The Business of English from Australia Network is a 15-part series for intermediate to advanced English language learners which looks at the language used in everyday business situations such as meetings, presentations and negotiations. You can watch the episodes online or download them as a video podcast. Full transcripts are available for each episode.
COMMENT Each ten-minute episode features a short business sketch which is then dissected by the presenter. A fantastic resource for learners and teachers alike. Check out the Australia Network site for more English video series, including Study English, an IELTS preparation course.
French language software firm Edulang is now offering its four of its web-based applications on a 'pay what you want' basis, with fifty per cent of the proceeds going to charity. There is a minimum one-dollar/euro transaction charge (payable by PayPal or credit card), but this still looks like a fantastic deal. One of the applications is TOEIC Simulator, which we already have installed on our school computer system. Unfortunately, students can't use the software outside the school, so this offer should be of interest to them. You can find out more about the offer here and subscribe here.
COMMENT The 'Pay What You Want' pricing model seems to be catching on. Radiohead famously offered their 'In Rainbows' album on a PWYW basis. You might wonder why a company like Edulang would allow people to pay virtually nothing for a product that previously cost upward of 50 euros. This is what Wikipedia has to say:
Giving buyers the freedom to pay what you want may seem to not make much sense for a seller, but in some situations it can be very successful. This is because it eliminates many disadvantages of conventional pricing. It is obviously attractive to buyers to be able to pay whatever they want, for reasons that include eliminating fear of whether a product is worthwhile at a given set price and the related risk of disappointment or “buyer's remorse.” For sellers it obviates the challenging and sometimes costly task of setting the “right” price (which may vary for different market segments). For both, it changes an adversarial conflict into a friendly exchange, and addresses the fact that value perceptions and price sensitivities can vary widely among buyers.
Of course, a successful operation from the seller's point of view depends on a percentage of the buyers paying more than the minimum price. It would be interesting to know how much, on average, cash-strapped students are prepared to pay.
The Kigo TOEIC® Reading and Listening Practice Test iPhone app has a complete TOEIC Listening and Reading test, as well as hints and tips on how to improve your TOEIC score. There are two modes: • Practice Test mode trains you to complete the TOEIC Listening and Reading test within the real time limit – improve your reading speed and learn how to answer questions quickly for TOEIC success. • Review and Help mode gives expert guidance on every question, teaching you how to tackle TOEIC questions.
COMMENT As far as I know, this is the only app which offers a full TOEIC test. But what I really like about this well-designed app is that you get far more than just the practice test—the Tips and FAQs and Review and Help sections are excellent. For just £1.99 you can't go wrong.
Here's a slide presentation I put together to practice TOEIC vocabulary with my students. I put them into teams of three and asked each team in turn to pick a number between 1 and 30 (see Slide 2). They then had to come up with a sentence describing the picture. I gave from 0 to 3 points for each sentence taking into account relevance, range of vocabulary, accuracy and pronunciation. The team with the most points after 3 or 4 rounds was the winner. I'm sure you could use the pictures in many other ways, however.
FOOTNOTE The number links on the second slide don't seem to work on this version of the presentation. You can download the original PowerPoint here. (Click on the pictures to return to the slide with the numbers.)
COMMENT Although math(s) isn't my cup of tea, I do have students preparing for the GMAT, so I was interested to see that Khan Academy has over 100 videos on GMAT problem solving and data sufficiency problems.
A new English exam that includes a section on the grammar of mobile-phone texting has been slammed as the ultimate dumbing down of the subject.
Next year pupils will be tested on text messaging as part of their English GCSEs.
They will have to write an essay on the etiquette and grammar of texting, using their own messages as examples – earning up to ten per cent of their overall English GCSE mark.
The subject is being introduced by the Assessment Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the country's largest exam board. [ ...]
He said: 'Surely, with all the great literature that could be studied, it is a tragedy that pupils are being asked to do this as part of an English qualification.
Full story >>
COMMENTS Sounds like a good idea to me. Why not test students on things that are actually relevant to their everyday lives? The CRE needs to get with the times—their website looks as if it hasn't changed since it was formed in 1987.
This press release should interest anyone involved in preparing students for IELTS or the TOEFL.
Pearson PTE English Test (PTE Academic), a new English language test owned by Pearson and developed in collaboration with the Graduate Management Admission Council, will debut on October 26, 2009. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which owns and administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), began working with Pearson in 2006 to conceive and develop a test that would more accurately measure the English language skills of students than existing exams. The computer-based test includes speaking and voice recording capabilities; score reports sent to schools will include a 30 second audio clip of the test taker's speech. Full text >>
COMMENT Do we really need yet another test of English? I thought the IBT was supposed to test academic speaking skills. And I wonder how much this new test is going to cost. A 3-hour exam with voice recording isn't going to be cheap. The French have a good expression: "c'est une usine à gaz" (literally "a gasworks", but meaning an unneccessarily complicated creation that functions poorly).
The French may mockingly call English-speakers "roast beefs" or "yanks," but the latest results of an international language test show that the Brits, Americans, Australians and Co. may have a little more leverage to hurl their insults back at the "frogs."
