TOEFL iBT and ESL Listening Materials: Are They Too Perfect?

Michael Buckhoff’s “7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT Exam!”

You’ve all listened to them-the crystal clear voice recordings from the voice from nowhere, the voice that perfectly pronounces all the consonant and vowel sounds of American English. And the other speaker responds with distinct pauses in speech, always careful not to interrupt the first speaker. It is a perfect blend of conversational English that often appears in TOEFL iBT practice books and even on the TOEFL iBT itself. The only problem is no one speaks like that in conversational English, often characterized by slurred pronunciation, interruptions, and slang. If you are a non-native speaker getting used to the English language, you have probably discovered this discrepancy between “textbook” and “real” English. Perhaps, you discovered that the first time you went to a supermarket in the US that the English you had learned in your ESL/EFL classrooms was not the same English that you heard in banks, supermarkets, and other ordinary hang-out spots in the US.
I pointed out these inconsistencies in my TOEFL iBT listening class and encouraged students to find opportunities to watch movies, listen to radio, and talk to native speakers, all for the purpose of giving them exposure to authentic, spontaneous listening materials. If they take my advice, they will find that they will be much better equipped in terms of their listening comprehension when attending American universities.
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Michael Buckhoff’s “7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT Exam!”

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2 thoughts on “TOEFL iBT and ESL Listening Materials: Are They Too Perfect?

  1. So, so true, Michael – and a very good point!

    It has always amazed me how all the test prep and regular coursebooks present English in this sanitized and completely non-real-world way. It doesn’t do our students a lot of justice when it comes to understanding the natural English used “out there”…

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