Thursday, 22 March 2018

British English vs American English

British American
shopping troley shopping cart
holiday vacation
queue line
lorry truck
boot of a car trunk of a car
pavement sidewalk
rubbish garbage / trash
shop store
crisps chips
fizzy drink soda
lift elevator
loo bathroom
jumper sweater
public toilet restroom
trousers pants
pants shorts
aubergine eggplant
plaster band-aid
colour color
centre center
monday to friday monday through friday

The schwa sound

about /əˈbaʊt/
amazing     /əˈmeɪ.zɪŋ/
away   /əˈweɪ/
alone /əˈləʊn/
vitamin  /ˈvɪt.ə.mɪn/
present  /ˈprez.ənt/
experiment /ɪkˈsper.ɪ.mənt/
confident /ˈkɒn.fɪ.dənt/
celebrate /ˈsel.ə.breɪt/
cousin /ˈkʌz.ən/
occur /əˈkɜːr/
continue  /kənˈtɪn.juː/
colaborate  /kəˈlæb.ə.reɪt/
support /səˈpɔːt/

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Test your English! (Phrasal verbs)

You can review them once again:

Respect or admireTo look up to sb
TolerateTo put up with
ReduceTo cut down on
To not have any leftTo run out of
To resemble / to be likeTo take after
To find without expectingTo come across
To inventTo make up
To boastTo show off
To meet your expectationsTo live up to
To feel tired / to be deteriorated from useTo wear out
To dieTo pass away

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Do you know? ( #3 )

According to the forecast, the unsettled weather will continue over the next few days.

We ate dinner outside on the deck.

The boss has a big desk in his office.

mouse / mice

You have to inflate an air mattress before you can sleep on it.

They treat all their servants with complete disdain.

back sth up
It is advisable to back up all the files on your computer regularly, in case of breakdown.

back sb up
Go ahead and tell the boss just what happened; I'll back you up on it.

back down
Local residents have forced the local council to back down from/on its plans to build a nightclub on their street.

blow up
My dad blew up (at me) when he saw the bill.

blow it   
I totally blew it, and I'm so embarrassed; I don't know when I've performed so badly.
Oh, blow it! I've forgotten to invite Paul to the party.

cheer sb up
Here's a plate of chocolate ice cream to cheer you up.

clear up
The doctor told me the rash would clear up in about six weeks.
I hope it clears up in time for the picnic.

"Come back here right now!'' he yelled.

sleep on it
Don’t give me an answer now – sleep on it and tell me whenever you’re ready.

Monday, 12 March 2018

A Horseman in the Sky

Original website

Ourstory today is called, "A Horseman in the Sky."  It was written by Ambrose Bierce. Here is Roy Depew with the story.

Narrator: Carter Druse was born in Virginia. He loved his parents, his home and the south. But he loved his country, too. And in the autumn of eighteen sixty-one, when the United States was divided by a terrible civil war, Carter Druse, a southerner, decided to join the Union Army of the north.

He told his father about his decision one morning at breakfast.

The older man looked at his only son for a moment, too shocked to speak. Then he said, "As of this moment you are a traitor to the south. Please dont tell your mother about your decision. She is sick, and we both know she has only a few weeks to live."

Carters father paused, again looking deep into his sons eyes. "Carter," he said, "No matter what happens -- be sure you always do what you think is your duty."

Both Carter Druse and his father left the table that morning with broken hearts. And Carter soon left his home, and everyone he loved to wear the blue uniform of the Union soldier.

One sunny afternoon, a few weeks later, Carter Druse lay with his face in the dirt by the side of a road. He was on his stomach, his arms still holding his gun. Carter would not receive a medal for his actions. In fact, if his commanding officer were to see him, he would order Carter shot immediately.

For Carter was not dead or wounded. He was sleeping while on duty. Fortunately, no one could see him. He was hidden by some bushes, growing by the side of the road.

The road Carter Druse had been sent to guard was only a few miles from his fathers house.

It began in a forest, down in the valley, and climbed up the side of a huge rock. Anyone standing on the top of this high rock would be able to see down into the valley. And that person would feel very dizzy, looking down. If he dropped a stone from the edge of this cliff, it would fall for six hundred meters before disappearing into the forest in the valley below.

Giant cliffs, like the one Carter lay on, surrounded the valley.

Hidden in the valleys forest were five union regiments -- thousands of Carters fellow soldiers. They had marched for thirty-six hours. Now they were resting. But at midnight they would climb that road up the rocky cliff.

Their plan was to attack by surprise an army of southerners, camped on the other side of the cliff. But if their enemy learned about the Union Army hiding in the forest, the soldiers would find themselves in a trap with no escape. That was why Carter Druse had been sent to guard the road.

It was his duty to be sure that no enemy soldier, dressed in gray, spied on the valley, where the union army was hiding.

But Carter Druse had fallen asleep. Suddenly, as if a messenger of fate came to touch him on the shoulder, the young man opened his eyes. As he lifted his head, he saw a man on horseback standing on the huge rocky cliff that looked down into the valley.

The rider and his horse stood so still that they seemed made of stone. The mans gray uniform blended with the blue sky and the white clouds behind him. He held a gun in his right hand, and the horses reins in the other.

Carter could not see the mans face, because the rider was looking down into the valley. But the man and his horse seemed to be of heroic, almost gigantic size, standing there motionless against the sky. Carter discovered he was very much afraid, even though he knew the enemy soldier could not see him hiding in the bushes.

Suddenly the horse moved, pulling back its head from the edge of the cliff. Carter was completely awake now. He raised his gun, pushing its barrel through the bushes. And he aimed for the horsemans heart. A small squeeze of the trigger, and Carter Druse would have done his duty.

At that instant, the horseman turned his head and looked in Carters direction. He seemed to look at Carters face, into his eyes, and deep into his brave, generous heart.

Carters face became very white. His entire body began shaking. His mind began to race, and in his fantasy, the horse and rider became black figures, rising and falling in slow circles against a fiery red sky.

