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Using Authentic Audio Recordings with Learners

Meet Ken, the cheery, chatty fishmonger. He can be found on Wednesdays, standing proudly by his van at the Oxford Market in Gloucester Green, wearing his signature straw boater and stripy apron.

Ken kindly volunteered to be the first to tell his story in a series of 360 degree audio recordings I am making of local people in the centre of Oxford.
Aside from having loads of techno-artistic fun creating and exploring the affordances of experimental ELT materials design, my main goal for this project is to equip my learners to better deal with the everyday, local L2 encounters they are likely to experience during their stay in Oxford.

Bringing the outside world into the classroom through these authentic recordings is a great way to gradually expose learners to the kind of spontaneous, unscripted, unsimplified, disheveled language they are unlikely to have encountered in their course book listening materials. This is something I try to do as early as possible and in incremental amounts, even with lower-level groups (though with less complex tasks designed around them).

I see this as a gradual "weaning off" process that needs to be carefully scaffolded in order to ease the transition towards greater use of authentic listening materials. For this reason I tend to keep the recordings quite short. I may also cut the audio into snippets to highlight particular aspects of connected speech and raise awareness of the looser syntactic structure and phonological differences such as:

  • false starts
  • fillers
  • hesitations
  • incomplete utterances
  • catenation
  • assimilation
  • elision
  • intrusion

I spotted Ken while making some ambient 360 sound recordings during a lunch break. He stood out only in part due to his striking stripy apron and straw boater hat. It was his larger-than-life personality that really caught my attention as I watched him interacting with his customers. I knew he'd be an interesting person to talk to and he was very happy to spare me a few minutes of his time. He also agreed to allow me to record our chat and even volunteered to come and talk to my students in person!

I expected there to be a lot of talk about fish in the recording (and there is) but I wasn't prepared for the dark-but-fascinating turn his story would take towards the end. Have a listen here (use headphones for a more immersive experience as this is a 360-degree recording).

I decided to illustrate Ken and his story in order to scaffold the listening by providing an entry point to activate my learners' top-down processing (schemata). He was also great fun to draw (except for the stripes on that apron).

Ken the Fishmonger poster

The kinetic typography transcript supports bottom-up processing and the combination of text, image, sound and animation is an expression of my ongoing interest in multimodality and embodied cognition.

I've now connected the drawing of Ken to the kinetic typography video as an augmented reality poster. This is freely available to download and print here.

As a thank you, I had a print of the illustration framed and gave it to Ken to put up on his stall. He was dead chuffed.

Paul Driver and Ken the Fishmonger

This is how it looks when the AR content is activated.