So, for this post I’ve selected a few online resources I think students can use to improve their English. My source for these digital tools is Nik Peachey’s e-book ‘Digital Tools for Teachers’ which presents learning resources to use to enhance language development. Nik Peachey is a well-established expert in digital learning and technology use in language teaching. His books are available here: https://peacheypublications.com/
Readlang – http://readlang.com
Readlang enables you to translate any word you’re reading on an internet page into one of 50 or so languages. The languages include Indonesian, Filipino, Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam. The technology works as a Google Chrome plug-in, so you visit the readlang website, install the software and a small green button with a white R appears at the top of your Google Chrome browser. If you click on this button whilst reading a web page, the software loads and you select a language, then select any word on the page and the translation appears above it! It’s a very simple and easy process.
I think this tool is helpful for reading English texts which are high level, and which contain many difficult words, such as online magazines and newspapers. Using readlang makes the reading and translation process much faster and more convenient than using online dictionaries and other translation strategies.
News in Levels – http://www.newsinlevels.com/
This website presents current news stories, each with a video and three short texts of levels 1-3. So, for each level the students can read a text and watch an accompanying video.
For lower level students, seeing the differences between the Level 1 and Level 3 texts is interesting, partly for the differences in vocabulary, but also for the differences in sentence structure. The level 3 texts use more complex sentences containing multiple clauses and linking words, whereas the level 1 texts use shorter sentences. For IELTS 6.0 in writing, students need to write long sentences with connected clauses like the ones in the Level 3 texts.
iTalk Recorder and Otter Voice Notes are both available in the App store. They record voice and allow the user to work with text. I prefer Otter Voice notes as this creates text in real time from the recording, plus adding punctuation. Also, this app was launched recently, in 2018, and represents the latest in audio to text technology. It was developed by teams from Microsoft and other organisations, and is an impressive piece of software.
Both apps have plenty of uses for language learning, including practicing pronunciation where a student can repeat saying hard-to-pronounce words until the app can recognise them each time. Or for use in lectures or classes, where the student can leave their device with the app open at the front of the room, to create a text version of the session.
Youglish – https://youglish.com
This is a language service on Youtube which allows a user to search Youtube videos for particular words. It’s a great way for students to listen to particular words being pronounced in different accents (the selection is US/UK/AUS), as well as listening to how difficult words are pronounced more generally. On the site there is a search engine for the user to enter the word, and then there are green backwards and forward buttons, as well as a blue repeat and a blue pause button, to help the users navigate through the different clips.
Tube Quizard – http://tubequizard.com/
This site creates pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary activities from Youtube videos. The user can select activities by level, subject matter and accent/nationality. My favourite activities on the site are the pronunciation ones where students can listen to how particular phonetic sounds change when they occur in continuous speech like talks and lectures. Learning how these sounds change, usually disappearing or merging with other sounds, is an important part of preparing to listen to lectures at university.