Member only
Episode
179

Winston Churchill: A British Icon

Jul 27, 2021
History
-
27
minutes
20th Century
English speaking
Politics
UK politics
World War II
British class system
The British Empire

He was the iconic wartime leader of the United Kingdom, but his life was not without controversy.

Learn about his fascinating life, his work, and the legacy he has left on Britain.

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login
Subtitles will start when you press 'play'
You need to subscribe for the full subtitles
Already a member? Login
Download transcript & key vocabulary pdf
Download transcript & key vocabulary pdfDownload transcript & key vocabulary pdfDownload transcript only available after your trial

Transcript

Alastair Budge: [00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the English of Winston Churchill.. 

[00:00:28] This is actually our second episode on Churchill, the first one, one of our member-only ones, came out on Tuesday, and was about his epic life, from his near-death experiences to his enormous consumption of champagne, and of course, his political life and some of the controversy that now surrounds him.

[00:00:48] Today though, we are going to talk about the language he used, and about his skill as an orator, as a public speaker.

[00:00:57] And skillful he was - he is often called the greatest public speaker in British history, and his words galvanised the nation in some of the darkest days of World War II.

[00:01:10] Before we get right into today’s episode though, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:25] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials as well as our bonus episodes, such as the one on Churchill’s life, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:41] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:52] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:02] OK then, let’s get started, and talk about Winston Churchill and the English language.

[00:02:09] Few people in human history have changed the course of history. 

[00:02:14] Even fewer have changed it largely through their use of language. 

[00:02:20] Many people would say that Winston Churchill changed human history, and the main way he did it was through his use of English. 

[00:02:30] He was someone who used the English language supremely well. 

[00:02:34] Few would argue that his use of language, especially in his radio broadcasts to the British people in the darkest days of the Second World War in 1940 and 1941, was the major factor in raising the country‘s morale and therefore people‘s determination to resist Nazi Germany. 

[00:02:55] When in 1953 Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the award was made for his writing of history books but also, said the quote accompanying the award, for his “brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”. 

[00:03:13] These Nobel words capture an essential quality in the man’s language: in defending Britain against fascism, the battle was not only to defend Britain against being enslaved but also to defend the values that Churchill saw as vital to human progress and dignity – democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, liberty and justice. 

[00:03:39] This episode, which is a companion to the previous one on his life, will explore four different areas of of Churchill's genius as a master of the English language: 

[00:03:50] Firstly, how he developed his gifts with language; 

[00:03:55] Secondly, how much he actually produced, both in writing and speaking; 

[00:04:00] Thirdly, the immediate background to his great speeches, including the medium of the radio, as well as how he wrote his speeches; 

[00:04:09] and finally those famous speeches themselves, focusing in particular on three of the most significant ones. 

[00:04:17] And of course, there will be plenty of opportunity to hear Churchill speak for himself, we will listen to some clips of the speeches. 

[00:04:26] Ok then, it is fair to say that Churchill might not have been destined to be a great orator, a great speaker, and he developed his gifts as a speaker and writer in spite of some early obstacles

[00:04:41] Firstly, in his early youth he had both a stammer, when you repeat words and struggle to pronounce certain words, and a lisp, when you can’t pronounce certain syllables, like sh or th.

[00:04:55] In other words his speech was far from fluent and he could not produce certain words, especially ones that began with the “sh” sound. 

[00:05:05] Secondly, although he excelled in certain areas of school life and went to one of the best private schools in the country, called Harrow, he did not do well at school - he was not a natural scholar or academic. 

[00:05:20] And finally, his father was dismissive and far from encouraging of young Winston’s efforts. 

[00:05:28] However, on a more positive note, he loved English and History while at school, and was particularly fond of memorising large chunks of literature, particularly Shakespeare. 

[00:05:39] Above all, he had such strong belief in himself and personal ambition that, especially after he left school and went into the army, he was determined to complete his education. 

[00:05:52] What about university, you might ask? 

[00:05:54] Well, he didn’t go. 

[00:05:56] It was actually perfectly normal for a young man of his class and ambition not to go to university at this time, but he was well aware that many of his future competitors in politics would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, and have received a classical further education. 

[00:06:15] So, even when he was serving as a soldier in India, he set out methodically to educate himself through demanding and extensive reading of the great English authors and politicians. 

[00:06:37] This meant that, despite having a relatively short formal education, he read much more than many young men who went to university and saw their time at university as mainly fun - a kind of upper-class playground.

[00:06:43] He studied the great political speakers – Oliver Cromwell [the leader of the so-called Parliamentarians who fought and won against King Charles I in the mid 1600s], Benjamin Disraeli [one of the great prime ministers of The Victorian era] and Churchill‘s father, Randolph, who had himself been a famous politician until his unfortunate early death from syphilis at the age of 46. 

[00:07:10] He would study parliamentary debates, and practice responding to questions in his own words. 

[00:07:17] In addition to all this systematic self-education, Churchill had an action-packed training as a journalist when, from the 1890s onwards he was both a soldier and a journalist in military campaigns in India, Sudan and South Africa. 

[00:07:34] Finally, we need to remember that by the time that he became prime minister in May 1940, aged 65, he had spent four decades as a member of Parliament, making speeches and taking part in parliamentary debate. 

[00:07:49] And if you spend forty years debating in parliament, you get pretty good at it.

[00:07:54] But it wasn’t just practice.

[00:07:57] Churchill had a true gift for storytelling: you can almost feel his energy and the thrill of adventure in his early writing - it is so full of colour and passion. 

[00:08:09] By the age of just 24 he was a highly successful, best-selling author, earning very large sums of money for his writing. 

[00:08:18] So, that is the background to Churchill as a writer and orator - an incredibly talented but also dedicated and practiced student of rhetoric and how to use language to get your point across.

[00:08:33] Now, on to the medium of his message.

[00:08:36] Great communicators need the right medium or means of communication. 

[00:08:41] Churchill’s early political career coincided with an important bit of new technology - the radio, which had been invented by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. 

[00:08:54] Radio was the first of the so-called mass media - a revolutionary means of communicating which allowed governments to get their messages into millions of homes. 

[00:09:06] It is estimated that more than half of the adult population of Britain listened to Churchill‘s radio broadcasts on the BBC from 1940. 

[00:09:16] I have a particular personal insight into this, as my Scottish grandfather, aged 19 at the time when Churchill was making his early wartime broadcasts, listened to them and kept a detailed diary. 

