In this episode we’re going to help you tell better stories in English
Listener Feedback: Feed back on the blog from Maite about the marketing episode: Episode 130
Hi Craig and Reza,
I would like to thank you (for) such a interesting and useful podcast. To be honest, I didn’t think you were (going) to post that subject so early and I have to say that I’m as happy as a clam.
I try to listen (to) your podcast everyday. My English level has shot up since then!.
I’m really grateful for your priceless work. I’ll try to keep in touch whenever I can.
Audio Feedback: Aaron, Maykol and Andres from Costa Rica
I would love to visit Costa Rica!
Great plan to take your English to the next level in one year.
We rock! and you guys rock, too!
Regard – considerar “I regard Reza as an authority on the English language.”
Regard – apreciar, estimar “This podcasts is highly regarded by students of English.” – held in high esteem
“They have no regard for human life”
Regards – saludos, recuerdos “Send my regards to your family.”
Regards – atentamente – to finish a formal letter
in (or with) regard to – con respecto a “With regard to your recent enquiry….”
Audio Feedback: Johan Vega Chaverri – Costa Rica
Good luck with the job interview! Please let us know how it went and if you got the job.
To practise for job interviews, listen to Episode 58 and Episode 43
You can get the e-book I worte called How To Pass A Job Interview here: http://store.mansioningles.net/
Audio message: Alvaro from Granada
Good luck with the FCE exam. I heard that the listening is hard this year.
A big hug to you!
Suggested website: http://www.examenglish.com/FCE/fce_listening.html
How can you tell good stories in English?
We can use the past simple to talk about events that happened in chronological order:
I parked the car, got out, crossed the road and suddenly the bike hit me.
Past continuous – Episode 88
Use the past continuous to describe activities in progress at the time of your story, or to describe the background.
“When I left my flat the sun was shinning, the birds were singing, people were walking to work and having breakfast outside cafes.”
NB. The length of time of the action is irrelevant as regards choosing between Past Simple and Past Continuous:
“I lived (Past simple) in Salamanca for 2 years”
They are only used for contrast of background and main verbs:
“When I was living (Past continuous) in Salamanca, I met (Past simple) my friend Lara.”
Sometimes, we change past continuous to the present continuous when we’re telling a story:
“I was waiting in McDonalds for my Big Mac and my children were playing outside when suddenly….”
“So, I’m waiting in McDonalds for my Big Mac and the kids are playing outside, when suddenly…”
Past perfect (simple and continuous) – Episode 91 with Mike
You can use the past perfect (simple and continuous) to add more interest to your story by jumping back and talking about events that happened before the events in your story:
“I took out my beautiful new camera that I had bought in Madrid the week before.”
“I had been living in Valencia for 8 months before I started going out with my first girlfriend.”
When we tell jokes, we often use the present tense:
A white horse walks into a bar and orders a whiskey. The barman says, “Why the long face?”
The barman says, “Which whisky would you like? We’ve got Johnny Walker, we’ve got Bells, we’ve got J&B and we’ve even got a whiskey named after you.”
The horse says, “What Eric?”
We also use the present tense to give a dramatic narrative effect:
“It happened while I was travelling in Greece.
My girlfriend goes into a shop to buy some water and doesn’t come out! She disappears!
I wait outside for nearly 10 minutes and guess what I saw when I go in?”
Use linking devices for sequencing:
First of all…
Before that….(past perfect)
In the end…
Up until… (then)
By that time…
For more linking expressions, see Episode 133
Try to use a wide range of words to make your story more interesting.
You can “exaggerate” when you tell a story, so instead of using words like “nice” or “bad”, experiment with more interesting words,
such as “stunning”, “amazing”, “wonderful”, “awesome”, “horrible”, “awful”, “disgusting” or “terrible”.
Give a good performance
Keep your story short so that it’s easy to remember and don’t use complicated grammar
Vary the volume, pitch and tempo of your voice (enunciate clearly and exaggerate expression)
Use silence and pauses to add dramatic effect
Use your face, body and hand gestures (let your body speak)
Look at the people listening, and try to “involve” them in the story. Keep eye contact.
Use different, exaggerated character voices. Use intonation.
Pace yourself. Don’t speak too quickly,
Practice makes perfect
Remember the plot
Tell yourself the story in your own words until you know it really well
Tell it as many times as possible and try to improve it every time
Practise in the mirror and record video or audio on your mobile phone.
Improve your speaking with an italki teacher
Telling a Christmas anecdote
I was not a well-behaved kid.
I was about 5 or 6
My mum hid presents from my sister. She Wrapped them up in Christmas paper.
One year we had no idea where mum had hidden the presents.
All usual places had been checked by me and my sister.
