Tag Archives: teaching

395. “Have you ever…?” with Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn

In this episode I’m joined by Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn and we do a speaking exercise that I often use in my classes to help my students to practise using different grammatical structures in their speaking. I thought it would be interesting to record some native speakers doing the exercise too, so that’s what you’ll hear in this episode, as well as various little anecdotes, a few jokes and general chat. The conversation contains swearing and a few humourous comments which shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

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Today I’m joined by a couple of guests. First of all I have Paul Taylor with me, fresh from an appearance on French TV.

And also, Robert Hoehn is back on the podcast.

Last time Rob was on was in episode 143, in which we hung out together in Rob’s kitchen, we made some tea cocktails and then Rob offended everyone with some obnoxious comments about American foreign policy.

Since then I have never invited Rob back onto the podcast.

Until now.

I thought it was time to bring him back on since his name has been mentioned a few times recently.

First of all, we have to deal with the fallout from his last appearance (which actually wasn’t that bad) before going on to talk about some other stuff.

How Rob offended everyone last time (well, not everyone…)

Last time Rob said some comments which were not supposed to be taken seriously. Just some stuff about America bombing other countries.

He hasn’t been on the podcast since. (except for a brief appearance during one of the Star Wars episodes, and a telephone call to Paul once)

So I think we need to deal with that and perhaps roast Rob a bit before moving on. Once he’s been roasted, his name will be cleared and his debt to my audience will have been paid.

Jokes from Rob’s roast

A roast is something that American comedians do. It usually happens on someone’s birthday. All the comedians take turns to insult the roastee. It gets pretty harsh and insulting, but that’s the whole point and everyone gets roasted. You’re not supposed to get offended. It’s a tradition.

Here’s what I said during Rob’s roast.

Hanging out with Rob is a profound experience. After you spend time with him you might have a crisis of religious faith. Not because he has persuasive arguments against the existence of god, but because if god does exist that means he has created everything, including Rob – and the question is “Why?” “Why would he bother?” “Why would an intelligent creator choose to invent Rob Hoehn? what would be the point?” It’s impossible. It wouldn’t have happened. So, Rob’s existence is basically proof that we are alone in the universe. No intelligent designer would have decided to create Rob, so there is no god and this is all the result of random chance.

But it’s exciting hanging around with Rob.

I imagine it’s a bit like spending time in the company of a great ape, like an orangutan.

It’s exciting, because you never quite know what he’s going to do next, and it’s fun to speculate on just how intelligent he really is. Whenever he manages to do something, like communicate a complex message it’s always very exciting, “Ooh! he asked for a banana! Ooh he offended everyone! Amazing!” but there’s always a fear that he’s going to get confused and start throwing things around or pull someone’s arms out of their sockets.

Rob of course is American. He’s from Minnesota in the mid-west of the USA, and he’s a great ambassador for the USA because he basically embodies all of the values that we associate with the united states. Basically I’m saying that he’s fat and ignorant.

I invited Rob onto the podcast a few years ago. I thought it would be a good idea. I’d now like to read a selection of comments that I got in response to that episode.

The first one is a message from a regular commenter, someone who regularly commented on every episode I uploaded.

“Hello Luke, as you know we all love your podcasts because they’re authentic and full of life…”

That’s nice.

“…However…”

Ooh

“However, this American was utterly arrogant and full of himself. I’ve never heard such a smart alec person in my whole life, I feel like jumping off a bridge.”

I never heard from that person ever again. Never left a comment ever again. He disappeared. I don’t know what happened to him.

Here’s another one.

“Hello Luke. I’m afraid…”

That’s not a good start.

“Hello Luke. I’m afraid I am completely disgusted by Robert. At 42mins50seconds…”

So this person continued to listen, despite being completely disgusted.

“At 42mins50seconds, on the subject of American attitudes to other countries, he said ‘The truth of the matter is that we just do not fucking care. We do not care at all what anyone thinks, because we Americans know that we can completely dominate everyone and if someone pisses us off too much – BOOM! Smart bomb.”

I’m actually quite proud of these comments because I don’t know if you noticed but they are very well written. In fact, I have used Rob’s comments a few times in class because they are very motivating. The students can’t wait to give all kinds of angry and abusive responses to what he said. They just keep producing more and more English in response to his statements. So thanks Rob you have definitely helped to improve the motivation and productivity of my listeners.

Rob originally moved to France to train to become a clown, which wasn’t necessary, let’s be honest. He wanted to become a clown because he was so inspired by his hero Ronald McDonald.

So there we are Rob – all is forgiven. You’re back to square one again. Welcome back to the podcast.

Have you ever…?

This is a conversation generator that I use in class. I usually use it in fairly low level classes in which they’re just learning to use structures like:

  • present perfect for life experiences – “Have you ever ridden a Segway?” “Yes, I have / No, I haven’t”
  • Questions in past simple tense – “When did you ride it?” “How was it?” “Did you enjoy it?”
  • ‘would like + infinitive / wouldn’t like + infinitive’ – “Would you like to ride a Segway?” “Yes, I would / No, I wouldn’t”

Have you ever…?

  • seen a ufo
  • eaten an insect
  • flown in a helicopter
  • done a jump in a car
  • made a complete fool of yourself in public
  • killed an animal by mistake
  • had a public argument or fight
  • gone scuba diving
  • slept outside (not camping)
  • met a famous person

Tell us about them in the comment section. Have a good day, evening, morning, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. Bye.

Luke

Paul’s TV Show

Paul is currently having a lot of success on French TV (and on YouTube) with his series of mini TV shows in which he makes fun of French culture. The show is also produced with the help of Rob Hoehn, and Amber and I have writing credits on some episodes. Check out a couple of recent episodes below.

 

Photos

grasshopper-guacamole

Paul’s grasshopper guacamole

385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 1)

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

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234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

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

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

Transcription / improvisation

Breaking the Intermediate Plateau

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

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

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

What is intermediate?

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

CEFR B1 descriptions

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

CEFR C1 descriptions

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

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

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

How do you know if you’re intermediate?

