Beeblio Converses With The Host of Aussie English, Pete Smissen
Pete is the host of the Podcast Aussie English.
Pete, can you share your history and background with our readers?
“ I was a scientist in training , my parents were both biologist so growing up I always had a love for animals, that was all I knew so I studied zoology. I fell into the cycle of completing a degree but there were no jobs in my field unless you have the next degree up. I moved on to studying my masters, P.H.D, post doctorate and so forth. So, I went through 11 years of schooling for Biology and gained quite a bit of weight. During my studies for my doctorate, I wanted to get back in shape, so I started to practice martial arts in my home of Melbourne, Australia. When I was practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA a lot of my friends were Singaporean, French, Chinese, Japanese and spoke different languages, I felt embarrassed that I only spoke English.”
Can you describe the culture of Melbourne, Australia?
“Currently, 40% of Melbournians are being born overseas, the city is multicultural there are people from all over the world. When you walk through the streets you hear languages other than English. I had learned some French and Chinese when I was younger but never followed it through to fluency. In 2012 I dived right in and began studying French, it was a rabbit hole! By using internet resources and tutoring, I began speaking fluent French in six months.”
What tools did you use to learn French?
“I started off using applications like Duolingo and I gain a lot of practice from speaking French over English with my French friends, they were amazed at my results and asked what tools I used. I shared a French podcast called “Français Authentique” that I would listen to as much as I can to work on my listening comprehension.”
What inspired you to create the Aussie English learning tool?
“Many times, foreigners assume that when visiting Australia all they should learn is American English or British English, but our dialects are quite different, and they get culture shock when they arrive. The amount of slang we use, euphemisms and our humor create a complicated English. My friends wanted to know if there was a version of the Francoise podcast for Australian-English so that foreigners can understand our accent. So, we began searching for a podcast that explained Australian English and culture but found none and that is when the idea of Aussie English was began.”
Pete has a large audience of viewers and listeners on YouTube, Instagram and his Podcast. He explains what it is like to discusses current events to familiarize his audience with Australian culture.
What results do you see after learners use your resources?
“They tend to be more confident, they become more comfortable when interacting with the culture. They can understand Australian history and stay updated on current events. If they were just going to standard class, they would not have any exposure to historic events like the role the Australian Anzac army played in WWI during the Gallipoli campaign. I believe natives appreciate when foreigners can relate to their stories.”
What do you believe is missing from the ESL community?
“Initially, I was trying to teach Australian expressions then I realized very quickly that what people wanted was a cultural experience. They wanted to understand what life is like for an Aussie in Australia, they wanted to know our history and about the diversity of our culture. My job was not to teach anyone English; it was to use English as a conduit to allow people to understand Australia better. In return when they would visit or move permanently, they can feel like they had a different understanding of the culture because they know the lands history and that would allow them to integrate rapidly with the natives.”
Which one of your platforms do you believe works best for learners?
“The podcast 100 percent! If you listen to podcast and watch YouTube videos you can see that YouTube is much more entertainment, it feels like junk food in comparison to a podcast. YouTube is good if you are a visual learner. When listening sole to audio, you must be more present and focused, so the audience’s retention seems to be better. And people tend to listen from start to finish with podcast versus YouTube which only catches the viewers’ attention so you can watch the ads. The one that delivers the most results is the podcast specifically for language learning because of the availability of the transcripts. The transcripts are the most effective because like the Beeblio app, you can find all the vocab you do not understand to target your weak points.”
Do you have the same content on each of your social media platforms? If so, how do you differentiate your content?
“First and foremost, I focus on the resources that learners pay for. Free content like the podcast is great but if they have paid for the bonus episodes, transcripts, and courses then they deliberately have an interest in learning and that is my priority. I try to video the podcast as much as possible so that I can reference the important facts on my YouTube, because you do have people who prefer YouTube over podcast.”
Pete had the chance to test out the Beeblio App and shared some views on some of its features.
“I liked the fact that you can set up the pronunciation of words in different accents, I found that insane. I would have never thought that would be one of the options and I saw there was an Australian accent as well! Another feature I liked was the ability to pull an actual sentence and not just the word and of course the frequency list. I would be interested in seeing Beeblio collaborate with the Polyglot community because they have effectively learned multiple languages from scratch, and I believe the resources they use could be a reference to expanding to apps features.”
What can we look forward to from Aussie English in the future?
“Just more of the same things, I need to tighten things up. I am growing my team and we have expanded to the Philippines. I am working on getting better content out on a regular basis and of course expanding our online learning academy with more lessons and courses.”