[00:09:30] In his diary he records each day all the news coming from the BBC on the radio from the developing crisis in Europe – in particular the fall of Belgium, the Netherlands and then France in June 1940. 

[00:09:44] He and his younger brother, sitting in their parents’ farmhouse in the far North of Scotland, were listening avidly to every word that Churchill said. 

[00:09:53] “Rather a good speech by Churchill tonight”, was my grandfather’s comment on the night of 4 June 1940, after what later went down in history as one of Churchill’s most famous speeches. 

[00:10:06] The final point I want to make before talking about the immediate background or context to Churchill's wartime speeches focuses on the ways in which he composed or constructed his speeches. 

[00:10:20] You may think I am stating the obvious when I say that he wrote them himself, but it is worth clarifying

[00:10:27] For many years now, most politicians have not written their own speeches. There are teams of professional speechwriters and consultants who do most of the work for them.

[00:10:38] Not only did Churchill write his own speeches, but he took hours preparing them. 

[00:10:44] In terms of how long they would take to write, he had a simple equation, or calculation: it would typically take him an hour to produce one minute of a speech. 

[00:10:56] And he wasn’t a traditional politician, who would sit down at his desk with a pen and paper and write his speech.

[00:11:04] He would normally dictate his speeches, he would say them out loud to his aides and secretaries, and would write at all times of day, from a wide array of different places - walking up and down the room in only his dressing gown, lying on his bed, and often from the bath. And always while puffing on a large cigar.

[00:11:27] An essential part of The Churchill‘s technique was that, as well as his speaking his words aloud as he composed, he would ask his secretaries to speak them back to him. 

[00:11:38] He revised his words constantly and then, when they were finally typed up into the copy he would use to deliver his speech, he arranged his words so that it was clear how long the pauses should be between the different words. 

[00:11:54] At the start I said that, although this episode does not deal with the full range of his writing, I would say a little bit about his overall literary output, about how much he actually produced. 

[00:12:06] Well, in short his output was quite extraordinary. 

[00:12:10] His lifetime output amounted to 40 books in 60 volumes and that is not to mention the hundreds of newspaper articles he also wrote. 

[00:12:20] One estimate has him writing more words in his lifetime than Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare did combined. 

[00:12:29] And when most people are asked what Winston Churchill did, the word “author” or “writer” probably wouldn't be the first to come to mind.

[00:12:38] Now, we really are about to hear some of those magical speeches, but let me just first set the background to them. 

[00:12:47] 1940-41 was an extraordinary time in world history. 

[00:12:52] Reading my grandfather‘s diary, it is clear how, even to a 19-year-old, fresh out of school, he had a sense of history unfolding - and of the most terrible, imminent and worrying danger. 

[00:13:07] The policies of the Western democracies had failed dramatically: disarmament and appeasement had proved to be disastrous. 

[00:13:16] The cynical and brutal tactics of Adolf Hitler in particular appeared to be effortlessly successful. 

[00:13:24] Churchill, having opposed disarmament and appeasement and spoken out strongly in favour of the need for Britain to build up its air force in particular, had good support within Parliament. 

[00:13:37] All that had seemed constant and certain was collapsing. 

[00:13:41] This was especially so when the nations of Western Europe fell over like a pack of cards, one after another – Belgium, The Netherlands and finally, Britain‘s most significant ally since early in the 1900s, France. 

[00:13:56] Russia, or the USSR as it became known under authoritarian communist rule, had chosen to make a secret alliance with Hitler, partly in order to increase its own territory through seizing a large proportion of Poland. 

[00:14:12] The USA still remained on the sidelines, neutral, and would not enter the war until December 1941. 

[00:14:20] The threat of German invasion of Britain was very real and urgent.

[00:14:25] So, let’s let Churchill speak for himself.

[00:14:28] The recordings are, of course, from a long time ago, and the quality is reflective of that. 

[00:14:35] So if you don’t understand everything, don’t worry, I'll repeat the most important parts.

[00:14:40] And if you are following this with the transcript already, good, that will make your life a lot easier.

[00:14:46] Here are three things that I ask you to observe as you listen to the speeches: the choice of words; the use of images – metaphors and similes; and the use of rhythm created by repeated words, especially in groups of three. 

[00:15:04] The first speech was made to Parliament on 13 May 1940 as Churchill formed the new administration that would become what he called the Grand Coalition, in other words the government that would lead the country until July 1945. 

[00:15:21] He begins by repeating what he said to the new members of his administration earlier in the day: 

[00:15:29] Winston Churchill: [00:15:29] “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ 

[00:15:38] Alastair Budge: [00:15:38] That’s “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ - toil is another word for hard work. 

[00:15:48] Then, he went on: 

[00:15:52] Winston Churchill: [00:15:52] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:16:27] Alastair Budge: [00:16:27] So, I’ll just repeat this again and explain it so you don’t miss anything.

[00:16:31] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. 

[00:16:35] An ordeal is a long and unpleasant experience, and grievous means very bad.

[00:16:41] We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, [to go to war] by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:17:09] Surpassed means outdone, greater than. 

[00:17:12] And the lamentable catalogue of human crime isn’t an expression that you will find anywhere else, but it certainly is a powerful one.

[00:17:21] Churchill knew that the most powerful words in the English language are the oldest and the shortest, so it is no surprise that the four qualities that he lists initially - blood, toil, tears and sweat - are such basic, emotionally powerful ones. 

[00:17:40] Note also the way in which he repeats “wage war” and this repetition is completed with that contrasting final short sentence, "that is our policy". 

[00:17:53] Only a few weeks later, on the 4th of June, following the evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk, he made another speech to Parliament.

[00:18:03] Parts of this speech were read out later that evening in a BBC broadcast, and it was this speech that my grandfather wrote was “rather good”.

[00:18:12] Churchill ended his speech like this: 

[00:18:16] Winston Churchill: [00:18:16] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:18:59] We shall never surrender. And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time. The new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. 

[00:19:32] Alastair Budge: [00:19:32] Again, I’ll just recap that for you:

[00:19:35] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets and we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:20:16] We shall never surrender. And even if which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time, the new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

[00:20:44] As in the previous speech, you will have noticed the way in which Churchill captures the attention and imagination of his listeners through the list of tangible places - using words that everyone can relate to - the beaches, fields, streets and hills; these images make you feel a spirit of patriotism, of defending things that everyone can related to; and again, he uses ancient and short words to get his point across. 

