Wednesday, July 6, 2011

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Favourite Websites for English Practice, pt 3 (Listening, continued)

My first post about websites to help you with your listening skills gave recommendations for the BBC’s 6 Minute English, Videojug and Lyrics Training.  There are many more sites and I think it is time to share more recommendations with you from things I’ve found in the last few months.  I’ve divided these sites into levels of difficulty and given some suggestions about how you can use them for self-study.

For Low Intermediate students:

Spotlight Radio has a huge (massive, very big) range of podcasts (about 15 minutes long) to download and you have the transcript (the text) that you can read as you listen.  Spotlight Radio is a great website if your listening skills are low – the speed of the talking is low and the pronunciation is very clear.  This is not very authentic (realistic), but it is good practice to start improving your skills – you can start listening to faster podcasts on other websites when you are more confident.

There is an amazing variety of topics to listen to: Drugs, Sport, History, Music, Health, Technology & Science, etc, etc.

Suggestion for Self-Study
  1. Choose a podcast, for example ‘Stories for Wise People’.
  2. Go through the transcript (perhaps copy it to Word or print it off) and highlight or circle words or phrases you are not sure how to pronounce.
  3. Play the podcast and listen carefully for the difficult-to-pronounce words.
  4. Vocabulary work – read through and identify words you are not familiar.  Write them down in a list and try to guess their meanings from context before you check in your dictionary or on Google Translate.  Remember that some new words might be repeated a few times so you will have plenty of context to help you.  Just looking up a word will not help you remember it – thinking about the word and guessing the meaning before you 'look it up' (which means to find something) will help you remember it much more.
  5. Speaking practice – listen to the article again, try to read the words silently, moving your mouth like you are speaking.  This helps to exercise your mouth to make English-speaking sounds.  This sounds stupid but it’s really very useful, believe me. :-)
You can ‘like’ Spotlight Radio on Facebook.  Just click here.

ESLPod is another great archive of podcasts.  These are from the USA.   The podcasts are usually about 15-20 minutes long.  Each podcast has a short dialogue (conversation) between people and then analyses it carefully.  It works by first listening to a slow version of the conversation, and then most of the podcast is an explanation of various difficult words or common phrases and metaphors inside the conversation.  At the end of the podcast, the conversation is played again but at a regular speed.

Like Spotlight Radio, there is a wide variety of topics such as Competitions and Prizes or Wild Parties.  If you want to search by topic then you can search through all the podcasts in the left column of the website.  There is a Learning Guide for each podcast but you need to subscribe to download them and that costs $10 a month.

Suggestion for Self-Study
  1. Choose a podcast, for example ‘Being Late for an Event’.
  2. Read the transcript.  The new words and phrases are already in bold. Try to guess what they mean before you listen to the podcast.
  3. Listen carefully and check if your guesses were correct when the words and phrases are explained.

For Intermediate/Upper Intermediate students:

Listen a Minute is a great site of short listenings – only about 60 seconds long.   The speech is clear but not as slow as Spotlight Radio or most of ESLPod.  Again, there is a wide variety of topics such as advice, clothes, credit cards and parenting.  What I really like about this website is that there are lots of interactive quizzes and if you want to print the transcript you will have a listening gap-fill, a word jumble, a spell checking exercise and even a writing assignment!

Suggestion for Self-Study
  1. Choose a listening, for example ‘Gun Control’.
  2. Print the transcript with exercises.
  3. Listen to the mp3 (on the website or download it) and try to complete the gap fill.
  4. Listen again to check for the answers.  You can obviously just look at the complete transcript but you will get more listening practice if you check the answers by listening again – remember the saying in English, “practice makes perfect” which means you get better and better with more practice.
  5. Move on to the ‘Correct the Spelling’ exercise but hide the gap fill.  You can check your answers when you finish by looking at your completed gap fill.
  6. Try the ‘Unjumble the Words’ exercise.  You can check the answers by looking at the transcript or, even better, listen to the mp3 again... practice makes perfect! :-)
  7. If you are working by yourself, move down to the bottom and challenge yourself to do the writing exercise.  You can then ask a teacher or another English student to read it after you finish.

This is a wonderful website if you are interested in British culture.  I am from Britain and I learn things from these podcasts.  I really like these podcasts which are about 7 minutes long.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a convenient list of podcasts but you can improve your skim reading by looking through each of them to find one you would be interested in listening to.

Suggestion for Self-Study
  1. Choose a podcast, for example ‘Old money, new money’.
  2. Listen to the podcast while reading the transcript.  Some words and phrases are highlighted and you can click on the link to see definitions.
  3. When you have finished listening you can read the comments that other listeners have posted and maybe leave your own comment about what you think about the topic.
You can ‘like’ Listen to English on Facebook.  Just click here.

Feel free to make more suggestions about websites you like to use to improve your listening.


BTW, you can also ‘like’ Videojug and Lyrics Training on Facebook by following the links.


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