Apr 252018

I’ve written before about Mike Marzio’s videos for language learners. He pioneered the vox pop genre in English language teaching with real conversations with the man/woman on the street. The videos are a delight – utterly natural and engaging.

And he’s just launched a new website that’s fully mobile compatible. I know from experience that it’s really hard to find ways to display videos on web pages in the way you want. And these free videos are all for self study learners who won’t have access to a teacher to guide them. It’s a real challenge to show what’s available and show them a path through all the videos and exercises. But that’s exactly what Mike’s done. It’s terrific.
Go check it out. https://www.real-english.com/

 Posted by at 1:00 pm
Aug 302016

Book-in-package-smaller4webHelp your students fix five top mistakes with ‘Fix it’. It’s a checklist I’ve written that’s available for free at our Simple English Videos website. Just sign up for our mailing list and you can download it for free.

  • You’ll be able to:
    Discover five of the most common mistakes learners make when they’re speaking English.
    Download quick quizzes to use in class
    Check the rules and get links to free videos with clear explanations.
    Get emails about new video lessons and information on free live classes.

And while you’re there, check out the new look of our website. There are more than a hundred video lessons now and we’ve made it easier for you to find what you want with new search options.

 Posted by at 9:34 am
Jun 132016

I’ve written about EFL and copyright before. It seems only sensible to give creators their due and avoid getting sued for stealing stuff. Crikey – who wants to steal stuff? Isn’t it just common sense?
Well yes, but actually copyright law is also pretty complex and understanding the basics can be quite a challenge.
So here’s a great video from The Consultants-E that explains the basics. A big thank you to Gavin Dudedney and Nicky Hockly for helping to make us all more digitally literate.

 Posted by at 6:04 am
Nov 282014

Our Simple English Videos website is the joint winner of the 2014 David Riley award for Innovation in Business English and ESP. YAY! We’re thrilled to bits!

SEVIf you haven’t visited our site recently, go check it out because it’s had a make over and we’ve been adding LOTS of new videos. Of course we have our YouTube channel as well, but at Simple English Videos there’s extra support like a clickable transcript and a dictionary tool. And go here to see one of the coolest uses of the videos that I’ve heard of.




We were very proud to share the stage with the other winner of the award – Newsmart – a terrific resource for students.
The idea behind Newsmart came from the insight that News Corp had unique access to the best business content in the world through the Wall Street Journal, as well as the best ELT content through Collins Learning. Using authentic texts and video from the Wall Street Journal, users can work through comprehension, grammar and vocabulary tasks to score points and earn placement on a leaderboard. Go check it out, if you haven’t already!

 Posted by at 6:08 am
Oct 222014

If you’ve ever tried recording real conversations and interviews to use as class materials, you’ll know how difficult it is. Just a few of the problems include:

  • In normal conversation, speakers will refer to things they share knowledge of, that students won’t understand (or need to know)
  • Spontaneous speech is often REALLY boring. What’s interesting for the people in the room can be very long winded and dull for outsiders
  • Technical issues – capturing good quality audio is hard, and if you want video as well it gets even harder.

So you’d think creating a site with large numbers of videos of natural and engaging conversation would be an impossible undertaking. But it’s not. In fact there’s a site that’s been doing it successfully for years: Real English®.  It’s a great resource for English learners – the language is graded and well organized and it has interactive exercises and a mobile section too.

RealEnglishMike Marzio is the founder and he’s been a pioneer in the art of the spontaneous ELT interview with the man (and woman) in the street. The camera just seems to love some of his interviewees, but I also think Mike has a very strong editting eye.

I don’t know how much footage Mike cuts from the raw interviews that he and his team collect, but I’d wager that it’s stacks more than the materials he actually uses. That’s a great strength because when you put a discerning EFL professional in charge of video editing decisions, it means you can overcome  the obstacles I listed above.

I think the website is a remarkable achievement and a real inspiration for other video makers (like me!). Thanks Mike, and may Real English® keep forging a path forward, growing and rocking for many years to come.

