Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

With every new day come new beginnings. Yes, a new year is quickly approaching, and it can allow us to rethink and make new commitments, but if we falter (which as humans we do), then we should see the coming of every new moment an opportunity to better ourselves and help those around us.

Happy New Year! --- Randall

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

English Slang

One of the greatest challenges facing English students is the ability to understand, interpret, and, where appropriate, use idiomatic expressions and slang. This is often due to the face that slang usage is so dependent on the content, your relationship with your conversation partner, and other social cues. Because you can't avoid encountering such language, I created a Web site to help students understand slang more. Give a try.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Christmas Season

Over the past 14 years of creating online listening activities, there have only been a couple of times when I had all of my children appear in the same recording. Here is an example that goes along with the Christmas season and the meaning that it has in our family and many others like ours.

For us, most activities center on our family and on those in need around us. When I speaking of certain needs, these could be financial, emotional, or even spiritual. We have been the recipient of  so much kindness over the years, and I feel in a privilege to do what I can to help others.


Friday, November 16, 2012

College Scholarships

Getting a college scholarship requires patience, hard work, and the qualifications for any financial aid that be available to you. However, a student needs to take responsibility for their actions that might put their future in jeopardy. Listen to my latest listening activity, called College Scholarships, that illustrates the affect that positive and negative affects of students' choices. Give it a try:



Thursday, November 8, 2012

ESL Courses: Bonus Points or Not?

So, what is the real value (or not) of teachers giving students bonus points or extra credit for their work in class? All too often, teachers give bonus points to students who do extra work, but the negative outcome can be that students' overall grade can be inflated, giving a distorted view of their real ability. For example, if students have to write an essay worth 100 points, and the teacher gives 10 bonus points simply because the students added a photo, the bonus points given would have absolutely nothing to do with the students' writing ability, especially if that wasn't an objective of the writing assignment.

Yes, it might help students psychologically, but it can give students the impression that they are doing better than they really are. Furthermore, if the content of one class builds on the other (e.g., going from beginning to intermediate writing), then advancing students from one class to the next will set the student up for failure because they aren't ready.

Being judiciously in awarding points will only benefit students in the long run.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Honesty in Relationships

Perhaps, one of the greatest secrets in promoting healthy relationships is being completely honest in all you do. Making up stories about your life, your interests, and your abilities will only lead problems when your lies are discovered. In my listening activity called, "Running Shoes" ( describes one similar situation and the best ways to build long-lasting friendship.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Language Learning and Discipline

Discipline and care are really necessary to learn good habits. In our garden, my wife has apple trees, and you have to shape and prune (cut) the branches carefully so you can enjoy a great harvest. If you don't do this when the tree is young, it will become unmanageable. The same goes with learning. If you don't form good habits early, you won't see the rewards of hard work.

All too often, students procrastinate and don't stay on top of their studies. The same could be said of any aspect of life. But like a tree, it is almost impossible to move or bend the trunk of a tree after a few years unless you pull it out. Forming good habits early in life can help point you in the right direction toward future goals.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Katcina Mosa 100K Mountain Run 2012

When people think of physical challenges, they often think about a marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers). Yes, it can be demanding on the body; however, there are other longer and more taxing events such as an ultramarathon that will take your body to the limits.

I recently participating in one such event, and although I'm not fast, it was satisfying just to complete it. Along the way, you certainly learn a lot about yourself.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Hunting Trips

Depending on where you live in the world, hunting is not simply a game sport. In fact, people hunt for various reasons, including as a means of providing food for their family. The same could be said about fishing. At the same time, there are people who don't hunt at all.

In my newest listening activity, you will find two opposing views on hunting in a somewhat humorous situation. Give it a try.


Share your ideas on the topic.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Raising Birds

If you encountered an injured bird or other animal in the wild, what would you do and how would you respond? Perhaps this would depend on the animal you encountered because I certainly wouldn't want to run into a hurt bear. However, if it were simply a small bird, what would you do? What this video to learn more about how my daughter cares for baby birds:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Taking Responsibility in Learning

From time to time, students ask me how they can improve their language skills while they seek some magic and easy solution. This is often the case when some students want to enjoy their lives in a new country, but underestimate the difficulty and effort required to make progress. Then, when students start failing classes, they sometimes switch into a reactive mode, often blaming things and people around them. However, when you point the finger and someone else, keep in mind that three of your other fingers (that are held in a fist when you point) are pointing back at you. All too often, students wait too long until it is too late.

