Showing posts from May, 2009

But I'm sitting in front of the computer all day!

Then read on your compuer! Anything. Blogs, for example. To keep yourself motivated, it is extremely important to find ones that you can understand and like at the same time.
If you have no idea what to look for, I'll recommend you one with simple language:
Bodri the Pooh - the daily life of stuffed animals... They go on vacations, organize their Plush Olympic games, hold elections, go to school, watch Formula 1, etc.

More on reading skills.

I Don't Read Because I Hate Using Dictionaries

Don't use dictionaries! Or at least don't overuse them.

It is important to find a book that you can read relatively easily (see previous post about graded readers). While you read don't look up words in the dictionary, because it will spoil the fun of reading! Try to guess the words from the context! Only look it up if it is holding you up or you really want to know what it means. You'll remember that word for life!
However, it can help to pause from time to time and look back, just to check you are clear about what is happening.

More on reading skills.

Vocabulary Building by Graded Readers

One of the best ways to build your vocabulary is reading. Not only your reading skills are developed by reading, but all 4 basic skills: reading, writing, speaking and even listening.
However, it is a hard job for a language learner to understand a book written for native speakers.
This is why graded readers have been found out: these books are specially designed for esl, efl learners: the idea is that they are graded according to the level of grammar and vocabulary used in them, so that every learner can find books to his or her own level. They are designed to get students read, so there is a variety of motivating topics available. It's good to know that most libraries have them, in case you do not want to spend too much on them.

What level to choose?
It is important that you should read easily. If the book is too difficult for you, you'll give up. It doesn't matter if it is too easy - you can move on to a higher level next time. Here's an example of an easy one (Funny…

A Quick English Lesson: 6 Minute English

Try 6 Minute English on BBC Learning English:
a short reading, listening and vocabulary practice on an up-to-date topic. (Do you know what staycation means? I didn't.)
There is also a quiz to check how much you can remember.
A good practice for learners of English.

More for building listening skills ...

Mini Phrasebook for Travellers

Have you ever wanted to have the basic conversations together at the same place?

Oxford University Press has these cool downloadable mini phrasebooks for their New English File series. They are okay to use without the coursebook as well.

Download them, print them take them with you:

elementary (buying things, checking in and out, ordering a meal, asking for directions)

pre-intermediate (at immigration, asking for info, making phonecalls, buying tickets, etc.)

You can also practise them at the Practical English sections:

More on holidays

Practice online with your coursebook

If you are an esl (English as Second Language)or efl (English as a Foreign Language) learner, I would strongly advice you to use a good coursebook. Oxford and Cambridge are the leading names, but other publishers have some good stuff, too.
I like using coursebooks from Oxford University Press because of the wide range of activities they offer on the internet. They provide grammar and vocabulary exercises, tests, games, etc. to each of the units of their most popular coursebooks. (I'm not paid to say this - I simply like them...)

Here's the list of the coursebooks they offer online practice for.

For example, if you are learning from Headway Elementary, you can choose Headway, then Elementary, then you'll be offered different fields of practice, and then a list of the units. Eg. you can find the grammar practice (present simple) for Unit 4 here.

Some of the exercises are okay to be used without the books. I'll add some of them later.

More practice online.

Help! My favourite song is full of slang!

Sometimes slang makes it difficult to understand song lyrics. There is a good dictionary, though, which makes things much easier:
But please keep in mind that there are really dirty things in it (as most slang words are made up to describe dirty stuff...)

Learning with song lyrics

This is my very favourite way of learning English, because this was my main motivation in my teen years. Nowadays, with the help of the internet it has become very easy to access song lyrics: you just type the name and performer of your favourite song + the word "lyrics" into the browser and there you are. You can print it and sing along while listening to it!

If you really want to learn a lot this way, it is essential that you understand what the lyrics mean: go through it, translate the sentences, look up the key phrases in a dictionary. After that all that is left is to listen to it a thousand times (which is not really a sacrifice if it is really a favourite song of yours) and try to sing along with the singer. You'll surely learn the phrases and grammatical structures of the song for life!

There's even an easier way: on Youtube you can find the karaoke version of some popular songs: you can see the lyrics and listen to the song at the same time. As an example I…