What up? What up? What up, my friends? Welcome to the Speakeasy English podcast. Today we are going to do a magic trick. We’re going to get better at English without studying.
Alright, thank you for being with us on another episode. This podcast is designed to help intermediate English learners become fluent by giving you audios in high quality, spoken by a native English speaker, that you can listen to multiple times. I created this podcast because when I was learning Spanish and French, I realized that there is a ton of material out there for very, very beginner – and also for very, very advanced – but not a lot of material for the intermediate level language learners.
Be sure to listen to every episode multiple times, but don’t listen to them back to back! Don’t listen once and then listen immediately again. You need to use spaced repetition. So you listen, and then maybe later in the same day, you listen again, and the next morning maybe you listen again. And using spaced repetition like that is very powerful to help your brain acquire English.
As we talked about in the last episode when we discussed Dr. Krashen and his brilliant research and hypotheses, the only way to acquire a language is by receiving messages in that language. So that means listening to, and reading, and understanding the messages in that other language. And the important part here is that you are focused on the message. You are focused on the content and not the words and language that are being used to give you that message. Does that make sense?
Another way to describe it would be: if you are listening to a story or an episode of this podcast and you forget that you are listening to English because you are so interested in the content, that is perfect! That is exactly when your brain is acquiring the language the most. The irony is that you are acquiring the language the most effectively in those moments when you forget you are even listening to another language! Isn’t that wild? I find that so crazy, but it is true. So for that reason, today we are going to tell a story. It’s a simple story, a short story, but it is an entertaining and a timeless classic.
But before we start telling the story, I want to give you a few strategies that are going to help you get the most from listening to a story. The first strategy, which is particularly useful for stories, is visualization. That means visualizing (picturing in your head) what is happening in the story. So when I talk about going to a restaurant and eating food, you can visualize what that restaurant looks like and you can imagine the smells and the sounds in that restaurant. That is visualizing. Likewise, when I talk about being in the park and sitting on a bench in the park and watching the people walk by – you can imagine being on a bench in the park, and you can imagine what the people that are walking by look like, and maybe what they are saying, and how they are dressed. And imagining all of these details helps your brain to store that information better. When you visualize, your brain treats the story as if you were actually there. And the more your brain feels like it is involved with the story, the more you will be able to automatically absorb and acquire the language being used to tell that story. So the first strategy, which is particularly useful today, is visualization.
The second strategy I’m going to mention is imitation. Now, that will not be something you try to do on your first or second time listening to this episode. But imitation is a great way to improve your accent by working those muscles in your mouth and tongue and throat to accurately recreate the sounds of English. If you think about children learning to speak, they spend one (or two or three years) making sounds with their mouths, trying to imitate all of the sounds they are hearing around them – and that imitation serves an important purpose. It allows their muscles and their mouth and tongue and throat to practice making those sounds accurately. So my recommendation to use imitation is something like this: After the first three or four times you listen to an episode, then try to “mirror” that episode. That means “shadowing” my voice. So you will imitate everything I say. You will repeat everything I say immediately after I say it. This is a fantastic strategy for improving your accent and your ability to speak out loud, but it is not something you should try to do on your first or second or third time listening to the episode. You should spend those first few times listening and understanding, and then, later on, try imitating (that is, shadowing my voice). When you shadow, you will not be able to pay as much attention to the meaning of what you are saying because you will be focused on repeating the words and sounds as accurately as possible. This takes away from your listening comprehension and it moves that effort into pronunciation and working on your accent. So it is different than improving your comprehension. It is not going to help your comprehension, but it will help your accent.
The last strategy is more of a piece of advice, and I’ve said it before. Try not to translate. Try to focus on the meaning of the story, the meaning of the entire sentence or paragraph, instead of trying to translate individual words. So try to forget about the words. Try to forget that you are even listening to another language. And try to simply absorb and understand the story. If you are able to forget that you are listening to English, then you are at the highest level of efficiency in absorbing and acquiring English.