[00:21:13] When he wants, by contrast, to refer to the Nazi enemy in a dismissive and disrespectful manner, he uses words that have been more recently imported into the language - he referred to the Nazis earlier on in the speech as such as “odious apparatus” - a hateful machinery.

[00:21:34] And, once again, repetition is used: the repeated phrase “we shall fight…“ builds towards the climax of. “… never surrender.“ 

[00:21:45] These rhetorical techniques help to give the speech its iron determination, conviction and resolve.

[00:21:53] Not only is the fight described in terms of good against evil, but there is also a powerful cord of optimism running through it. Churchill‘s words leave you in no doubt: he feels in his bones that the British people will win, and it is a true battle of good versus evil. 

[00:22:14] The final sentiment of this speech, when he refers to the new world liberating the old, is, as you will no doubt have observed, directed at the USA. 

[00:22:25] Churchill knew that the Americans listened very closely to his speeches. 

[00:22:29] He was also in close, personal communication throughout the war with President F D Roosevelt, sending him over 900 personal messages and receiving over 800 back. 

[00:22:42] The connection with the USA provides a handy, a useful link to the final speech of the episode. 

[00:22:49] This was made on 9 February 1941, before the USA had agreed to something called Lend Lease; this meant that the Americans would provide the military hardware that the British needed in order to fight the war. 

[00:23:04] Churchill's speech is quite clearly aimed at President Roosevelt and the US Congress. I will just give you its final few lines. 

[00:23:13] Churchill begins by quoting a poem by the American poet, Longfellow, which the President has sent to him in a handwritten private message. 

[00:23:24] He then asks his audience [in a rhetorical question, so, a question that he will respond to] what answer he should give on behalf of the British people to Roosevelt:

[00:23:36] Winston Churchill: [00:23:36] “Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. 

[00:24:25] We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” 

[00:24:42] Alastair Budge: [00:24:42] So, I'll just recap that for you: "Here is the answer which I will give to president Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job."

[00:24:44] So, he is saying that the British will not stop, will not tire, no matter what happens - all the Americans need to do is loan military equipment to the British, and we will, as he puts it, “finish the job”.

[00:24:58] Here you will see again the way that Churchill chooses his words so carefully in order to convey his message. 

[00:25:06] Old, short words are combined with ones that have strong religious associations and help give the speech the quality mentioned in the Nobel Prize citation of “exalted human values”. 

[00:25:19] These religious words are such ones as faith, blessing and vigilance

[00:25:25] Verbs are used in their strongest form, the imperative, and at the strongest point in the sentence - the start; so we have the powerful rhythm or pulse, pushing the argument forward: “Put..Give..Give..” 

[00:25:41] The final sentence, once again, finishes the argument, using those short words and the simplest but most powerful of metaphors or images: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” 

[00:25:56] Especially for those of you who come from countries where politicians often try to talk in an incredibly complicated language, it might sound surprising to hear that simple language is most effective in English.

[00:26:12] So, what should we conclude about the effect on the war effort of Churchill’s use of spoken English, of his oratory

[00:26:21] Here are two quotations that sum it up quite well for me. 

[00:26:25] A fellow Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgwood, wrote after Churchill's speech on 4 June 1940: “That was worth a 1,000 guns, and the speeches of a 1,000 years.” 

[00:26:39] President John F. Kennedy, when presenting Churchill with honorary American citizenship, quoted journalist Edward Murrow, when he said that “Churchill mobilised the English Language and sent it into battle.” 

[00:26:53] Before we finish, just so you get some taste of another side of the great man - he was also known for his wit, and for his quick responses, which are often quite funny and a little bit rude.

[00:27:04] Here are a few of his best known exchanges. 

[00:27:10] During a conversation with Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament, she said “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.” 

[00:27:21] He replied, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it”.

[00:27:25] He described his successor as prime minister, Clement Attlee, as “A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” 

[00:27:33] And about his lifestyle, he said “I am a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best.” 

[00:27:42] And finally, on the matter of his own death, he said: “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” 

[00:27:56] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the English of Winston Churchill.

[00:28:02] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and you now have a better sense for one of the reasons why he is such an influential figure in British history.

[00:28:13] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of the last one about the life of this controversial but nonetheless important figure. 

[00:28:22] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:28:33] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, such as the episode on Winston Churchill’s life, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:28:51] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:29:04] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com. You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:29:15] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

Alastair Budge: [00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the English of Winston Churchill.. 

[00:00:28] This is actually our second episode on Churchill, the first one, one of our member-only ones, came out on Tuesday, and was about his epic life, from his near-death experiences to his enormous consumption of champagne, and of course, his political life and some of the controversy that now surrounds him.

[00:00:48] Today though, we are going to talk about the language he used, and about his skill as an orator, as a public speaker.

[00:00:57] And skillful he was - he is often called the greatest public speaker in British history, and his words galvanised the nation in some of the darkest days of World War II.

[00:01:10] Before we get right into today’s episode though, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:25] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials as well as our bonus episodes, such as the one on Churchill’s life, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:41] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:52] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:02] OK then, let’s get started, and talk about Winston Churchill and the English language.

[00:02:09] Few people in human history have changed the course of history. 

[00:02:14] Even fewer have changed it largely through their use of language. 

[00:02:20] Many people would say that Winston Churchill changed human history, and the main way he did it was through his use of English. 

[00:02:30] He was someone who used the English language supremely well. 

[00:02:34] Few would argue that his use of language, especially in his radio broadcasts to the British people in the darkest days of the Second World War in 1940 and 1941, was the major factor in raising the country‘s morale and therefore people‘s determination to resist Nazi Germany. 

[00:02:55] When in 1953 Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the award was made for his writing of history books but also, said the quote accompanying the award, for his “brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”. 

[00:03:13] These Nobel words capture an essential quality in the man’s language: in defending Britain against fascism, the battle was not only to defend Britain against being enslaved but also to defend the values that Churchill saw as vital to human progress and dignity – democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, liberty and justice. 

[00:03:39] This episode, which is a companion to the previous one on his life, will explore four different areas of of Churchill's genius as a master of the English language: 

[00:03:50] Firstly, how he developed his gifts with language; 

[00:03:55] Secondly, how much he actually produced, both in writing and speaking; 

[00:04:00] Thirdly, the immediate background to his great speeches, including the medium of the radio, as well as how he wrote his speeches; 

[00:04:09] and finally those famous speeches themselves, focusing in particular on three of the most significant ones. 

