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Owain [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to another episode of the English Waffle. It's only me today, it's Owain, so no conversation. I'm just going to have a quick chat with you. Um, really? Um. It's the 25th episode and it's about time we stopped and talked a little bit about what we're doing here.
[00:00:25] Obviously, this is always a project that is, you know, it's a it's a work in progress. And we are constantly thinking about how to improve the way we do it. And of course, the content and the kind of support we offer. On the other hand, we also need to explain to you guys, our listeners what it is we're trying to do. Um, sometimes it's not even clear to to us. So, um, we're taking the opportunity this time just to talk through a little bit, um, about how to use the English Waffle. So,...We from from our conversations with people who've listened and our own kind of ideas, we've we've kind of added for two possible groups of listeners. So the first group are advanced English language learners. So, people who can basically understand our conversations, they... you know...you've you've perhaps said you find them interesting and perhaps you're just looking for ideas about how to make the most of the podcasts. Um, there's another group. And you are the listeners who have said to us, um, Mike, Owain, really interesting project, but I'm afraid...
[00:01:53] (Interruption) What are you afraid of? Well, actually, you're not really afraid. You're just being polite, of course, using a typical device we use in English where we're going to say something perhaps a little bit negative. But you may've realised that, uh, you may have noticed that we haven't had any music yet. Uh, let's break for a bit of music and we'll come back and we'll continue with the discussion. One of the other things that people have commented on is how catchy Mike's tune is. And so thanks, Mike, for creating and performing the English Waffle song. So here it goes. Enjoy it. Speaks to you in a moment.
Song [00:02:35] Welcome to the English waffle where we talk about random stuff. We'll take you on a journey where you'll find out soon enough...why listening to the waffle is an entertaining way...of sharing with you foreigners the things that British people say. So join us on the Waffle and strap yourself in for ten whole earthly minutes of English listening.
Owain [00:03:04] ...I'm afraid I just don't understand it. I get really frustrated. I don't understand what you're talking about. And because I don't understand enough, I'm afraid I have to stop listening. I'm going to do two separate sections going to talk to the the more advanced listeners first and then we'll see if we have time, perhaps in another episode we'll talk about the intermediate listeners. I will just say that that as you hear at the beginning of the podcast, our idea at the moment is really to focus on advanced learners. Ok? We understand that there are a lot of intermediate learners out there who are looking for help. And at the moment, um, we are...we know we're not providing the kind of help you need. We are working on it and we hope to expand the project as time and energy and resources allow. So watch this space.
[00:04:08] Advanced listeners, this is kind of where you are in terms of listening to the podcast. So, um, you...in terms of level, you could be anywhere from kind of B2 up to C2. And we would consider that you already have a pretty good, um, idea of how to listen, uh, for gist you know; you're pretty good at guessing what's going on from context; you're pretty good at, um, starting to listen to a conversation and gradually working out by identifying words here and there, thinking about the...what you know about the topic. Um, you're pretty good at getting the general idea of what we're talking about. You're also perhaps looking to polish your pronunciation. So, you're also thinking about how you can, um, uh, hear different sounds in the language combinations of sounds, um, and gradually feed those back into your own speech. Um, you're also probably pretty comfortable about expressing your ideas reasonably fluently. Okay. And you can even participate in conversations with two or more native English speakers. It's just that it's really difficult. It's really tough for you. Um, and perhaps you...you're limited in terms of what you can understand. Um, and this is what this is all about. This is about helping you to improve your understanding of real conversations. Okay?
[00:05:48] Um, so how can the podcast help you do that? Well, this podcast hopefully represents a slightly different perspective on listening to foreign languages and a different perspective on the reasons we have problems. Some of the problems and some of the solutions are familiar to you, as advanced language learners. Others may not be so well understood and I think this is where we can help you. Um, I mean, and it's quite normal because a lot of these problems are not understood by your teachers either. So a lot of language teachers focus on particular areas of the language: learning vocabulary, grammar, helping with spoken fluency. But they are not so aware perhaps of some of the the problems of listening and even of alternative ways of trying to improve your listening skills. So there are some things that I think are obvious to everybody. Um, listening to a podcast like this means that you can have access to conversations. I mean, it's...in a pretty low stress way. You don't have to participate, so there's no pressure on you. You can stop the conversation at any time. You can replay it to hear something you aren't sure about. All those things are pretty clear. What you might not think....what may become pretty... actually pretty obvious to you as you listen is that you don't have the kind of visual clues that you get from watching TV series, films or the news: images, body language, facial expressions, for example. All of these kinds of things which kind of help you work out what people are saying and help you identify some of the key words you need to understand what's being said. So with this kind of listening, you really do have to listen to the actual sounds. You can guess from the context, in some cases, but you can't depend so much on those kind...those kind...that kind of listening.
