A conversation about travelling and learning languages with Ethan from RealLife English. Ethan is very well-travelled, having lived in at least 6 different countries. He’s also learned a few different languages to a good level as an adult. Let’s talk about his advice for adapting to new cultures and learning languages in adulthood. Vocabulary notes and language test available below.
Arrive with an open mind and be ready to try anything
Don’t just hang out with people from your country
You have to make an effort to integrate into the country
Things might be weird, but you’ll end up having some really memorable experiences
Push yourself to live like a local, even if at first you feel like the lifestyle isn’t as good as it is in your country
Get over yourself! Get out of your comfort zone
Don’t go just to learn English, go somewhere for the whole experience – and if you do that you’ll probably learn English more effectively as a result
Ethan’s advice for learning English on your own
Watch a popular TV show with subtitles – it’s important to choose a show that you like.
Listen to music and taking the time to look up the lyrics.
He just talked to people, even though he was really awkward and shy because he made lots of mistakes.
Motivation is key – he fell in love with Catalan and this gave him the motivation to push through the difficult moments, the awkwardness etc. So build and nurture your motivation to learn a language. Realise how good it is for you to come out of your shell and remember that you can get over your barriers if you really want to.
Find the right people to talk to, find people who are understanding and sympathetic to your situation (someone who’s learning a language too).
Do a language exchange because the other person will be much more likely to tolerate your errors, and will be willing to help you out because you’re going to do the same for them. (you can use italki to find language partners in many countries – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk )
Be voraciously curious – cultivate the desire to do more. If you’re listening to music, check the lyrics and look them up. While watching TV use a notepad or an app like Evernote on your phone to note down vocab and then look it up later.
Practice by speaking to other non-native speakers of the language you’re learning. Other learners of the language are likely to be more sympathetic, they’ll probably have more in common with you, they might have some good advice, you’re going through a similar experience. Having peers with whom you can share your experience is really important.
Some language from the first part of the conversation (Quiz below)
Listen to this episode to get some definitions and descriptions of this language.
Refurbished buildings (made to look new again)
You can see some random smokestacks and things sticking up (tall chimneys)
Three blocksfrom the beach. (distance between his place and the beach)
I tend to go running there (I usually go running there. Not – I am used to going running there)
The weather hasn’t really been beach-appropriate (appropriate for a beach!)
We’re just rolling into fall here (entering) (fall = autumn)
I enjoy running by the beach, especially because the whole area around the beach is very iconic from when they had the Olympics here (impressive because it’s a famous symbol of something)
A modernist humongous whale structure (massive)
Every time I look at it I’m just astounded, it’s beautiful. (amazed)
Language for describing Ethan’s background (background – narrative tenses, past simple, past continuous, maybe some past perfect)
I moved back here (already) two months ago.
I was living here two times before, once for a year and a half and once for 3 months. (normally I’d use ‘I lived’ but perhaps he was thinking of it as a temporary thing in both cases)
Ways he talks about his current situation – present perfect to describe past events with a connection to now.
I’ve come back to stay, probably indefinitely, hopefully for a couple of years. (this is the only example actually)
Describing your background and your current situation
Describing your background
You need to use narrative tenses to describe your background story, and you need to learn how to do this in English and to be able to repeat it with some confidence. It might be worth thinking of how you can make your background story quite interesting or entertaining, or at least say how you felt about it. It just helps in social situations.
Remember: Past simple – the main events of the story – the main sequence Past continuous – the situation at the time, or longer events which are interrupted by shorter actions Past perfect – background events to the main events of the story
E.g. I went to university in Liverpool and studied Media & Cultural Studies. It was a really interesting degree, but it wasn’t very useful. I stayed in Liverpool for a while and played music in a band but we didn’t make it and I left and moved back in with my parents which was a bit of a nightmare. I didn’t really know what to do with myself for a while, but I decided I wanted to travel and go somewhere quite different, and I‘d always been curious about teaching, so I trained to be an English teacher and I got my first job in Japan. I stayed there for a couple of years, had a great time but decided that I wanted to come back because of family reasons. I taught English in London for 8 years, did my DELTA, got a job in a good school in London and then I met a French girl and I moved to France so we could be together. I’m very romantic. (actually that was almost exclusively past simple, wasn’t it?)Describing your current situation
Then you also need to talk about your current situation. We do this with present simple (permanent situations) and present continuous (temporary situations) and present perfect to talk about past actions with a connection to now.
E.g. I live in Paris these days. I’ve been here for about 5 years. I’ve worked for a few different schools, teaching English. These days I teach at The British Council. I’ve been there for about 3 years now. I’m also developing some online courses which I hope to release on my website before too long!
I’m from Colorado in the USA. Luke: Oh cool. (I said cool – because you should say cool when someone tells you where they’re from, or at least you should show some interest or curiosity, and be positive about it.)
It’s below Canada and above Mexico, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (my non-specific description of where Colorado is – basically, it’s somewhere in the USA, haha etc)
It’s (to the) north east of Arizona, (to the) east of Utah, above New Mexico.
What’s the difference between ‘east of London’, ‘to the east of London’ and ‘in the east of London‘?
The four corners – it’s just a couple of hours away from the town I grew up in. (how would you put that in your language? “It takes two hours to get there”, “It’s a couple of hours from here”
It’s a tourist trap now. You go and put your hand in the middle and you’re in four states at once. (a place that attracts tourists and is probably best avoided)
I was born in my house. Durango, Colorado. That’s the town I lived in.
When I was 17 I moved to Germany for 6 months.
It’s interesting to see that, when you’ve lived in a place for 20 years, how it evolves. (how it changes gradually over time)
Colorado is wonderful, it’s spectacular. (magnificent, amazing, breathtaking)
We’re so active, we’re always outdoors. There are spectacular hikes you can do.
There are 4,000 or 5,000 metre peaks. (summits, mountain tops)
It’s very different to Europe because you get that kind of old-west feeling. (from the period of western expansion) (wild west – cowboys and lawlessness)
My only criticism is that I lived there for 20 years, which is more than enough. (nice way to start a sentence with something negative in it)…. (more than enough = too much)
I’ve never seen a grizzly, and they are dangerous. (grizzly bear)
Mountain Lions – if you were by yourself and you encountered one, it might not be a great end for you. You might get eaten alive by a huge cat. (You don’t meet a wild animal, you encounter one.)
We have deer and elk and in the north we also have moose, and a lot of, we’d say, critters, like small animals. (deer = animals that look like they have trees growing out of their heads – you know what I mean. Like Santa Claus’ reindeer. Elk = big deer. Moose = really big elk. Critters – little animals like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, raccoons, skunks)
In the US you drive from city to city and you see endlessexpanses of mountains and plains. (wide open spaces)
That’s a fun question so I’d have to think. (a nice way to buy time for yourself when someone asks you a question, like saying “that’s a good question, let me think”)
When I was in high school I did a 6 month exchange in Germany and during that time I also got to live in Poland for 2 weeks. (difference between for and during?)
I lived in Spain in Majorca for a year during college, which is when I fell in love with this place.
Some time expressions to help you tell a story:
After that, after school, I moved to Brazil.
I joined RealLife English because they had started a few months before I moved there.
That’s when I moved to Barcelona. Then I moved to Chile for 6 months. Now finally I‘ve moved back here.
After that you can imagine I’m a bit tired of jumping around so much and living out of a back pack. Now I’m here to stay for a while.
This episode includes anecdotes and descriptions of our short visit to Las Vegas, including stories of more rental car issues, Las Vegas craziness, winning and losing $$$ and 11 English idioms that come from gambling.
⬇️ Episode script and notes (Idioms list below) ⬇️
It was just as a stopover between L.A. and other areas, and to have a one look in your life, see what all the fuss is about sort of experience.
Take the rental car back to the car rental company.
Remember them, from part 1 of this?
When we picked up the car in LA – just a Nissan hatchback by the way, nothing fancy, at the start of the trip we had to go and wait in a boiling hot car park in Inglewood or somewhere, where I stood waiting on my phone for ages waiting to get through to someone to tell them we had arrived, standing there on hold with my arm going numb and the sun beating down on both me and my pregnant wife, and after about 40 minutes a guy in a rental car came and picked us up, and told us “oh yes, the shuttle busses are in the garage – they broke down on Tuesday”.
We drop off the car, pay the money, ask about the difference in price between the bill and the receipt –
“Sorry Mani, isn’t here today.”
“Can you do it?”
“Sorry, I can’t. He’s the manager.”
(We got fobbed off by the girl behind the counter)
There’s supposed to be a shuttle (bus) service back to the airport.
But it’s obvious that this is a crappy little rental car company that is cutting corners and fobbing everyone off with this talk of the “shuttle” that is mysteriously always in the garage.
Again we’re told that the shuttle is in the garage so we squeeze into another rental car with a German couple this time.
My wife is in the front, and I’m squeezed in with the Germans.
The Germans are quite nice, but it’s pretty clear they didn’t have the best experience with their car and they’ve driven a really long distance, without cruise control (which is standard for rentals usually) and they’re saying to the driver,
“Do you not have cars with cruise control? Because it’s very uncomfortable to drive 4,000 miles without cruise control, you know?”
I’m thinking – 4,000 miles! Without cruise control. His leg must be knackered.
The driver goes “Cruise control? Yes, there is cruise control.”
“No, there is no cruise control in this car.”
“This was your rental?”
Turns out the “shuttle” is just the same car the Germans just rented.
“Yes, there is no cruise control in this car. It was very difficult for us. Do you not have cars with cruise control?”
The driver is not interested in taking questions. He says “Some of them do and some of them don’t.”
“I think it would be good if your cars have the cruise control”
“I’m just the driver man”
I note in my head that our car had cruise control, and I never used it, not once, but I don’t say anything. I don’t think it would have helped.
“Well, our car had cruise control, and guess what we never used it! Ha ha, it would have been useful if we’d swapped, right? I bet you would have appreciated that after the first 3,000 miles!!”
But I didn’t say that. I just ‘enjoyed’ the really awkward vibe in the car, and the knowledge that my wife was pretty much steaming, but keeping herself under control.
After the Germans got out my wife chose to cross-examine the driver.
“So, where are the shuttles?”
“Oh, they’re in the garage, we had some trouble with them.”
“Both of them?”
“Yes, it’s just a coincidence.”
“OK. When did they go in the garage?”
“Oh just on Friday.”
“Well last week you said they broke down on Tuesday.”
“I’m just the driver”
“I know you’re just the driver but…”
“You’re getting driven there, I’m driving you personally…”
“I know but we just don’t appreciate being lied to, that’s all…”
At this point he got really angry and started making it personal.
“OK, you’re getting personal with me now, and I don’t appreciate you making personal attacks against me, ok?”
