Is anybody listening to my podcast?

Is anybody listening to my podcast?

Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

This year I decided to make a change in my pedagogy for Intermediate Hindi 203 and 204, in order to help my students become proficient in speaking through creating podcasts. In this blog, I will discuss why I chose the podcast format, the process of making a podcast, the challenges my students and I faced, the support I received from the LAMP group, and the areas I hope to improve.  

Why the podcast format

The problem with oral presentations is that there’s little room for correcting students’ mistakes. The teacher can give feedback on speaking, but students can’t use the corrections immediately. Class discussion is also a good activity for developing speaking skills, but because students usually react to one another on the spot, they usually don’t prepare beforehand. 

To overcome these problems with traditional speaking activities, this year I decided to have my students make podcasts based on their independent research and study of new vocabulary. Since students use several different sources to compile the information, and rehearse the podcast content prior to recording, they retain this vocabulary for a longer period of time. Making podcasts teaches students how to do research and support their opinions, and connects with American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)’s 5 Cs: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. 

Making a podcast assignment

When I decided to use podcasts, I thought about the backward design model which is key for achieving desired goals. I broke this assignment into small segments and created different kinds of assessments, such as small vocabulary quizzes and oral presentations.

The second step was to create a survey that asked students to suggest a few topics that they would like to research and make the subjects of their podcasts. Students suggested technology, cooking, dance, computers, the caste system in India, feminism in India, environment awareness, Narendra Modi, the Indian government, Bollywood, and Indian culture and values.

Students work on a podcast during the first 8 minutes in class for two weeks. My focus is on the tasks that they can do in the language, such as describing and narrating a story. The reason for working in the class is that due to their level of proficiency, students may feel lost and unable to finish the assignment while working alone. I didn’t want them to memorize the speech, because it is not helpful in learning the language. On the board, I always give them a few tasks to do during the 8 minutes. I ask my students to share their ideas on Google drive and make a glossary where everybody will add new words that they have encountered during their research for the presentation. Writing is not the main goal for this task, so they can write in English or Hindi scripts. The first three days are devoted to research and gathering vocabulary, then students spend the fourth and fifth day on organizing and reviewing the facts that they have collected.

As they read their scripts out loud, I go around and fix small grammar errors. I also give them feedback on their vocabulary and quality of the text. They ask lots of questions and keep improving their notes. At this point, if they want, they can practice at home as well.

On day six, they tell the story to 3 partners in class. I monitor and listen to their presentations and give feedback as needed. On the seventh day they present their podcast topics in class. They are not supposed to read the presentation, but they can use bullet points for reference. Finally, on day eight they record their presentations and upload these to the Duke website for podcasts. This site is easy to use, and will remain available after students have completed the class, so they can visit the site later to listen and share their podcasts with family and friends. 


There are many challenges in this activity. First, the grading of spoken tasks can be difficult. Some students are heritage speakers, while others have little previous background in Hindi, which means that each student starts the class with different speaking abilities. 

Second, when students discuss and practice presentations with one another, they don’t correct each other. They say they don’t want to because they are friends and they don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. Or sometimes they are not sure if their correction is correct.

Third, sometimes students come late or miss class, which puts them behind the in-class podcast schedule.

Some students ask: Will anyone listen to my podcasts? How am I going to use this skill in my life? I explained that these podcasts are online, so people will listen to them and the podcasts will help you to understand news and current topics well. Later in their feedback, students said that they benefited from learning how to incorporate new vocabulary, and from being able to talk for a few minutes about relevant information, learning to speak about India, and listening to other people's ideas.

Support from LAMP

Each semester we exchange ideas for project development before the LAMP meeting and offer each other constructive comments and suggestions. We learned and grew in our teaching pedagogy through discussions about our projects. One of the members, Alison Klein, also worked on a podcast project (you can read her blog post here), so it was great to share and learn from her experiences. With the help of Seth Anderson, I was able to successfully create a webpage especially for organizing and publishing the podcasts. 

I would like to end this blog with one of my students’ feedback: “My favorite part about the podcasts is that we were able to use Hindi to explore topics that interested us. I think that in order to learn effectively, students must be able to apply what they’ve learned to outside topics. Kusum ji gave us a way to do exactly that through these podcasts. I hope to learn more and more about the world through these podcasts.”

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kusum Knapczyk is Lecturer of Hindi Language in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and works on developing material for Hindi language pedagogy.