But first, let me tell you a story…

Podcast Episode 1, Season 1

In this first episode of Talking Through My Hat, I begin by introducing the show and what it’s all about. I talk about some of the upcoming themes, the overall format including interviews, exam tips, quizzes, and useful vocabulary. Then instead of just explaining the advantages of listening to podcasts to improve your English,  I invite you to join me on a learning journey–through storytelling.

Talking Through My Hat–the story

To “talk through your hat” means to ramble on about a topic you actually know nothing about. I’m sure I often seem to be talking through my hat, but bear with me! Many years ago, I used to wear a bowler hat while working as a freelancer and Cambridge speaking examiner. It sort of became my trademark. So, I started a blog about teaching English called “Talking Through My Hat.” The blog didn’t last long, but then two things happened: I found a course on how to teach English online, and I discovered the world of podcasting. Suddenly it all made sense: “Talking Through My Hat” became the name of my podcast, and my website became Bowler Hat Radio. The concept was very simple: harness the power of storytelling to teach English online.

Why storytelling?

The famous ELT author Mario Rinvolucri says that “Storytelling [is] the language teacher’s oldest technique.” Before there were books, before there was writing, people told stories. Think back to when you were a child. Think of the stories you loved to hear, and how you begged your parents to read or tell them over and over again. It didn’t matter if you had already heard it a hundred times. It was the soothing rhythm of the words and the flow of images and creation of whole worlds you wanted. You needed, in fact. What you didn’t know at the time was those words and phrases and  those images were creating neural pathways in your brain.

We are a storytelling species. Canadian broadcaster and marketing guru Terry O’Reilly makes this point over and over again. The success or failure of a product often depends on the story that goes with it. The best ad campaigns make an  emotional connection with the audience–a simple list of facts and figures, pros and cons is not enough. Likewise, we learn much more effectively when we care about what we are doing–educators call it “intrinsic motivation.”

Learning English: a two-way street

In the old days, radio relied on its unique ability to create “the theatre of the mind.” Because there were no pictures, as there is with TV, radio programs had to captivate listeners’ imaginations. How?  Through great storytelling. In the 21st century, podcasting combines the magic of radio with the power of social media to allow listeners to participate in shaping stories. Listening to podcasts to improve your English is great, but participating in storytelling in social media is even better.  I hope you will take up my invitation and share your story. Leave a comment below, or email me at bowlerhatradio@gmail.com. Or send me a voice message! Click here to go to my podcast on Anchor.fm, and let me know what you’d like to hear more of in future episodes!




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