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

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

Dialang dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do people hit an intermediate plateau?

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

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

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

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

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

Comfort zone.

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

How to break through the intermediate plateau and continue making progress

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

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

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

Follow just one subject in a lot of depth

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

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

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

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

Challenge

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

Habit

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

Exposure

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

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

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

Vocabulary & Mnemonics

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

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

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

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

Part 2 coming soon…

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

378. Holiday in Thailand (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of this description of my recent holiday in Thailand. In this one you can hear more stories and descriptions about different parts of the country, learning how to cook, a conversation with a monk, doing yoga every day, a couple of messages from listeners and some reflections on gratitude, forgiveness and guidance. Transcript and notes below.

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Laughs

Part 1 got a bit rude in places, didn’t it? I told you about a couple of embarrassing and slightly difficult experiences, a dodgy joke, and some cultural details about Thailand itself, including some things that you might not know about the country. You might have noticed that I was trying to make you laugh a bit, rather than just explaining each individual thing we did there. Some people left comments on the website expressing how much it made them laugh.

For example:

Hahahha this is such a funny episode! I was laughing out loud in the metro and everyone thought I was crazy ! Really great thanks Luke!

Hello Luke!
Hilarious episode, and of course a great one. I was laughing out loud while roller skating. Everybody was looking at me like a crazy woman but it was worth listening despite that :). Thank you for your great work.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

I’m going to carry on in this episode with just a few more descriptions of things that happened in Thailand. If you’re thinking of going on holiday there, I would recommend it. A couple of weeks is enough to see and do lots of things. Thailand has a reliable tourist infrastructure which means it’s not difficult to find accommodation, transportation, plenty of places to eat good food, diverse activities and cultural things to see such as temples, art and craft, cooking lessons, night markets, beaches, snorkelling, scuba diving, trekking, kayaking, yoga and meditation. They have the sea, the city and the hills and forests. It’s a diverse and friendly place and a top place to go for a holiday which can be both adventurous and laid back.

My wife and I had a great time there and in this episode I’m going to talk to you about some of the other highlights of the rest of our trip.

Contents

  • Cultural visits in and around Bangkok
  • A couple of dodgy jokes which I came up with and which have to be told
  • Chiang Mai in the north
  • Learning how to cook Thai food
  • In conversation with a monk
  • Koh samui – an island in the south
  • Our yoga retreat – which I expected to be peaceful and relaxing, but which was more like a punishing fitness regime in high temperatures
  • Mouse news (for people who listened to the episode I did before the holiday)

Grand Palace & Wat Pho

This is the temple of the reclining buddha. It’s brilliant, but “Wat Pho” sounds to me like a question, especially if you say it in a kind of hip hop, black American gangster accent.
– I visited the temple of the reclining buddha in Bangkok
Wat pho?
– Just because I thought it would be an interesting thing to see.

Not the strongest joke ever.

Ayutthaya

Former capital, now a place with loads of impressive old temples and archeological sites. It was extremely fascinating and brilliant but we walked around it all day and get extremely hot and tired, and I came up with this joke.

So, I visited the ancient capital of Thailand today.
– Ayutthaya?
Yes, I’m absolutely exhausted!

Again, not the strongest joke ever. But come on, it’s not bad!

Chiang Mai

How the city looks and where it is.
Walking streets.
Cooking class.
Monk chat.

Koh Samui

Yoga retreat
Relaxing? No – quite a punishing regime.
Early starts, cycling, ‘core foundations’, embarrassing yoga. Mix, repeat.
Food = vegan and veggie.
No beer at all.
Met some very nice people including a German lady called Doris who was a lot of fun. Mui Thai, cross fit etc. She could kick me in the head. Taught me important German words like “shveiss!” For sweat. She discovered my podcast and now might be listening. Hopefully I’ve converted her into being a LEPster.
Lots of funny times at the yoga retreat which felt a bit like being in a cult, or some kind of luxurious jail.
Yoga was quite hard – especially for me – my hips and hamstrings are a disaster. They’re very stiff and inflexible. Eg sitting cross legged is really hard.
My body wants to fall over backwards.
My favourite yoga position – lying in my back!
Great instructors including a couple from England – Ellie and David. David was particularly impressive.
I was basically the only man there except for a few other blokes hanging around doing another program, but in our group I was the only man. All the girls, including my wife I should add, all fell in love with David, especially after they googled him and discovered a few things, such as the fact he was a green beret in the marines, he used to be a fire-fighter, he became a black belt in some obscure Philippine martial art ( trained with a grandmaster)
His sessions, particularly ‘core foundations’ we’re pretty punishing and while the girls found it to be enriching and inspiring, I felt like my ego was slowly being crushed like a grape.
Fitness and yoga sessions twice a day.
Sweating all the fluid out of my body twice a day.
Eating noting but super healthy food.
Getting up at 6 each morning and going to bed at about 9.
All that yoga and tons of meditation.
I felt amazing afterwards, and still do – and that was just 5 days.
In the meditation you are encouraged to focus on things inside you quite deeply.
Gratitude.
Forgiveness.
Guidance.
Combined with the hard fitness work and yoga, which is very humbling and detoxifying I found that in my meditation sessions a lot of painful and guilt filled memories came back to me.
It was like all the bad things were being flushed out of my system.
It was quite painful at times – emotionally as well as physically.
I won’t tell you about all the painful memories that came to me while I was contemplating forgiveness / asking to be forgiven, but I can share one or two – just to give you an idea.
Years ago.
Bad time in life.
Young, immature, directionless, not looking after myself.
Identity crisis.
Full of awkwardness.
Not in a good place or where I wanted to be.
Working all day every day in a crappy job.
It seemed that every day was filled with nothing but awkward encounters.
Just crushing social awkwardness in which I just came across as really weird and unable to function normally. People must have thought I was odd. Either that or I was paranoid and imagining it all. I could not tell.
Felt totally out of it.
I was actually very depressed.
There was just one guy really who I got on with.
Older than me, quite shy but with a dark sense of humour. We got on alright.
We were like buddies.
Doing the job just to get by. Hated it.
Playing in a band in the evenings but I hated that too – lots of personal politics. Couldn’t sleep at nights.
Invaded by weird negativity all the time.
Thank goodness I’m in a much much better place these days although sometimes that kind of feeling comes back.
A lot of those feelings and that whole emotional space came back to me when I was searching for forgiveness.
In the end I was really fed up and decided to basically start again.
Went back to my parents. Always feels like a failure.
Anyway, some of the people at the job organised a little leaving drink for me the day after I left. I basically left with them saying “see you tomorrow evening at the pub”.
Walking out of there felt like a huge relief.
The next day for some reason I just didn’t want to go out.
I didn’t go to the drink.
I stood everybody up at my own leaving drink.
It might not feel like a big deal to you now. Not so serious. In fact, people do shitty things like this a lot – ignoring a so called friend that they don’t want in their life any more. Dumping a girl by text message. Shitty things.
Anyway, for some reason this kept coming back to me and it just really bothers me.
The guy I met and struck up a friendship with, that’s the worst. I feel really bad about him making an effort to come to the drink and then I just didn’t turn up.
Anyway, I was asking for forgiveness for that, and a few other things too which I won’t mention because it’s too personal.
So overall it was quite an experience to flush out all these negative things – physical and emotional.
It’s a good thing too. It feels great.

