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Owain [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to another episode of the English Waffle. It's only me today, it's Owain, so no conversation. I'm just going to have a quick chat with you. Um, really? Um. It's the 25th episode and it's about time we stopped and talked a little bit about what we're doing here.
[00:00:25] Obviously, this is always a project that is, you know, it's a it's a work in progress. And we are constantly thinking about how to improve the way we do it. And of course, the content and the kind of support we offer. On the other hand, we also need to explain to you guys, our listeners what it is we're trying to do. Um, sometimes it's not even clear to to us. So, um, we're taking the opportunity this time just to talk through a little bit, um, about how to use the English Waffle. So,...We from from our conversations with people who've listened and our own kind of ideas, we've we've kind of added for two possible groups of listeners. So the first group are advanced English language learners. So, people who can basically understand our conversations, they... you know...you've you've perhaps said you find them interesting and perhaps you're just looking for ideas about how to make the most of the podcasts. Um, there's another group. And you are the listeners who have said to us, um, Mike, Owain, really interesting project, but I'm afraid...
[00:01:53] (Interruption) What are you afraid of? Well, actually, you're not really afraid. You're just being polite, of course, using a typical device we use in English where we're going to say something perhaps a little bit negative. But you may've realised that, uh, you may have noticed that we haven't had any music yet. Uh, let's break for a bit of music and we'll come back and we'll continue with the discussion. One of the other things that people have commented on is how catchy Mike's tune is. And so thanks, Mike, for creating and performing the English Waffle song. So here it goes. Enjoy it. Speaks to you in a moment.
Song [00:02:35] Welcome to the English waffle where we talk about random stuff. We'll take you on a journey where you'll find out soon enough...why listening to the waffle is an entertaining way...of sharing with you foreigners the things that British people say. So join us on the Waffle and strap yourself in for ten whole earthly minutes of English listening.
Owain [00:03:04] ...I'm afraid I just don't understand it. I get really frustrated. I don't understand what you're talking about. And because I don't understand enough, I'm afraid I have to stop listening. I'm going to do two separate sections going to talk to the the more advanced listeners first and then we'll see if we have time, perhaps in another episode we'll talk about the intermediate listeners. I will just say that that as you hear at the beginning of the podcast, our idea at the moment is really to focus on advanced learners. Ok? We understand that there are a lot of intermediate learners out there who are looking for help. And at the moment, um, we are...we know we're not providing the kind of help you need. We are working on it and we hope to expand the project as time and energy and resources allow. So watch this space.
[00:04:08] Advanced listeners, this is kind of where you are in terms of listening to the podcast. So, um, you...in terms of level, you could be anywhere from kind of B2 up to C2. And we would consider that you already have a pretty good, um, idea of how to listen, uh, for gist you know; you're pretty good at guessing what's going on from context; you're pretty good at, um, starting to listen to a conversation and gradually working out by identifying words here and there, thinking about the...what you know about the topic. Um, you're pretty good at getting the general idea of what we're talking about. You're also perhaps looking to polish your pronunciation. So, you're also thinking about how you can, um, uh, hear different sounds in the language combinations of sounds, um, and gradually feed those back into your own speech. Um, you're also probably pretty comfortable about expressing your ideas reasonably fluently. Okay. And you can even participate in conversations with two or more native English speakers. It's just that it's really difficult. It's really tough for you. Um, and perhaps you...you're limited in terms of what you can understand. Um, and this is what this is all about. This is about helping you to improve your understanding of real conversations. Okay?
[00:05:48] Um, so how can the podcast help you do that? Well, this podcast hopefully represents a slightly different perspective on listening to foreign languages and a different perspective on the reasons we have problems. Some of the problems and some of the solutions are familiar to you, as advanced language learners. Others may not be so well understood and I think this is where we can help you. Um, I mean, and it's quite normal because a lot of these problems are not understood by your teachers either. So a lot of language teachers focus on particular areas of the language: learning vocabulary, grammar, helping with spoken fluency. But they are not so aware perhaps of some of the the problems of listening and even of alternative ways of trying to improve your listening skills. So there are some things that I think are obvious to everybody. Um, listening to a podcast like this means that you can have access to conversations. I mean, it's...in a pretty low stress way. You don't have to participate, so there's no pressure on you. You can stop the conversation at any time. You can replay it to hear something you aren't sure about. All those things are pretty clear. What you might not think....what may become pretty... actually pretty obvious to you as you listen is that you don't have the kind of visual clues that you get from watching TV series, films or the news: images, body language, facial expressions, for example. All of these kinds of things which kind of help you work out what people are saying and help you identify some of the key words you need to understand what's being said. So with this kind of listening, you really do have to listen to the actual sounds. You can guess from the context, in some cases, but you can't depend so much on those kind...those kind...that kind of listening.