As I was taking the bags out of the back, I was trying to say, “Look, it’s not personal we’re just commenting on the service. We were told one thing, we get another thing. It’s not you, right? it’s your management, right?”
He just went “Well I deliver you to the airport and you make it personal” and he just got in the car and drove off.
I couldn’t help feeling bad for the guy. I think he probably has no choice but to lie about the shuttle thing because the crappy management of this company keeps telling their customers there will be a shuttle. It’s written in their emails and stuff. I imagine he’s just trying to keep his job.
He couldn’t really say “Yes, well to be honest sir our company is lying to you. We don’t have any shuttles, it’s not worth it – you know? Because we don’t get enough customers to justify using a whole bus, and there’s obviously nowhere for us to park one anyway, so we just use these cars and I’m always dealing with these problems, but it’s because the management keep lying.”
He can’t admit that the company lies or is wrong. It’s unfair on him. I know, I’m making excuses for the guy, but what can he do?
The management should just say they have a personal car service, it would solve the problem.
That’s the solution. We don’t care about shuttles. Just say there’s a personal car service. The driver can introduce himself. “Hi, I’m Carlos, I’m your driver, where are you guys from?” Etc. That would solve the problem. Instead, Carlos (or whatever he’s called) is on the defensive and can’t start talking to the customers because he knows they’re not happy. Poor Carlos, and poor customers.
I wonder what’s really going on there – at this particular franchise of Wrong Cars™.
Anyway, after that we got on our plane for the short flight to Vegas. We could have driven but we planned this to make sure there was as little driving as possible, because when you’re pregnant it’s not good to sit in a vibrating car for hours on end, and anyway it sucks to be stuck in a car all the time.
We arrive in Vegas
It’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert for goodness sake.
We rent a car from another company this time – more established. Enterprise. Admittedly, it’s a bit more expensive but we don’t want to risk it because we’ll be driving in some fairly deserted spots and we want a car that will not break down and that has customer service that’s actually available by telephone.
So we get to the car rental area – a massive building in airportland. Dazzling service. We’re in the car in a matter of minutes and it looks brand new. We rented a small SUV. The main thing was that it was comfy and could deal with bits of rough terrain if needed. We get a Jeep Renegade. It’s pretty cool. Wife is happy and in comfort. OK.
Staying at New York New York Hotel.
Vegas is completely insane and, honestly, not a great place. In fact it’s the most tawdry, sleazy, tacky place ever.
Pick the most touristy part of any town and amplify it by 1000. It’s like that.
It’s boiling hot outside but inside it’s freezing, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build this massive place with all these things like swimming pools, hotels and golf courses in the middle of the desert.
God knows how they get their water.
And it’s just a weird place cut off from reality in which you are constantly being seduced and distracted by flashing lights and big things and encouraged to gamble your money away. It’s like one huge sales pitch in the form of a city.
Inside the casinos there are no windows. They’re like huge circus tents on the inside, with big restaurant facades around the edge, tables for gambling – playing poker or roulette or the one where you throw the dice and there are loads of different numbers and letters and it’s a bewildering illusion of choice, big individual gambling machines, lamp posts (inside the hotel), fake little streets, massive Irish pubs (which is never really a bad thing in itself) but all this stuff and you look up to the sky and it’s the black ceiling of the hotel above you, quite high and in the background. It’s probably daylight outside, but you can’t see the desert sun. Inside the hotel’s gambling area there’s this black canopy of the ceiling above all this trashy fake stuff.
It’s so weird to come to the desert and then find yourself in this totally synthetic place all set against a black backdrop.
This is some people’s idea of a wonderful place – a vast plastic playground with so many attractions, but there’s something very unnatural and twisted about it.
People smoke indoors and this feels wrong now after 10 years since the smoking ban. No big deal, but still… I think the reason is that they prioritise the gambling, so even though it fills the air with harmful smoke, it means people stay at the tables and don’t go outside to smoke their cigarettes.
There are tourists wandering around, families and stuff but also you spot these grizzled gamblers losing fortunes.
You see some old people who have travelled for miles to spend their money because they don’t really know what else to do with it, so it all goes in these machines.
There are some really drunk people, sitting at the bar.
But also families with kids walking around.
Even some bars have gambling machines built into them, so you can lose money (or maybe win) while you’re taking a break from the bigger tables.
In one casino, where we went to the theatre – there was a girl in suspenders dancing erotically on a table, and kids were wandering around.
It was like a strip club in Disneyland. It was like a cross between Disneyland and a lap dancing club. Adult Disneyland, but with families wandering around in it.
Our hotel had a rollercoaster going around it.
Yep, a rollercoaster, with tracks that actually went around the outside of the hotel.
You can stand in the bedroom and every now and then you hear the rumble of the rollercoaster and the muffled screams of people outside the window. This is from inside your hotel room..
If you part the curtains and look out you can see part of the track twisting around past the window and eventually you’ll see the rollercoaster race past, people screaming.
Take a look into the distance and there are the mountains, some desert and then closer to you just weird, big shiny bright buildings and Trump tower. A massive tower with his name at the top in huge gold letters.
“We’ve got the greatest buildings folks, all the best casinos. You’re gonna have fun, and you’re gonna make so much money. We’re gonna Make America Great Again. Believe me folks.”
And the house always wins.
That’s the thing with these casinos.
You have to enjoy the process of it, because you’re basically paying money to experience the excitement of possibility of having more money, even if the probable outcome is that you’ll end up with less.
You’re paying for the excitement of losing, it’s exciting because there’s a possibility that you won’t lose, but the fact is you will probably lose.
So the chances are that you’re going to lose
but you might win
and that’s what makes it exciting
to throw your money away.
The house always wins.
Sometimes somebody wins.
But most people are losing.
And the house is always winning.
Fair enough though, people choose to gamble and they probably enjoy it. People seem to enjoy it – that’s their choice, but it doesn’t appeal to me very much, beyond just having a go to see what the fuss is all about.
But there are some good things about Vegas, ok!
It’s not all awful! It’s fun for a night or maybe two, depending on what you do.
It is a big spectacle – some of the hotels look amazing and massive, and also there are some spectacular shows that you can see – like dance shows such as Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group and magic shows like David Copperfield or Penn & Teller.
We chose to go there as a stopover but also to experience it and we did have a laugh!
You have to just go with it a bit and just go ‘ wow, look at that, that’s ridiculous!’
A lot of the time we were walking around, couldn’t believe our eyes, saying “this is insane” “Look at that! It’s a massive Egyptian pyramid!
Our hotel was basically a recreation of the New York skyline. Other hotels have things like an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphinx, massive fountains and light shows.
It was pretty weird to see the Eiffel Tower considering we see it every day in Paris.
Also, it’s a very convenient place – in the sense that it’s really easy to access the airport, it’s not all that big, things are open 24 hours a day.
People are helpful and friendly.
There was a wholefoods there. In fact there are a few Wholefoods supermarkets there – say no more!
Some of the stuff is good fun.
So, that’s that then isn’t it.
Penn & Teller
Gambling in the Casino
We played some one of the “one armed bandits” – the fruit machines. It’s like one dollar to pull the arm and watch some things spinning around. We put aside about 50 dollars for fun. My wife enjoys the one armed bandits and she’s actually very lucky. I’m a lot more sceptical about it.
But she thinks she’s blessed with luck or something.
(Actually she’s blessed with Luke, but anyway… I’m not sure “blessed” is the right word – “married to” is probably better)
In England, when we had first met each other, we took a trip to Brighton, on the south coast, and we went to the pier (a wooden walkway that stretches out over the sea, wooden legs supporting it – a pier) where there are lots of arcade machines and gambling machines and other attractions, and she was convinced she would win money on the machines and I was going “ but the house always wins” and she was saying “no I’m magic!”.
I was shaking my head thinking “there is no magic, only the force” and she put one pound in a slot machine and promptly won £20, and said “I told you I was magic”. We walked away £20 richer. We didn’t continue gambling. I think she’s smart enough to know that you quit while you’re ahead.
The same thing happened years later, we were in a little resort in the north of France where you find some casinos. She’s not a gambling addict or anything. She just likes playing the machines a few times when we’re on holiday sometimes.
We went to a casino and chose to spend no more than 50E. A 50E limit. Ooh, big bucks, right?
We were walking around trying to find a good machine. There were some slightly sad looking people just sitting there plugged into these persuasive light shows – it’s a sort of low level basic addiction (or high level for some people) – an addiction to the sales pitch, basically.
I was being very sceptical, and making various sceptical noises.
We ended up leaving with 80E, 30E up from when we went in.
We quit while we were ahead.
In Vegas we did some gambling on the machines. I was thinking, “Well, she is magic. Maybe we’ll win enough to get a half decent dinner.”
We lost all the money we took in. All of it.
It was a steady one directional flow of us putting money into the machines and getting nothing in return. Las Vegas just ate our 50 dollars like a crocodile eats a chicken. One gulp, all gone, didn’t even chew. It didn’t even touch the sides as it went down.
We won nothing.
Well, almost nothing. We always seemed to win a few credits just before our money ran out, which I’m sure is a little trick to encourage you to put more money in because you think the machine is going to ‘start paying out’ at some point.
Obviously, we didn’t know what we were doing. We had no clue and I’m sure those machines were the wrong ones to be playing, and some of the casinos are better than others, but anyway we weren’t really there for the gambling. We were more interested in playing it safe.
11 Gambling Idioms (that don’t just apply to gambling)
to be on a winning streak (when you’re winning)
to be on a losing streak (when you’re losing and nothing is going your way)
to break even (when you take the same amount of money that you spent – in gambling or in business. No profit, no loss.)
to quit while you’re ahead (stop when you’re winning)
the house always wins
to bet (to gamble) “I bet you £20 that Arsenal win the game” or (a challenge) “I bet you can’t throw this paper ball in the bin from there!” or (an expectation) “I bet all the tickets are sold out”
to show your hand (show the cards in your hand / reveal your position)
a poker face (a facial expression which reveals nothing – used while playing poker, or in any other situation where you keep a straight face)
don’t push your luck (take a big risk and try doing something that could end in failure – it’s a bit like saying “watch what you’re doing” or “be careful”)
to raise the stakes (the stakes = the money which you have to gamble in a round of poker. The expression is used to mean to increase the amount of money you can win or lose in a gambling game, but also to raise the general level of what you can win or lose – e.g. this line from a recent Daily Mail news article “Mr Trump raised the stakes in the escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear threats, suggesting drastic economic measures against China and criticising ally South Korea.” www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-4847836/North-Korea-conducts-nuclear-test-making-hydrogen-bomb-claims.html
the chips are down (chips = the plastic coins you use while gambling. The expression means – when you’re feeling bad, or when the situation is bad) E.g. in cricket – “When the chips are down for England, Moeen is often the side’s most useful player.”
