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Monday, October 27, 2008

Freerice.com - Help Reducing World Hunger while You Improve Your English

FreeRice.com

For each answer you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.

Beautiful message, isn't it? This is what Free Rice offers: a Web page where you can practice your English (by learning new vocabulary and improving your grammar) while you do a good thing helping many people who don't have anything to eat.

There are different topics to choose from and increase your ability with English and other subjects:
  • Art: questions about famous paintings.
  • Chemistry: various lists with chemical symbols.
  • English: practice your grammar and vocabulary.
  • Geography: identify countries on the map and World capitals.
  • Language Learning: French, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • Maths: practice multiplication tables.
Every question is in English so whatever subject you choose you'll be practising your English. Moreover, in the "Language Learning" subject, you might be able to choose your native language (French, German, Italian or Spanish) and then be asked to translate a word from your mother tongue to English, thus improving your translation skills.

To be honest, the games are pretty addictive and this particular blog has already donated 1180 grains of rice. It's not much, but it's better than nothing! :) How many have you donated?

Take advantage of this website and practice your English online, and remember that for every correct answer, 20 grains of rice, which will help to reduce the hunger of many, will be donated.

Visit freerice.com

You can see a video (in English) where it's shown how they help and feed many people using the rice obtained in FreeRice.com.

FreeRice.com was discovered thanks to a comment of Satya Rao, author of the blog Best Tech News.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WordChamp - Learn English Vocabulary with Flashcards

WordChamp

WordChamp is a language-learning network that offers very valuable and free resources to practice English.

The first thing that attracts one’s attention is the Flashcards, which include different activities to brush up your vocabulary through several exercises of: pronunciation, reading, dictation, grammar and other linguistic skills.

Flashcard

It’s also possible to look for flashcards among the huge collection available, as well as creating your own with lists of vocabulary.

Another interesting resource offered by WordChamp is Absolute Recall. With this resource you can keep track of every new word that you learn. The way it works is that you listen to a word in English and then you write it in your own language. The system saves your correct and incorrect answers, stressing the words that you got wrong.

Last but not least (indeed, it’s my favourite tool from WordChamp) you have the Web Reader that allows you to translate selected Web pages and texts.

The outcome of using Web Reader in a Web page in English is not that you should see the whole website translated to your native language, but that you can point to any word whose meaning you don’t know. The word is then highlighted in yellow and the translation to your own native language is given, as well as the option of listening to the pronunciation (in English and your native language). In the image below you can see an example of this from the New York Times Web page:

Web Reader

Visit WordChamp

Note 1: If you’d like to try the Web Reader but don’t know where to look for interesting content to read in English, you can look at our online resources to practice reading skills; you certainly won’t be bored! ;)

Note 2: WordChamp offers other interesting resources as a means to learn English. There is a section named Course Management, which is focused on English teachers and this allows them to create online classes for their students. These resources are not free of charge and for this reason they haven’t been mentioned before. However, we bring them to your attention now because someone may find them useful.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to learn English from scratch? - Music

Learn English with Music

A     proven way to start learning English is the use of English Music (though it can be used in more advanced levels as well).

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


How to use English Music?

Well, by listening to your favourite songs and reading the lyrics of those songs. Song lyrics are really useful for learning new words and expressions. Moreover, you’ll listen to how words are pronounced so your ear will get used to English phonetics. Also, if you sing the songs aloud you’ll be practicing your pronunciation as well.

When using Music to learn English put into practice the following tips:
  • First, choose songs or bands that sing clearly. A great band is “Cake”. When the lead singer sings, it is almost like he is speaking. His words are clear and they are easy to sing along to. Check them out and look for “Cake music” in YouTube.
  • Second, in the beginning it is best to listen to songs, while reading along with the lyrics. Once you know the words you can sing along without the lyrics. This way you will understand what you are singing before you start singing. (We don’t want you to be singing something offensive without realizing it).
  • Third, you can use specific songs to learn specific grammar. For example you can learn the second conditional with a song by the Bare Naked Ladies, “If I had a Million Dollars”. To listen to the song, read the lyrics and practice the second conditional visit the following link in Diana’s website.

Where can I get the Music, the videos and the lyrics?

We have compiled a series of free online resources to search for songs, lyrics and even videos with subtitles.


Web pages to look for songs:

nuTsie.com

This resource offers many free songs to listen to online with pretty good sound quality. There are lists of favourite songs, a song searcher and the possibility of creating your own playlists. If you select an individual song, it will likely (though not always) link to a video in YouTube with the video clip and the lyrics of the song.

Deezer.com

More free online music with good sound quality. It offers different lists with the favourite songs grouped by country (France, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany …) or style of Music (General, Electro, Rock and Ambient). This website also has three online radios to choose from (Soul, Disco and French variety).


Web pages to look for the lyrics:

Lyrics.com

One of the best websites to find music lyrics! It has a list with the current “top” songs. It also allows you to search by the name of the artist or the title of the song. Furthermore, when you click on a song you can see the lyrics and also a video in YouTube.

AZLyrics.com

Here is another Web page to look for lyrics.

Yahoo Music

This is a music service offered by Yahoo. You can search for the lyrics and watch the video clips of your favourite artists. By the way, the videos are pretty good quality. They also have a service for Videos and music lyrics.

AOL Music

Here you will find a music service offered by AOL. You can search the lyrics by the artist's name or by song title. Some of the songs can be played and listened to while reading the lyrics as well.