[00:08:00] So, there are some other things to mention which may not be so clear to everyone. So, one really important observation to make is that these are real conversations. We have tried recording conversations that are not just Mike and me having...chatting about anything spontaneously. We've actually tried to plan...add some more structure, plan some of the things we're going to say and kind of have a script like you would for a TV program, for a film.
[00:08:43] There's one one big problem with that and that is what happens to the language and the way people speak once they start following a script. And this is actually one of the big problems with a lot of the learning materials that are designed for language learners. You can, uh, well, you have free access to lots of stuff online. You have free access to audio, visual, all kinds of materials that you can use to practise your English. Because most of it is scripted, though, so that it's clear, easy to follow, you kind of think, well, this is great, this is ideal, this is exactly what I need in order to improve my English language skills and in many ways that's correct. You need to be able to hear how we actually use different words, different expressions, how grammar works in practise. Unfortunately, to improve your listening skills for anything that is not scripted, this is completely the wrong kind of practise.
[00:10:01] Why is this? Why can it not improve my general listening skills by listening to, let's say, a news report, listening to somebody reading a dialogue that's been carefully scripted? And there are one or two reasons for this, and it's mainly to do with the nature of unscripted, spontaneous natural speech, which actually, if you think about it, is most of the communication...most of the conversations that we have are not scripted. We don't have time to plan everything we're going to say. It's one of the reasons why you can spend years, years learning a language in a classroom context or even online using materials. And then as soon as you get into a situation where you actually have to speak to real people in real situations, all of a sudden it becomes impossible to understand a thing they're saying.
[00:11:02] So why is this? Well, there are a number of different reasons. And on the website, englishwaffle.co.uk, for anybody who is not familiar with the website and perhaps is joining us for the first time, we are including a section called Features of Spoken English. Now, a lot of these features, basically, serve to distort the sounds that you hear. Um, they make it quite difficult to identify the content words: the verbs, the nouns, that you actually need to be able to understand what's going on. And one of the ways that you can try to solve this problem and and find a solution to, really, the messiness of real natural speech is to spend time listening to it and to observe the kinds of things that happen when people are speaking naturally. So that's really what we're trying to do here with the English Waffle.
[00:12:15] It's not the kind of thing necessarily that you want to spend time on when you're at a lower level. You're really trying to get to grips with basic vocabulary, expressions, trying to exspace...express, sorry, your your your ideas as well as you can. Trying to increase your fluency a little bit. But some of these ideas should be taken into account at an early stage in your learning. We'll come to that in a little while. What I'd like to do now is to give you some examples. Okay. So we're gonna have a look at, um, how we can identify what we call chunks of language. You, maybe, think of these more as expressions, but, essentially, these are just groups of words that go together in natural speech and, um, kind of, uh, make it quite difficult for us to to pick out those content words. One of the things that marks out, very often, somebody who's not a native English speaker is the way they put their...put words together. Um, native English speakers and proficient non-native English speakers do not, um, put one word after the other in isolation. They speak in groups of words. And those words, when they're spoken together together, quickly, um, merge together. Some of you will have heard of the phenomenon of connected speech. And this is really interesting because what happens is, um, a lot of the sounds of individual words change when they're put together with other sounds. Um, and this causes a little bit of a problem when we work with audio, but we also work with transcripts because, um, we'll try and listen, perhaps understand something, but then not be clear about it. Then we look at a transcript and we'll think that actually the transcript is what has been said, we just haven't been able to understand it. The reality is that this transcript does not represent, actually, the sounds that you've been listening to. Represents the meaning, but not the sound. So when we see written words, we can say them in our heads, or out loud, one by one. But that will not be the same sound that will come through when we're listening to someone speak naturally. A quick example of this is just a simple question, for example, like: wotchya think? So, I'm asking for you for your opinion. When I see this written down, I'll see the four words; I'll see: What do you think? And that isn't actually how you'll hear this spoken in 99 percent of situations. You may hear quite a few variations; people will say: 'wotchya think' as the default way of saying this particular question.
Owain [00:15:15] So there you go. We have no time left in this episode. This was the first part of How to Use the English Waffle. We have looked at the kinds of listeners we are trying to help. We've looked at why the English Waffle podcast is slightly different and what we are really trying to aim at, which is helping you with real conversations, re...real spoken English. And we've started to get you think...to think a little bit about how spoken English is different from the English we see written down. In the next episode, I'm going to walk you through a particular episode. We going to look at one of the sections, Features of Spoken English, and hopefully that will give you a bit more of an idea as to how we can help you. Not all the episodes we've recorded so far have this section yet because it's quite time consuming to go through and prepare this material. So some feedback on this would be great. There's a section in the Features of Spoken English that we're going to look at (click to send a comment). In a subsequent episode, we're going to try to talk about our plans for intermediate learners. So hopefully this has been useful. Until next time, keep waffling.
What did you understand?