I once saw a great documentary by Louis Theroux about high stakes gamblers in Vegas. Some of them lose thousands of dollars, but they keep gambling because they think they’re going to eventually start winning it all back. I’ve put some videos from the documentary on the page for this episode. I love Louis Theroux’s documentaries. They’re fascinating.
The phrase that I take away from one of the videos: Louis and a high-stakes gambler are standing in the biggest hotel suite in the city, looking out of the window at the huge hotels and Louis says “Vegas – they didn’t build these casinos on winners you know” and the guy says “I think in the lifetime, everyone’s a loser. But the thrill of being able to win today, lose next month, win the year after. I think it’s the challenge. I think it’s the thrill. I think it’s the entertainment in this city.”
Louis Theroux Gambling Documentary – video clips
Louis hangs out with a high-stakes gambler in a very expensive hotel suite in Las Vegas
Here’s the same guy, after losing about $400,000 dollars in 3 days
Louis gambles with a couple of gambling “enthusiasts” (addicts?)
Louis plays the “one armed bandits” with Martha (these are the machines that took our $50 in just a few minutes) Martha says “I lost 4 million dollars in the casino in 7 years.”
Louis gets lucky playing Baccarat
“Because I resigned myself to failure that night, Lady Luck had decided to tantilise me by making me win.”
How gambling can be dangerous
It seems that this is how it goes:
You might begin by winning some money. Then you feel lucky so you bet bigger, but you lose it.
You then start digging yourself in deeper and deeper, expecting your luck to change but there is absolutely no certainty that it will.
Some people talk about ‘the law of averages’ – suggesting that in time any sequence will balance out. E.g. you might spend a certain amount of time losing, but ultimately this will be balanced out by the number of times you win.
But that’s assuming that gambling in a casino is random. Usually it is subtly weighed in favour of the casino so that the pattern is that the casino wins more often than you. Even if you win a lot, the casino can afford it because more people have lost overall.
Often these high stakes gamblers keep betting because they think they’ll eventually start winning. They often don’t and then leave utterly devastated by the loss.
The house always wins.
Then what might happen is that you’ve lost, you’re dejected. You resign yourself to failure but play another game because why not, and then you hit a winning streak.
What a powerful combination of defeat and then victory, all out of your control. You’re at the mercy of this external force, playing around with “luck”. (Not Luke)
And the house always wins.
We drove along the strip. It’s madness out there! Just all the flashing lights and the spectacle, it’s like Picadilly Circus on steroids and the steroids are also on steroids.
Unbelievably massive plate of pancakes for breakfast.
Then we got out of town.
I told you I would talk about nature and canyons, and big rocks! All that stuff I really loved seeing, but I got carried away – distracted by tales of gambling in Vegas.
Las Vegas – a place that seems diametrically opposed to somewhere like Bryce National Park or The Grand Canyon.
I’m glad we only spent an afternoon, one evening and a night there.
Natural beauty is so much more real.
Well, anything is more real than Las Vegas, I suppose.
Thanks for listening.
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Shout out to the comment section crew.
Shout out to the Long-Term LEPsters, you know who you are.
Shout out to the new listeners, I hope you stick with us.
Shout out to every single one of you all around the world, listening to this right now and united by the fact that you are all citizens of LEPland or Podland or whatever we are calling this community which crosses international boundaries.
Be excellent to each other and party on!
Talking about some modern art which I saw while visiting several galleries in Los Angeles. Includes descriptions of different movements in modern art, details about some famous artists and their work, some thoughts about whether modern art is really amazing, or maybe just a load of pretentiousrubbish! (Spoiler alert: it depends)
Hi everyone, here’s part two of my holiday diary and in this one I’m going to continue describing things I saw and did on my recent holiday in the USA. The plan is not just to describe our trip but also to use it as a springboard to talk about some other subjects in a bit of depth, and in this episode that includes things like modern art (describing some different types of art from the modern period and giving my thoughts on some art work that we saw in a couple of galleries) astronomy and astrology, flat-earth conspiracy theories and probably some other things too, depending on how long this takes! It looks like this is going to be a series of episodes with what I hope will be an interesting variety of topics beyond just me talking about my holiday.
I’m recording this on the same day as I uploaded the last one. So I’m already seeing some messages coming in from people on Twitter and FB and stuff (in response to part 1), so thanks a lot for your kind messages saying congratulations for the fact that we’re going to have a baby.
Ok, let’s carry on!
Just to recap
We went to USA to have a blow-out before the arrival of our baby in December. A final trip just the two of us. Los Angeles via Montreal, then the canyons and Navajo Nation, then back to LA and home again.
Downtown Los Angeles
Tried to go to an art gallery called The Broad. This is a flashy-looking new art gallery. We went to see an interesting installation by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, but there was a huge queue outside – probably attracted by the installation, which is proving really popular. Apparently it’s called “Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” which is…
“a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. This experiential artwork has extremely limited capacity, accommodating one visitor at a time for about a minute” The Broad website.
An installation =a work of art constructed within a space in a gallery.
We ended up in The Museum of Contemporary Art LA, just down the road from the broad.
Also went to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) at one point during the trip.
Artists whose work we saw
We saw work by some celebrated artists from several important movements in modern art.
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, Cubism, surrealism – mainly in the first half of the 20th century and middle of the 20th century) Jackson Pollock (American, Abstract expressionism – late 1940s) Rothko (American of Russian Jewish descent, Abstract expressionism, 50s and 60s) Franz Kline (American, Abstract expressionism, 50s and 60s) Roy Lichtenstein (American, Pop art, abstract expressionism, 60s) Andy Warhol (American, Pop art, most well-known stuff is from the 60s)
And lots of others too.
Movements in Modern Art
Here’s a timeline of art movements in history from www.dummies.com
I’m describing art movements from the early part of the 19th century.
Contemporary art = art being made now Modern art = art from the modern era – late 19th Century and through the 20th century. Arguably we are now in the post-modern era Cubism (n) = an art movement in which artists went away from realistic representations of things and instead used geometric shapes, different kinds of perspective, lines, as if objects could be viewed from a number of different points of view all at the same time. Things exist in a kind of prism of perspective and the way you or the artist looks at something, changes its form. Surrealism (n) = an art movement in which objects or ideas are presented in a strange way, as if in some kind of dream or perhaps representations of the subconscious mind Abstract (adj) = this concept refers to things that aren’t real or tangible, but which exist in the world of the mind or outside reality as we usually see it (e.g. not just illustrating a bowl of fruit) Expressionism (n) = representing feelings or emotions rather than objects or things Abstract expressionism (n) = the name of the post WW2 art movement that combined the freedom of expression from expressionism and the use of abstract forms Pop art (n) = the name of another art movement, this one involved techniques, methods and styles from popular culture like product design, comic book style or photos of celebrities.
What do you think of contempary art, or modern art?
You might think:
“It’s just a bunch of colours or shapes!”
“Anyone could do that!”
“It’s just a load of pretentious nonsense!”
Very common reactions. I think like that too, quite often, especially if I think it’s not very good art.
What makes art good or bad?
You just know it when you see it. If it really doesn’t move you, please you or interest you, you might say it’s bad art, because ultimately it’s in the eye of the beholder – but not completely, because you also have to invest a bit of time and effort into it and also it helps to understand how the work fits into the overall history of art. You have to have some respect for it in order to start appreciating it as work, and ultimately then it can start to enrich your life in some way, but I think art is quite pretentious, which many people have a problem with.
What does pretentious mean Luke?
Something is pretentious (spell it) when it’s trying to seem important, clever or sophisticated, but it isn’t really.
E.g. talking about a work of art like it is the grandest, most important, most emotionally resonating work of genius in human history, and it’s just a blank piece of paper, or a picture of a willy or something.
I think it’s more than just a willy, it’s a statement about… blah blah blah…
So you might think modern art is rubbish.
Or maybe you’re a fan and you think “I love the way the artist plays with different forms and colours. It’s incredibly liberating and fascinating to experience it. I find it inspiring, moving and fascinating.”
It’s quite difficult to talk about art without sounding pretentious, to be honest.
I have mixed feelings about it. Only the really good stuff tends to move me. I mean, it’s rare that it works on me. But I do enjoy the experience of going around a good gallery, looking at work which has stood the test of time.
I also like talking about it. I like the way modern art or abstract art is so open. You feel like you’re interacting with it, but I always need to talk about it. It’s a chance to be totally open-minded and to try and put it into words.
But it’s not something I’m thinking about all the time.
I’m more moved by music (most kinds), acting, films, TV, books, photography (with real stuff in them – like people’s faces or moments in time captured) but when it’s right modern art can be great. Also it works as decoration, but it’s something you can also look closely at and let your mind wander. (wander like go for a walk, but also wonder meaning think about things, but “let your mind wander” is the right expression”.
Expressionism or abstract expressionism – what’s it all about?
This is just me having a stab at describing abstract art.
It seems to me that it’s about creating abstract spaces with no rules at all.
It’s a system with no external reference points (unlike films) it’s just a series of shapes or forms arranged in space which are designed to create certain emotions or feelings in you at a kind of elemental level, or gut level, or sensory level.
Sometimes thinking about it is what you’re not supposed to do, you just have to experience it. It can be something as simple as how it feels to experience these colours and shapes arranged in a certain way.
It could be the way the colours blend together, or certain forms stand out, or the basic gut reaction you have when looking at the canvas.
It’s supposed to be moving at a very natural level, just the interactions of forms in a physical space.
When you realise that it can be liberating and you feel like you’re entering into a conversation with the artist which is free from the constraints of language.
That’s the idea, but to be honest I often find myself getting absolutely nothing from it.
Art vs the art of nature (pretentious, moi?)
OK, so this is where I’m going to get really pretentious and talk about rocks like they’re works of art, but what are you going to do, sue me?
Some of these work of art were or are created in a way that seems to allow the hand of nature to guide the artist somehow, like Pollock who would often drip paint onto the canvas – he wouldn’t always touch the canvas with his brush, but would somehow involve an element of chance or nature in the way the paint splashed as it fell, combining his own judgement and an element of chaos in terms of how the paint ended up falling on the canvas.
The result is like looking inside the emotional space of the artist and you can feel his experience somehow in a way that you can’t put into words – at the moments of rage, passion, serenity or terror, or just the sense that he was experiencing a lack of control in his life or he was subject to emotions or experiences that he didn’t necessarily have a grip on, and yet experienced in the form of emotion. That sounds really pretentious, I know. But when you look at his work, you can choose to say “this is just bollocks” or you can decide that the guy clearly was very serious about what he was doing so there must be something in it. What was he looking for? Something to do with the balance of colours, the texture created by the many drops of paint and the overall sensory effect it creates.
