Sharing Your Voice with the World
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ABOUT THIS SITE | FREQUENTLY-ASKED-QUESTIONS

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why did you create this new site? You already have a number of others including Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab (www.esl-lab.com).

Well, as I continue to develop my other Web sites, I am always trying to come up with new ideas for online learning that attempt to fill a current interest or need. In this case, I am trying to provide addition listening and speaking material in a different way, and I am linking these activities to my main Web site to complement what I have already done.

2. What service are you using to create your materials?

I am currently using service called Voice Thread (www.voicethread.com) that serves as the platform for my materials. For you as visitors, it is completely free to use for posting unlimited comments in audio and text format, and because it is very simple to use, it is one ideal way of allowing people to share their ideas. To create all of the content, I am using a business Voice Thread account for which I pay a yearly fee, but I think it is well worth the features that I receive to create the content for you.

3. Can anyone leave comments?

Absolutely. Visitors are encouraged to participate by sharing their ideas, and it doesn't matter if you are a native speaker or a beginning student who is just getting started in the language. All comments are moderated (checked) before they are posted to verify the quality of content and recordings, and comments are usually posted within 12 hours. For this reason, keep your comments appropriate for a language-learning audience. Also, please use a good quality microphone (preferrably a headset) so the recordings are of a high quality.

Also, you delete any of your comments at any time by logging into your Voice Thread account.

4. I left a comment, but I don't see it. Why?

There are several possible reasons why you might not see a comment you posted:

  • You tried to record a comment, but your computer's microphone wasn't set up properly. Be sure you understand how your microphone works before attempting a recording.
  • Your comment is currently being reviewed and hasn't been posted yet.
  • MOST COMMON PROBLEM: The recording quality was so poor that other visitors would have a difficult time listening to it. This is often the case when:

    1. you used a built-in microphone on your computer. Although using a built-in cheap microphone is convenient, it doesn't produce very good quality. If I have a hard time understanding what you are saying, then most other visitors to my site might have even more difficulty in understanding you. A good external computer headset should work well.
    2. you recorded in a noisy room with 20 other students.

    Don't feel bad if I delete your comment for these reasons. It just might be too difficult to understand for others to enjoy. Just try recording again under better conditions. I will never delete a comment because of your speaking abilities. High or low, I enjoy hearing from students of any level.

  • Your comment was deleted due to inappropriate content (rarely the case). Because I invite any speaker of English to use the Web site, I'm not concerned how well you speak; however, I am concerned about what you might say that could be offensive to other visitors, and I don't want teachers and students worried about what they might hear. Therefore, I check every comment for appropriateness. I don't care whether I agree with your comment or not. That's not the point. Your comment just has to be something you wouldn't mind your grandmother hearing.
5. Can I download the audio recordings for offline use?

Respecting users' rights is very important to me, and when people make comments on my Voice Threads, they are assuming that the files will appear on this service only. Visitors to my site haven't given permission to have their voices appear elsewhere, including in downloadable audio files. I just want to assure people that I appreciate their contributions to my Voice Threads and they know how they will appear.

However, in some cases, I have created a downloadable version with a limited number of comments for which I have permission, and this file can be used for personal offline use for self study or teachers can use them for classroom instruction with the following restrictions. The files cannot be:

  • uploaded to any other Web site or posted online
  • reengineered or combined with any other multimedia project
  • sold or licensed for commercial gain
In many cases, you can right-click on the download link and then save the file to your computer. Please contact me if you have any doubts or questions regarding the use of the files.

6. Who are some of the main voices in the recordings? They sound familiar.

If you noticed similarities and have caught on to that point, then you are on your way to improving your listening skills. Recording materials for language skills is a careful balance between authenticity and relatively accurate language structure. Many English teachers and students are looking for different voices, and at the same time, are searching for careful samples that model common language patterns by which learners can follow.

With this goal in mind, I try to provide different voices in combination with other comments left by visitors. In that way, users can find a mixture of voices to choose from depending on their goals.

I greatly welcome other speakers (native or non-native) from around the world to contribute their voices to the project. The wider the variety, the more interesting the activities can become.

7. How can teachers and students use the recordings on this site for language teaching and learning?

So, how can you use the comments you read and see to improve your language skills? Here are some ideas:

Ideas for Students:

  • Listen carefully to the recording and read and study the picture or study notes.
  • Read, listen, and watch some of the comments left by others. Pay careful attention to the vocabulary and sentence structure of these comments. Not everything will be spoken/written correctly, but you can benefit not just by learning more English from others, but I hope that you can develop new ideas and expand your understanding of other cultures.
  • Take notes and/or copy some of the comments from others and study the way others used the language.
  • Be open and willing to accept new ideas. All too often, we tend to have certain stereotypes about other people---things that we have learned in the media that often are not true.
8. Ideas for Teachers:

  • Preview the materials on my site that are relevant and applicable to your students' needs.
  • Find an activity on my site that supports the language skills you are teaching in class (e.g., shopping, going to movies, environmental protection, etc.).
  • Have students do any prework to prepare to succeed on the activity. In other words, help them with any vocabulary they might encounter.
  • Assign students to post a message, either with a Web Cam, audio recording using a microphone, or a text message based on a specific language structure you are working on as part of your class objectives. In doing so, students can see that the task has great relevance to what you are trying to accomplish in the classroom. Keep in mind that in order to provide a safe environment on this site, I moderate all comments that are posted after they are reviewed, and therefore, you do not have to worry about objectional content.
  • Ask students to listen to one more comments by other visitors and assign a specific task to that assignment. In other words, you can have students listen to three comments and have students (1) compare and contrast the content of these messages using adverb clauses ("Although one student thought that going to the movies was an inexpensive way to spend time with family, another person said that watching a movie at home would be a better use of time and money.") (2) practicing summarizing by changing direct speech to indirect reported speech, and (3) indentifying illogical reasoning or fallacies in other messages.

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Language learners from around the world can share their thoughts on English and culture with their world neighbors.