My parents big wardrobe.
I climbed the shelves in the wardrobe and I saw shiny red paper.
I started to fall back and the wardrobe crashed down on top of me.
My Dad ran upstairs. He saw the mess and said nothing.
He went to the local pub and got drunk!
My parents had always told me as a kid that I shouldn’t go looking for Santa Claus while he was doing his work of delivering our presents.
They said that if I saw him, he’d throw black pepper in my eyes for being nosy!
I had to sleep all night and wait until Christmas Day in the morning to go downstairs and open my presents, they said.
But I often lay awake most of the night in bed, dying to go downstairs and have a peek.
One year I was so curious that I even got out of bed, in the dark, and started to creep towards the stairs.
I could barely see anything. But just as I was about to take the first step downstairs, a man started to walk upstairs.
Petrified that it was Santa Claus that I had interrupted about his business, I ran like a bolt of lightning and jumped up into my top bunk bed, above my sleeping younger brother, and got under the covers just as the man, possibly Santa Claus, was entering the room.
Convinced he would blind me with that black pepper for daring to spy on him at work, I shut my eyes tight and waited and waited and waited, until I drifted off to sleep…
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. Do you have a Christmas story or anecdote to tell us? We will include them in a future episode.
Send us a voice message or an audio file by email, Dropbox, Google Drive: https://www.speakpipe.com/inglespodcast
Send us an email with a comment or question to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like more detailed shownotes, go to https://www.patreon.com/inglespodcast
Our lovely sponsors are:
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On next week’s episode: Compound nouns
The music in this podcast is by Pitx. The track is called ‘See You Later’
FULL TRANSCRIPTION by Arminda from Madrid (Thank you so much!)
Hello and welcome to “Aprender Inglés con Reza y Craig”. In this episode we’re going to help you tell better stories in English.
If you are a new listener to this award winning podcast, welcome. With over forty years of teaching between us, we’ll help you improve your English and take it to the next level, grow your grammar, vocalize your vocabulary and perfect your pronunciation. Exactly!
Before we speak to you about telling better stories and how you can do that, let’s look at some listener feedback. The first piece of feedback which we received on the blog at inglespodcast.com is from Maite and she speaks about the episode we did recently on Marketing. Marketing and Market research which was episode 130, so inglespodcast.com/130. Here is what Maite says:
Hi Craig and Reza:
I would like to thank you for such an interesting and useful podcast. To be honest, I didn’t think you were going to post that subject so early and I have to say that I’m as happy as a clam. I love that expression! As happy as a clam. What’s a clam in Spanish?
“Almeja”. I’m as happy as an “almeja”. If you are as happy as a clam you’re very, very, very happy. I don’t know why, I don’t know why clams are so happy, but lovely, lovely expression Maite. As happy as a clam. I try to listen your podcast every day, that should be, I try to listen TO your podcast every day. My English level has shot up since them.
Shot up is a good word.
Yeah! Probably, Maite listened to our episode on trends and how to describe trends, where we looked at words like go up, increase, shoot up, etcetera. So, my English level has shot up since then. I’m really grateful for your priceless work. Another nice expression! Priceless work. I’ll try to keep in touch whenever I can. Many thanks! Maite.
Thank you Maite. I’m pleased you liked that episode. Next, we have some audio feedback from Costa Rica, from Aarón, Mykol and Andrés. So, let’s hear what they tell us:
Hi Reza, hi Craig, hi […] How could I forget you? I’m Mykol and this is my friend Andrés and Aarón. We are from Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful and exotic country. We know that you love Costa Rica’s pineapple. If you want to come to Costa Rica, you’re welcome! We’ve been practicing our English from two months and we have a plan: get better and take our English to the next level in one year. I have a question and it’s about the uses of regard. I have seen this word in many papers but I’m not sure the exact meaning. So if you could help me with this word in many contexts I will appreciate. So, I just want to tell you that I love your podcasts. Keep podcasting, cause you rock! And we’re waiting your visit. Bye!
Well, guys, thank you so much for your wonderful message. I absolutely loved hearing from you all the way from Costa Rica. Reza, any comments?
Yeah! That was a brilliant message, that was well planned and well done. Your pronunciation is very good and you, I think you could be future podcasters actually.
Yeah! I love the way you planned what you’re going to say, who was going to say what, etcetera, on the microphone, the three of you. And you recorded a wonderful message for us, thank you very, very much. And I love the plan you have, to take your English to the next level in one year and I’m sure you’re going to get there. So keep studying, keep listening to us, keep working. If you have any questions just send us a message and we’ll try to help you as much as we can.
