>Teacher knows "Father Knows Best"!

>I have a sort of Krashenistic view on learning. I like to have tons of material to offer my students and let them select what particular items appeal to them. Although Krashen is focused on reading books, I think in our multimedia world we can extend that to films, TV shows, podcasts, etc. One problem is finding enough material to offer that is i + 1.

Here is a website with some “old time radio” shows. The English is about the same speed as VOA Special English but even slower, clearer and simpler and much more so compared to normal speech or movies. It would be suitable for mid to upper-intermediate students. Not all of the shows are at the same level.

Below is a sample of the dialog from “Father Knows Best” , an old radio show but very popular. Although some proper nouns are unique the rest of the dialog is fairly basic and actually very repetitive, all of which contributes greatly to comprehensibility.

Following the sample is a textual analysis, a frequency list of words used in the sample and the vocabulary levels of the words.

See how accessible this language is. Except for “poultry breeder”, “gazette”, “mining” and “Harvard”, I think intermediate students could understand nearly everything.

Jim: Margaret
Margaret: Yes, Dear?
Jim: What’s this?
Margaret: What’s what, Dear?
Jim: This.
Margaret: Oh, that. That’s a magazine.
Jim: I know it’s a magazine but what are we doing with a copy of the “Poultry Breeder’s Bulletin and Gazette”.
Margaret: Well, we had our choice between that and “Mining Engineers Monthly Manual”.
Jim: So you took the “Poultry Breeder’s Bulletin and Gazette”?
Margaret: Naturally, we wouldn’t have any use for a magazine about mining engineers, would we?
Jim: Margaret.
Margaret: Yes, Dear.
Jim: Have you developed a sudden interest in poultry?
Margaret: No.
Jim: Poultry breeders?
Margaret: Don’t be ridiculous.
Jim: Well, you don’t just go out and buy a thing like this without some reason.
Margaret: I didn’t go out. He brought it here.
Jim: Who did?
Margaret: Well, I don’t know his name but he was a very nice boy and he’s working his way through Harvard…
Jim: You mean…we bought a subscription for this thing?
Margaret: It was only four dollars, Jim. If I knew you were going to make all this fuss…
Jim: I’m not making a fuss. It’s just that I don’t see any reason to throw money away on things we don’t need.
Margaret: People ALWAYS need magazines.
Jim: Alright, but why did you have to choose the “Poultry Breeder’s Bulletin and Gazette”?
Margaret: I told you, Dear. It’s because we couldn’t use “Mining Engineers Monthly Manual”.

Find more Father Knows Best at RADIO LOVERS.


Here are the vocabulary level statistics, the percentage of words in each level. For contrast I included vocabulary levels for NY Times and Voice of America Special English. (These levels could vary as the samplings I used were not very large):

K1 Words – the list of the 1000 most common words:
84.07% (NYT 71.95, VOASE 77.02)

K2 Words – the list of the 1001-2000 most common words:
2.65% (NYT 3.96, VOASE 5.18)

AWL Words – the Academic Word List:
0.88% (NYT 8.52, VOASE 4.76)

Off-List Words:
12.39% (NYT 15.56, 11.94)


Family Word List
family_[number of tokens]

K1 Words:
about_[1] all_[1] always_[1] and_[6] any_[2] away_[1] be_[13] because_[1] between_[1] boy_[1] bring_[1] but_[3] buy_[2] choose_[2] could_[1] dear_[4] develop_[1] do_[9] dollar_[1] for_[2] four_[1] go_[3] have_[4] he_[5] here_[1] i_[7] if_[1] in_[1] interest_[1] it_[5] just_[2] know_[3] like_[1] make_[2] mean_[1] miner_[3] money_[1] month_[2] name_[1] nature_[1] need_[2] no_[1] not_[9] of_[1] oh_[1] on_[1] only_[1] out_[2] people_[1] reason_[2] see_[1] so_[1] some_[1] take_[1] tell_[1] the_[3] thing_[3] this_[9] through_[1] throw_[1] to_[3] use_[2] very_[1] way_[1] we_[8] well_[3] what_[4] who_[1] why_[1] with_[1] without_[1] work_[1] would_[2] yes_[2] you_[7]
all_[1] away_[1] boy_[1] bring_[1] buy_[2] could_[1] dear_[4] go_[3] here_[1] know_[3] like_[1] make_[2] money_[1] month_[2] need_[2] only_[1] see_[1] take_[1] tell_[1] thing_[3] through_[1] throw_[1] very_[1] way_[1] well_[3] work_[1] yes_[2]

K2 Words:
copy_[1] engine_[3] nice_[1] sudden_[1] nice_[1] sudden_[1]

AWL Words:
AWL families: [1:1:2] manual_[2]

Off-list words:
alright_[1] breeder_[3] breeders_[1] bulletin_[3] fuss_[2] gazette_[3] harvard_[1] jim_[1] magazine_[3] magazines_[1] margaret_[2] poultry_[5] ridiculous_[1] subscription_[1]


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