Intro [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the English Waffle, a podcast aimed at Advanced English language learners who want to improve their language skills by listening to real conversations. My name's Owain and in each episode, Mike and I do a bit of waffling about a specific topic. This week we've got a guest. Mike is talking to his friend Tom. It's worth mentioning that they recorded this episode before the full extent of the crisis was clear. None of us had any idea what a disaster is going to become and understandably quite light hearted about the whole thing. They soon move onto a whole lot of other topics centred around language learning, technology and immersion learning, living abroad, their own personal language, learning stories and quite appropriately at distance learning outside a classroom environment which is suddenly really popular. Okay, so let's get waffling.
Jingle [00:00:56] Welcome to the English waffle, where well talk about random stuff. Take you on a journey where you'll find out soon enough. That listening to the waffle is an entertaining way of sharing with you foreigners the things that British people say. Whoo. So join us on the Waffle and Strap yourselves in, for 10 whole earthling minutes of English listening.
Mike [00:01:23] So here we are. Here we are in Slovenia.
Thom [00:01:28] Why are we in Slovenia? I hear you ask.
Mike [00:01:31] Yeah, well, we're in Slovenia because we were due to attend a teaching conference for teachers, which sadly got cancelled at the last minute because of the Corona virus,.
Thom [00:01:47] Which it turns out is not as funny as it originally sounded.
Mike [00:01:51] Did it ever sound funny? I mean, I wasn't ever bowled over in hysterics,.
Thom [00:01:57] But it sounded far away, which was a lot more reassuring than it is now. Wheras now it does feel slightly like the end of times.
Mike [00:02:05] It does. It feels a little bit like. ...It just feels like it's the it's going to be the end. Yeah..
Thom [00:02:13] I do feel a little like I might, you know, I don't know, message my mother. Tell her I love her, that sort of stuff.. It's a.. there's a great scene in one of my favourite books, a James Bond book. On many levels, the James Bond books are very bad, very imperialistic, racist, misogynistic. They're also quite amusing, possibly because of those things. But there's a great scene where Bond is about to jump out of a plane into shark infested waters. And he turns to his colleagues piloting the plane and says, tell mother I died game, which obviously, like linguistically is interesting because you'd never say that now.
Mike [00:02:51] No. What does it mean actually?
[00:02:53] Well, exactly, tell mother I died game I think means tell mother that I died, you know, willing to try game.
Mike [00:03:01] Bravely.
Thom [00:03:01] Yeah. Yeah. Willing to sort of.. and I feel like I want to text my mother and say, I died, game, but she'd panic. And I'm not dead yet. We are very close to the border with either Croatia or Hungary, depending which way we wanted to go and depending which border is still open. And then we could return to Ljubliana, which is having quite a severe outbreak at the moment. So our question is, you know, which way do we go? And obviously, we don't know the answer.
Mike [00:03:32] We don't. And do we act socially responsibly and stay in the same place until the clouds pass, till the storm passes us over? Or do we sort of ti...? I think we're walking a very thin line here between panicking and, but also kind of, I think, just getting on with things, right?
Thom [00:03:57] Yeah. Yeah.
Thom [00:03:58] Well you sort of feel, for me, I feel like I slightly want to make a run for home because, you know, a time of crisis, I want to be with my family. And there's that element, you know, I mean, in terms of my kind of parents who are a bit older, obviously older than me chronologically cos they're my parents. But, you know, my parents are kind of older and slightly at risk in this sense, you know, but also my wife and our children. You know, I kind of want to be, I want to be with them really in times of crisis.
Mike [00:04:29] And they want to be with you. And that will happen.
Thom [00:04:32] Yeah, sure. I know. But it's also you think, well, yeah, but I'm a freelancer, so I also need to actually make money. And you think, well, can you do that? Is that possible? How much of that can you do realistically in these particular times? And who knows?
Mike [00:04:46] I think we're lucky aren't we we've got I mean, we're not on zero hour contracts. And, you know, there are people out there, I think, who will suffer.
Thom [00:04:54] Well, I mean, for myself, I've had loads of work cancelled in the last two weeks. You know, huge amounts of work. And you think, oh, what do I do now? And it's interesting to sort of think, er... And we were talking before about online learning and the huge jump in the last couple of weeks of online opportunities. And it's really interesting watching a lot of schools who are kind of concrete schools suddenly going. Ooh, right we'll offer some online learning platforms and lessons. And and what I find fascinating with that is you think, you know, as time goes on, we're increasingly less likely to travel about. But also as language learners, how much do we need to be in a classroom rather than on a device, but even how much language do we need to learn? Because you can do, you know, even now you can do fairly instant translations. You don't need to learn any languages, and that's only going to improve in terms of quality and efficiency.
Mike [00:05:56] Do you feel, though, that there are benefits to being in the country and being in where the language spoken?
Thom [00:06:04] It's interesting. When I was 18, I went to France and that was full immersion because it was before mobile phones, it was before e-mail. It was, you know, if I wanted to speak to my family, I had to go are in Greece, for example, when I was in my early 20s, I had to book time specific international phone booth. And make a phone call from there. And that was it. You know, and I would talk to my family once a week maybe, and we would send letters between, you know, home and abroad. And that was your contact. So in a way, it was good because, you know, it was learn Greek or die because there wasn't any other option. And you know, and I think that was really beneficial to me in terms of language learning. Because I wasn't, you know, like if you're studying in the UK and you're from the Philippines, you can spend every night speaking Tagalog for five hours via Skype or Tick-Tock, whatever it is with your friends and your family. Yeah. So really the stuff you learn during the day in school can wash away every night. You know, it it's not like you live in immerse yourself in the culture in the in the country as you once did. And I think that's probably a shame, really.