Carter did not pull the trigger. Instead, he let go of his gun and slowly dropped his face until it rested again in the dirt.

Brave and strong as he was, Carter almost fainted from the shock of what he had seen.

Is it so terrible to kill an enemy who might kill you and your friends? Carter knew that this man must be shot from ambush -- without warning. This man must die without a moment to prepare his soul; without even the chance to say a silent prayer.

Slowly, a hope began to form in Carter Druses mind. Perhaps the southern soldier had not seen the northern troops.

Perhaps he was only admiring the view. Perhaps he would now turn and ride carelessly away.

Then Carter looked down into the valley so far below. He saw a line of men in blue uniforms and their horses, slowly leaving the protection of the forest. A foolish Union officer had permitted his soldiers to bring their horses to drink at a small stream near the forest. And there they were -- in plain sight!

Carter Druse looked back to the man and horse standing there against the sky. Again he took aim. But this time he pointed his gun at the horse. Words rang in his head -- the last words his father ever spoke to him: "No matter what happens, be sure you always do what you think is your duty."

Carter Druse was calm as he pulled the trigger of his gun.

At that moment, a Union officer happened to look up from his hiding place near the edge of the forest. His eyes climbed to the top of the cliff that looked over the valley. Just looking at the top of the gigantic rock, so far above him, made the soldier feel dizzy.

And then the officer saw something that filled his heart with horror. A man on a horse was riding down into the valley through the air!

The rider sat straight in his saddle. His hair streamed back, waving in the wind. His left hand held his horses reins while his right hand was hidden in the cloud of the horses mane. The horse looked as if it were galloping across the earth. Its body was proud and noble.

As the frightened Union officer watched this horseman in the sky, he almost believed he was witnessing a messenger from heaven. A messenger who had come to announce the end of the world. The officers legs grew weak, and he fell. At almost the same instant, he heard a crashing sound in the trees. The sound died without an echo. And all was silent.

The officer got to his feet, still shaking. He went back to his camp. But he didnt tell anyone what he had seen. He knew no one would ever believe him.

Soon after firing his gun, Carter Druse was joined by a Union sergeant. Carter did not turn his head as the sergeant kneeled beside him.

"Did you fire?" The sergeant whispered.


"At what?"

"A horse. It was on that rock. Its not there now. It went over the cliff." Carters face was white. But he showed no other sign of emotion. The sergeant did not understand.

"See here, Druse," he said, after a moments silence. "Why are you making this into a mystery. I order you to report. Was there anyone on the horse?"


"Who? "

"My father."

Announcer: You have heard the story called, "A Horseman in the Sky." It was written by Ambrose Bierce, and adapted for Special English by Dona de Sanctis. Your storyteller was Roy Depew.

For VOA Special English, this is Shirley Griffith.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Future Perfect

Original website

Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Callum.

And me, Finn.

Today’s programme is all about the future perfect verb form.

Yes, by the end of this programme, you will have learnt how and when to use this form.

So there was our first example: you will have learnt...

You’ll hear lots more examples in the programme…

And we’ll have a quiz. Now, we usually use the future perfect to talk about an event that we predict or expect to happen or finish before a particular time in the future. Listen to this example from Feifei.

By the time Christine arrives, we’ll have had dinner.

So we’ll have had, that’s we will have had - in the future perfect tells us that we will finish dinner before Christine gets back. We might be having dinner right up to just before she returns or we might finish it an hour before …
… but in any case, we will finish before she arrives.

We are using the future perfect to make a prediction about the future. Here are some more examples.

This time next year, I will have finished my course.
Sales will have increased by 20 per cent by next January.
By 2020 the city’s population will have doubled.

Now we usually use a time phrase with the future perfect, often with by or in. Let’s hear examples with by again:

Sales will have increased by 20 per cent by next January.
By 2020 the city’s population will have doubled.

And here are some more examples with a by time phrase.

By the summer I’ll have finished all my exams.
We’ll have moved house by Christmas.

So we had by next January, by 2020, by the summer and by Christmas. We can also say by the winterby the end of the week

by next month or next yearby this time next week… 

In fact you can pretty well use by… with any future date, month, season or special day.

Very special day. Another time expression with by we can use with the future perfect is by the time that…plus a subject and verb. Listen to the example we had earlier, and check out the tense.

By the time Christine arrives, we’ll have had dinner.

It’s the present simple - arrives.

When we use in for a time phrase with the future perfect, we can use it with a day, a month, a date, a time period. Here are some examples.

In fifty years' time, sea levels will have risen by several centimetres.
In June I’ll have been unemployed for five months.
In 2050, I believe robots will have replaced sales assistants in shops.

As well as for future plans and predictions, we can also use the future perfect to talk about what we believe or imagine has or hasn’t happened at the moment of speaking…

…or in other words, to make educated guesses in the present about the past. Here are some examples.

There’s no point in calling Judy. She’ll have left by now.
Let’s hurry! The film won’t have started yet.
If he’s on schedule, Tom will have arrived in Bangkok yesterday.

So we assume that Judy has already left….

And the film hasn’t started...

And Tom has arrived in Bangkok.

Now, to form the future perfect we use subject plus will or won’t plus have and the past participle of the main verb.

By the summer I’ll have finished all my exams.
The film won’t have started yet.

Notice that we usually use short forms, so it’s I’ll, he’ll, they’ll and so on; and will not becomes won’t.

For questions, it’s will or won’t plus subject plus have plus the past participle.

Will you have finished reading all the reports by this afternoon?

6 Minute Grammar from BBC Learning English.

We're talking about the future perfect verb form.

So, to recap, we use the future perfect to predict events that will have happened before a particular time in the future…

…and to make educated guesses about things happening around now and even in the past.

And we usually use short forms.

So, it’s time for our quiz. Which is correct?
Number one.
a) By 2060, scientists will have found a cure for cancer.
b) By 2060, scientists will found a cure for cancer.

It’s a) By 2060, scientists will have found a cure for cancer.

I hope so, now
Number 2.
a) Jackie won’t have woken up yet. It’s too early.
b) Jackie won’t have wake up yet. It’s too early.

