ABC111.net and Trans World Radio-Asia Seeks to Help Thousands of Visitors
Many visitors to the ABC111.net website need help with their English. Below are only a few examples of the needs TWR-Asia is facing:
“Today I was scolded by my private English tutor. She said I did not pay serious attention to her. I often get the wrong answers. I either can’t remember or can’t get it right. I see so many people asking you questions in English. I admire them so much and wish I could do it. And my basic oral English is such a mess. I don’t know where to start.”….
“I like your website very much, not only you can provide some good English stories, you also give us the chance to listen English stories. And your stories are not very hard to understand; I think I can improve my English listening across your website. I support you forever; I pray you will make the website very well in the future. If I make some mistakes, please forgive me and teach me how to use them correctly.”….
“Knowing English is absolutely critical in a company, communicating with foreign colleges, sending emails, making reports……we have to use English every day. But my poor English spelling always make me embarrassed.”
I really looked forward to meeting her. After all, I had heard so much about her. However, my first encounter with the young lady did not live up to my expectations. She was tentative at first, gazing at me with big, round eyes under long eyelashes that looked like Chinese fans. Soon, the corners of her mouth dropped and a torrent of tears followed. I thought she needed some room to grow and mature and I did not press the issue. A year later we met again and she was so upset at seeing me that she greeted me with a hostile stare and a bloodcurdling cry. I had no idea what I had done.
I talked with someone she trusted and was told she had a dislike for a certain part of my face. “I can fix that!” I thought, and proceeded directly into the bathroom. A few minutes later I emerged with a new look and walked cautiously toward her. She studied my face and decided that this version was more agreeable. A few minutes later I was holding her in my arms. My two-year-old niece no longer had to look at my offending moustache!
To reach your target audience, you have to look at things from their perspective. Just as you probably enjoyed the story above, most audiences love stories. Trans World Radio (TWR)-Asia did an online poll which showed that more than ninety percent of the respondents said they liked stories. Movies, television dramas and books are attracting large audiences because people love a good story.
And it is not just modern media that uses narrative to hold its audience’s interest. A large portion of the Old Testament comprises accounts of God’s dealings with his people. And these accounts are often filled with story. For instance, the prophet Nathan used a story to awaken David’s own sense of justice, which screamed out to him about his own sin (2 Samuel 12). Jesus told stories to teach and illustrate his points as well, often letting the stories sink in without giving explanations.
Even the five-year-olds in my Sunday School class, known for their short attention spans, become totally enthralled in a well-told story. A compelling story draws great interest and is an effective tool to reach a target audience. Like those five-year-olds, Internet users have short attention spans–so short that they are measured not in minutes, but in seconds. A BBC news report states that most online viewers spend less than sixty seconds at an average website.1
ABC111.net, Story and English
When it comes to using the Internet for ministry, we might be tempted to treat it as a street corner, a place to distribute “one size fits all” tracts or as a self-service library where visitors can come on their own to get whatever they need 24/7. Those models work well for certain sectors of society. ABC111.net, however, wants to serve as a sidewalk cafe, a place where relationships can be built and nurtured as we see our cyber neighbors weekly or even daily. ABC111.net is a place where we can minister to the needs of those who do not know Christ. We view stories as the starting point—the cup of coffee or tea over which we can become a friend with a visitor.
Today, millions of people in China are learning English for school, work and advancement. It is their new cup of tea. Most college students want to pass level four of the College English Test, which requires competency in both listening and speaking English. Since most of them have limited contact with native English speakers, it is difficult to practice. But as a ministry experienced in audio, TWR can brew a sound cup of tea! We aim to:
- provide the kind of material visitors find truly useful,
- format it in such a way that visitors do not feel overwhelmed and discouraged when they use it and
- schedule it to help them progress in their abilities.
Since listening to and reading stories are great ways to learn English, TWR-Asia is committed to making them the main ingredient on ABC111.net. In May 2006 the story section of ABC111.net was viewed almost twelve thousand times. This is compared with just 4,400 visits for the nonfiction columns. Each week we have three stories, plus excerpts of some classics.
TWR-Asia desires to offer more “cups of tea” so that visitors might recognize that it is water that makes the tea, and be attracted to investigate the source of that water! Many who visit are in agony and are thirsting for a solution to the problems in their lives; some women, misled by the decaying moral values exported by the West, chose the wrong path of premarital sex with a boyfriend, only to find themselves later rejected by their husbands once it was unveiled. One such young woman even emailed saying, “I have often thought about suicide. What should I do? Please save me!”
They need some good living water.
Trans World Radio-Asia is Looking for Stories!
To cater to our Internet audience who is learning English, TWR-Asia prefers stories written in somewhat simpler English, like children and youth stories. We need stories that are morally and ethnically sound. The stories will be published one episode at a time, each of which is 150 words for beginner level English and 200 to 250 words for slightly more advanced levels.
One of the biggest challenges our Chinese audience faces is the lack of native English speakers to listen to, especially at a speed and vocabulary level that they can understand. For this reason we provide recordings along with the text whenever possible. If you can make a clear recording at home in a storytelling or conversational style, we can use your help.
For more information, visit www.abc111.net/tea4China.
1. “Turning into Digital Goldfish.” BBC News, Friday 22 February 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1834682.stm