Do some quizzes. Listen again to answer the questions.
Intro [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the English Waffle, a podcast aimed at advanced English learners looking to improve their listening skills, listening to real conversations. Today's episode, I talk with my friend Thom about the pub, what it means to him as a non-drinker of alcohol, who doesn't drink alcohol, and how pubs are special places for people living in Britain for very different reasons. Back at the end for some more waffle chat. In the meantime, sit back, grab a nice cup of coffee or tea or something else and listen to the Waffle.
Jingle [00:00:38] Welcome to the English waffle where we talk about random stuff. We'll take you on a journey where you'll find out soon enough why listening to the waffle is an entertaining way of sharing with you foreigners the things that British people say. So join us on the waffle and strap yourself in for ten whole earthly minutes of English listening.
Mike [00:01:08] Hello. So we've got a very good...special guest today, Thom.
Thom [00:01:12] Special, special guest.
Mike [00:01:12] Double special guest. You get the double special guest treatment. And we are in Slovenia recording this because we've come to a conference for teachers, which sadly got cancelled because of this small virusy thing that's going around.
Thom [00:01:32] Well, I think it's not cancelled so much as a lot smaller because rather than 300 people, there's now four of us. We are...It's like a mini conference in a way. So that that I think it's important to stress.
Mike [00:01:48] I think that's a that's a good point to make. It's not been cancelled, just...just made smaller.
Thom [00:01:53] Reduced, done on a smaller scale.
Mike [00:01:57] Thom, when was the last time you went to a pub?
Thom [00:02:01] The last time I went to a pub was last Thursday in London.
Mike [00:02:08] You see, for me, pubs are a bit like pantomimes, fish and chips, cheap...cups of tea, maybe cricket in a very British institution, not American, not Australian. This is just...It's a very British thing, the pub, in my head.
Thom [00:02:26] I think that's true. And I think the...when I'm in other countries, I don't want to go to pubs. So when I'm, you know, travelling or working abroad and people say, oh, we've got an Irish pub or we've got... And I would say, I don't want to go to a pub because I can go to a bar or I can go to a cafe. You know, if I'm in Italy, I want to be sat in a piazza. You know, sipping a clever Italian drink or having ice cream.
Mike [00:02:49] Yeah.
Thom [00:02:49] And feeling really intellectual, you know. And if I'm in France, I want to be in a really clever cafe, having deep debates probably with somebody else's wife in traditional French fashion. And, you know, when uh when I'm in sort of different countries, I want a different thing, but I think in Britain, I often do like the pub atmosphere, the pub scene. And I'm very strange for Britain because I don't drink alcohol.
Mike [00:03:18] Yes, you don't. Because I think people do think...who...of pubs as being exclusively alcoholic beverages sold, but there are soft drinks aren't there.
Thom [00:03:30] There are. And it's is interesting because I...I have epilepsy, so I don't drink for that medical reason. But in Britain, if you don't drink, people always assume that you are a recovering alcoholic. So when you say to people, I don't drink alcohol. And I'm a very large man with a beard. So people always assume that I drink a lot. And if you say I don't drink in British culture, people assume that you're a desperate alcoholic.
Mike [00:03:53] Yes.
Thom [00:03:53] And if you even sort of sniff somebody's wine or beer, you will immediately start attacking people with an axe, whereas, of course, I just don't drink and um...but I like a pub. And people are surprised because they say, well, you don't drink. Why do you like pubs and actually what I like in a pub and I like a particular kind of pub.
Mike [00:04:13] Yes. So because pubs are very different - for our listeners who aren't in Britain - people go to the pub for different reasons, don't they, as well. You've got you've got live sport in some pubs, which are not my personal preference, but you um, you know, you can go to pubs where you can watch sport. You go to pubs where you can watch live music, erm, you can join clubs, various clubs and stuff or in pubs now, which maybe used to be the case, but there's certainly more now that I'm aware of, from poetry clubs to drawing clubs to talking about politics and going running and that kind of thing.
Thom [00:04:53] Well, when I was younger, I lived in a village and our local pub was very much a kind of heart of the village in terms of where people met and social activities in the evenings, you know, and even during the day. And that was quite precious, I think. And I think that's probably still true in a lot of areas. And what you see in Britain a lot now is whole communities buying a pub. So if you have a pub in the middle of a town, even, you know, that looks like it might close, then sometimes the local people get together and buy pubs and run for the local community, which is quite a nice focus, you know.
Mike [00:05:30] It sounds like a great thing to do, but I read that there's a decline in the pub industry. I've read that...
Thom [00:05:34] Well, because they banned smoking.
Mike [00:05:36] Yeah.
Thom [00:05:38] So people who smoke often used to smoke in pubs with drinking.
Mike [00:05:41] When did they ban smoking?
Thom [00:05:43] So in the UK...I don't remember actually. I am not a smoker, but in the UK maybe 10 years ago I think. Does that sound right?
