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Funky English online community

What does “funky” mean?  According to vocabulary.com, it can mean “offensively malodorous” or “stylish and modern in an unconventional way.”

funkyenglishfrontpageFunky English at http://www.funkyenglish.com appears to embrace the second definition by developing an online social community for English language learning. Ironically, however, language instruction itself on the site is quite traditional and conventional. Nonetheless, Funky English may be a useful practice site for individuals who would enjoy participating in online forums on everyday life English usage with teachers and students of English.

Since Funky English (FE) is designed as a social networking space for individuals interested in learning or teaching English, it includes “Friends,” “Groups,” each user’s profile page, “Blogs,” and “Forums.” FE also offers a limited number of traditional English lesson topics, but the real value here again is generated in the comment threads that follow each lesson, vocabulary entry, or grammar point. Membership and access to all parts of the site are free.

Recommended sections of the site

forumdropdownThe Forum discussions may be the strongest feature of this site. Some popular discussions are launched by “English Teacher Jamie,” but other lively discussions are started by users of the site. The conversations are full of good tips on language learning, a variety of insights into cultures around the world, and ideas about ways to improve one’s English. The “Ask a Question” Forum promises that one can pose a question about English and get answers. Existing questions can be viewed too, and range from questions about surprising usage in political speeches to the meaning & usage of different members of a word family, e.g. “glorious day” vs. “glory days.”

FEBlogsThe Blogs tool is an interesting way to capitalize on the participatory FE student community. Members of FE can create blogs, and may generate quite a bit of conversation about what they post. Most of the comments seem to be good-natured and polite, so this may be a comfortable environment in which to strengthen one’s English fluency and explore one’s writing voice by starting a blog.

 

 

The Videos section is designed to encourage English listening and pronunciation practice through karaoke. This page features several hundred Ycan and can'touTube, Vimeo, and other publicly available lyrics videos. There are also a few instructional videos culled from YouTube and other sources. By looking at an instructional video, one can follow the “related videos” links for songs with lyrics that match words in the instructional video title, e.g. the word “can’t.”

The “Lessons: Idioms” section has a short set of idioms–the listing for each idiom does provide some useful information about collocates–words that tend to be used with that idiom, e.g. “head into” + choppy waters, and listings explain situations where that idiom would be used. There is not information, however, about how frequent or how up to date an idiom is, so there are a few such as “chin wag” that are a bit out of date.  The value in the FE context is the number of users who leave messages for each other and for English Teacher Jamie, which comprise a conversation about each word, with more usage examples and discussion of usage topics.bookwormcomments The responses to the idiom “bookworm,” for example, led into a conversation about good books to read in English. This conversation-by-commenting is one of the real strengths of the Funky English platform.

The “Lessons: Phrasal Verbs” section also features lively discussions, with some contributors adding cartoons and usage examples from Facebook. The phrasal verbs featured comprise only a very small subset of phrasal verbs in high-frequency use in spoken English. Phrasal verbs often pattern differently in different speech communities: it appears that the usage in the FE community is mainly British, so those in other English speaking contexts might want to “ask around” before adopting a phrasal verb from the site. An example is “break up,” which according to FE, can mean ending a romantic relationship, and can mean ending classes in a university over a holiday break. The latter meaning wouldn’t be meaningful in many English-speaking communities. Instead, “the University went on break” would be more appropriate in the Midwest in the United States, for example. Such variants are not comprehensively provided by Funky English.

The “Quizzes: English in Use” section offers “situational dialogues.” Each “dialogue” only suggests a situation in which to choose how to word a response, but engages the user in thinking through appropriate language usage in responding to that prompt. Again, the format is multiple choice.situationaldialogue

The “Chat” function available on the Home page in FE enables users to text-chat in real time, which could be quite helpful for developing greater fluency. Relative to other social media platforms, however, the number of FE users online at any given time may be small, so sometimes there aren’t enough people online to get a chat going.

Overall, Funky English capitalizes well on the text-based features of social network platforms, and provides a comfortable, encouraging space in which to practice English through participation in comment threads, forums, and chat rooms.

 


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Humor, idioms, fluency, and … science?

Sandra Tsing Loh hosts a 90-second radio show called the “Loh Down on Science” http://www.lohdownonscience.org/–the show is dedicated to finding humorous ways to introduce the general public to interesting science. Every episode is transcribed with about 95% accuracy. lohdownonscienceYou can work on fluency in two ways:
1. Practice telling someone else in English what you heard about. Speak and/or write without looking at the transcript. Even better, actually tell someone else, by speaking or in an email.
2. Figure out what’s intended to be funny in the episode you listen to. Often, the humor is a “play on words,” or two different meanings of the same phrase. The title of the website is an example: Sandra Tsing Loh is the name of the scientist/writer/performer who leads the site, and “the low down” means the real information about something.
3. Look up an idiom that you find in the episode, by putting the idiom in quote marks ” ” followed by the word definition in your favorite search engine. For example, in an episode  about babies in utero learning which syllables are meaningful in the language of the grownups around them, Loh said “watch your language, parents.” I looked up “watch your language” definition. This gave me multiple views of definitions and related idioms, and let me explore which idiom and dictionary sites I liked.watchyourlanguagedefinition

The Loh Down on Science website isn’t very easy to navigate, but if you click on “FUN CONTENT TROLLER” you can see a list of categories, or if you find the tiny VIEW ALL button in the middle of the left-margin frame, you can see a chronological listing of over 1,800 episodes. To search for topics that interest you, you can use the search box at the top of the page.

When you find an episode that interests you, you can just click the play button to hear it with no transcript, or you can click on the title of the episode to get to the transcript and play the episode too.