Our latest book Authentic Listening Resource Pack published by Delta Publishing, is in stock from January 16 2015. It's on Amazon here. See a Webinar (12 Nov 2014) related to this book. Read a review by Richard Cauldwell on his blog, April 11 2015. We believe that Authentic Listening Resource Pack is innovative in both the principles behind it and in the procedure by which we created it.
Principles At the time when we decided to write the book, the prevailing model in listening materials was to provide an audio text accompanied by some comprehension questions. Students would listen once or twice and then the class would go through the answers. The focus was on the product of listening rather than the process, so that this approach seemed to equate teaching listening with testing it. Furthermore, there seemed to be an assumption, perhaps because authors were working with scripts rather than actual audio, that difficulty was caused by unknown vocabulary and often selected items were pre-taught. In our material, we wanted to depart from the prevailing model by paying attention to the different stages in the process of listening, rather than simply the product. Furthermore, we wanted to produce material that recognised the complexity of decoding spoken English: the difficulty here is just as much not recognizing familiar words as not understanding new ones – in that respect, listening differs greatly from reading.
Procedure We suspected that many problems in the prevailing approach could be attributed to the fact that listening lessons were prepared from scripts rather than audio. These scripts would often be written by the authors, usually graded, and without too much of the ‘noise’ associated with authentic speech such as false starts, hesitations, mumblings and accent idiosyncrasies. They would be recorded by actors after the book had been written, so that authors would never be able to focus on features which emerged in the final audio product.
Our innovation would be to reverse this procedure and work backwards from pre-existing audio and video material. Working in this way meant that we could listen and identify stretches of language which, though they might be easy for a student to understand in the written form, were particularly tricky to decode in authentic spoken English. This enabled us to be very specific about what spoken characteristics were likely to be difficult for a non-expert listener and design our material accordingly.
Having pre-existing audio meant that we were able to experiment with close audio-editing, and this led to perhaps the most innovative features of the book:
Audio concordances: multiple instances of a given feature from many different speakers. For instance, we went through our entire audio corpus for the book to locate every example of ‘actually’. We then cut these out with a small amount of co-text and pasted them together. The effect of this is to highlight very noticeably the variety of ways this word is realised in authentic speech.
Acoustic drilling: multiple repetitions of a single micro-fragment of a typical feature of authentic English such as ...it was kind of like... The effect of this repetition is to draw students attention away from the meaning of the segment and on to the specificity of the way it sounds.
Authentic language was not the sole preserve of the well-known broadcasters – for our purposes, a chat show from an unknown local radio station, for example, was equally good, or in some ways better. This meant that the possibilities expanded exponentially, as did the task of searching for them. Most of the work and thought behind Authentic Listening Resource Pack will never be evident to the end user. And that’s how it should be.