Mike [00:05:49] Gosh, is it that long?
Thom [00:05:50] Yeah. But also like alcohol became so cheap and so available in supermarkets that a lot people felt it was much cheaper just to buy alcohol in the supermarket, drink at home with your friends.
Mike [00:06:04] And also I think people are becoming...the millennial generation is more interested in healthy activity.
Thom [00:06:10] It's true, actually, people drink a lot less now.
Mike [00:06:12] They, they...
Thom [00:06:12] People in my generation, I'm 46. People of my generation are very shocked by non-drinking, whereas people in their, you know, middle early twenties often don't drink by choice.
Mike [00:06:24] Yeah.
Thom [00:06:25] Which is interesting. And you know, the problem I always think with not drinking is that you have to find excuses for your behaviour, because what I often find is after a party or a wedding or a, you know, conference, or summat, and people say to me, God, you must have been really drunk at that thing because you did that. And I'd go, no, I'm not drunk. I was just an idiot. And that's embarrassing because you got no excuse. You got to take full responsibility for your actions, which is very difficult.
Mike [00:06:50] Yeah. Yeah. (indistinct)...
Thom [00:06:52] In terms of...I'm sorry, you were saying about pubs and sports. For me, a good pub is always an old pub and a good pub has no television. And a good pub has no fruit machines or trivia machines or buzzing lights and you know?
Mike [00:07:07] Yeah.
Thom [00:07:09] That stuff distracts from the joy of a pub. And in my job I travel a lot and I often find myself in a strange city or, you know, where I don't know anybody and I don't know anything. So,...and often I've got like a break of an hour or so, odd points of the day between a meeting or between a training session. And I often like to go and sit in a pub sometimes to have a cup of tea. I do drink cups of tea. I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea, but to drink a cup of tea or just to sort of sit and read a book or sit and look and just sort of watch life. And I like the kind of...I like the static of a pub. You know, that, you know, when you go into a pub, it doesn't matter what time it is or what city you're in. It'll always be a pub. You know, if you go into the right kind of pub, you know, it will always be a quiet safe haven in which you can just kind of sit and mentally recharge your batteries.
Mike [00:08:04] And find people... - you're a very sociable guy, Thom, I know you like to strike up conversations with strangers - Is that something that would happen in a pub particularly, or do you find people talking to you in pubs or not so much?
Thom [00:08:19] It's an interesting question, really, and I think it depends on the time of day because I think in the hours of daylight in pubs, people often want to be left alone, you know, because if they're desperate alcoholics getting their first drink in, they're just focussed on the drink.
Mike [00:08:32] Yeah.
Thom [00:08:33] And if they are, like me, sort of business travellers, or whatever else or tourists, then they're often either with people or doing something.
Mike [00:08:40] Yeah.
Thom [00:08:42] So I will, for example, sit in a pub for an hour and do email or make phone calls, you know, so there's not a lot of chat there. After darkness, you know, it's like werewolves, you know, and the moon comes up and people in pubs are then chatty and it's much more normal to kind of just talk to people next to you.
Mike [00:09:01] Yes.
Thom [00:09:02] Particularly men, you know, men talking to other men, I find. You know, I find it's less likely in Britain that, you know, there might be women alone in a pub, but they're much less likely to randomly strike up a conversation with a man because a lot of men are stupid and would take that as some sort of advance. Whereas a man talking to another man...
Mike [00:09:23] It's still the typ...typically that...the...if you are going to get a gr...a si...a group of people going to a pub, it will be a group of men rather than a group of women. Would you say that's true?
Thom [00:09:34] So I think that mixed groups go to pubs a lot now and...
Mike [00:09:36] Yeah.
Thom [00:09:37] You know, but the...there's still a kind of...certain kind of pub and often it is the one showing sport where it is a very kind of male preserve, you know.
Mike [00:09:46] Yes.
Thom [00:09:47] And it's interesting because I'm I'm a relatively large, bearded man and I look like I drink heavily and I look like I'd be interested in sports and I look like I'd make derogatory comments about women. But none of those things are true, you know... (indistinct: poss. - ...what I mean).
Mike [00:10:00] I can vouch for that.
Thom [00:10:00] Yeah, I don't drink and I have no interest in sports. And I don't make derogatory comments about random women. Obviously, I make derogatory comments about women I know, yeah, fo course, based on actual fact. But, you know, so...so I often find that men in pubs will strike up a conversation with me about drink or sports or women and I don't really want to talk about any of those things with somebody that I don't know or somebody that I'm not interested in the opinion (of)... So, you know, so that's interesting.
Mike [00:10:26] Yes.
Thom [00:10:26] Because it's socially...People often look at me and think, oh, he'll be interested in rugby or he'll be interested in, you know, who played who at the weekend and, you know, I dont know and I dont care.
