Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Saturday, September 02, 2006


by AJ

Listen To This English Podcast

My first experiment with podcasting has been fairly successful.

However, I've been having a lot of problems with my podcast host, "Solidcasts", lately. Turns out they are anything but solid. At the moment, I'm unable to upload audio and thus unable to publish more podcast episodes.

So I've decided to change my podcast and feed. I've signed up with "Liberated Syndication", which seems to be more reliable. I'll be changing my podcast feed soon- and will hopefully then be up and running.

In addition to changing the host, I'll be making other changes:

1. I will have a separate webpage/blog for the podcast. I'll continue to post them on this blog as well, of course. But I'll also have another page which will only have the podcasts-- nothing else. Hopefully this will be more convenient for students who are interested in the podcasts, but don't care to wade through and read all my teaching-oriented posts.

2. I'll be gradually mixing the content of the podcasts to make them more useful to English language learners. Primarily, this means adding natural, unscripted conversations between native speakers. I just ordered a small digital voice recorder and will start carrying it with me everywhere. I plan to record conversations with my friends, with waiters, with co-workers, with strangers.

3. In the more distant future, I plan to offer full transcripts and study guides for all podcast audio-- especially the natural unscripted conversations. The study guide will have word for word text of the audio, and also explanations of difficult idioms, phrases, and slang.

Unfortunately, I will have to charge a token monthly subscription fee for these guides. It takes me a VERY long time to transcribe conversations. To have the time to do this, I must reduce my teaching hours (and thus my pay)-- so I must be able to recoup that somehow. I'll probably charge about $5 a month for this.

4. In a few months time, each study guide will also include Japanese translations of key vocabulary, idioms, slang, and phrases. I (we) may also add Japanese audio explanations of more difficult material as additional study guides (available for subscribers).

In general, I hope to provide the kind of resource I have been craving for my own Spanish language study: Real, unplanned, unscripted conversations between native speakers- with a full text transcript, convenient word & phrase lists (with translations in my native language), and easy to understand explanations of difficult slang/idioms/phrases.

This kind of resource is important. Textbook dialogues are scripted, unnatural, and slow. They do not include any of the common idioms (phrases) used by native speakers in everyday conversation.

Audiobooks and articles are excellent resources. I highly recommend using them. However, they do have a weakness- they are essentially written English- recorded in audio form. Thus, the style of most audiobooks and audio articles is much more formal than true, natural conversations. Classroom English is also much different than conversational English as used by native speakers.

I suddenly realized this at the end of a lesson with one of my students. We had just finished and my phone rang. I answered it and had a short talk with a (native speaker) friend while my student collected her notebooks. When I hung up the phone, my student seemed surprised.

She said, "I think you are very easy to understand. I always understand when you talk to me. But when you talked to your friend now, I couldn't understand anything!"

I thought about it and realized she is right- I speak very differently when chatting with native speakers. I talk faster, I use common idioms and slang, and I don't use complete sentences all the time. I'm not using a lot of slang, or unusual slang, but I do use a very different kind of English than what I use with students. In other words, I use everyday conversational English-- the one thing that is never taught in language schools!

This is a very serious weakness. We need more materials to help English learners understand English as it is actually used. Not as the textbooks tell us it should be-- but as it actually is.

In the future, I hope my podcast can be one such learning resource.

San Francisco, CA