It’s like entering a mood, and with Pollock that mood isn’t entirely happy.
I have the same feeling with Rothko. He managed to paint these pieces that look like just large blocks of colour, but as you stand in front of them and absorb them, the colours seem to blend slightly and become luminous or darker and you get this sense of depth or space and it fills you with a certain emotion. Often it’s a sadness, wistfulness or even a slight sense of stimulation. It defies description, it’s more of a gut feeling.
And by the way, looking at the real thing is far better than looking at a print or poster version in a frame on the wall of your house.
The real thing is a certain size, presented in certain conditions, proper lighting, you’re seeing the actual strokes of his brush or some sense of how he did it, you see the texture of the finished thing, which is important too.
Going back to Pollock – he would work on these big canvases on the floor and would start from scratch letting the painting develop as he added more and more layers but other artists took a different approach like Franz Klein who would plan his abstract work on a small-scale, just sketching it by hand, before recreating the sketch on massive canvases. What was a few scratched lines on a piece of paper becomes a huge striking piece of work. The effect is a bold mix of broad straight lines that combine in haphazard fashion. We kept thinking his paintings looked like close up images of plane crashes done in black and white, like the vague sense that it looked like a WW1 biplane had crashed. That’s not what they were of course, they were just lines, but the point is that the work has this dynamic urgency. They’re violent, bold and stark. Our brains just interpreted them as somehow like a plane crash.
Those are abstract expressionists.
There are lots of loads of other kinds of art, like pop art (Andy Warhol) which sort of consumed aspects of consumer culture with the idea that art could be mass-produced and that every day consumer objects could be works of art too if presented in that way, and I think we’re still experiencing the influence of that today with things like t-shirts with cool designs on them or the fact that we consume logos and brands as a form of art – on t-shirts, even on posters to decorate our homes. Pop art was also a comment on consumer culture – for example Andy Warhol’s famous work with lots of virtually identical screen prints of movie stars with different coloured backgrounds, or just a tin of Campbell’s tomato soup. It’s like examining everyday branded objects as works of art.
I don’t really understand it all, but it is fun to go to an art gallery, drink a load of coffee and then just stare at this stuff and see what it makes you think about and feel.
Anyone can do art, but to do it well is actually really difficult.
It’s not just a bunch of colours on a canvas, it is backed up by intention, technique and a general appreciation of the aesthetics of shape, colour and texture.
So, we saw some modern art, and it was pretty cool.
But honestly, the art we saw just could not be compared to the truly stunning works of nature that we saw later on in our trip in places like The Grand Canyon – objects and environments that had been formed by natural processes over millions of years.
It seems to me that from the point of view of the observer, the exact same forces are at work.
When you look at art or when you look at a mountain or a rock formation you get the instant emotional and intellectual reaction of seeing these incredible shapes, colours and textures, and you experience the wonder of imagining exactly how they were created and the story that they tell.
I must say I was blown away by the geology we saw on this trip, which I’ll describe in more detail later. It was so stunning that at times I was lost for words and it all resonated with us so much that it was quite hard to come to terms with it.
You might think – oh come on it’s just big rocks. And it is just big rocks of course, but I think we all find these things impressive and I’m just trying to capture that feeling in words.
So, I know this sounds pretentious or something, but literally every day we would arrive at a different location to be greeted by ever more impressive natural spectacles. After spending time in each place, doing some walking, getting quite hot in the sunshine, we would be quite exhausted at the end of each day and we’d have this stunned by stimulated feeling during dinner – trying to comprehend what we’d just seen. We also couldn’t sleep during the night. It was like our brains couldn’t rest until we’d somehow compartmentalized the things we’d seen.
The Grand Canyon is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s so big it makes you feel so insignificant, like a blink in the eye of history.
In some parts of these national parks you’re looking at geological formations that go back something like 500 million years.
And they’re so big that you feel completely dwarfed by them.
This was far more impressive than the modern art we saw, and it made the modern art just look like primitive cave paintings by humans trying to get a grip on the power of basic shapes and colours.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that nature is the most powerful artist out there.
And I say nature, because the whole story of nature is in these rocks.
The whole thing has been created by different natural forces over hundreds of millions of years.
It makes total sense that water, over such a long period, could erode the rock into these unbelievable shapes. That ice would break up the rock, forming bizarre shapes, that what was once a crack in the ground could become a huge open canyon with a river at the bottom.
So, nature is what formed these things, simply through the presence of certain elements on earth and the actions of the laws of physics.
Pretty mind-blowing stuff. But the modern art was a good way to get into the mindset of appreciating the aesthetics of things.
Let me know your thoughts on modern art. Is it amazing, or is it rubbish? Leave your comments below.
…and thanks for listening.
Want to see some examples of the art I described in this episode? Click the links below.
Everything you need to know about the world’s 2nd most popular spectator sport, cricket. I’m joined by my Dad, Rick Thompson and we describe the rules, the appeal of the game and also some expressions in English that come from cricket.
It’s summer in the UK and at this time of year there are various sounds that you might hear in a typical English village, the sound of bees buzzing, kids playing in the playground, an ice-cream van and perhaps the smack of leather on willow (the sound of a cricket ball – a hard, heavy ball covered in leather, being hit by a wooden cricket bat made of willow) those sounds coming from a game of cricket on the local village green.
Also, the sounds of cricket make their way into your home during the summer months as people listen on the radio or watch the coverage on TV.
International test match cricket is a feature of the summertime in England and is somehow deeply rooted into English life. It’s one of those cliches of rural England – sandwiches, afternoon tea and cricket on the green.
But for many foreign people who don’t play cricket it can seem like a weird antiquated slow game with rules that nobody understands. People are surprised that a game of cricket can last several days. Americans are often horrified to discover that games often end in a draw with no winner at the end.
The fact is, cricket is a fantastic game which requires strategy but there are many moments of dramatic action and great skill and ability shown by the players.
My Dad is a big fan of cricket. He used to play it when he was younger and has always followed the matches on the radio. I’ve been threatening for a while to do an episode about cricket, to somehow achieve the impossible and explain cricket to the world, and my Dad is going to join me.
So sit back, have a cup of tea and some cake, and try to get your head around this wonderful game.
And stay tuned for some nice idiomatic expressions which we use in English and which originally came from the game of cricket.
Well, that was a valiant effort by us. I hope you agree! But I wonder if you managed to keep up with all of it! If you are listening all the way to the end and you’re still alive – well done!
You may have got lost at some point along the way, or did you follow all of it? Let me know.
In any case I hope you got something out of that conversation, even if it is a sense that cricket is worth getting enthusiastic about even if you don’t fully understand it, and that it’s a big thing in the UK and many other countries around the world.
I recommend that you have a look at some cricket being played. There are videos showing you different aspects of cricket on the page for this episode, so check them out.
Also, there was that vocabulary.
Let me just go through the vocabulary again here, just to make it clear.
On a sticky wicket = in a difficult situation (We’re on a bit of a sticky wicket here because of the result of the EU referendum) (NYTimes “It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his supporters right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”)
To have a good innings = to have a good long life (How old was he when he died? 94? Oh, so he had a good innings)
It’s just not cricket = it’s not fair! (Getting queue jumped, it’s just not cricket, is it?)
It hit me for six = it surprised, shocked and stunned you. (When my ex-girlfriend told me she was getting married to my best friend it really hit me for six)
I was absolutely bowled over = I was really surprised and amazed (“Bowled over” actually comes from bowling not cricket – when a pin is knocked over by the ball) (We were really bowled over by your presentation, you did a fantastic job!)
I’m completely stumped. You’ve stumped me there. = I’m unable to answer that question because it’s too complicated. (I did ok in the listening part, but I was completely stumped by the grammar questions)
You’ve caught me out there. = You’ve asked me a difficult question which has shown that I’ve made a mistake. (What about the outstanding tax payments on your public accounting report? There’s 300 pounds missing! – Oh, you’ve caught me out there, hah, yes I forgot to include them!)
Stephen Fry explains LBW in cricket
Shane Warne from Australia – the greatest spin bowler ever
Here’s the next part of my conversation with Andy Johnson, recorded at The London School of English a few days ago.
Andy is an English teacher, a father of 2 kids, and also a regular runner. He’s done at least one marathon and a few half marathons, and I thought since many of you listening to this podcast will also be runners (in fact some people will be running right now while listening to this) that it might be interesting to hear Andy talking about his reasons for running, the way he does it, the benefits, the difficulties and all the rest of it. So here’s a conversation about running.
If you’re not into running I would still recommend that you listen to this. You might be surprised at how personal it gets when Andy explains his reasons for training for the London marathon 10 years ago. It turns out that running has special significance for Andy and that running the London marathon was a key moment in his life as it marked a significant milestone for him – and running acts as a regular reminder of a particularly difficult experience Andy had when he was younger.
So, this episode is about running, but it’s also about much more than that. I’d like to thank Andy again for taking part in another episode of the podcast and for sharing so much of his story.
Vocab hunters: Watch out for vocabulary relating to doing exercise, health, fitness, technique, injuries and medical care.
So, without further ado you can now listen to our conversation about running.
I just want to thank Andy again for coming on the podcast and telling us about his story. It was a very interesting conversation and I think the closest we’ve come to having tears on the podcast – it was a moving story but no tears this time! I wonder if you held it together out there in podcast land, or did you start welling up at any moment?
Don’t forget that Andy would like you to take his survey about self-directed learning. You can find a link to that on the page for this episode. Andy just wants to know about how you learn English on your own, outside of the classroom environment, and that includes how you use LEP to help with your English.
Click the link, the questionnaire will take a couple of minutes and you’ll help Andy with research for his next IATEFL conference talk.
That’s it for this episode. Watch out for some website-only content coming soon. Subscribe to the mailing list to get informed when that is released.
I hope you are continuing to have a good August, if indeed it is August as you listen to this. I’m still on holiday, relaxing and having a lovely time, I hope – I’m actually recording this before I went on holiday, so this is a very weird time situation. Which tense should I be using here, because I’m actually recording right now, in the past, but as I’m talking it’s the future, so my present is your past and your present is my future, so that’s the present past perfect future continuous or something. I am will have been being having a great time and I will have been had been hoped that you will be being having a wonderful time too, in the future.
Thanks for listening to this episode and I’ll speak to you again soon. Bye!
Hello listeners – how are you doing? In the last episode we listened to some comedy routines by Scouse comedian John Bishop and I said we’d take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, break it down, listen to some more samples and also learn some typical words you might hear being used in Liverpool. So that’s the plan in this episode. All about the Liverpool accent.