Mike [00:10:36] Never judge a book or a beard by its...
Thom [00:10:39] Yeah.
Mike [00:10:39] ...by its cover or something.
Thom [00:10:41] Or never judge a beard by its brother because my brother conversely really likes drinking. Quite interested in sports while I was talking about girls, so, you know.
Mike [00:10:49] Well, Thom, you've been...you're an advert, I think, for the non-alcoholic drinking pub goer, which I think is a good, good thing. So any listeners who, out there, who haven't been to a pub because they don't drink alcohol perhaps should reconsider that, 'cause, er...
Thom [00:11:05] But I would also add as a caveat, in British culture, if you go to a pub and you don't drink alcohol. You know, some foreigners will say, I just don't like the taste, which obviously in British culture doesn't work. What you have to say to people is, I don't drink alcohol because I've got a medical condition and if I drink any alcohol at all, I will die. Otherwise, people will pressurise you enormously to drink.
Mike [00:11:29] As a drinker of alcohol in moderation, of course, I'd say that the choice of beers and and just drinks anyway has got a lot better, as has food.
Thom [00:11:40] Yeah, yeah, definitely.
[00:11:41] (indistinct: poss. You know...) like food. You go to the pub now and you can get a really decent meal.
Thom [00:11:45] Yeah, definitely.
Mike [00:11:46] Erm, whereas it used to be kind of heated up in the microwave. A jack potato with ham.
Thom [00:11:52] Well, or, you know, a pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years.
Mike [00:11:56] Yeah, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
Thom [00:12:01] And on no account anybody eat pork scratchings because people are very shocked to discover that pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried.
Mike [00:12:09] Yeah, yeah. And are teeth breakers on as well. Your dentist wouldn't approve. Well, it's been lovely talking to Tom, as always.
Thom [00:12:21] It was a pleasure.
Mike [00:12:21] For all you listeners out there, please get in touch, with your experiences at pubs. And if you've been to a pub or haven't been to a pub, we'd love to hear from you. Er, happy waffling. Bye!
Here are some of the bits of Language that we at English Waffle think you may find interesting...
[00:11:53] a pickled egg
[00:12:02] pork scratchings
small pieces of crisply cooked pork crackling, eaten cold as an appetizer with drinks
[00:06:33] what I often find is after a party or a wedding or a, you know, conference, or summat
pronoun NORTHERN ENGLISH
1. Completing or continuing the interlocutors utterance (sentence).
Thom: [00:11:52] Well, or, you know, a pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years.
Mike: [00:11:56] Yeah, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
A pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
Thom: [00:12:06] pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried.
Mike: [00:12:11] And are teeth breakers as well.
Pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried, and are teeth breakers as well.
2. Change of mind mid-utterance (mid-sentence).
Mike says: [00:03:18] Yes, you don't. Because I think people do think...who...of pubs as being exclusively alcoholic beverages sold, but soft drinks are there.
We don’t know what he was thinking but he may have been about to say that “I think people do think...who (referring to ‘people’) go to pubs…”. But he changed his mind and continued with ‘think...of pubs’ instead.
It is also interesting to note that Mike’s sentence seems quite ungrammatical:
There’s seems to be something missing here:
In the next part, it sounds like something has been omitted but if you listen carefully, Mike does say:
But it is quite difficult to perceive and so sounds strange.
3. 'do' for emphasis
Thom: [00:07:28] And I often like to go and sit in a pub sometimes to have a cup of tea. I do drink cups of tea. I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea, but to drink a cup of tea or just to sort of sit and read a book or sit and look and just sort of watch life.
Why do we use 'do' when there doesn’t appear to be any particular reason?
See Thom below when he says:
[00:02:49] And feeling really intellectual, you know. And if I'm in France, I want to be in a really clever cafe, having deep debates probably with somebody else's wife in traditional French fashion. And, you know, when uh when I'm in sort of different countries, I want a different thing, but I think in Britain, I often do like the pub atmosphere, the pub scene. And I'm very strange for Britain because I don't drink alcohol.
We use the auxiliary 'do' to add emphasis. It can be for emotional reasons (I often do like the pub atmosphere) or it can be used for contrast (I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea).
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Intro [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Episode 26 of the English Waffle, a podcast for English learners looking to improve their listening skills by listening to real conversations. This week, I'm joined by special guest Desta Haile. Professional musician, language teacher and founder of the language learning tool Languages Through Music. Desta is currently in Brussels where we recorded this conversation, although I'm in London, er, and though the recording of our conversation is pretty good for the most part, there may be parts where the conversation, the connection is...is a bit poor, so please be patient. I've added some extracts of the music that Desta and I talk about during our conversation and you can see links to the artists on YouTube in the Language Analysis part of the English Waffle website. Back at the end to wrap things up and for some more waffle chat. But for now, sit back and enjoy the conversation. Desta and I languaging and musicking.
