Using speech-to-script for teaching

technology and tools
Using speech-to-script for teaching
Speech to text tools (such as can be really powerful for language learning. Here are some great ideas to start you off!

You can find automatic speech to text dictation everywhere these days and it’s definitely got useful applications for English teaching. Want some ideas on what to use and how? I’m Jo Gakonga from and these ideas were inspired by a conversation with Nick Wimshurst- a fellow CELTA trainer. Thanks Nick!

I’m a reasonable typist but I’ve been using a speech recognition programme called Dragon Naturally Speaking for quite a long time. It learns your voice and the kind of technical words you use over time and I find it helpful in some parts of my work. You do have to pay for it though, and Microsoft Word also has a dictation facility that works pretty well if you want to play with this. Personally, I don’t find it quite so accurate, but it’s free so that’s a bonus.

A few months ago, though, I discovered a programme called and I’ve found all kinds of ways for it to be useful. You can use it in two ways – record what you want to say directly into the programme like this… or upload a pre-recorded audio or video file and it will transcribe it. So, what’s so great about it? There are three reasons I like it:
  1. There’s a paid version and it does get better when you pay for it, but you can access it for some minutes per month and this is enough to still be really useful.
  2. It’s very accurate, over a range of quite a lot of accents.
  3. It records what you say (or upload) and produces an editable script.

This third one is what sets it apart from other dictation tools like Word and makes it potentially great with learners. Once you have a draft script in there, you can listen back to it and correct it as you go along. It’s easy to stop and start and replay (like this) and after you’ve finished, you can download the script.

How is this helpful for learners, you ask? Here are a few ideas:

1) Pronunciation practice - Use it for pronunciation homework. Give your learners a script (make sure that they understand it – it could even be a reading text or listening transcript from the class) and tell them to read it aloud to Otter to compare what it hears to what they think they said. They can compare the dictated result to the original and try again as often as they like. This is a great way to encourage autonomous pronunciation practice and you can reassure them that Otter doesn’t get everything right, even with ‘standard’ accents’.

2) Error Correction - If you’re teaching 1-2-1 or in very small groups, it’s a great way to work on individual error correction. Set up a discussion task and (with the learners’ permission of course) record what they say. Then upload this to Otter and use the transcription to analyse the language use. You can play back parts to them, showing them the script, prompting them to self-correct and working on emergent language – help them to say what they want to say in a more natural way. You could even then repeat the discussion task to give them an opportunity to put this work into practice.

3) Needs analysis - If you are teaching a group, it’s a bit more difficult and time consuming to listen to recorded speech on a regular basis but you could do this as a needs analysis at the beginning of a course. Ask your learners to talk about a familiar topic (their hometown, for example, or a good holiday or their plans for the future) for 30 seconds or a minute and send you a recording. This will give you an idea of their level, strngths and weaknesses and having the transcript makes it much easier to refer back to. You could then do this again at the end of the course to show the progress they’ve made. Being able to see this (especially at lower levels where it should be clear) can be really motivating.

OK – I hope that some of these ideas are helpful. If you want more Communication Activities, check out my free course at ELT-Training. Thanks for watching.

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