[00:04:17] And of course, there will be plenty of opportunity to hear Churchill speak for himself, we will listen to some clips of the speeches. 

[00:04:26] Ok then, it is fair to say that Churchill might not have been destined to be a great orator, a great speaker, and he developed his gifts as a speaker and writer in spite of some early obstacles

[00:04:41] Firstly, in his early youth he had both a stammer, when you repeat words and struggle to pronounce certain words, and a lisp, when you can’t pronounce certain syllables, like sh or th.

[00:04:55] In other words his speech was far from fluent and he could not produce certain words, especially ones that began with the “sh” sound. 

[00:05:05] Secondly, although he excelled in certain areas of school life and went to one of the best private schools in the country, called Harrow, he did not do well at school - he was not a natural scholar or academic. 

[00:05:20] And finally, his father was dismissive and far from encouraging of young Winston’s efforts. 

[00:05:28] However, on a more positive note, he loved English and History while at school, and was particularly fond of memorising large chunks of literature, particularly Shakespeare. 

[00:05:39] Above all, he had such strong belief in himself and personal ambition that, especially after he left school and went into the army, he was determined to complete his education. 

[00:05:52] What about university, you might ask? 

[00:05:54] Well, he didn’t go. 

[00:05:56] It was actually perfectly normal for a young man of his class and ambition not to go to university at this time, but he was well aware that many of his future competitors in politics would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, and have received a classical further education. 

[00:06:15] So, even when he was serving as a soldier in India, he set out methodically to educate himself through demanding and extensive reading of the great English authors and politicians. 

[00:06:37] This meant that, despite having a relatively short formal education, he read much more than many young men who went to university and saw their time at university as mainly fun - a kind of upper-class playground.

[00:06:43] He studied the great political speakers – Oliver Cromwell [the leader of the so-called Parliamentarians who fought and won against King Charles I in the mid 1600s], Benjamin Disraeli [one of the great prime ministers of The Victorian era] and Churchill‘s father, Randolph, who had himself been a famous politician until his unfortunate early death from syphilis at the age of 46. 

[00:07:10] He would study parliamentary debates, and practice responding to questions in his own words. 

[00:07:17] In addition to all this systematic self-education, Churchill had an action-packed training as a journalist when, from the 1890s onwards he was both a soldier and a journalist in military campaigns in India, Sudan and South Africa. 

[00:07:34] Finally, we need to remember that by the time that he became prime minister in May 1940, aged 65, he had spent four decades as a member of Parliament, making speeches and taking part in parliamentary debate. 

[00:07:49] And if you spend forty years debating in parliament, you get pretty good at it.

[00:07:54] But it wasn’t just practice.

[00:07:57] Churchill had a true gift for storytelling: you can almost feel his energy and the thrill of adventure in his early writing - it is so full of colour and passion. 

[00:08:09] By the age of just 24 he was a highly successful, best-selling author, earning very large sums of money for his writing. 

[00:08:18] So, that is the background to Churchill as a writer and orator - an incredibly talented but also dedicated and practiced student of rhetoric and how to use language to get your point across.

[00:08:33] Now, on to the medium of his message.

[00:08:36] Great communicators need the right medium or means of communication. 

[00:08:41] Churchill’s early political career coincided with an important bit of new technology - the radio, which had been invented by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. 

[00:08:54] Radio was the first of the so-called mass media - a revolutionary means of communicating which allowed governments to get their messages into millions of homes. 

[00:09:06] It is estimated that more than half of the adult population of Britain listened to Churchill‘s radio broadcasts on the BBC from 1940. 

[00:09:16] I have a particular personal insight into this, as my Scottish grandfather, aged 19 at the time when Churchill was making his early wartime broadcasts, listened to them and kept a detailed diary. 

[00:09:30] In his diary he records each day all the news coming from the BBC on the radio from the developing crisis in Europe – in particular the fall of Belgium, the Netherlands and then France in June 1940. 

[00:09:44] He and his younger brother, sitting in their parents’ farmhouse in the far North of Scotland, were listening avidly to every word that Churchill said. 

[00:09:53] “Rather a good speech by Churchill tonight”, was my grandfather’s comment on the night of 4 June 1940, after what later went down in history as one of Churchill’s most famous speeches. 

[00:10:06] The final point I want to make before talking about the immediate background or context to Churchill's wartime speeches focuses on the ways in which he composed or constructed his speeches. 

[00:10:20] You may think I am stating the obvious when I say that he wrote them himself, but it is worth clarifying

[00:10:27] For many years now, most politicians have not written their own speeches. There are teams of professional speechwriters and consultants who do most of the work for them.

[00:10:38] Not only did Churchill write his own speeches, but he took hours preparing them. 

[00:10:44] In terms of how long they would take to write, he had a simple equation, or calculation: it would typically take him an hour to produce one minute of a speech. 

[00:10:56] And he wasn’t a traditional politician, who would sit down at his desk with a pen and paper and write his speech.

[00:11:04] He would normally dictate his speeches, he would say them out loud to his aides and secretaries, and would write at all times of day, from a wide array of different places - walking up and down the room in only his dressing gown, lying on his bed, and often from the bath. And always while puffing on a large cigar.

[00:11:27] An essential part of The Churchill‘s technique was that, as well as his speaking his words aloud as he composed, he would ask his secretaries to speak them back to him. 

[00:11:38] He revised his words constantly and then, when they were finally typed up into the copy he would use to deliver his speech, he arranged his words so that it was clear how long the pauses should be between the different words. 

[00:11:54] At the start I said that, although this episode does not deal with the full range of his writing, I would say a little bit about his overall literary output, about how much he actually produced. 

[00:12:06] Well, in short his output was quite extraordinary. 

[00:12:10] His lifetime output amounted to 40 books in 60 volumes and that is not to mention the hundreds of newspaper articles he also wrote. 

[00:12:20] One estimate has him writing more words in his lifetime than Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare did combined. 

[00:12:29] And when most people are asked what Winston Churchill did, the word “author” or “writer” probably wouldn't be the first to come to mind.

[00:12:38] Now, we really are about to hear some of those magical speeches, but let me just first set the background to them. 

[00:12:47] 1940-41 was an extraordinary time in world history. 

[00:12:52] Reading my grandfather‘s diary, it is clear how, even to a 19-year-old, fresh out of school, he had a sense of history unfolding - and of the most terrible, imminent and worrying danger. 

