In a language classroom, there is always a need for more visual and audio support. Besides, such files can be hard to find, and when you finally do find them, they can be impersonal and not appropriate for the course content. Because of this, language teachers might want to create their own materials. However, creating such materials can be an arduous process, and the softwares needed to do so can be expensive and hard to use. Luckily, there are some easy-to-use and affordable softwares, such as Audacity.
Audacity (you can download the software here) is a sound editing software that has been around for a few years. This software can be used for many purposes, like editing music, creating an audio track for a video or simply cutting or modifying already existing audio tracks. The software is free and does not take a lot of space on a computer, so it can easily be installed on a small laptop. It is compatible with a lot of different types of audio files (for instance, MP3 and WAV). Since it has been around for a few years, and since it is a popular software, many tutorials are online . You can find online tutorials for almost every function of Audacity, from creating an auto-tune effect to deleting background noises. Two good tutorials for beginners can be found here.
I personally enjoy this software and all of its good points. An option that I find particularly interesting is the exporting feature. In order to export sound files as MP3s, you will have to download a small extension for your software; it can be found here . After having installed the extension, you will be able to export your audio files to your computer in a MP3 format. This feature can be really useful since most websites or softwares to which you could want to upload your audio tracks accept MP3s. I also find that Audacity is very user-friendly; the scroll-down menus are very easy to navigate, the buttons are clear, and the effects very easy to apply to sound files.
In an ESL classroom, Audacity can be used for a lot of different projects. For example, you can provide your students with an audio recording of a book or of a text, in order to help them to understand what they are reading. You can also create listening comprehension activities, by recording texts and making the class listen to the audio files in class. Another use for Audacity in an ESL class is linked with projects; students can create the audio track for a video done in class, on any subject linked with the course’s content. You can also isolate parts of a song or a radio program to show them to your students and discuss them in class. An example of a real project done in class by a teacher using Audacity is the ‘’Sight Word Acquisition Book’’, done by Beth Crumpler in her class. She recorded an audio track of herself saying different words and eliciting the pronunciation of these same words using the Audacity software. The book itself is composed of the audio track (on a CD) and a few printed pages, protected by a sheet protector. At home, the student listened to the audio track and then wrote the words in the book. This project shows the usefulness of the software, since it makes it possible to directly »help » the students at home by practicing pronunciation and listening with the CD, something that would not have been possible with a simple book or with some sheets. More info about the book can be found here.
Another great use of Audacity in an ESL classroom is as a recording tool. Jin Chen, an instructor working at the University of Colorado, used the tool to help her students improve their Mandarin Chinese pronunciation. Students recorded themselves speaking Chinese and then compared their recordings with ones the instructor provided, which displayed the correct pronunciation. This way, students could hear themselves pronounce the words, and identify their errors themselves. The project is explained in more detail here. Even if this example is with a Chinese class, the same principle could be applied to an ESL classroom.
As a future ESL teacher, I also think that this tool is very useful and should be used in ESL classrooms. Teachers will find it easy to use, and in case they have some questions about its use, they will find help online. I would personally use it in a classroom since it has many uses and is very easy and simple to understand. Others have the same opinion about the software since it was ranked 22 in the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014. A lot of activities and project can be done with Audacity, and since it is free of use and open-source, it is easy for the students to find it and download it to work on projects at home.