Alright, that’s all easier said than done. That’s an expression which means, yeah, it’s easy to say, “okay, sure, I will ‘forget’ that I’m listening to English,” but it’s harder to actually do that. Anyway, those are good pieces of advice, and I hope you are able to get some value out of those strategies.
Okay, let’s say we tell a story now. So the story I want to tell today is a timeless classic. It is called The Three Little Pigs. I know that it has been translated into many languages, so you probably have already heard this story. But simple children’s stories actually are fantastic for learning a new language. They are simple enough to understand, and they are interesting to both children and adults. So here we go with the three little pigs. And I will tell you, I’m telling this story from heart (off the top of my head). I am not reading it. So if it is not exactly like the story you remember, that’s probably because I am telling it wrong. But anyway, it will more or less be the story of The Three Little Pigs.
Once upon a time there was a family of pigs. There was a mama pig and three little pigs. And over time, those little pigs grew up, and there came a day when they got so big that the mama pig could no longer afford to feed all three of the pigs. So they were grown up, and it was time for them to go out on their own. The mama pig told them to go out and build their own houses so they could start their own lives on their own. It was springtime, and the weather had just become nice, and the three pigs went out on their own to each build their own house.
Well, since the weather had just become nice, the first pig thought, “I want to go and relax and enjoy this nice weather.” So the first pig made a house as quickly as he could out of the first thing that he saw available, which was straw. You know, straw, it is a golden color, and you use it for bedding for farm animals in the barn. Since they lived near the field with lots of farms and animals, it was very easy to find straw. So he quickly found a lot of straw and made his house out of straw. The house was not the most sturdy house in the world, but he was able to get it done very quickly. And now he got to go and play and swim and lay out in the sunshine and do all the things that he liked to do in the nice weather.
The second pig saw his brother make a house out of straw and thought, “well, that does not seem very sturdy. It does not seem very strong, but I really want to go and enjoy the nice weather too.” So he said to himself, “what should I do?” And he looked around and he saw the forest with all the trees and he thought, “I’ll make my house out of wood. I will make my house out of sticks that have fallen off of the trees.” So he went into the forest and he collected a lot of sticks very quickly and easily and he used those sticks to make himself a house. Now, since the house was made out of dead sticks and twigs that had fallen from trees, it was not very strong. Yes, it was stronger than the straw house and it took a little longer to build, but it was not a very strong house. Nonetheless, the second pig was very proud of himself and he thought, “now I get to go and enjoy my free time! I get to go and play with my brother and enjoy the nice, warm weather of the summertime.”
The third pig had been watching his two brothers and he was very disappointed. He knew that there was a big, bad wolf running around in the woods and the wolf might one day come and try to eat them. So he thought long and hard about how to build his house. He thought about straw and about sticks but he decided those are too weak and they would not be strong enough to protect him from the wolf, if the wolf came to eat him. He finally decided that he would use the bricks from an old building that had fallen down in the back of the field. There was a big pile of heavy bricks and he decided that he would use those bricks to build his house and make it very strong. The bricks were very heavy and it took him all summer to build his house. He did not get to enjoy the warm weather at all. He worked from morning to night, every day. But at the end of the summer he had a very strong house made out of bricks! All summer long, his two brothers watched him work and they made fun of him, and laughed, and told him he was so silly for not just making his house faster so that he could enjoy the summertime weather. But the third pig, he knew that it was very important to make a strong, sturdy house to protect himself from the wolf.
Sure enough, when the winter came, the Big Bad Wolf started looking around, and sneaking around, and trying to find a pig to eat. The wolf saw the first house made out of straw. And he came right up to the front door and he said, little pig, little pig, let me in. And the pig said, “No way! No way! Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” And the big Wolf said, “Well, I will huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!” And he blew and blew and the whole house fell down! The whole house of straw just fell down because it was so weak. And the little pig was standing there – no house, no protection – looking at this Big Bad wolf. And the little pig ran as fast as he could to the second pig’s house, to his brother’s house, and he ran inside and he shut the door behind him.