Mike [00:07:16] I think a lot has to do with motivation as well. For me, the language learning journey. If I think of my own languages that I've learned Arabic, French and Spanish, it's kind of how do you sustain the motivation along that that particularly when you get to beyond intermediate stage where you understand a bit, but to push on. I think it it really comes down to why you want to do it.
Thom [00:07:42] Yeah, definitely. And I think you're a really good example, partly because you've actually lived in places to make that jump and to move beyond the kind of classroom plateau. And I think that's really key, isn't it?
Mike [00:07:54] And I think I'd add to that that you'd still need to keep using it.
Thom [00:07:57] Yeah, definitely.
Mike [00:07:58] You know. Otherwise you..
Thom [00:07:59] I think it's funny that. I feel like with languages that I've learned, the benefits have often come you know, quite quickly, in terms of being locked in a country, I mean, not like we are now, but like, you know, in my early 20s living abroad, you know, you're there for six months. That's it. So basically you have to learn the language, because otherwise you don't go out or you don't interact. Or you cant order anything in a restaurant. And so you have to learn the language. Whereas Yeah. now, of course, you've got.. conversely, you've got this great technology, which means that I can learn Hungarian in my house in the UK because there are apps and I can watch Hungarian films or I can listen to Hungary music at the touch of a button. And that's fantastic. And I can even chat to Hungarian people so that I can be working in my office in York and then at night socially interact with people in Hungarian or Mandarin or Russian, whatever language I want to learn.
Mike [00:08:55] So you speak a lot languages, Thom, have you got any that you have a burning ambition to learn?
Thom [00:09:03] Yeah, do you know it's funny I always feel like I speak relatively a lot of languages like you, but I also feel I could improve in all of those. I don't ever feel that I've got to a level in any where I couldn't improve. I think any new language I hear, I think, I wanna learn that I want to get, you know. And you're the same, aren't you? You kind of hungrily go, how do you say this, how do you say that and I noticed that this morning we were staying with these friends of ours who are local to this region. And you know, we were both kind of plaguing their children by saying, come on. How do you say this in Slovenian and how do you say this in Hungarian?
Mike [00:09:39] And often children do make the best teachers. I think if you listen to children because they speak slowly, generally. And you could just learn a lot from them that you don't necessarily learn in a classroom environment. I find listening to children really helpful.
Thom [00:09:55] I think thats really interesting , my son is now four and my wife is Turkish. And when he was born, until he was about three, I spoke to him largely in Turkish, which I speak reasonably well.
Mike [00:10:09] You speak very well!
Thom [00:10:12] Oh, gosh, im so embarrased (laughs) So I thought, you know, when he got to about three, I suddenly realised that we were having conversations that were deeper and more abstract. And I wanted to have those conversations in English. Because, you know, not because I couldn't do it in Turkish, but because I wanted to have that relationship with him.
Mike [00:10:32] What kind of conversations?
Thom [00:10:32] I dunno like..
Mike [00:10:32] Why is the sky blue daddy, that sort of thing?
Thom [00:10:37] Christ, I haven't got answers for that in any language.
Thom [00:10:41] You know if it's little things about saying, you know, finish your milk or get your coat on or you know that I'm quite happy doing like Turkish. But if it's bigger things about him saying, you know, why do people die or do'y know what i mean, which he does cos he's 4
Thom [00:10:55] Yeah. And I want to have that kind of relationship basis in a language that I feel comfortable in, but also a language that I love, you know, I love Turkish. But, I sort of think, you know, it also coincided with him realising that his Turkish is much better than mine in terms of grammatical sophistication. I've still got the hold on him on vocabulary but his grammatical sophistication is much better than mine. And so you could see him suddenly realising that my Turkish was not perfect in the way that his is perfect. About the same time I thought, actually, I want to be having these more deep conversations in English. Do'y know what i mean? And its very interesting as well because he.. like I speak French, and I've got a lot of French friends and he can he will quite happily listen to French, which he doesn't really understand. But for example, when my French speaking friends come to the house, he's quite happy for us to converse in French and won't ask for a translation or won't, you know, he doesn't understand it. But he doesn't mind us doing it. You know, he doesn't want to know what's happening. He's quite used to that. But, also,.
Mike [00:11:59] Which is a really important skill, I think.
Thom [00:12:01] Definitely. Well, if I read to him and I read like Tintin, for example, or Asterix, I've always read them in French because they know they are in French. And that's the versions I've got. And it's interesting because when he was little it washed over him, that;s fine and now he is aware that it's a different language, its a language he doesn't speak much of, and yet we've always done it so he's quite happy for me to read a Tintin comic to him in French.
Mike [00:12:28] And you mentioned the other day that you sometimes read to him in a random language that neither he or you understand?
Thom [00:12:37] Yeah, there's something in that. And I think you know where where. Like, we've got books at home in like Polish, which I don't speak at all. Yeah. And we'll just do it as a bit of an adventure. Yeah. Because we dont understand it at all. And try and work out what's happening. B'cos it's quite fun and it's I think good for him and good for me to try and stretch our mouths around unfamiliar words and try and work out what they might mean.
Mike [00:12:58] Absolutely. Well, that's as our ten minutes up Thom, as usual, a pleasure. In a rambling way. Definitely. And yeah. Give us a shout if you guys have anything that you'd like to share along the lines of language learning.
Thom [00:13:13] And also, if you can decide what you think this particular episode was about. Please write and tell us b'cos we're not sure!
Mike [00:13:22] Started off as one thing. usual. Okay. Happy waffling bye!