It’s a) Jackie won’t have woken up yet. It’s too early.

Number three.
a) Will have you done all your work by two?
b) Will you have done all your work by two?

And the answer is b) Will you have done all your work by two?

That’s correct and it’s the end of the show. There's lots more about this on our website at Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar soon.


Paul McCartney’s Spider Story

Original website: Luke's ENGLISH Podcast.

Learn English from an anecdote told by Sir Paul McCartney. Let’s listen to Paul telling a sweet story about something funny that happened to him and George Harrison when they were teenagers, before they became world famous musicians in The Beatles. Let’s listen to his story , do some intensive listening practice and then I’ll help you understand everything. Also, let’s have a laugh with some funny Paul McCartney impressions.

Pre-Jingle Vocabulary

This episdoe is called Paul McCartney’s Spider Story and if you keep listening you’ll hear what happens when a couple of Beatles meet a couple of spiders.

You can also do some intensive listening practice focusing on every single word, and then later there are some bits focusing on Paul McCartney’s voice – including a few fun Paul McCartney impressions.

But right here at the beginning, before the jingle even, I just want to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that appear in the episode. I’ll tell you the vocab now and while you’re listening and hopefully enjoying the episode, just try to spot these words and phrases as they come up, and when you do spot them you can just go – oh, there’s that word, there’s that phrase.

#1 a bed and breakfast (a B&B) = a simple guesthouse where you pay for a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning, a bit like a basic hotel which is just someone’s home. (e.g. We hitch-hiked around Cornwall and stayed in a few little B&Bs along the way)

#2 to turn out (phrasal verb) = when you discover a fact or when something is later revealed to be true or to be the case, turn out + infinitive (e.g. we got talking to this guy and made friends with him and it turned out that his mum owned a B&B up the road or I was standing in a shop and I overheard someone talking about recording music and a concert and it turned out to be Paul McCartney!)

#3 menace (noun) = something dangerous that can cause you harm (e.g. next door’s dog is a real menace to my chickens, or he has an air of menace about him, or there was a hint of menace in his voice)

#4 as blind as a bat = totally blind, e.g. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses! (Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes)

#5 a nativity scene = a set of models or statues depicting the birth of the baby Jesus Christ, with Mary & Joseph often sitting over the baby Jesus. Every Christmas my school used to display a nativity scene in the school’s entrance. Sometimes people display nativity scenes in their homes or even outside the house if they’re particularly religious at Christmas.

#6 to bury the hatchet = to stop a long running argument and become friends again. E.g. I wish you two would just bury the hatchet so we can get the band back together. (bury the weapon you might use to fight with someone)

#7 to bury the hatchet in someone’s head = a joke! If you bury a knife, sword or hatchet in this case in someone’s head – it means you stick it deep in their head – to kill them. E.g. I’m ready to bury the hatchet – in your head! – Makes it sound like you’re ready to stop fighting, but actually you still want to kill the other person!

#8 showing off = behaving in a way to attract attention and show people how great you are, but in a way that’s annoying. E.g. Dave is really good at the guitar but he’s always showing off doing these ridiculous guitar solos. He just wants to impress everyone. or Stop showing off in front of all the guests!

OK – so, no information yet about the context that those words come up in, but I just wanted to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that definitely do come up at various points during the episode. See if you can spot them all as they naturally come up. Now, on with the episode!


What are we doing in this episode? Listen to an anecdote – a real one, told by none other than Paul McCartney.

This is a video I found on YouTube (see below). Listen to the story, and just work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a few questions to guide you. Then I’ll go through the recording again and explain it, clarify, highlight any features of language and generally help you to understand it as well as I do. So, this is a great chance to learn some English from a real anecdote – a personal little story, in this case told by Sir Paul McCartney.

I love The Beatles. I love listening to Paul talking about, well, anything really, and I love this particular video and this little anecdote.

It’s not a story about how he conquered the world in The Beatles, or how they played Shea Stadium or how they sold millions of records or whatever.

It’s just a sweet and funny little story about something that happened to him and his mate George Harrison when they went hitchhiking in Wales – before they were even famous or in The Beatles.

I think the video originally appears as an outtake from the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Highly recommended.

He was just asked if he could tell a story about a good memory of George. Of all the things they must have been through together, this is the one he picked.
Who’s Paul McCartney? (as if you don’t know…)

He’s got to be one of the most successful musicians to have ever lived.
He was in The Beatles – you must have heard of them!
I don’t know if you like their music, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most significant bands ever and also one of the most significant moments in cultural history. I have no doubt that their music and their story will forever be remembered, studied and considered ultimately to be like classical music.

But I don’t mean to build it up too much. For me, I’m a fan of the Beatles not just because of their place in cultural history, but because of the fascinating story of these apparently ordinary guys from Liverpool, their lives, their friendship and the amazing pool of creativity that seemed to open up between them once various factors were in place and the career of the Beatles happened.

Comprehension Questions

Watch the video of “Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison” (below)

Try to answer these questions. Listen to find out the answers.

    1.- Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
    2.- Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
    3.- Where did they stay?
    4.- What did he realise later on?
    5.- Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
    6.- What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
    7.- Who were Jimmy & Jemimah?

Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison – “The Menace! The Spiders!”

The second anecdote – Buddy Holly and John Lennon’s poor eyesight

What’s the funny thing Paul says about John’s eyesight?

Answer: John Lennon famously wore glasses because he was very short sighted. He used to take the glasses off if girls were around. Later, Buddy Holly became a famous pop/rock star and suddenly it was quite cool to wear horn-rimmed glasses. Anyway, one night after writing songs at Paul’s house one dark evening at Christmas time, John walked past a house and thought he saw some neighbours still sitting outside in the freezing cold playing cards. Paul later realised that it was just a nativity scene, and John was so blind that he’d thought the statues of Mary & Joseph bending over the baby Jesus were a couple of people playing cards outside their house.

