No, I’m afraid this is not a claim that you can learn English in 10 minutes but it is rather an invitation to watch this irreverent history of English from Britain’s Open University. After watching it you may understand why it is not easy to learn English well because it is a mixture of so many influences which have all added to its complexity.
Rewordify is a new site to help you understand difficult English by making it simpler. Just add the URL of a website with the difficult text and Rewordify will take away the difficult words and use simpler ones instead. You can also just paste some text from a document instead. This would be useful to help you understand difficult words or to make a difficult text more understandable. See how it works in the video below:
Reading extensively helps a great deal in widening your vocabulary and there is no shortage of material now that so much is online. In May 2011 I featured Lingro as a way of helping you to get just in time translation as you are reading webpages and now there is a new tool called Readlang which offers a similar service. Readlang will help you out with translation and make a note of the words which you needed help with. You can then test yourself on how well you know the words.
One really neat feature is that the words you didn’t know are then put in order of importance so you know which ones you should concentrate on as you do your spaced practice.
Using the spell checker in Word can help you pick up many errors but that tool is not designed to help English language learners and recognise the errors that they tend to make. Using the Virtual Writing Tutor can help you correct your texts. You can also test yourself by clicking on the Random Errors tab which gives you short sentences or phrases to correct. And if you get any wrong the website points you to some exercises you can do to target exactly the error that you made (or failed to spot). It’s all free! (Click on the image to see more detail).
This would be great for practising for TOEFL or IELTS tests.
Jack Spencer Prince’s Business English blog contains lots of information and tips to help you use English in everyday business situations. It also contains a range of free exercises and offers the Email Writer app for iPhone, iPad and Android for €3.59 which helps you write emails while on the go.
Telescopic Text is a nice visual tool to help you expand your vocabulary by writing longer, more complex sentences. Start off simple and see how you can add an adjective here, an adverb there and a sub-clause everywhere!
You can use this to practice other languages too, including those with other scripts such as Chinese.
Note: Does not work on Internet Explorer.
What do you need to think about when giving a presentation? Test yourself with this short game from the BBC.
Extensive reading is a great idea for extending your vocabulary. So how about starting with this free Whodunit called Whodunit! You can pay for it if you choose or you can download it for free. It won the The Duke of Edinburgh’s English-Speaking Union English Language Award 2010
Here is the Introduction:
In this class, you will read two original detective stories. Each story is divided into six chapters. At
the beginning of each chapter, there is a pre-reading section (for example, page 8). Answer these questions before reading the chapter.
While you read the chapter, look for fingerprint clues like this one: ; you may find some
important information nearby. You will also find some interactive illustrations to help you
understand the story better. For example, the Scene of the Crime on page 9. Near the end of each chapter there is a puzzle, which is part of that chapter (for example, page 15 with questions on pages 16 and 17).
Read each chapter and complete the puzzle by yourself for homework. At the end of each chapter there is a review section (for example, pages 18). These are in-class group discussion activities. Use this class time to check your understanding of the story, to talk about reading strategies, and to ask language questions of your group members or your teacher.
But most important of all, please enjoy reading the stories!
To expand your vocabulary you should be reading extensively and using the target language as much as possible. A little systematic help is also a good idea. And even better is to work on vocabulary from a source which interests you.
VocabGrabber lets you automatically create lists of vocabulary from any text. So you can see
- which words are the most frequent
- which words occur together
- which words are the most relevant
See how to use it in this short screencast.
What does it take to learn a language or two or three or thirteen? Find out the routine of a committed polyglot in this video. If you could do a tenth of this you might find yourself making progress!