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May 25, 2009

Tell me a Story

Everybody like to hear stories - and when learning a language, there is nothing better than HEARING a story to learn how native speakers not only speak....

....but HOW they tell stories. Different cultures have their own ways of framing stories, showing perspective or the passage of time and, of course, expressing humor.

Those who are interested in how Americans express themselves - and come to terms with the challenges in their lives would probably like to hear stories from Story Corps at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4516989. These are mostly conversation and stories between old friends and family members. These are available for podcasting and are all quite short and are suitable for class or small group discussion.

A much less polished, though perhaps more universal site is Good Stories for Good Learning which you can hear at -http://www.goodstoriesforgoodlearning.org/. This site is edited by a professor I work with. You will probably hear many of my students - in fact, you will probably hear a few of my stories as well.

I love stories. There is nothing like the actual voice of someone expressing a passion or accomplishment - or even basic survival - to help us feel anchored in the real world with fellow citizens of the world.

Later this spring and summer I'll be hosting some contests where I'll be giving away books and CDs. Stay tuned here - and send me some of your suggestions for great books, music and other resources that help with language learning!

My best to you,


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

In May and June, I want to welcome readers to present thoughts on the ideal job. What do you most want to do? Where would you like to be? Who would you want to work with?

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Posted by mmorf at May 25, 2009 12:10 AM

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I also found the stories on the "This American Life" radio program were useful for language, story-telling, and a discussion on U.S. culture.

Posted by: Rachel at May 25, 2009 08:33 AM

Excellent post on how ESL and EFL teachers can use the outstanding StoryCorps materials in their classrooms. I have also had success using another NPR series of first person narration: This I believe. Whether teaching high school, college, or adult students, the audio essays (read by the authors) share experience and develop critical thinking skills. Check out www.thisibelieve.org for thousands of samples - and a free downloadable teacher's guide to using the series.

Posted by: eric roth at May 31, 2009 11:39 AM

Dear teacher,
In my point of view, reading stories can give knowledge so, we should read.
For me, i get golden experience from some kind of stories.
But, i forget the title.
Thank you for showing to way to read the stories.
Phyu wah

Posted by: Phyu Wah at June 3, 2009 06:08 AM

I have for many years told stories to my students so as to take their eyes off book pages and open their ears and minds.
My students are supposedly advanced learners (Chinese tertiary level students with up to ten years of formal classroom English instruction but woefully underdeveloped comprehension and hearing skills).
Not having their eyes glued to the abstract graphic symbols that carry the stories in my book, they have to process spoken English that is both simple enough for them to understand contextually as well as being grammatically correct.
Actually I think they should hear such stories at a much earlier stage in their English acquisition careers, say, at middle school level, but it need not be too late even if they are adults.
The truth is that hearing whole-sentence English helps them get a feel for the language in a major way.
Story-telling also familiarises them with intonation and the emotions native speakers put into speaking their language.

Posted by: Roger at June 3, 2009 08:57 AM

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