I think holidays are best when you actually have something to do which takes you out of yourself. It helps you deal with your past, enjoy the present and prepare for the future.

Think about something you’re grateful for, something you’d like to be forgiven for or someone you’d like to forgive, and something you’d like guidance for.

Back in Paris – September – back to work at the BC – also on my online work – I think I’m going to launch a new competition – stay tuned.

Mouse News

In the last episode I told you a quick story about how I nearly caught a mouse in a mousetrap, but it escaped even though its back legs weren’t working. I was worried that the mouse would crawl off and die on some little corner of the flat somewhere, and then would make a smell. I didn’t tell my wife about this by the way, because what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, but I was worried that we’d come back and there would be a bit of a ‘dead mouse smell’, but thankfully our flat smelled fine and actually quite nice (we have lots of plants). So, weirdly, despite wanting to kill the mouse in the first place I am actually quite glad that the mouse is still alive. I wonder if it’s learned from its mistake or not. Perhaps I’ll get it next time around.

That’s it!

Join the mailing list. Subscribe on iTunes or other podcasting software. Watch out for news of a new competition I’m going to launch, and as ever let me know what you’re thinking and practise your English by leaving a comment on the website.

I want to say thank you

  • people who have left me comments following the latest Annual General Meeting episode in which I asked lots of questions. Thank you for your answers – it all helps me to get an idea of what you’re thinking and how I can adapt my episodes slightly to your preferences and things like that
  • people who I have met in person and who have spoken to me personally about the podcast – you know who you are
  • people who have made donations to LEP – you are now LEP stakeholders or patrons and I appreciate it very much indeed. You’re the life-blood of LEP and you help to keep the whole show on the road.
  • transcript collaboration
  • similarly – I would like to thank those of you who chose to use my url codes when signing up with italki and audible. Whenever someone does that I get a small kickback and it all helps to keep the podcast alive, and also to convince people around me that all of this is worth doing. I could be spending my time doing more private English lessons, or doing more teaching at university etc, but both you and I would rather I produced episodes of this podcast, right? Well, donations and sponsors allow me to do that. If I didn’t have those forms of support, it would be hard to justify to myself and my family that I spend so much time doing this. I still plan to make it more of a career for me, with the aim of doing just online content creation as my full-time job, and that’s a work in progress. I know I’ve been saying that for years and it’s way overdue, so watch this space for more content which can help you improve your English in new and improved ways.

 italki offer www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

audible offer www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke

image luke cooking

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

This episode of the podcast is all about telling anecdotes in English. Anecdotes are little stories about our experiences that we share while socialising. It’s important to have a few anecdotes of your own and to know how to tell them properly. In this episode I’m going to give you some advice for how to tell an anecdote and then you’re going to listen to some true anecdotes told by members of my family that I recorded yesterday evening during dinner.

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This episode is sponsored by italki. Speaking practice is very important in developing natural, fluent English and this is now really easy to achieve because with italki you can find plenty of native speakers and teachers to talk to, you can set your own schedule and you don’t even need to leave the house – you can do all of it from your own home. If you want to practise telling your anecdotes, do it in conversation on italki. They have lots of friendly and experienced teachers who are ready to help you to learn English your way. Go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and to get a voucher worth 100ITC when you get some lessons. OK, let’s get started!

I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. My brother and I are just taking a couple of days off and spending some time here doing the usual things like enjoying the fresh air, talking to my parents and taking advantage of our mum’s cooking.

Yesterday evening we were eating dessert at the end of dinner and we started talking about anecdotes. I think I asked everyone, “Do you have any anecdotes?” I asked them to think of an anecdote they’d told before. We were about to start when I realised that it might be a good idea to record the  talking, so I quickly got my audio recorder and then recorded them telling those anecdotes. Each one is about 5 minutes long.

Before we just listen to their little stories, let’s consider anecdotes and how important they are in English.

From the archives: Another episode about telling anecdotes (episode 44) teacherluke.co.uk/2011/10/11/telling-anecdotes/ 

By the way, listen to this episode from the archives about telling anecdotes. I gave some advice for anecdotes and then we listened to a couple of funny ones. This episode develops the ideas I talked about in episode 44.

What are anecdotes and why are they important?

The Collins Online Dictionary defines an anecdote as a short, usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one.

So, essentially anecdotes are little true stories about ourselves. We are usually the protagonists in our anecdotes, and they’re usually told in informal social situations. Sometimes there are moments in our social interactions when we just start sharing little stories about things that have happened to us in our lives. This might happen at a dinner, or when you’re generally spending some extended time with other people. Anecdotes are a really common part of the way we socialise in English. They allow us to entertain the people around us, while letting them know a bit more about us.

