Film star dictations

In our last post, we looked at student-to-student dictation activities in the multilingual ELF classroom. But what about monolingual classes?
Pass the popcorn! Image from ELTpics. Pass the popcorn! (image from ELTpics)
Audio recordings of speakers of other backgrounds are essential to familiarise students with a range of accents, particularly in monolingual classes. Doing dictation activities is a great way to use such audio. But using Youtube clips of speakers with different accents, for example, doesn’t lend itself to dictation; we’ve found it’s not that easy to go back to exactly the same place and listen to a short snippet over and over again. So we’ve extracted clips of just 10-15 seconds from Youtube interviews with seven film stars  to make them more dictation friendly.
Below you will find the audio files, transcripts, ideas for using them in class, and an explanation of how to extract an audio clip from a Youtube video.

Why film stars?

One of the biggest challenges in the ELF classroom can be convincing students of the validity of non-native models. So who better than the rich and famous to help make that point! The aims of using these clips are:
a) To improve students’ listening skills by developing their ability to understand the pronunciation of speakers of different L1 backgrounds.
b) To enable students to better accommodate speakers of these L1 backgrounds by being prepared for how they might be expected to pronounce certain sounds.
c) To promote acceptance of non-native speaker pronunciation models by raising awareness that while some sounds might not be pronounced the same by the students and speakers of other L1s, it does not necessarily stop them understanding.

Before the dictation

As the aim is to familiarise the students with a range of accents, you might like to give students time to ‘tune in’ to the potentially unfamiliar accents by listening to the clips before using them for dictation purposes. You could:
  • Ask students to listen and decide who they think the film stars are – if you think they are likely to know these people (it was impossible for my students).
  • Write the names of the actors on the board and ask students to match to the audio as they listen. You could write the nationality of each person on the board as well if you think they need extra help (or elicit the nationalities before listening).
  • Write at the top of the board “Who is talking about….?” and then list the six descriptions as follows:
  1.  breaking into the American market (answer: Jackie Chan)
  2. a time when he / she  fell seriously ill (Amitabh Bachchan)
  3. the difference between Hollywood blockbuster movies and small, low budget movies (Shah Rukh Khan)
  4. his / her free time (Jet Li)
  5. why he / she became an actress (Penelope Cruz)
  6. why he / she loves being an actress (Monica Bellucci)
  7. speaking English  (Audrey Tautou)

Obviously don’t play the recordings in this order! If you’ve given students the names of the actors already, then they can write the name on a piece of paper next to each number. Otherwise, just ask students to label them speaker A-G.

You could do one, some, or all of these exercises, depending how much support you think your students need before the dictation. But once you’re ready to start the dictation…

Film star dictations

  • Ask students to take out a piece of paper and write down exactly what they hear.
  • Play the recording as many times as students need, or just a part of it – even focusing on a single word if necessary.
  • Then give students the transcripts (see below) to compare with what they wrote. Encourage  discussion of any differences between what they thought they heard and what was actually said, to raise awareness of differences in pronunciation compared to the students’ own pronunciation. Highlight to students that being aware of these differences might help them to better understand people in an ELF context.
  • If students have written down everything correctly, then it’s the ideal opportunity to point out that even variety of pronunciation doesn’t necessarily stop people being understood.

 Follow-up questions

As a follow-up, you might like to ask students to discuss some follow-up questions in pairs, such as:

  1. Does your country have a big film industry, or do people mostly watch Hollywood films?
  2. Are Hollywood films mostly dubbed or sub-titled in your country?
  3. Have you watched many sub-titled films made in languages you don’t speak?
  4. Have you ever seen a Bollywood film? (if this question is appropriate for your class)
  5. Would you like to be an actor? Why / why not?

Audio recordings


Jackie Chan (Chinese)

This market they don’t like violence. This market they don’t like kill police. This market they don’t like because at that time I never think my movie can release in America or Europe. Only for Asian market.

Amitabh Bachchan (Indian):

I was climbing up to my room, and I just collapsed because I couldn’t walk and I was wondering what was happening to me, and I called my doctor, and he says just drop everything and come back to Bombay.

Shah Rukh Khan (Indian):

The small, maybe interesting, different, serious films we never get to see, unless you are a film perso. I am a film person, so it’s my job to see. But local people, normal people don’t get to see.

Jet Li (Chinese):

I just stay at home, watch some tapes, read some Buddhist book, or go to theatre to watch movie. My personality is a little bit bored.

Audrey Tautou (French):

Don’t forget I’m French so I may not understand your super English accent, as you may not understand my super French accent. So, you know, don’t be upset if I don’t laugh if you make a joke.

Penelope Cruz (Spanish):

Everyone in my family loved, love cinema, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact of, you know, me wanting to try to become an actress and explore that.

Monica Bellucci (Italian):

And to have the chance to work with different directors all over the world, and through my work I can get in touch with cultures and reality that is so far from mine.

How to extract audio from Youtube videos

This sounds more complicated than it is. It took me about an hour to work it all out and download what I needed, but once it was set up, I could turn my Youtube link into an Audioboo audio file in 4.46 minutes!

  1. Go to and copy and paste the URL of the Youtube clip you want into the box. Click ‘convert’ in order to turn it into an MP3 file.
  2. The website just takes a few seconds to convert, and then it gives you the option to ‘download’.
  3. Download the free Audacity editing programme. Then click on ‘import’ and then ‘audio’, and find the MP3 you just converted wherever it is on your computer.
  4. Use the editing tools on Audacity, which are really user-friendly, to crop the audio as you want.
  5. If you just click ‘save’, you can only play the file through Audacity. So you probably want to click ‘export’. I chose not to export it as MP3 as this requires another programme. So I used one of the other file types recognised by the Audioboo website.
  6. Create an Audioboo account for free, and follow the upload instructions to store your file on there – and share it with others!

post author banners-Katy


7 thoughts on “Film star dictations

  1. Pingback: Dictation in the ELF classroom | ELF Pronunciation

  2. Great stuff! Will try this out in some form this semester. Thank you. For the record, reading your instructions got me to finally download Audacity, which I look forweard to using with some video projects I’m playing around with. I went to “Edit –> Preferences –> Libraries” and in less than 1 minute had the MP3 plugin and the the other larger one for exporting to other file formats installed and working fine. Piece of cake and pretty useful. Thanks again!

  3. Pingback: Adapting and supplementing the coursebook – IATEFL Reflection #1 | ELF Pronunciation

  4. Pingback: Can nNESTs also be good pronunciation teachers? by Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson | teflequityadvocates

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