Learners need lots of listening practice, no doubt about that. Practice makes perfect as they say, so the logic follows that the more learners are exposed to aural input, the better they’ll get at understanding it. Not just any input though.
I’m always surprised how, during our needs analysis and discussion of how learners can help themselves improve their listening skills, lower-level groups suggest that they can just watch CNN and the BBC outside of class and expect to become fluent listeners. Perhaps it can help their ear become accustomed to the sounds and rhythm of the English language, but it won’t be at that i+1 level so dear to our friend Krashen.
Fortunately, there’s a whole bounty of readily-accessible, mostly free listening resources for our learners available on the web. Some of them are even graded for appropriate levels or have exercises that make otherwise difficult audio extracts more accessible to lower levels. You know, grade the task, not the text.
The authentic listening extract project is well under way (and the call is still out for volunteers to record short, semi-authentic extracts!! Contact me!!), but in the meantime, here are a list of online audio resources that I’ve managed to compile over the years.
And please feel free to add your own golden listening nuggets. My list is surely just a drop in the online aural ocean!
Business listening sites:
- http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/english-for-business A British Council website with many audio extracts for meetings, negotiating, and socializing situations. Although they are meant as teacher resources (complete with lesson plans), students could also do the accompanying worksheets alone and bring them to class. Possibly good preparation for role-plays.
- http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-and-work Another British Council creation, but this time specifically aimed at learners. Includes two audio sections: “Professionals Podcasts” and a video series called “You’re Hired.” I like the podcasts because business learners get English and business advice from them. The activities can all be done online or the downloaded (MP3 audio file + worksheets). For higher (B2 and up) levels.
- http://www.ted.com Not specifically geared towards business professionals, but ther are so many fascinating talks on various topics that can directly or indirectly link to many professional contexts. These talks are all under the Creative Commons license so can be used freely so long as you cite where they came from. Talks vary in length and difficulty but do not provide ready-made activities. Many videos do include the transcript and sometimes even the possibility of adding subtitles in various foreign languages.
- http://www.businessenglishonline.net/resources/podcasts/ The companion site to the Macmillan course book series The Business. It includes 21 podcasts (5 of which refer to articles in the course books though) graded by level on some basic topics such as working in various countries. Downloadable worksheets (though no key) and a transcript are provided to allow students to work (semi-) autonomously.
General listening sites:
- http://storycorps.org/listen/ One of my favorite sites. It has real interviews done by real people, about their lives and people who have influenced them. Most students love these. If you click on the transcripts, you can follow along or check that you’ve understood after listening. You can also subscribe to their podcasts. Great authentic listening for more advanced levels.
- http://www.manythings.org/listen/ Listening site specifically designed for English learners. Each audio has 3 panes: one on the left for words coming, one in the middle for the part being read, and one on the right for words already read. Learners listen and follow the text on screen. Mostly for lower level students.
- http://breakingnewsenglish.com One of Sean Banville’s eight very thorough sites (does this guy ever sleep?!) that has short, downloadable audio files plus all the activities you need to go with it. Students can work through most parts of the lessons autonomously because all the answers are provided at the end, but of course, they could also bring their work to class for you to look at together.
- http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/listen-and-watch The British Council does lots of good things and on this sites, which includes stories, poems, a drama series, a news magazine, and a section on UK culture. Some of the extracts include activities students can do autonomously.
- http://spotlightradio.net/listen/ This site has a large number of interesting articles that also have audio files that can be listened to online or downloaded. You can also leave comments at the bottom of the article and print the script to read to check your listening comprehension.
- http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/ Voices of America offers excellent podcasts for ELT students. Learners can download them onto a mobile device and use them to make the most of those long, boring commutes!
- http://edition.cnn.com/studentnews/index.html This site wasn’t designed for English learners, but is good for advanced levels. There is also a transcript you can use to follow the audio. It is updated every day with current content.
- http://www.elllo.org Listening website of native speakers from around the world. Great because you can search by speaker’s country, level, topic, media (video or audio), or a combination of these. Includes lots of general and some business-related topics. There are even transcripts and some basic worksheets to boot.
- http://www.dialectsarchive.com/ The International Dialects of English Archive. You can find extremely specific accents by selecting a speaker’s continent then country. Sometimes the speaker’s region, sex, age, race, educational background, and linguistic background are even given. Each speaker reads a text and then speaks more spontaneously about themselves for a few minutes. There is only this “raw material” but my students have said they enjoy just listening and following along with the transcripts provided to hear how certain accents pronounce things.
- http://australianetwork.com/learningenglish/ The Australia Network offers videos, podcasts, and texts to help students learn English and learn about Australian culture. The site is divided by level.
“For fun” listening sites:
- http://languagecaster.com/ For football fans only! This site offers authentic-language football-themed podcasts accompanied by free worksheets and a transcript of the audio. Each podcast lasts 10-15 minutes and follows the same format so learners become familiar with it. Although it is authentic, lower levels can still use this site by listening to short extracts of each podcast or by following with the transcript.
- http://www.lyricstraining.com/index.php A fun site to help you understand popular English-language songs. Students listen to the song and watch the video, which has a fill-in-the-blank activity. The songs are divided into category of difficulty and you can then choose if you want a text with 10%, 25%, or all of the words missing. You can even create an account to compete with other learners around the world.
- http://www.listenaminute.com/ 1-minute audio extracts on a wide variety of themes. Each extract has a transcript and several activities that learners can do and bring to class to check with the teacher. Another Sean Banville creation and the activities follow roughly the same format as BreakingNewsEnglish, but in a shorter version. Great for busy learners!
Any additions? Please feel free to add to the list!