Using Transcripts

Nick   November 21, 2016   No Comments on Using Transcripts

Blog: Using Transcripts In earlier blog posts I wrote about the importance of listening in language learning. I wrote about why listening is important in language learning, the value of listening to authentic material, and the benefits of listening to conversations as opposed to monologues. At English in 10 Minutes, this is what we focus on: providing you with authentic conversations about interesting topics that allow you to engage with the language and listen to real language in context, and eventually to imitate the pronunciation and copy the language that you hear.

But listening is only one half of the puzzle. What if you don’t understand a lot of the conversation? What if the speakers are speaking too fast for you to keep up1? What if you struggle with the accents of guests who come from different parts of the English-speaking world? This might cause you to tune out2, to listen passively without focusing, and ultimately to understand even less.

That’s where the transcripts come in. Each episode of English in 10 Minutes comes with a worksheet that includes a full transcript of the conversation, even including the ‘umms’ and ‘uhhs’ that the speakers utter3 as part of their natural speech.

“Listening when combined with reading will fill your brain with phrases you recognise, and eventually will be able to use.” – Steve Kauffmann, The Linguist

There are a few different theories about how to make the best use of transcripts. Here are a couple of ways that I recommend:

1. Listen to the audio once first, without the transcript. Then, shortly after (immediately if possible, or at least on the same day), read the transcript for the first time, focusing on comprehension. Were there parts of the conversation that you didn’t understand? Try to understand those parts in particular as you read the transcript, using our footnotes to help you with new language (or a dictionary if you need one). Then, go back and listen to the conversation again, on the same day or the following day, to consolidate your comprehension. Listen a few more times in the next few days, focusing less on comprehension (which should be clearer to you by now) and more on pronunciation and the use of language such as fixed expressions, phrasal verbs and idioms that you can incorporate4 into your own speaking. Then, go back and read the transcript again to consolidate your understanding of the form, meaning and appropriacy5 of these new pieces of language by examining them in context.

2. If your level is slightly lower, and you have more trouble understanding the listening, you may wish to read and listen at the same time. This is like watching a movie with subtitles, because you can see the language written down as you hear it. I still recommend listening once first without the transcript, because this replicates6 real life situations, and because this way you can test your progress by seeing if you understand more and more on your first listen with each new episode. Then listen a second time while reading the transcript, and then read the transcript by itself for consolidation. After that, follow a similar path to the one I outlined above, perhaps reading the transcript once or twice more to really ensure that you understand.


A medieval manuscript at the University Library in Cambridge, England. Luckily our transcripts are a bit easier to read!

Steve Kauffman, whom7 I quoted above, has learned 15 foreign languages using listening and reading as his main form of learning. In fact, he launched a language learning platform that I use called LingQ which specifically focuses on listening and reading. This is his advice for using transcripts in combination with listening:

You may want to imitate out loud the odd word8 or phrase, even as you are listening. This is sometimes referred to as shadowing. But you need even more practice at getting the words out. Listen a few minutes to content for which you have the transcript, and where you like the voice and the way the person speaks. After listening, read the same text out loud trying to imitate the way the person speaks. Focus on the rhythm and intonation. Don’t worry about words that you mispronounce, get the rhythm and flow. Do this over and over.

As you can see, there are a range of different ways that you can use the transcripts to help your listening comprehension, and ultimately to grow your vocabulary and help you speak more fluently. Each learner has their own preferred way of using the transcripts in combination with the audio, so what’s important is to find a method that works best for you.

To get started with the transcripts, click here or you can always click on the WORKSHEETS tab at the top of any page of the website. For our double episode on the Olympic Games, sign up below to receive the two transcripts for free:

How do you use our transcripts? Let us know in the comments box below or on Facebook.

  1. to keep up (phrasal verb): to maintain the required speed
  2. to tune out (phrasal verb): to stop paying attention
  3. utter: to speak or pronounce
  4. to incorporate: to add or include
  5. appropriacy: how appropriate the language is for different situations (e.g. formal/informal)
  6. to replicate: to reproduce or copy another situation
  7. whom: the object form of who. Whom is correct in this example but many native speakers don’t use it and just say ‘who’ instead.
  8. the odd (+ noun): not every word, but occasional words

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