There’s nowhere in the UK quite like Liverpool. You probably know it as where The Beatles came from, or because of the football clubs LFC and EFC. Perhaps some of you have visited it or studied there are students, because it’s a big university town.
I lived there for 4 years as a student.
My feelings when I moved there:
It’s definitely in the north! Up north.
First time I lived in the north, and there is a north/south divide in the UK
Climate is different
People are different to the people anywhere else – they’re cheeky, chatty, tough, humourous, a bit tricky sometimes, proud and also quite sentimental and sensitive about the city.
The place has a particular history that isn’t shared by other towns in England. Its cultural mix is different to the rest of the country. The accent in particular is very distinctive, and it’s confined to just the local Liverpool area – a relatively small space when you consider the accent diversity in other larger countries where the same accent may be heard for many miles, like for example in Texas. In England our accents are very specific and very local. Travel 30 minutes by car from Liverpool to neighbouring Manchester and the accent is very different and this is largely because of the history of Liverpool as an international port and the rich diversity of influences.
This is a corner of the country with a strong character and a recognisable accent to go along with it.
Scousers, or people from Liverpool are instantly recognisable by their accent. The sound of a Liverpool accent instantly conjures up certain images, certain cliches, certain reference points and a certain history which is unique to that part of the country.
In this episode the plan is to investigate the Liverpool accent, and to some extent the dialect, listen to some samples, find out some of the pronunciation features, and consider a little bit of Liverpool’s history and culture. We’ll listen to a few different people speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you to understand it all, and I’m sure you’ll pick up some nice vocabulary on the way – and not just local slang words but words that everybody in the country uses but which the Scousers might just pronounce in their own way.
The aim is to broaden your horizons, broaden your exposure to different accents and to help you get a full appreciation of English in all its forms.
The Milk Advert on TV
Let’s start with an advert that used to be on the TV and which millions of British people watched many times – The famous milk advert.This is what the whole nation (of my generation) might think of as a sample of Scouse English. Many of us heard it lots of times growing up and a lot of us even learned it. I used to be able to recite it word for word when I was a kid.
Picture two children from Liverpool who have been playing football in the garden. They come into the house to get something refreshing to drink from the fridge (or should that be “fridge”). One asks for lemonade, the other one chooses to drink milk because it’s “what Ian Rush drinks”.
Ian Rush was a famous footballer in the 80s. He played for Liverpool for years and scored many goals for them. He was Welsh. By the way, you should also know that there is a place in England called “Accrington” (north of Manchester) and their football team (Accrington Stanley) aren’t very good – so Accrington Stanley is a reference for an unknown football team that nobody wants to play for.
Audio sample 1 – The Milk Advert
Lee Mack making fun of the Scouse accent
Features of the Liverpool Accent
Let’s now take a closer look at the Liverpool accent, considering some of the main features that make Scouse English different to the kind of RP that I speak. Then we’ll listen to some more samples of Scouse speech and you can see if you understand them.
/k/ can become /x/ like in “loch” “Accrington Stanley” “milk” “Lee Mack”
/r/ sounds – alveolar tap “accrington stanley” “I’m afraid I’m not from round here” “alright”
/t/ can sound like /s/ “butter” “I’m going to go into town later, do you want something” “Come on then mate, let’s start. Come ed, Let’s get started.”
/g/ is pronounced not just with the /ŋ/ but all the way to a /g/ sound “sing” “singer” “Ere mate are you a singer? You gonna sing us a song?”
And yet sometimes it’s completely dropped like in “Eh mate what are you doing?” – “what are yew dewin? What are youse doing coming over here like that?” “Milk, that’s disgusting”
/h/ sounds are often dropped “That has never happened to be honest”
/d/ sounds instead of /th/ sounds – “They do though don’t they though?”
/ɜː/ like “bird” becomes [ɛː] like “air” – “work”, “first”, “bird” “Are you always the first one to get to work in the morning”
/a:/ sounds in the south are like /æ/ in the north (normal in the north generally) “bath” “grass” “laugh”
But sometimes it goes wider like aaaa in “card” or “pokemon cards”
/ʊ/ in book sounds like /u:/ “book” (but not every time – sometimes they say it like me, and words like ‘took’ and ‘look’ are often pronounced. I don’t know why it’s “book”)
/-er/ sounds at the ends of words normally pronounced with schwa sound are pronounced with an /e/ sound “computer” “teacher” “fitter” “singer”
/ʌ/ becomes like /ʊ/ or /ɒ/ “but erm… shut up” “shut up will ya”
/eə/ sometimes becomes /ɜː/ – “hair” “over there”
All those features are interesting, but there’s a good chance that all just went over your head. Really the best way to get used to hearing scouse English is just to listen to some people using it.
Audio Sample 2 – Jamie Carragher “Butchers” the English Language
Just listen and tell me these things:
Who is he?
What’s he talking about? (general subject)
Audio sample 3 – Stephen Gerrard, former England captain
What is he looking forward to?
Is he worried about the regime change with Fabio Cappello (known for being a discipinarian)
Does he have a message of hope for England fans?
What would it mean to David Beckham to achieve 100 caps?
Audio Sample 4 – Wayne Gerrard – a spoof of Scouse footballers by Paul Whitehouse
Wayne Gerrard (spoof)
Just get my head down
Let my feet do the talking
Very pleased for the fans
Very pleased for the manager
One game at a time
Keep my head down
Let my football do the talking
A short history of Liverpool
Liverpool is in the north west of England. It’s a port town on the river Mersey, just where the north coast of Wales meets the west coast of England.
Liverpool started as a small trading port probably in the 13th or 14th centuries.
By the 17th and 18th centuries it was the primary port for trade with Ireland. There was lots of trade with Ireland, and also ships coming from Norway and Sweden or other scandinavian countries.
The industrial revolution, globalisation and Britain’s colonialism meant that Liverpool became a hugely important port for British ships heading to the Americas in the 19th century.
As a result by the mid 19th century, Liverpool was a hugely important city for trading with the new world.
The population of the city grew quickly with amazing diversity – everyone from around the world was there, including large numbers of Irish and Welsh workers, scandinavian sailors but also Chinese workers, Caribbean workers associated with the slave trade.
Liverpool was one of the most important and most impressive cities in the world at this time.
It was sometimes called the New York of Europe, and you can see evidence of that in some of the buildings – parts of the city resemble some of the style of New York buildings, especially in the old part of town and by the docks.
The diverse history is still evident in the cultural make-up of the city. There is still a large Chinese community and also many families of Caribbean origin in parts of Liverpool.
The biggest influences though were the Welsh and certainly the Irish communities who moved in for the manual work that was available there in the 19th century. Liverpool is heavily influenced by the Irish, and it was described as the capital of Ireland just because so many Irish people lived there.
All of these influences can be heard in the Liverpool accent – some Irish, some features of Welsh (which is a totally different language to English) and also some scandinavian influences and many others that make Liverpool so different. That’s also combined with the local Lancashire accent too. All of it combines to create this particularly rich and vibrant form of English.
The city was very rich and very important during the industrial revolution, but conditions for many people were appalling – living squeezed into dirty and dangeous slums.
Gradually Britain’s position as the global industrial imperial power started slipping, and the two world wars sped up that process. Many young men were killed in World War 1, and between the two wars Liverpool was partly redesigned with many residential areas being built around the outskirts of the city, and lots of the people who previously lived in the slums being relocated there. This changed the nature of the city, with large outlying residential areas with row upon row of terraced houses.
World War 2 was devastating to Liverpool as it was the target of bombing raids by the Luftwaffe. Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool got pounded by bombs night after night and lots of buildings were destroyed, and they stayed destroyed for many years.
When the Beatles were growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s it was common for children to play in bombsites – in the remains of buildings destroyed by bombs, and even when I was living there in the 1990s I saw lots of empty spaces in residential streets where buildings used to exist but still hadn’t been replaced since the war.
With the end of the industrial revolution, Liverpool’s importance slipped and basically since WW2 Liverpool has been a rather tough place to live, with various social problems, unemployment, poverty, and perhaps the sense that the city has been somewhat ignored or forgotten by the country which used to rely on it so much.
These days the city is known for The Beatles, the football clubs and players, some cultural things such as the vibrant art scene and just the scouse people themselves who are known for their humour and their unique character.
Here’s a female voice – Jennifer Ellison, an actress from Liverpool.
Audio sample 5 – Jennifer Ellison “Mum of the Year Awards 2013”
Here are some bits of the dialect or just typical sounding words.
To be honest, you hear most of these things in many parts of the country, but listen out for how scousers would say these things.
‘Me’ not ‘my’ – “You’ve broken all me biccies!”
‘You’ (plural) – ‘youse’ “Youse are all a bunch of bleedin eejits”
Adding “me” at the end of a sentence starting with ‘I’. “I’m dead hungry, me.”
“Boss” – That’s boss that. Have you played FIFA. It’s boss.”
“See ye later”
“Go ed” “g’wed”
“Alright! Calm daaaawn!” (cliche)
“Nice one son”
“Bacon barm” – “two bacon barms please”
“Like” – “I was like, walking down the Scotty road and I seen these two like students.”
Lots of people in the UK got to know Scouse very well from watching Brookside, a soap opera that started in the 80s. It was about middle class and working class life in Liverpool and it often showed scenes of social problems including frequent arguments between the main characters. This helped to build the stereotype that Scousers are argumentative and prone to social problems.
Audio sample 6 – Brookside argument
3 people – Barry, Barry’s mum and Billy
Barry wants his money
But the account is £500 short
Because his Mum lent it to someone else (Billy)
So, let’s cut out the middle man, give us the money
He hasn’t got it – he needed it to pay the mortgage and the car
Barry gets angry with Billy saying “you’ve got it made here”
Barry is angry with Billy because he’s borrowing money from his Mum
“I’m going to have to go back to the car fella, tell him I can’t have the car”
You’ve screwed up our Christmas!
Then he pushes him.
This cliche of argumentative Scousers was summed up in a series of sketches on a comedy TV show called Harry Enfield’s TV Programme.
This cemented the stereotype of Scousers as:
Argumentative & violent – often fighting and infighting
From large families with lots of brothers
Always wearing shellsuits
Unemployed – around the house all day
With mustaches and curly permed hair
Audio sample 7 – Harry Enfield – The Scousers (the cliched view)
Alright, calm down calm down.
Are you telling me to calm down?
Alright you two, break it up!
What’s going on here eh?
Do you have to make such a friggin fuss about it?
Just keep out of it Barry.
Are you telling me to keep out of it?
The Beatles are also famously from Liverpool, but nobody seems to really speak like them any more. The accent has become more nazal and harsher. The Beatles spoke in this kind of “Beatle voice” which you don’t hear so much any more.
You can hear the scouse in their voices though if you listen carefully.