Both of those things are vital in my opinion. If you’re trying to build a relationship with people it’s important to both entertain them and also share some personal information with them. Entertaining the people around you is important because it just makes them feel good. If you can make people feel good, they’re much more likely to trust you, to give something to you in return and also, it’s just good to entertain people around you. It’s just fun and enjoyable to hear about people’s experiences. Also, giving away some personal information is a good way of encouraging other people to do the same thing. That’s how you build trust. For building a relationship you can do two things: ask questions and be prepared to give away details about yourself. Anecdotes help you achieve the second one in a fun way.

So, how do you tell an anecdote in English?

Tips for Telling Anecdotes

  1. Find the right moment. Usually they take place in informal anecdote sharing sessions. Don’t just jam your story into a conversation. It should add something to the subject of the conversation. E.g. you might be sharing travelling stories, or stories about weird people you’ve met, or university stories, or dangerous experiences. That’s when it’s appropriate to add your story too. Maybe you’re talking about a particular subject and your anecdote will add something to that conversation. E.g. you might be talking about the difficulty of finding accommodation in your town, and you could tell the story of the crazy landlord you used to have. Perhaps someone has just told a story, and you’ve got one that relates to it too. All of those are good moments to introduce your anecdote. Only tell your story if it relates to the conversation you’re already having.
  2. Keep it short! Don’t get stuck in the details too much. Focus on the impact of the story. What emotion are you attempting to elicit in people? What is the feeling you’re trying to get across? Is it frustration, fear, danger, humour? Focus on communicating a feeling and try not to let the details get in the way. You need to communicate that feeling by explaining the right events. The best anecdotes allow the listeners to discover the same feelings as you did when you felt them, so describe the events and aspects of the situation that made you feel that way. Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it pretty short and simple. Say the word “anyway” when you get stuck in the details and want to move on to the main stuff.
  3. Use the right narrative tenses. Usually we tell anecdotes in the past. That means you’ll be using past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Here’s a really quick and simple explanation of how you use those tenses. Past simple – this is the tense you use to explain the main actions in the principle part of the story. E.g. I saw a spaceship, I stopped my car, the spaceship flew above me, all the objects in my car started floating, I saw a bright flash of light, then I woke up lying down in the forest with a pain in my backside.” Past simple is usually used for short actions that happen one after the other. Past continuous – we use this to explain the situation at the time the main events happened. It’s for context. It sets the scene. E.g. “I was driving in my car through the countryside late one night when I saw something strange”. Also, it’s for moment by moment action, and it’s when two things happen at the same time. Past continuous is for the longer action of the two. The action starts, is interrupted by a shorter past simple action, and then may or may not continue. E.g. “I was trying to remember where I was when these guys in black suits turned up and started asking me questions.” Past perfect – this is for giving back story. Use past perfect to talk about events that happened before the main events of the story. E.g. I told the guys that I’d just been camping in the forest and that I’d got up in the night to go to the toilet and I’d lost my tent, and that’s why I was sleeping outside like that. I told them I hadn’t seen any aliens or anything like that.” Past perfect is a difficult one to notice when listening. The “had” is often contracted and can be impossible to hear. It’s possible to identify past perfect because of the use of past participles, e.g. “I’d seen it before” and “I saw it before” but when regular verbs are used it can be almost invisible. Compare “I’d finished” and “I finished”. They sound very similar. Sometimes ‘had’ is not completely contracted but pronounced using a weak form, like ‘/həd/’ e.g. “He had been there before”. It might also be part of a continuous form, like “He had been talking to someone else”.
    So, there are the narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous, past perfect. Past simple is the most common one – you could probably just tell the story with that one on its own, but adding the other two will give your stories more depth and range. Think about how you use these three tenses when describing events in the past.
  4. Tell us how you felt. That’s pretty simple. Just give us some emotional content.
  5. Use direct speech. Don’t worry about using reported speech, just use direct quotes. E.g. “He said “What are you doing here?” and I said “I’m just camping!” and they both said “Where’s your tent?” and I said “It got stolen in the night, or I lost it, I can’t remember”. I don’t think they believed me but they told me to be careful and to go home.
  6. Introduce your story with a quick sentence, like “I got abducted by aliens once” or “I saw a weird thing once” or “That sounds like something that happened to me once”. That’s generally a sign that you’ve got a little story to tell. However, if people aren’t really listening, don’t worry about it, this might not be the moment for your story.
  7. When someone has just told a little story, ask a few questions or respond to it in some way. Show some appreciation of the anecdote – like, “Oh my god I can’t believe that!” or “Wow, I can’t believe that you got abducted by aliens!”
  8. Try to make it quite entertaining! If the story doesn’t have much entertainment value, keep it extra short. You can exaggerate the story a bit, but don’t lie, that’s just deceptive. For example, don’t just make up a clearly fictional story about being abducted by aliens. Obviously, it should be very much ‘based on a true story’. Repeating anecdotes a few times is quite common. In fact, people carry anecdotes with them through their lives and repeat them again and again. You probably have a few experiences that you’ve described a few times – they’re your anecdotes. Try converting them into English, and it’s ok to practise those anecdotes a few times because you’re learning the language. Think about experiences you’ve had in your life – how would you describe them fairly quickly in conversation, focusing on the main events and how they made you feel at the time?
  9. Show us when the story is finished. Typically we might say “That’s what happened.” or “And that’s it” or even “That’s my alien abduction story.” It’s nice if your anecdote can end with a funny line or a punchline, but that’s difficult. It might also be good to say what you learned from your experience.

Now, let’s hear my family’s anecdotes shall we? (yes)

By coincidence, all these anecdotes relate to meeting strange people and most of them involve some element of danger (in the case of the boys’ stories) or embarrassment in my Mum’s story.

Imagine you’re at the dinner table with my Mum, Dad and brother. As you listen, think about the things I’ve just mentioned, and try to notice them. You could listen to this episode a few times. Try to notice different things I mentioned about telling anecdotes. Which anecdote do you think is the best? Why is it a good one?

