OVERVIEW Deep English is a website for learners of English created by American teachers Dan Douglass and Aaron Campbell. Their mission is "to get you passionate about using English to communicate and understand real, meaningful ideas." Watch this video to find out more about the Deep English method.
REVIEW The co-founders make a point of saying that their lessons are "for people who are open-minded and ready to make the jump to English fluency", adding that "this isn’t for beginners." The Fluency Course costs $99, but there are a number of free lessons available, each delivered at three different speeds, with transcripts and downloadable audio. There are also some extra resources for teachers and for students. I signed up for the free 7-day email course just to try it out and was impressed not only by the quality of the lessons but also by the advice on how to improve your listening, speaking, and pronuncation skills.
VERDICT If you're a learner at upper-intermediate level or above (B2-C1) and want to take your English to the next level, I would definitely recommend having a look at Deep English. At the very least, you should check out the free lessons (also available on YouTube) and sign up for the free email course, which may well introduce you to you some learning techniques you hadn't thought of.
Business English Pod’s MP3 lessons feature example training dialogs with clear explanations of the target language, vocabulary, idioms and useful phrases, followed by a short practice and review session. The audio lessons can be downloaded directly from the website or transferred to your iPod or MP3 player using free software such as Apple’s iTunes program.
You can join Business English Pod’s premium member community to access detailed study notes, including a full transcript, example phrases, vocabulary and language review exercises. Online quizzes, language exercises and vocabulary flashcards for each podcast lesson are also available to premium members.
COMMENTS I'm a big believer in podcasts as a means of improving your English, and if you are a business English student or a business professional who needs English for their job, you should definitely check out Business English Pod. They have literally hundreds of lessons covering all sorts of business and professional topics. A one-year premium membership is currently €79, which can be renewed for €28 a year (see details of payment options). However, you can also sign up for a free trial (no credit card needed), which gives you access for 8 days. Even if you don't sign up at all, you can still have access to dozens of free lessons with resources. There's also a BEP YouTube Channel where you can find over 100 videos. And for mobile learners, there's also a free iOS app available.
VERDICT Probably the best all-round business English site available.
DESCRIPTION All Ears English is an English as a Second Language (ESL) podcast for intermediate to advanced English learners around the world. Teachers Lindsay McMahon and Michelle Kaplan will show you how to use everyday English vocabulary and natural idioms, expressions, and phrasal verbs and how to make small talk in American English. You'll also get special tips on American culture, customs, etiquette, and how to speak with Americans as well as conversation and commentary on study tips, business English, life in America and Boston and New York, how to apply to university in the US, dating, travel, food and more. You'll get TOEFL, IELTS, and TOEIC help also from The Examiner of Excellence, Jessica Beck. This podcast is for adult students who are professionals and university students as well as ESL teachers.
COMMENT It's been a while since I featured a podcast and I should really have mentioned this one before as it's one of the best (14+ million downloads must mean something!) There are over 400 episodes in the archives, so that should keep even the most dedicated English learner going for a while!
TIPS 1. Subscribe using iTunes. 2. Download the free '100 Most Common English Phrases' PDF.
OVERVIEW Englishspeak.com is a free system for learning to speak English. The program contains lessons that give special attention to English pronunciation and everyday language. With over 100 lessons, Englishspeak.com provides a large amount of audio content. Users have access to two different speeds of playback for each item. Each English lesson simulates a conversation between the user and a native speaker. Users are put in a variety of real world situations and take part in conversations using the most frequently used English words and English grammar.
REVIEW The site was launched in 2008. According to the press release, it was developed by InstantSpeak, "a recognized leader in the language training field". However, the link to the InstantSpeak site doesn't work, and the organization seems to have disappeared without trace. Strange, because the site Englishspeak site is an incredible resource. In addition to the 100 lessons, there are 2500 common vocabulary and phrase items. A tremendous emphasis is put on pronunciation. Users have access to normal and slow playback speeds for each conversation, sentence, and word. If you place your cursor over any word in the program and it will be pronounced slowly by a real person, not by a computer-generated voice. Impressive!
TIP If you want to see the words and phrases with translations, select your native language at the top of the home page. That's a really useful feature.
DESCRIPTION Clippet is a free app for ioS or Android that delivers 10 news stories every morning in ‘clippets’ (each a minute or less), allowing you to stay on top of the news wherever you are, on or offline. Key features of the app include:
• 10 audio news clippets delivered every weekday morning • Stories across 4 categories: UK Affairs, Culture, Global and Innovation • Share Clippets with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, email and text • Offline playlist: adjust your settings to auto–download the clippets each morning
All news stories are read by Clippet’s team of hand–picked voices. If you’re particularly interested in a news story, you can click the ‘Explore’ compass button which guides you to relevant stories in other media, allowing you to watch, listen, look, read or learn more about the topic.