There’s going to be a meetup of some London-based LEPsters this coming Sunday 30th July at 7pm at the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street. It’s just north of Soho and to the west of Tottenham Court Road. There should also be a Facebook link soon.
The Fitzroy Tavern
6 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2LY, UK
Sunday 30th July 7pm Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street.
Zdenek Lukas of Zdenek’s English podcast will be there with any other London-based LEPsters that choose to come out. The plan is to have conversation, a beer or two and perhaps play some board games, because Zdenek is bringing some board games too. So head on down to practise your English, meet some like-minded people in a cool part of central London.
Episode Notes & Transcripts
Hello dear listeners, welcome to the podcast. This is one of those episodes in which I go through some British comedy and help you to understand it. We will cover some vocabulary and also some cultural stuff too.
This is also chance to for you to listen to some Scouse English – the kind of English you might hear in Liverpool.
Scouse – that means from Liverpool. A Scouser is a person from Liverpool, and in that area people speak with a Scouse accent. In fact you find that accent in many parts of Merseyside – which means, Liverpool and its surrounding areas.
I’m going to tell you briefly about a popular stand up comedian from Merseyside (the Liverpool area) called John Bishop, who is often on the TV and on stage across the UK. I think he’s probably one of the most famous scousers in the UK these days. We’re going to listen to one or two of his routines which you can find on YouTube, we’ll understand them and notice some features of his Liverpool accent.
By the end of this episode I expect that you’ll have broadened your vocabulary, you’ll have become more familiar with the way people speak English in Liverpool and you’ll have learned some cultural details about family life in the UK. Also, you’re going to be introduced to the comedy of John Bishop, who you might enjoy. There are various John Bishop videos on YouTube and you can can buy his comedy DVDs which are very popular in the UK. If you like what you hear in this episode, you could get one of those DVDs and use it for both learning English and for your own general amusement.
John Bishop – some info on him
To cut a long story short, he was born in Liverpool and has lived in the Merseyside area for most of his life.
Where is Liverpool? Why is it called Merseyside?
People in Liverpool – amongst other things they are known for having a particular accent which people say is a kind of mix between Irish, Welsh (a lot of Irish and Welsh workers moved into the city during it’s time as a major industrial port in the 19th century), Lancashire and even Scandinavian influences. The accent is instantly recognisable to anyone in the UK.
So, John Bishop was born in Liverpool and has lived in the area for most of his life.
In his 20s he had what seems to have been a fairly boring and ordinary career selling pharmaceuticals. By the age of 30 he was married and had a baby son but he wasn’t particularly happy. He ended up getting separated from his wife and they were going to get divorced. He started doing stand-up during this period because he says it stopped him staying at home on his own in the evenings and drinking. It got him out of the house. The thing is, he found that he was good at it and eventually he quit his job to do stand-up full-time. Basically stand-up saved him and it rescued his marriage too – because one day his wife (who was divorcing him at the time) happened to see him on stage during a show and she went up to him afterwards and said “that was the man I fell in love with years ago” and they got back together. Since then his stand-up comedy career has taken off, and how he’s one of the most popular and well-known comedians in the UK. He’s often on the TV and his stand-up comedy DVDs are very popular.
Now he’s got quite a big family with 3 kids – all of them boys. In his comedy he talks a lot about family life and being a father – the typical frustrations, difficulties and experiences that many parents go through.
He’s definitely a mainstream comedian. I mean, his routines are not political, they’re not particularly challenging or controversial. They’re not super intellectual. It’s just straight forward observational comedy and storytelling. He’s not my #1 favourite, but I just love stand-up and I definitely enjoy his work even if he’s not my absolute favourite. But he is very successful. I think his appeal is that he’s an ordinary guy and his stories and routines are very relatable – people enjoy them because they can relate to them.
Scousers have a reputation in the UK for a few things – one of them is for being funny. This maybe a cliché or a stereotype, but I do think it’s quite true, having lived in Liverpool for 4 years. I met lots of Scousers who were very funny – just characters with stories to tell and who had the gift of the gab and good comic timing.
John Bishop is a good example of that. Partly it’s to do with the Liverpool accent which has so much character and I think helps the delivery of his routines. He tells endearing stories in a relaxed way. He wears a suit and tie so he’s well-presented. He is quite handsome and charming, but in an average kind of way. He’s like the ‘boy next door’ kind of guy. Just a normal bloke. His delivery is quite casual and easy-going, he keeps it pretty short and simple with pauses in the right places which is always a good approach to storytelling.
His attitude on stage is quite dry or deadpan (Wikipedia defines “dry” or “deadpan” like this: Deadpan or dry humor/wit describes the deliberate display of a lack of or no emotion, commonly as a form of comedic delivery to contrast with the ridiculousness of the subject matter. The delivery is meant to be blunt, sarcastic or apparently unintentional).
Usually his stories allow us to see that his life is actually quite frustrating and ridiculous – just like normal life is for everyone from time to time. Watching observational comedy like this makes you feel good because you totally understand what he’s going through because in fact your life is quite frustrating and ridiculous too. So it’s therapeutic – that’s what’s great about comedy. It lets you laugh at life and realise that you’re not alone and that we all experience these frustrating things.
Let’s listen to John Bishop, with his Liverpool accent, telling a couple of stories of family life from some of the videos on YouTube and let’s pick up some English in the process.
I’m going to play the first clip to you in just a moment.
As you listen, I wonder what you will be thinking. We’ve done this before, listening to English with different regional accents. You might feel that you can’t understand him completely – I think he speaks pretty clearly, delivering stories in a slow but punctuated way, but the accent might be hard for you to understand. You might think “Oh his accent is too strong”. I wouldn’t be at all surprised. But remember, English is a very diverse language. You might not want to speak like John Bishop (or maybe you do I don’t know) but you certainly should try to understand him. English comes in many different forms – many different accents – and even if you’re not familiar with those accents, they are normal and perfectly valid forms of the language which everyone can not only understand but appreciate.
It would be a pity for you to only understand one standard form of English. It would mean your English was limited. Anyone with a decent sense of English should be exposed to different accents. David Crystal said it, we all know it’s true. So let’s listen to some Scouse English. And please, do not think “Oh god his English is bad”. That’s not fair and it’s simply not true. I understand all of it, so do his audiences. British people do not struggle to understand him at all, quite the opposite – he’s very understandable and relatable. He draws in very large crowds of people to his shows all across the country. All those people understand and enjoy the things he says. His Liverpool accent is a very important part of his charm. If it’s hard to understand him I think it would be wise to consider that maybe you’re just not familiar with his accent, and that you just need to broaden your exposure to English a bit, and that this is a chance for you to do that.
Anyway, maybe you won’t have trouble understanding him at all and you’ll just enjoy listening to his story. Let’s see.
Here’s John talking about going on holiday with teenage kids (I wonder what teenagers are like in your country.)
You’re going to hear him say that he had a massive tour one year and he was away from home a lot so he wanted to spend some quality time with his kids – in a kind of nostalgic way – like he imagines it used to be when he was a kid – go somewhere in the countryside where there’s no internet so he can spend some quality time with his teenage sons, spending a sort of idyllic Christmas and New Year’s Eve sitting around the fireplace playing board games, like it was in the good old days. But, his kids are modern British teenage boys who are addicted to the internet – so that might make things difficult…
You’ll also hear a few sound effects from the video, which you can see on the page for this episode.
Holidays with the kids (video 1)
White trainers, growing up, puberty, hormones and getting your head kicked in by your own son. (video 2)
John Bishop gets a new fridge and takes his old one to the dump (video 3)
Here is some of the vocabulary you could learn from this episode.
Going on holiday with the kids (video 1)
Sitting around a log fire playing board games
Addicted to the internet
It’s on the border between Scotland, england and Narnia
Internet, it’s Berwick son, we haven’t even got ceefax
We turned up at the cottage
In the middle of nowhere
Youse three, go in the living room, put the telly on
Looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses
In the middle of nowhere
White trainers (video 2)
You don’t realise how much of a cock you are
They do your (bleedin) head in don’t they?
Going through puberty
You have a week off school for half term (holiday)
You do P.E. (physical education)
You walk into the showers all self-conscious
Some kid walks in with a beard and bollocks by his knees!
Your voice breaks and that’s when you don’t get control over your voice
The hormones just come flying in and you’ve got no control over them
It’s the funniest thing on the planet bar none
I’m not asking you, I’m telling you!
Get up them (those) stairs and take them off.
It’s like the little lion is taking on the big line and all the other lions are running around going “it’s kicking off here!”
We’re stood toe to toe
I can take you!
There’s a chance he can take me here.
Thinking you’re going to get your head kicked in with your shoes
Taking the fridge to the dump (video 3)
To get rid of some stuff
It’s health and safety gone mad
It’s political correctness gone mad
A silver fridge that’s the size of a bungalow
That hasn’t half changed our lives (that has changed our lives a lot)
Put it next to the sink
I’m saving meself (myself) a yard of walking
We had a spare fridge
I turned up at the dump
There’s a fella there with a yellow vest and a clipboard
He’s done an NVQ in clipboard management
You can’t just dump a fridge now
You’ll have to phone us up
Then we come and get it
Who do I ring?
The phone in his hut rang
I’m outside dickhead!
The plan in this episode is to go through some of the language that you heard during the last two episodes.
If you listened to episodes 464 and 465 you will have heard me telling you to watch out for certain language that I would be explaining later.
Well, it is now ‘later’ – later has arrived. This is later. So let’s check out some of that language, shall we?
Check the page for this episode to see the words, phrases and some example sentences written for you to look at with your eyes and then remember with your brains (your brain – you’ve only got one, right?)
So, how much stuff did you notice? How many phrasal verbs, collocations and instances of ‘get’?
I’ve been through the episodes and have picked out some of that language that I thought was worth highlighting, and there was loads of it, tons of it, considerable amounts, too much for one episode. So in this one I’m just going to focus on the uses of get, which is one of the most common verbs in the English language. Let’s consider all the uses of ‘get’ which came up in the last two episodes.
GET the word ‘get’ into your life
Open a dictionary and look up this little word. You’ll see pages and pages of entries. Different meanings, grammatical functions, uses, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and so on.
*actually read out loads of uses of get…*
You can’t underestimate the importance and usefulness of this little word. Native English speakers use get an awful lot. It’s one of the features of native level English.
Now, actually I should point out that it’s not just this one word on its own. That’s slightly misleading. Instead you realise that you’re not learning ‘get’ over and over again, you’re learning all the many different phrases in which it occurs. So, don’t focus on what ‘get’ really means – on its own it doesn’t mean that much, that’s why it’s a delexical verb. The meaning is to be found in the whole phrase – so that means you need to pay particular attention to how the word collocates with prepositions like ‘in’ or ‘on’ and auxiliary verbs like ‘have’ and also how these phrases affect the grammar of the sentence (e.g. if they’re followed by a gerund or an infinitive).
