Elsewhere: From Interview to Podcast

By Sabrina Völz

“Elsewhere” by Cassidy Coy

It’s never too early to think about the next semester. Perhaps you and your students would like to try your hand at podcasting. I have to admit that the first time around has its ups and downs, but after that it gets easier. Wiebke Fischer has already blogged on her experiences creating and writing scripted podcasts as a tool for learning English. Building on those suggestions, my students and I have continued to experiment with the potential of podcasting. In a project seminar, Leuphana University students from various majors came up with the idea to transform recorded interviews with American students studying in Lüneburg into 10-12 minute, theme-based podcasts named Elsewhere. The first few are already online.

After many hours of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the most helpful teaching tools for creating podcasts can be found online. So don’t waste your money on useless how-to books.

Just as writers of academic texts need to know the elements of good writing, those making podcasts need to become familiar with elements of and steps to podcasting. Luckily, The New York Times has done most of the work for us. It’s almost “one-stop-shopping” at its best. In addition to the steps mentioned on NYT’s Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts, I would definitely analyze an entire podcast as a class and then have students prepare and give a short presentation on an episode from a podcast of their own choice. Again, others have done our work for us and compiled lists of high quality podcasts with short descriptions: If I could make one recommendation, it would be the episode from The Sugars – an advice column by Cheryl and Steve Almond –  entitled, “Talking About Privilege With Catrice M. Jackson”  from Aug. 11, 2018.

The next aspect of podcasting not really mentioned on The New York Times page is interviewing, especially listening techniques. Non-native speakers interviewing native speakers can be tricky, especially if they do not know them well. Helpful is the section, “The Art of Listening,” in Philip Gerard’s The Art of Creative Research: A Field Guide for Writers (2017). It is a book that your school or university library should have. Then there’s Structuring the Best Podcast Interview Questions, a website that lists different types of questions and explains their purpose. What students will find out on that page is that they need to practice, practice, practice.

Finally, if you’re going to publish the podcasts online, don’t forget to get the written permission of all parties involved and use royalty free music, such as the tunes found on Purple Planet.

Authentic project-based approaches to language learning can inspire students, especially digital natives. Let’s meet students where they are.