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ELLLO Teacher Podcast

Listen to the creator of elllo, Todd Beuckens, discuss things happening in education and hear interviews with movers and shakers in the field.

Episode #3 - Goldfish 365

In this episode, Jose Domingo Cruz returns to discuss his website, Goldfish365, which features authentic listening lessons similar to ELLLO, the site created by the podcast host, Todd Beuckens.

They discuss the importance of authentic listening materials for ESL students and talk about their difference in discussing controversial topics on their websites.


Todd: Hello, I'm here with Jose Domingo Cruz, and he is the author of Teaching with Zoom 2, an Advanced Users Guide. Excuse me. And also, he is the creator of GOLDFish365, which if you don't know, is actually really similar to Ello. And that it has some interviews with people. Jose, can you talk a little bit about your website, GOLDFish365?

Jose: I should mention, Todd, first, it is not just similar to Ello, you completely inspired me to make GOLDFish365. And the reason why it was something that I wanted to do, was number one, I wanted to get... And eventually, you started doing it even more than I did. Get different accents from different people, from different countries speaking, and get my kids exposed to that. Because I felt that with authentic materials, they should get authentic voices. And it didn't seem to me that especially with the CD... And you probably agree with this, the CDs and DVDs that they were dealing with, were people that were really authentic in the sense that they represented in the entire world of English.

And I also wanted to make sure that they heard me speaking the way I normally do. Because even when I'm in a classroom with a bunch of Canadian kids, university or high school, I feel that I speak in what I call my teacher's voice. And this teacher's voice has a lot of pausing. It's a little bit slower, a little bit more deliberate, and is specifically for me to teach, whether it's a language class or a political science class, or not. It's not the way I normally speak. And the way we normally speak, is very different. I'm sure you know, because you're the creator of Ello Org. But is very different from the way that we actually speak in a conversation, where all the rules are off, and we're just having fun with each other. We're making jokes, and stuff like that.

Todd: Yeah. You hit the nail on the head pretty much, and actually, I'm really glad that you did it. A lot of times people have the impression that I don't want people to do what I do with Ello, that like, "Oh, they're stealing my idea," which is crazy. It's the opposite. I want more people to do what I idea on Ello. And actually, when I first started it, 16, 17 years ago, I thought that everybody would start doing it this way, because it's just so much better. And I've been screaming at, from the top of the hill, for the longest time. It's so much better in so many ways, by just having extemporaneous speech, unscripted speech. And so, it's really nice that other people are starting to do it.

One of the things on Ello to prove why we need more of this, is we have a thing called Audio Notes, which is a little vocabulary lesson. And so, I try to get the vocabulary used in context. But I can never get that word in context in a perfect short sentence. I call it empty words. There's so many words that people say before they get to the actual point-

Jose: Like what?

Todd: And everything in a textbook is so compact, and you lose that actually.

Jose: What's an example of one of those empty words?

Todd: An empty word would be like for example, what I'm doing right now. So, I was just blah, blah, blah, blah, yammering away. And there's really no meaning. If you were to take those words...

Jose: Oh.

Todd: You know what I mean? Nobody would have any idea what you're talking about. So the actual, the content words are actually peppered in there. And it's not that dense, unlike you'll say a writing. [crosstalk 00:03:41] written. So, that's language, but we never get that in a textbook, those types of that type of language, I should say.

Jose: Well, one of the better ways that I tried to create an example to show my students how that works is, I showed them a speech of Barack Obama. And he is famous in Japan. That's why he's so useful that way. When you say, "Barack Obama's speech," [inaudible 00:04:07], "Oh, okay." Because he's so famous about it. So, I showed them a speech of him, and how... Just, he gives beautiful speeches. And then, you show them interviews of how he talks. Hopefully, and sometimes he has a great sense of humor, where he's a little bit more comedic, but just any way that he talks, and how much more he uses filler words, like "like", or "um", or "uh". And he does those things, what you would call those empty words, and to show them how his speech writers create a beautiful speech for him. But when he's on his own, he's just like the rest of us, and he uses a few of these empty words.

Todd: Yeah. We have a common friend, Robert Murphy, who does a lot on neurology. And that's coming to the forefront now in education. And the thing is, the neurological processing of speech, dictates that you actually talk that way. Because you're like a ball rolling downhill. And so, your brain is really just talking to gather ideas, so it can say something meaningful. Because when you write, you put something on paper, you stop, you condense. Look at the Grammarly ads, for example. So, they're always condensing, condensing, condensing, but you can't do that in speech. So, it's just a different process, which leads us back to your website, GOLDFish365. So, you have just iextempraneous speech-

Jose: Basically yeah, that's all it is. Yeah.

Todd: So, what are some of the topics you have on your site?

Jose: I try to think of the fact that I had conversations with a lot of foreign students, a lot of my peers, like you, who are on the website. And try to make topics of conversation that would appeal to university students, in all aspects of things. So, we're not going to be talking about [inaudible 00:06:04] , or the latest episode of whatever kitty cartoon that is out there. Although, if that comes up, then there's certainly no reason for it.

But things like the environment, things that are important to say, modern politics, critical thinking, issues for the future. But we also talk about things like sports, and music, hints on taking the TOEFL, or the TOIC. So, all of this stuff, I think, what would my students find interesting? Or certainly sometimes there's information in there that my students would find useful. That's where I think the target audience is.

