Starting a Script
This page explains how to start writing your script. You may be starting from scratch, or you may already have target language audio that you'd like to convert into a lesson. If you already have audio you can simply transcribe it.
Our formatting standards page explains our recommendations for formatting scripts, and our content standards page explains our recommendations for script content.
Coming Up With Ideas
Possible topics and formats for lessons are limited only by your imagination. Here are a few examples:
- A conversation between two or more people
- A short opinion essay
- A technical explanation
- An exploration into aspects of the target language's culture
- A vocabulary list
- Your own creative idea - the possibilities are endless!
Your goal is simple - to create content that will interest your listeners and will allow them to improve their vocabulary.
Formal? Colloquial? Somewhere in the middle?
All of these approaches are possible. People learning a foreign language will need to understand and, perhaps, speak in all of these ways. That said, if your intention is to create a lesson that will be used by beginners, it's probably best to use fairly standard, everyday, language.
What about specialized content?
Specialized content is great. There are lots of people out there who need to learn how to talk about your favorite subject. Also, this is a great way to advertise your area of expertise - the Language Mentor software includes a credits screen where you can describe yourself and provide a link to your website, if you wish. Here are just a few of the many possibilities:
- Business & finance
- Food & restaurants
- Language learning
- Real estate
- Shopping for cloths
- Asking and giving directions
- Etc, etc, etc...
Okay, so you're ready to start!
Now it's time to start writing. Write in your lesson's target language.
While we're not going to attempt a tutorial in creative writing here, we do have a few suggestions. Many people find it easiest to just start writing "off the top of their head" without thinking things through too much. This seems to help us free up our creative juices. Once you've got a rough draft, revise it until you're satisfied with it. It may help to set it aside for a day or two between revisions so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. While you don't have to get your script to a point where you feel that it is perfect - it's possible to change it later - be aware that this will become more and more difficult, expensive, and/or time consuming as you proceed through the steps of the lesson creation process. We suggest that you keep refining your script until you're fairly satisfied with it, then allow yourself to make a few more modifications as you break it up into chunks, then try to avoid further modification after that point.
Of course, what is most important is that you find a process that works for you. So feel free to follow these suggestions if they are helpful and to invent your own process if the aren't.
How long should the script be?
We generally recommend that the raw target audio for your lesson be between one and three minutes long. When we say "raw", we're referring to the length of the audio without the pauses that the Language Mentor software will add. A lesson with two minutes of raw audio will take most users between five and fifteen minutes to study or review.
Try reading your script aloud and time yourself. If this takes more than a few minutes we suggest that you either make your script shorter or break it up into a series of lessons.
If you're creating a dual language lesson ...
... you may be wondering why we write the target language content first. We do this for several reasons:
- First of all, the target language script is the primary focus of the lesson. This is the content that your users will be learning, so it makes sense to focus on this.
- Secondly, the lesson's native language is, well, secondary. You'll be providing native language audio to your users so that they can understand what they're learning, but this audio isn't the star of the show - it's there to support the target language audio.
- As part of this process we break our script up into chunks. The end result of this process is that we have a) a target language translation, and b) a native language translation, for each chunk. Because of the differences in different languages' syntax rules, it is inevitable that some sentences will be broken up into chunks in such a way that one version or the other sounds awkward. In these cases it's preferable that the target language sentences be broken up in a natural way, and that each native language chunk accurately translate the matching target language chunk.
Of course there's no harm in writing a draft in a native language, translating this draft into the target language script, then proceeding with the steps that follow.
Breaking the script up into chunks
Once you've written your script, or transcribed your preexisting audio, the next step is to break it up into chunks.
"Chunks" are the small sections of your content that will be presented to your lesson's users, one at a time. These will be short so that they can be easily repeated.
How short? In most cases we recommend a maximum of fifteen syllables. Most users can repeat chunks of this size, after listening to the chunk a few times.
If your script contains sentences that are longer than this, you'll need to break these sentences up into two or more chunks. Place the breaks between phrases, i.e. in places where the speaker naturally pauses.
Sometimes we make an exception and make our chunks longer than fifteen syllables if the resulting chunk's syntax and vocabulary aren't challenging.
Edit your document so that each chunk is on its own line, and put a blank line between each "chunk line".
If you have questions about the lesson creation process, please contact us on our Creating Lessons forum. We're here to help.
Single language lessons: Identifying Dialog Characters (if any) in your Script
Dual language lessons: Adding Native Language Translations to your Script