Sunday, June 22, 2008

What to do with your old language tapes?

In my previous post, I mentioned going to European Book Company, but not what I found there. I'd been looking for a multilingual bookstore and was sure there would be one in San Francisco. I just didn't know where. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to googling it, but when I did, there it was.

I'd gone to the bookstore mainly out of curiosity for what I'd find. The website indicated a lot of Assimil programs and I was especially curious about that. One thing I'd intended to get was Using Spanish, the Assimil advanced Spanish course, both for my long-term aim of speaking better Spanish and for the short-term aim of spurring myself to work more diligently at L'Espagnol sans peine. This I found right away.

Going through the foreign language section, I was quite surprised to find passen gentaƱ ar brezhoneg didorr - the cassettes for Initiation au breton sans peine! Needless to say, I grabbed them up. But what to do with cassettes these days? I got home and found my old cassette player didn't even work. And given that the tapes are old, I didn't want to be going about listening to them over and over anyway.

What to do with your old language tapes

Many of you will know this already. But for those who don't fuss with the computer so much, there's lots of great software out there for recording mic input (or line input if you're using a desktop with a decent sound card - I've got a laptop). What you need are:

1) 3.5mm Stereo Male To Male Cable

2) a full-size cassette player with headphone output (I have the Memorex MB1055 Full Size Cassette Recorder, which works for the purpose)

3) some sort of audio software (I use Audacity - free open-source - for editing and ARWizard - $25, has voice-activation, file-size controls, etc - for the recording, but you could just use Audacity for everything)

Follow these steps:

1) Set the computer volume controls for wave, all and mic around 80%. Mute all the other controls. Make sure any mic boost options are off.

2) Connect the 3.5mm cable from the cassette headphone jack to the computer mic jack.

3) Set the cassette volume at zero, hit play and turn it up until you're getting decent sound through your computer headphones.

4) Rewind cassette, start computer recording with your audio software and start cassette playback.

5) When the cassette is done, stop recording on the computer.

6) Use Audacity or other software to chop up the file into smaller MP3 tracks, usually one per lesson.

Using the steps above (with a shortcut here or there), I was able to get the first two weeks of recordings into the computer and split up into mp3 tracks, one per lesson, in about 45 minutes. Half an hour of that was waiting for the cassette to finish playing.

Note that for some, the instructions will provoke a "duh!" In which case, you already knew how to do this. Sorry, no great new secrets here. If the instructions are confusing to you, check the documentation for you audio software and sound card and play around with them. You'll figure it out.

Disclaimer: Use this information at your own discretion. and Confessions of a Language Addict are for general interest and provide no warranty or technical support for any computer information on these sites.



Anonymous Josh said...

Thanks for this guide. I had no idea it was this simple; I figured you needed to buy a piece of expensive equipment to do this!

5:52 AM  
Blogger gbarto said...

The cable is nearly $5.00 ;)

I don't know that I'd want to convert 1,000 cassette library this way, but this is a pretty easy way to go if you've got the patience to learn the (free!) audio software.

10:33 PM  

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