Sunday, 9 June 2013

BBC Learning English Website

The BBC Learning English website is one of the best resources on the web for students. In fact, there are so many good things there that it can be a bit overwhelming when you first take a look. In this post, therefore, I'll just tell you about two great resources to help you with your listening skills.

The first is a soap opera (weekly drama with the same characters) called Flatmates. Each episode is quite short at just over a minute and you can watch a simple animation of the drama on the BBC learning English website. The animation includes character speech bubbles so you can read what the characters are saying as you listen. Flatmates also has other features including a quiz, downloadable audio file and an archive of old episodes. Overall, it's short, fun and great listening practice.

The second resource is 6 Minute English. In this radio programme for learners, two people discuss a recent story from the news and use it to learn some new vocabulary. You can download the programme as an audio file, listen to it on the BBC Learning English website or subscribe to the 6 Minute English Podcast. Personally, I think that subscribing to the podcast is best because this way you'll always have some English to listen to on your MP3 player or phone. This is very convenient if you have a long commute to university in the morning!

Friday, 7 June 2013

English Dictionary App

I really think it would be great idea to put an English dictionary app on your phone. These days, almost all my students have a smartphone (usually an iPhone) but hardly any of them have an English dictionary app on it.

While many students bring a bilingual Japanese-English dictionary electronic dictionary to class, many students have no dictionary at all. However, I think that using an English dictionary regularly can be one of the best things you can do to improve your English. Indeed, I try to get students in my class to use their dictionaries for at least a few minutes every class. Only by looking up a word they don't know and seeing it in an example sentence can they increase the size of their English vocabulary.

My recommendation is the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary app. You can buy it from the iTunes store or Google Play depending on whether you want it for an Apple or Android phone. This dictionary is designed for learner's of English and has easy to understand definitions of thousands of English words (about 170,000). Importantly, it also has example sentences showing how a word is really used in a sentence. I have this app on my iPad and it is very easy to use.

I know that one reason students don't buy an English dictionary app for their phone is that these apps are quite expensive (this app costs 1,400 yen at the iTunes store). However, I'm sure that if you explain to your parents what the app is for, they will help you with the cost of buying it.

Just think how useful this will be. You take your phone everywhere with you. If you have the Cambridge Advanced Learner's dictionary app on your phone, then you will always have access to thousands of English words, definitions and example sentences. There will be no need to carry an electronic or paper dictionary to your reading or writing class anymore. Moreover, you will find that you begin to learn more and more English words. You will also become a more independent learner of English.