Here are some key points to watch out for.

  • Narrative tenses used – in particular, can you hear when past perfect is used? It’s only used in 3 out of the 4 stories. Watch out for past continuous to set the scene. Is that one used in every story?
  • When someone says “anyway” in order to avoid getting caught in the details
  • What is the main feeling that the person is trying to communicate? Is it danger, embarrassment, weirdness?
  • How does the anecdote end?
  • Any new vocabulary?

I’ll let you listen to the anecdotes, and then I’ll deal with some vocabulary and make any other points afterwards.

Mum’s Anecdote – Meeting the King of Tonga

(Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited)

*some past perfect is used to explain what the king had been doing before mum arrived

It’s going to fall very flat = it’s going to fail to have the intended effect. E.g. if a joke falls flat, it doesn’t make anyone laugh. If a story falls flat, it is not impressive or amusing.

It’s been built up too much = We say this when people’s expectations have been raised. To ‘build something up’ means to raise people’s expectations of something. You’d say this before telling a joke if you feel like everyone’s expectations have been raised. E.g. “What’s this Russian joke? I’ve heard you talking about it a lot, so it must be amazing.” “Well, it’s been built up too much now, it’s just going to fall flat.” or “Have you seen the new Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, oh my god it is amazing!” “Don’t build it up too much!”

I was nothing to do with it = if you have nothing to do with something it means you are not involved or connected to anything at all. E.g. “Mr Thompson, I want to talk to you about the bank robbery that occurred in the town centre last year.” “Bank robbery? I had nothing to do with it officer, I promise!” or simply “There was a royal visit happening, but I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to pick up my husband.”

I was just a hanger-on = a hanger-on is someone who just hangs on. This is someone who is nothing to do with what’s happening but they just hang around. E.g. musicians often have hangers on. These are people that hang around the band even though they’re not contributing to the show at all. They’re just hanging on because it’s cool or fun to be with the band.

I was skulking in the corner = to skulk means to kind of hide or keep out of sight, often in a slightly cowardly way.

He beckoned to me = to beckon to someone is to wave someone over to you with your hand. It’s to do a motion with your hand which encourages someone to come to talk to you.

He was eyeing her up = this means to look at someone because you fancy them – to look at someone with sexual interest. E.g. the king of Tonga was eyeing up my Mum all evening.

 

James’ Anecdote – Hastings Story

a skate park = a place designed for skateboarding

the ramp’s in the church = a ramp is a thing for skateboarding on. It has sloped sides so skaters can go up and down on it

a hog on a spit = a hog is a pig, and a spit is a stick that goes through the pig, suspending it above a fire

we had too good a time = we had a good time – but if you want to add ‘too’ you need to say “we had too good a time” not “we had a too good time” – this works with the structure in general. “It was too big a pizza for me to eat” or “It was too long a journey to make at that time of night”

I was too drunk – not in a lairy way = to be lairy means to be aggressive and anti-social. It happens when some people get drunk. They get lairy.

I’m bigger than him, I can take him = to ‘take’ someone means beat them in a fight

We crashed out = to crash out means to fall asleep, usually quickly and often in a place where you don’t usually sleep.

I’ve painted everything in hammerite www.hammerite.co.uk/ = hammerite is a kind of metallic paint

He was coming round = to come round here means to wake up, or come back to consciousness

I didn’t get interfered with = to interfere with someone could mean to touch them in a sexual manner

*just past simple

 

Dad’s Anecdote – Hitchhiking in Italy

*all the narrative tenses used

We got a few good lifts = a lift is when someone takes you somewhere in a car. E.g. “Could you give me a lift to the station?”

This car pulled up = this is when a car stops by the side of the road (also – pull over)

He was a slightly dodgy character = dodgy means untrustworthy or suspicious

The car broke down = stopped working

They turned on him and said “What are you doing?” = to turn on someone (not turn someone on) means to suddenly start criticising or attacking someone. In this case, there were curious neighbours listening to the argument and after a while they turned on the guy – they decided that he was wrong and they started criticising him

I managed to jump in and grab the keys from the ignition = to manage to do something (this is an important verb structure) – also ‘the ignition’ is the part where you put the keys in order to start the car, e.g. “You left the keys in the ignition”

I dangled the keys over a grating / a drain = to dangle something over something is to hold something in the air so that it swings from side to side slightly. E.g. We sat on the edge of the bride with our legs dangling in the air.

 

Luke’s Anecdote – Liverpool StoryLEPcupPOLARIOD

*Includes quite a long passage with past perfect when I described what had happened to the man before he arrived at our front door.

There was some sort of commotion going on in the hallway = a commotion means a period of noise, confusion or excitement

He ran through all the alleyways = alleyways are passages between or behind houses

That’s it for vocabulary!

Which anecdote did you like the best, and why?

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357. Learning Languages with Olly Richards

In this episode I’m talking to Olly Richards the polyglot from England. Our conversation covers points about what accent you should learn to speak with, the importance of developing clear pronunciation and effective communication in English, using Periscope to listen to native English speakers and the physical side of learning a language. See below for a transcript to the introduction, more information and links to Olly’s work.

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Introduction Transcript

Olly Richards, the polyglot from England, is on the podcast again today. This is the second time I’ve spoken to him on this podcast. The first time was back in February I believe. [A bit about how to say “February”] That’s episode 332. If you haven’t heard that one, I recommend that you go into the archives, find it (or click here) and listen to it because it’ll give you some good context for this one and also it’s just really useful for English learning because it contains loads of good advice and lots of motivation.

Olly is a great guest for this podcast because he basically spends his time learning languages and helping other people to learn languages too. Olly has managed to learn lots of languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic and Cantonese and he learned them all in adulthood, not as a child. That’s quite an achievement and he’s managed to do it using some pretty clever strategies, techniques and routines which we can all apply to our language learning too.