Todd: Oh, great. So actually, going back to the topics, I think you do something I don't, and that is, you actually do controversial stuff, right?

Jose: Yes. I don't shy away from it.

Todd: There you go. So, if you go to Ello, and you went looking for controversy, I don't do it. I have a reason why. But you do, you don't shy away from it, huh?

Jose: No. I like to think that... If you don't want to, if you just want to hear a conversation about baseball, that's fine. And I think that's exactly where you should be. Ello.org is exactly where you should be. But sometimes if you do want to hear, you've just heard that in America, there's a horrible political situation, because nobody wants to talk to each other with respect. And where did that come from? What is all of this about left and right? And maybe, just maybe, I can put up a conversation up there, that says a little bit... That can make you think a little bit more, and maybe research a little bit more in terms of the history of the situation, and the reasons for it. I think there's an audience out there for it. But I will say this, there is a much greater audience for what you do, Todd, than there is an audience for what I do. And you can just see that in the hit numbers. Ello.org is all over the world. It's huge because it's so good.

Todd: Oh, that's very kind of need to say. Well, I had a head start, so that's the main thing. I think I started well over 10 years before you did. But I don't do controversial stuff, because it is... The site does have an international audience. And I just don't want to offend anybody. And I don't want to tailor the content towards one side or the other. So, I look at it this way. Why not talk about something that's not controversial? I call it the family dinner topic rule. So, if you wouldn't talk about it with your family of all ages at the dinner table, then I'm not going to talk about it on the website. That being said, I think that there is a big need for this stuff out there. And if you want to create a website, if somebody out there wants to create a website with controversial topics, I think that would be awesome. That would be great.

Jose: A friend of mine told me the other day, that they grew up in... They're Japanese, of course they grew up in a Japanese house. And I was a little bit surprised in that she said, her parents also had a very strict role, no talk about sex or religion. Absolutely not. And not just at a dinner table. Her mother was telling her, never bring that up, even in a private conversation, unless this is a really trustworthy friend, or it's your spouse.

Jose: And I thought, okay, that's fine, but no sex or religion. But aren't those extremely important topics, that you really should know where your friends or where your family are, especially if you're thinking about marrying someone? And if you don't know their opinions on certain aspects of things, like let's say abortion, which is a very controversial topic in most societies. Shouldn't you know at least where they stand, so that then you can say, "Well, then that's the topic I will avoid," or that maybe there is something close to this, or you discover that there's something new that you didn't know before, because they had something there.

I think there is a lot more to be said for getting information out there on the table, but also too, showing an example of how to disagree with civility. And I think one of the reasons why America can be so split these days, is because so much of America has grown up with this rule of no, no controversial topics, no sex, no religion, no politics, wherever. So, people have learned to avoid that topic. And when somebody brings it up, people don't know how to discuss it. And then they become very primal about it, because those are very primal topics, and they don't know how to disagree with civility.

Todd: Yeah. That's a good point. Now, you're actually Canadian-

Jose: That's right.

Todd: ... our friendly neighbor to the North. So, would you say it's a similar situation in Canada. Do you think people are better at talking about controversial topics, than people in the States? Is it less divided?

Jose: Okay. Number one, I haven't been home for any important length of time since 1991. And there's only so much you can do to read the newspapers, and to watch video was on the internet.

Todd: But you still watch your hockey?

Jose: Oh, I'm Canadian. If there's a legal qualification that-

Todd: All right, you'd lose your passport.

Jose: .. your passport if you don't watch at least 11 games a month, or something like that. I forget. The way that Canada is right now, when I see the polarization in terms of left and right. I find that it's so much worse than it was when I was there. And I think again, maybe... We have an expression in Canada, it specifically refers to America, in that you're a mouse in bed with an elephant, and you don't want to disturb the elephant, because it might roll over. But it also means that we're very close. And in that proximity, a lot of the discussions that we hear in America, will move over into Canada. And that, I guess, has affected us, because I find that there is a stronger split in Canadian society these days. And it mirrors a lot of the turmoil in American politics.

Todd: Yeah. There's just no way around it.

Jose: I guess not.

Todd: Yeah. So, hats off to you that you do this in education. I thought about it, but I think I'm going to stick to my policy, and puppies and rainbows, that's what I always say. Puppies and rainbows. Everybody likes both, right? And cats.

Jose: What can I say? It's working. People love to hear it. And I can't help but talk about it. So, I don't think I'm going to stop doing what I'm doing either.

Todd: Well, I'm sure there are a lot of teachers now that are listening to this, are now going to know where to go, so they can get some great controversial topics. So thanks a lot, Jose. I really appreciate the work you're doing for GOLDFish365.

Jose: Thank you, Todd, and-

Todd: A wonderful side. And I really truly mean that. It's just a great source of content.

Jose: I'm going to be doing a big makeover on it. I hope sometime this spring, and maybe bring in a couple of new features, and maybe a new look to it. And I hope the people who are listening to this, watching this right now, will go take a look at how we may or may not have improved it.

Todd: Right. Great. Thanks Jose.

Jose: Okay. Thanks, Todd.

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About the Teacher

Todd Beuckens is an ESL teacher with over 25 years of classroom experience. He has an M.A. in Learning, Design and Technology from San Diego State University. He is currently based in Japan and is the creator of the following sites.

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