High-tech stuff for the ESL classroom

High-tech stuff for the ESL classroom

If you’re using your iPhone in the classroom to play ESL textbook audio for students to listen to, importing all the mp3 files for the Nice Talking with You series into iTunes will be a snap. I already tagged the files so that they don’t read just “Track 01,” “Track 02” and so on.  After you load all the audio files into iTunes, you’ll find them titled for PIT for Put it Together, CL for Conversation Listening, and RC for Real Conversations (in that order) for every unit.

I’m dubious that technology is the answer to all of Education’s problems, but I’m sure that playing the listening material in class from an iPod, iPhone or “the new iPad” has GOT to be better than lugging around a “portable” CD player when you’re teaching. And it’s light-years ahead of the ESL classrooms of yore, when teachers had to borrow an open reel tape player from the school’s tech department.

For experienced iTunes users and certifiable gadget freaks like me, you’ve been playing classroom audio like this since 2006. For those experienced teachers just getting their feet wet with using the iPhone or iPad in the classroom, I made a short video tutorial for you! It will show you how to download the Nice Talking with You audio from the teacher’s section of the website and how to get those files into iTunes.

Thanks to Florian Heidenreich for making the lives of techgeeks everywhere more groovy, by making the world’s easiest to use (and affordable) mp3 file tagger. Get it at http://www.mp3tag.de/en/index.html and you’ll see what I mean! (Yes, I donated with PayPal.)

HEAR the voices behind the conversations

HEAR the voices behind the conversations

Listening to natural English conversation is something students should enjoy! People who sound warm and friendly make students feel better than if they had to listen to activities where announcers are over-enunciating words. You know, I was so excited in my last post about celebrating the teachers who did the recordings we made for Nice Talking With You, telling you who was involved and so on, that I forgot to GIVE an EXAMPLE of the recordings. Do’h! One of the first things ESL teachers learn to do in the classroom is to GIVE EXAMPLES.

Since we live in an age where the average adult attention span rivals that of a toddler, I thought I’d better frame the audio sample so it’s purty an’ all. You can hear it below! It’s kind of crazy, isn’t it? I mean, how quickly ESL teachers and learners have become bored with simple audio. For publishers, it’s more cost-effective to package audio the way they do, and we can understand that. But I wonder if video will ever replace audio? Anyway…

Thanks again to my fellow teachers who took the time out of their busy teaching lives to lend me their voices. I’m lucky to know some really wonderful people, good teachers in the Nagoya area where I live.

text sample audio © Cambridge University Press.

Like listening to natural English conversation? You can hear all the audio from textbook level one here.

The voices behind the conversations

The voices behind the conversations

When we made Nice Talking With You, we wanted to get a professional sound that was different from standard textbooks. You know, professional voice actors, standing at the mic, script in hand — they have a sound that’s so overly familiar, you’d swear all the publishers use the same group of people. How about something fresh for the teachers who have to listen over & over?

So, I thought it would be cool to have teachers do all the voices. That’ll get a unique sound. I’m privileged to know some terribly talented teachers who have a flair for performing and a clear, credible voice. And so, let me introduce the voices behind the conversations in Nice Talking With You 1 & 2:

Suzanne Bonn from Nanzan University
Paul Crane from Nagoya University of Foreign Studies
Brad Deacon from Nanzan University
Jane Fancher from Nagoya University of Foreign Studies
Louise Haynes from Nagoya City University
Matt Lott from Nagoya University of Foreign Studies
Sarah Mulvey from Nanzan University
Tom Kenny from Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Some of these faces and names will no doubt be familiar to teachers throughout Japan. As you can see, it’s kind of a Nagoya-foreign teachers thang goin’ on. It was great fun to do! Rob Hewer (also from Nanzan University) was the audio engineer for our Nagoya recording session, and he did a great job in the studio. Listen to any of the “Conversation Listening” files on the mp3 download pages on the Nice Talking With You website.

When students are listening, it might be fun for them to know that the actors in these professional recordings are teachers, just like you.

Audio update

Audio update


For teachers of Nice Talking with You 2, there’s a new version of a file that replaces the old one. This is an update for audio of Nice Talking with You 2. It is the audio for Unit 6 Real conversations.

The new file’s name is
which you can download by clicking on the above link. Again, this update applies only to the Level 2 textbook, not Book 1.

Using listening transcripts in ESL classes

Using listening transcripts in ESL classes

I don’t know for sure if all the tech advances we’ve seen over the last few years (or even the last few months!) will help us make our students better language learners, but I am sure that the ability to access classroom listening material out-of-class has to be a move in the right direction. Doesn’t matter if students are listening on line in the school’s media center, on their PC at home, or to the files on their iPod — any listening that’s done outside of class means more time can be spent in class exploring other learning opportunities.

That’s not to say that helping students improve their listening skills in class is a waste of time. It’s a terrific idea to check their answers to their listening homework and then spend a couple of minutes helping those who missed a few understand why they got the wrong answer.

15+ years ago, we could play the cassette back, maybe slow it down. 10 years ago, we could accompany that with an overhead camera shot of the tapescript from the teacher’s manual. But now we can do them both one better. With a scrolling script of the dialog, their terrific teacher can give students both the visual and audio support they need from to understand why they got it wrong.

Take a look at these two example videos. Do you think the fonts and styles and size are adequate enough for classroom display? Is the black background too much of a downer?

Real Conversations — NTWY1, Unit 1
Real Conversations — NTWY2, Unit 2

If teachers have these scrolling scripts to show when they need them, will you use them? If so, should we do the same for all the scripts in the teacher’s manual? Was there anything you especially liked about the form of these, or anything that irked you? Any comment you leave below would help me out a lot!

Audio and scripts (c) Cambridge University Press