TED

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading” is a fabulous site that features talks by a variety of people on many different subjects. You can search the site by theme, by title, or by speaker. I just listened to an amazing talk by Jill Bolte Taylor called “My Stroke of Insight”. Dr. Taylor is a brain scientist who suffered a stroke. She describes her experience in detail in the talk. It’s absolutely fascinating! The talks are not long–this one was about 18 minutes–and transcripts are available at a click of the mouse.

Joining the TED community is easy and simple. After you provide your name, country, and email address, you can listen to the many talks available, “join the conversation” by posting comments, and, if you want, create a public profile page where you can save your favorite talks and express your own thoughts. However, just the opportunity to listen to the many talks is a huge benefit for English language learners the world over!

Update, June 2009:  TED talks are now captioned in English and (for some talks) in other languages as well, and the interactive transcript button allows you to click on any word in the transcript and start the video from that point!

Chinswing

Chinswing is a global voiceboard–a site where registered members can post comments to threaded discussions and a variety of topics.  You can listen to the discussions without registering, but if you want to contribute to a discussion, you must register.  (Registration is free and is very easy to do.)  Most discussions are in English, but there are some in other languages, like Japanese and Spanish.  The discussions are sorted into categories (“channels”) such as “Health and Wellbeing” and “Society and Culture.”  Within each category you will find sub-categories.  For example, under “Society and Culture,” you can choose “Current Events and News,” “Education,” “Global Issues,” “Language,” etc.  The main page tells you how many threads exist for a given category; for instance, there are 24 threads under “Books and Literature” but only two under “Theater” (category: “Entertainment & Arts”).

I started a couple of threads for my beginning Listening Speaking class at the Maryland English Institute, and I was pleased to find that English language learners from several countries found my threads and posted contributions.  One of them is “What’s your favorite…?” and the other is “I have a cell phone.”   For more advanced students, there are plenty of interesting-looking threads to choose from.  Many of these have been inactive for months, but as soon as someone posts on them, they will appear on the start page under “Listen to the Latest,” and those who contributed to them earlier will get an email informing them that there is a new post (unless they have disabled this).

What is nice about Chinswing is that you can think about your post for as long as you want before you record it.  You can even write it out and read it, if you want to.  You can preview it before approving it, so if you made a mistake and want to correct it, you can re-record it.  When you are satisfied, you can approve it and it will be posted immediately on the thread.

You can also upload a small photo of yourself from your computer to your Chinswing profile so that when people listen to your contribution, they can see what you look like.  This is optional.  You can also use your real name or a pseudonym.