I always encourage students to be proactive in their learning. Set goals, follow instructions, ask questions, and keep track of your progress.

Once you realize you are in charge of your own learning, you can make meaningful and measurable progress.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bonneville Shoreline Trail Marathon 2012

My wife and I completed a challenging trail marathon in the hills above Salt Lake City, Utah, and this is quite different than street marathons in that you are running up and down over different terrain that pushes you to your physical limits. We were very slow, but we were happy to have completed it, taking time to video the experience along the way.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The iPad Revolution: Part 2

Recently, I wrote about how and it what ways portable devices can and will reshape learning and communication. Recently, I have been experimenting with an iPad to see what it can and cannot do, particularly from a learner's stand point. So far, I have been impressed. For example, I have been working on tweaking my own sites so that my audio and video files will play on the iPad, and in some ways, the iPad can extend the range and useability of such sites for people who are on the go.

For typing and other production tasks, I still find a laptop a more efficient tool, but my perspectives on this could change as I delve into the world of portable computing as time goes on.


Friday, March 9, 2012

The iPad Revolution

So, will the iPad or any other similar device revolutionize language learning alone? Probably not. Having developed online materials since 1998, I have realized that not even the most glorious gadgets can promote better learning unless there is a sound rationale and application of the tool in the language learning process. The same thing can be said of a kitchen blender: the appliance might have 20 different settings such as chop, mix, and liquify, but I probably achieve the same result with a blender that simply has an ON or OFF switch.

The ipad might help with some tasks, but it won't set the world on fire by simply turning it on. Share your thoughts on the topic: to what degree can help or hinder learning?


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Video Culture Tips -

My ESL students often tell me that they try to improve their listening skills by watching full-length movies, but my response is that sitting in front of a screen for a couple of hours with popcorn and a drink is one of the most passive methods of learning a language. Yes, you can pick up things, but there is no time to stop and process the content, and the language is just dumped on your with out providing students with a systematic method of learning.

For that reason, I have created my own series of short videos on the topics of language and culture. These aren't meant to take the place of other movies, but to give you the option of learning from shorter, concise videos on specific topics.

Give them a try:


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

College Textbooks: Rent or Buy?

These days, it is really unbelievable the price you have to pay for one single textbook, and it seems that authors and writers churn out a new edition every other week. It's not uncommon for  a book to be in its 12th edition, and yet the material in the book is almost the same. I mean, couldn't the author simply have a Web site where students could download a couple of pages with any minor revisions?

Then, with the change in textbooks, you often can't sell them back to the books store or other students.

I created a listening activity on this topic. Give it a try and let me know you experiences with buying textbooks for college:


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flower Shop -

Hi everyone,

Today is Valentine's Day, and sometimes this is the day for men to remember all the things they should have done for their partner or spouse throughout the year. Perhaps, we should call it "Rescue Day." On my latest PhoneCast, I discuss this topic, and I have a listening activity on my Web site called Flower Shop, in which a man finds  himself in a difficult situation with his wife, and he things flowers will save the day. Give it a try:


Monday, February 13, 2012

Part-Time Jobs for Teenagers

The concept of work and when people should first get a job can vary widely from family to family and from country to county? Putting aside some differences, what is the value of teaching children to work from a general standpoint? What this video as I talk about my family and how we feel about work:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alcoholics Anonymous

Understanding the laws and rights (as well as the penalties) of individuals to drink in different countries around the world is critical when traveling from place to place. Unfortunately, there are times when people suffer from alcohol addiction or whose behavior can have an impact on friends and family. Fortunately, there are associations including alcoholics Anonymous who provide support to people who struggle with this problem.

I've created a listening activity on the same topic on my Web site at:


Share your thoughts on this topic.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Home Security: Protecting Your Valuables

How do you go about securing and protecting your home from theft? Share your ideas.


Randall's PhoneCasts

Most people have heard of blogging and podcasting, but fewer people have heard of PhoneCasting, that is, posting comments or ideas to a blog or Web site by simply using a cell phone. On my Web site, I share ideas on language and culture using this technology. Give it a try: