Hello, and welcome back.
This is episode number two in our advanced spoken English series.
These lessons are designed to help you improve your listening and take your speaking skills
to the next level by teaching you advanced vocabulary and conversation phrases.
Our topic for this lesson is luck and superstition.
You will listen to a conversation on this topic for about 10 minutes.
You will see lots of useful vocabulary underlined throughout the video.
After the conversation ends, I will teach you the most useful and important vocabulary
from the lesson.
So, let’s begin.
We’re going to talk about luck now.
Do you believe in luck?
Well, that’s a tricky question.
Because it depends on how you define luck.
I mean, we can’t deny that improbable events do happen to people in the world.
From time to time, we do hear people say things like “I got lucky” in response to something
What sorts of occurrences make people say that?
For example, when someone miraculously survives a car accident that should have been fatal,
you might hear that person say, “I could have died in that accident.
I got lucky there!”
Or, if a student takes an exam, and they think they’re sure to fail, you might see them
moping around for a while thinking about it.
But then they get their result and find out that they passed!
They might say they got lucky.
So, is luck about managing to avoid something negative?
Well, that’s one side of it.
The other side of that coin is obviously when something positive happens, when someone makes
Like if somebody wins the lottery, or let’s say a person starts up a small business, and
then that takes off all of a sudden and makes that person rich beyond their wildest dreams,
even if that entrepreneur him- or herself believes that all that success was a result
of their own hard work, other people looking on from the outside might say that luck must
have been involved.
Because how can somebody get so rich so quickly?
It must have been luck!
The opposite of this is obviously when something negative happens in the place of a positive
result that was expected.
Then that person would consider themselves unlucky.
How would you define luck?
I think there are two ways to define it.
One is to say that sometimes certain events happen in people´s lives that don’t conform
to our expectations.
These can be the getting rich overnight variety, or they can be the “Phew!
I dodged a bullet there” kind of experience.
But in either case, we’re saying that something happened for which we don’t have an immediate
And the thing that we can’t explain we call luck.
And we just leave it at that.
That’s one way to define it.
The other way to define it is when an event happens that seems improbable, to say that
something supernatural must have had a hand in bringing that about.
And people who believe this typically also tend to believe that they can influence the
normal course of events by doing certain things that bring them luck.
What sorts of things do they do?
A simple example is lucky charms that people carry around.
You know, coins, stones, or other little trinkets that they believe either attract good luck
to them or ward off bad luck.
Another example is I’m sure you’ve seen those laughing Buddha statues that people
keep in their homes.
I get that some people might keep them for decorative reasons, but there’s also the
belief that if you put them in strategic locations around your home, they will attract wealth
into your home.
These are some examples.
Do you have any lucky charms?
No, not really.
I find them to be a little superstitious for my taste.
Not that I’m being judgmental of people that believe in them; maybe they work, maybe
they don’t, I don’t know.
It’s just that I personally have a different theory as to how luck works.
You know, there’s a saying that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
I always thought that saying had a nice ring to it.
Because the idea that it expresses is that when opportunities come your way, and maybe
that’s something you can’t control.
Because fortune comes knocking on your door when it does.
But when opportunities do come to you, you need to have put in the work, ahead of time,
to be in a position where you can make the most of those opportunities.
Otherwise, they will simply pass you by.
I find this to be a much more productive attitude in taking on life’s challenges than counting
on something we can’t control like luck.
Is it always true that preparation makes us more lucky?
I’m not saying that- you know what, I think the comparative form of lucky is luckier and
not more lucky.
But in any case, I’m not saying that preparation makes us luckier; just that it’s no use
having all the opportunities in the world if you’re not willing to do your part because
it’s on you to do what it takes to take advantage of your opportunities.
And besides, if you buy a lottery ticket or you play a game of pure chance like you play
a slot machine, I’m not sure that there’s any amount of preparation that can do you
You know, and since we’re talking about preparation, it’s quite common for a lot
of successful people like businessmen or sportspeople, who we know, must have gotten to where they
are by virtue of their own hard work and dedication; it’s quite common to hear them attribute
their success in good part to luck by saying that they happened to be in the right place
at the right time to have the opportunities that they did.