[00:13:07] The policies of the Western democracies had failed dramatically: disarmament and appeasement had proved to be disastrous. 

[00:13:16] The cynical and brutal tactics of Adolf Hitler in particular appeared to be effortlessly successful. 

[00:13:24] Churchill, having opposed disarmament and appeasement and spoken out strongly in favour of the need for Britain to build up its air force in particular, had good support within Parliament. 

[00:13:37] All that had seemed constant and certain was collapsing. 

[00:13:41] This was especially so when the nations of Western Europe fell over like a pack of cards, one after another – Belgium, The Netherlands and finally, Britain‘s most significant ally since early in the 1900s, France. 

[00:13:56] Russia, or the USSR as it became known under authoritarian communist rule, had chosen to make a secret alliance with Hitler, partly in order to increase its own territory through seizing a large proportion of Poland. 

[00:14:12] The USA still remained on the sidelines, neutral, and would not enter the war until December 1941. 

[00:14:20] The threat of German invasion of Britain was very real and urgent.

[00:14:25] So, let’s let Churchill speak for himself.

[00:14:28] The recordings are, of course, from a long time ago, and the quality is reflective of that. 

[00:14:35] So if you don’t understand everything, don’t worry, I'll repeat the most important parts.

[00:14:40] And if you are following this with the transcript already, good, that will make your life a lot easier.

[00:14:46] Here are three things that I ask you to observe as you listen to the speeches: the choice of words; the use of images – metaphors and similes; and the use of rhythm created by repeated words, especially in groups of three. 

[00:15:04] The first speech was made to Parliament on 13 May 1940 as Churchill formed the new administration that would become what he called the Grand Coalition, in other words the government that would lead the country until July 1945. 

[00:15:21] He begins by repeating what he said to the new members of his administration earlier in the day: 

[00:15:29] Winston Churchill: [00:15:29] “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ 

[00:15:38] Alastair Budge: [00:15:38] That’s “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ - toil is another word for hard work. 

[00:15:48] Then, he went on: 

[00:15:52] Winston Churchill: [00:15:52] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:16:27] Alastair Budge: [00:16:27] So, I’ll just repeat this again and explain it so you don’t miss anything.

[00:16:31] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. 

[00:16:35] An ordeal is a long and unpleasant experience, and grievous means very bad.

[00:16:41] We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, [to go to war] by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:17:09] Surpassed means outdone, greater than. 

[00:17:12] And the lamentable catalogue of human crime isn’t an expression that you will find anywhere else, but it certainly is a powerful one.

[00:17:21] Churchill knew that the most powerful words in the English language are the oldest and the shortest, so it is no surprise that the four qualities that he lists initially - blood, toil, tears and sweat - are such basic, emotionally powerful ones. 

[00:17:40] Note also the way in which he repeats “wage war” and this repetition is completed with that contrasting final short sentence, "that is our policy". 

[00:17:53] Only a few weeks later, on the 4th of June, following the evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk, he made another speech to Parliament.

[00:18:03] Parts of this speech were read out later that evening in a BBC broadcast, and it was this speech that my grandfather wrote was “rather good”.

[00:18:12] Churchill ended his speech like this: 

[00:18:16] Winston Churchill: [00:18:16] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:18:59] We shall never surrender. And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time. The new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. 

[00:19:32] Alastair Budge: [00:19:32] Again, I’ll just recap that for you:

[00:19:35] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets and we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:20:16] We shall never surrender. And even if which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time, the new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

[00:20:44] As in the previous speech, you will have noticed the way in which Churchill captures the attention and imagination of his listeners through the list of tangible places - using words that everyone can relate to - the beaches, fields, streets and hills; these images make you feel a spirit of patriotism, of defending things that everyone can related to; and again, he uses ancient and short words to get his point across. 

[00:21:13] When he wants, by contrast, to refer to the Nazi enemy in a dismissive and disrespectful manner, he uses words that have been more recently imported into the language - he referred to the Nazis earlier on in the speech as such as “odious apparatus” - a hateful machinery.

[00:21:34] And, once again, repetition is used: the repeated phrase “we shall fight…“ builds towards the climax of. “… never surrender.“ 

[00:21:45] These rhetorical techniques help to give the speech its iron determination, conviction and resolve.

[00:21:53] Not only is the fight described in terms of good against evil, but there is also a powerful cord of optimism running through it. Churchill‘s words leave you in no doubt: he feels in his bones that the British people will win, and it is a true battle of good versus evil. 

[00:22:14] The final sentiment of this speech, when he refers to the new world liberating the old, is, as you will no doubt have observed, directed at the USA. 

[00:22:25] Churchill knew that the Americans listened very closely to his speeches. 

[00:22:29] He was also in close, personal communication throughout the war with President F D Roosevelt, sending him over 900 personal messages and receiving over 800 back. 

[00:22:42] The connection with the USA provides a handy, a useful link to the final speech of the episode. 

[00:22:49] This was made on 9 February 1941, before the USA had agreed to something called Lend Lease; this meant that the Americans would provide the military hardware that the British needed in order to fight the war. 

[00:23:04] Churchill's speech is quite clearly aimed at President Roosevelt and the US Congress. I will just give you its final few lines. 

[00:23:13] Churchill begins by quoting a poem by the American poet, Longfellow, which the President has sent to him in a handwritten private message. 

[00:23:24] He then asks his audience [in a rhetorical question, so, a question that he will respond to] what answer he should give on behalf of the British people to Roosevelt:

[00:23:36] Winston Churchill: [00:23:36] “Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. 

[00:24:25] We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” 

[00:24:42] Alastair Budge: [00:24:42] So, I'll just recap that for you: "Here is the answer which I will give to president Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job."

[00:24:44] So, he is saying that the British will not stop, will not tire, no matter what happens - all the Americans need to do is loan military equipment to the British, and we will, as he puts it, “finish the job”.

[00:24:58] Here you will see again the way that Churchill chooses his words so carefully in order to convey his message. 

[00:25:06] Old, short words are combined with ones that have strong religious associations and help give the speech the quality mentioned in the Nobel Prize citation of “exalted human values”. 

[00:25:19] These religious words are such ones as faith, blessing and vigilance

[00:25:25] Verbs are used in their strongest form, the imperative, and at the strongest point in the sentence - the start; so we have the powerful rhythm or pulse, pushing the argument forward: “Put..Give..Give..” 