And you’ve made me even more enthusiastic about visiting Costa Rica, because not only could I eat all the best pineapple in the world I wanted, but I would get to see one of my favorite animals of all: the Costa Rican sloth. So, If I went to Costa Rica I think I’d just laid in a bed or in a hammock, a hammock is like a bed made out of rope …
… between two trees, eating Costa Rican pineapple and maybe stroking, that’s “acariciar”, a Costa Rican sloth, “un perezoso costarricense”. These animals that they just sleep all day and move about two inches. I’d quite like to be one, actually.
Well, you’re practicing. You’re doing pretty well actually, you’re practicing quite often!
That’s a dream of mine. To go to Costa Rica, eat pineapples and be with the Costa Rican sloth, “perezoso costarricense”. I’m talking about the animal not people, “los perezosos”, the animal.
So, one of the guys, I don’t know if it’s Aarón, Mykol or Andrés asked us about the word “regard”, and can we explain that. So, regard, “considerar”. So, an example with “considerar”, I regard Reza as an authority on the English language, which means, I think of him as an authority, I regard him as this.
He’s exaggerating, I’m afraid.
No, it’s true! I regard you as an authority on everything English grammar. But “regard” can have another meaning: “apreciar o estimar”. For example, “Our podcast is highly regarded by students of English”, it’s highly regarded, means it’s held in high esteem.
“Estimado, muy estimado”
Yeah! It’s highly regarded is a common collocation and a similar use of “regard” in the negative: They have no regard for human life. “Desprecian mucho la vida” so they have no regard for it, that’s the negative.
Craig, at the end of an email or a letter if you wrote “Regards”, what do you mean? Like, say my regards to your family.
That’s like “saludos” or “recuerdos”. Send my regards, yeah, cause you’re going home for Christmas this year so send my regards to your mum, send my regards to your brother.
Or you can just write at the end of your letter: Regards, Craig.
Which is “atentamente”, when you finish. But that’s quite formal, isn’t it? You’d say “regards” if you don’t necessarily know the person, if you want a formal letter. If it’s a friend, just “best wishes” or something similar. Also you could use “best regards” to finish a letter or “warm regards”.
Or “kind regards”.
Or “kind regards”, yeah! another good one. There’s another expression “in regard to” which is “con respecto a”. “In regard to” or “with regard to”, also quite formal in a letter. For example, you could say: “with regard to your recent enquiry” or “with regard to your recent letter”.
Or you could say “regarding”: “regarding your recent enquiry”.
Yeah! So, those are the meanings and uses of “regard”. Do you have any other I haven’t thought of, Reza?
No, I can’t think of anything else.
Ok. So, thanks again guys! You said that we rock but we think that you rock! Which means we think you’re fantastic! It was great to hear from you. Next we have some more audio feedback and also from Costa Rica.
Oh, I’m dreaming of pineapples already!
Me too! I’d love to visit that country, that’s definitely up on my, top of my list to visit Costa Rica. This message is from Johan, Johan Vega Chaverri:
Hello Reza and Craig. This is Johan, I’m from Costa Rica and well, I’m here because I want to say hello and I’m really, really thankful with you because thanks to your podcast my English is better now. I know I have mistakes when I speak but I feel more confident, you know? And I want to say that I enjoy your class, especially when you talk about “dulce de leche” or “Mickey Mouse”, to me is so funny. Your classes are so funny and well, I learn a lot with you. Thanks for that. I can say that when I speak I have no problems but when I use grammar or when I need to write I have problems with that. My principal problem is the grammar. Next week I will have a job interview. I hope to pass it and maybe you can give me some advice. I’m reading a book in English, I have read one book, [No one to trust] it’s the name. Thank you so much and goodbye! Talk to you later.
Thank you, Johan, for your message. That was lovely. Reza, any comments?
Yes, Johan we are very thankful to you for your message. You said “thankful with”, it’s “thankful to”. We are very thankful to you or we are very thankful for your message, so we’re thankful to you for your message. Thanks very much, Johan.
And good luck with the job interview. I don’t think you will have any problems with your English during the interview. You are very fluent, your English is fine, your pronunciation is fine. You’re a little worried about the grammar but what’s important, I think, in a job interview is understanding the questions and answering the questions fluently in English. You didn’t say if the job interview is in English. I’m assuming that it is in English. And it won’t be ready for you, because you said the interview is next week, but I’m just finishing now an e-book about how to pass a job interview and that would be ready on the website mansioningles.com in the “Descargas” section, so you’ll be able to get that before Christmas. But, generally speaking, I think your English is good enough, definitely, to have an interview in English. Try to concentrate a lot on body language and the impression you make on the interviewer, which is something I speak about in the e-book. Make sure you ‘re smiling, make sure you’re listening, make sure that you are making eye contact with the interviewer. Obviously don’t fall back in your chair and try not to fold your arms that can look a little defensive. Try to keep gesture with your hands, keep your palms up, that shows openness, make that eye contact, smile a lot, nod your head up and down when you’re listening, make those sounds that show that you’re listening when the interviewer is speaking, like really?, aha, hum, Yes, that’s interesting, etcetera. Those little noises English speakers make to show that they’re being attentive and they’re listening carefully. Any more comments, Reza, on the interview?