COMMENT Clippet is a brilliant app for learners and teachers of English alike. The variety of accents and topics, the sheer number of stories, and the fact that they are all less than one minute long make Clippet a great resource for listening practice. The only thing missing is a transcript, but you can't have everything I suppose.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Get students to listen to different stories and present them in their own words to each other in groups. 2. Get students to record their own 'Clippets' based on stories featured in the Yahoo News Digest app (which I reviewed on Tuesday).
OVERVIEW Channel One News is an American news provider 'focused on encouraging kids to be informed, digital-savvy global citizens'. The main feature is the Daily News Show, which you can watch with or without subtitles. Each show is accompanied by a transcript and a quiz. There's also a video library with hundreds of news reports sorted by topic, and a News page, where you can find text versions of the latest news stories, written in accessible English.
REVIEW Even advanced students of English often struggle with authentic news resources which make no concessions to the fact they are not native speakers. There are some news sites specifically designed for learners such as News in Levels and Breaking English News, but neither of these contain any video. CNN Student News is also an excellent resource, and does provide transcripts, but, unlike Channel One News, has no subtitles, no quizzes, and no articles. So, if I had to recommend just one news site to my learners, it would be Channel One News.
TIP Teachers can sign up for the newsletter, which provides a round-up of the day's news stories as well as discussion questions and vocabulary.
OVERVIEW Dreamreader.net is a free website where learners can practice and improve their English reading skills. There are over 250 free reading lessons on a wide variety of topics and skill levels. The site has five different kinds of content to suit the various goals of learners:
1. The “Easy English” section is geared towards beginner learners and tests basic sentence-level reading comprehension. In these lessons, learners look at a photograph and answer questions about it. 2. In the “Interesting English” section, learners who are interested in the “nuts and bolts” of English can find articles about English grammar and usage. 3. The “Practical English” section gives learners a taste of English being used in authentic materials (such as reading road signs, coupons, or business memos). 4. The “Fun English” section is meant to offer learners a chance to read short articles on a mix of interesting topics such as video games and pop music. 5. Finally, the “Academic English” section is full of lessons and quiz questions in the style of a standardized English test.
Each lesson features a number of quiz questions along with a free downloadable PDF of the lesson and free audio. Learners can use this to help them with independent study while teachers can use it to supplement classroom learning. In the “Academic English” section, there are also downloadable vocabulary worksheets that students can fill in to help them learn and retain new words.
NOTE Dreamreader.net is the work of two English teachers who live and work in Japan. Neil Millington and Brad Smith are English teachers who decided to make a site dedicated to offering students and teachers a free way to practice their English reading skills. You can read an interview with Neil here.
REVIEW It's often difficult to find interesting reading material for learners at their level — authentic texts such as newspaper articles are often too difficult — and Dreamreader fulfills that need very well. The added bonus is that each article on Dreamreader is accompanied by a spoken version, which means that it can also be used for listening comprehension practice. The site is has an attractively clean design with lots of images, though I did find the navigation a bit confusing as it's not clear where you are in the site unless you check the URL. Perhaps the buttons at the top of the page could change colour to indicate which section you are in, and, for "Academic English", which level you are at. And speaking from a purely personal point of view, it would have been nice to have a "Business" section. But these are just minor quibbles and should not detract from what is an extremely useful resource.
TIP If you're using the Chrome broswer, install the Lingua.ly extension and you'll be able to get a definition for any word you double click on, hear it pronounced, and save it as a flashcard!
Nobuna is a listening game designed to help anyone enjoy learning the English language. You play and learn as you listen. You simply watch and listen to the videos and then you fill in the blanks in the provided script. You have the opportunity to watch the videos as many times as you need.
COMMENTS I'm not too sure about the 'game' label - it's basically just filling in the gaps, and not quite as exciting as the promo video suggests. However, there's a good range of videos (no 'Business' category, unfortunately) and the 'Hints' feature is a good idea.
Have you been struggling to understand native English speakers? This video from OnTarget English will help you recognize differences between written English and spoken English, and start improving your listening skills.
English at Work is a BBC Learning English series which follows the fortunes Anna, a sales executive at Tip Top Trading, the fastest-growing company in the plastic fruit sector. Each episode features a recorded dialogue for which you can download the audio, and a PDF script. The series is also available as a podcast.
COMMENT All the previous episodes are still available online (31 in all!), which makes this a great resource for anyone who wants to work on their listening skills while improving their business English vocabulary.
The English We Speak is a weekly podcast from BBC Learning English which looks at a different everyday English phrase or piece of slang in a fun three-minute programme. You can subscribe to the podcast here.
COMMENT Podcasts are a great way to improve your listening and vocabulary skills. I'm always encouraging my students to use them. You can find a list of English learning podcasts in the sidebar on the left.