Recipe: A Good-Enough Way to Record Translations Over Long Distance

Have you ever wanted get help translating something but the family member or friend you would like to interview lives far away? It would help if you could record him or her, but what is the best way to do that? What if your family member or friend is not very tech-savvy or doesn’t have a computer? Recently, I came across an app that can help solve this task, particularly for people who are not tech-savvy because you can simply make the recording over a phone call.

But what about the quality? First, some food for thought. What makes YouTube different from premium cable? There are many differences, but let’s focus on the amount of videos. YouTube has over a billion users, and most of the videos are likely homemade amateur videos. The quality is less than what you can find on premium cable, but that’s ok. This phenomenon is not just on YouTube.  Facebook, for example, helps us communicate in greater quantities even if the quality varies. I am saying this because interviewing someone over the phone will have less quality, but that is OK. Here is another concept. There is always the option to make the recordings better in the future. It’s called the continual improvement process. I would rather interview and record someone today (with their permission and blessing of course) instead of waiting for the perfect time to get a high-quality recording.

So, I would like to propose a method for getting good-enough recordings. Here is how it works:

What you will need:

There are several apps for recording calls, but I prefer TapeACall because it records using a third-party service, so it won’t use your phone’s memory. I also think it will give you a more consistent recording experience.


  1. Call the person via TapeACall. Make sure they know that you plan to record them (out of courtesy) then start recording (see TapeACall for instructions).
  2. After the call is finished, there are two ways to retrieve the recording from TapeACall:
    • Email the recording to yourself (I prefer this option),
    • Or you can copy the recording directly to your phone, and then copy the recording to your computer.
  3. Finally, use Audacity to edit a copy of the audio. You can cut out the unrelated parts of the conversation (like “how was your day”), and keep the rest for practice. Remember to make a copy, and edit the copy, so that you will still have the original recording for future reference.

This could be a great way to interview a family member or a friend over the phone. To keep the discussion going you might want to come up with an interviewing strategy. For example, check out the “How Do I Say…?” workbook. Using that workbook as a guide, you can then record your interview, so that you will have something to listen to and learn from after the interview is finished.

Eight ways technology can help with teaching languages

(This post started out with five ways technology can help with teaching languages. We have since added a few more ways, and are now up to eight.)

Kids and adults are drawn to mobile apps and addicting websites. It is the type of focus that educators would be delighted if they could attract in their classrooms, students who are not just attentive but determined to master the lessons.

Unfortunately, computer technology does have limitations in education. As humans, we are faced with amazing new capabilities when new technology is invented, and we area still learning the possibilities. One risk is that students figure out a trick so they can bypass the educational part. According to Jesse Shell, a veteran in game design, making something entertaining is difficult and making something educational is difficult, but making something both entertaining and educational is even more difficult. Computer technology is a medium, like whiteboards. Even with a captivate audience the time needs to be used wisely and some things can’t be replaced, like in-person experiences and one-on-one human communication. However, there are still times when technology can offer an opportunity for teaching languages.

Here are seven ways technology can help with teaching languages:

During pauses and breaks
One of my favorite examples comes from the Thunder Valley Lakota Language program. They incorporate YouTube media in their language nest as a way to fill in some of the pauses during the day, and the stuff they have created is pretty cool.

Outside of class
In-person lessons are great, but what happens during the rest of the day? Web apps can help bridge some of the missing time. For example, Duolingo is recommended by many teachers of beginning students to improve their grammar and vocabulary knowledge in-between classroom time.

Reaching those who might have fallen through the cracks
In-person lessons and workshops can only reach those who are in the classroom. What about participants who have finished the activity and need follow-up help? Or, those who were not able to attend the activity? There are also parents and other community members. Technology may not be perfect, but it can help with educating more participants in the community.

Computers won’t get bored or impatient. Self-guided quizzes and other activities can be run as many times as a student needs.

Better quantity and diversity
With printed material, the work might take a few years of preparation before printing, and the content is fixed with each printing. For content shared over the Internet, the information can start out small. Even just one posting (on day one) and the number of postings can grow over time. Eventually, the amount of content offered through technology can outnumber the amount of printed content.

Another benefit, related to quantity, is that the same information can be prepared more than once for different audiences or different topics (no reprinting required).

Reaching wider audiences
Even after a student takes a language class, he or she will need to practice a refresher; but, traditional courses are not designed to help with follow-up services. So, one audience that many times gets overlooked are past students. Also, students who might not be eligible or ready to take class when it is offered make up a broad audience.

Increased quality
For content shared over the Internet, good information can be shared with a greater number of participants, and the quality of information can be improved over time.

Media-rich experiences
Many teachers, even those who prefer in-classroom time and immersion, are making printed materials to distribute in-class. In contrast to printed materials, teachers could use computer technology in order to incorporate video, audio, pictures, or even collect and evaluate input from the student, as part of the information they distribute.