Sounds difficult? That’s because it is. In fact, I think ‘get’ is an example of exactly how English can be extremely tricky for learners of English.
Some aspects of English are easier than other aspects.
Some of the ‘easier’ things about our language are – there are not so many verb forms (e.g. with ‘go’ – to go, go, goes, going, went, gone, been) or verb endings (-ed, s or es) , no gender – so no need to change the gender of the adjective or pronoun and so on. Obviously I would say English was easy because it’s easy for me and I know that, admittedly, there are some tricky bits like some adjective and adverb morphology (with comparatives and superlatives – er, ier, est, iest), our irregular verbs and spelling are an irregular nightmare, we have lots of vocabulary with many synonyms, indirect language is hard to deal with, modal verbs are hard to get to grips with and there’s massive diversity in the way the language is spoken with many different accents around the world and so on, but compared to something like French or German there is less grammar to deal with, like the number of verb forms for example is quite limited.
I guess this is why it’s fairly common for people to get to a certain level of functional English (intermediate level) quite quickly but then get stuck at the intermediate plateau. Many people get to that level where they can basically say what they want to say and hold down a basic conversation but then that’s it, they stay there or they get stuck there because they hit a wall when it comes to the more complex stuff – the really nitty-gritty of native level English usage – the stuff that allows you to communicate shades of grey, subtlety, nuance and humour.
This is where English becomes particularly tough stuff. It’s the sheer diversity of little phrases which are created by combining certain ‘delexical verbs’ with prepositions, pronouns, gerunds and infinitives.
‘Delexical verbs’ are verbs which don’t carry much meaning on their own. Often they are little verbs. E.g. get, have, keep, put, take, make, give. They combine with other words in phrases. It’s the phrase as a whole that carries the specific meaning.
We end up with sentences like: “I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.” or “I just can’t get used to being out of the loop.” or “I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”
“I’ve just got to get in on some of that action.”
to have got to do something = to have to do it, to need to do it
to get in on something = to become involved in something, take part in something from which you will benefit.
Is the meaning obvious from the words? Not really. The only big word there is “action”. All the others are little ‘grammar words’. The whole thing is quite idiomatic.
Is it easy to spot all the words being used when someone says it? Not really
You might eventually understand it, but can you use and pronounce it quickly and confidently?
Jim: Do you want to get in on some of this action? *points to chips and salsa*
Pete: No thanks, I’m Good.
(from the Urban Dictionary – which isn’t always reliable by the way, there’s a lot of stupid, rude slang in there)
“I can’t get used to being out of the loop” = I’m in a really difficult position because I don’t know what’s going on and I haven’t known what’s going on for a while. This position is not getting easier for me.” e.g. you’ve got no internet connection and life just doesn’t seem normal.
“I’ve got to get round to getting you back for that thing that you did to me.”
to get round to doing something = to finally do something you should have done before
to get someone back for doing something = to get revenge on someone
This is where English gets really quite difficult. It’s a nightmare, I know.
A lot of these ‘bits of English’ with get are phrasal verbs, others are just fixed expressions. They are difficult, right? But what are you going to do? Ignore them? Pretend they don’t exist? Bad move. You’ll end up speaking an unnatural form of English. You’ll end up not really understanding what native speakers are talking about or getting at.
So, don’t underestimate the importance of little verbs like ‘get’ or ‘make’ or ‘put’. They’ve very common and this is the real English that is used all the time every day, but which is hard to learn because it’s probably quite different from your native language and because they’re not the ‘big heavy latin words’ that are more noticeable. These delexical words are like the ninjas of English. Yes, more ninjas on the podcast. I am obsessed with ninjas.
There are actually about 29 different uses or different phrases with ‘get’ in this episode. Maybe more.
That’s a lot, I know. Normally in lessons we don’t teach more than about 12 words at a time. There’s a good chance not every phrase will stick.
It can feel overwhelming. There are so many usages and phrases. It feels like you’ll never learn them all. But don’t worry about it all too much. It does take a while to pick up these difficult aspects of English but it’s not impossible. It helps if you stay positive.
Tips for dealing with all this tricky vocabulary
Here are some tips that I hope will help:
Remember – it feels like there’s an infinite number of these little phrases. There isn’t. It’s a finite number. You can learn them all if you try. It is achievable. You can do it. Yes, you can.
OK, so you might not learn them all, it’s quite difficult. But don’t worry, you don’t have to learn them all. Just learn some and the ones you do learn properly will stick with you forever as long as you keep noticing and using them. That’s better than just going “Oh to hell with it!” and learning nothing. Something is better than nothing, even if it is not everything. So, don’t worry if you don’t get all of these expressions. Just learn some now and get the others later.
You could check a phrasal verbs dictionary like the Cambridge Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs to see the frequency of expressions, which might help you see which expressions are more common than others.
When you’ve learned a phrase, or started learning some phrases. Listen out for them, watch out for them. You’ll find you start noticing them more and more. This will help you remember them a bit. The ones you notice a lot are the really useful ones worth remembering.
Watch out for tricky little details such as whether the expression is followed by an -ing form or an infinitive form (with or without to) or if there are sneaky little prepositions, auxiliaries or pronouns. Don’t just learn the big solo verbs or words, train yourself to be on the lookout for vocabulary in phrases, or chunks. E.g. “to get used to doing something” or “be used to doing something” – both of those expressions with ‘used to’ have 4 parts, not just ‘used to’.
Always study vocabulary with real examples, not just definitions. Beware of translating everything directly from or into your language, this might not work. English is a different language, remember.
Try to use expressions with your own examples. Own the language. Personalise it. Use examples that mean something to you. This will help it stick in your mind, especially if your examples are visual or spatial – e.g. involving you in a particular space.
Listen back to episodes 464 and 465 and focus on spotting the uses of ‘get’ either in phrasal verbs or other uses. You could play ‘vocab hunter’ if it makes you feel more excited.
These phrases can be difficult to notice because of connected speech – the way certain sounds are cut, or even added in order to say the phrase quickly. All the words in the phrase run into each other and it ends up sounding like one word or even just a noise. E.g. “things might get a bit technical” (try it with and without the /t/ sounds)
Check out my series called “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. It’s currently on hiatus, but there are about 130 phrasal verbs explained in individual episodes with their own examples. Each episode is just a few minutes long and there’s not much rambling. I just get straight to the point each time. It might help.
So, let’s carry on and look at the ways in which ‘get’ is used with some examples from episodes 464 and 465.
Uses of GET
Get on its own can mean a few things. See below for examples.
The list below is in order of frequency from episodes 464 and 465. The most frequent uses in those episodes are at the top of the list.
Get = receive (get a letter), obtain (get permission to do something), achieve (get a good result)
e.g. (to get an idea, to get the giggles, get the motivation to do something)
here’s a message I got not long ago
I do get quite a lot of messages like that
I get messages like this quite a lot
where I get the inspiration for episodes
getting the giggles
Zdenek got a teaching job off the back of his podcast
Get some inspiration to record something
get the right results
getting a sense of what works with learners of English
some things that I’m sure will be a hit seem to get a muted response
trying to get their approval
it’s great to get your feedback
you can’t get that lovely close sound with the laptop mic
Get = become (get + adjective)
e.g. get old, get hot, get dark, get famous, get bored
This might get a bit technical later on
which could get quite geeky
if you get too focused on controlling everything
I think she gets distracted at work
I have to get myself pumped up
That’s how a British person gets pumped up
Come on, let’s get pumped!
Let’s get pumped up!
things get a bit more fun in the second half of the episode
Ooh, suddenly this has got way more exciting, hasn’t it. Hasn’t it?
Get = the auxiliary verb in passive forms (sometimes)
e.g. to get paid, to get downloaded, to get noticed, get caught, get arrested, get involved in something
if you get too focused on controlling everything you might stifle the conversation
I think she gets distracted at work
Let’s get pumped up!
Get = understand
e.g. to get the message, get a joke, to get the idea
nobody gets the joke
you get the idea
Do you get what I’m trying to say?
I just don’t get it
have got = have (possessive)
I’ve got two Shure SM58s and a Shure SM7B
Send out a search team for Carlos. Sweep the area, we’ve got a missing LEPster. (actually he’s not missing, he got in touch)
Imagine you’re a presenter and you’ve got your own radio show
Watch out for:
*we don’t use it in the past (I had)
*auxiliary verbs in negatives and questions
(+) I have an idea / I have got an idea
(-) I don’t have an idea / I haven’t got an idea
(Q) Do you have any ideas? / Have you got any ideas?
Have got to = have to (obligation)
I’ve just got to get through this work
“I’ve got to concentrate!”
Watch out for:
*not in the past (I had to)
*negatives and questions
I have to do it / I have got to do it
I don’t have to do it / I haven’t got to do it
Do you have to do it? / Have you got to do it?
Get = reach/arrive at a place/stage
e.g. to get home, to get to work, to get to where you want to be
to get to where I need to be to start recording something about it
Get = manage to put something somewhere
e.g. to get it on the table, to get the ball in the hole
get it online, get those files online
Phrasal verbs and other expressions with get
To get through something = to finish something, to pass from the start to the finish
e.g. We need to get through the woods before the sun goes down.
Things got a little bit difficult in the middle of the marathon but I got through it.
try to get through the bits about how I make the podcast
To get your head around something = to understand it
I’ll explain the vocab later, which should help you to get your head around it all
To get round to doing something = to do something you have intended to do for a long time
I’m glad to have actually got round to doing it
I wonder if I’ll ever get round to making all those episodes
To get into something (literal) = to enter something (e.g. get into the car please sir) or change into a particular state (e.g. get into the right mood to do something)
I just try to get into the right frame of mind to record an episode
To get into something (idiomatic – ish) = become interested or involved in something
You might want to get into it too
To get back (to something) = to return to a place, or return to something you were doing before
e.g. “Get back! Get back! Get back to where you once belonged. Get back Jo Jo!”
Let’s get back to the topic of this episode
To get something across = to communicate something to someone, to make someone understand something
I have to come up with ideas and get them (my ideas) across to my audience
How to actually get the message across
To get on with someone = to have a good, friendly relationship with someone
Listen to people who know each other and get on well
To get rid of something = to throw something away, to discard it
Sometimes I have to get rid of what I recorded and start again
Other expressions and uses of ‘get’
To get going / to get started = to start
So let’s get going.
Let’s get started properly.
To get on with it = Start doing something that you should be doing.
e.g. Come on, stop wasting time! Get on with it!
Let’s get on with it.
