a general audience ban or something. I’m not sure what the disciplinary procedure will be exactly.

Now, it’s difficult to have complete faith in the media because you don’t know if they’re being completely impartial. I wonder what the media is saying about this in your country. They might be a bit biased, and that includes media in England and in other countries. For example, some English papers might suggest that the Russians started the fighting, or that the French police completely over-reacted and were unnecessarily brutal with the English fans. Perhaps the Russian media might emphasise the hooliganism of the English. I am interested to know how this story is being treated in your countries, so let us know in the comment section. I’m sure it’s a very complex issue and that all sides have some responsibility.

I think this has been a four-way problem – English fans, Russian fans, local French fans and the police. Let’s hope it doesn’t get more out of hand, and I really hope the hooligans just tone it down and focus on enjoying the football rather than causing so much unnecessary damage, trouble and negativity in the press.

I feel like there’s not that much goodwill towards the English at the moment anyway because of the whole Brexit situation. It just makes us look bad, and again it’s to a minority of people who are putting all this stuff on the agenda and in the media.

Also, I feel for the residents of Marseille. I was there just last week, in the area where the violence occurred. It’s a beautiful spot and I expect this has been very disruptive and quite traumatic for local who are just trying to go about their business.

Even though the specifics of what happened are not clear, I am sickened by the actions of some of our fans who act so badly when they’re abroad. It’s appalling really and it’s been like this for years. I don’t really understand it, but I hate these people. It’s tribalism at its worst. Whenever I come across these types of violent football fans at home, I can’t stand it. They’re the worst people to run into, and I’ve always hated that kind of element. I’m not proud of it.

Anyway, this is supposed to be about football, isn’t it! What a pity to start this competition with violence! I wonder how everything will continue both on and off the pitch.

Overview of the EUROS

24 teams this time – www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2016/teams/
Facts – www.worldfootballguide.com/europe/euro-2016-facts/
Favourites – France, Spain, Germany, England, others… Nobody is the obvious choice.

So far, France won the opening game against Romania.
Wales beat Slovakia quite convincingly.
Switzerland beat Albania.
England drew with Russia.

England vs Russia

I thought England played well in the first half but just couldn’t ‘find the net’ (score). There were some good moments of play between our attacking players, but we really should have scored. Russia improved in the second half but England still had a few chances. There was an amazing save by Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev. Then England won a free kick just outside the penalty box. Some people say it wasn’t a foul. There’s no comment about it in any of the English press I’ve checked online. We scored from the free kick – taken by Dier, with some help from an England player in the wall who blocked the view of the goalkeeper by ducking out of the way of the ball at the last moment. Finally we got the goal we’d been looking for and there was a big celebration but then, our mistake was that we ‘sat back’ (relaxed and stopped attacking) after our goal and Russia took advantage and scored a great header in additional time. Gutted. All the English fans then felt a very familiar feeling – disappointment because we didn’t win. In fact we have still never won our opening game in a EURO championship. So, we’re generally disappointed, even though we played quite well. 1-1 is not too bad really, but we had opportunities and we should have scored more!

The main questions people are asking now are about the usefulness of Stirling, who is quick by lacks ‘end product’, why Vardy was left on the bench for the whole game (he’s a goal scorer), why our tallest striker, Kane, was taking corners, and the usual mickey-taking of Wayne Rooney.

Someone on Facebook:
“Stirling is a useless twat.
Why is Vardy on the bench?
Why is Kane taking corners?
Why does Rooney’s head look like a turnip?
These are the big questions.”

Now, I want to know your comments. Here are some questions.

1. Which team is your favourite? Which team do you predict to be the winner?
2. Which players do you think are worth watching?
3. What did you think of the England vs Russia game?
4. What’s your opinion about the violence this weekend in Marseille? I’ve heard there have been some outbreaks of violence between Polish and French fans in Nice too. What’s the media saying about this in your country?

Let us know your thoughts and opinions! And let’s hope that the drama is played out on the pitch, not in the streets!

Luke

351. BREXIT: Should the UK leave the EU? (A Conversation with my Dad)

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well. Here is an episode featuring a conversation with my Dad about Brexit – The UK’s referendum on the EU. Finally! I’ve been mentioning this for a while so here it is. You’ve seen it in the news, you’ve read it in the papers – the UK is having a referendum on membership of the European Union and who knows, we might end up leaving. It’s all over the news and the internet in the UK at the moment, everyone’s talking about it – you can’t escape it and it’s going to get more and more intense the closer we get to 23 June, the date of the referendum. I’ve had plenty of messages from listeners asking me to talk about this on the podcast, so here we go.

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Brexit: A Complex Issue

I’ve been wondering how to approach this topic for ages. It’s actually a very complex issue which I would like to cover properly, taking into account the different arguments in some detail in order to bring some genuine insight to the issue. I think that one of the problems with the subject of the EU and Brexit is that the issues are genuinely difficult to understand, and it takes proper effort and patience to understand them fully. I think it’s fair to say that these days people just don’t feel they have the time or the willingness to look deeply at the issues, and instead just arrive at their opinions based on an emotional reaction. There’s little tolerance for nuance or broad-mindedness it seems. So, I could just skate over the issues and cover this in just one short episode – but you know, I don’t like to do that on this podcast, and in fact podcasting as a medium is generally a great way to have an extended conversation on a topic. You rarely get extended, natural conversations on TV or on the internet about subjects like this. More and more there’s a pressure to make TV broadcasts short and quick, but as a result some of the subtleties are lost. There’s a tendency towards soundbites and short emotion-driven arguments. As a result, some of the more complex arguments are not heard. Certainly with the issue of Brexit in the media – our emotions are being played upon all the time – it’s either ‘fear’ like in the case of David Cameron who suggested that a Brexit could lead to World War 3 or it’s patriotic nationalism on a ridiculous level, like Boris Johnson comparing the EU to Hitler and saying that Britain could be the heroes of Europe. That’s all highly emotional political rhetoric. But let’s have a normal conversation about it shall we?

I think there are several ways to deal with the Brexit subject on this podcast. I could start with the vocabulary and terminology – because there’s a lot of specific language involved in this, when you consider that the whole thing relates to issues like the economy, immigration, sovereignty, legislative procedure, social policy, the environment, security and the workings of the EU institutions. So, I could take a bottom up approach and start with the terminology or the language of Brexit. Or I could go with a top down approach and just talk about the subject. In the end I’ve decided to go with the latter – and that’s to just jump right into the topic here by having a conversation about it. And who better to talk to than my Dad, Rick.

So this is the first thing you’ll hear on the subject – a conversation with my Dad – before I expect to go into Brexit in a bit more detail in some later episodes.

Now, you’ve probably heard my Dad on this podcast before. I thought it could be interesting for you to hear on this podcast a conversation between a well-informed, articulate and intelligent man, and his father. (ha ha)

 

Just one final point here before we listen to the conversation. The day before I spoke to my Dad for the podcast, I posted a question on social media, saying “My Dad’s going to be on the podcast talking about Brexit – do you have any questions?” I got loads of questions from interested LEPsters. Thank you very much if you wrote one. What I did was to consolidate all your queries and points into a just a few simple questions which I then used as a basis for this discussion. So, I don’t actually read out your questions or mention any names, but thank you for your questions – I think we managed to cover a lot of them in our conversation. Anything we didn’t deal with, I’ll come back to later on.