Now, I’ve arranged to speak to Olly over Skype in just a few minutes so I’m just gearing myself up for the conversation now. I’m getting my Skype settings correct. Last week I saw him briefly on Periscope talking about a recent work-related trip to LA and how the trip had affected his language learning routine and it sounded very interesting so I sent him a message saying “Hi Olly, I saw you on Periscope the other day – Do you fancy coming on the podcast soon for a catch up?” and he quickly replied by saying “I’d LOVE to come back on the podcast. I could do podcasts all day long, and especially yours since it’s so much fun.” So that’s that. It’s all been set up.

We haven’t done much preparation for this beyond just setting a time for the conversation. The idea is that we’re going to just catch up on his recent news, see where the conversation takes us and ultimately share more conclusions and tips about language learning.

Oh, there’s just one last thing. Do you remember in our last conversation that Olly asked me to make a commitment about my French learning? I promised that I would practice for 10 minutes a day. Also, I seem to remember a number of you made commitments about your learning in the comments section and I wonder if you’ve kept up with them. Well, honestly – I haven’t been the greatest student because I haven’t kept my promise. Yeah, I know, I know. To be fair, I did go out and buy some self study materials which I chose very carefully and I started with the best of intentions, but I only did a few pages and then got out of the habit of doing it. So, I feel a bit bad about that and I wonder if he’s going to bring it up. I think he probably will, but let’s see. Now, my French has definitely improved recently but the rate of improvement is just not good enough and I need to pull my socks up and turn over a new leaf and adding some daily practice into my routine would definitely help. Anyway, let’s see if he brings it up.

Now though, it’s time to talk to Olly Richards the polyglot from England. Here we go.

*Conversation Starts*

We talk about…

  • His trip to the USA
  • How accents change when people travel to different places (e.g. when Brits go to the USA their accents ‘accommodate’ to the local accents a bit, and vice versa)
  • The relationship between accents and our identity
  • Accent reduction vs learning clear pronunciation
  • The physical side of learning a language. Is it normal to experience any physical pain when practising your speaking
  • The importance of engaging in conversations in English to improve your effectiveness in communication – italki is a good way to do this

Click here to check out italki – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk

Links

Now, I’m going to have my lunch. Cheers!

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

350. Film Club: X-Men Apocalypse (Review)

This is the final episode in this superhero series and simply put, I’m going to talk about the latest X-Men movie. Now, you might not be into the superhero stuff and I totally understand, but let me give you a heads up about this episode. Basically, I didn’t like the film and so I’m more interested in making fun of it than talking about it seriously. So, that might make it more fun to listen to than the other superhero ones I’ve done lately. You can just kick back and enjoy me taking the mickey out of this film.

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Honestly, I really enjoyed recording this. It was more fun than watching the film itself. Sometimes talking about a film is far more enjoyable than actually watching it, especially if the film is a cheesy mess full of cliches, incoherent plot-lines and stereotypical bad guys. So, even if you haven’t seen the film I invite you to listen to this episode, have a bit of a laugh and then move on to the next episode. There are no major plot spoilers in this review. So don’t worry if you haven’t seen it – but my general opinion of the film might have an influence on your enjoyment of it – or maybe not. Perhaps you’ll completely disagree with me.

It’s called X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s actually the 3rd film in the rebooted X-Men franchise and about the 6th film in the X-Men series as a whole, if you don’t include the two Wolverine films and the Deadpool movie. I went to see it the other day, and immediately after coming home I recorded this review.

You know the X-Men, right? … (some improvised stuff about the x-men here)

So, on to the review.

So, imagine me walking home after watching the film, getting into my flat, picking up my microphone and immediately starting to record these comments before I’d even taken off my jacket.

That’s the context, so let’s go, and I’ll speak to you again after my film review.

*Review begins*

So, that’s what I thought of the film. I thought it was a stinker! But I did kind of enjoy watching it. Mainly so I could then make fun of it afterwards.

I was a bit critical of the film. I wonder what you think of it if you’ve seen it. I should also say that it’s far far easier to criticise a film than to make one. Ultimately, it’s really really difficult to make a feature film. I think that most of the films that get made aren’t very good. We only see the ones that get published and given worldwide releases. So, it’s all well and good me talking about how bad it was, but I should give some credit to the filmmakers for actually making the effort in the first place. The audience reaction here though – it paled in comparison to the Captain America movie.

Again, let me know your thoughts in the comment section. I always look forward to reading your comments there.

Some comments from Facebook

Question: Who’s the best superhero?

Francesco: Definitely you Luke! ☺

Hamza: My parents – because they deserve all the respect and the best they give me everything they could, I’ll never forget thier sacrifice <3

Aritz: Hard decision… Batman or Spiderman?? mmmm I’ll go for the latter as we could have now a different debate: should Batman be considered a superhero?

Hien: I always admire soldiers who never betray their country even though they were tortured terribly in war.

Carmen: Deadpool, for sure. He can’t be killed, he’s got a cheeky sense of humour AND he’s aware of his own existence in the books/films he’s in and breaks the 4th wall all the time.

Luciano: Conan, The Barbarian!

Hoang Minh: Dear Luke, please make a podcast about this subject :))

Ricardo: Superman for sure!!

Jean: Super Luke! For sure!

Francesco: Deadpool because he’s a badass.

Тима Салихов: I think is Superman :) Because he is Superman :)

Virginia: Wonderwoman. She’s a Woman!

Gloria: ” El Chapulín Colorado” ( mexican Superhéro ) although he is a coward he manages to overcome his fears . By Chespirito. ❤️

Ricardo: My favorite superhero is Spider-Man because he fights to win his money like me. He is not rich like Batman although Batman kicks ass.

Lê Vũ QC: Iron man because of RDJ’s fantastic potrayal.

Ethan Lee Ok. So the answer is captain america and here’s why: (Roy Wood Jr. Stand-Up 06/12/14)

Anton: Sherlock Holmes without any doubt.

That’s the end of this episode, and also the end of this series on superhero films. The plan now is to turn to more real-world issues because there the UK is due to have its referendum on the EU in less than a month, and there’s plenty to talk about.

