The “Lyrics” tab on iPods

Geoff has a great post on making use of the Lyrics information, which iTunes lets you attach to any audio file in your library. Once you sync your iPod with your iTunes library, whatever you put in the Lyrics information tab will be available on your iPod.

As he says, while it’s meant for lyrics, it’s really just a text field, so you can put anything in it – Assimil dialogues, troublesome vocabulary, or transcripts of whatever you’re listening to. I’ve had an iPod of some sort for years now, and I never thought of doing this, even after seeing some podcasts come packaged this way, like Slow German. All this time, I’ve been printing out copies of the transcripts for Deutsche Welle’s Top Thema podcasts, when I could have just been copying and pasting the text into the Lyrics field.

Slow German podcast from Annik Rubens

I blogged earlier this month about listening to Schlaflos in München to work on your German listening skills. In my previous post, I neglected to mention that Annik also offers a special version of Schlaflos for learners of German, Slow German. With these, she selects a topic from one of her podcasts and does it again, except slowly (I bet you couldn’t have guessed that based on the title, huh? 😉 ). Each episode of Slow SiM (Schlaflos in München) also has a complete transcript, so you can hunt down the words you can’t quite understand while listening.

You can access all of the episodes of Slow German here, at You can access the latest episode, along with its associated transcript, at

Looking for a good Russian news podcast? Here’s one.

The Slavic department of the George Washington University offers a bi-weekly podcast (or webcast, as they call it). The webcast, entitled News of the week in simplified Russian, offers, as the title of the webcast indicates, summaries of the news from the past 2 weeks. 🙂 Snippet from the site:

News of the week in simplified Russian is posted to the web bi-weekly and delivers a survey of the previous two weeks’ news in simplified standard Russian Listeners of Voice of America’s “Special English” broadcasts will recognize the slightly slower rate of speech and textual redundancy which characterize these webcasts.

Why News of the week in simplified Russian ? Back in Soviet times, the news was easy to understand. The propaganda-laden messages were predictable and the diction clear and slow. Post-communist newscasts feature telegraphic speech and slurry diction. Our webcasts serve as a stepping stone between the teacher talk of the classroom and the “real” Russian of the media.

Authentic news. The news itself is taken from a number of Russian sites, including Lenta.Ru, Vesti.Ru, and other authentic sites.

Perhaps one of the best features of the site is that there are full transcripts of every episode they’ve ever done. It’s recommended that you listen to the audio first without the text, to get the most out of it – but once you get stuck, you can always fall back on the transcripts. Not only are transcripts available, but there are also exercises for every single episode.

The archives for the website go back to 2003, so there’s a lot of content here. The interface of the website is a bit clunky, but it’s worth fighting with.

In regards to language level, the webcasts are recommended for “students with listening skills at ACTFL Intermediate Mid to Intermediate High. In most cases, that corresponds to college Russian at the end of second-year.”

Last (but certainly not least!), the webcasts are a project of the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC).

More Russian cursive writing videos

I posted back at the end of March that Natalia of A Spoonful of Russian was making videos of how to write Russian cursive letters. In the videos, she also sounds out the letters. I hadn’t checked A Spoonful of Russian for a while – until today actually! – but it looks like she’s finished up her series. Here are links to all of the videos, along with the letters that are covered in each one:

And of course, don’t just watch the videos and leave her site. She’s got a lot of good material there, both in her regular podcasts as well as in her Downloads section.

Podcasting – 24/7 foreign language learning

MIT has an article about using podcasts for what is essentially 24/7 foreign language learning. Of course, a student can’t really listen to their foreign language material 24/7, but with portable devices like iPods, the potential is there:

MIT’s Foreign Languages and Literatures (FL&L) section is exploring ways to use podcasting and mobile media players such as iPods in foreign language teaching, thus enabling their students more frequent and non-traditional ways to hear and speak foreign languages.

The common goal in the faculty podcasting projects is immersing students, as much as possible, in a foreign language during the course of a semester. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices (e.g., cell phones, MP3 players), students can now experience many types of media in nontraditional surroundings 24 hours a day. They can fit in a few minutes of language learning while riding the bus, walking the dog, or exercising in the gym. Podcasting, as a distribution medium, has changed the learning landscape, providing many more opportunities for immersion.

Portable devices really have turned the whole idea of a “language lab” upside down. With iPods or other MP3 players, you can basically take your language lab anywhere you go. This is a huge jump even from the home computer becoming a language lab over the past years. With the internet and access to so much foreign language media, both text, audio, and visual, a computer with a broadband connection can easily serve as a language lab. But unless you have a laptop, you can’t very well carry your computer around with you. Portable devices solve that problem wonderfully.

Another segment of the article that I thought was pretty cool was this:

At Groeger’s request, LLARC is investigating tools that would allow for an oral threaded discussion, in the style of a regular online forum.

That would be pretty amazing. Students and teachers could post to the forum whenever they had time; after a while, after a thread had been heavily active, you would essentially have one long dialogue to work with. A teacher could then slice in their responses to each student with corrections. This would be great for the students, as well as anyone else who wanted to listen to the exchange.