Yes. In the meantime, while we’re waiting for Craig’s e-book to come out, you could always listen to our previous episode on job interviews. Craig, what episode is that?
Yes, we spoke about job interviews and gave you some tips and advice back in episode 43 and 58, so go to inglespodcast.com/43 and inglespodcast.com/58. I hope those episodes will help you and best of luck, I hope you’ll get the job!
Good luck, Johan!
One more audio message, I love getting all these audio messages and hearing from you guys, it’s fantastic when we get audio feedback. Álvaro, from Granada, sent us a message. Here’s Álvaro:
Hello Reza and Craig. First of all, I would like to congratulate you for the great job you do every day helping people to learn and improve their English. My name is Álvaro, I’m from Granada. This moment I’m preparing to take the next FCE exam, so I usually visit your website for listening to some podcasts. They are very interesting and allow me to improve my listening […] If you allow me I have an advice for you: Don’t change your attitude, maintain the energy and keep the positive mood. I send you a very strong embrace from this beautiful land of Spain. Thank you.
Thank you, Álvaro for your message, from Granada, wonderful to hear from you and good luck with the exam. Just one thing about your message, advice is uncountable, so you said an advice. Try to remember it’s a piece of advice or some advice. Let me give you some advice or let me give you a piece of advice.
Another thing you said, Álvaro, was “for listening”, when you should have said “to listen to our podcast”, because it’s infinitive if it’s why you do something, the infinitive or purpose we called it, for example, “I went to the bank to get some money”, we don’t say “for getting”, is “to get” so, you should have said “to listen to your podcast”, not for.
Yeah! I pick up a pen to write something, I take a chair to sit down, I open the door to go out, it’s the reason you do something that use of the infinitive.
Good luck with the exam!
Yeah! Good luck with the exam. I’ve heard that the listening is a bit difficult this year. Have you heard that from any of your students? I’ve got some feedback from FCE students of mine who said the listening this year was very difficult, more difficult than the ones we’ve been practicing. Have you heard anything?
I didn’t hear but you might be right.
So, do lots and lots of listening, Álvaro, before your exam and there’s a website I recommend for, specifically for FCE listening practice, we’ve suggested it before, it’s examenglish.com, the FCE section, and I’ll give you the link, I’ll put the link to that website in the show notes at inglespodcast.com/137.
Let’s talk about stories. Everybody loves stories and people love telling them, people love listening to them so, how can you tell good stories in English? What things do you need to think about before you tell a story in English? Obviously tenses, Reza, tenses are quite important when you’re telling stories, cause they’re usually in the past.
They’re usually in the past, yeah. Some people called them the narrative tenses but I think that term is fairly useless, to be honest, because any tense can be used to tell a narrative. So, just make sure you pay attention to the tenses. Should you be using past simple or past continuous? You can even use present, even though it’s a story about the past. So, be careful with tenses above all.
And to practice your tenses, we have made some podcasts specifically practicing tenses, for example, to practice the Past simple with –ed endings, so the regular verbs, how to pronounce –ed, go to episode 60, inglespodcast.com/60. To practice the Past Simple of irregular verbs you can find that in episode 73, inglespodcast.com/73, and, remember that the Past simple, when you’re telling a story, you can use it to talk about events that happened in a particular chronological order, one thing after another, for example: I parked the car, I got out, I crossed the road and, suddenly, the bike hit me. So, form Past simple tenses to describe a chronological order of things that happened. And notice the use of the word suddenly, “de repente”, to describe the suddenness of the final action. Suddenly, the bike hit me. We spoke about the Past continuous in episode 88, that’s inglespodcast.com/88. Reza, when could we use the Past continuous in telling a story?
Well, I think of the Past continuous as, above all, the verb to give the background information, or, it can be the verb to talk about an action in progress at specific time in the past.
Can you give an example?
Yeah! What about this: when I left my flat …
So, that’s the main action, the main verb if you like, I left my flat. But a bit of background. Well, when I left my flat the sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were walking to work and having breakfast outside cafes. All those other verbs, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were walking, people were having breakfast, they are Past continuous because they’re background. The main action, the main verb is Past simple: I left my flat. It’s to contrast the main action with the background.