OK film fans, that’s it then. Speak to you soon. Bye!

Luke

346. Rambling on a Friday Afternoon

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

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

Phrasal Verbs & Idioms Listed Below

But first…

Some comments from listeners

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

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

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

Language Task – Spot the Phrasal Verbs & Idioms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics in Today’s Ramble

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

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

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

– Jack Whitehall at the Comedy Cellar

– Billy Cobham at the Blue Note

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

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

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

The Phrasal Verbs & Idioms – Definitions and Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

336. Drinking Scottish Whisky at a German Business Meeting While Wearing a Kilt and Playing a Flute… and other stories (with Carrick Cameron)

This episode features another natural conversation with a native English speaker. This time I’m talking to my mate Carrick, who I’ve known for about 10 years now. He is a teacher who used to work in the same school as me, back in London. We have a few things in common, like the fact that we’ve both had strange travelling experiences as English teachers, including the time when he once attended a meeting in Germany that involved not only the usual business work but also the drinking of some very rare and expensive scotch whiskies, which meant that the meeting turned into a kind of musical party with guitar and flute playing, quite a lot of whisky drinking, a late night and then, unsurprisingly, a bit of a hangover the next day. Listen to hear a few anecdotes, some authentic English conversation and more.

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All this took place in Germany as I said, so you could say that he had a “hangover in Hanover” (Hanover is a city in Germany). Although to be honest he was actually in Frankfurt not Hanover – yeah, I just wanted to use the line “a hangover in Hanover”. Yes, that was supposed to be clever and funny, but never mind. :P

Anecdotes

We also share a few other anecdotes about travelling experiences we’ve had, including the time when I ended up being invited to my Japanese doctor’s house on New Year’s Day to make a kind of traditional cake by bashing a ball of wet rice over and over again with a big wooden mallet while being laughed at by a group of small children. Does that sound familiar at all? Have you ever done that? You might have, if you’re Japanese, or if you’ve spent new year in Japan. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? Well, keep listening to find out.

Sound Quality

Another quick thing to say now is that admittedly the sound quality during the interview is a bit poor. I recorded it over Skype because I’m in France and Carrick is in England, and Carrick wasn’t able to get to a computer with a good microphone because he was (and still is) completely stuck to his sofa with a very bad back, the poor guy. He’s got a nasty slipped disc in his back which means he can’t move. So during this conversation he was basically lying on his back, talking to me over Skype with his phone in his hand.

So, yes, I know the sound is not 100% great and it might be difficult to hear his words at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s actually very common these days to speak English over Skype or on conference calls – like for example if you’re in an international business meeting talking to someone who’s in another country. The sound isn’t always perfect in those situations, is it? So, I think you need to get used to hearing English in less than perfect conditions. So, Audio quality is a bit bad, but don’t give up – you’ll get used to it after a while. It’s good practice.

While You Listen

As you listen, watch out for these things: the moments when Carrick (intentionally) switches from an English accent to a Scottish accent and back again, the way he describes different types of Scotch Whisky including words to describe their tastes and where they are made. So be mindful of vocabulary and grammar that you’re hearing, but above all – just enjoy being able to listen in on this conversation between a couple of mates. You can imagine you’re in the room with me listening to the conversation on speakerphone.

Ok, that’s it for my introduction. I’ll now get out of the way and let you listen to conversation in full. I’ll speak to you again when the conversation is over.

*Conversation Begins*

Talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking talking.

*Conversation Ends*

So, that was Carrick. I really hope his back gets better soon because it must be pretty miserable for him to be just lying there all the time. I expect all of us sometimes think “Ooh, I’d love to spend 3-4 weeks lying on my back all day watching TV, high on a cocktail of prescription drugs.” (well, not everyone thinks that but you know what I mean) but when that lifestyle is forced on you as a result of an accident, it’s not that much fun is it. So, I hope Carrick gets well soon for his own sake, but also I hope he gets well soon for the sake of his wife and kids too, who might want to actually sit on that sofa and watch TV themselves at some point, and I also hope Carrick gets back on his feet soon for the sake of the kids in his school who are probably missing Mr Cameron in their classes!

More Stuff about Sound Quality (actually, it wasn’t that bad, was it?)

So, this is nearly the end of the episode. I wonder how the sound quality was for you? I expect it was a bit difficult to hear every word but you got used to it. Is that right? What’s that? It was difficult at the start but you got used to it? Ah good, I thought so. Sorry? You couldn’t understand everything – it was difficult and possibly a bit frustrating at times? Ah, sorry about that, but I think it’s good practice because your brain has to work a bit harder to guess the things you don’t understand. It’s good training. What was that you said? You’d expect the audio quality to be much higher in future please. Oh, alright, well – sorry but this is a free podcast right? So, you get what you pay for ok?

No, I agree. It would be better if the quality was always perfect, but that’s not always going to happen. Sometimes when I interview people on Skype the sound might be less than perfect, but as I said before – that’s normal in the real world, sometimes the sound quality will not be perfect when you’re using English over the phone or on a conference call. It’s good for you to get used to it.

Things to remember about learning a language (encouragement)

Just remember these things: learning a language is a long-term project and you will encounter various obstacles but you mustn’t give up. One of those obstacles might be that you can’t understand every word in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, or in a conference call. So, even if you didn’t understand all of that. Don’t give up. I realise I’m preaching to the converted here, because if you’re listening to this it means that you listened to the whole conversation and you didn’t stop. So, well done you.

Shall I do an episode in which I explain the vocab, like in episode 335?

But really, I wonder if you’d like me to record a follow-up to this conversation in which I explain and clarify the content, like I did after the Craig Wealand interview. If you would like me to do that, let me know by leaving a comment or giving me an email at luketeacher@hotmail.com. I value your feedback.

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italki

Don’t forget to use italki to find a native speaker for conversations or a teacher for lessons. It really is a great way to push your English to higher and higher levels. Visit teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and when you make a purchase italki will give you 100 free credits which you can spend on lessons in the future.

