Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Political Speeches as Teaching Tools

Today's tip comes from Tutor Eunice Gibson. She recently wrote,

Hi Brian, I am still meeting regularly with Jose. He has been very faithful and I see (hear) improvement. I saw on TV where an English-teaching company in Japan was using videos of President Obama to help advanced learners improve their accent. I was watching the press conference tonight and I started wondering if the Network would want to tape this (It's over now, but he's always on C-Span.) He doesn't talk fast, the way the talking heads do, and he doesn't have a regional accent. If it's politically sensitive [emphasis added], maybe we could identify another speaker that would also speak moderately and without a regional accent. There aren't that many, to tell the truth, but we could probably identify one. For example, I have a DVD of Laura Bush showing the decorations in the White House. She speaks moderately and her regional accent is very mild. I don't think Jose is very interested in the decorations at the White House, but you get the idea. Are other tutors using materials like this? What do you think?
I replied,
Eunice: That's a very interesting idea. You know, my second language is French. I'm not that great, actually, but I often find that when I watch Nicolas Sarkozy speaking the language I can understand him pretty well. Politicians speaking to a wide audience do indeed keep their diction clear & their pace slow. They usually avoid conspicuous regional slang unless they're trying too hard to sound folksy . I don't know about other tutors using these videos. Let's ask them in a tutor tip message. As for politically sensitive topics, immigration is the hottest (in the sense of radioactive), and usually one to avoid bringing up on your own. Have you tried taping the president speaking for use in your lessons?
So what say you, tutors? Do any of you still use your VCRs at all? Recording a speech on C-SPAN might be a helpful way to use the aging technology that many of us still live with, especially our learners. Here is a link to a speech by Barack Obama that I found on the Voice of America site, just something to get your search started. It was not hard to find. You can also search You Tube for speeches. Here's another one.

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