Alright, so without any further ado, let’s now hear the conversation with my Dad Rick about the UK’s referendum on Europe, and here we go.

*Conversation Begins*

The questions below are a summary of the questions I received from LEPsters on Facebook.

1. WHAT IS BREXIT?

2. WHY HAS THE BREXIT QUESTION COME UP NOW?

3. WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST BREXIT?

  • The ‘leave’ campaign
  • The ‘remain’ campaign
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘leave’ campaign?
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘remain’ campaign?

4. WHAT WOULD BE THE CONSEQUENCES? (I don’t think we really answered this – so I’ll come back to it)

5. WHAT DO WE THINK PERSONALLY?

*Conversation Ends*

I said there at the end that it’s all a bit complicated. While recording that interview I was thinking that it was bound to be very difficult to follow. Actually, after listening back to that conversation, I think we managed to deal with it in a fairly clear way, especially my Dad, who is very articulate and well-informed on the subject.

I have a variety of listeners with varying levels of knowledge of this subject, so I’m sure some of you followed that without too many problems whereas others might have been a bit lost at times.

So, I do think it’s worth talking more about Brexit on the podcast and I plan to go through some of the key vocabulary associated with this and also revisit the main arguments in forthcoming episodes. Also, as we move closer to the referendum date I am sure more things will happen in the news and it will be interesting to keep an eye on the opinion polls. So watch out for more Brexit-related commentary in the near future.

As ever I am very keen for you to express your opinions on the website. So please leave your comments. What do you think? What do you think about my Dad’s opinions in this episode, and how would you vote in the referendum?
Should the UK leave the EU or should the UK remain a part of the EU?

The LEP EU POLL

In fact, let’s do an LEP EU Referendum of our own, shall we? I wonder how the LEPsters would vote in this referendum.
I have opened up a Brexit poll on my website (you can see it below) – so please visit and cast your vote. It’s anonymous and you don’t need to add your email address.

[socialpoll id=”2363089″]

Thanks very much for listening and take care! BYE!

Luke

Comments & Questions from LEPsters on Facebook

General questions and points of view

Luciano: What is BRETIX??!!
Elizabeth: Right now the UK has some bargaining power. Instead of leaving they should use that to see if they can’t get the worst transgressions off their back. Right?
Roland:  UK has been EU member since 1973. I am wondering why did brexit question come up now? Isn’t it because of the massive migration problem in continental Europe and part of Uk population tend to mix up the two different issues (migration vs. uk-eu renegotiation)?
Mollie:  Happy Birthday , Teacher Luke !
Luciana:  I’d like to know what is the real motivation behind the pro exit campaigners. Will they have any personal gain? Or is it only an ideological matter?
Alessandro:   Hello everybody, hi Luke, I’ve spoken to many Britons so far and all of them are for remaining in Europe. Is there anybody who’s really going to vote leave? In my view many are unable to decide what to do because they have different feelings or there are different things they want. My question is: is the referendum ripping apart British society?
PROs & CONS
What are the main arguments for and against us leaving?
Ricardo:   Hi Luke, my name’s Ricardo and I’m from Brazil. for that Reason I don’t understand why Uk still have a Queen and what’s pro and con for UK’s to be membership of EU.
Aritz:  Hello Richard! Hope you are fine!
My question: why do you think it’ll be better for the UK to stay or to go out? (depending on your point of view).
I’d like a precise answer, and nothing vague please. I’m from Spain and I live and work in London, so I am deeply interested in this issue.Thank you very much!!!
CONSEQUENCES

Anna :  If the UK finally decides to abandon the EU, would it still be a member of Schengen area? Yaron:   I would like to know how it going to affect you personally, if UK will leave (as English man who currently live and work in France)… In addition, I would find it interesting if you will discuss whether UK will leave the EU, would it be the start of the end of the EU. ie, would other countries will also leave the EU eventually (maybe not France and Germany… But other nations)

Kenichi : I would you like to summarise how people supporting the Conservative party or the labour one think about the Brexit. And If the Brexit happens, what would happen on daily goods imported from other EU countries such as wine, beer, sausage, etc. The reason why I’m asking is because I suppose the UK has been getting a lot of benefits from the cheaper trade as a member of EU so far, and those benefits would be lost after the Brexit.

Robert:  If UK leave UE, it will mean that citizens other EU other country (for example Polish) have to leave UK? What do you think. If UK leave UE it would be end of EU?

PERSONAL OPINION

Anna:  Luke, what is your personal attitude towards this issue? How are you going to vote?

Jairo:   I am going to borrow a question from BBC News and ask your dad :

What do you think the EU referendum says about Britain ? ,
tell us in ” six ” words 😊.
Adam:    However, I think I know how you are going to vote, but am curious to hear your father’s point of view, cheers
Piedad:  What will happen with EU citizens already living in UK?
Gabor:  and the same question from a different point of view, what will happen with the UK citizens living abroad in the EU?
Jean:   what will be the real consequences if UK choice to exits from UE… Try, please, to explain us this complicated topic with some examples. Thanks 😉
Abdelhmide:   Hi Luke , my question is ; if the UK leave the EU will you would need visas to go to EU ??Thanks
Other comments from listeners
Burak: Dont exit from EU ..
Adam :  I believe that if Brexit actually happens, the EU will then browbeat the UK to accept some new treaties like those of Switzerland or Norway so that the UK wouldn’t be totally free of the EU anyway. Moreover, this argument is actually being skated around by the Brexit campaigners. Not that I am particularly fond of the EU myself, but still don’t think there is an alternative to it than just being part of the block and fight for a shift.
Nataliya :  Boris Johnson VS David Cameron on this matter
Francesco :  I’m gonna answer you with a Pink Floyd quote: “Together we stand divided we fall”.
Konstantinos : Hello Luke. Thanks for asking.. I don’t think that the Euro-zone has any future in case that the citizens of the United Kingdom, would like / take the decision to continue their destiny as a country, outside from the Europe. The question there is, what are the advantages or disadvantages from this kind of catalytic decision? ..and what’s will be going on with a large group of people who live and work in the UK? Of course, and as we all understand, there’s a domino under the possibility of the negative answer, but from the other side, the British have the opportunity with that referendum to think finally, what are their interests for them and for their country.. My point of view..(?) I think the result surprise us positively.. The sure is that would be a historical moment for the England, which the humanity will remember forever.. and by the way If I have a title earlier in advance for this mini article that would be “The Funeral of the Europe”..
Francesco:   It’s more of an opinion than a question, but here it is: i think it would be really bad for us all if you left the EU and the UK would lose a great deal!

 

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.

340. LEP Photo Competition Results & Winners / It’s LEP’s 7th Birthday

In this episode the results & winners of the LEP photo competition are announced, and – it’s the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast! This episode is long but you don’t have to listen to it in one go. You can listen, pause, do something else, listen later and so on. Enjoy!