Comment 1: If you don’t find a specific set of lyrics from the above websites you can look for it in google (or in your favourite web browser): “title of the song lyrics” or “title of the song artist lyrics”. For example: “disturbia lyrics” or “disturbia rihanna lyrics”.

Comment 2: If you are interested in watching a song's video clip, you can search for its title in YouTube and if you don’t find it, you can try the following in your favourite web browser: “title of the song video”. For example: “disturbia video” or “disturbia video clip”.


Web pages to look for Music videos with subtitled lyrics:

Yolango

An online resource that offers videos in English with subtitles appearing at the bottom of the video. You can find subtitled musical videos in the Music category.

Yappr

A website with many videos organized into different categories. You can see English subtitles for every video and you might see the translation into your native language as well. Yappr has a Music category containing more than 300 videos.

Subingles

This Web page has a collection of subtitled songs to learn English in a fun way. It currently has 1313 songs so that you can listen to your favourite artists.

Multimedia English Classroom

This Web page has a section dedicated to Music with videos in English, complete transcripts of the songs, general idea and meaning of the song and explanations about a variety of language used in the song, along with the most important vocabulary.


Note: If you are looking for more learning guides to learn English from scratch, you can have a look to the guides that we have created in the blog and that will allow you to begin to study English from a null or a very basic level.

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.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Learn English with an Online Teacher - mrthoth

mrthoth

Do you remember Mr Duncan? He is an English teacher born in Stafford (United Kingdom) who generously uploads videos to YouTube so you can learn English online.

The thing is that Mr Duncan has a “competitor” (three cheers for competition!) known as mrthoth, a man from the US who also uploads videos to YouTube. The videos can really help you to learn and improve your English.

Mrthoth’s English videos are divided into two categories:
Every video has an average length of between four and ten minutes. They are highly recommended for furthering your understanding of English grammar and to get your ear used to the American English accent (bear in mind that mrthoth is from the US).

You can see an example of a video where he explains what a verb is, and conversely, what verbs aren't.



Visit his channel in YouTube

P.S.: It seems that mrthoth hasn’t uploaded any new videos for about seven months, which is a pity because the existing material is very valuable.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Urban Dictionary - Slang English Dictionary

Urban Dictionary

There are several online dictionaries on the Internet where you can look up those words that you read or listen to and whose meaning you don’t know. We have already talked in the blog about some of them, such as WordReference or The Free Dictionary.

These dictionaries are very comprehensive, but they don't include slang. Fortunately, there is an online dictionary: “Urban Dictionary” that has a huge database with millions of definitions of slang words used by native English speakers.

Urban Dictionary is an online resource created by its users and its database is fed by the constant flow of definitions sent in by people. These definitions are proofread by the editors before they are published on the website.

When a new definition is added it is necessary to provide: the word, its definition, an example of use, some tags related to the word, a name (of the author), a location and an e-mail. It makes sense that for every word you need to provide a definition, but the idea of giving an example of use is really useful in order to see that word in context so you can get a better picture of the situations when the word is used.

Do you know the meaning of "lego hair"? Neither did I five minutes ago! ;)

Visit Urban Dictionary

Important: As it is an English slang dictionary, it contains every sort of word and not all of them are what you might call “nice”.

Note: If you are interested in more online dictionaries not about slang, simply look up definitions or translations from English to your native language or vice versa. You can check out the free online dictionaries' collection already existing in the blog.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cambridge English Online - Practise English Phonetics

Cambridge English Online

Is it hard for you to pronounce English words? Never mind, it’s very common. The pronunciation is a protracted subject in the process of learning the language. It’s difficult because the English language has 26 letters in the written alphabet, but 44 symbols in the phonetic alphabet.

However, there are free resources on the Internet for you to practise and improve your phonetic skills. We present you today the one offered by Cambridge English Online. On this website you’ll find tests, games, materials for teachers and even an application to download and record your voice.

So, what's available to you in this resource of Cambridge English Online?

The very first thing we suggest is that you do a test to examine the 44 phonemes of the English language. You have to listen to a phoneme and then choose its proper representation. After finishing the test and seeing what your level is, you can begin practising the phonemes and later on you can do the test again and see if you have improved.

The amount of activities and games that you can use to increase your phonetic knowledge is pretty big; some of the flavours that you’ll find are:
  • Phonemic Chart Puzzle: it’s a funny game where you have to put into order the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle while you see the phoneme, its sound and a word that contains it.
  • Which Phoneme?: a game where you have to listen to a word and then you have to choose among three different possibilities which is the proper phoneme that it’s been used.
  • Phonetic Pelmanism: a classic game where you have to match the phonetic spelling with the real spelling.
  • Phonemic Hangman: the game of Hangman where you have to read the phonemic spellings and try to spell the word before the stickman gets hanged.
  • Shoot-a-Symbol: a game where you have to look at a word and then try to shoot the phonemes in the right order.
  • Odd Phon’Out: in this game you are shown four words and you have to choose which word has a different sound to the other three.
This Web page also offers material for teachers:
  • A phonemic reader that will help your students to improve their phonemic spelling.
  • A poster (in pdf format) with the 44 English phonemes.
  • Different flashcards with more useful material.
It is also possible to download an executable application that you can use to record your voice, listen to the saved file and in this way polish up your pronunciation.

Visit Cambridge English Online – Phonetics Focus

If you are looking for more websites to improve your phonetics you can look them up in the available online resources in this regard.
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