One tip: use the “search teachers” function to find the right teacher for you, and that includes special skills like Cambridge Exam preparation and business English. teacherluke.co.uk/talk or click an italki logo on my website.

italki teacher search page

A couple of comments at the end, just before we finish up here.

  • If you’ve sent me an email recently, or ever, and I haven’t responded I am sorry. I can’t respond to them all but I do read them all I promise! I also send emails to people and don’t get responses and I know how it feels. I’m a huge fan of Greg Proops and Adam Buxton. I met Greg Proops at a book signing in Paris, shook his hand and exchanged a few words (I told him I was a comedian and he nodded sagely). I wanted to talk to him for hours, but I just said “nice one” and left. I then wrote him a long email, telling him how much I enjoyed his podcast called “The Smartest Man in the World” and I wrote a very British invitation to join me on an episode of LEP some time. I never got a reply. I also tweet comments to Adam Buxton all the time, who I am sure is an absolutely lovely person but I never get a reply or a retweet or anything, but that’s ok of course, I don’t mind, but I feel a little bit ignored, you know? Again, I don’t feel entitled to a reply or any attention at all because his part of the deal has already been done – he’s already given me hours of lovely talking on his podcast so he can’t be expected to respond to every tweet or email. Totally fine with it. So, anyway, thanks for your comments, messages, emails, tweets and so on – I appreciate your thoughts very very much.
  • Again, thank you to my Japanese doctor if he’s listening (I doubt it) for not only saving my skin when I was sick by taking care of me, giving me medicine and arranging for me to spend two weeks in Kinugasa hospital. I liked the video you played to me when we were both drunk on that New Year’s Day (at about 4.30pm I believe) in which you and your band were playing a live version of “Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers. It was awesome.
  • Hello to anyone who likes whisky – I hope you enjoyed this episode.
  • Hello to the people of Scotland – I hope you choose to stay in the UK, but I’d understand if you choose to leave. I hope you don’t though. (I didn’t ask Carrick about Scottish Independence – maybe that can be a future episode)
  • Hello to a Japanese LEPster called Satomi who recently came to one of my shows here in Paris. Satomi, it was very nice to meet you and your friends after the show and I am very glad that you chose to introduce yourself to me. Give my regards to Yoshi – that’s a French guy who she was with, who called himself Yoshi, and not the cute dinosaur who is friends with Super Mario. Yes, I had a Yoshi at my show. In fact, not long ago I had a Luigi at the show too. I’m yet to have a Mario there, but let’s hope so. I wonder what it would be like to have Mario in my audience. I wonder how he would laugh. Maybe he’d go “wawawawawa” (Mario noise), or maybe if I talked for too long without making a joke he’d heckle me by saying “Letsa GO!” and I’d say – “can you stop heckling?” and he’d say “It’s MARIO time!” and I’d say, “*securty* remove this man from the room please he’s disturbing the performance”.
  • Hello to the lovely Argentinian couple who listen to this podcast and who also came to another one of my recent comedy shows. It was lovely to meet you too!
  • Let’s go back to Japan for a moment – Hello to all my Japanese listeners. I love Japan very much and I miss it a lot. Whenever I see pics of Japan on Facebook or listen to music from that I used to listen to when I was there I always think “ah 懐かしい” – “Nihon Natukashii ne!” which roughly translates as “Ah, good old Japan!” That phrase is used to express feelings of nostalgia. You know those waves of nostalgia that you feel when you remember something? You might see a photo, or perhaps smell some food that brings you right back, or you might actually go to the place and immediately feel a kind of comfort in being there. That’s exactly how I feel when I drink a really good cup of Yorkshire tea or something, like “Ah, good old Yorkshire tea”, or “Yookusha tea natsukashii da-yo ne?” So, hello Japan, I know you’re listening – “O genki desu ka?” which is a bit like saying “alright?” in English. I do plan to visit Japan with my wife – I must show her around the place a bit, I think she’d love it and I’d be able to say “natsukashii”, “heeee” and “hooooo” all the time. It would be nice to go drinking (in moderation of course) in an izakaya or something. And perhaps someone might go red in the face and fall asleep after having a couple of beers. Look after yourselves, ok!
  • Photos – check below to see some pics of Carrick’s funny experience at the German business meeting in Frankfurt at Deutche Bahn. If you work at Deutche Bahn – get in touch! Perhaps you know someone who was at the meeting. It’s possible. You should also find a pic of me hammering a ball of rice with a wooden mallet to make mochi, while wondering what was going on in my life! (I now realise what was going on – I was having a lot of fun indeed).
  • You’ll also find the names of Carrick’s favourite whiskies and the other brand name whiskies we mentioned in the episode, in case you want to check them out.
  • Thanks again for listening. :)

Carrick’s Top 3 Single-Malt Scotch Whiskies

1. Lagavulin
– from the island of Islay
– It’s delicious
– It’s smokey
– It’s filtered through peat

2. Macallan
– It’s from the Highlands
– It’s got a smooth, creamy texture
– It’s like very alcoholic milk (although it doesn’t look like milk of course)

3. Caol Ila
– It has a subtle flavour
– It’s like Lagavulin but more delicate

Other types of whisky
Blended scotch whisky – it’s made from a blend of different whiskies, it’s cheaper and is easy to find in supermarkets. Typical brands: Teacher’s, Bell’s, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal.

American brands of bourbon whiskey (they’re not Carrick’s ‘bag’ = he doesn’t really like them, they’re not his cup of tea)
Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark.

That Japanese “best whisky in the world”
I think Carrick was talking about this one – Nikka Whisky (it doesn’t begin with a Y, unless you mean “Why?” – and the answer is – “Because it tastes so good!”) www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/nikka-whisky-taketsuru-pure-malt-17-years-old.13912.html

Photos

Other useful episodes of LEP

This episode featured several anecdotes. Click here to listen to an episode about how to tell anecdotes in English.

Click here to listen to the full story of how I got sick in Japan.