To get down to business = to start talking about the subject which is to be discussed
Let’s get down to business.
To get something done = do it, finish it – ‘get’ is a causative verb here – either you do it or someone else does it
Control the podcast settings and get it published to iTunes
I need to get this finished by the end of the day
I need to get my teeth looked at
To get someone to do something = another causative verb – it means to make someone do something, to persuade someone to do something – someone else does it (in USA they might say “have it done”
getting people to download it
How I get people to know about what I’m doing, how to get people to listen.
To get someone doing something = to put someone in a state, to make someone do something over and over
Here are just a few questions to get you thinking.
What’s the difference between ‘get someone to do something’ and ‘get someone doing something’?
The first one means persuade someone to do it, and it might only be once. (e.g. I got him to give me the money)
The second one means that you make someone do something over and over again, or put them in a state, not just do one single thing. (e.g. “now you’ve got me worrying” or “I really want to get you running every day”)
To get used to doing something = to become accustomed to doing something, to become familiar with something
I want you to get used to noticing different bits of language
To get the hang of doing something = like ‘get used to -ing’ but more informal, to learn how to do something
I want you to get the hang of noticing language
To get the most out of something = to achieve the most from something that is possible, to take advantage of something
I want you to be able to get the most out of these episodes
to get the most out of the people you’re listening to
Also: to make the most of something
To get in touch (with someone) = to contact someone by phone, text, email etc
Get in touch
Also: keep in touch, stay in touch
To get it right/wrong = do something correctly or incorrectly
I’m sure I don’t get it right every time
I try to get it right
To get together = meet socially
Get people together
Get together with someone
If you get the right people together
Also – (n) a ‘get together’
Let’s have a get together at the weekend
I’ve always been a big fan of Bill Bailey since I first saw him on telly in the 1990s, and I’m glad to say I once saw him performing stand-up in Hammersmith, which is where Bill lives and I used to live too.
Who is Bill Bailey?
Bill Bailey (born 24 February 1964) is an English comedian, musician, actor, TV and radio presenter and author. Bailey is well known for his role in the TV show Black Books in which he plays the part of Mani, and for his appearances on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You, and QI as well as his extensive stand-up work, including his DVD specials such as “Part Troll” and “Dandelion Mind”.
Bailey was listed by the Observer newspaper as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy in 2003. In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the seventh greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
In this episode
In this episode we’re going to listen to some of Bill’s comedy and we’re going to understand it all so that you can hopefully enjoy it as much as a native speaker. So, lots of language, lots of listening and all the usual stuff.
Obviously, your enjoyment of comedy is subjective and what’s funny to one person isn’t funny to another, but the vast majority of what goes into appreciating a comedian is being able to actually understand the things they are saying. So, don’t judge it until you fully understand it.
I hope there’s a lot for you to learn from this episode and that you also enjoy it and find out about a very funny comedian, who has a lot of videos on YouTube and DVDs that you can buy and enjoy over and over again.
Let’s talk a little bit more about Bill Bailey and then hear some of his comedy.
Here are a few little things that you should know that might help you appreciate his humour a bit more.
He’s got quite a funny appearance. He looks like an old hippy (even though he associates more with the punk movement) – he has boggly eyes, a bald forehead, long straggly hair, a round face. That sounds almost mean, my description, but Bill is also a lovely person, quite sort of cuddly and is amusing just to look at. He uses his appearance well, making himself look like a crazy person. It helps gain laughs I think. Inside he is a very down to earth guy with a good sense of humour.
Type of comedy
A bit weird, a bit surreal, quite cerebral and intelligent, considering the stranger aspects of life. He’s the sort of comic that some people would say was “random” – meaning he is a bit strange and tends to look at life from a different angle. He doesn’t just do ordinary observational comedy, but instead his work is full of musical parodies and existential thoughts.
Music – parodies, mixing different styles together, observations about musical tropes.
Left-wing politics – He’s a member of the Labour party and his political views come into his comedy in various ways as he tends to make fun of capitalist culture and the establishment.
Drugs – they come into it sometimes when he makes reference to weed and generally it seems that Bill has probably taken a few drugs in his time, as is evident in his surreal style and his existential musings.
Hammersmith – this is where he’s from. It’s in West London where I used to live, but Bill also grew up in the West Country – so he has a slight west country accent, and Wales too. Generally though, he speaks a kind of RP with a West Country or London twang.
So let’s now listen to a few clips, and then I’m going to explain what you hear. There are so many clips on YouTube and I basically like all of them, but I’m going to play you probably about 5 things taken from various TV appearances and live shows over the years. You can find the embedded videos on the page for this episode.
Most of these videos showcase his musical talents as well as his comedy, his story telling and so on.
Let’s get started.
Beethoven loses a penny
Some vocabulary and language
A lot of institutions had to merge due to funding cuts
I attended the Bovington Gurney School of Performing Arts and Owl Sanctuary
I studied Beethoven.
A fascinating character.
A very lonely embittered man, a very drunken man, slovenly, covered in dust, and filth and beer. He was a very unpleasant man. He was prone to dark fits of temper. He would hurl stuff around the house and then scrawl sonatas on big blocks of cheese and then eat them to spite the world.
He channeled his anger into his work.
Rage Over A Lost Penny – inspired by an argument he had with his cleaning lady.
You know when you lose something… how frustrating.
Have you seen my penny?
Can you think where you last had it?
No I can’t remember where it is!
Have you checked your pockets?
Of course I have you stupid b*tch!
Starsky & Hutch and the jazz news
Things you need to know about Starsky & Hutch – it was a show about two cops in the 1970s with groovy music
Dramatic cop action, sometimes they were on a stakeout, they drove a cool fast car, they had an informant called Huggy Bear, sometimes they’d have fights with criminals, mafia guys etc, they’d often have car chases and they’d always drive down alleyways with lots of cardboard boxes and they’d drive through the boxes because it looked good on TV.
Conversation and language analysis with the podpals and guest Sarah. Hear some conversation about being married to a foreign person, bringing up kids to be bilingual, and learn some slang in Australian and Northern Irish English. Vocabulary is explained at the end.
This episode is choc-a-block with natural conversation and language.
Yesterday I had Amber and Paul over to the flat, and I also invited Sarah Donnelly, a friend of the podcast. Sarah also brought her baby who she had since she was last on the podcast. There’s no relation by the way between her being on the podcast and having a baby. Purely coincidental. Anyway, the four of us sat around the table yesterday in the blistering heat to record some podcast material and that’s what you’re going to hear.
Sometimes you can hear the baby screaming and gurgling in the background but I don’t think it spoils the recording really. She hasn’t learned to talk yet, but who knows being on the podcast might help a little bit in some way.
The conversation is a bit chaotic because there are 4 people, sometimes talking over each other. If you like you can imagine you’re in a business meeting. A business meeting in which no business actually takes place, nobody observes the rules of formality and where the participants just chat with each other. So, not much like a business meeting really, but anyway a meeting of sorts, and this is the kind of thing you might have to deal with in the future if you go to a meeting in English and there are a number of people discussing things and you have to keep up. It’s good practice to listen to this kind of thing to help you prepare for that kind of situation.
This recording was slightly shorter than the usual full-on ramble that we have together. But I’m going to do a bit of language analysis at the end. I’ll pick out a few words and phrases and will clarify them after the conversation has finished.
Also there’s another language-related episode coming soon with Amber, Paul and Sarah.
Here now is a discussion between podpals Amber and Paul, also featuring Sarah Donnelly the American with Irish roots who has been on this podcast before, most recently talking about the US Presidential Elections with Sebastian Marx.
Things we all have in common:
We’re all English speaking expats in France
We are all with French partners, either married or “paxed”
We’re all comedians on the stand up scene too
In this chat we discuss a few things, such as the complexities of being with a foreign partner, bringing up a child in a foreign country to be fully bilingual, getting married and what it feels like for the bride and groom on the big day, Amber’s podcast which was recently released online, Paul’s upcoming gig in Australia, Sarah’s Irish roots and some English slang from New Zealand, Australia and Northern Ireland.
Here are some questions for you to consider as you listen. This can help you to focus on the content.
Are you or have you ever been with a foreign person in a relationship? What are the difficulties of that?
What’s the best way to bring up a child to be bilingual? Is it possible to raise a bilingual child when only one of you speaks one of the target languages to the child?
Are you married? How did it feel for you on the big day? Did you cry? Have you ever been a guest at a wedding, and did you cry?
Have you heard Amber’s podcast, which is called Paname? It’s now available at panamepodcast.com
Can you identify different English accents and dialects from around the world? How about American vs British, or different areas of the UK? How about Ireland and Northern Ireland? What about Australia and New Zealand? Do you know what their English sounds like?
Right. Consider those questions as you listen to this conversation and hold on until later when I’ll explain some of the vocabulary and some cultural stuff too, maybe touching on different accents, wedding vocabulary and more.
But now you can listen to Amber, Paul, Sarah and me, melting in my boiling hot apartment.
Vocabulary and other language points – Explained
It’s really hot
It’s hot as hell
Being partnered with a French person is hard work.
I have one hour’s worth of material on this. One hour’s worth of something 5 minutes’ worth of something
We’ve got 3 days’ worth of food left
I’ve got about 10 minutes’ worth of battery left
Bringing Up Children
Bringing up a baby in a foreign country with a foreign partner – will they speak English? Bring up a baby Raise a child Be raised in / to Grow up
Do you have experience of bringing up a baby to be bilingual? Let us know.
If just one parent speaks English, and the rest of the time it’s French with school, friends and everything else – will the kid be bilingual?
Condone/Condemn I don’t condone the hitting of a child (stupid thing to say actually – but that’s what happens when you joke – sometimes you go over the line a bit – obvs I didn’t mean it)
Condone / condemn
An out of body experience
We were so stressed out
Crying To cry
To be in tears
To well up
To choke up
Neither of us cried
I thought everybody would be in tears
I welled up a bit
I was choking up
Walk down the aisle
Her parents aren’t with her any more. They passed away.
Paul’s dad gave her away. “It was so sweet that it was your dad that was giving her away.”
I can’t grip it like I like to grip it. (innuendo)
He’s jumped ahead. (he’s gone to the innuendo before we realised it)
Some ninjas came out of the woodwork. (to come out of the woodwork) to appear after having been hidden or not active for a long time: After you’ve been in a relationship for a while all sorts of little secrets start to come out of the woodwork. Mildly disapproving. From Cambridge Dictionary Online.
They feel like they’re going to do mistakes. Makemistakes.
The slang is pretty similar to Aussie or UK slang, but the accent is different. For years I couldn’t differentiate it from Aussie, but the more you hear the more you realise how different it is. Watch Flight of the Conchords to hear lots of it. Episode in the pipeline.