You mentioned sportspeople.
Do you think luck is important in sport?
No, I don’t believe so.
In fact, sports are an area where we see most clearly the importance of preparation as opposed
In pretty much any sport, whether it’s an individual or team sport, the outcome of the
contest is almost always determined by which side is the better prepared.
The better prepared player or team is the one that comes out victorious.
I don’t think luck has very much to do with it.
I mean sure, it’s true some people just happen to be born gifted athletes, so maybe
there’s some element of chance involved there, but I don’t think luck has any role
to play in the competitive aspect of sport.
You know, although I have heard that plenty of successful athletes are apparently highly
What do they do?
I’ve heard that many of them have like a particular piece of clothing, like a lucky
pair of shorts or socks that they wear to every single game or match that they play.
Some athletes apparently perform certain rituals or have to eat a certain piece of food or
listen to a particular song before they step out onto the playing field every single time.
And they don’t believe that they can go out and perform to the best of their ability
unless they do that thing.
Why do you think they believe that?
Well, most likely because they must have done something once as a matter of course prior
to a game and then subsequently had a good performance.
So, they come to associate their success with the thing that they did.
Like if I’m an athlete and I don’t particularly listen to music as part of my preparation
for a game, but one time I just happen to listen to a certain song in the locker room,
and then for whatever reason I go out and hit it out of the park, I’m going to think
that listening to the song had to have something to do with my performance because that’s
the thing that stands out.
That’s the only thing I did differently from what I usually do.
So, from now on I’m going to make sure to always listen to that lucky song before every
And so, over time, that evolves into a ritual that the athlete just can’t do without.
So, these are just superstitions?
Well, they are superstitions, but I wouldn’t say that they’re just superstitions.
Because I do think they can certainly serve a useful function.
If an athlete gets into the habit of doing a particular ritual before every match or
game, then that can help them to get in the right frame of mind.
It can help calm their nerves by reminding them that they’re on familiar territory;
there’s nothing to fear; they’ve done this before.
Even if it doesn’t do anything to contribute directly to what happens on the field, it
can give them a boost of confidence.
So, it’s not useless.
What can you say in conclusion?
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the goddess of luck can be capricious and
that we are better served relying on what we can control instead, and that is our own
effort and application.
And that is what allows us to capitalize on the opportunities that life brings us.
Thank you very much.
okay that is the end of the conversation let's now go on and learn some useful vocabulary
from the conversation okay here we are after you've finished watching the lesson you can
go and download this document from the link in the description along with the vocabulary
that you see here the document will also contain the complete transcript of the conversation
that you heard okay number one is from time to time this expression means occasionally
here's the sentence from the conversation from time to time we do hear people say things
like I got lucky that is occasionally we hear people say these kinds of things number two
is improbable this word means not likely to happen that is the likelihood or the probability
of an event happening are very low so we don't expect it to happen we can't deny that improbable
events do happen to people in the world and as we can't deny that some events happen in
people's lives that are unexpected okay number three is miraculous miraculous means very
surprising like a miracle a miracle is basically an act of God the sentence is when someone
miraculously survives a car accident that should have been fatal fatal means that that
person could have died in the accident so their escape to us seems miraculous that is
as if God had intervened to save that person from dying in the accident number four is
mope around this is an idiom and it means to waste time doing nothing due to being depressed
or unhappy in the conversation we saw the sentence in the context of a student who thought
that he or she was going to fail an exam you might see the moping around for a while thinking
about it that is because they fear that they're going to fail the exam that student is seen
moping around that is they appear depressed lacking energy not being interested in anything
okay let's move on to number five number five is take off now in this use take off is not
related to airplanes it means to suddenly become very successful someone starts up a
small business and then that takes off that is that business becomes very successful and
makes that person rich beyond their wildest dreams beyond their wildest dreams is number
six and it means to succeed in an unexpected way that is we're saying that that small business
in an unexpected way becomes successful that as it takes off and makes that person rich
in a way that even that person may not have imagined or dreamt that's why it makes that