Jingle [00:01:08] Welcome to the English waffle, where we talk about random stuff. We'll 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. So join us on the waffle and strap yourself in for 10 whole earthling minutes of English listening.
Mike [00:01:37] So, Desta, for our listeners, we met through... we've not met in person. We've met through the powers of the Internet, which is the next best thing to meeting in real...real person
Desta [00:01:53] It's the future its the future. Now we have to get used it!
Mike [00:02:01] This is what we've got. Yeah, so we we connected via LinkedIn. And I'm super grateful that we did. Because I think our interests are very aligned in the in the world, if you like, of language learning. So for our listeners, just by way of introduction, you are the founder and creative director of Language Learning through Music. Which helps people to learn language through music and culture, I guess? What made you come up with the idea behind this?
Desta [00:02:42] Yeah. It's really just my two favourite things. So I've been a professional musician and vocalist for quite a while. A good fifteen something years.
Mike [00:02:56] So long ago ago that you can't recall where it all began!
Desta [00:03:03] Yeah, and then really at the same time I started teaching languages. So it was kind of my first two jobs. So I started teaching languages to kids. And then I got my TEFL and then I got my CELTA and teenagers and adults. And so I've always been writing music or doing backing vocals or lead vocals or playing the bass or making playlists, like I've always been a real musichead. And I've always been into languages. And then it was I think, yeah, 2014, I thought, well, you know, why don't I just combine the two, because that's what helps me learn. I never got anywhere with traditional school lessons. I was never interested in, like, you know, a grammar book or grammar exercises. And I thought, music gives you everything you need, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, everything and a whole lot more because it's it's fun. And you get to, you know, travel the world and learn about different cultures and different. You know, I think schools can be so narrow minded sometimes, you know. But with music, you can get different accents and slang and you watch music videos and you discover artists from, you know, not only present day, but vintage artists. You can learn so much in one song. And I think people were really sleeping on that fact. You know, it was always kind of a song could be part of a super structured lesson... And you pick the song according to what, you know, grammar point. you're covering that lesson. I just find that really dry. It didn't speak to me. And I learned Portuguese solely through music, really, and I learned some Turkish and I learned Dutch, anything I learned, I learned through music.
Mike [00:05:01] So that's that's great. And so resonant with what you do. Do you like, what are the languages you speak first of all, just by way of introduction?
Desta [00:05:12] I was born in Bangkok. So I spoke Thai first. But then I forgot it because we moved to Barbados, which is where I guess I learned English and...
Mike [00:05:23] So, your parents are English speaking?
Desta [00:05:28] Yes. So my mom's English and my dad's Eritrean. And there we spoke English at home as my dad's English was perfect. Then my mom's Tigrinya. Not so much.
Mike [00:05:37] Tigrinya is the language from Eritrea, right?
Desta [00:05:42] Yes, that's right. And so I speak English mother tongue and then French, Portuguese and I'd say, those are my three. Portuguese and French I'm very fluent. Those are the two I teach the most. My Spanish I'd say is good, intermediate. Turkish. I used to do backing vocals for a Turkish artist, so I had to learn 20 songs in Turkish, which gives you actually a ton of vocabulary. And then I did a one month kind of intensive course in Istanbul. So my Turkish is OK. And then I did a bit of Dutch studies and I learnt so I speak Dutch as well. And I was studying it in Africa. And i've been studying Tigrinya for ages, but I don't feel like I speak it very well. I mean, I've studied tons... I've had teachers for Japanese, Tagalog, Arabic, and so I've studied quite a few of them. Not necessarily being able to have conversations in all of them. But yeah, I just love, love learning languages.
Mike [00:06:50] I don't know about you, but for me, the idea of learning through music helps you get this idea of forming of a relationship with words, that you kind of build an emotional connection with certain sounds and certain words and their meaning, which is so far, it's so different from maybe, reading in a text or reading like, I dunno, is something in the sound and the way it's trans, trans something in music. It helps.
Desta [00:07:25] Yeah. Absolutely. And I think it speaks to all kinds of learners. You know, so people go, oh, I'm not really musical. You know, I can't sing. It doesn't matter at all. That hearing is the first sense we develop in the womb, you know. We connect to it whether we like it or not.
Mike [00:07:42] With the heartbeat, yeah.
Desta [00:07:46] And so, you know, if you're a visual learner, which I am, you know, being able to watch some music video filmed in some faraway country and tune into the visual cues of that. And then you get the audio, you learn all that. And what I get, you know, from doing a workshop, one of the revision activities is, you know, if it's with younger learners, especially is once they've learned the meaning, you know, for the kinetic learners, I let them make a choreography, you know, that's informed by what the lyrics mean. So it's really. And then you go, oh, how do you get grammar? How do you get this will be if it's you do far more likely to remember, you know, if it's emotionally connected or is it a story of what's funny or if it's then you're like she's asking, you know, where were you last night? Oh, so that's OK, past simple. OK. So I think it really speaks to all kinds of learners. And also, it takes you know, I think one of the big things when you're first starting out is you're shy or you're afraid of your accent or you sound silly or whatever. And if you're blasting a song and just trying your best to sing along to it, like even just the refrain, that really builds your confidence. And I think confidence is the most important part. And even if you get a little accent right.
