Using Soundbites for Extensive Listening Practice

Soundbites is a collection of news bulletins from a wide range of authentic sources such as CNN and BBC. These give a taste of the kind of language used by native speakers around the world today and can be used as extensive listening practice for advanced English majors. Here are some suggestions for making use of the soundbites from our audio news mini-corpus.

  • Step 1

    Use the headlines and visuals (if any) to help you understand the context and activate your knowledge and language about the topic or issue. For example, try answering the following questions:

    • What do you think the news bulletin is about?
    • What genre does it belong to (e.g. politics, international relations, environment, space technology, entertainment)?
    • • What are the roles of the key people involved?
    • • What is the name of the country or region in which the event occurred (if any)?
    • • What key language is used in the headline and its meaning?
    • • What specific language do you think you are likely to hear later on?

    (Note: Headlines and visuals are not included in this news corpus. If you’re an instructor, you’ll need to choose them by yourself when planning your lessons.)

  • Step 2

    • Decode/Recognise the actual words the reporter uses by noting down keywords or transcribing the whole news bulletin. Remember you’re not testing yourselves, so you can replay the recording as many times as you need.
    • Unlike common listening comprehension practice, when you have to focus on stressed content words, transcribing helps you to recognise lexical and grammatical words which are already part of your active vocabulary, but which are pronounced less clearly due to assimilation, elision, lack of stress, and so on.
    • Correct your work using the transcript provided. Don’t worry if there are a lot of words you can’t understand or recognise. Again, this is not a test.
  • Step 3

    Learn key language and phonological features from the news. Here are some suggestions:

    • What kind of language did the reporter use, its contextual meaning, how was it used and why? Highlight the lexical chains, repetitions, rephrases, etc.
    • Was the language strong, soft, or moderate? Was it consistent throughout?
    • What was the tone of the reporter? What did the tone of voice reflect? Accent, word stress, sentence stress, rhythm, etc. Consider both the tone of voice and the tone of language.
    • Vowel and consonant reductions or any features of connected speech: weak forms, elision, linking, assimilation, etc. (any unclear word boundaries?)
    • Examples of colloquial expressions, false starts, loose referencing, exclusive referencing, fillers, etc.
    • What effects could these aspects have on the audience?

    Try to apply what you’ve learnt through, for example, shadowing practice.

  • Follow-Up

    Complete the following list with information from the news item (where applicable):

    • Issue:
    • Government involvement:
    • Public involvement:
    • Expert opinion:
    • Public opinion:
    • Reporter opinion:

    Answer the following questions:

    • Do you think the news item has been adequately presented?
    • Are the views of all parties concerned addressed in it?
    • What is the angle of story? Is there an obvious bias to one side?
    • What are your feelings about what you have just heard?

    More activities:

    • In one sentence, summarise the news item.
    • Write a new headline for the news item.
    • Find and read other articles of the same topic or issue online.

    Further Instructor’s Notes

    • You can create a variety of short multiple-choice or comprehension exercises to encourage preliminary reactions and language awareness. Ask students to share their views with others (e.g. whether they agree or disagree), pick out arguments and respond to them.
    • Focus on the differences between spoken and written language.
    • Students can also practise expressing the same ideas in different styles. You can create short, semi-controlled piece of writing tasks where students add some language of their own (e.g. note taking and summary writing).

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