And, also you’re painting a picture and you’re making an atmosphere, creating a picture with those Past continuous verbs. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were driving to work or walking to work, you’re creating a background as you say, for the story.
Don’t get confuse about the time. Some students seem to think that the time is relevant, they think, oh! Well, the long action, you know which, or situation, which is the background, that must be Past continuous, so things which take a long time are Past continuous. No, no, that’s wrong. The length of time of the action, or the state, it’s irrelevant as regards choosing between Past simple and Past continuous. Let me give an example: I lived in Salamanca for two years. I lived, it’s Past simple, two years, it’s a long time, but I don’t use Past continuous, no, I use Past simple because it’s an action, in the past and it’s the main action I’m talking about. It’s the only action, it’s just past simple. It doesn’t matter, is irrelevant, if it was a long or a short time. It’s Past simple.
So I can say: I lived in the UK for 21 years before I started travelling. Yeah! That’s a long time.
Or I stayed in a hotel for one night, short time, it really doesn’t matter.
So, the important thing, it happened in the past and there’s no connection to now.
Yes, and you are not comparing it to any verbs or things in the past. What about this one: when I was living in Salamanca, when I was living is Past continuous, when I was living in Salamanca I met my friend Lara. I met is Past simple, now there we’re comparing the main verb or what I want to focus your attention on, I met Lara. And the fact that I was living in Salamanca, that’s the background information, so that sentence is different, there I used the Past continuous (I was living) and I contrasted to the Past simple, I met.
And “you living in Salamanca” was the longer action and you met Lara in the middle, so it cuts that longer action and very often in text books you see the example: I was having a shower when the phone rang. Now, when you’re telling stories, you don’t really have to always use past tense verbs, you can change it to present, you can change the Past continuous to the Present continuous and what this does it bring the action closer to the audience, closer to the person who’s listening. Let me give you an example, Past continuous: I was waiting in McDonald’s for my Big Mac and my children were playing outside when suddenly … so, here we have two Past continuous tenses describing continuous activities happening at the same time. I was waiting in McDonald’s for a Big Mac and my children were playing outside when suddenly … But I can change that to Present continuous, listen: So, I’m waiting at McDonald’s for my Big Mac and the kids are playing outside when suddenly … So, that’s a story in the past I’ve changed it to Present continuous to bring it closer to the listener and that’s correct.
It’s more exciting, more real.
It’s more immediate, it’s closer to [..] it’s more exciting because it’s a present tense.
I think people do exactly the same in Spanish, so you understand us, when you want some past […] to sound more alive, you use present tenses in Spanish as well. And we can do that in English too.
Now, let’s look at the Past perfect. So, let’s look now at the Past perfect which is another past tense we can use in storytelling. You can use the Past perfect simple and Past perfect continuous and this adds more interest to your story because you can change and jump back and forwards talking about events that happened before the events in your story. Let me give you an example: I took out (Past simple), I took out my beautiful new camera that I had bought in Madrid the week before. So, that used of “had bought” takes the time back before I took out my camera.
I like to think of the Past perfect as the past before the past.
Yeah, exactly. So, I took out my camera, that’s clearly in the past because it’s Past simple. So, if I’m going to talk about the past before that past, for me, that’s Past perfect, the past before the past.
You can find more information on how to use the Past perfect simple and the Past perfect continuous in episode 91, which we did with our friend Mike, you can find that at inglespodcast.com/91.
Craig, could you give us an example with a Past perfect continuous.
I had been living in Valencia for eight months before I started going out with my first girlfriend. So, I started, Past simple, I started going out with her. Before that, I had been living in Valencia. It’s often contracted, the “had” of the Past perfect is contracted, so I’d. I’d been living, and to make it more difficult to understand when you hear it, the “been” becomes week because it’s an auxiliary verb. So, you don’t hear “I had been living in Valencia”, you hear, “I’d been living”. I’d been living in Valencia, very difficult to hear, but the Past perfect is there.
And the reason Craig uses the Past perfect continuous there, I’d been living in Valencia, is because that action happened right up to the time, it continued right up to the time that he met his girlfriend. So, it was a continuous action.
And it continued after too.
And after too, Yeah. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In this case, yeah, it continued after. So, it was an action in the past, before the past, and it continued up to the next action. So, it’s Past perfect continuous.
But remember, I think the most important thing with the Past perfect and we won’t speak about it much more because you can go listen to Mike at episode 91, but there must be a Past before you use the Past perfect, “si no, no tiene sentido, es el pre-pasado”, it’s the past past.
Yeah. Past perfect always has to be contrasted with Past simple. If there are no Past simples there are no Past perfects. It doesn’t make any sense.