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan do Beatle Impressions in The Trip to Spain

Rob and Steve do their Paul McCartney impressions. Rob talks about how Paul’s voice has been affected by the fact that his mouth has lost some mobility now that he’s quite old. Steve disagrees and says that he thought Paul was quite articulate. They then start doing John Lennon impressions.

Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo

A parody of the Beatles in their Let It Be period, when there was lots of friction in the band and they couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the group. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz does impressions of all the Beatles.

Friday, 9 March 2018

10 Very British Verbs

1.- to fancy
Do you fancy going to the cinema?
I don't fancy going out.

2.- to queue
Sorry I'm late. I had to queue for ages at the bank.

3.- to nick something
Somebody has nicked my phone!

4.- to chat somebody up
Did you see Katie getting chatted up by the barman?
Are you going to go and chat up that guy?
Are you going to go and chat that guy up?

5.- to take the piss out of somebody
My mates used to take the piss out of me for having bad hair.

6.- to leg it
I used to leg it back from school to watch this programme.

7.- to faff
Stop faffing about!
Stop faffing around!

8.- to splah out
Look, it's our anniversary we should splash out.

9.- to flog something
I'm trying to flog my old car.

10.- to wind somebody up
What winds you up guys?

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Everyday Idioms & Expressions Used in Britain

1.- (something / someone) drives me round the bend

2.- does / doing my head in

3.- under the weather / feeling rough

4.- over the moon

5.- at the end of the day

6.- get a grip

7.- piece of piss

8.- take the piss

The Birth of My Daughter

Introduction Transcript

Welcome to the podcast, happy new year. I hope you had a good one wherever you are, however you chose to celebrate it – whether you went out to a party, saw some fireworks or something, or simply chose to stay in and just read a book on your own – whatever you did, I hope you enjoyed it and that now you’re ready to get stuck into 2018 with some positivity, determination and some hope in your heart even if you are still recovering from your night of celebrations on new year’s eve.

Here’s the first episode of LEP in 2018.

I’ve chosen to make this a personal episode of the podcast.

Our baby daughter has finally arrived. She’s absolutely adorable (but I would say that of course) and my wife and I both feel extremely lucky, very grateful and proud. I tweeted about this, put a post on FB about it and also wrote something in the comment section just to let my listeners know – because I feel that quite a lot of you were keen to get updates since you’ve been following this news since I talked about it in episode 474.

This is what I wrote on FB and Twitter:
The response I got was amazing (to me). Hundreds of people wrote lovely messages of congratulation and the post got over 1000 likes on Facebook. Thank you for the lovely messages.

I was wondering whether I’d talk about this on the podcast. After all, this is a podcast which is ostensibly about learning English and not about all the details of my personal life. I don’t want this podcast to become some sort of reality show, and it won’t be.

But I have decided that perhaps I should talk about this very personal experience here on the podcast in at least one episode.

Let me explain why…

I was listening to Olly Richards Podcast on my way home from the hospital – perhaps one or two days after the baby was born. My wife was in the hospital with our brand new daughter and I was going back to our flat to tidy it up, wash some baby clothes, warm the place up and prepare it for the arrival of the baby and my wife but also my parents and my brother. It would be the first time our daughter had come home, having spent the first few days of her life in a room in the maternity ward in hospital – in safe surroundings, with midwives and nurses available around the clock, with all the care she needed – and I was suddenly aware (much more intensely aware I should say) that I needed to make our flat a proper nest for this little creature to be comfortable, warm and safe. I was aware of the importance of this before of course, and we had already done a lot of things in the Flat to get it ready – my wife’s nesting instinct had kicked in months before, but mine was only really kicking in now as the baby had arrived. So I was heading back, leaving the two girls in the hospital ward, which was the whole world as far as the baby was concerned. Feeling pretty raw and lots of emotions. Virtually sleepless night. You know how it is. I decided to listen to something and picked an episode of I will teach you a language with Olly Richards featuring a fascinating interview with Stephen Krashen. He’s a celebrated linguist and the guy behind language acquisition theory.

Olly and Stephen were talking about how people learn languages. Krashen was giving the benefit of his extensive experience and research into the subject. He’s been searching for the answer to this question for years. How do we learn languages? What are the best habits we can adopt? What can language teachers do to help?

He’s convinced that he has the answer and it’s all to do with comprehensible input – exposing yourself to lots of English (in this case) that you can understand (mostly) and that is motivating to listen to. He was particularly enthusiastic about stories. Search for interesting stories. Listen to people telling stories. Find stories in which you want to know what happens next.

He was very convincing about it.

You can listen to the interview on Olly’s Podcast.

I Will Teach You A Language – Episode 220: Stephen Krashen Interview

In my sleep deprived and emotional state I felt totally open to what he was saying and it struck me as being so true.

I thought of some of my best English lessons that I’ve taught and I realised that many of them included stories – not just stories in textbooks or whatever, but stories about personal experiences. Telling the students a funny personal story. Having them try to retell the story, write it down, test each other, creatively think of ways to continue the story with their own ideas, and giving them chances to tell their own similar stories. They’ve always been great lessons.

And I thought of times I’ve told stories on the podcast – like travelling experiences or episodes of the lying game. I like those episodes.

Then I thought about this episode which I felt I had to do – trying to explain what it’s like to bring a child into the world. And I thought – I’ll just try and tell it like a story, starting from the pregnancy and then going through the different stages of what happened and how they felt.

Then I started preparing some notes for it, sitting on the sofa and I asked my wife to help me with some ideas and then I just thought – why don’t I just interview her about the experience?

I’ve never had my wife on the podcast before as you know but it just made sense for her to be in this episode because after all she’s the one who did all the work in this birth and she seemed up for talking about it, and so why not just let her tell the story with me?

So, that’s what you’re going to hear – two proud parents describing the birth of their first child. I hope you find it to be interesting and that it’s not too cheesy or sentimental or anything.

So we’re going to start at the beginning (not the moment of conception, we won’t be talking about that) but we’ll start somewhere during the pregnancy and we’ll try and tell you our experience from then to now.

