EnglishCentral is a Japan-based company backed by Google Ventures which "aims to become the premier, web-based conversational English language learning destination for desktop and mobile users." There's a lot of competition out there, so what exactly does EnglishCentral have to offer, and more importantly, is it any good?
The basic concept is that you improve your spoken English by watching videos (of which there are currently 196 in categories such as Business, Daily Life, Environment, etc.) and recording your version of each phrase you hear. The platform's speech recognition technology evaluates your performance and gives you a score.
There are three levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium and Hard. You'll have to register before you can watch anything, but that only takes a minute or so.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I've always been a bit dubious about the usefulness (and accuracy) of speech recognition technology and when I kept getting a C grade for my efforts at repeating a simple phrase (I am a native speaker, after all!), I was unimpressed. However, I was soon getting Bs and As, and have to admit that the system works very well—it's certainly a lot better than some of the CD-Roms I've tried. There are also some interesting community features, such as a scoreboard, comments and video request feature.
At the moment EnglishCentral is free, but you have to wonder whether a subscription version is in the pipeline. Be that as it may, this is one site I'll definitely be recommending to my students as I can't think of any other internet-based tools which give such intensive pronunciation practice.