Saturday, 23 February 2013

Elementary Podcasts

The British Council has lots of great resources to help you study English. In this post, I want to tell you about Elementary Podcasts, a series of podcasts that you can listen to on your computer or download to your MP3 player or phone.

Elementary Podcasts are short radio shows for learners of English. There are two regular presenters called Tess and Ravi, and each show has regular topics. As a general guide the different parts of the radio show are 1) chat between the presenters 2) someone talking about somebody or something they like 3) a quiz to help you learn the meaning of new words 4) a feature called 'Your Turn" where people give their opinions on something 5) Carolina - a feature following the story of a young woman who has come to live and study in the UK 6) a joke 7) Tom the teacher

So far, there are three series of Elementary Podcasts. Series 1 and Series 2 podcasts have 10 episodes and are 20-30 minutes long. Series 3 podcasts are only 10 minutes long but there are 20 episodes. Series 3 also has a slightly different format to the other series.

You can listen to the Elementary Podcasts at the British Council LearnEnglish website:

Or, even better, download the free LearnEnglish Elementary app to your mobile device. Go to the iTunes store if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, and go to the Google Play store for the Android app. Once the app is on your mobile device, you can download all the podcasts and listen anytime you want.

The Elementary Podcasts are not particularly difficult for learners to listen to, although the speaking can be quite fast at times. However, if you find the podcasts a bit difficult, there are a few things you can do. If you have the app on your mobile device, you can read and follow the transcript of the radio show, although it is probably better to listen first and read later. You can also break down the listening experience and listen to the podcast bit by bit, or listen again to something you don't understand the first time. Also, for each podcast, there are some Exercises for you to do to check your comprehension. Once you have completed the Exercise, you can check your answers and get immediate feedback.

The British Council has lots of other English learning resources, but the Elementary Podcasts are a good place to start.

Monday, 18 February 2013

English Central

English Central is one of the best resources available for students on the Internet. It is a website that has created a special online learning environment with lots of videos and study features for learners. For example, as well as a wide choice of videos to watch, learners can see the transcript, do vocabulary exercises and even interact with the website through a voice recognition feature.

In many ways English Central is a bit like a special Youtube channel for learners of English. Click on the link to see a video introducing English Central:

The idea of English Central is that you immerse yourself in English content by watching short videos of speeches, film trailers, TV programmes, interviews, documentaries and so forth. The aim is that, by immersing yourself in videos while studying the associated vocabulary, you will improve and empower your knowledge of English by increasing the size of your vocabulary. At English Central, learning English means learning new vocabulary.

Because English Central has hundreds of free videos for you to watch, you can choose videos that interest you. You can watch and listen to a video as many times as you want and learn by studying the vocabulary. You can also speak English and practice your pronunciation with English Central's speech recognition technology.

To get an idea of the video watching experience that English Central can give you, click on the link to see a video about a Chinese-British woman's view on Britain and food:

You do not need to register to use English Central but registering does give you access to a few more feature, so it is probably a good idea. For example, once you have registered, you can select the videos you watch according to the English level you choose, such as TOEIC 500.

To go to the English Central website, click on the link:

Finally, a few more things you need to know about English Central. Some of the videos and some of the features are not available unless you pay a fee. For example, you can only speak 2 videos a month if you use the site for free and several video courses are not open unless you pay a monthly or annual fee. However, many videos are free to use and this should not stop from using English Central. My suggestion is that you try and watch at least three videos a week.

I have tried English Central with some of my English speaking and listening classes and they seemed to really like it. Let me know how you get on!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Listening at elllo

The ello website is one of my favourite resources for students. At elllo you can listen to native speakers of English speaking about a wide variety of topics, including travel, sports, family and the environment. It is a great place to listen to naturally spoken English.

Click here to go to elllo:

These are real conversations and speakers often use idiomatic language, so the website is most useful to intermediate and advanced level students.

When you go to the website, have a look at the topics listed, find one that interests you and click on it. You can listen while reading the audio script or while watching an audio slideshow. I suggest that you listen without looking at the audio script for a few times first and just focus on the main ideas in the conversation. You can look at the audio script later and also check any difficult vocabulary. Also,
after listening, you can check your understanding by taking a vocabulary and comprehension quiz.

If you want to try one listening at elllo to find out if you like it, click on the link below. A Vietnamese woman is asking an American man about his recent trip to Vietnam.

Listening is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your English.