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Groundhog Reincarnated Fluently Emailing
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. I hope you’re well and that you’re managing to find time to do your English language learning. If you find that you are short of time – many people are – then make sure that you’ve signed up for our free course, the Seven Rules of Adept English. This course gives you some very good advice on how to keep up with your language learning, even when you’re very busy and you don’t have much spare time. Use the advice in the Seven Rules, especially Rule Three – that’s really important. If you’ve not listened to that material, this is really good advice. And once you’ve listened to the Seven Rules and especially Rule Three, then buy our course Course One: Activate your Listening to make sure that you have lots of good quality English language material to listen to.
OK, so this is a short podcast. So I’m going to talk you through a phrase, which we use in English all the time, but which is French in origin. So use this podcast to practise your understanding of spoken English. And you may find you need to listen to it several times before you understand all of it. So today’s phrase is French, but most English speakers would use this phrase – and it describes a particular phenomenon, it describes a particular experience. So today’s phrase is ‘déjà vu’.
That’s spelt D-E-J-A and V-U. And if you’re being correct, then there is an an acute accent on the E and a grave accent on the A in ‘déjà’. If you look at the transcript, they’re the little lines over the top of the letters in the phrase ‘déjà vu’. They just slightly alter the pronunciation – so ‘dé-’ is long and ‘-jà’ is short. ‘Déjà vu’.
So do you use this phrase in your language too? I imagine it’s more likely if yours is a European language, like French. What does it mean? Well, ‘déjà vu’ describes an experience, a phenomenon which can happen in a number of ways. If you visit somewhere, you visit a place and you know that you’ve never been to that place before, but somehow, it feels familiar, it’s as though you’ve been there before. ‘Familiar’ in English just means things that you see all the time, that you know well – so well-known to you in fact, that they’re ‘like family’. ‘Familiar’. But sometimes ‘déjà vu’ happens when you know you haven’t been to a place before. And that’s strange. So the word ‘déjà’ means ‘already’ and the word ‘vu’ means ‘seen’. So ‘déjà vu’ means literally ‘already seen’.
Another type of ‘déjà vu’ is when you are having an experience, like a conversation with someone – and you get the sense – ‘Have we had this conversation before?’, ‘Have we eaten this meal before?’. So this is less about the place that you are visiting and more about an experience that you’re having. If you’ve ever seen the film ‘Groundhog Day’ with Bill Murray, you’ll understand what I mean. In that film – and it’s an old one, but it’s really good – there’s a character who needs to learn to be a better person. And what happens to him is that the same day repeats – exactly the same day, over and over again – lots of times. And gradually, the character changes his responses to the events in the day. And after a lot of experimentation, he be -comes a better person! That’s Groundhog Day. So sometimes that’s a phrase we also say in English – we say ‘Oh, it’s a bit Groundhog Day’ meaning that this day is just like many other days before it. Usually that’s not said in a positive way either. Another word for this is ‘repetitive’.
Anyway, no matter what language you speak and no matter whether you call it ‘déjà vu’ in your language or something else, you’ve probably had that weird experience too, when you know that something is a first for you, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s the first time. So what causes it? Well, there’s a lot of speculation and not many answers. It’s often a visual experience, an experience which is about what you are seeing, but apparently even blind people experience ‘déjà vu’. A ‘blind person’ is someone who can’t see, who hasn’t got vision. Sometimes ‘déjà vu’ happens because a place that you’re visiting really reminds you of somewhere else, that you have been. I remember how the first time I visited Brittany in France – it looks very much like Cornwall in England.
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
If you do remember going to the first place, then perhaps you realise the similarity and you can explain your sense of ‘déjà vu’. But our brains sometimes don’t remember experiences. They certainly don’t remember experiences….all of the experiences in the past, especially if we were a child when we went somewhere. So it could be that you’ve been to a place which looks the same, but you don’t remember. So when you arrive in the new place, it seems like you’ve been there before. That’s one possibility.
Some people think that we have all had previous lives – we’ve all lived before. This idea, this theory means that when we die, when we end our lives, we’re born again as someone else. The word for this is ‘reincarnate’ or we are ‘reincarnated’ as a different person. ‘Reincarnation’ is the noun and that’s spelt R-E-I-N-C-A-R-N-A-T-I-O-N – and we might talk about a person ‘being reincarnated’ – as someone else. So if you believe in reincarnation, you might think that ‘déjà vu’ happens when we encounter something in our life, which is the same or similar to something we knew from a past life. This theory is perhaps supported by the fact that ‘déjà vu’ is most commonly experienced by people under the age of 25 years old. Maybe the idea here is that memories of your past lives are still there when you are young, but as you continue living your current life for more and more years, you forget them. I’m not sure I believe this, but it’s an interesting idea.
‘Déjà vu’ is an experience that 60-80% of people say they have, or have had at some point in their lives. The experience may be fleeting - and ‘fleeting’ means ‘of the moment’, it’s over very quickly. But for some people, it’s persistent. The experience may be something to do with the part of our brain, called the ‘temporal lobes’. The ‘temporal lobes’ are the bit of the brain at each side, just above your ear. These are the areas of the brain associated with the condition Epilepsy, E-P-I-L-E-P-S-Y. And the connection is that people who have epileptic fits, seizures, often experience ‘déjà vu’ just before. That’s how they know that one is coming. So maybe when we experience ‘déjà vu’, something is happening in our ‘temporal lobes’ in our brains. But it still doesn’t really answer the question ‘Why?’ .
I think that sometimes maybe what’s happening with places, places that we see that give us ‘déjà vu’ - there are only so many styles of architecture in the world. There are only so many ways that a street, or a square in a city can be laid out. Trees all around the world can have similar appearance, as well as looking very different. So while we may not remember the exact detail of places that we’ve been to before, especially if it’s a long time ago and we only went there once, if the layout, the arrangement in a town is similar, we might think we’re having ‘déjà vu’. So it may be there’s a row of houses with a big hill behind, or a train station next to a river. So a place may have a similar feel, to one we’ve been to before, even though they’re not that similar. It’s just a similar layout and we don’t remember terribly well. Just an idea, anyway.
Interested to hear what you think. And in hearing about your experiences of ‘déjà vu’. It would be good practice perhaps to describe them to us – in English! Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.