Real English

This site was created by Mike Marzio, who has an English school in France. Twenty years ago, Mike was frustrated because his students had limited opportunities to listen to native speakers speaking English informally, so he and his friends began recording short interviews with native speakers of English in various countries. Now you can access videos of the interviews, which have been categorized into five levels (beginning, intermediate I, intermediate II, intermediate III, and advanced). Each level has about fifteen interviews. Some of the videos are also available with captions here. You can also sign up for a free introductory subscription to Real English Online, which has lessons with exercises to accompany some of the videos. (In order to access lessons for all the videos, you need a paid subscription.). Mike adds new material all the time. This is a great opportunity to listen to native speakers speaking naturally in different English dialects.

Note: You will need Real Player to listen and watch most of the interviews, although some of them are viewable with Windows Media Player and Quicktime. Links to free downloads are available on the site.

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Double Entry Reading Journal

Keeping a double-entry reading journal is a great way to improve your reading skills while increasing fluency and accuracy in your writing. When I have my students keep these journals, I collect and respond to their entries, correcting their grammar and spelling and answering their questions; but even if you don’t have anyone respond to your entries, this is a great way to improve your English.

Here’s what to do:

    • As you read, mark any passages (of any length) which interest you, puzzle you, please you, or displease you in some way. Copy them out word for word. This forces you to slow down and notice the details you normally don’t pay attention to when you are reading, such as punctuation, capitalization, grammatical structure, and spelling.
    • Beneath the copied passage, write your comments, questions, interpretations, thoughts, or ideas about the passage. What you write can be either longer or shorter than the passage you copied. This develops your writing fluency and forces you to express your thoughts about what you read.
    • You can either hand-write your journal or type it on a computer, but don’t photocopy or scan the text you select. The act of copying, while tedious, will actually help improve your writing, while scanning or photocopying will have no effect on your writing.

      That’s all there is to it!

      Tip: Remember that different kinds of writing (academic papers or articles, newspaper articles, fiction, poetry…) have different rules. In particular, modern fiction (both novels and short stories) tolerates a lot of rule-breaking, such as sentence fragments. Dialog is written to reflect the way characters actually speak, which may be ungrammatical, and writers sometimes misspell words to represent regional pronunciations. If you need to write for academic or professional purposes, it is probably wiser to choose passages without much dialog!

      Absolutely Intercultural!

      “Absolutely Intercultural!” is a wonderful ESL podcast created by Anne Fox and Laurent Borgmann.  Winner of Edublogs’ 2006 Award for Best Audio and/or Video Blog, “Absolutely Intercultural!” has been on the web since March 2006.   Topics include things like how holidays are celebrated in various countries, how music can connect people of different cultures,  cultural aspects of blogs, and much, much more.  Everyone is sure to find something that will interest him or her.  Each podcast is accompanied by a text post summarizing the topics discussed on the show, but there are no transcripts, so understanding the shows will be challenging for those with less than intermediate proficiency in listening.

      You can subscribe to the show through iTunes or RSS feed (you’ll need an account with an aggregator such as Bloglines, Google, My Yahoo (In Yahoo Services, choose Feed Alerts), or Live Bookmarks, but these are free) or simply check it out at your leisure on the web.  New shows are posted every other Friday.