Planning to use some audio conversations for listening activities in your class?
Can’t find anything that is actually suitable for your ESL students?
This is actually a common problem, particularly if you have a classroom full of young adults or teens.
They’re too “cool” for the fun kid conversation and still too immature for the adult ones. The best solution is to simply create your own conversations. It’s a lot simpler than you might think!
The Value of ESL Audio Conversations
Learning English can be difficult, but one of the most challenging aspects is trying to hold a conversation in a new language. Your students will need plenty of practice with conversational English, but they also need a model to follow. Audio conversation recordings are the perfect way to present this model.
While video can be useful, audio only recordings are particularly helpful since the student is forced to rely on listening only. There are no visual clues to tip them off on what is happening, so audio conversations require some serious processing. This is best for students who are not just starting out in English.
Natural English Conversations
When learning a new language, immersion is the best way to pick things up. It’s how I learned to speak Spanish fluently and it’s how many people learn new languages. Your students may not have that advantage, but you can certainly surround them with natural conversations by providing recordings.
When they hear how dialogue should sound, it becomes easier to emulate it. Plus, they’ll appreciate not having to listen to your all-too-familiar voice for a few minutes.
There is a huge difference between learning new vocabulary from a list of words and learning it in context. When students hear an unfamiliar word in a conversation, they are forced to reason out what it could be, based on context. This promotes a deeper understanding of the language.
Make note of the new words that show up in your recordings. In fact, you can specifically include some words that you want your students to learn. This is a fun way to introduce them. After they’ve listened to the conversation, you can ask them what they think these particular words mean.
While we’re on the topic, another great way your students can learn vocabulary in context is with FluentU.
If you’re looking for creative ways to teach English, then you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch regularly. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about language learning.
FluentU’s wide selection of engaging videos might even spark ideas for your own audio tracks!
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How to Easily Create Your Own ESL Audio Tracks
It’s surprisingly easy to create your own conversations. All you really need is a microphone and some voices. Chances are your computer already has a voice recording software on it. If you don’t have a way to record, try one of the free programs out there, like Audacity.
1. Find Voices
While you could technically do your own voices, it makes more sense to expose your students to a variety of tones and even accents. So ask your friends for help. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to record some tracks for your class. Switch things up and make sure you use more than two people, so students can listen to a range of voices.
It’s a good idea to have both female and male voices. If your students are already familiar with your particular accent, try getting other native English speakers with different accents to participate. A good variety will help students learn to speak with and understand anyone they run into.
2. Write a Script
In most cases, if you just sit two people down to record a conversation, it will sound pretty awkward. To avoid that problem, write up a script ahead of time.
Keep the script simple, yet realistic. It’s a good idea to pick a scenario that you want to cover, instead of just doing some random chit-chat. For example, you might try:
- Meeting someone at the supermarket
- Ordering dinner at a restaurant
- Discussing which movie to see with friends
- Talking about a job offer
- Reviewing homework assignments
Any common scenario will work for this. The trick is to write a natural sounding conversation, which you can do by listening to other people talk when they don’t realize you’re eavesdropping.
3. Record the Conversation
Finally, you’ll need to record. Do a test recording before you have your voice volunteers show up, so you can fix anything that needs to be adjusted. Then record everyone talking as naturally as possible.
You may need to do a couple of takes, depending on how many mistakes are made. Go ahead and record several different conversations to share with your students. It’s helpful to have a variety, and a short conversation will work well for those end-of-the-lesson moments when you have extra time to kill.
How to Use Your Own ESL Audio Conversations in Class
Now that you have your recording, it’s time to put it to use. How do you do that?
Listen and Repeat
Let your students listen to the conversation and then have them repeat it in pairs or trios, depending on how many people were in the recording.
You can give them a script, too, if you need to. The idea is that the students learn to speak fluently and get the sounds right. You should check pronunciation as they work.
Another great activity is to have students write the conversation down. It’s difficult to write as quickly as people speak, so try playing just one line at a time and pausing the audio. This gives everyone a chance to process the words and write them out.
This activity goes well with the above one. Once they have written out the dialog, they can practice repeating it.
Respond to Questions
Finally, allow your class to listen to the audio recording and then ask them questions.
For those who are just starting out with listening to English, you may want to write the questions out and have them listen for the answers.
Otherwise, ask once the conversation is over. This tests their comprehension.
Tips for Improving Natural English Conversation
Speaking fluently takes time and plenty of practice. Your students will start out stumbling over words and struggling to remember the right vocabulary. Mimicking existing conversations can help a student learn to speak faster.
Have Students Make Their Own Recordings
Why stop with your own recordings? Give students a chance to record their own conversations and then listen to it. See if they can pick out the errors made when they listen. It’s often easier to notice mistakes when you aren’t the one speaking.
For this method, you can either use a script, or simply tell your class to pick a topic in pairs. Then record what they talk about. You will need to listen to each recording, so it’s usually best to keep this to small groups.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more your students practice their conversations, the easier it will become for them to respond appropriately in any given conversation. Make conversation and dialogue a daily part of your lessons and your class will gradually begin to speak better.
Recording your own ESL audio conversations allows you to get exactly what you want for your class. You can tailor the dialogue to their experiences and this will help the students learn faster. It’s a great way to get those custom materials you’ve always dreamed of using in the classroom.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.