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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Busuu.com - Excellent Language Learning Community

Busuu.com

Busuu is a social network to learn languages (it’s possible to learn Spanish, English, French and German at present) with a very clean and easy to use interface.

This Web page is totally free and after the registration process and selecting your native language and the language(s) that you want to learn you can begin using it.

What can you do in Busuu.com?

One of the very first things would be to select some of the available units about different topics (About me, Daily life, free time…) that will allow you to practice different skills of your English. Every unit is made up of five sections:
  • Vocabulary: the image-word association that speeds up the learning is used. You can also see a sentence where the new word is used in context.
  • Dialogue: an English conversation is presented and then there are a couple of questions about the dialogue in order to test your comprehension.
  • Writing: a variety of images is shown (the same images that were used in the Vocabulary section) and you have to describe what you see in the different images.
  • Talking: you can make contact with an English native speaker that uses Busuu and practice the new vocabulary that you have just learned.
  • Review: you have to do a small exam to evaluate what you have learned.
The amount of available units is pretty big (over 50) so there is wide diversity to choose from. It’s totally customizable; you select the units you want to work on.

As a social network, Busuu.com promotes collaboration and interaction with other members. You’ll be able to chat, talk, review exercises of other members and make new friends.

Something attractive about Busuu is the section called “My busuu.com language garden”. It’s an interactive image that represents your knowledge of the languages. You’ll see that for your native language/s you have a large tree, whereas for the languages that you are learning, the trees are small and are subject to a process of growth. By completing the units and showing that you are learning, these trees will increase in size. Moreover, if you show effort and willpower, you’ll get “presents” for you garden, such as dogs, rains … However, if you give up learning the language, the tree will reduce in size once more.

Busuu Garden

You can see that my “English tree” is pretty stunted and I have to practice to make it grow.

As matter of interest, we would point out that Busuu is a spoken language in Cameroon – according to ethnologic study carried out in the eighties, only eight people are able to speak that language.

Busuu.com is a social network to learn languages focused to users with basic or intermediate level of English. If you are an advanced user you might not find it interesting.

There is a video in YouTube with a tour about this online resource:



Visit Busuu.com

Last comments: If you are looking for more social networks similar to Busuu, don’t hesitate to have a look to our section about social networks and especially to Livemocha (both websites have a similar style). If you are interested in improving your English and have a basic level of English, you can use our guides to learn English from scratch and get some useful advices and free resources to help you.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just For Laughs – Curious way of investing in times of crises

Laugh

An interesting and funny account, written in English by a person from the United Kingdom. It is always good to err on the side of humour during these times of crises.

By the way, look carefully at how the conditional tense is used in this text.

Thought for the day:
"If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it would now be worth £4.95, with HBOS, earlier this week your £1000 would have been worth £16.50, £1000 invested in XL Leisure would now be worth less than £5, but if you bought £1000 worth of Heineken Lager one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium re-cycling plant, you would get £150. So based on the above statistics the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle."

Please, don’t take above tip to heart. There are better ways of investing and that will produce more money and fewer health problems! :)
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

List of US Online Newspapers - Read them for Free

Online Newspapers

Do you want to practice your English reading comprehension and don’t know what to read?

The following list can help you. It contains free online newspapers from the US. Every newspaper is written in English and apart from the news about different categories (business, national, sport, entertainment …) in some of them you’ll find videos, podcasts, comics and games (like crosswords) that will help you in different aspects of your English.

If you don’t know the meaning of some words, you can look them up in any of the available online dictionaries.

