The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Instruction: T is for Talking Pets

The TPRS conference in Agen, France was virtual this year, which is the only reason I got to attend. One of the most talked-about events at the conference was Tammy Ruijgrok‘s presentation about creating asynchonous classroom videos (if you want to see what she examples of her videos, click here).

Tammy teaches Dutch to very young children (ages 4-7). Like most kids, her students LOVE animals, which is why her cat Figgy is heavily featured in her videos. According to Tammy, Figgy speaks Dutch. And by using an app called My Talking Pet, she recorded a video in which her cat actually DOES speak Dutch!

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with My Talking Pet. I just like sharing tools that are easy, free, and/or help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

Here is the video she made in which she interviews her cat. Start at 9:11 for the interview, or else watch the whole thing. It is absolutely precious.

After I watched Tammy’s presentation, I started thinking about the stories that second language teachers tell in their CI (comprehensible input) classes. So many of us talk about animals in our classes. How fun it would be to feature talking animals in those lessons! And it’s not just little kids like the ones in Tammy’s class who love animals. Animal appreciation is pretty universal (Case in point: My 75-year-old mother DEFINITELY loves her dog more than she loves me). I decided that this was definitely something I wanted to explore, so I downloaded the app on my phone and started playing with it.

Using the app is easy. After downloading it and creating an account, you upload a picture of an animal from your phone. The app then locates the animal’s eyes and mouth (which you can also adjust, because it isn’t perfect) to make the speech line up accurately with the picture. You record yourself speaking (you can adjust the speed and pitch of the voice too), and when you’re done, the app combines the speech with the picture. You can then download your video and use however you want.

I decided to add subtitles to the videos I made using my computer’s video editing software for double input, which I then uploaded to my Bitmoji classroom. Once classes begin, I’ll use them as an input activity.

Here is one of my videos. The running joke between this video and the one about my other cat Gus is that Zoé loves Gus but he can’t stand her. Will I spin this into a TPRS story? Maybe…

Like most apps, you have the choice between using the free version or a paid version. The free version limits the length of your videos and the number of videos you can save and download (only two). You’ll also have to put up with the logo in the corner of your clip. For unlimited use without the logo, you need to upgrade to the paid version (If you don’t care about the logo but want to create and save more than two videos, you can delete the app from your phone and reinstall it, which will cause the app to reset itself so you create two more videos. At some point I am sure the company will fix the glitch, but for now it works. If that’s too unethical for you but you still don’t want to pay for the app, you can download the free version on the phone(s) of a generous family member or friend to use).

I am constantly looking for new ways to deliver high-quality, compelling CI to my students. I’ll add the use of this app to my list of classroom strategies for sure. I won’t just limit myself to cats or dogs either. Why not turtles, goats, or elephants?

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