[00:25:41] The final sentence, once again, finishes the argument, using those short words and the simplest but most powerful of metaphors or images: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” 

[00:25:56] Especially for those of you who come from countries where politicians often try to talk in an incredibly complicated language, it might sound surprising to hear that simple language is most effective in English.

[00:26:12] So, what should we conclude about the effect on the war effort of Churchill’s use of spoken English, of his oratory

[00:26:21] Here are two quotations that sum it up quite well for me. 

[00:26:25] A fellow Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgwood, wrote after Churchill's speech on 4 June 1940: “That was worth a 1,000 guns, and the speeches of a 1,000 years.” 

[00:26:39] President John F. Kennedy, when presenting Churchill with honorary American citizenship, quoted journalist Edward Murrow, when he said that “Churchill mobilised the English Language and sent it into battle.” 

[00:26:53] Before we finish, just so you get some taste of another side of the great man - he was also known for his wit, and for his quick responses, which are often quite funny and a little bit rude.

[00:27:04] Here are a few of his best known exchanges. 

[00:27:10] During a conversation with Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament, she said “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.” 

[00:27:21] He replied, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it”.

[00:27:25] He described his successor as prime minister, Clement Attlee, as “A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” 

[00:27:33] And about his lifestyle, he said “I am a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best.” 

[00:27:42] And finally, on the matter of his own death, he said: “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” 

[00:27:56] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the English of Winston Churchill.

[00:28:02] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and you now have a better sense for one of the reasons why he is such an influential figure in British history.

[00:28:13] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of the last one about the life of this controversial but nonetheless important figure. 

[00:28:22] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:28:33] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, such as the episode on Winston Churchill’s life, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:28:51] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:29:04] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com. You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:29:15] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


Alastair Budge: [00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about the English of Winston Churchill.. 

[00:00:28] This is actually our second episode on Churchill, the first one, one of our member-only ones, came out on Tuesday, and was about his epic life, from his near-death experiences to his enormous consumption of champagne, and of course, his political life and some of the controversy that now surrounds him.

[00:00:48] Today though, we are going to talk about the language he used, and about his skill as an orator, as a public speaker.

[00:00:57] And skillful he was - he is often called the greatest public speaker in British history, and his words galvanised the nation in some of the darkest days of World War II.

[00:01:10] Before we get right into today’s episode though, I want to remind you that you can become a member of Leonardo English and follow along with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:25] Membership of Leonardo English gives you access to all of our learning materials as well as our bonus episodes, such as the one on Churchill’s life, plus access to our awesome private community where we do live events, challenges, and much, much more.

[00:01:41] Our community now has members from over 50 countries, and it's my mission to make it the most interesting place for curious people like you to improve their English.

[00:01:52] So, if that is of interest - and I can't see a reason why it wouldn't be - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:02] OK then, let’s get started, and talk about Winston Churchill and the English language.

[00:02:09] Few people in human history have changed the course of history. 

[00:02:14] Even fewer have changed it largely through their use of language. 

[00:02:20] Many people would say that Winston Churchill changed human history, and the main way he did it was through his use of English. 

[00:02:30] He was someone who used the English language supremely well. 

[00:02:34] Few would argue that his use of language, especially in his radio broadcasts to the British people in the darkest days of the Second World War in 1940 and 1941, was the major factor in raising the country‘s morale and therefore people‘s determination to resist Nazi Germany. 

[00:02:55] When in 1953 Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the award was made for his writing of history books but also, said the quote accompanying the award, for his “brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”. 

[00:03:13] These Nobel words capture an essential quality in the man’s language: in defending Britain against fascism, the battle was not only to defend Britain against being enslaved but also to defend the values that Churchill saw as vital to human progress and dignity – democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, liberty and justice. 

[00:03:39] This episode, which is a companion to the previous one on his life, will explore four different areas of of Churchill's genius as a master of the English language: 

[00:03:50] Firstly, how he developed his gifts with language; 

[00:03:55] Secondly, how much he actually produced, both in writing and speaking; 

[00:04:00] Thirdly, the immediate background to his great speeches, including the medium of the radio, as well as how he wrote his speeches; 

[00:04:09] and finally those famous speeches themselves, focusing in particular on three of the most significant ones. 

[00:04:17] And of course, there will be plenty of opportunity to hear Churchill speak for himself, we will listen to some clips of the speeches. 

[00:04:26] Ok then, it is fair to say that Churchill might not have been destined to be a great orator, a great speaker, and he developed his gifts as a speaker and writer in spite of some early obstacles

[00:04:41] Firstly, in his early youth he had both a stammer, when you repeat words and struggle to pronounce certain words, and a lisp, when you can’t pronounce certain syllables, like sh or th.

[00:04:55] In other words his speech was far from fluent and he could not produce certain words, especially ones that began with the “sh” sound. 

[00:05:05] Secondly, although he excelled in certain areas of school life and went to one of the best private schools in the country, called Harrow, he did not do well at school - he was not a natural scholar or academic. 

[00:05:20] And finally, his father was dismissive and far from encouraging of young Winston’s efforts. 

[00:05:28] However, on a more positive note, he loved English and History while at school, and was particularly fond of memorising large chunks of literature, particularly Shakespeare. 

[00:05:39] Above all, he had such strong belief in himself and personal ambition that, especially after he left school and went into the army, he was determined to complete his education. 

[00:05:52] What about university, you might ask? 

[00:05:54] Well, he didn’t go. 

[00:05:56] It was actually perfectly normal for a young man of his class and ambition not to go to university at this time, but he was well aware that many of his future competitors in politics would have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, and have received a classical further education. 

[00:06:15] So, even when he was serving as a soldier in India, he set out methodically to educate himself through demanding and extensive reading of the great English authors and politicians. 

[00:06:37] This meant that, despite having a relatively short formal education, he read much more than many young men who went to university and saw their time at university as mainly fun - a kind of upper-class playground.

[00:06:43] He studied the great political speakers – Oliver Cromwell [the leader of the so-called Parliamentarians who fought and won against King Charles I in the mid 1600s], Benjamin Disraeli [one of the great prime ministers of The Victorian era] and Churchill‘s father, Randolph, who had himself been a famous politician until his unfortunate early death from syphilis at the age of 46. 

[00:07:10] He would study parliamentary debates, and practice responding to questions in his own words. 