person rich beyond their wildest dreams okay number seven is dodged a bullet dodged a bullet
means to narrowly escape a dangerous situation think of this idiom like what you might see
in an action movie where a bad guy shoots a gun at a hero but then the hero moves away
you know just in time to avoid getting hit with that bullet the example or the sentence
from the conversation is these these meaning lucky events right these can be the getting
rich overnight variety that's one kind of lucky event or they can be the few I dodged
a bullet there kind of experience that is the kind of experience where someone manages
to narrowly avoid some negative results okay number eight is to have a hand in this means
to be involved in creating something when an event happens that seems improbable to
say that something supernatural must have had a hand in bringing that about to bring
something about means to cause something so we're saying here that one way of defining
luck is to say that something supernatural must have been involved in that's what we
mean by had a hand I should make this bold as well so to say that something supernatural
must have had a hand in bringing that about must have been involved in causing that to
happen okay number nine is judgmental and you see that there are two spellings here
of judgmental one with an E between the G and the M and one without that E this is the
American spelling this is the one with the E is the British spelling the word judgmental
means criticizing people unnecessarily or too quickly not that I'm being judgmental
of people that believe in Lucky Charms I'm saying I'm only expressing my own preference
I'm not being critical I'm not criticizing people who believe in them okay number ten
is make the most of to make the most of something means to use something as much as possible
when opportunities do come to you you need to have put in the work ahead of time and
ahead of time means in advance so you need to put in the work in advance to be in a position
where you can make the most of those opportunities where you can use the opportunities that come
to you as much as possible okay number eleven is count on to count on means to depend on
or to rely on I find this to be a much more productive attitude in taking on life's challenges
than counting on something we can't control like luck that is I don't want to rely on
something like luck which I can't control instead I want to rely on my own effort and
my own hard work number twelve is by virtue of by virtue of means as a result of businessman
or sports people who we know must have gotten to where they are that is we know that most
of these people are in the place that they are are as successful as they are by virtue
of their own hard work and dedication that is as a result of their own hard work and
dedication rather than luck okay number thirteen is pretty much pretty much means almost entirely
and pretty much any sport whether it's an individual or team sport and I went on to
say that it's the better prepared side that usually comes out victorious so what I'm saying
is in almost any sport it's the better prepared side that wins okay number fourteen is as
a matter of course as a matter of course means as part of a routine or normal procedure the
question in the conversation was why sports people tend to be superstitious and the answer
is most likely because they must have done something once as a matter of course just
as part of their routine without really thinking about it prior to a game and then subsequently
had a good performance all right on to our last three items number 16 is frame of my
this means mood or mindset if an athlete gets into the habit of doing a particular ritual
before every match or game and that can help them to get in the right frame of mind that
is that can help them to get in the right mood or mindset to go out there and perform
to the best of their ability number 17 is capricious capricious capricious means changing
one's mind often and unexpectedly a person who is capricious is unpredictable the goddess
of luck can be capricious that is the goddess of luck is unpredictable we cannot say when
she will knock on our door when she will grace us with her blessing so my idea there was
we shouldn't rely on luck instead we should focus on our own hard work the word the expression
capitalized on means to use a situation for your benefit and that that here means effort
and hard work and preparedness that is what allows us to capitalize on the opportunities
that life brings us it's by way of being prepared that we are able to use our opportunities
to improve our lot in life okay that brings us to the end of this lesson I suggest that
you now go back and re-listen to that conversation because now you will notice all of this vocabulary
that you've now learned when it comes up in the conversation your ears will perk up and
notice them and you'll also see that there are more words and phrases that are underlined
that I have I have not covered here beyond these 18 items and so I invite you to go and
if there's anything any words or phrases that you come across in the conversation that you
don't understand go and google them go look them up in a dictionary that will really help
you to maximize the amount of learning that you get from this lesson alright if you like
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to this channel if you haven't done so already as always happy learning I will see you in
the next advanced spoken English soon