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Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please because the results of the LEP photo competition are here. Try to contain your excitement. I know we’ve all been waiting for weeks with bated breath to know who has won this most prestigious of prizes, but you can now relax and breathe normally because the wait is over! Yes, in this episode I’m going to give you the results of the photo competition. I’ll tell you the winners and the runners up, I’ll describe the winning photos in some detail including my thoughts and feelings about them, and later in the episdoe I’m going to ramble on about some other stuff.

Also, this is the 7th birthday of my podcast!

Also, I’ve just realised that this is the 7th birthday of LEP! It’s been almost exactly 7 years since I uploaded the very first episode of Luke’s English Podcast. So, this is not just the photo competition episode but also the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast too! Wow. Has it been 7 years? 7 years of my life have gone into this project. I have put a huge amount of time and energy into this over the years and I’ve loved every moment of it. Time flies doesn’t it. Yes it does. I’ll talk more of birthday-related things later, but if you’re feeling like you want to congratulate the podcast, celebrate the birthday, send me a card or a gift, or say thank you for my work or something like that, and you’re wondering what the appropriate thing to do is – well, here are some suggestions:

You could…

  • leave a lovely comment on the website explaining briefly what LEP means to you. It’s always nice to read your feedback and it helps the podcast because new visitors will see that I have an active, engaged, positive audience and that the podcast is good. It’ll help me reach a wider audience.
  • give the podcast a review on iTunes. This is really important actually – lots and lots of new people come to my podcast through iTunes and many of them will look at the reviews. So, if you enjoy this podcast and you feel it’s made a difference to your English, leave me a good review on iTunes. Lots of other people will see your review and it will really make a difference to the reputation of the podcast. Just go to itunes.apple.com/fr/podcast/lukes-english-podcast-learn/id312059190?l=en&mt=2 , view the podcast in iTunes and leave your review.
  • the most sincere way to say thanks is to leave me a donation via paypal. You should be able to find a button on every page of the website that says DONATE. This is the most sincere way you can thank me, because it’s like an investment in the podcast. Any contribution you make will support the podcast directly because it’ll help me to cover costs, such as website hosting and other payments, and because it just means I can do things like buy my wife lunch or something, and that’s important for my quality of life and my energy, which then feeds back into the podcast.

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Prizes

There will be more birthday celebrations later but first let’s get back to the photo competition, and here is just a quick reminder of what’s up for grabs in terms of prizes (this is where things get very dramatic and exciting – the tension is almost palpable isn’t it?!) First place will get two prizes: an LEP mug and another gift of the winner’s choice (so, another mug, a t-shirt, a pad or a tote bag), the two runners-up will receive one prize: an LEP mug each, and then there’s a surprise 4th prize, in a category that I’ve just added, for the winner of the Luke’s Choice Award (a gift of the winner’s choice from the gift shop).

I know some of you might be listening to this thinking – “What competition?” “What’s he talking about?” If that’s the case it probably means you haven’t listened to episodes 313-327 and so you’re blissfully unaware of this photo competition. Either that or you just forgot about it, or you had your memory wiped by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones or something. So, if you don’t remember, go back to episode 313 and 327 to remind yourselves of this competition and to find out more details.

Hey, don’t skip this episode, alright?

Some of you might also be thinking, “Oh, very good Luke, very good, but I might skip this episode because I’m not involved in the competition because I didn’t send a photo and I didn’t vote and yada yada yada”. First of all I should say that I would be deeply shocked and saddened if you skipped an episode. I mean really. It would upset me very much and it would be a huge trauma for me. I might have to go and have a lie down or a cup of tea, just to get over the emotional impact of knowing that you’d decided not to listen. In fact, I’m feeling very emotional about it right now just thinking about that… But if it makes a difference to you I’d like to say – I do hope you stay and listen, because I think there are some good things to be gained from listening to this, and I’ve got some biscuits here. Don’t you want a biscuit?  Anyway, this episode is not just about announcing the winners, but it’s also about describing some of the popular photos using words, in English, and sharing thoughts and feelings with the LEP community.

Yes, I will be describing and commenting on the photos during the episode – so you’ll hear some descriptive language. I suggest you check the page for this episode to see the pics I’m talking about. Also, in episode 327  I taught you some very useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures, which should be very important if you’re taking a Cambridge exam, or if you’d like to learn some useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures. So, that’s back in episode 327.

Summarising the Competition

Just in case you don’t know, or you’ve forgotten or something, let me quickly sum up the competition again.

Some time late last year I opened up this new contest. I got the idea originally from a Long Term Lepster (LTL) called Guillaume who suggested it to me ages ago by email. He said, “Hey why don’t you do a competition in which you ask your listeners to send you photos of them listening in different situations, and you could share the photos on your website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something?” and I thought, hmm, a competition in which my listeners send me photos of them listening in different locations and I could share the photos on my website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something, that’s not a bad idea! And so I decided to do just that, and in episode 313 ( I think) I said, “I’m launching a competition in which you my listeners can send me photos of you listening in different locations and I’ll share the photos on my website and people can vote for their favourites and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. All you have to do is take photos of yourself listening in different situations and I can share them on my website and everyone can vote for their favourite ones, and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. What do you think?”
And people said “What? Sorry, can you repeat the sentence?”

Most people seemed up for the competition, which was nice.

There was just one condition , I said – “you have to include something that proves that you’re listening. So, that could be some headphones in the pic, or an LEP logo, or something like that.”
And that’s exactly what happened, everyone sent me pictures of themselves listening in different situations and I shared them on the page for episode 327 and then everyone voted for their favourite ones. I say, everyone – I actually don’t mean everyone – not everyone in the world. I didn’t get 7.125 billion votes, and not even everyone who listens to this podcast voted. In fact, just a small fraction of my listeners voted – which means that there’s a good chance that you, listening to this right now, yes you, the one with the ears – there’s a good chance that you didn’t take part in this at all. And I’d like to ask you why not?? What were you doing? Did you have something better to do? I can’t imagine what could be more important than voting in this competition! Except maybe writing a report for work or something – in fact there might be lots of things that stopped you from voting maybe you were going food shopping to buy food to keep you and your family alive, maybe you were cooking dinner and you couldn’t vote, eating dinner, feeding dinner to your family or friends, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, digesting food (I can’t vote I’m busy digesting), washing clothes, wearing clothes (sorry, I couldn’t vote, I was too busy wearing clothes), taking your clothes off in the evening – that’s time consuming, sleeping, being woken up by your alarm, putting your alarm on snooze, going back to sleep again, being woken up by your alarm again, putting it on snooze again, going back to sleep again, being woken up by the alarm AGAIN, and putting it on snooze AGAIN, then suddenly realising that you’re really late, smashing the alarm with a hammer, jumping out of bed, putting your clothes back on, having a shower, changing your clothes because they’re all wet, going to the toilet, taking another shower, cancelling 3rd world poverty, making coffee, leaking sensitive legal documents to the media that reveal the hoarding of massive amounts of secret money by a law firm based in Panama as part of a huge multinational tax avoidance scheme involving the leaders of many developed countries and various semi-legal tax avoidance schemes in offshore accounts based in tax-havens all over the world revealing incredible levels of alleged corruption at the highest level, eating a banana, going to work. You know, just the usual daily chores that take up our time. Maybe you were doing one of those things, and you couldn’t vote in the competition. I understand! That’s fine! I think that most people for one reason or another decided not to take part in the competition, and probably said to themselves – “Who? Me? Send pictures of myself listening in different situations so that Luke can share them on his website and then people can vote for their favourite pictures and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something? That sounds nice, but sorry Luke I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment – I’ve got a big meeting with the boss this morning, and I’m trying to learn phrasal verbs, I’ve got to shred a few documents at the Panamanian law firm where I work and I have a conference call between with David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and some other world leaders that I have to attend to, and I have to eat these biscuits and I’ve got to escape from this pink gorilla that’s chasing me and I’m trying to learn the phonemic script to improve my English pronunciation… so I can’t do it I’m afraid, I can’t vote – but carry on anyway, it sounds like a lovely plan.”