[00:07:17] In addition to all this systematic self-education, Churchill had an action-packed training as a journalist when, from the 1890s onwards he was both a soldier and a journalist in military campaigns in India, Sudan and South Africa. 

[00:07:34] Finally, we need to remember that by the time that he became prime minister in May 1940, aged 65, he had spent four decades as a member of Parliament, making speeches and taking part in parliamentary debate. 

[00:07:49] And if you spend forty years debating in parliament, you get pretty good at it.

[00:07:54] But it wasn’t just practice.

[00:07:57] Churchill had a true gift for storytelling: you can almost feel his energy and the thrill of adventure in his early writing - it is so full of colour and passion. 

[00:08:09] By the age of just 24 he was a highly successful, best-selling author, earning very large sums of money for his writing. 

[00:08:18] So, that is the background to Churchill as a writer and orator - an incredibly talented but also dedicated and practiced student of rhetoric and how to use language to get your point across.

[00:08:33] Now, on to the medium of his message.

[00:08:36] Great communicators need the right medium or means of communication. 

[00:08:41] Churchill’s early political career coincided with an important bit of new technology - the radio, which had been invented by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. 

[00:08:54] Radio was the first of the so-called mass media - a revolutionary means of communicating which allowed governments to get their messages into millions of homes. 

[00:09:06] It is estimated that more than half of the adult population of Britain listened to Churchill‘s radio broadcasts on the BBC from 1940. 

[00:09:16] I have a particular personal insight into this, as my Scottish grandfather, aged 19 at the time when Churchill was making his early wartime broadcasts, listened to them and kept a detailed diary. 

[00:09:30] In his diary he records each day all the news coming from the BBC on the radio from the developing crisis in Europe – in particular the fall of Belgium, the Netherlands and then France in June 1940. 

[00:09:44] He and his younger brother, sitting in their parents’ farmhouse in the far North of Scotland, were listening avidly to every word that Churchill said. 

[00:09:53] “Rather a good speech by Churchill tonight”, was my grandfather’s comment on the night of 4 June 1940, after what later went down in history as one of Churchill’s most famous speeches. 

[00:10:06] The final point I want to make before talking about the immediate background or context to Churchill's wartime speeches focuses on the ways in which he composed or constructed his speeches. 

[00:10:20] You may think I am stating the obvious when I say that he wrote them himself, but it is worth clarifying

[00:10:27] For many years now, most politicians have not written their own speeches. There are teams of professional speechwriters and consultants who do most of the work for them.

[00:10:38] Not only did Churchill write his own speeches, but he took hours preparing them. 

[00:10:44] In terms of how long they would take to write, he had a simple equation, or calculation: it would typically take him an hour to produce one minute of a speech. 

[00:10:56] And he wasn’t a traditional politician, who would sit down at his desk with a pen and paper and write his speech.

[00:11:04] He would normally dictate his speeches, he would say them out loud to his aides and secretaries, and would write at all times of day, from a wide array of different places - walking up and down the room in only his dressing gown, lying on his bed, and often from the bath. And always while puffing on a large cigar.

[00:11:27] An essential part of The Churchill‘s technique was that, as well as his speaking his words aloud as he composed, he would ask his secretaries to speak them back to him. 

[00:11:38] He revised his words constantly and then, when they were finally typed up into the copy he would use to deliver his speech, he arranged his words so that it was clear how long the pauses should be between the different words. 

[00:11:54] At the start I said that, although this episode does not deal with the full range of his writing, I would say a little bit about his overall literary output, about how much he actually produced. 

[00:12:06] Well, in short his output was quite extraordinary. 

[00:12:10] His lifetime output amounted to 40 books in 60 volumes and that is not to mention the hundreds of newspaper articles he also wrote. 

[00:12:20] One estimate has him writing more words in his lifetime than Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare did combined. 

[00:12:29] And when most people are asked what Winston Churchill did, the word “author” or “writer” probably wouldn't be the first to come to mind.

[00:12:38] Now, we really are about to hear some of those magical speeches, but let me just first set the background to them. 

[00:12:47] 1940-41 was an extraordinary time in world history. 

[00:12:52] Reading my grandfather‘s diary, it is clear how, even to a 19-year-old, fresh out of school, he had a sense of history unfolding - and of the most terrible, imminent and worrying danger. 

[00:13:07] The policies of the Western democracies had failed dramatically: disarmament and appeasement had proved to be disastrous. 

[00:13:16] The cynical and brutal tactics of Adolf Hitler in particular appeared to be effortlessly successful. 

[00:13:24] Churchill, having opposed disarmament and appeasement and spoken out strongly in favour of the need for Britain to build up its air force in particular, had good support within Parliament. 

[00:13:37] All that had seemed constant and certain was collapsing. 

[00:13:41] This was especially so when the nations of Western Europe fell over like a pack of cards, one after another – Belgium, The Netherlands and finally, Britain‘s most significant ally since early in the 1900s, France. 

[00:13:56] Russia, or the USSR as it became known under authoritarian communist rule, had chosen to make a secret alliance with Hitler, partly in order to increase its own territory through seizing a large proportion of Poland. 

[00:14:12] The USA still remained on the sidelines, neutral, and would not enter the war until December 1941. 

[00:14:20] The threat of German invasion of Britain was very real and urgent.

[00:14:25] So, let’s let Churchill speak for himself.

[00:14:28] The recordings are, of course, from a long time ago, and the quality is reflective of that. 

[00:14:35] So if you don’t understand everything, don’t worry, I'll repeat the most important parts.

[00:14:40] And if you are following this with the transcript already, good, that will make your life a lot easier.

[00:14:46] Here are three things that I ask you to observe as you listen to the speeches: the choice of words; the use of images – metaphors and similes; and the use of rhythm created by repeated words, especially in groups of three. 

[00:15:04] The first speech was made to Parliament on 13 May 1940 as Churchill formed the new administration that would become what he called the Grand Coalition, in other words the government that would lead the country until July 1945. 

[00:15:21] He begins by repeating what he said to the new members of his administration earlier in the day: 

[00:15:29] Winston Churchill: [00:15:29] “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ 

[00:15:38] Alastair Budge: [00:15:38] That’s “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.“ - toil is another word for hard work. 

[00:15:48] Then, he went on: 

[00:15:52] Winston Churchill: [00:15:52] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:16:27] Alastair Budge: [00:16:27] So, I’ll just repeat this again and explain it so you don’t miss anything.