Now, telling jokes. When we tell jokes it’s common to use the Present tense, in the same way we’d use, maybe, Present continuous, you can use the Present tense to bring the action closer to the listener. Let me tell you a joke. Have you heard this, Reza? A white horse walks into a bar, Present simple, a white horse walks into a bar and orders a whiskey. The barman says: Why the long face? Ok. Long face means you’re “triste”, you’re sad, you’re unhappy, but horses also have long faces. Anyway, the horse …
Ah! Ok. I get it now!
Nothing worse than explaining a joke! The white horse walks into a bar and the barman says: Which whiskey would you like?
Is it another horse or the same horse?
It’s the same horse, it’s the same horse! The one with the long face. And the barman says: which whiskey would you like, we’ve got Johnny Walker whiskey, we’ve got Bells, we’ve got J&B (“jota be”), we’ve got J&B, and we’ve even got a whiskey named after you. And the horse says: What, Erik? Because there’s a whiskey called “White Horse” whiskey. Anyway, the point of the joke is lots of Present simples, the horse says, not the horse said. So, the use of those Present simple verbs makes it more immediate and closer to the listener: A white horse walks into a bar. Are there any other ways we could use the Present tense in storytelling?
Yeah! Just to sound more dramatic in your narrative. Very often we start in the past, because we’re talking about the past, but then we change into the present to bring it more alive. For example, imagine I’m telling you about a story that happened to me in Greece, in the past, so I’d say: It happened while I was travelling in Greece. It happened is Past simple, and I was travelling Past continuous. But then I decide to switch into Present continuous, so I go: It happened while I was travelling in Greece. My girlfriend goes, that’s present, my girlfriend goes into a shop to buy some water and doesn’t come out. She disappears! I wait outside for nearly ten minutes and guess what I saw when I go in. Or I could even say: guess what I see. You can kind of mix the present and the past.
Now, I want to know what you saw. I want to know what happened now. You really got me interested.
Ah! Well, now, that’s a mystery!
She disappears! What happened? What did you see when you went in?
That would be telling!
Linking devices. For a good story, to sequence the story, to make it logical, this thing happened, the next thing happened, don’t forget your linking devices such as: first of all, first of all and then, and then the horse said, after that, before that, which is quite common with the past perfect, before that I had, for example, next (“entonces”), later or later on, finally, in the end, up until, up until then and by that time. So, use this linking devices to logically connect the ideas in your story and for more linking expressions go to episode 133, so that’s inglespodcast.com/133 for more information on how to use linking expressions in a story. Reza, what about vocabulary?
Well, a good story uses a wide range of vocabulary. You can even exaggerate when you tell a story. So instead of using not very expressive words such as nice or bad, maybe you should experiment with more interesting words like stunning, amazing, wonderful, awesome …
Or negative words like horrible, awful, disgusting or terrible. They’re more interesting.
So more extreme vocabulary, yeah, more extreme words.
As well as vocabulary, what else could you do to tell a good story, Craig?
Well, you’re kind of acting, so you need to give a really good performance, a convincing performance. Try to keep your story short, so that it’s easy to remember and don’t use complicated grammar because maybe the complicated grammar would make you make mistakes and lose the flow and make it less “fluido”. So, vary the volume of your voice, vary the pitch and the tempo.
What’s pitch, Craig?
Well, the pitch and the tempo is, well, tempo is speed but the pitch is high and low, it’s the music in your voice and …
Can you give us an example of varying your pitch?
I can give you an example of how a Spanish person might speak when they go on holiday or speak to someone. And I can give you an example of pitch going up and then pitch going down and this happen when I’m on my holiday, so you’re really varying the vocal range of your voice to engage the person. Which is something really important for Spanish speakers to do anyway, you should try and do that, use intonation, vary the up and down pitch of your voice but also, particularly, when you’re telling a story. Also, use silence and pauses to add dramatic effect. Use your face, use your body, use your hand gestures, let your body speak and use your hands as I said before in an interview, when you’re speaking and explaining things and I’m doing it now, Reza is looking at me and I’m using my hands because it helps me to increase the voice as well, […] in the voice. I find it really, really useful to use my hands when I’m speaking and that’s a good habit to develop.
I’m going to use a hand gesture now to demonstrate. There you go! Have a look at this! Oh! No, maybe not. That’s a rude gesture, Craig. Can we edit that hand gesture out?
That’s Reza pointing to his mouth and trying to tell me he wants food because he’s been podcasting for three hours and he wants a rest. Remember, remember to look at the people, look at the people who are listening and try to involve them in the story. Keep eye contact, look at people in the eyes and engage them.
