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Authentic Listening Materials

One of the annoying thing about my place of work is that the materials we are required to use do not challenge our intermediate and advanced students. Listening and reading exercises are especially easy. Most students easily understand the texts and learn very little. Today, fortunately, was an exception.

We listened to a news broadcast on the topic of global warming from National Public Radio in the U.S. Not only did students practice new vocabulary such as “satellite”, “oceanographer”, and “beach erosion”, they also took a small step towards getting used to listening to authentic English.

Authentic English is any English that is meant for native English speakers – books, newspapers, magazines, website, radio and TV broadcasts – rather than texts made for learners of English. Texts made for students tend to be less “linguistically complex”. The words and phrases used may be simplified, perhaps just slightly, but simplified all the same. The speed of the language may also be slower in texts made for students. By “speed” I do not just mean how fast words or sentences are spoken.

In today’s exercise, as well as in many other listening exercises I have used in the past, the speakers who are speaking directly to native English speakers pause much less, and for much shorter durations, than speakers who are speaking to students of English. My students were in a bit of shock today, but they took an important first step towards mastering REAL English.

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