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I’ve been using video quite a bit recently with my classes, in particular with a group of pre-intermediate students and a focus on Business English. I have to say, I don’t have a great deal (if any) experience of the business world, so I like to keep these lessons as skills-focused and based on my students’ experiences and/or ambitions as much as possible. As such I’ve recently been using video in my classes as stimuli for discussion and also as a basis for transcription activities. Something funny happened this week that I’d like to share with you.

For the past two weeks I have been using plans created by Jamie Keddie that he has made available on his TEFLclips website – in particular two plans that involved transcription. They are, in order of appearing in my lessons, How To Answer a Sales Call (feat. Jerry Seinfeld) and Elevator Pitch. You can find the plans here and here.

Both plans require the students to listen to a short video and transcribe the audio. Being quite quick and in American English this made it quite difficult (these students don’t have any American English speakers among their teachers). While they were watching Seinfeld, I was in control of the playback of the video, and although they did transcribe quite well, they did find it difficult.

It was during the lesson on Elevator Pitches that the students discovered something quite cool; something I’m going to share…

First of all, the component elements of the lesson: the Elevator Pitch video clip; a classroom computer and overhead projector; VideoLAN VLC Media Player; a student in charge of video playback.

*** NOTE – in order to do this, you will need to download the video clip from YouTube (using a website like www.savevid.com/. Please bear in mind that if you do this, you will be breaking YouTube’s Terms of Service.

This is the basic interface of VLC Media Player:

VLC Player basic controls

Click on the Playback menu at the top of the player and you are presented with a number of options for speeding up or slowing down the clip:

VLC Player 2

This is what happens if you click on Slower:

VLC Player 3 - slower

the playback becomes 0.67 or 67% of normal speed. (In my research, that seemed a little too slow and gave the video a comedy voice).

This is what happens if you click Slower (fine):

VLC Player 4 - slower (fine)

the playback is slowed down by 0.10 or 10% of the normal speed. Hence you could play it at 90% or 80% (if you click Slower (fine) twice). The audio should be slower and easier for your students to transcribe.

Of course, you could also speed up the video for your students, though that could be seen as a little sadistic! Anyway, I invite you to experiment and find ways to use this trick with your students.

(Also, as you have probably guessed, my students found the comedy voice and slowed down audio hilarious for a significant portion of the lesson, as did I!)

NB – VLC Media Player is available to download for free from VideoLAN; it’s major advantage as a media player is that you can download it on to a USB memory stick, thus giving you the ability to play audio and video even if the computer does not have its own media player! It’s also useful if you are running a PC and cannot play mp4 video files on Windows Media Player.