Although, as we said in a previous episode, don’t be surprised if the British person you’re speaking to, being very reserved, doesn’t bother to make much eye contact with you. Still, you being a Mediterranean it is expected of you, if you’re either a Spaniard, a Mediterranean or a South American, you’re expected to make eye contact. But we, British, are allowed to be reserved and not bother, we don’t need to make an effort. But you do!
Yeah, yes, you should. You should make eye contact. That does not mean staring, “mirar fijamente”, in somebody’s eyes all the time. Just look in someone’s eyes, make eye contact and then look away, then go back to the eyes and if you feel uncomfortable looking in someone’s eyes for too long, you could focus on the point between their eyes, in the middle of the forehead, “frente”, and just focus on that point as well which is really, really close to the eyes if that’s more comfortable for you. Other points, use very exaggerated character voices, so use intonations and pace yourself. Don’t speak too quickly, communicate slowly, communicate clearly. Any other points, Reza?
Well, tell the story properly, give your plot right. The plot is “el argumento”. You could maybe tell the story to yourself a few times, practice it, look at yourself in a mirror, tell the story until you’ve got it the way you want, practice the gestures as well.
It’s not easy to tell a good story. You think some people are natural storytellers, maybe they are but more often they’re not, which means usually they are people who have practiced the story, they’ve told it many times and they’ve worked on improving it. So, that’s what you need to do if you want to tell a good entertaining story. Practice in the mirror, as Reza said, and maybe also record video or audio on your mobile phone or in a camera so that you can see how you look and how you sound when you’re telling your story. Also, tell the story to your dog, to your cat, to your goldfish, to anyone or anything that would listen, so that you practice.
Before we go on, let us tell you about our sponsor, Italki. Italki are an on-line service where you can get your own, personalized English teacher. How does it work? Well, you go to their website and you look for the teacher that best suits you. How do you do that? Well, you can read their profile, which gives their experience, what languages they teach, what qualifications they have, and also you can find out when they’re free and book a time. If you want to have a class at twelve o’clock at night, you can! Because your teacher might be living in Hong Kong, for all you know. That’s the beauty of the fact that it’s done by Skype, from anywhere in the world. How much does it cost? Well, it depends. Different teachers charge different prices depending on their profile and availability, etcetera. So, you can have a good look, find the right teacher for you, a native speaker, you might want to choose specific accent English, Welsh, Canadian, Australian, whatever you fancy, and give it a go. It’s very, very convenient because you choose pretty much everything, even the price. And, just to get you started, Italki will even give you a hundred free credits which will pay for your first class if you join them via our website, that’s at inglespodcast.com/Italki, that’s i-t-a-l-k-i, Italki. Craig and I would like to thank Italki for sponsoring “Aprender inglés con Reza y Craig”.
So, how do you tell a good story or anecdote? Well, I’m not sure if they’re going to be good, but Reza and I are going to give you a couple of examples of Christmas stories. Since Christmas has come and gone, as it does most years, we’ve got a couple of short stories for you to illustrate the points we’ve been making in this podcast by using tenses, using intonation, changing the tenses around and using sequences. So, I go first!
I was not a well-behaved kid. Yeah! I know you don’t believe it but when I was young, probably five or six, and I don’t remember, but my family continually tell me and have told me, how bad I was and how misbehaved I was as a child. I used to get up to mischief, which means I used to do a lot of bad things as a boy and, when I was about seven or eight, I remember one particular Christmas, because my mum used to hide our Christmas presents. My mum loved Christmas more than I did and more than my sister did. So, she used to start Christmas shopping in October and she used to buy presents way, way before Christmas and wrap them up, which means put them in Christmas paper, and hide them in places in the house so that myself and my sister wouldn’t find them. So, of course, every year my sister and I used to look for these presents that we knew were somewhere in the house, because we wanted to know what we had for Christmas and, of course, we could not see inside the presents, we didn’t know exactly what they were, but when we found them, we could shake them, we could press them, we could lift them up and see if they were heavy and tried to guess what we had for Christmas. Anyway, one particular year, we had no idea where mum had hidden these presents. We looked in all the usual places, we had a cupboard under the stairs where she would sometimes hide them, we looked upstairs, downstairs, everywhere, in the garage, and we couldn’t find the presents. And it was December, so we knew there were presents in the house. Quite quickly, my sister just got bored and she stop looking but I continued looking. I looked everywhere. Eventually, I went to my parent’s wardrobe, in their bedroom and I looked where the shoes were at the bottom and I looked at the shelves that were my height and nothing. I couldn’t find anything. And the I stood on top of the bottom shelf and I manage to get half way up the wardrobe to get to a higher shelf and at the back of that shelf, what did I see? A shiny piece of red paper that was a wrapped Christmas present. So, I got really excited and I realised that she put the presents high above the wardrobe so I started to climb the shelves of the wardrobe and I thought “if I can just get and reach up, just get into that top shelf I can bring down the presents and see what I’ve got for Christmas”. But suddenly, when I got up to the top, I noticed that the wardrobe started falling back slowly and back, and back, and back and I pulled the wardrobe down on top of my body and everything from inside the wardrobe came out and covered the floor: the clothes, the shoes, the presents, the socks, the pants, everything was all around the bedroom. My dad run up the stairs, open the door, saw everything that was covering the floor and I thought: “Oh, no. My life has finished”. And he looked at me and he turned around, he said nothing. He went downstairs and went straight to the pub and got drunk.
