Language Learning Tip: Retell It

Today I would like to share an idea that will help with listening comprehension.  I’ll call the activity Retell It.  Though it is a simple idea, when intentionally done, it can create an opportunity to work on listening comprehension as well as receive a lot of comprehensible input.  As always, if you can record this activity, you will create a greater opportunity for integrated review and so I want to encourage you at the outset to consider recording any time you use Retell It.

Retell It

The basic idea is that you and a native speaker would agree to watch the same program on television and then retell what happened the following day.  This could be a popular soap opera, a football match, a movie (or a scene from a movie) or a live event like a theater production.

The following day you will sit down with your native speaking friend and have them do their best to retell everything that happened in less than five minutes.  As they are retelling what happened you may want to take some shorthand notes of words or expression that you do not understand, but mainly you want to listen.  After listening to their retelling you will then want to share your thoughts about the program, ask clarifying questions and have a time of discussion based around the program.

This is a great activity because it is rich in background knowledge which will help create more comprehensible input.  It is a great listening activity because you are able to anticipate what is going to be said.  And it will lead to a great place for you to practice speaking and using the language.

Here is the activity in bullet form:

  • Agree with a native speaker to watch the same program or event.
  • The following day, have your native speaking friend retell the event to you in five minutes or less.
  • Share your thoughts about the event, ask clarifying questions and enter into discussion about the event or program.
  • Consider maximizing this activity with any one of the ideas below.

Maximize It

As always, I like to think about how we can enhance any language learning activity.  A few ideas I have are to:

  1. Record the retelling for later listening.  This allows you to hear it more than once and to review new vocabulary and concepts in a context rich and convenient manner.
  2. Have more than one friend retell it to you.  This will create a narrow listening experience in which you will be hearing the same words and ideas but from slightly different perspectives.  This too will help create a rich language learning activity and increase the amount of comprehensible input you are receiving.  This could be easiest done if there is a big match that everyone will be watching or a popular television show that most native speakers are watching.
  3. Write out a summary of the program or event before hand.  After you have listened to them retell the event and you have discussed it together, read through your summary with your native speaking friend.  Then correct your mistakes and consider recording your summary as well to create handcrafted audio for later listening.

I hope that Retell It will give you one more activity that you can used to help make language learning more effective, efficient and fun.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.  As well, I would love to hear if you have other ideas for maximizing the Retell It activity.  Share those in the comments below so that they can benefit all of us in the Everyday Language Learner community.

What ideas do you have for maximizing the Retell It activity?

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3 Responses to Language Learning Tip: Retell It
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