Learning Strategies: Lots of drama

This is the transcript for the English with Stephen podcast on how listening to audio drama can help you quickly learn English.

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This is Stephen and I’d like to welcome you to another episode of English with Stephen, the podcast that gives you everything you need to learn English in under 10 minutes.

Today I am going to talk about a learning strategy that I have been using with students over the last few months. A learning strategy is something that good learners do in order to learn language as effectively and efficiently as possible.

And today I have a recommendation for you.

The BBC is the television and radio broadcaster for the United Kingdom. But not everyone knows that they also produce some excellent material for English language learners. They have a site called BBC Learning English with an incredible amount of valuable resources for students. And everything is free!

Because there is so much stuff on the site, it can sometimes be difficult to find the best resources. So I want to talk today about the drama series that the BBC have produced and which my students just love.

After this.

You can search for the BBC site using Google. Alternatively, you can go to my site, EnglishwithStephen.com, where I will post links for you to follow. On that site, you can also leave me a message or ask a question, as well as find all the past episodes and transcripts. Remember, the name of the site is EnglishwithStephen.com, that’s S T E P H E N, EnglishwithStephen.com

And now back to the drama.

The BBC has a long history of producing audio dramas for British audiences. An audio drama is similar to a film or TV show, but only using audio instead of images. It is not the same as listening to an audiobook. An audiobook will usually have some sort of narration. For example, there might be a part with something like “And then John decided to tell Emily that he loved her.”

But in an audio drama, You just hear John saying “I love you, Emily!”.

There are extra sound effects to give you an idea about what is going on, but the rest is left to your imagination.

I have always recommended these dramas to my students, but recently I have been working with them in a much more focussed way. And the results have been amazing.

So I thought I would tell you about why I think they are so incredibly useful.

  1. They’re entertaining

The first reason you should listen to these dramas is that they are entertaining. Don’t listen to them because they will help your English (although they will undoubtedly help your English), but listen to them because they are good stories. As regular listeners to this podcast will know, I love a good story and I believe most people love a good story.

  1. They’re cultural

There are many audio dramas on the site, but lots of them are famous stories from British and Irish writers. We have Charles Dickens, Lewis Carrol, Oscar Wilde, Jonathon Swift, and Daphne Du Maurier. All of these writers are important in English language cultures, and so by listening to the stories you are learning a bit more about the culture of the language you are studying.

I firmly believe that when you learn a language you also learn a culture, so what better way than to listen to the stories that so many British, Irish, American, Australian and countless other English-speaking people have either read or heard?

  1. They’re short

There are usually 10 episodes for each drama. And each episode last about 6 minutes. This is a perfect amount of time as you can pay attention for the whole episode. If the episode were much longer you might get lost in the detail. Also, it is relatively easy to find 5 or 6 minutes in even the busiest schedule.

  1. Designed for learners

These dramas have been produced specifically for English language learners. The language has been simplified and modernised, but you will still learn new vocabulary and get the chance to improve your listening skills.

  1. Non-standard accents

One of the really interesting things about these dramas is how they use non-standard accents. For example, in the drama ‘Jamaica Inn’ by Daphne Du Maurier, the actors all have accents from the south-west of the UK. You don’t normally encounter these accents in coursebooks, so this is a wonderful opportunity to practise listening to different types of English.

Don’t worry, though. While the accents are different, the actors all speak very clearly so you will get used to the different types of pronunciation very quickly.

  1. Focus on vocabulary

For each episode there is a transcript you can read, in case there is something you didn’t understand, or you wanted to check. There is also a vocabulary list of words and phrases that might be new or are difficult. This is an excellent resource to help focus your studies of new vocabulary.

  1. Listen anywhere

You can listen to the drama on your computer or your phone. Also, if you know you are going to be somewhere without a wifi connection, you can download it so that you can listen on the train or while you take your dog for a walk. You can also download the transcript so you can study it later as well.

As I said before, I have had a lot of success with my students listening to some of these dramas. If you try to listen to them, let me know how it goes and which one is your favourite.

Remember, if you want to find the link for the site, just check Google for BBC Learning English Drama, or you can find a link on my site, EnglishwithStephen.com.

That’s all from me for today. Good luck with your listening and your English studies for the next week. I hope to speak to you again soon.

So long!

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