ajc.com
News about Atlanta
Video archive
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azcentral.com
News about Arizona
Video archive
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boston.com
News about Boston
Video archive
Podcast archive
Game archive
Puzzle archive
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chicagotribune.com
News about Chicago
Video archive
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chron.com
News about Houston
Game archive
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cleveland.com
News about Cleveland
Video archive
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dailynews.com
News about Los Angeles
Game archive
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dallasnews.com
News about Dallas
Video archive
Comic and game archive
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detnews.com
News about Detroit
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freep.com
News about Detroit
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latimes.com
News about Los Angeles
Video archive
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miamiherald.com
News about Miami
Podcast archive
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nydailynews.com
News about New York
Video archive
Game archive
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nypost.com
News about New York
Video archive
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nytimes.com
News about New York
Video archive
Podcast archive
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online.wsj.com
The Wall Street Journal: Business News, Finance News, World, ...
Video archive
Podcast archive
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orlandosentinel.com
News about Orlando
Video archive
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philly.com
News about Philadelphia
Video archive
Comic and game archive
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seattlepi.nwsource.com
News about Seattle
Video archive
Comic and game archive
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seattletimes.nwsource.com
News about Seattle
Comic and game archive
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sfgate.com
News about San Francisco
Video archive
Game archive
Podcast archive
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signonsandiego.com
News about San Diego
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startribune.com
News from Minneapolis, St. Paul and around Minnesota
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stltoday.com
News about the US
Video archive
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suntimes.com
News about Chicago
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sun-sentinel.com
News about the South or Florida
Video archive
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thestate.com
News about South-Carolina
Comic and game archive
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theunionleader.com
News about New Hampshire
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timesunion.com
News about New York
Video archive
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usatoday.com
News about the US and the World
Video archive
Game archive
Podcast archive
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usnews.com
News about the US
Video archive
Podcast archive
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washingtonpost.com
News about Washington
Audio and video podcast archive
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washtimes.com
News about the US and the World
Video archive
Podcast archive
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A total of 33 free online newspapers with interesting material from which you’ll be able to practice your reading, listening and have fun with the comics, games and quizzes.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Verbbusters - English Irregular Verbs

Verbbusters

How are you getting on with the irregular verbs in English? "See, saw, seen | read, read, read" etc. They are difficult, aren’t they? Along with the phrasal verbs and the prepositions they make up the "enigmatic trio".

We present you today a Web page that can help deal with them. It’s "Verbbusters", an online resource with a simple operation that will allow you to work with more than 170 irregular verbs in English.

Once on the website you’ll soon be practising the verbs. How? Just follow the following four steps:
  1. Input your name (there is no need to register) or continue as a guest.
  2. Choose the language (English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese or Turkish) in which you want the verb to display (the verb will be shown in the infinitive).
  3. Select the level of difficulty (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Difficult, Advanced, and Special).
  4. Press the corresponding button to begin the exercise.
The exercise for practising the irregular verbs consists of a round where you are asked for 10 irregular verbs (at random) and you fill in the present, past and past participle form of the verb. For each correct answer – and depending on your speed to answer – you get points. After finishing the round of 10 verbs, you get the final score. There is a performance report at the end of each round as well.

We have to admit that the mix between activity, time and getting the highest number of points is pretty addictive and you usually “play” again, so you’ll be learning by heart the past and past participle forms of these irregular verbs.

Verbbusters also offers a complete reference list with 177 irregular verbs in English (to the moment), including its pronunciation, infinitive, past and past participle forms.

More questions?

Have a look at this explanatory video (in English) that gives you a guided tour through Verbbusters and shows you how to carry out the activity.



Visit Verbbusters.com

There is also a new version of Verbbusters.com, try it!
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Monday, September 15, 2008

How to learn English from scratch? - Livemocha

In the blog we've been talking about many free online resources to learn English. Now it’s time to take a step forward and create different guides with tips about how to use these Web pages and get the most of these free resources.

Please consider translating this post into your native language with this “Google translator”, just in case you don’t understand everything.


Where should we start?... What about the beginning? :) How to learn English from scratch? A difficult and seemingly impossible task. When you start to learn a language the key is to be patience, consistent and determined.
  • You have to be patient because learning a language takes a lot of time and effort. If you expect to be bilingual in a week then you will end up frustrated and probably quit.
  • Be consistent because consistency is the key to learning a language. If you vow to study for 20 minutes a day you know that you will improve over time. It might be slower than you would like but it will happen (remember…be patient).
  • Learning a language takes determination and effort. In our opinion most if not all language programs work, when the learner puts the effort into using them. Think about an aerobics video that someone buys to loose a couple pounds? It doesn't work well if the video collects dust on the shelf. Make the effort and you will see the results.

How do I know if this guide is for me? Is my English level elementary or null? Well, honestly answer the following questions:
  1. Translate the following English into your native language: hello, bye, dad, mom, brother, twenty-seven and yellow.
  2. How do you conjugate the verb “to be”?
  3. What are the days of the week in English?
  4. How would you ask someone’s age?
If your level of English is Basic, here you will find tips about how to use free online resources and start to acquire the basics of English.

You can begin with something fun and interactive by enroling in the “English 101” course from Livemocha.

