5 What kind of material should you use?
There are generally two kinds of material you can use for language learning or practice:
- authentic listening materials
- graded listening materials.
An authentic listening is something that has been created for a native-speaker audience.
A graded listening has been simplified for the benefit of learners of the language.
Activity 8 Authentic or graded?
Listen to the following two excerpts. One is authentic, and one has been graded for intermediate level English learners. Which is which, and how is the language different between the two?
Arguments rage about whether authentic or graded material is best for language teaching, but for you, the important question is a different one: ‘How can I get the most out of the listening activity?’
It is every language learner’s dream to effortlessly understand films, or to hold in-depth conversations with like-minded people, all in their target language. However, the reality is that you won’t be able to understand this kind of authentic language at first. During the early stages of learning a language, you will be reliant on simple, graded material in your textbook. You can then progress to simple audio or video, produced for language learners, and then eventually, when you move beyond the intermediate level, you can begin to work with authentic language intended for native speakers. (It’s a big leap!) As you become more advanced in your learning, you should still regularly revisit and amend your SMART goals, so that you challenge yourself all the time.
Finding good material for listening practice (or reading, for that matter, as Fernando will explain in Week 7) is often a source of great difficulty for learners. ‘It’s either too easy or too hard!’ is a common complaint.
Given that the most beneficial activity, I would say, is to do as much extensive listening as possible – which involves listening to substantial material – the best way to see the challenge is as follows:
‘As a beginner, I will be getting my listening practice from textbooks and other beginners’ resources. However, I will then need to progress to authentic material, so that I can spend more time listening.’