BNCaudio corpus and TOEIC listening

Those of you who teach the TOEIC or other exams will have wanted from time to time to be able to use “authentic” audio along with its hesitations, pauses, repetitions and so on.

There’s a need to expose learners to the jungle English out in the world compared to the garden English in the classroom, terms coined by Richard Cauldwell and Sheila Thorn, see the clip above.

John Hughes makes the case for materials to use such audio and video. He points out that using corpora data for this requires context. I agree though if you want to focus on decoding and building bottom-up listening skills requiring context is not so important.

I very recently used the Lancaster interface to the BNC audio data in my TOEIC exam class.

For details on getting access to this corpus see this post.

Once you get access make sure the spoken restrictions link is clicked so that it is greyed out as shown in the following screenshot:

BNCaudio-spoken restrictions

Then after entering the search word – contract, I selected the domain as business:


I then looked through the results for some interesting snippets. Note not all audio can be accessed. Also as it is beta there is still some alignment issues between transcripts and audio but you can adjust that and give feedback so that it can be improved.

I told the students that they will listen to snippets of audio using the word contract. I asked them to listen for other words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs related to the use of contract in the audio.

The following is the transcript of the first audio I used:

All members of staff have standard conditions of service as set out here, with the exception of temporary staff or staff who are er [pause] on a short time contract or maternity leave cover who may have a short term er notice er [pause] erm for erm [pause] a period of notice.

After the first listen one of the students recognised the word notice; after the second listen two students recognised temporary, conditions and staff. A third listen produced recognition of standard conditions.

I then dictated the transcript to them (without the hesitations, pauses etc) for them to write down. And then went through other relevant lexis (short time/term contract, maternity leave cover) and checked for understanding.

I repeated the procedure for two more audio snippets containing the keyword contract.

The students did of course find the audio difficult but they liked that it was real audio and made a change from the coursebook audio. I plan to use this process in the remaining classes. Next time I will probably start off with a much shorter clip and move to longer ones.

Thanks for reading.


The SpokesBNC interface allows you to display just the concordances in the BNC that have audio recordings, very useful.