Livemocha English Course

The course is free, has an estimated length of 50 hours and you’ll learn the basics of the English language:
  • The pronouns: I, you, he, she,
  • Negative: not
  • The occupations: police officer, student, doctor,
  • Plurals, “and” conjunction and words ending in “s”.
  • More lessons!
How does this course from Livemocha help you acquire the basics of English?
  • Starting with something fun, simple and easy is the best way to begin learning. Do not go out and buy a grammar book like so many people do. Start with fun interactive courses or websites and when you have a base of vocabulary and understanding start working on grammar.
  • As said above, the course correctly deals with the basics of English and it’s very important to start from this point.
  • The course is well-structured in units and that makes its execution easier.
  • Each unit has the same organization. It repeats the new ideas in different ways: Learn (an image is shown, along with the text and the pronunciation of the word), Reading (you read a word and choose the correct image), Listening (you hear a word and then choose the correct image), Magnet (you listen to a word or sentence in your own language and then you have to select the word(s) in the correct order to translate what you have heard into English, Writing (you are given a simple writing exercise to do), Speaking (short text in English that you can read aloud).
The course is made up of 16 lessons with an estimated length of 50 hours (personally we think that the real length is shorter). When you first start studying English you need to create your own study program. Meaning, you need to create time to study English every day. If you study for a minimum of 20 minutes everyday you will notice a substantial improvement in your English. A little every day is much more effective than 3 hours on the weekend.

Livemocha is a social network to learn languages where people help each other a lot. If you correct exercises (from people learning your native language) they’ll surely become your friends and then (if they are native English speakers or advanced users) they’ll correct your exercises too. In the future you could chat or exchange your Skype, msn … addresses to start talking a little bit. But that happens after a couple months!

Note 1: If you have any doubt about how to register in Livemocha, access the course, carry out the lessons or anything else, just leave a comment with your question and we’ll answer you asap (as soon as possible).

Note 2: In the coming weeks we’ll be explaining how to use other free websites to start learning English. So stay tuned!

This document has been written in collaboration with Diana Tower, an English teacher with 3 years teaching experience. She is also the author of the free Web page Helping you learn English.

Answers to the questions in the Basic English Test:

First question:
We don’t know which your own language is, sorry!

Second question:
I am, You are, He / She / it is, we are, you are, they are.

Third question:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Fourth question:
How old are you?
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Just For Laughs - Computer Help and Technical Support

Laugh

The following are all supposed to be true. Enjoy them!



Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?
Customer: A white one...
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Customer: Hi, this is Maureen. I can't get my diskette out.
Tech support: Have you tried pushing the button?
Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.
Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.
Customer: No , wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....
---------------------


Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?
---------------------

Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?
Customer: Hello.... I can't print.
Tech support: Would you click on 'start' for me and...
Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates.
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Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...
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Customer: I have problems printing in red...
Tech support: Do you have a colour printer?
Customer: Aaaah....................thank you.
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Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me.
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Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer: OK!
Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes
Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?
Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work.
---------------------

Tech support: Your password is the small letter 'a' as in apple, a capital letter 'V' as in Victor, and the number 7.
Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?
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Customer: I can't get on the Internet.
Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five stars.
---------------------

Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?
Customer: Netscape.
Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer: Oh, sorry... Internet Explorer.
---------------------

Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.
---------------------

Tech support: How may I help you?
Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.
Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?
---------------------

A customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
Tech support: Are you running it under Windows?
Customer: 'No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine.'
---------------------

And last but not least...

Tech support: 'Okay Colin, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter 'P' to bring up the Program Manager.'
Customer: I don't have a P.
Tech support: On your keyboard, Colin.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech support: 'P'.....on your keyboard, Colin.
Customer: I'M NOT GOING TO DO THAT!!
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Teachitworld - English Language Teaching Resources

Teachitworld

Are you an English teacher? Are you looking for interesting material for your classes? New ideas? Teachitworld.com is the Web page that will surely help you. It contains hundreds of innovative ideas and documents in English for your classes, which will surely capture the attention of your students.

We would point out that not all the material from this website is free. However, all the pdf documents (more than 1000) are free, along with the newsletters, the teaching ideas and diverse articles. Moreover, it’s not necessary to register on the Web page in order to access these free resources.