Hopefully this will be an engaging story that will help you learn English according to Stephen Krashen’s theory – remember you can listen to the episodes called Becoming a Dad which I recorded with Ben and Andy – that’s where you’ll find vocabulary explanations for many of the words and phrases relating to this subject.

Hopefully this will also just get across to you the weird and wonderful mix of feelings and emotions that are involved in what is a very significant moment in anyone’s life, in this case mine and my wife’s and of course our daughter’s.

Here we go…

So that was my wife on the podcast for the first time. I hope you enjoyed listening to it and that you managed to follow the whole thing.

Let us know in the comment section what you think.
Feel free to share your own experiences if you have any – that could be a good way to practise your writing a bit. Have you had children? What was it like to you? Was your experience similar to ours, or different?
Do you have any advice for us as new parents?

If you have questions about any of the language which came up, you could ask those questions in the comment section.

If you ever do that – ask specific questions about words or phrases you’ve heard – it really helps if you put a time code with your question – e.g. what did Luke say at 45:30?

It’s nice to be back on the podcast and I’m really looking forward to posting more new episodes in the coming year.

2018 will be the 9th year I’ve been doing this podcast.

Don’t forget to download the LEP app – it’s available in the app store. That’s where you can find some app-only episodes, and also some bonus content for a lot of the episodes. For example, for episode 501 the bonus content is a little video in which I show you one of the presents I received for Christmas.

Also, you should join the mailing list in order to get an email whenever I post something on the website – that’s usually a new podcast episode, but sometimes it’s other content – like for example a couple of weeks ago I posted an episode of The Earful Tower Podcast with Oliver Gee in which Oliver and I recorded a conversation about the Paris Metro while riding the Paris metro. You can find that in the episode archive on my website, but if you’re a mailing list subscriber you’ll already know about it, right?

OK, that’s it for this episode, I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. But for now, it’s time to say good-bye!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Do you know? ( #2 )

That score is from a Mozart concerto.
James Rhodes played the whole concert without scores.

landline phone 

Holy Week

Extra virgin olive oil

mandarin orange / tangerine 
Mandarin oranges are smaller and sweeter than oranges.

The coffee stays warm for hours in a thermos.

twin / identical twin
I used to date an identical twin; sometimes I wasn't sure whether I was with him or his brother!

They are trying to cross the Straits of Gibraltar by swimming or in dinghies.

to break into
Three burglars broke into my neighbors' house yesterday.

sustain pedal

The simple sneaker has become a fashion necessity as well as a sporting one!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

London Native English Speaker Interviews Part 2

More interviews with native English speakers in London.
Transcripts & definitions available below.
This video was filmed in Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Chinatown and Picadilly Circus in the centre of London.

Hello learners of English, here is the transcript for the second video with interviews in the centre of London.

Use these videos as an opportunity to practise listening to authentic English conversations in a natural context. It’s a good chance to get exposure to English by native speakers, especially if you don’t live in an English speaking country.


Graphic design student: Hello
Luke: So, how long have you been in London?
Graphic design student: Two weeks
Luke: Really? What do you do?
Graphic design student: Err, graphic design. Camberwell, School of the Arts.
Luke: Ok. So, your first two weeks.
Graphic design student: First two weeks. It’s quite a big impact. Very big, lots of people, and it’s quite expensive as well.
Luke: Ok. What’s the best thing about it?
Graphic design student: Err, night life. Very good night life. It’s got, you know, erm… If you go to the right places… A lot of action, erm, you know, a lot of friendly people as well.
Luke: Excellent. What about the worst thing?
Graphic design student: Depends on where you go. I mean, there’s quite a lot of, err, muggers about, dodgy people looking at your weirdly. You want to just, turn, turn away from them
Luke: Ok yeah
Graphic design student: Apart from that, generally a lot of people are quite nice. I mean, there’s some people that shove about, but, you know, you’ve just got to deal with it.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Graphic design student: That’s ok
Luke: Cheers.

Luke: So, hello
Girl in red scarf: Hello
Luke: Where are you from?
Girl in red scarf: I live in Redhill, which is about half an hour away from London
Luke: Ok, erm, how long have you lived there?
Girl in red scarf: Two weeks!
Luke: Ok. Everyone’s been living in London for two weeks for some reason. So, what’s London really like then?
Girl in red scarf: London, well, London’s a really really massive place which can be quite overwhelming, but it’s not that scary after you’ve, you know, got stuck in there. Erm, London has everything you’d ever want, if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything. Erm, I would say, just get stuck in there and go for it!
Luke: Ok, great, and what’s the worst thing about London?
Girl in red scarf: The worst thing… oooh the worst thing… err, I think the worst thing would have to be the pollution. It’s probably not as bad as some countries, but you always feel like you’ve got black fingernails.
Luke: Ok. Thank you very much.
Girl in red scarf: Thank you

Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Hi!
Luke: So, are you from London too?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, I am
Luke: Ok, so how long have you lived here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Err, my whole life. Luke: Ok, so you’re a real Londoner
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes, a real Londoner
Luke: Ok, what’s it like then, living here?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): What’s it really like? Erm, well I think it’s fantastic. It’s nice to live in such a cosmopolitan place with lots of things to do. You can never say that you’re bored or have nothing to do because then that’s all down to you, so…
Luke: What’s the best thing about it?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Erm…
Luke: You might have just answered that
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes I think I have. Just the variety and everything you want to do. Lots of things for different age groups, there’s always something for someone to do. I would say the best thing is, like, the cultural little occasions that we have, like Chinese New Year and things like that, where you have big street parties. I would say that’s the best thing.
Luke: Ok, what about the worst thing?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh… I don’t like to answer that question
The girl with the red scarf (off screen): Pigeons!
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Oh yeah! I hate pigeons! I hate pigeons! They’re just…
Luke: What’s wrong with them?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): They’re diseased!
Luke: They’re diseased. Flying rats.
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yes
Luke: Right?
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): Yeah. That’s the worst thing, I don’t dislike anything else.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much
Real Londoner girl (who hates pigeons): You’re welcome
Luke: Cheers

Smartly dressed couple: Hi
Luke: So, are you from London
Smartly dressed girl: Err, we’ve just moved here, yeah.
Luke: Just moved here, right, so err… How long have you been here?
Smartly dressed girl: Err… We’ve been here for a couple of weeks.
Luke: Ok. Everyone I’ve interviewed today has been in London for, like, two weeks. I don’t know why… So, what’s London really like then? What do you think?
Smartly dressed guy: Err, it’s a huge place. There must be about 10 million people living here. It’s got a lot of good things, bad things. It’s vibrant, it’s multicultural. It’s got fantastic places to eat, fantastic places to go out in the evening.
Smartly dressed girl: Fantastic theatre, fantastic restaurants. Fantastic museums, art galleries. Absolutely loads of stuff.
Luke: Ok
Smartly dressed guy: It’s a fast paced place. People seem to be moving around a lot faster than in the rest of the country
Smartly dressed girl: Sometimes that can get quite a bit much, you know. People sort of rushing everywhere all the time
Smartly dressed guy: But it’s interesting, but there’s also negatives to living here
Smartly dressed girl: It’s very congested, it’s very expensive. Err, extremely expensive, public transport is expensive. It’s hard… it can take a long time to get anywhere
Smartly dressed guy: And there’s also a lot of pollution, and crime as well. So, if you come to live here I think it’s about finding the right enclave…
Smartly dressed girl: Yeah, the right neighbourhood to live in, definitely…
Smartly dressed guy: And having friends. Set up your own community of friends, rather than knowing your next door neighbour.
Luke: Yeah. Ok, thank you very much
Smartly dressed guy: No worries
Luke: Cheers, bye bye
Smartly dressed girl: Cheers, bye

Vocabulary definitions
Here are some definitions of some of the vocabulary in the video.

night life – social life at night, for example clubs and bars
a lot of action – lots of exciting things happening, and lots of nice girls to meet
muggers – criminals who might steal things from you in public (e.g. attack you and steal your bag)
dodgy people – people who are strange and can’t be trusted
looking at your weirdly – looking at you in a strange way
turn away from them – look/turn in the other direction
shove about – push people when in a large crowd (e.g. pushing people when getting on or off a crowded train)
you’ve just got to deal with it – you have to just learn to live with it. You can’t let it make you unhappy.
massive overwhelming – having such a great effect on you that you feel confused and do not know how to react
if you’re into theatres, art, education, night clubs, anything – ‘to be into something’ means to be interested in it, or to enjoy it
just get stuck in there – get involved without hesitation or fear
and go for it – just do it!
pollution – dirty air caused by cars, bad air conditioners etc
a cosmopolitan place – a place with lots of people from all over the world (positive adjective)
Pigeons – very common birds which you find in the city (see the video at about 3:33)
vibrant – full of energy and activity in an exciting way
multicultural – involving people from many different cultures
fast paced – with a quick lifestyle (e.g. people rushing about everywhere, walking very quickly, in a hurry)
get quite a bit (too) much – be stressful and annoying
congested – full of traffic, lots of traffic jams
the right enclave – a small area within the city in which you live and feel comfortable
neighbourhood – part of town in which you live

London Native English Speaker Interviews Part 1

Here is the first of a series of video podcasts featuring interviews with people I met in the centre of London recently. I went into London on a Tuesday morning and politely asked members of the public if they would like to do a short interview for people around the world who are learning English and who are interested in listening to native speakers, and finding out about life in London. Some people didn’t want to be interviewed, and ignored me! But most people I asked were very friendly and happy to talk to me for a few minutes. This is the first video, and includes interviews with people outside Buckingham Palace (home of The Queen), in St. James’s Park and on The Mall (the road towards Buckingham Palace). I hope you enjoy them, and find them useful. There are more videos coming soon, featuring interviews in different parts of central London.

Watch the video and try to understand their comments.
Then use the transcript to help you understand what they said.
Try to guess the meaning of any expressions you don’t know.
You can find some definitions of vocabulary and expressions at the bottom of the transcript.
The people in the interviews come from different places. Listen carefully and see if you can identify differences in the accents they have.


London! Capital of Great Britain. Home to over 7 million people, including: The Queen, The Prime Minister, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Mr Bean.
Considered by some to be the home of the English language, it’s also one of the biggest and more important financial and cultural centres in the world. It has a rich cultural history, a diverse population and loads of cool stuff to do at the weekends.

But what is London really like for the people who live there?

Hi, well, I’ve got a video camera, I’ve got an Oyster card and I’ve got the day off, so I’m going to go into the centre of London, meet some real Londoners and ask them, “what’s London really like?” Why don’t you join me? Come on, let’s go shall we?

Buckingham Palace:

This man is from somewhere in the south of England, possibly in London or near London. He has a southern English accent.
Luke: So, um, what do you think of London? What’s it really like?
Man: London’s a very nice place to be, yeah.
Luke: Yeah?
Man: Yeah.
Luke: What’s the best thing about it?
Man: The best thing is the architecture, the old stuff
Luke: Yeah, yeah. Like Buckingham Palace
Man: Like Buckingham Palace, yeah
Luke: What about…
Man: Anything else, yeah?
Luke: What about the worst thing?
Man: The worst thing is… all the rest, I’m afraid.
Luke: Everything else?
Man: Everything else, gone to the dogs.
Luke: Really, it’s all gone to the dogs?
Man: With the country.
Luke: Ok. Alright, thank you very much. Cheers.
Man: Thank you.

