Learn English with Videos

An interview with Dave Sconda from EnglishMeeting.com

Dave ScondaToday's interview is with the one and only – Dave Sconda.

I've first encountered Dave's work through his pronunciation videos on YouTube. They were really refreshing: funny and educational.

Now, that is quite an effective combination! 

The rest of Dave's work is no different. Fun videos that get the message through: pronunciation, conversations, listening, vocabulary, grammar, culture... you name it.

The man is talented and he's sharing it with the world :)

So I am very happy to have him answering some questions and sharing his knowledge and experience.

1. What has inspired you to become a teacher?

I had a few exceptional instructors when I attended university. They inspired me to do many things: believe in myself, educate myself, take action, appreciate certain aspects of life, read books, watch certain films, discuss topics in a more analytical fashion, work hard, achieve, and the list goes on.

The education field is a great place to be if you love the idea of being educated. This is a place to grow, to enhance skills, to think deeper, to ask questions, to better the mind. I was energized in this environment.

A friend of mine grew up in Japan and attended an American school there. She made money teaching English to Japanese students when in high school. Later she attended college in the states, and she taught Japanese students privately as a side job. I watched her teach a few students and found them to be interesting. I really hadn’t traveled outside of America at this point in my life. I was very intrigued. Their interaction was different. I wanted to learn more about them. I started asking my friend many questions about teaching, and offered many ideas I had about methodology and approach to get her opinion. We ended up teaching a few students together and I was hooked.
I looked in to graduate programs for teaching English to speakers of other languages. I found every program in my general area and even considered some out of state. I called Pepperdine University to ask if they had such a program, since they had an ESL program at the time. That phone call turned into my first university teaching experience. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was a very unique and important experience for me. The director at this program was very supportive of my new ideas for teaching English. He green-lighted just about everything. It wasn’t easy. It was challenging and I loved it.

2. How did the YouTube sensation and EnglishMeeting.com came about?

For my graduate thesis, I produced a live video conferencing program where I taught live from Los Angeles to students in China and Germany. I thought this was the direction I would go, but then I heard about something called “video hosting.” This was the lead up to YouTube. What? Free video hosting? I was sold!

Also, I love film and video. I’ve watch filmmaking since I was a kid. After grad school, I wanted to incorporate my educational background with video production. I also love being creative and entrepreneurial. I acted (performed) quite a bit in college, and then directed some short films and theatre pieces. I needed to pursue these interests of teaching and film. Creating education videos was the answer.

3. You've mentioned that your purpose is "edutainment", meaning education which is both enlightening and entertaining. How does that affect the way you produce your materials?

Dave ScondaI’ve had many “boring” instructors. I wasn’t going to be one of those. One fact I knew about myself was this. In college, when I had a good instructor, with a good sense of humor, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to do the work. I wanted to come back and be a part of the experience.
So I try to put together solid education with humor and some fun. This includes improvising on my part. I want students to enjoy the process. Using a green screen, interesting graphics, music, and sound effects hopefully makes the education more stimulating and engaging.

4. What is your favorite subject in English?

To teach?  That would be in the realm of speech. Presentations, pronunciation, speaking etiquette, speaking and culture, and psychological issues that inhibit speech acquisition, are a few areas of focus. I believe that speech education should be multidimensional in order for students to understand and feel the importance of  being a good speaker.

5. What is your favorite ever video (made by you)?

I made a video where I brought in a few actors to create short scenes for a pronunciation video on the /w/ sound. This was my biggest production for ESL. It included many effects and took a ton of time to complete. It brought me back to my love of film production. I would love to produce more material with this approach.

6. Can you tell us about EnglishMeeting.com?  What useful items can a student/teacher find there?

EnglishMeeting.com is a place for ESL students and teachers. It is growing and will continue to grow. For students there are videos on pronunciation, cultural issues, how to start conversations, grammar, ways to greet people, vocabulary, and listening. There are other teachers’ videos and a guide for ESL audio and video on the Internet produced worldwide. I have an audio only section where students can download podcasts I created and listen to some interesting discussions on controversial topics. Believe it or not, students can call me through my site by using a Google widget embedded in my homepage and leave me an audio message themselves. They can also contact me through facebook, which I have found to be very useful for connecting with students and teachers. 

Teachers can get a lot out of the audio and video guide too. They are free to use all the videos and audio that are on my site for their work. Some instructors may find my interview with Dave Sperling interesting. I also have videos for teachers that are interested in teaching English in another country. Some of this information can be very helpful to teachers looking to gain insight to the mysteries of teaching in a foreign land.

7. You've got a new online English course! Do tell us about it…

This is something I am very excited about. The EnglishMeeting Courses are a place where students can work at their own pace anywhere in the world. It is a real class with a beginning date and ending date just like at a university. The students can interact with each other, watch video, listen to audio, take quizzes, and get their scores back immediately. I encourage them to watch, listen, and quiz themselves repeatedly in the course. This approach helps them to learn material much more deeply.

If they so choose, they can partake in live segments of the course. They can see and hear me on a video screen and I can hear them. I run the class and interact with all the students in real time! It’s truly a global class. We have had students from all different corners of the world working together within these live broadcasts. So far the response has been very positive.

8. What are you doing when you are not helping students worldwide?

Dave ScondaIf I’m not helping them, I’m developing material to help them or visualizing how I might teach something. I love doing this, so it is an enjoyable pursuit. When I do have some time I take my dog for walks and runs, go to the gym, ride my motorcycle in the canyons, learn more technology, examine the stock market, and educate myself with some excellent podcasts that I download weekly. I also eat and sleep a bit too.

9. What surprises await us in the future? Any future projects or videos you are working on?

As I get more support, the opportunities open up. I have a boatload of ideas for education that I want to turn into reality. For now, I plan to expand my online courses so more students can have access. I love the live aspect and will have education disguised as games and competitions to help students improve their skills while maintaining smiles on their collective faces.

10. Seriously now, is there a chance you'll end up making movies in Hollywood?

Dave ScondaOkay, now I get it. You’re a producer and this is your way of asking me to direct. Well, let me think about… okay, I’ll do it!

If I could someday make movies with strong educational elements, movies that make people learn, I would. Hollywood is going in a slightly different direction now with the success of You Tube and social media. 3-D and interactive media is the future. I believe these new game platforms like Microsoft’s Kinect offer huge possibilities for ESL and education at large. Put it all together and you have a win-win situation for business, students, & educators. Yeah, I would like to pioneer it. I’d like to slam dunk it.

Well, he's onto me. I am a Hollywood producer trying to get a director.
Oh well...

Thanks a lot for doing the interview, Dave!

Now, while I'm trying to sign him up for a contract, I will leave you with this video by Dave Sconda...

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