[00:08:00] So, there are some other things to mention which may not be so clear to everyone. So, one really important observation to make is that these are real conversations. We have tried recording conversations that are not just Mike and me having...chatting about anything spontaneously. We've actually tried to plan...add some more structure, plan some of the things we're going to say and kind of have a script like you would for a TV program, for a film.
[00:08:43] There's one one big problem with that and that is what happens to the language and the way people speak once they start following a script. And this is actually one of the big problems with a lot of the learning materials that are designed for language learners. You can, uh, well, you have free access to lots of stuff online. You have free access to audio, visual, all kinds of materials that you can use to practise your English. Because most of it is scripted, though, so that it's clear, easy to follow, you kind of think, well, this is great, this is ideal, this is exactly what I need in order to improve my English language skills and in many ways that's correct. You need to be able to hear how we actually use different words, different expressions, how grammar works in practise. Unfortunately, to improve your listening skills for anything that is not scripted, this is completely the wrong kind of practise.
[00:10:01] Why is this? Why can it not improve my general listening skills by listening to, let's say, a news report, listening to somebody reading a dialogue that's been carefully scripted? And there are one or two reasons for this, and it's mainly to do with the nature of unscripted, spontaneous natural speech, which actually, if you think about it, is most of the communication...most of the conversations that we have are not scripted. We don't have time to plan everything we're going to say. It's one of the reasons why you can spend years, years learning a language in a classroom context or even online using materials. And then as soon as you get into a situation where you actually have to speak to real people in real situations, all of a sudden it becomes impossible to understand a thing they're saying.
[00:11:02] So why is this? Well, there are a number of different reasons. And on the website, englishwaffle.co.uk, for anybody who is not familiar with the website and perhaps is joining us for the first time, we are including a section called Features of Spoken English. Now, a lot of these features, basically, serve to distort the sounds that you hear. Um, they make it quite difficult to identify the content words: the verbs, the nouns, that you actually need to be able to understand what's going on. And one of the ways that you can try to solve this problem and and find a solution to, really, the messiness of real natural speech is to spend time listening to it and to observe the kinds of things that happen when people are speaking naturally. So that's really what we're trying to do here with the English Waffle.
[00:12:15] It's not the kind of thing necessarily that you want to spend time on when you're at a lower level. You're really trying to get to grips with basic vocabulary, expressions, trying to exspace...express, sorry, your your your ideas as well as you can. Trying to increase your fluency a little bit. But some of these ideas should be taken into account at an early stage in your learning. We'll come to that in a little while. What I'd like to do now is to give you some examples. Okay. So we're gonna have a look at, um, how we can identify what we call chunks of language. You, maybe, think of these more as expressions, but, essentially, these are just groups of words that go together in natural speech and, um, kind of, uh, make it quite difficult for us to to pick out those content words. One of the things that marks out, very often, somebody who's not a native English speaker is the way they put their...put words together. Um, native English speakers and proficient non-native English speakers do not, um, put one word after the other in isolation. They speak in groups of words. And those words, when they're spoken together together, quickly, um, merge together. Some of you will have heard of the phenomenon of connected speech. And this is really interesting because what happens is, um, a lot of the sounds of individual words change when they're put together with other sounds. Um, and this causes a little bit of a problem when we work with audio, but we also work with transcripts because, um, we'll try and listen, perhaps understand something, but then not be clear about it. Then we look at a transcript and we'll think that actually the transcript is what has been said, we just haven't been able to understand it. The reality is that this transcript does not represent, actually, the sounds that you've been listening to. Represents the meaning, but not the sound. So when we see written words, we can say them in our heads, or out loud, one by one. But that will not be the same sound that will come through when we're listening to someone speak naturally. A quick example of this is just a simple question, for example, like: wotchya think? So, I'm asking for you for your opinion. When I see this written down, I'll see the four words; I'll see: What do you think? And that isn't actually how you'll hear this spoken in 99 percent of situations. You may hear quite a few variations; people will say: 'wotchya think' as the default way of saying this particular question.
Owain [00:15:15] So there you go. We have no time left in this episode. This was the first part of How to Use the English Waffle. We have looked at the kinds of listeners we are trying to help. We've looked at why the English Waffle podcast is slightly different and what we are really trying to aim at, which is helping you with real conversations, re...real spoken English. And we've started to get you think...to think a little bit about how spoken English is different from the English we see written down. In the next episode, I'm going to walk you through a particular episode. We going to look at one of the sections, Features of Spoken English, and hopefully that will give you a bit more of an idea as to how we can help you. Not all the episodes we've recorded so far have this section yet because it's quite time consuming to go through and prepare this material. So some feedback on this would be great. There's a section in the Features of Spoken English that we're going to look at (click to send a comment). In a subsequent episode, we're going to try to talk about our plans for intermediate learners. So hopefully this has been useful. Until next time, keep waffling.
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