Marianne Raynaud of Grenoble-based Quality Time ESL gives us an update on her new English as a foreign language resources for the teachers and students.
I am currently producing three series of podcasts intended to help learners improve their speaking skills: “QualityTime-ESL Podcasts”, “Your English” and “5-Minute TOPs”. These podcasts are oral exercises that can be downloaded free of charge on the iTunes platform. My newest series “TOPs” (“Training with Oral Practice”) are based on quotes and well-known song lyrics. I am happy to report that these “5-Minute TOPs” have been cited on the iTunes platform in France in the category “nouveautés” under the heading “enseignement” and in the US in the category “What’s Hot” under “language courses”. All three series are currently ranked among the top one hundred foreign language audio podcasts in numerous countries.
What is a podcast?
I became interested in podcasts four years ago when I was looking for a way to brush up on my Spanish. I was amazed at all the wonderful resources available on the iTunes platform in a vast range of subjects. For readers unfamiliar with the term let me explain that the word “podcast” comes from pod, the acronym of “portable on demand”, and cast from “broadcast”. By downloading radio or television podcasts onto your computer and then transferring them to an iPod or a MP3 player, you can listen to or watch programs wherever you are and whenever you wish. You can be on the bus, in a train or standing in line at the supermarket and be listening to the “CBS Nightly News”, “2000 ans d’histoire” on France Inter or the language course “Notes in Spanish”, as was my case when I bought my first iPod. Today I am so enthusiastic about podcasts as an effective learning tool that I am conducting workshops on how to use podcasts in English language teaching. The positive emails I get from satisfied listeners who are progressing thanks to my podcasts encourage me to produce one or two new episodes every week.
Go on a podcast spree
If you are interested in this new way of accessing information just download the iTunes software, which is free, and then simply “browse” all the vast resources. You can scroll down from “podcasts” in the black toolbar on the top of the homepage and select the category you wish to sample. Or you can go to “advanced search” and define the type of podcast you are searching for. There are ranking lists in the right-hand column of many pages. Whenever you see “display all” (afficher tous), click on the button to get the complete list. Finally, at the very bottom of any page in small print you can find “explore” and get an alphabetical list of everything on iTunes including the podcasts. There is also a link “change country” in a column next to “explore” that lets see what music, films, and podcasts people are downloading in other countries. One important point: on iTunes music, films, TV series or programs and audiobooks require payment, whereas all podcasts can be downloaded free of charge. That is also the case in the section called iTunes U with audio and video recordings by well-known professors from different universities, institutes and academies across the world.
The podcast system allows you to choose from a great diversity
Personally, I recommend TED Talks for inspiring presentations by people who are really making a difference in the world and all the BBC programs. I subscribe to about ten series at a time including “CBS Nightly News” and “News in Slow Spanish”, which is excellent. I have just discovered “The History of Philosophy” with Peter Adamson from King’s College in London. Teachers often ask me which are the best podcasts for students. The fact is there are so many available that it is very difficult to choose “the best” ones. The advantage of the podcast system is that individuals can select the programs that suit them personally—what appeals to one person may not interest someone else. And a certain voice may be appealing to some and not to others. Using podcasts in teaching means students can choose what they wish to listen to and learn, which opens up totally new horizons.
Sampling and subscribing
When browsing you will see icons next to the titles and a button to subscribe (s’abonner). When you press on it, you will get the latest podcast of the series on your computer plus a list of all the other ones available in the series. You can then press on “get” to download certain episodes or on “get all” to have them all downloaded onto your computer. If you have subscribed, every time there is a new episode in the series it will be sent to you automatically. You can also just click on the title of the podcast or the icon and see the list of all the episodes. By clicking on any episode you can listen to it (or watch it) directly without downloading it—to get an idea of the content and the type of program.
The theme of my own podcasts
My own podcasts follow three different themes: “QualityTime-ESL Podcasts” for grammar training, “Your English” for vocabulary building and “5-Minute TOPs” for fun exercises with song lyrics and quotes. I use only English, as these exercises are intended for learners all over world. I would appreciate it if readers could recommend these podcasts to English teachers or to French people wishing to improve their speaking skills in English. They cost nothing—only the scripts require a minimal fee, but most listeners use only the audio files. Incidentally, when you stop listening to a series, the podcasts are no longer downloaded onto your computer, and you can delete them with a click of your mouse.
To subscribe just type “Marianne Raynaud”
To subscribe to my podcasts just type my name into the iTunes search box in the upper right-hand corner and then click on: “QualityTime-ESL Podcasts”, “Your English” and “5-Minute TOPs”. The more subscribers I get, the more motivated I feel to continue producing these podcasts. My goal is simply to get more people, young and old, up to a basic operational level in English. I have always believed you don’t need to know a great deal to be able to converse in a foreign language. What you do need is motivation and training like when practicing a sport. And we all know that communicating with people from different countries is a real joy.
A few words about my book on DVD
Of course, I do have a second less altruistic goal. I hope teachers will go to my website, read about QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book and purchase this book on a DVD with over 1,500 modifiable files in MSWord, PDF, PPT and audio formats (€29). I have written about my experiences as a teacher/coordinator at Grenoble-INP (Grenoble Institute of Technology) for 24 years, and I have included all the materials I developed for the different courses. As the files are customizable, teachers can easily adapt all the exercises and activities to their specific needs. I have also made a fifty-minute film “Scenes from an ESL Classroom” where you can see students working and performing using the materials from the book. This year I will continue conducting workshops for TESOL France and naturally I plan to go on listening to podcasts and producing more of my own.