Better at English (http://www.betteratenglish.com/) is an audio podcast for students who want to learn English as a foreign language. The focus of the program is on interesting life topics integrated with lessons on particular grammar and English expressions. The structure of podcast began with the introduction of the program title, music, and the topic. This podcast used a lot of background music throughout the show to emphasize tone and topic transitions. No graphics or videos were used, but it did provide a downloadable written version of the podcast so that students could follow along visually.
The episode I listened to was called “Showing up” and it was on motivational tips for language learners who may feel frustrated. The show used one quote made by Woody Allen, which was, “80 percent of success is showing up.” The host goes on to explain the meaning of the quote and the phrasal verb “show up.” It’s clear that the speaker admires the Allen and finds the quote especially meaningful. She adds background music at this point (4:40) to help emphasize the feeling of inspiration. She used sound judgment in music choice and used appropriate fades and volume so that it did not compete with the speaker and to make the effect subtle. As she continued to read Allen’s quote, the focus changed to explain the expression “hemming and hawing” and proceeded to follow with examples to further illustrate the meaning. The host goes on to explain strategies for stopping procrastination and along with new music, which was upbeat to give a feeling of motivation. Towards the end, she provided a summary of the key points to indicate the closing of the show. She closed the program with final thoughts and the same music played in the intro.
This podcast was very well done. I would recommend it for advanced English learning students or native speakers who are interested in listening to topics related to English. I thought the use of music was great, but it might be a difficult format to maintain over a long period of time because it may take a considerable amount of time to select and edit multiple songs into a project.
Podcast critique criteria (0 – bad 5 – great):
Interest: 5 Topic would appeal to a wide audience
Quality: 5 Clear audio
Speaker voice: 5 Easy to listen to
Format: 5 Good format; smooth transitions to subtopics
Music: 5 Good selection; volume was appropriate; songs utilized a variety of genre and tempo
Other: 5 Speaker seemed honest and sincere