Desta [00:09:15] You know, a lot of cultures, if you can say a few words in a pretty good accent, theyre like wow amazing, good job and getting that feedback is like, oh, cool, I'm going to learn a bit more. I'm going to, you know, learn a few more songs. And then also you have something to talk about, like, oh you're from Brazil? Oh, I just learned this song by Gilberto Gil. Ah no way you like Gilberto Gil, like it gives you it gives you, you know, stuff to talk about.
Desta [00:09:39] And I think if, you know, you know, the top ten country, the top ten artists that a country loves. Over the past hundred years, you know a lot about that country.
Mike [00:10:24] Completely. And do kids and adults respond to this in the same way defined that adults are open to this idea of playfulness and everybody likes music, right? So there isn't anybody out there who's like music, that's not my bag at all. It can't be.
Desta [00:10:42] Funnily enough, I've had two students who told me nah I'm not really that into music and i'm like why you coming to me then?!
Mike [00:10:50] You got the wrong address!
Desta [00:10:55] And then they told me, well, you know, I thought it was it would be kind of different for me, would be a different challenge. You know, it hasn't worked with the ways I've tried.
Desta [00:11:04] So maybe if I tried music, you know, it'll work. OK, great. That's so cool. I think so brave of someone to try something they don't necessarily feel comfortable in to already learn a language which isn't necessarily a comfortable place to be.
Desta [00:11:17] So, yeah, I mean I think kids are. Yeah. They're more up for a sing along maybe. But I've had mostly adult students and the workshops have been in places like Southbank and Beaux Arts here in Brussels. So you know, adults. And also what I think is important, like when I was learning and the teacher would try and include music often it was a children's song or some some song I wouldn't want to be listening to at home. And that didn't appeal to me at all. I think even when I'm teaching kids, I don't really pick children's song, you know, per se. I pick songs that would be slower and easier, simpler, but not I don't baby them.
Mike [00:12:09] Not nursery rhymes
Desta [00:12:11] No. I find that's really easy in a way to find online. But you don't necessarily get that explanation of like..You don't get that. Yeah.
Mike [00:12:25] Nursery rhymes are quite narrow like limiting aren't they. They're normally just. I don't know, I'm just thinking back to what nursery rhymes I know, but they all are quite sort of.. babyish , as they are for babies, right?
Desta [00:12:41] Yeah. You know who's in the workshops, who's bringing the babies? It's the parents. Right. So I want to I want to choose music that the parents will be happy to play at home and not tortured by some Peppa Pig or.. you know. something that the whole family can learn or enjoy or, I don't know, learning's learning. I don't really think there should be a huge difference between how we learn as adults and how we learn as kids. And I think that's a way that a lot of adults shoot themselves in the foot because, you know, are allowed to learn with colours and fun and, you know, painting and music and songs and theatre and like and then...
Mike [00:13:47] Language can be fun. Language learning can be fun guys
Desta [00:13:49] Exactly. There's this really unnecessary divide, I think. And you know, I did French for twelve years at school and I graduated and I couldn't even have a kind of easy conversation. But two months into, I started music work and then, two months into, you know, learning some French songs and doing backing vocals for French artists or I found I finally found a CD I really loved in French because at school we weren't really encouraged to explore artists or create our own relationships to the language or find, you know, materials that spoke to us or, you know, it was this really and I mean, I feel sorry for teachers because they often have a lot of checklist that they have to just do and they don't feel like they have the time or space to necessarily explore other ways of teaching. And also they are up against all this like, oh, learning through music's not serious. It's super serious. Actually!
Mike [00:15:17] So talk to us a little bit more about the resources that you've got at the moment. You've got these e-books that are translated into different languages. Right?
Desta [00:15:28] Yeah, so I'm trying to create a lot of resources to help people learn. So I'm working on these e-books so that people can have a nice playlist, a good 20 songs and a good twenty to twenty five key words picked out of each song. So to really support their learning and then I'm adding all these links to it so they can, you know, click through to a music video, click through to the full lyrics, click through to a documentary by the artists. So it's really kind of supporting their own learning.
Desta [00:16:10] And I'm trying to record a lot of kind of support material, so I'm trying out this podcast thing myself. So I just got the approval email from Apple today.