These girls are from Hull, which is in Yorkshire in the north of England. They’re in London on holiday. They have Yorkshire accents.
Luke: Hello
Girls: Hi!
Luke: So, where are you from?
Girls: Erm, Hull.
Luke: Hull? Ok, so how long have you been in London?
Blonde girl: We came yesterday
Luke: Ok, what do you think? What’s London like?
Redhead girl: Really good!
Blonde girl: It’s a bit busy
Brunette girl: busy
Luke: Right, okay. What’s, err, what’s the best thing about it?
Redhead girl: The weather, the last couple of days
Blonde girl: Yeah, it’s been hotter than it is back home
Redhead girl: It’s been really nice, yeah.
Luke: So it’s better here than it is in Hull, is it?
Redhead girl: It is
Blonde girl: Yeah, but we couldn’t live here all the time
Redhead girl: The worst thing about it is the tube, the underground
Luke: Why? What’s wrong with the tube?
Redhead girl: It’s too stressful
Brunette girl: It’s too hot and busy
Redhead girl: and grimy
Luke: Busy, grimy, stressful… ok. Anything else to say to the people of the world?
Blonde girl: Come to London!
Redhead girl: Hiiii! Come to Hull to go out with us
Blonde girl: Come to Hull
Redhead girl: We’ll have lots of fun
Luke: Great, thank you very much

This couple is from New York City in USA. They have New York accents.
Luke: Hello. So, where are you from?
American man: We’re from the good old USA, the biggest city in the world, New York…
Luke: Oh, amazing
American man: …which cannot compare to London.
Luke: Really?
USA man: I wanna just express our love for England, the people, and especially the British Airway[s] that brought us here. They were so polite and extended themselves to the best airline that I travelled [on] all over the world.
Luke: Great
USA Man: Now coming to England, we stayed at the Holiday Inn, and the people and the experience at the Holiday Inn was super.
Luke: Excellent
USA Man: We just came from the Holiday Inn to see the Buckingham Palace and now we’re going to from here to Picadilly Square [Circus]. Yeah, great.
Luke: Great!
USA man: Thank you
USA woman: A wonderful experience
USA man: A wonderful experience
Luke: I’m very glad, that’s great.
USA man: And where is this going?
Luke: This is going on a website for people who are learning English as a foreign language, so it’s just going to be on, err… I work for this school, The London School of English and also I’m going to put it on a kind of podcast website for people all over the world, so, that’s great.
USA man: Now, what is that over there? (pointing at the Queen Victoria Memorial)
Luke: That? Err, I’m not sure to be honest. Err, it’s…
USA woman: It’s a nice statue.
Luke: It’s a lovely statue, covered in gold.
USA man: Uh huh, okay
Luke: Err, it… I don’t really know who all these people are, to be honest with you.
USA man: Well, I’m gonna take a picture
Luke: Exactly. It’s big and it’s shiny, so just take a picture of it.

St. James’s Park:

The man is from Middlesex, which is to the west of London. He has quite a posh accent. The woman is from the German/Danish border and has a German sounding accent.
Luke: So, where are you from? First of all.
Man: Well, I’m from Pinner, in Middlesex, which is near enough London, and we just come up once a week. It’s a long time ago now, I’m talking about before the war, and during the war, yes. A long time. And madam…
Woman: I’m from Schleswig-Holstein [on the German/Danish border] but I love London. Love it. My son lives here and I need to go from time to time, because… it’s such a life city isn’t it?
Luke: it is
Man: Recharge your batteries
Woman: Yes, yes. And, so green too! All these lovely parks, you know? And I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world.
Man: Sounds as though she’s selling it
Luke: Is she… it does! Yes. What do you think, I mean, we, err, you think it’s the most beautiful city in the world, but, is there a, what about bad things? What’s the worst thing about London?
Man: Well, I used to work just down there in Victoria… Victoria Station House. Erm, no, I… it tends to be a little dirty, a lot of rubbish around. I have the impression that’s got a bit better lately. I don’t know whether that’s true.
Luke: Right.
Woman: I was in Rome, and I told them all that London was much more beautiful and they all shouted me down, so…
Luke: Oh really…
Woman: But when the sun shines, you know… and all these green places, and nothing drives me mad because you expect a bit of dirt and… don’t you?
Luke: Yes, in the city
Woman: Yes, yes. And it has good communication, I mean you can go everywhere, and I love it
Man: You’ll never stop her, but I must
Woman: So, shall we go now?
Luke: Great, thank you very much
Man: Not at all
Luke: Have a lovely day
Woman: You have a lovely day
Luke: Thank you
Man: Don’t you sell that
Luke: I’m not selling it, don’t worry. Alright, cheers.

The Mall:

Girl 1 is from Blackpool, which is in Lancashire in the North West of England. She has a Lancashire accent. Girl 2 is from Reading which is about 30 mins or 1 hour west of London. She has a fairly typical southern English accent.
Girl 1: Hello
Luke: Where are you from?
Girl 1: I’m from Blackpool, which is up north
Girl 2: I’m from just near Reading, just near London
Luke: Ok. So, how long have you been here?
Girl 1: I’ve lived in London for about 2 weeks so far
Girl 2: And I’ve lived in London for probably the last 4 years
Luke: OK, right so what’s London like then?
Girl 1: So far London’s quite exciting. I’ve been surprised by how many things are going on all the time, sort of, day and night. There’s always something to do, always something free to do, and so far it’s not rained!
Luke: Eyy! Great. Err, yourself?
Girl 2: Err, yeah the same, like, it’s been a good place to live. I don’t know, because I’ve been here for so long, I probably don’t really take as much advantage of it as I should do.
Luke: Yep, what’s the worst thing about London?
Girl 2: Erm… Traffic, commuting, going around, I think… Price.
Luke: Yeah, it’s very expensive. Have you discovered a worst thing yet?
Girl 1: Erm, honestly, the worst thing is it’s quite difficult to meet people, and because a lot of people live so far away, it’s quite difficult to get to them, it’s quite hard to see your friends, so it can sometimes be quite lonely.
Luke: Ok, thank you very much. Cheers.

Definitions of some vocabulary and expressions

What’s London really like?
This question: “What is it like?” means “tell me about it” or “how is it?”. It does not mean: “What do you like about London?”
e.g. What is London like? – it’s busy
What do you like about it? – I like the theatres

It’s gone to the dogs = everything is much worse now than it was before

grimy = dirty

recharge your batteries = to give yourself some energy, by doing something pleasant and stimulating

to shout someone down = to disagree with someone loudly in order to stop them talking

to take advantage of something = to use something good which is available to you

commuting = travelling from home to work every day

Monday, 5 March 2018

Past simple and past continuous

Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.