The design of Teachitworld is a simple one and the information is easily accessible, containing:
  • Resource library: hundreds of useful documents organized according to the level of the student (A1-Breakthrough, A2-Elementary, B1-Lower Intermediate, b2-Upper Intermediate, C1-Lower Advanced, C2-Upper Advanced) and the linguistic skill (Reading, Speaking, Listening, Writing, Pronunciation, Grammar and Vocabulary). There are also resources about exams with information about the IELTS, the FCE and the PET [see this post (Exam English) for more information], as well as material for young learners, teenagers, Business English and American English.
  • Audio: activities on different topics for your students to practise their listening skills. The text documents to prepare the classes are free. However, to access the sound files (.mp3) it is necessary to pay a subscription.
  • Topical lessons: a variety of modules based on different subjects, which will help you to produce lesson plans.
  • Whizzy things: numerous tasks to carry on with the students.
  • Teaching ideas: new ideas and inspiration to augment your teaching resources.
  • Newsletters: sign up for free newsletters and updates sent direct to your email box.
  • Image bank: many useful images for the student of English.
  • Become a contributor: become part of the community sharing ideas, resources and knowledge and you can earn money as a result.
As you can see, there is a lot of very interesting material for English teachers. Furthermore, if you are preparing for any of the English exams: IELTS, FCE or PET, have a look at the exam resources as there is some useful information to assist you in this regard.

Visit Teachitworld.com
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lecturefox.com - Free Online Lectures

Lecturefox.com

Free lectures in English from the top universities all over the world, it sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what “Lecturefox” offers. It consists of a web page with links to more than 500 free lectures from prestigious universities such as: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Clatech, MIT, UC Berkeley, Edinburgh, Boise State, Princeton, Rice and a large etcetera.

These lectures in English are in a variety of formats (video, audio and text) and are organized mainly in 5 categories:
  • Physics: with lectures as attractive as, "Fundamentals of Physics", "Introduction to General Astronomy", "Exploring Black Holes", "The Atom Chip", "Einstein's General Relativity", "The Sounds of Music", and hundreds more.
  • Chemistry: it contains 12 very interesting lectures (to present); "Principles of Chemical Science", "Teaching the Second Law", "Thermodynamics and Kinetics", and so on.
  • Computer Science: more than two hundred lectures about the very latest topics such as, "Understanding Computers and the Internet", "Practical Aspects of Modern Cryptography", "Software Breakthroughs (Bill Gates)", "The Semantic Web (Tim Berners-Lee)", and more. Moreover, for those interested in learning about programming and coding, there are lectures about: "Introduction to Algorithms", "Programming Languages", "Data Structures and Advanced Programming", "Introduction to Computer Science (Java)", "Introduction to Symbolic Programming", "HTML, CSS, Javascript (Screencasts)" and much more.
  • Mathematics: hundreds of lectures about many fields in maths, "Linear Algebra", "Introduction to Statistics", "Differential Equations", "Solving Cubic Equations", " Mathematical Methods for Engineers I", "Calculus I", "Fourier Analysis", etc.
  • Faculty Mix: many lectures from a mix of faculties, Psychology ("Positive Psychology", "Introduction to Psychology" ...), Religion ("Introduction to the Old Testament", "Death” ...), Sports ("Tennis", "Scuba Diving" ...) and much more besides that you’ll surely find interesting.
Remember that every lecture is in English, so you’ll learn while improving your level of English.

Long live free education! visit Lecturefox.com
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Multimedia Classroom to Learn English

Multimedia English Class

Don’t know how to improve your English? Don’t worry … we present you an online resource that has very interesting material to practise almost every linguistic skill. Multimedia English Classroom is the web site that gives us that opportunity.

Multimedia English Classroom is made up of various sections, among which stand out:
  • Videos: about different categories, with transcriptions and explanations of the most interesting vocabulary that appears in the video.
  • Music: video clips in English from your favourite artists, with complete transcriptions for the songs, general idea about the meaning of the song and explanations about the variety of language used in the song, along with the most important vocabulary.
  • Listening: multimedia exercises to practice and improve your reading comprehension.
  • Lessons: video-lessons about different topics: grammar, vocabulary; with explanations of the prominent points of the video in English.
  • Slideshows: Power Point with beautiful pictures and texts to practice your reading.
  • Jokes: in English playing with the language, and associated explanations just in case you don’t understand the British humour.
  • Activities: different multimedia activities targeted at all English levels.
  • Phonetics: material to study phonetics with sounds – very useful to get your ear use to the sound of English. (Contains mostly British English.)
As you can see, there are very valuable resources to be had here. The only bad point about this web page is its interface because it is not very user-friendly and intuitive. However, don’t let the appearance put you off; just take advantage of this complete online resource.

Learn English online in a funny way – visit Multimedia English Classroom
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