Desta [00:16:22] So, people, you know, if they want to hear the song kind of gone through, then they can go to the podcast and then otherwise. I have mainly private students on Skype for the moment. But to embrace this whole lockdown business, I'm going to start next week and I think I'm going to start kind of group lessons on Zoom try it out. And also not only for the ones I teach, but I'd like to, you know, for example, improve my Turkish, improve my Arabic. So I'd like to find a teacher who run those sessions and people can join. Like on a pay what you can on basis and, you know, bring their own songs so that it's a kind of weekly discussion and through the Facebook group really kind of build the resources and encourage people to share resources, because how many songs are there in the world that would be great if people shared their own their own...Ideas, keywords helped each other. Because its such a wealth, you know, and I think it's something from me about languages, which I always thought was really a shame that there's this whole. kind of elitist thing in the UK. You know, you have to be wealthy to learn a language or, you know, language lessons are quite, you know, expensive or exclusive or, you know, I went to lots of language fairs. I didn't see people who looked like me. It didn't really seem very, you know, very encouraged or open or inclusive or. I was talking to a friend, too, about making sites inclusive, like, you know, for blind people. You know why? Why isn't it? think language is the most inclusive thing, really. So it should be available for everyone and it should be encouraged because it opens so many doors and it enables so many friendships and opportunities and makes you express yourself differently. So I'd be really happy to see more people given that confidence and power to do a few lessons or listen in on a few of the podcasts and say, hey, well, I can start building my own resources or I can, I have Internet, I have Spotify or YouTube or and I can tap into this group here and connect with people who are also passionate about learning through music.
Mike [00:19:51] So I've just been nodding my head the last five minutes!!
Desta [00:19:54] Sorry, I go off on one when it’s my two favourite things...
Mike [00:20:01] I haven't really got much to add because I agree with all the sentiments that you’ve said. But I do have some…three quick-fire questions to wrap this up, because…so quickly without thinking about things too much. What is your favourite language? It’s a tough one.
Desta [00:20:20] Portuguese right now.
Mike [00:20:24] Portuguese. OK.
Desta [00:20:25] Yeah, in terms of teaching, I really think it's so musical. And there's so, there's just so many great Lusaphone artists. Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, I just love the music from Portugal. And I think it's a very musical language in itself.
Mike [00:20:45] So rich. Right.
Desta [00:20:48] Yeah I think it’s gorgeous.
Mike [00:20:50] Wha…and this is a trivia question. What is the first instrument ever to be invented?
Desta [00:20:56] Ooh. Wow. That's a very good question. Well a drum, I would assume.
Mike [00:21:05] I would say a drum as well, I'm gonna Google it because I don't know the answer myself!
Desta [00:21:13] I thought you were gonna drop some, you know, 5 string lute...
Mike [00:21:21] Oud of some description. No. Erm, favourite word in any language? Do you have a favourite word?
Desta [00:21:31] Oh, gosh! I have so many favourite words. When you asked me that, my brain just went...
Mike [00:21:41] Yeah, yeah, crashed, ok. I mean…
Desta [00:21:45] Yeah. I have to restart. What's your favourite word?
Mike [00:21:49] Like…I just remember the…I haven't thought about that question for a long time. My favourite word.
Desta [00:21:57] The first one that came to my mind was ma'ri which in Tigrinya means my honey. So ma'ar is honey and ma'ri is my honey. So it's really in Tigrinya we use it a lot with friends and fam. Yeah. its my honey, my love, my sweetheart.
Mike [00:22:22] That's lovely. I remember learning Arabic and my teacher saying to me that the the word kelp is Dog. My pronunciation might be a bit dodgy, but there's Qualp and Kelp and the same thing is if you put the i at the end of it you get my. So if you say Klbi it means my dog and Qualpi my heart, my darling. So you can really get them too confused. My darling or my dog. Kind of different things!
Mike [00:23:02] Well, we could go on for hours. We could…I could certainly talk to you about a whole host of things. But that's a nice little taster for our listeners to understand a bit more about what you do.
Desta [00:23:19] Thank you so much for having me and for reaching out in the first place. So nice talk to you.
Mike [00:23:21] Absolute pleasure. And I hope to get you on again soon. And good luck with all these your things. I’m gonna put links into into the show notes about the work that you do. And hopefully you…just please guys check it out cause Desta is great and...I think you're a pioneer. I really do. I think you're a pioneer in like what we're doing.
Desta [00:23:50] Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Here are some of the bits of Language that we at English Waffle think you may find interesting...
(00:4:34). vintage artist (adjective)
1. something old or classic
2. relating to good quality (e.g music/wine)
(00:06:17) a ton of (idiom)
Means a lot of something , Not exactly a ton but you know... a large amount!
(00:12:09). nursery rhyme (noun)
Traditional song or poem used for children
00:13:15). shoot yourself in the foot (idiom) - to make situation worse for oneself
Desta here says that in not allowing themselves to be playful with language learning, many adults 'shoot themselves in the foot' - this means they are not doing themselves a favour, self-sabotaging .
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!