And me, Emma. Hello.

In today's programme we're talking about the past simple and the past continuous tenses…

Yes, we'll look at when we use each tense...

We'll show you how to form the positive, negative and question forms of each one…

And as usual, we'll finish with a quiz.

And first, here's a quick reminder of the past simple. Hello Finn.

Hello Rob.

Could you give us an example please?

Last night I saw the film 'Titanic'.

Ooh Titanic, what a movie! Finn saw it last night. So, we use the past simple for completed actions in the past.

And we had the past simple of the verb see, which is the irregular form saw.

And as we know, you just have to learn the irregular verbs.

But the good news is that lots of verbs are regular, and to make them into the past simple, you just add e and d to the infinitive, like this:

Hundreds of passengers jumped into the sea.

Jump - jumped. Simple. To make past simple negatives, we add didn't to the infinitive, like this:

Sandra Bullock didn't win an Oscar for Gravity.

Now let's look at past simple questions. Emma, did you see the news last night?

Yes, I did.

So, for the question, it's: did plus the subject plus the infinitive.

And the short answers are: Yes plus subject plus did: Yes, I did.

Or: No plus subject plus didn't: No, I didn't.


So that's the past simple for completed actions in the past.

Now, to talk about past activities, we can use the past continuous. Here's an example:

I was watching a movie on TV. It was raining. We were feeling very bored.

Now, we can use the past continuous to talk about an activity that was already happening when something else happened, like this:

Dad was cooking dinner when the police arrived. The children were watching TV when the officers came into the living room.

Ooh the police! Very dramatic! Yes, think about one activity interrupting the other - the activity that was already happening is in the past continuous - Dad was cooking dinner...

And the activity that interrupted it is in the past simple: the police arrived.

So you can put the past simple and continuous together to talk about activities and actions that happened one on top of another.

Remember those examples everyone - I'm going to test you later!

OK. To make the past continuous, it's was or were plus an i-n-g verb.

Dad was cooking dinner. The children were watching TV.

Now to make the negative past continuous, you just put wasn't or weren't in front of the    -ing verb, like this:

The baby wasn't sleeping. The children weren't playing games.

Wasn't sleeping and weren't playing. Wasn't and weren't are short forms of was not and were not.

Now for past continuous questions, it's was or were, with the subject plus an i-n-g verb. And I'm going to demonstrate this by testing you on the examples we had before. Rob, was Mum cooking dinner?

No, she wasn't: Dad was cooking dinner.

That's correct: well done. Were the children playing games?

No, they weren't.

Correct, well done again!

For past continuous short answers it's: Yes plus subject plus was, or: No plus subject plus wasn't.

You're listening to BBC Learning English dot com.

Right, time for a quiz. I'm going to say a sentence and you have to choose the right verb form to go in the gap. Ready? OK.
Number 1.
When the phone rang, we ____ a film. Is it
a) watched or
b) were watching?
When the phone rang, we ____ a film.

It's b) When the phone rang, we were watching a film.

Good, number 2.
Cate Blanchett _____ an Oscar for Best Actress. Is it
a) was winning or
b) won?
Cate Blanchett _____ an Oscar for Best Actress.

It's b) Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for Best Actress.

And here's the final question. Ready?
When the police _____, Dad was cooking dinner. Is it
a) arrived 
b) were arriving?
When the police _____, Dad was cooking dinner.

When the police arrived, Dad was cooking dinner.
Good old dad. Still cooking that dinner. What a hero!


So, well done if you got those right. And don't forget there's lots more about tenses on our website at Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.


The best of both worlds


Rob enjoys living in the country and working in the city. Is he enjoying 'the best of both worlds'? Feifei might have some news that could change his mind. Learn more about this English phrase in The English We Speak.


Hello and welcome to The English We Speak, with you Rob…

...and you, Feifei.

Hey Rob, how are you enjoying your new life in the countryside?

It's great Feifei. When I get home at night, I get to smell the fresh air and look out on green fields. Yes, the country life is for me.

But come on Rob, you must miss the bright lights and the excitement of living in the city?

I get that by coming to work right here in the centre of London. I have a great night out and then slip off to the peace and quiet of the country. Perfect!

Perfect? I don't think so – the countryside is too quiet. The city is the only place for me.

No way. I've got the best of both worlds - excitement in the city, relaxation in the country.

The best of the both worlds – you think you get the advantages of two very different things at the same time.

Yes that's right. Let's hear some examples of the phrase 'the best of both worlds' in action…


Working part-time means I get the best of both worlds: time with the kids and a steady income.

Our hotel is by the beach and just a short train ride away from the city, so we get the best of both worlds.

We get the best of both worlds with our new car: excellent fuel efficiency and great acceleration and speed.

So the phrase 'the best of both worlds' means you have the benefits of two different things and none of the disadvantages. But surely Rob there must be some negative things about living in the country?

Such as?

No shops, no pubs or clubs, having a long commute to work every day.

I can cope – and anyway, commuting by train is fine – time to relax and shake off the stress of the city.

Maybe not today Rob.


My news feed says there's been a major signal failure – all trains to your village are cancelled!

Cancelled? Grrr. So I can't get home! Err, any chance I could sleep on your sofa tonight?

Ha, so maybe it's not always possible to have the best of BOTH worlds Rob?




Sunday, 4 March 2018

Plastic art


An art studio with no brushes or paint.
Mbongeni Buthelezi uses strips of plastic melted and glued to the canvas for his portraits.
When the South African studied art he couldn’t afford to buy expensive materials. So he found an alternative and now produces this unique kind of art.
He collects plastic bags from the streets around his Johannesburg studio and has turned recycling into an art form.


melted   made soft or made into a liquid
canvas thick and strong cotton cloth that artists paint on with oil paints
afford have enough money
unique  (here) unusual and not made anywhere else
recycling using waste materials again