Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Session 1

Student Life 3 – Academic talk

Time for Student Life – the part of our 'Go The Distance' course where we hear from real distance learners talking about their study and home life. Each student talks about a particular aspect of distance learning. Let's meet the next student – Marcin – and find out how he practices academic talk!

Sessions in this unit

Session 1 score

0 / 3

  • 0 / 3
    Activity 1

Activity 1

How well do you understand academic talk?

Marcin from Poland is studying business management in English – but that's not all he does. He balances a busy home and work life with his studies. Listening is not an easy skill to master, and understanding audiovisual material is key to success on a distance learning course. So how do you make sure you don't get lost when listening in an academic context?

Scroll down to find out how Marcin gets on with his academic listening.

Working, studying and listening


We asked Marcin how he deals with all the audiovisual materials on his course. Watch the video to hear how he handles his academic listening.

To do

While you watch, try to pick out the TWO main tips Marcin has for using audiovisual materials on a distance learning course. We'll give you the answers – in a quiz – later on this page.

User tips

  • Turn on subtitles by clicking on the 'S' button in the video player.
  • Click on the 'expand' icon to view the video in full screen.

Watch the video

Show transcript Hide transcript

I work in the leisure centre: we're providing physical activities for people of all ages. So we're trying to reach them; trying to improve their mood, to get out of the house more, to be more social. People are saying the class really helps them – that's really really good reward.

I came from Poland about ten years ago: now I live in Scottish town. I'm a father, I'm a partner, I'm a student, full-time worker. I usually start at five a.m., up and then studying up to seven a.m. That's the only time when I can find quiet.

At the moment I'm studying for my degree in business management. When you see audio-visual material, you can see for yourself, you can listen for yourself. Usually there's like a short video clip, with some interviews. It's closer to the real-life experience. Sometimes I've got a problem with understanding of spoken language. Fortunately there's always transcripts of that material. Sometimes, yeah, the voice can be distorted by the internet connection or some people they have a strange, different accents, so yes, so that could be challenging for a non-native speaker. I've got my phone always at hand, so any, any word I don't understand, I can always check it. I like to know exactly the meaning of the word – even if I know more or less the meaning of the word from the context.

I don't have to talk to people as a part of my studies. But there is such an option, there is possibility. As a part of my university programme, we've got chat rooms available where we can meet face to face live, so you can just meet at a certain day and certain hour and with a tutor and then all the students in the group and we're just having a conversation via Skype or other similar app. Usually there are like five, six people – it's not like a big group but the software is very good – you can see the names, who's attending the chat rooms, who's not. It's moderated by the tutor, so it works very, very well. And it's always very good to share the opinions with others and communicate face to face directly, not just through the emails or written words.

At the moment I feel like I – yeah, I'm getting somewhere. I've always said that learning is the key to, to achieve something in life. The main motivator is future. My ultimate goal is to go to South America. When you learn a language, you're getting closer to the culture, different way of thinking. Mostly I'm learning Spanish on the go. If I'm walking, I just put my headphones on and instead of listening to music, I'm listening to Spanish.

My partner, who is from Ghana originally, there was a time at the beginning especially when we started dating, I was preparing some Polish food, and she was preparing Ghanaian food, very exotic dish.

I've got two kids: the kids are very, very rewarding. It's great, it's great being a father. The message I would like to send to my kids is "Learn as much as you can and try to enjoy that."

Go the distance.

Two tips for good academic listening

Marcin had two tips for how he uses technology to help him understand what he listening material on his course. What were they?

Top tips for academic talk

3 Questions

Check you've understood Marcin's tips about developing academic listening and speaking skills with these questions

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

What we've learned

You've nearly reached the end of this unit. At the bottom of this page you can find links to more useful materials for distance learners – and would-be distance learners!

But before we finish, let's have another look at Marcin's top tips for dealing with academic talk.

  • Video clips are great for getting experience of real life listening – you can watch and listen to presentations, interviews and more.
  • Don't struggle to understand audio resources – make use of transcripts so that you can pick out every word.
  • If you're not sure of the exact meaning of a word, you can look it up in the dictionary – you could even do this on your smart phone!
  • Some institutions may provide chat room spaces for their students – use these to collaborate with and learn from your fellow students.
  • Try listening to your audiovisual study resources while you do your daily tasks – you could even learn Spanish while you're walking!

Find out more

Want to know more about Marcin and his distance learning experience? You can find out more by visiting our partner The Open University. Click on The OU 'Where next?' link to find out more.

Where next?

Academic Insights image link 3  Student Life index image link  GTD OU SL image link 3

Session Vocabulary

  • Find out more about distance learning – visit our partner,The OU