I have students that come to me for 1 to 1 lessons once a week either because their parents bring them to the lesson or they are middle-aged business people and their firm is paying for the lesson. Sometimes after a certain time the lessons may stop because the student voices a concern over “not making any progress.” If this happens, then the reason is often a very simple one. The student has done no homework, shows little or no interest in English outside of the classroom and gives no effort to self-study.
One of the things that I always try to convey to my students is that if you want to have results in English really fast it is essential that you make learning English part of your own responsibility in terms of practice and self-study. A language is learned most quickly when there is a kind of, what we call, intrinsic motivation.
When I was studying Italian in university, I was very passionately driven to learn as quickly as possible. We had no mainstream Internet in those days (yes, I am that old) but I would consume Italian books, music, movies and even go to my hometown’s Little Italy to practice speaking and playing Scopa (Italian cards) in the café.
The point is that it is exponentially more effective when you passionately chase this goal in your own time after lessons. No teacher has a microchip that they can just plant in your brain. Meeting 1 hour per week will make you fluent in English only after decades…perhaps.
Here are 5 AMAZING websites that will help you immensely in your English learning journey as both learning tools but also in terms of reference and research.
This is a great pronunciation reference. Very user-friendly, all you have to do is put a word into the search engine and it will present you with the word being pronounced by people from around the globe. You may need to scroll down a bit but each word you search has the pronunciations pinned to a map of the world so you can even choose the country to hear how the word is pronounced there if there is a speaker that has been catalogued to that place. The more uncommon the word – for example: loquacious, the fewer speakers/places you will be able to find on the map. A word as important and common as ‘comfortable’ can have up to 32 pronunciation examples.
As a young language learner I could have only dreamed that such an amazing site would one day exist! Imagine being able to put any word or even a short expression into a search engine and having it scour the Internet to find you published videos of that word or expression being used in a live presentation, discussion or televised interview! It is no longer just a dream. Youglish.com will search the Internet and not only find you the clips but also (for example in a 25-minute video) isolate the precise moment your searched word has been used. Not ONLY that but it also provides its own captioning as well as the possibility to narrow your search by specific accents – US, UK or Australian.
For the IELTS student this web page is simply indispensable! I cannot believe the sheer amount of content that she gives away for free. It is unbelievable. While truly exhibiting a true expertise in everything that is IELTS exam related she uses a variety of different means to share her advice as well, in order to appeal to different learning preferences. She has informative video advice for every part of the exam, she has practice tests, she has written advice, there are forums and listening extracts and there is no need to subscribe or pay any kind of fee whatsoever! Thank you Liz.
2. Corpus Dictionaries – like BNC and COCA
A corpus dictionary is a very practical tool which brings together large quantities of examples of a word in use. The BNC is the British National Corpus whereas the COCA is the Corpus Of Contemporary American English. It looks very much like a list of computer formulated ‘data’ but offers you a chance to see a word with usually the preceding 10 words and the 10 words that follow. That is usually enough to provide a brief context and example of how the word is used.
I remember being asked the difference between the words ‘further’ and ‘farther.’ Searching for these words quickly demonstrates how these words differ in actual popular usage. While in a few contexts they can be used interchangeably, the corpus dictionary reveals the fact that ‘further’ is most often used to mean ‘more’ as in:
If you should require any further assistance please call…
The word ‘farther’ cannot be used in the same way.
This has pretty much anything you need either as a teacher or student, young learner, teen or adult. It is the one stop shop for all things English. It is very easy to navigate. I highly recommend the learnenglishkids and teens sites as well. They have great games for vocabulary such as the highly addictive Wordshake but it has seemingly endless supplies of grammar explanations and exercises as well. This is an essential website for any student.
So there are 5 websites that can make your English language-learning journey a bit more fun and intriguing and I hope it will encourage you to become more engaged in your own English development and self-study.