And the Big Bad Wolf said, “well, that’s fine. I’ll just go to the second house and then I will eat two pigs!” So the wolf came to the door and he said, “little pigs, little pigs, let me in!” And the pig said, “No way! Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” And the wolf said, “Well, then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!” And he blew and he blew, and the whole house fell down! Those sticks were not very strong. They were just little sticks and twigs and the whole house fell down. And then there were two pigs standing there, no protection, just looking at the wolf. And the two pigs said, “AHHHH! We gotta go! We’re gonna run!” And the pigs ran all the way to the third pig’s house. And they knocked on his door and they said, “Let us in! Let us in! The wolf is trying to eat us!” And so they went into the third pig’s house and shut the door.
There they were, in the house made of bricks with the third brother. And the wolf said, “Well, that’s fine. I’ll just go to the third pig’s house and then I will have three pigs to eat!” So the Big Bad Wolf came to the door of the third pig’s house and he said, “Let me in. Let me in, or I’ll blow your house down!” And the pig said, “No way! No way! Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!” And the wolf said, “That’s fine. I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!” And the wolf huffed and puffed, and he blew and he blew, but he could not blow the house down. The house made of bricks was too strong! It was so strong that the wolf could not knock the house down! So the pigs were safe inside the house. The wolf was very upset, and he was very hungry, so he went away to make a plan, and he decided that he would try to find a way into the house. So the wolf made a plan to climb up onto the top of the house, onto the roof of the house, and climb down through the chimney. The chimney is the part that goes through the roof. You make a fire in the fireplace, and then above the fire, there is a chimney to let out all of the smoke and carbon dioxide from the fire. So the wolf decided he would climb up onto the top of the house. And then climb down through the chimney to get into the house and eat the three little pigs.
Well, the third brother was obviously very smart, and he knew that the wolf was going to try and find a way into his house. And he knew that the only way for the wolf to try and get into the house would be coming down the chimney. So they made a big fire in the fireplace and on that fire, they put a big boiling pot of water. So the water was on top of the fire and the water was boiling, bubbling, bubbling, boiling. And when the wolf tried to climb down the chimney, down the fireplace, he fell right into the big boiling pot of water and he said, “AHH AHHH, It’s so hot!” And he climbed right back up the chimney, and he ran away! And he ran very far and no one ever saw the big bad wolf again!
Alright, so what did you guys think of my big Bad Wolf children’s story? I have to admit, I have zero experience telling children’s stories. My children just turned two years old and so we’re still reading very simple books. So this is my first time telling a children’s story like this and I hope you enjoyed it.
The point of this exercise is for you to listen to content (in this case a story) and understand the content. If you are understanding most of what I am saying, then you are on the right path! You are working toward acquiring English. The more you can listen and just enjoy, just understand, the more you will acquire English. It does not require any effort beyond listening and understanding. I hope you enjoyed that story.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to this entire episode. Next time we are going to talk about language partners. And, one big question: is your language teacher or your language partner hurting your English? Are they holding you back? Is it doing more damage than good? And I really hope that the answer is no. But for many of you, unfortunately, the answer is probably yes. And next week, we will talk about that and we will find out how to make sure our teachers and our language partners are actually helping us to acquire English.
Again, thank you for listening to this episode. If you appreciate having this free resource, and the free transcripts, please don’t forget to leave a review. And I’ll be honest, I hope it’s five stars! That will help me so much to gain visibility and reach even more people, just like you, that are working to become fluent in English. Feel free to shoot me an email with questions or suggestions. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org . All of the free transcripts and my email address are posted on the website, that is speakeasyenglish.club. And of course, as always, don’t forget to listen to this episode multiple times. Alright, I will see you next time. Until then, cheers!