Right. Are you following this?

I’m just saying that most people didn’t get involved in the voting, but that’s totally fine of course, and in a way it’s perfect because if 7.125 billion people had voted and sent me photos, I would have been impossibly busy over the last few weeks and my website would have crashed and so on… So, all’s well that ends well.

Total number of votes and photos? In fact I received a grand total of about 115 photos and then a total of about 270 votes.

Why did I do the comp?

I wanted to see things from your point of view a bit. Obviously, I do these podcasts on my own, mostly. Sometimes I’m joined by other people, which is lovely. But usually I just sit here on own (sad, lonely music?), I record episodes, publish them, read comments from some of you, and watch the download numbers go up and up and I think – who are all these people? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they thinking? It turns out, you’re all just normal human beings (which shouldn’t be a surprise) – I mean, you’re all normal people (I say normal, of course you’re all extraordinary) but seriously, you’re ordinary people just going about your lives in different countries, in different weather conditions, in different environments and you find time to listen to this podcast while you’re doing it. There’s a pretty diverse range of people out there in different situations, but the cool thing is that you’re all united by the fact that you listen to this podcast. You’re united by other things too of course, like the fact that you’ve all got legs (although, saying that I realise that some of you might not have legs of course and that’s great) or you’re united by the fact that you live on earth and other things, like that you need to drink water regularly, breathe air, eat food, go to the loo sometimes, we’re all united by these things, you probably like eating good food – who doesn’t? and you probably don’t like it when you have a stone in your shoe, it’s annoying when your neighbours play loud music all night, sometimes you run out of sugar or milk or, err, rice, and you get angry, like “Why don’t we have any sugar left!? Oh god!!!” or you find it embarrassing when you drop something in public or you trip over in the street and you’d love to get more sleep in the mornings. Yes, you’re all united by those things, but you’re also united by the fact that you all listen to this podcast.

In all seriousness, I can’t really overstate how amazing that is. It’s amazing. It is amazing. It’s amAAAAYzing. OK? Thanks for listening and thanks for your photos & votes.

But really, I was quite surprised at what a fun and even touching experience it was to look at all the photos that were sent. Did you check out the page for 327? It was a genuinely lovely experience, that was just a little bit heartwarming. Unless you’re a steel-hearted terminator of a person, who doesn’t let emotion defrost the edges of your frozen heart, I imagine that you felt it to be quite sweet as well, to look at all these pics of people around the world.

Not all the photos were outstanding works of photographic genius of course. In fact many of them were probably taken right at the moment that you were listening to episode 313 when I said “just take a pic while you’re listening – just take a pic of whatever you can see right now” and that’s exactly what a lot of you did – so there are some photos of computer screens, or mobile phones, or views from car or bus windows and stuff, but these pictures do have interesting details in the background or on the edges of the frame – just revealing little things that show us the things we have in common but also differences like which part of the world you’re in, or what your life is like – for example, the weather, the landscape, your working environment, other people we can see in the pictures, public spaces, etc.

Luke gets deep and meaningful

I’d like to take this opportunity to get deep and meaningful now and say some profound things about what your contribution to this photo competition means to me personally, and the way it represents something special as we move through life in this crazy world we call ‘earth’, struggling to make sense of what’s going on around us and searching for some oasis of calm and some sincere sentiments outside the usual banal nonsense we are exposed to in the media and in advertising. So, here’s some profundity for you.

So here we are, all living on this planet. We all lead these separate lives in different places with our own unique problems, stresses, responsibilities etc, but at the end of the day when we put our heads down to go to sleep, or when we lose a sock in the washing machine, or when we put our headphones on to listen to LEP, aren’t we all the same in some ways? We essentially care about the same things, don’t we? Despite being in different countries, divided by political boundaries, geo-cultural distinctions, ethnic and religious differences, we are all connected. We live pretty similar lives and we share the world together (cheesy). Things we do, even small things, affect the world around us, and affect other people’s lives – even people we can’t see might be inadvertently affected by our actions in some way, and what’s good for other people is good for the world ultimately is good for us too. You know, it’s like what Cypress Hill said – “What goes around comes around”. (Cypress Hill – “What go around come around!” – I couldn’t have said it better myself, except that it’s “what goES around comeS around”, but other than that, well done Cypress Hill.)

OK this might sound bit cheesy and naive but I think it’s true, and what I’m trying to say is that it’s stupid to divide ourselves up into little groups and isolate from each other, alienate people, stigmatise or scapegoat people and point the finger at others for being different. We should celebrate our differences, like our different customs and behaviour but we shouldn’t let those differences drag us into fighting each other on behalf of people who just care about their own power. Yeah man. Deep. OK, that was a cheesy and slightly preachy message there, but there it is. I think there’s a place for a little bit of cheese and maybe the odd bit of preachiness on this podcast sometimes because I enjoy the fact that my podcast is something that crosses borders and I think these things need to be said. It’s nice. If you don’t agree that we’re all interconnected in complex ways and that humans all basically deserve to be treated with respect, and that we have more things in common than differences – if you don’t agree with me, then leave your comments on the webpage unless you’re too busy shredding documents in an office somewhere.

So, back to the photos

Seeing people’s working lives – it’s awesome to observe the different types of work that my listeners do, and there are some interesting things in there, like Julia from Russia who works with gold for example.
Multitasking – it’s great to see so many people managing not just to listen to the podcast but also to do other things at the same time – like playing the piano, cooking, driving or in some cases answering the call of nature – (that means going to the toilet – yes I got a couple of pics of people listening in the loo). Good work (not for the toilet thing – I’m not judging you based on your performance in the toilet) but good work for the multitasking if that’s how you listen to this podcast!
Babies listening – There are a couple of little babies (newborn ones) listening too, which I do think is a good way to get the kids started on English. I wonder what this new generation will be like in English – the generation who will grow up with access to English online. It’s possible to raise kids with good English if you just let them interact with it from an early age. It’ll definitely help. Obviously, you should speak to them and get them to speak to you in English too. Hunter in Taiwan – I’m happy to see he’s smiling while listening to the podcast!
I know that some of my episodes are really long. I’ve spoken about how I think that’s good for your English. But I realise that your time is precious and I think it’s just brilliant  that you choose to spend that time listening to this.
So, as ever – thank you for devoting your time to this podcast. I’m glad my work is appreciated.
Obviously it’s a free podcast and I do this in my free-time so really it’s you who should be thanking me – writing me heartfelt messages filled with praise and admiration, sending me generous donations and and religiously recommending my podcast to every single person you meet (literally everyone) but nevertheless, thank you for devoting your time to LEP. In fact, joking aside, many of those things are true – I really do get regular messages from my listeners telling me how appreciative they are. In fact, you may have sent me an email or written a comment or something saying thank you and I appreciate that. Your feedback is great.

