Monday, April 30, 2007

Authentic News for ESL/EFL Learners

Check out this great site for some comprehensive news selections for ESL learners. Author and Webmaster Sean Banville prepares some ready to use lessons based on breaking news stories. Several new stories are presented each week at different levels with wonderful links; stories can be downloadable in Word.doc + PDF formats and range from very current ones to those dating back to Nov. '04. News articles can be viewed chronologically or by specific themes, including: Business English, Environment, Health, Issues, Lifestyle, Famous People and Gossip, Technology, and World News. These selections include a great variety of pre-reading activities to enhance vocabulary and overall comprehension and discussion questions with answers included. Listening is also available. In addition, Mr. Banville offers a free sample (PDF) showing various parts of his book, "1,000 Ideas & Activities for Language Teachers." Free website with donations accepted. You will be quite impressed with how comprehensive this site is!

Thanks, Robin. I would use this in conjuction with:
Today's Front Pages
ESL Business News: A weekly podcast of international business news read in slow, clear English. Listen to the podcast and follow along in the accompanying script.
Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab

Also, from Wikibooks: This is a method for slowing the speed on computers of any spoken programs:

Speed Control (Variable-Speed Playback)
"Intermediate-level FL learners will undoubtedly find that many of the radio programs produced for domestic audiences use language that is simply too fast for good comprehension. While there is nothing one can do about this for normal broadcast radio, there are ways to control the speed of Internet radio.
Versions 9 and 10
Windows Media Player (WMP) for Windows XP includes a variable speed playback control for locally stored files in WMA, WMV, WM, MP3 or ASF format. Speed can be varied continuously from half (0.5) to twice (2.0) normal speed without changing the pitch of the audio (avoiding the “chipmunk effect”). (Users of WMP 9 should note that only slow (0.5), normal and fast (1.4) speeds can be selected from the Play command (Play > Play Speed). To set the playback speed anywhere between 0.5 and 2.0 (including negative speeds for backwards listening of some files!) go to View > Enhancements > Play Speed Settings.)
Although WMP speed control cannot be used for live or recorded (on-demand) streaming audio, some providers of FL Internet radio allow users to download their archived audio programs. Radio France Internationale, for example, allows users to download (“télécharger”) all of its recent news broadcasts in both RealPlayer and WPM format (go to
audiocarte). One can download the desired broadcast in WMP by clicking on the WMP icon (an arrowhead inside of a multicolored circle) and then play it back as slow as 0.5 using the WMP 9 player for Windows XP.
QuickTime Player version 7 and higher (free) for Macintosh and Windows also permits speed control on playback of MP3 and some other types of audio files as well as MP4 (video). To use this feature, go to Windows -> Show A/V Controls and move the slider anywhere from 1/2 to three times normal speed. The ability of QuickTime Player to vary the playback speed of MP3 and MP4 files means that it is possible to play any audio or video podcasts at a slower or faster speed than normal. By right-clicking on an audio or video podcast in iTunes and selecting "Show Song File," the selected file can be opened and played with QuickTime Player instead of with iTunes which does not provide speed control.
iTunes does not allow variable-speed playback. However, by right-clicking (control-click for Macintosh) on a desired track and selecting "Show Song File", it is easy to find the actual MP3 file. Then right-clicking on the file will allow you to play the file using Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player. On the Macintosh with OS X, it is possible to drage the file into the QuickTime Player icon if you have this on your task bar to play the file."