In an article entitled "French Students Still Get a Zero for English", French daily Le Monde reports that an annual Europe-wide language test revealed just how bad French youngsters are at picking up what the journal describes as "the language of Shakespeare."
In total, 109 countries sat down for the English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test, compulsory for foreign students wishing to study in an English-speaking country. France came in 69th in the ranking while Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium headed up the leaders' board.
The paper tried to recover some pride, stressing, "this does not, however, represent the entire student population. It only provides information for the 200,000 students wishing to study in an Anglo-Saxon country." Full story >>
COMMENTS 1. Spiegel Online wrongly describes the TOEFL as a "Europe-wide language test"—it is, of course, world-wide. 2. The question (posed by Le Monde) is: "Why are the French so bad at English?". Is there something in the Gallic DNA (it wonders) that explains their inability to master "the language of Shakespeare"? Or is it something to do with the school system? Answers on a postcard, please.
VocabSushi is an online vocabulary learning program. Some highlights:
Answer tons of sentence completion questions that use real sentences from real news articles
Download MP3s of the words or subscribe to a personalized podcast and load them on your mp3 player
Chart your progress and find out which words you need to focus on and which ones you're learning
Read interesting articles using the VocabSushi Article Reader, which highlights your vocab words in context
For more information, watch this video:
Very impressive! Unlike many vocabulary programs, VocabSushi provides authentic contextual examples. Particularly useful for students preparing for standarized tests such as the GMAT, TOEFL or TOEIC. And it's free.
TEFLtastic has a thought-provoking guest piece on the TOEIC by Carmela Chateau of the University of Burgundy.
In France, we have moved into a parallel universe, or sixth dimension, where the ability to communicate in a language has been replaced by a certificate which attests only the ability to select correct answers to multiple choice questions. The reason could be that in France interviewers do not feel confident of their ability to speak English (perhaps because they too have a TOEIC score rather than the ability to “interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible” Level B2 Spoken Interaction CEFR). Full article >>
COMMENTS I've mentioned before that all our students at the Ecole de Management de Normandie now have to get 750 on the TOEIC in order to graduate. I can think of 3 reasons why this condition was introduced. Firstly, other French business schools have already imposed a similar requirement (800 or 850 in some cases!) Secondly, like it or not, an increasing number of French recruiters are using the TOEIC as a means of filtering graduate job applicants. If you haven't got 750, forget it. And thirdly, setting a minimum TOEIC score is a means of forcing students with weak English, and whose English would otherwise remain weak, to improve either by intensive study or by spending a semester or year abroad. Of course, you can argue that the TOEIC does not test communicative skills, but if a student who would have previously graduated with a TOEIC score of, say, 550 now has 750, there must have been some improvement. Having said that, there could also be negative effects such as teachers teaching to the TOEIC or students only wanting to do TOEIC preparation. Rendez-vous dans un an, as they would say in France.
JoongAng Daily reports that police in Seoul, South Korea, have detained two suspects on charges of raking in some 50 million won ($38,750) from 28 university students and job seekers in exchange for using electronic devices to send test takers answers to questions on the Test of English for International Communication, or Toeic. Full story >>
All of our new students now have to get 750 on the TOEIC before they can graduate. I hope this story doesn't give them ideas!
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the world's most widely accepted academic English test, used by more than 6,000 universities in 130 countries.
TOEFL TV has tips from real teachers and real students to help improve learners' English skills. You can hear what leading colleges and universities think about the value of students who can communicate well in English in an academic setting. And you can be a part of the conversation by making your own video.
Mathias Müller wrote to tell me about an English learning project he's involved in called Wijng. The site consists of four areas: Read, Listen, Learn and Enjoy, and is available in English or German. In Read you will find recent articles at three levels of difficulty. Grammar notes are provided for selected words and phrases and key vocabulary is defined. Each text is followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. Listening has a selection of YouTube videos with transcripts and vocabulary along with gap-fill/multiple-choice exercises. Learn has grammar notes and accompanying exercises.
WHAT I THINK
Wijng is still in beta, so some of the features are not operational yet. The activities seem interesting, if not particularly original. A couple of negative points: some of the English is not very English ('Do you like to start a further exercise?'), and there are a few spelling mistakes ('perfekt', 'to practice'). And why have hints in German? Non-German speakers will find this offputting. Still, these are minor criticisms, and as more resources are added, Wijng should become a useful addition to the
ever-expanding list of ELL websites.
I asked Mathias how to pronounce 'Wijng' and this is what he replied:
Wijng has no real origin, we like the short and very unique spelling. In the logo you might imagine the "i" and "j" like two people looking at each other, we thought about making this a more prominent feature in future. A lot ask us, how to pronounce the word, we like to pronounce it like "wing" but with more emphasis on the "i".
Comments I watched the recording of the Session #1. Besides giving a useful overview of the TOEIC, Simon had some great tips on building vocabulary. If you follow the class live, you can chat with Simon in real time. I'll be recommending these classes to my students, who have to get 750 on the TOEIC as a condition of graduation.