Also, congratulations to you for having the sense to listen to a podcast to improve your English, because in my professional opinion it’s a very good thing for you to do and it should give you an edge over other people who don’t do it. Obviously you should also do other practice as well, to activate your English including doing plenty of speaking if you can find ways to do that. But, you know, congrats for adding an English language podcast to your lifestyle. It’s BOUND to have an impact on your English.

So, now that I’ve rambled on about the podcast for a while let me now ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS of the competition and DESCRIBE THE PHOTOS in more detail. (why did I put those words in CAPITALS? …I don’t know – it just seemed more EMPHATIC!)

PHOTO COMP – RESULTS

4 prizes: 2 runners up, the winner, and the Luke’s Choice Award.

RUNNERS-UP (a mug each)

RUNNER UP (3rd place) Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener? 20 votes.

Walter near Milan in Italy - highest listener?

Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener?

Thoughts: This is simply an amazing view and it looks like the perfect place to listen to the podcast. Walking in the mountains must be invigorating and energising, and I hope you also get some mental stimulation from the podcast while you’re doing it. I also like the composition of the photo.

RUNNER UP (2nd place)

Photo title: Sergio’s illustration of me as a Jedi in training / Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! Total = 22 votes

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I'm Luke Skywalker, finally.

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I’m Luke Skywalker, finally.

Here’s a closer look at that illustration:

This is Sergio's illustration of me as a Jedi in training. :D There's another photo in the competition with Sergio doing the drawing - I consider them to be the same pic (this one https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/20/327-the-lep-photo-competition-please-check-out-the-photos-and-vote/sergio-tellez-lep-jedi)

Note: Just describe the photo. What’s yoda whispering in my ear? “Mmmm, strong in the ways of podcasting you have become, but incomplete your training is.” Why master Yoda? What must I do to become a true Jedi Master of English Teaching? “Hmmm, monetise your podcast you must! Yes! Create online courses! Download them people will! Help them learn, you can! Video courses you could produce, yes! Study packs, pdf worksheets. Publish and sell your own materials online you must. Only then, a Jedi you will be.” OK master Yoda. I’ll try. “Hmm speak not of “TRY”. DO or DO NOT. There is no ‘TRY'”. Your voice is a bit weird master Yoda, are you ok?

Thoughts: A lot of effort went into this. The illustration is great, particularly Yoda. You’ve also done a pretty good job of capturing my face, probably based on just one photo. Also, the picture shows a lot of things like the fact that you’re listening while drawing, you’re a Star Wars fan, and you’re aware that I am too. It shows that you’ve been paying attention! I am Luke Skywalker after all. It’s really funny and nice!

OVERALL WINNER (1st place) (a mug + t-shirt, bag or pad)

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework (29 votes)

Gabriella in Italy - listening while doing the housework

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework

Thoughts: This is a great pic because it shows very clearly the way that many people listen to the podcast – while doing something else. Gabriella is obviously very clever to combine the two, and she seems so happy! Big smile on her face, and it’s just a very striking and colourful picture. There’s something appealing about it. It’s a slice of life. We have a glimpse into your home, and we get a sense of how much you enjoy listening to the podcast. Lovely stuff!

Luke’s Choices for Honourable Mentions (from ones that didn’t win) – and one of these will receive a Luke’s Choice Award (a mug)

These are photos that didn’t win or get runners up prizes, but which I’d like to mention because I like them.
Esther and so many ginger biscuits 9
Dima Okun – listening all the time! 8
Lеksandra Sokolova – an artist who listens while illustrating – sashasokolova.com 8
Denis (Bosnia and Herzegovina) during his Orchestra Rehearsal 9
Thavorn Twinant from Thaliand in San Francisco 10
Hunter in Taiwan listening with 14 day old son 12
Zdenek_Lukas in Czech Republic 13
Sylke Strüber and her pet dog Robin in Germany 13
Meliana and bear in Wroclaw (in Poland), which is this year European Capital of Culture 15
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Alexander in hospital in Russia – don’t worry he’s ok – and he’s listened to every single episode of LEP while recovering.
Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1 (stayed up all night studying and then chose to listen to my podcast – instead of crashing out in bed, exhausted – you’ll go far my friend)

The ‘Luke’s Choice Award’

This is an award given to one of the photos that didn’t win, but which I personally like.
I like them all, but of the ones that didn’t win, this one stood out for me.

The award goes to:
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets (5 votes)

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Why have I chosen this one?

It’s a slice of life. First of all, we get a sense of daily routine. It seems so busy, with other people cycling past. A sense of movement. A sense of multiculturalism. Environmental issues – with he pollution. A sense of urgency. Although it was probably taken very quickly and it’s essentially a selfie, I like the composition, with the cyclists moving past in the background and to the side, with Daria on the left, quite close engaging us with those lovely blue eyes. It makes me wonder what she’s thinking while surrounded by all this traffic. It must be a stressful daily commute, but she seems calm while listening to the podcast. And she l looks like a ninja, which is cool.

If you’d like to buy some merchandise, click the image below to visit the LEP GIFT SHOP.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Other entries and their votes

Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1
Amir Khosh – the Dentist who listens to LEP 1
Sara Viñas in Beijing China with a mask for pollution 1
Gabriel Reis 1
Armando Torres driving in Mexico with the iztaccihuatl volcano in the background 1
Mohsen from Iran 1
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Vlad from Kharkiv in Ukraine, where it looks very cold indeed 1
Alex from Spain making delicious chocolate cookies with the kind help of her two girls 1
Valtesse Maria Thompson – hashtags are enough proof! 1
basma-salman listening in bed I think! 1
Mike in Sri Lanka or India 1
Ewelina – keep on running! (with headphones on) 1
Carolina from Santiago Chile 1
Amaia Garcia – Bilbao in Basque Country – Guggenheim museum 1
Emília Hosszú – she nominated herself in the most boring category – in the UK I think 1
Julien the French stonemason 1
Emma Lee – LEP Ninja from Australia – in her 6 year old son’s room 1
Adam from Poland, now a sheet metal worker in Leicestershire in England 1
Irina Lavrova – another frozen Lepster! 1
Tania from Chile now in Munich 1
Aine Ito – LEP Ninja from Japan now studying in Edinburgh 1
Farid from Algeria now living in Montreal Canada 1
Tetsro – shaving in Japan with Philip’s shaver – did you ask Philip before you borrowed it? 1
Junji Yanagi, from Japan, who prefers walking than taking the train because it gives him more time to listen to LEP – 2
Jonatan Uriel Vidal Carmona in Mexico City 2
Francesco Lotto – a foggy day in Italy 2
romana from höflein, austria – running betwen vineyards 2
Anthony CP from Spain – listening in Northern Ireland 2
Ivan Irikov at the Gym 2
Anna Maria Chachulska (Polish girl living in Netherlands) and Kermit and a gin and tonic 2
A lovely photo of Renato in a typical listening situation 2
Guillaume driving with The Thompsons in Switzerland 2
Ariel Tsai (from China) marking her students homework 2
Quyền Cao commuting and listening 2
Sebastian from Poland – feeling good after a 5 km jog 2
Sergey Abakumoff – somewhere in Russia – spot the headphones 2
Alexey Алексей keeping an eye on the road in Russia 2
playdoh crow multitasking with a nude_potato 3
Mamen – waiting for the snow in Biescas in Spain 3
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Kaline who listens everywhere! 3
Vasyl Usik on a bike ride in Ukraine 3
Sylke from Germany 3
Marina F with her listening partner – Daniel 3
Achim Winter – Cooking with Luke 3
Facundo Vilicich with a skipping rope in the PLaza Malvinas 3
huda s – favourite place for listening 3
Maxi from San Nicolás, a small town of Argentina – with the view from his kitchen and a cup of mate (local tea) 3
Paulina from Poland – listening in the morning. 3
Hideki from Japan and the Tokyo Skytree 4
Marina in Moscow 4
Jose, who listens while running to the toilet 4
Sabine from Germany – starting the day brushing her teeth in English 4
Leila somewhere in Russia 4
Carlos Rodríguez from Chile – multitasking 4
Alessandro from Rome on a ferry from France to England 5
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Kristina listening at -20 degrees C 5
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets 5
Charleston from Brazil – on the way to his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night 6
Julia from Minsk in Belarus 6
Eric in France – raising a glass to LEP 6
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Julia from Russia – a restorer who works with GOLD – note the golden LEP 6
Cristian cooking for his British fiancee – who also is a lepster 7
Joanna from Poland and her comments! 7
Kristina in Moscow – smiling despite the snowstorm 7
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Serezha Sergey from Moscow 8
Weijia Wang from China 9

Other stuff

Crikey! It’s the 7th birthday of LEP! I completely forgot about that!

Top countries by download over the last 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, year.

Nicknames for LEPsters

I expect I have many types of listener. Some of you have been listening for ages, some might be quite new. Some of you leave comments, some don’t. Some of you use transcripts, some just listen. I was thinking of nicknames I could use to refer to the different types of listener I have.  Here are a few ideas. They’re mainly acronyms. *Let’s see how many of these nicknames I can actually remember in the future! and Let’s see how many get adopted by you*

LEPsters (all people who listen)
LEP Ninjas (People who listen but never comment, or people who comment rarely, or people who comment anonomously and then slip away into the darkness)
DLLs – Dedicated Language Learners (obviously that’s everyone – but these are people who really go all out to learn using the podcast, like listening numerous times, repeating what they hear, keeping vocabulary records, studying transcripts, or using any kind of serious work ethic while listening)
Dudes – Anyone (men or women) who just likes to chill out while listening. You might have a cup of tea and lie down on your nice rug and just listen for the pure enjoyment of it)
Civilians or “muggles” (People who don’t listen and who have no idea that it exists)
Splitters! (People who used to listen, but decided to stop for some reason – especially if they listen to OPP but not mine)
Scrubbers! (People who know the podcast exists but just ignore it, choosing not to listen)
Passive smokers / Second hand LEPsters / Significant Others (Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends or husbands who listen because they’re with another LEPster)
Younglings (Kids who listen to the podcast)
Comrades – I’m referring to fellow English teaching professionals who listen to this podcast. I have a special sense of solidarity with other English teachers.
All creatures great and small (any animals who listen)
Aliens (just aliens – I imagine they’re scanning all broadcasts on earth)
NSA Agents (Those American secret service agents who are listening to this – imagine Agent Smith from The Matrix)
LTLs (Long Term Lepsters – people who have been listening for years – maybe since 2009 – early adopters)
Newbies – Anyone who’s just started listening recently.
The Lost Adventurers – Listeners who are quite lost  because they just don’t really understand what’s going on in episodes, but they keep pushing forwards anyway, searching for the truth. I imagine you sort of lost in the jungle, slashing at the foliage with a machete, trying to find the path that will lead you to the temple of English enlightenment.
Transcribers (LEPsters who take part in the transcription process)
Audiophiles (People who have downloaded audiobooks from Audible)
Talkers (People who talk on italki)
Cowboys / gunsligners = people who think I talk too much “You talk too much”
Readers (People who just read the show notes and transcripts, but don’t actually listen to the episodes)
Multitaskers (people who listen to LEP while doing other things)
Philanthropists (people who donate money to the podcast out of generosity and kindness)

I’m sure you could think of plenty of other types of listener. So, I invite you to think of other names and add them in the comment section.

POLL – What are the most common types of listener? Complete this poll to find out!

[socialpoll id=”2349285″]

I was interviewed by Olly Richards on his podcast, called “I Will Teach You a Language” and we talked about language learning

Did you enjoy episode 332 of my podcast, with Olly Richards? It seems to have been a popular one. If you did enjoy it, you might want to check out this new episode of Olly’s podcast, because he interviewed me. *I’m so proud right now*

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I was very happy to be interviewed by Olly because I listen to his podcast and think it’s great. He always gives such practical and motivating tips for language learning and all his advice comes from his own valuable experience as a learner of many languages. I was glad to be considered a worthy guest.

Olly chose to ask me about being a teacher and podcaster and what I’d learned from those experiences. Like in LEP#332 we continue to talk about some key principles about being a good language learner – attitude, time, practice and material. We also reflect on 7 years of Luke’s English Podcast (has it really been 7 years?!) and the pros and cons of the language classroom as a learning space.

Head over to Olly’s website to find out more, and to listen to the episode.

334. Interview with Craig Wealand (from InglesPodcast)

This episode features an interview with English teacher and podcaster Craig Wealand from InglesPodcast.com Craig is originally from Essex in England, but now lives in Valencia in Spain where he works as an English teacher and Cambridge examiner for the British Council. Craig has been an English teacher for over 20 years, and for the last few years he has also been producing episodes of his learning English podcast, which won the award for Best Educational Podcast in the UK Podcaster awards last year. In the episode we find out about Craig, talk about his career, his teaching experiences, his podcasting and also I ask him some random “quick fire” questions, just like he does with guests on his podcast.