 Posted by at 6:37 pm
Jun 222014

Would you like your students to watch YouTube videos – but legal ones?  Or are you from a school or institution that’s trying to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to videos? If so, this post is for you…

Can I play any video if it’s for educational purposes?

No. Whether a video is played in an educational or not-for-profit context makes no difference. To avoid breaking the law, you need the permission of the people who own or hold the copyright. If someone has posted a YouTube video and made it public, that’s basically like an invitation to view it. So an important question is, did they have the right to post the video? Unfortunately there are a lot of illegal videos on YouTube posted by people who don’t own the rights. But fortunately it’s pretty easy to work out which ones are legal and which ones aren’t.


Maybe a video is legal if it has YouTube’s ads?

If it has ads, someone has claimed copyright and is getting paid – so you’re on pretty safe ground. It can still be tricky because music unions have claimed rights on all sorts of videos that don’t necessarily belong to them, but ads are an indication that you’re probably looking at a legal video.

What about movie trailers and clips, and music videos?

As a general rule, movie clips and trailers are available to licensed distributors before the date of release and then for around 3-6 months after it’s been released. It varies from studio to studio. If you want to share movie trailers and clips,  link to the movie studios’ own YouTube site. You can be sure that they’re going to be legal then. Bear in mind that the videos get taken down regularly, so they may disappear after a few months. (The movie trailers at www.simpleenglishvideos.com are legal and licensed.)
It’s much the same for music videos. If you’re watching a song from the official site of the artist or recording label, you can be pretty sure you’re doing it right.

How else can we tell if a video was posted legally?

– Is it a TED talk or TED Ed piece? If so, that’s probably fine.

– Check the written details underneath the video (if there are any). If the poster (the person who posted the video) says it comes from an ebook or a movie and they don’t say they have permission to post it, then you probably shouldn’t be linking to it.

– Check the poster out. What’s their name and what do you see when you click on the link to their YouTube channel?

  • Was the video posted by an organization or company? There are lots of legal videos posted by bonafide organizations that you can link to without problems.
  • Is it an individual who appears in the video? If it looks like the video was posted by its content creator then again, it’s probably fine.
  • But what if the name of the individual seems to have no relation to the content? And when you check their channel you see other videos made in different styles? Then probably you are looking at videos that were posted illegally and you shouldn’t be sharing them.
  • Are you looking at a clip from a TV show or news programme that seems a bit fuzzy and/or seems to have been posted by an individual who has no relation to a TV channel or network? Then chances are the poster recorded it off air and doesn’t have the rights.
  • If  in doubt, message the poster and find out. Ask where they got the video from and whether they have the permission of the copyright owner to post it.

clickonPosterIsn’t it hard to tell if a video is legal or not?

No, it’s usually pretty obvious. Armed with the info above and  a bit of common sense, in practice it’s easy. It’s rather like looking at your emails and recognizing which ones are spam. Sure, you may get it wrong sometimes, but mostly you’ll be right. (In fact, I think spotting illegal Youtube videos is easier than spotting spam these days.)

And let me be clear – I am by no means an expert on copyright law. Over the years, I’ve sometimes found myself researching bits of it,  but that’s just made me more conscious of how complex it is and how much I don’t know. But I still think it’s easy to stay legal and follow the law, so I offer these tips hoping they might help my colleagues.

Also there are lots of issues I haven’t touched on here such as YouTube’s licenses (standard and creative commons), what constitutes a public performance (I’ve never been able to find a clear answer for that for some of the contexts I encounter) and whether it’s OK to download a video to play later in your class without the permission of the rights owner (probably not).

Over to you…

Please bear in mind that I could be wrong about some of these things and other folks may have other thoughts, which I’ll be very interested to hear. Copyright laws vary from country to country too. Please add corrections and extra information to the comments. And for more accurate and definitive answers, please consult a lawyer.

