Connected English

Get connected—English language learning websites, apps, and ideas at your fingertips


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Language for Specific Academic Purposes

Andy Gillett’s UEFAP site, Using English for Academic Purposes, supported by BALEAP (the British Association of Lecturers in EAP) offers a deep set of resources for academic communication in all skill areas. The best segments of the site offer an introduction, strategic advice and practice exercises, and sample phrases for very specific communicative purposes. The advice given is solid, well-researched, and clearly explained.

UEFAPlisteningFrom the front page, users can navigate to sub-sections of the site based on skill area.  For example, in the Listening subsection, one can try out advice on listening strategies with a wide range of audio samples, playable in a wider

 

 

 

 
UEFAPreading

Sometimes, the best content is buried in unexpected places. In the Reading section of the website, for example, content may seem a bit sparse, but if you happen to click on the keyword “Efficient” in the left vertical frame, you land on a well-developed sequence of advice, models, exercises, and tests on strategies for efficient reading.

 

UEFAPspeakingintrophrasesThe Presentation-Language topic in the Speaking section of the site includes a useful list of phrases for each moment in a typical academic presentation, including the dreaded Q & A. The Groupwork topic in the Speaking section offers myriad phrases for language functions that might come in handy in discussion or collaboration contexts. Unfortunately, none of the phrases are contextualized, so information about use and frequency is absent.

 

 

 

UEFAPvocabularyIn the Vocabulary section of the site, there is an extensive and well-explained piece on word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. One can access lots of academic word lists here too.

UEFAPwriting

The Writing section is the most extensive, with many more topics listed. I have found the “Reporting” topic particularly helpful to students in exploring strategies for paraphrasing and summarizing source texts.

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Pronunciation: SpeakAP displays pictures of your speech

SpeakAP is a fun little app for Android, iPhone, and iPad that offers a useful angle on pronunciation of individual words. Unlike software that seeks to tell you if you’ve matched the individual sounds in a word, SpeakAP focuses on the timing, intensity, and pitch of syllables in single words. This is a particularly good app for working on producing clearly marked word stress, because stressed syllables last longer (timing), are pronounced with more force and volume (intensity), and involve a change in tone (pitch). The app is produced by a firm that builds speech therapy technology, Aventusoft.

speakAPra-di-a-tionWhen you practice a single word (and there are several hundred on the first basic list), you see three graphs–one of volume over time, so you see the duration and loudness of each syllable, one of intensity over time, which is a similar measure represented by a continuous line, and then one of pitch. There is an original recording (which you can listen to) represented in blue, and then your recording is represented in yellow. You also get a percentage “score” as to your match to the reference recording on each of the three scales.

In this snapshot of my recording of “radiation” as ray[pause]-dee[pause]-yay[pause]-shun, you may be able to see down at the bottom of the screen that I got 79% speaking rate match, 54% energy match, and 65% pitch match. You can see in the middle graph in particular that my voice turned on and off because of the pauses in the word. While the app suggests aiming for at least 75% match in all categories, I found that In my experience with the app, pitch seemed to be the most sensitive score to incorrect syllable stress placement, and my “intensity” score was always low.  The images of the three superimposed graphs gave me more useful data than the percentage scores.

speakapradiationexample

You can pick a word by clicking on the three-bars icon at the top-right of the screen, or you can just take the next word in the queue. As you can see in this picture of me picking out the word “radiation,” most of the words on the basic list are multisyllabic and at least somewhat academic.

There are word lists and idiom lists; unfortunately, only the wordlists supply feedback. The app itself is free on all platforms. In the Android version, the long basic list is free. It looks like the basic list costs $1.99 in the iPhone and iPad app, but double-check that on your device.

If you try this app, add a comment here to share your experience.


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Loads of free advanced English practice activities and tips on one website

L’Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon, France has a prominent “Applied Linguistics” program. Part of the way this program shares its expertise on language learning with the world is to host “English Online France” http://eolf.univ-fcomte.fr, a website with dozens of free interactive games, exercises, and tips for learning English independently. Most of the instructions and menus are in English, which enables advanced English learners from any language background to use the site.

new york minute on franche-comteI especially like the movie trailer dictation exercises under “ESL/EFL Listening Exercises.” Movie trailers contain a lot of dialogue, place names, and slang. You can watch your selected trailer as much as you like, and you can type any word you hear–if you’re right, the word is completed in the text and you win a point.

For these, a QuickTime plugin for your browser is needed, and it works much better in Firefox than in Chrome or Safari. If you test it in Explorer, you can leave a comment here telling us all how it worked.


billie holiday franche comte

In the Reading section, there are some nice activities that model things you could recreate–mixing up the sentences in an abstract in an academic research article, and then putting them back together, as a means of internalizing the structure of research articles. There are a variety of fun “interactive reading” exercises, where you guess the next few words of a reading from among three choices, which rehearses prediction, grammar, and collocations (which words sound right together).

 

Many of the pronunciation exercises are excellent. Influenced by the Silent Way method of teaching language, users are left to intuit rules from the patterns and tasks they observe and experience. The pronunciation tasks are well-designed to reveal patterns of stress, intonation, voicing, and more.

Most of the grammar exercises seem pretty easy (or are hard without explanation of the rationale behind answers), but some are both challenging and valuable practice, such as the “ESL/EFL Making Questions Exercises.” Note the asterisks (*) denoting level of difficulty, and go for two or three stars.

What activities did you try on this site? Which ones do you recommend? Leave a comment with your advice.

Video lessons on pronunciation with Rachel’s English

rachels english

The “Rachel’s English” website provides a large library of high-quality, short, and engaging videos about various features of American English pronunciation. Rachel’s explanations are clear and accurate. The videos are hosted on a YouTube channel, so playback is compatible on most devices. The “Sounds” section offers videos on specific vowel & consonant sounds. The “Pronunciation” section offers videos on intonation (be sure to scroll down the page), and on features of fast, connected speech (“linking and reduction”). Some of the “Blog” posts are also fun and useful to explore. What is your favorite video on the site?

Groovy English pronunciation activities at Okanagan College Online

Pronunciation was a popular goal in the poll we recently ran on this blog. Okanagan College has hosted this pronunciation site for quite a while, and even though the technology is a little old, the site hard to beat for creative, free, online activities for practicing clarity of specific sounds.

okanagan

Check out the tongue twisters like “It’s the right light with the glimmer in the mirror” or the great “minimal pair” activities such as those at http://international.ouc.bc.ca/pronunciation/minpair07.html, where you can test your listening accuracy to sounds that are very close.

You will need a number of plug-ins to make the site work: Adobe Shockwave, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Acrobat Reader, but there are links to all three on the front webpage. You’ll also need QuickTime for some video content. Sometimes using a different browser can help too. If you can’t get the sound interfaces to work, you can always download the .pdf “workbook” on each sound, which will give you access to almost all content.

Enjoy, and as always, get connected by leaving a comment on this site.