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Preamble (some stuff about swearing and vocabulary before the interview begins)

Before we get to the interview, I’m going to do a preamble where I mention a few things about swearing and vocabulary. This might take about 10-15 minutes. The interview is coming! A preamble is a ‘preliminary statement’ or ‘information that comes before the main content’ – before the main, “meat” of the episode. It’s a starter, essentially. This is a 3 course meal, this episode. You’ll get preamble, which is the starter. Then the main course, which is the interview, and then a desert, which is just some more info and announcements at the end. So, here’s the preamble. You don’t mind a preamble do you? Do you? No? Not really? Maybe a little bit? What’s that? Oh, “get on with it Luke?” oh, ok.

swearing-at-workA Note on Swearing in the Podcast

You should know that there is a little bit of swearing in this episode (just a couple of s- words in the middle of the interview). I know most of you don’t mind swearing but I thought I’d let you know just in case you’re particularly bothered by it.

I just want to mention these points about swearing though, just to be clear about it:

  • Swearing is pretty common in English language culture – but it’s still very rude if you use swear words in the wrong situations.
  • Usually, we just swear when we are with close friends, or in certain informal situations like at a football game, in a comedy club, or when we’re particularly angry – like when you’re driving and another driver does something dangerous on the road, or when you hit your thumb with a hammer, or something like that.
  • For you as a learner of English I’d say – just be aware of the impact of swearing in some situations and remember that, of course, you shouldn’t do it in business meetings (usually) or in classrooms, or with your host family or something. In fact, swearing is quite a subtle and complex art and if you do it wrong and in the wrong moment it can make you look really bad. I’d say – if in doubt, don’t swear.
  • However, I want this podcast to be an authentic reflection of natural English and so I include some swearing some times. My aim is not to offend anyone.
  • Personally, I’m not bothered by swearing. I am rarely offended by it, and in fact in the right circumstances I find it quite enjoyable.
  • But I know you might be listening with kids in the car or something, or you might not like these words, so when swearing happens in an episode I’ll just try to give you fair warning in advance.
  • For a while I used to bleep out swear words when they happened in interviews. You might have heard a “BEEP” instead of a swear word. Actually, I got a few messages saying “Why are you beeping out the swear words? I want to hear them? I want to be able to hear every word, especially the swear words!” So – in fact a lot of you really want to hear the swear words. Click here to listen to episode 83. “How to swear in British English”
  • I know what most of you are thinking. You’re thinking – “It’s fine Luke. There’s no need to justify it. We don’t mind. No worries. Now, get on with the podcast! Bring it on!” OK then. Yes, I don’t need to go on about it so let’s carry on. And that brings us back to…

Craig Wealand and his podcast – InglesPodcast.com

Craig produces and records episodes of InglesPodcast himself and there are 3 types of episode on the show. There’s “Learn English with Reza and Craig” in which he’s joined by his friend Reza, and there’s “Pass FCE” which is all about the Cambridge FCE exam and then there’s “Mansion Interviews” in which Craig interviews various interesting people that he has discovered in one way or another. Last year Craig contacted me for an interview on his podcast, and I was very happy to be considered interesting enough to be invited on to the show. You can listen to that episode of InglesPodcast, with me, by clicking the link below.

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By the way, you ought to know that Craig’s website and podcast are both created specifically for speakers of Spanish, who are learning English. So, if you’re a Spanish speaker you should be particularly interested in Craig Wealand’s work and I suggest that you check it out. But it’s not just for Spanish speakers – the majority of the content on the podcast is for anyone learning English. Some Spanish words crop up every now and then.

 

Craig and I have a few things in common as we are both English teachers who do podcasts and who live in foreign countries, so it was really nice to chat to him and I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed recording it.

Just a reminder: Check out MansionIngles.com and InglesPodcast.com for Craig’s work and his podcast.

 

Vocabulary

Now, during this conversation various nice chunks of vocabulary came up, and I’d like you to listen out for them. These are just bits of vocabulary that I think you should notice – natural expressions that you could add to your vocabulary. I have listened to the interview again and prepared a list of those expressions and I’ve printed them on the page for this episode – so you can go there, take the expressions, put them in your vocab list or flashcards app or whatever. I’m also going to read them out to you now. As a listening exercise you can then try and notice these expressions as they appear naturally in the conversation. That’s right – you can play a game of vocab hunter! (or just have a cup of tea and a biscuit if you prefer)

Here are the phrases you should try to identify. There are about 35 of them. I’m going to read them out but it’ll be super-duper quick. The main thing is I just want you to be mindful and notice these phrases. I’m not going to explain them all now, I’m just reading them out for you quickly. But, in the next episode of this podcast, which I’ll upload soon, I’m going to go through all these phrases properly, explaining and clarifying them. That should help you to really learn them.

So now, let me quickly just list these expressions like a robot – these are expressions to look out for in the episode. They will be fully explained and clarified in the next episode. OK, here we go…

  1. I thought it was about time that I got you (back) on LEP (it’s about time I did something)
  2. It’s been getting on for 3 years. (to be getting on for xxx years)
  3. How did you end up being an English teacher? (to end up doing something)
  4. He ended up marrying an Israeli girl.
  5. I took part of the credit for that. (to take the credit for something)
  6. I didn’t see myself doing a clerical job. (to see yourself doing something)
  7. You couldn’t just give away money willy nilly. (to do something willy nilly)
  8. You must have brushed shoulders, as it were, with Essex’s finest. (to brush shoulder’s with someone) (Essex’s finest)
  9. As soon as I got over the fear of standing in front of people… (to get over something)
  10. I came back to Spain with my tail between my legs. (with your tail between your legs)
  11. You start looking at things in a different light. (to look at something/see something in a different light)
  12. The grass is always greener on the other side.
  13. I lived in an English cocoon for the first year. (a cocoon)
  14. As drivers, they’re very erratic and dangerous! (erratic)
  15. It was just a scrape – a small dent in the car. (a scrape, a dent)
  16. Lots of tailgating goes on when you’re driving. (tailgating)
  17. Customer service sometimes falls a bit short. (to fall short)
  18. I’m always on a mission to go to the pub. (to be on a mission to do something)
  19. I want to sit in a pub, nursing a pint of Guinness. (to nurse something)
  20. To be constipated.
  21. My French is coming along. (to be coming along)
  22. It’s a question of trying to squeeze (in) bits of learning into the lifestyle. (to squeeze something in)
  23. It doesn’t just magically rub off on you. (to rub off on someone)
  24. They had to use the language in order to get by in a work environment. (to get by)
  25. If I don’t pull out the stops and work on the language then it’s not going to improve. (to pull out the stops)
  26. I’m turning the tables on you now Craig! You’re going to be in the hot-seat this time. (to turn the tables on someone / the hot seat)
  27. I guard my work desk with my life. (to guard something with your life)
  28. If she dares to put a pen on my desk I shout at her and we have an argument. (to dare to do something)
  29. You’d keep them in a bag and every now and then you’d take a look and have a whiff of the petrol. (to have a whiff of something)
  30. They (cats) look down their nose at you.  (to look down your nose at something)
  31. I’ve never been very keen on cats. (to be keen on something)
  32. I can’t talk you round. (to talk someone round)
  33. The thing about dogs is that they’re too needy, too high-maintenance. (needy / high-maintenance)
  34. Doesn’t that bother you, that they’re so fickle? (fickle)

Ok, so there are some phrases that you’re going to hear. Visit the page for this episode to read those expressions – you could google them or look them up in a dictionary, or just wait for the next episode when I will clarify them properly. The interview is about to start. See if you can spot the phrases I just mentioned, or alternatively, just kick back, relax and enjoy this mellow conversation with Craig Wealand.