 Posted by at 3:29 am
Mar 132014

Journey2MarsAtama-ii-Books have just published their first multiple path story books, where kids get to choose their own adventures. These adorable illustrated books are suitable for English beginners who love a good story. (Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good story?)

And you can win one free! This weekend Simple English Videos is giving away 10 Kindle versions of ‘Journey to Mars’. Readers get to be astronauts on the first space mission to the red planet.

How to win a copy

Just visit our Facebook page and leave a comment here. You can just say ‘hi’, or if you have time, tell us what you’d like the next video we make to be about. (Some tricky vocabulary perhaps, or how to greet people in English? Or maybe you’d like to see a video where we go on an adventure to Mars?)

We’ll select ten winners at random from people who comment on our ‘Win a free Journey to Mars’ Facebook post. Winners will need either a Kindle or an Amazon account and a (free) Amazon app and then – wow! – they can ‘Journey to Mars’ on their computer or mobile device.

Bravo Marcos Benevides and the Atama-ii-Books team for the terrific new book series. And to see what kids think of them – watch this video…. I adore the little boy!

Many congratulatons to the 17 winners! (Yes, we couldn’t limit ourselves to just 10 when so many adventurous folks wanted to hop on that space ship!) Hope you all have a great trip!

 Posted by at 2:33 pm
Aug 142013

Simple English Videos is one year old and we’re celebrating the event with lesson materials give-aways.

birthday-cake-one-candle-hiSo I’ve written materials to go with some of our English Video Lessons which you can find in our new store. My first indie publication!

And over the next few weeks we’re going to be giving stuff away. For example, this week you can download our ‘Alone – Lonely’ lesson materials for free by using the coupon code BIRTHDAY when you check out. It includes:

  • PowerPoints (These are the things I find most useful in class – they get students focused and enable me to use lots of pictures)
  • Students worksheets. They can be used in conjuction with the the PowerPoints if you wish – or given out for homework.
  • Teachers notes with answers.
  • Tapescript
  • An .mp4 version of the video. The videos are available free on youtube and also at the Simple English videos website, but it’s handy to have your own version of the video that you can play when you’re off line.

So the materials arrive as digital files that you can carry with you on a memory stick. I like to have them handy when I’m teaching because you never know when things will come up. It also means you never run out of materials, of course . Just play the video and run the PowerPoints – no preparation required.

The lesson materials are heavily illustrated with images from the videos. Generally they’ll ask students to recall words and phrases they heard and then move on to a short role play or discussion activity. They’re very straightforward.

But why not try one out yourself? Go to the Simple English Videos store. Add ‘Alone-Lonely’ to the shopping cart and then type in BIRTHDAY as you check out to claim your free copy. The BIRTHDAY coupon code is only valid this week, so don’t delay. Also subscribe to the weekly email update because we’ll be giving more lesson materials away and that way you can get all the coupon codes as we create them.

All the movie trailers and Video English Lessons we make are available free at the Simple English Videos site and the lessons are also available on my youtube channel. We plan to try to continue to offer them for free. We’re a two-man team (me and Jay) so we’ve been very appreciative of some of the help, support and encouragement we’ve received from users of the site this year.

If you too would like to support our efforts, here are some things you can do:

  1. Click the like button when you see videos you like. It helps Google know we’re there and just makes us feel good. Oh and comments – we love getting comments and feedback too!
  2. If you really like our videos, please share them on facebook, twitter, tumblr, google+ etc. The video English lessons on my youtube channel are all embeddable.
  3. Consider buying something from the store. We hope it’ll help us offset the costs of running the site.
  4. Help us write a movie trailer transcript – or rather get your students to help us. See more here.
  5. Tell your friends and students. There are more than a hundred movie trailers with clickable transcripts available now – a terrific resource for learners. Plus we have 36 video English lessons, and lots more in the works. We think Simple English Videos is a great place to see real language in context and practice English and probably the very best thing you can do to help us is spread the word.

Finally – a big thank you to all the  Simple English Videos website users. Hope to see y’all back again this year.


 Posted by at 4:31 am