If you’re my friend on Facebook (or in real life) and/or you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably already seen this message, my cry for help in putting together a collection of semi-authentic audio resources that include lots of non-native English speakers as well as natives talking the way they really do about a given topic.
Here’s the reason for the SOS: Recently, lots of business learners have been making specific requests for listening work with non-native accents. Some have even specifically requested to work on a specific accent in as many lessons as possible over the course of their program. For example, I recently worked with one group on presenting your company. They then asked to work on understanding people presenting their companies. Let me be more specific. They asked to work on understanding Greek, Slovenian, Chinese, and Indian people presenting their companies because this is part of their job.
So the greater part of my afternoon was spent trawling YouTube and course books for this elusive listening grail. And I’m still looking.
In fact, it seems very few of my learners have much contact at all with NS (native speakers). While it’s easy to fire away with “Coursebooks just don’t include NNS (non-native speakers)!” that’s not so true anymore. Although I couldn’t find evidence of exactly which course book first included NNS, just flip through some of the more recent copies in your staff room. International Express has’em. Market Leader has’em. Regrettably, they’ve often been made a bit sterile–scripted and scrubbed clean of many of the fascinating features of natural speech.
Fortunately, some truly enjoyable coursebooks like Lindsay Clandfield’s Global series and Ian Badger’s English for Business Listening have raised the bar mighty high in terms of authentic (or at least semi-authentic) discourse and variety of accents in our English-as-a-Lingua-Franca world. And of course the internet puts the world’s accents at our fingertips. If you can find what you’re looking for that is.
And so here’s what I’m thinking–would it be possible to create a bank of authentic and semi-authentic recordings of speakers with all sorts of accents? Could we categorize them by accent and function? And why not get voluntary learners involved? Wouldn’t this boost their confidence, knowing that other learners will be listening to them to learn English?
And in the end, wouldn’t we be doing our learners a great service by helping them practice the kind of Englishes they work with in the real world?