Were you punished for that?
I don’t remember. I just remember having the wardrobe on top of me thinking “my dad is going to kill me”.
But he didn’t. It was so shocking that he just didn’t know what to do.
I think it’d been a bad week, he’d had a bad day, and he just couldn’t deal with the situation so he left it for my mum to [clear up]. But those are the sort of things I used to do when I was a kid. What’s yours? You’ve got a similar story about Christmas.
Yeah, it’s also a Christmas tale.
What’s a tale?
A tale is a story, “un cuento”, that’s t-a-l-e, not t-a-i-l which would be “una cola”, but t-a-l-e, tale. Oh, well, now, what can I tell you? When I was a kid, my parents had convinced me that Father Christmas didn’t like people spying on him or watching him at work delivering your presents. Father Christmas or Santa Claus, if you prefer. And if Santa Claus caught you, he would throw black pepper in your eyes because you shouldn’t be looking at him.
He’d throw what?
Black pepper, “pimienta”. And that would probably blind you or be very painful, so, I know you don’t look at Father Christmas. But, you know, you find it hard to wait when you’re a chid to get the presents that Santa Claus has left. So, although my parents had told me that I had to sleep all night and only get up in the morning, on Christmas day, to go downstairs and get my presents, I found it very difficult and I often lay awake most of the night just thinking about what Santa Claus might be doing downstairs, what presents he might have left me. And one year I was so curious that I just had to go down and have a peek, a little look, a peek, and I thought “Oh, I can’t take any more, I’ve got to go”. So, I jumped out of bed, I say jump, it was a big jump because I slept on the top bunk, of bunks beds, that’s when you got one lower and one upper bed, my younger brother was below me, and I crept, that’s to walk in a suspicious or a secretive way, I crept up to the top of the stairs and was ready to start walking down the stairs. When suddenly, a figure that I couldn’t make out, I couldn’t distinguish but I knew was a man, started to walk up the stairs, but luckily it was completely dark, it was pitch black, that means totally dark, so I heard this figure and I realised: Oh, my God! If this is Father Christmas or Santa Claus, he’s going to throw pepper in my eyes, he’s probably not going to give me any presents so I rushed, run like a bolt of lightning, back to my bed hoping that he hadn’t seen me. And jumped right up into the top bunk, with my brother sleeping below and put the covers over me, the “nórdica”, the covers, and shut my eyes tight, tight as I could and just hoped that, you know, nothing would happen to me. And you know what? I’m sure that that man came into the room. I can’t tell you a hundred percent, with my hand on my heart, because my eyes were tight, tight, tight shut, but I’m convinced he did come into the room. And I was petrified and I thought: If I open my eyes even for a second Santa Claus would be so annoyed with me that he’s going to throw pepper in my eyes, I might be blind, there’d be no presents. I’ll just keep my eyes shut here. And I think I had my eyes tightly shut for about an hour or two and luckily, I eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up in the morning, I went downstairs and there were my presents, as usual. But, boy, I was petrified.
Do you think it might have been your dad?
At that time, no! All I knew was that …
It probably was.
Santa Claus deliver the presents. But it probably was, looking back on it, yeah!
How old were you?
About five or six or something.
I was about the same age when my story, yeah.
So, most people don’t have a scary story involving Santa Claus, but I do. I though he was going to, maybe, blind me.
That is quite scary. That is, specially with the black pepper. I wonder where the black pepper came from.
So, both of our stories are true. If you have a similar true or invented story, we would love to hear from you, probably the ninety seconds on speakpipe might not be long enough for you to tell your story, but it you want to record it into your computer and send it as an email attachment to your email, that would be fine, we’d love to hear from you. And you can practise everything we’ve spoken about in this podcast on storytelling. Your email should go to either me, email@example.com, or to me Reza, at firstname.lastname@example.org. And for voice messages you can leave your ninety second message at speakpipe.com/inglespodcast or send us an audio file by email or you could use Dropbox or even Google Drive to let us have access to any mp3 file that you record on your computer or mobile phone.