*Interview Begins*

So, that was my chat with Craig Wealand

Hope you enjoyed it! Head over to his website to check out the podcast, especially if you’re a Spanish speaker and I know there are a lot of you listening to this – but promise me one thing – don’t forget me ok?

Remember all the vocab and expressions I listed earlier in the episode? That’s all going to be explained and clarified in the next episode, unless I get abducted by aliens and I can’t upload it.

So, we’ve had the starter – the preamble, we’ve had the main course – the interview, now here’s the dessert. Let’s say it’s a cake made from announcements.

Some more announcements

Here are just some other announcements and bits of news for you.

I’ll be on Blab, speaking to Craig + guests tomorrow (Thurs 10 March) at 5pm CET
If you enjoyed the conversation in this episode and you’d like to hear more than you might like to check out our blab conversation. We’re going to talk about comedy, and you can join us if you want. Just click this link to check it out blab.im/craig-wealand-comedy-with-luke-thompson

That’s really a message for those of you who listen to this as soon as it is published because I expect many of you will have missed the conversation now but never mind – I think you should have a look at Blab anyway, it’s a cool platform which is an interesting way to just listen to people talking online, or do some speaking if you’re feeling up for it.

You might be thinking – What’s Blab, Luke? OK, I’ll tell you.

Blab is an app and a website that allows you to have video conversations online. It’s a bit like Periscope, but 4 people can talk not just one, and everyone else can watch the conversation and add comments and questions. You can get Blab as an app on your phone or just through your web browser on your computer. If you’d like to join us, just click this link  blab.im/craig-wealand-comedy-with-luke-thompson (or find the conversation by searching my Twitter feed – I’m @englishpodcast )

To take part you’ll have to sign up with Blab (it’s free and easy to use). Then you can watch the conversation (you’ll see 4 video screens with the 4 people talking to each other), leave comments or questions, or if there is an open spot you can join the conversation yourself, and be one of the 4 people on video in the discussion. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s a chance to just listen to English, ask questions or even do some speaking practice if you feel up for it. Our blab conversation is going to start at 5pm tomorrow (Thurs 10 March). Here’s the link again blab.im/craig-wealand-comedy-with-luke-thompson

If you’re too late and you missed that, have a look at Blab anyway. It’s pretty interesting, and I might be doing more things on Blab in the future.

So that’s blab.

italki

Here’s a quick reminder about italki, the sponsor for this podcast. Go to teacherluke.co.uk/talk to check out italki where you can find native English speakers and qualified teachers for conversation or tailored lessons just for you. It’s one of the best ways to improve your spoken fluency and is also cheaper and more convenient than taking language lessons offline. This interview with Craig was done on Skype just like lessons on italki and it’s easy easy easy. Also, because you’re a listener to this podcast italki will give you a voucher worth 100ITC (about 10 dollars) which you can use on subsequent purchases of lessons and stuff. That’s not too shabby! teacherluke.co.uk/talk to start talking now! Oh, and if you’re shy – don’t be – the native speakers there are very friendly and it’s a totally cool and relaxed atmosphere in which you can just take your time and start speaking. Don’t be shy, give it a try.

Alright, that’s almost it for this episode, but I would still like to ramble on a bit more about some other podcast-related news and admin.

New comment system

As ever I invite you to leave your comments on the page for this episode.

You might have noticed that I have a new comment system on the website now. I’m now using the Disqus system. That’s basically an in-built comment system on my website. If you’ve seen it, let me know how it’s working for you. It should be smoother and more user-friendly than the previous comment system. For me, the improvements are these things:

You can now easily upload pictures into your comments. So that means you can share images, your own photos, memes etc.

If you include a link in your comment it should appear and will automatically be clickable (the old comment system used to do weird things with links sometimes – make them disappear etc). Some video content will automatically embed, which means that a link to a youtube link will automatically become an embedded youtube video in your comment.

Disqus is used on lots and lots of websites, so if you sign into Disqus you can then comment on lots of other websites using the same profile, and you can keep track of all the comments you’ve made on my website and any other website using Disqus.

Comments can now be deleted or edited by you, so if you’ve made an error or something, you can correct it later.

If you sign up to Disqus you can also get email notifications when other people reply to your comments. So it should now be easier to keep track of the conversations between you and other LEPsters on different pages of my website.

When you leave a comment with the new system, it won’t reload the whole page when you submit your comment. That used to happen with the old system, which was a bit annoying if you wanted to comment and listen at the same time. Now you can listen and comment and it won’t interrupt the episode by reloading the page. Nice.

Show us yer face! The Disqus system lets you show your own photo next to your comments. If you sign in with Twitter or Facebook it’ll show your Twitter or Facebook pic, or you can just upload another photo to your Disqus profile. If you just log in as a guest when you leave a comment (that means you just give a name and an email address but not a full Disqus user) you will appear as an LEP Ninja, with a little photo of an LEP Ninja – as you jump out of the shadows, leave your comment and then disappear into the night. ;)

All the old comments are still there and can still be read. At this moment in time, the website has had about 10,000 comments in total across all the pages on the site. They’re all still there.

The Disqus system should help to build more of a community feeling on teacherluke.co.uk

For full details about comment notifications (and how to control comment notifications from the old WordPress system), just click here: How to control comment notifications from WordPress and Disqus.

It’s good to see that so many of you have written about your commitments to learning English after listening to episode 332 with Olly Richards. It’s also nice to see that Olly himself is getting involved and writing some messages of encouragement there for you in the comment section for episode 332.

Also, I’m glad that lots of you enjoyed the misheard lyrics in the last episode. That was just a bit of a laugh wasn’t it? One thing I’d like to correct is that Meg and Jack from the White Stripes aren’t brother and sister. In fact, they were married to each other for many years. So, I just wanted to clarify that. For some reason I always thought they were siblings, but no – they were an item. That’s a bit weird. Maybe that explains why Jack was so upset about what happened with me at band practice, and why he chucked me out of the band. If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, go back to episode 333 and listen to the whole thing!

Another nice thing I wanted to add here in this post-interview bonus section is that so many people have voted for their favourite pics in the LEP Photo Competition. Voting is now closed for that, so if you forgot to vote, that’s just your hard cheese! I’ll let you know about the winning pictures in due course.

That’s it – remember that the next episode should be about that list of vocab and expressions from the interview with Craig. I’ll explain and clarify them, which should help you both understand and pick up some more vocabulary, in this long and enjoyable journey into the acquisition of natural English. So, next stop – vocabulary in episode 335. (unless for some reason I can’t upload episode 335, like because I get abducted by aliens, or something less exciting, like I have to much work to do).

Small Donate ButtonThanks for listening all the way to the end of another long episode of LEP – you are a truly wonderful, attentive and patient human being and good things are bound to come your way sooner or later if there’s any justice in this world. Bye!

CraigWealandPODPIC

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!

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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