What does the perfect example sentence sound like? (Part 1)

(This is the first of a series of posts about recording example sentences.)

I haven't been posting many new blog entries lately. That's partly because I've been busy getting audio lessons ready to release. I thought I'd write a little about the recording process and what I'm trying to achieve with it.

The recording process

I've hired some voice actors to record the main sentence from each PhraseMix lesson. I gave the actors a script with the situation description and the example sentence, like this:

You're not a very good basketball player, but you and a friend decide to go to a basketball court and play 1-on-1 basketball. When you start playing, you find out that your friend is really bad at it. You tease him:

You're even worse at this than me!

The voice actors record themselves reading each sentence three times. It sounds something like this:


I listen to them and pick the best version.

"Natural" is more important than "clear"

I don't like foreign language recordings that are made to be "easy" or "clear". Here's why: 

  • The real world isn't clear.
    People won't always speak slowly and carefully, so you need to practice listening at full speed. 
  • People speak differently when they're being careful.
    It's impossible to speak slowly without also changing your pronunciation. If you listen to slow, clear English, you don't really learn the way that people speak; you learn the way that they think they should speak.
  • You can find "careful" English everywhere.
    Most audio programs, podcasts, teachers, and schools will teach you slow and careful English. If you want that, it's easy to find in other places. It's harder to find natural language examples that are also clearly explained.
  • It's not that hard to get used to natural speed.
    With today's technology, it's easy to listen to something again and again until you get used to it. If your English listening ability is low, you can use the "pause" button to break sentences up into short pieces that are easy to understand.
  • PhraseMix readers are already pretty advanced.
    If you're able to read and understand PhraseMix lessons written completely in English, your level of understanding is already high. I think most PhraseMix readers are ready to be challenged with full-speed recordings.

So my goal was to get natural-sounding recordings. Actually accomplishing that was a little hard. Part 2 of this post will be about some of the details that make a recording sound natural.

  Print this Article