[00:16:31] “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. 

[00:16:35] An ordeal is a long and unpleasant experience, and grievous means very bad.

[00:16:41] We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, [to go to war] by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.” 

[00:17:09] Surpassed means outdone, greater than. 

[00:17:12] And the lamentable catalogue of human crime isn’t an expression that you will find anywhere else, but it certainly is a powerful one.

[00:17:21] Churchill knew that the most powerful words in the English language are the oldest and the shortest, so it is no surprise that the four qualities that he lists initially - blood, toil, tears and sweat - are such basic, emotionally powerful ones. 

[00:17:40] Note also the way in which he repeats “wage war” and this repetition is completed with that contrasting final short sentence, "that is our policy". 

[00:17:53] Only a few weeks later, on the 4th of June, following the evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk, he made another speech to Parliament.

[00:18:03] Parts of this speech were read out later that evening in a BBC broadcast, and it was this speech that my grandfather wrote was “rather good”.

[00:18:12] Churchill ended his speech like this: 

[00:18:16] Winston Churchill: [00:18:16] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:18:59] We shall never surrender. And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time. The new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. 

[00:19:32] Alastair Budge: [00:19:32] Again, I’ll just recap that for you:

[00:19:35] “The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death, their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets and we shall fight in the Hills.

[00:20:16] We shall never surrender. And even if which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle until in God's good time, the new world with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

[00:20:44] As in the previous speech, you will have noticed the way in which Churchill captures the attention and imagination of his listeners through the list of tangible places - using words that everyone can relate to - the beaches, fields, streets and hills; these images make you feel a spirit of patriotism, of defending things that everyone can related to; and again, he uses ancient and short words to get his point across. 

[00:21:13] When he wants, by contrast, to refer to the Nazi enemy in a dismissive and disrespectful manner, he uses words that have been more recently imported into the language - he referred to the Nazis earlier on in the speech as such as “odious apparatus” - a hateful machinery.

[00:21:34] And, once again, repetition is used: the repeated phrase “we shall fight…“ builds towards the climax of. “… never surrender.“ 

[00:21:45] These rhetorical techniques help to give the speech its iron determination, conviction and resolve.

[00:21:53] Not only is the fight described in terms of good against evil, but there is also a powerful cord of optimism running through it. Churchill‘s words leave you in no doubt: he feels in his bones that the British people will win, and it is a true battle of good versus evil. 

[00:22:14] The final sentiment of this speech, when he refers to the new world liberating the old, is, as you will no doubt have observed, directed at the USA. 

[00:22:25] Churchill knew that the Americans listened very closely to his speeches. 

[00:22:29] He was also in close, personal communication throughout the war with President F D Roosevelt, sending him over 900 personal messages and receiving over 800 back. 

[00:22:42] The connection with the USA provides a handy, a useful link to the final speech of the episode. 

[00:22:49] This was made on 9 February 1941, before the USA had agreed to something called Lend Lease; this meant that the Americans would provide the military hardware that the British needed in order to fight the war. 

[00:23:04] Churchill's speech is quite clearly aimed at President Roosevelt and the US Congress. I will just give you its final few lines. 

[00:23:13] Churchill begins by quoting a poem by the American poet, Longfellow, which the President has sent to him in a handwritten private message. 

[00:23:24] He then asks his audience [in a rhetorical question, so, a question that he will respond to] what answer he should give on behalf of the British people to Roosevelt:

[00:23:36] Winston Churchill: [00:23:36] “Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. 

[00:24:25] We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” 

[00:24:42] Alastair Budge: [00:24:42] So, I'll just recap that for you: "Here is the answer which I will give to president Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion, will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job."

[00:24:44] So, he is saying that the British will not stop, will not tire, no matter what happens - all the Americans need to do is loan military equipment to the British, and we will, as he puts it, “finish the job”.

[00:24:58] Here you will see again the way that Churchill chooses his words so carefully in order to convey his message. 

[00:25:06] Old, short words are combined with ones that have strong religious associations and help give the speech the quality mentioned in the Nobel Prize citation of “exalted human values”. 

[00:25:19] These religious words are such ones as faith, blessing and vigilance

[00:25:25] Verbs are used in their strongest form, the imperative, and at the strongest point in the sentence - the start; so we have the powerful rhythm or pulse, pushing the argument forward: “Put..Give..Give..” 

[00:25:41] The final sentence, once again, finishes the argument, using those short words and the simplest but most powerful of metaphors or images: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” 

[00:25:56] Especially for those of you who come from countries where politicians often try to talk in an incredibly complicated language, it might sound surprising to hear that simple language is most effective in English.

[00:26:12] So, what should we conclude about the effect on the war effort of Churchill’s use of spoken English, of his oratory

[00:26:21] Here are two quotations that sum it up quite well for me. 

[00:26:25] A fellow Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgwood, wrote after Churchill's speech on 4 June 1940: “That was worth a 1,000 guns, and the speeches of a 1,000 years.” 

[00:26:39] President John F. Kennedy, when presenting Churchill with honorary American citizenship, quoted journalist Edward Murrow, when he said that “Churchill mobilised the English Language and sent it into battle.” 

[00:26:53] Before we finish, just so you get some taste of another side of the great man - he was also known for his wit, and for his quick responses, which are often quite funny and a little bit rude.

[00:27:04] Here are a few of his best known exchanges. 

[00:27:10] During a conversation with Nancy Astor, the first female Member of Parliament, she said “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.” 

[00:27:21] He replied, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it”.

[00:27:25] He described his successor as prime minister, Clement Attlee, as “A modest man, who has much to be modest about.” 

[00:27:33] And about his lifestyle, he said “I am a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best.” 

[00:27:42] And finally, on the matter of his own death, he said: “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” 

[00:27:56] OK then, that is it for today's episode on the English of Winston Churchill.

[00:28:02] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and you now have a better sense for one of the reasons why he is such an influential figure in British history.

[00:28:13] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, and of the last one about the life of this controversial but nonetheless important figure. 

[00:28:22] For the members among you, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:28:33] And as a final reminder, if you enjoyed this episode, and you are wondering where to get all of our bonus episodes, such as the episode on Winston Churchill’s life, plus the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then the place to go to for that is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:28:51] I am on a mission to make Leonardo English the most interesting way of improving your English, and I would love for you to join me, and curious minds from 50 different countries, on that journey.

[00:29:04] The place you can go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com. You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:29:15] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]