Monday, 6 April 2009

Anything Audio

The Ask Auntie Web column in the Spring edition of MELTA News featured "Anything Audio". Over the next few days we'll be reprinting the column here with all of the links in place for your convenience.

A member, let's call her Audrey, wrote in asking,

Dear Cousin Web,
I think I'm missing out on audio available on the internet. I'd like to use it more in my classes, but I'd also simply like to listen to English broadcasts and podcasts myelf. I can listen to everything on my computer when I'm online, obviously, but what do I need to do if I want to subscribe to a weekly podcast from the web, like Working Lunch from the BBC? And how about the news features that play in RealPlayer: Can I download them, too?

Dear Audrey,
If you want to download audio files to use offline, then the mp3 podcast format is what you want. These files were designed to be played offline on the iPod or other players. Unfortunately, the streamed audio files used by news sites only play online (viz. "Working Lunch"). You can listen or watch online, but you can't take that file with you.

However, if you want to tinker with "ripping" (=rerecording files into a new file or file format) streamed audio files, you might try the VLC media converter ( or Zamzar, an online converter ( You can also use recording software such as Audacity ( to rerecord the online file while it plays. I didn't find a way to save the audio, let alone the video for "Working Lunch" to my computer, though. Have any of you tried to do this with success? If so, please send us your tips. Until then, there are plenty of podcasts ready to go.

We asked around at a recent MELTA Business English workshop, and the participants volunteered their favorite podcasts:

BBC Radio 4 (Gillian, Timea and Lisa)
onestopenglish (Gillian, Rosemary and Dianne)
Business Spotlight podcast (Joan and Dianne)
BBC 6-minute English (Marion) Useful Commute (Susan)
Guardian Weekly (Fran)
NPR: 7AM ET News Summary Podcast (Frank)
NPR: Car Talk's Call of the Week Podcast (Frank)
TED Talks (Anne)
The NYT Ethicist (Joan)
The Street (Brian)

Getting started with podcasts: From feed to desktop to player

One way to get individual episodes from a podcast series is to follow the RSS feed button (orange square). RSS (Really Simple Syndication) software organizes online sources of information for you. Clicking on the button takes you to the page containing the episode description(s) and the audio file name(s) ending in "mp3". Copy the audio file you want onto your computer. On a PC/Microsoft, right click your mouse and select "save as". On a Mac "right-click" using "control" and your mouse, or drag and drop the file onto your desktop.

If you want to get a podcast regularly, subscribe to it. Download iTunes for free (from Then either
  1. Open iTunes, click on Advanced and you'll see the option "Subscribe to podcast". Click on that and paste the feed link to the podcast you have selected (ending in "/rss.xml") into the box. Then click on "OK".
  2. OR go online to the iTunes Store (the button is on the left sidebar in iTunes.) You will see "Podcasts" on the top right. Under that is "Kartegorien". Click on "Bildung" and, on the right, click on "Alle anzeigen". Browse, scroll down, select what you want and click on "Abonnieren" next to your selection(s).
The latest episode of the podcasts you subscribe to will automatically load whenever you press "refresh" in your podcast directory. When you subscribe, the whole archive becomes available. To download an old, archived episode you must click on the "get episode" button. Podcasts are free, but to browse the archive or download transcripts, you may have to become a premium member. This is often free, especially if you subscribe to the print publication (e.g. Business Spotlight or Spotlight); just register on the publication's website.
Save the mp3s you want to listen to onto your mp3 player using your player software. Every player is a bit different.

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