19 Dec 2009

10 Learning Communities for ESL students

Participating in an online language learning community is a good way for ESL students to improve speaking and writing skills. The average community provides language partners to chat with in addition to other learning tools. Here are 10 online learning communities that can be joined for free.

EnglishForums.com - EnglishForums.com is the world's largest EFL/TEFL social network. Students can use the site to learn English, meet new people online, and ask questions about grammar, vocabulary, letter writing, and essays.

SharedTalk - This Rosetta Stone site is a free language exchange community. Visitors can learn and practice English with various language partners via voice chat and text chat.

Unilang - Unilang is an online language learning community with many different free language resources. Members can learn, discuss, and practice English and other languages with Unilang's text and voice chat.

English, Baby! - This English language learning community makes it easy to learn English with downloadable audio lessons and other learning materials. Community members can also use the site to find pen pals and language partners.

Hello-Hello - Hello-Hello is a good place for ESL students to find native speakers to practice with. The site also provides free English lessons developed in collaboration with the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).

Mixxer - This free educational website was created for language learners who want to practice their writing and speaking skills with other people around the world. Mixxer users can write a blog post and have their writing corrected or chat with other users via Skype.

MyHappyPlanet - ESL students can practice their language skills with native speakers on MyHappyPlanet. Other site features include free videos and English lessons.

Parlo - Parlo is an interactive language learning site that provides free resources in addition to fee-based courses. The site is a good place to find pen pals, music from the English-speaking world, and diagnostic tests to determine your skill level.

xLingo - xLingo is a language exchange community for people who want to learn and practice English and other languages. The site makes it easy to find a language partner and build skills with free online flashcards.

LearnHub - This site offers several online learning communities for ESL students. LearnHub visitors can join an existing community or become a community leader and start their own.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree reviews for OnlineDegreePrograms.org.

14 Nov 2009

20 Free Online Libraries and Reading Rooms

Reading online is a great way for students to practice and improve English reading skills. There are many free libraries and reading rooms that allow you to read books, articles, historical documents, and reference materials online. Here is a list of 20 online libraries worth exploring:

The Free Library - The Free Library by Farlex features over 5 million articles and books that are viewable online. The site provides literature for business, health, humanities, law, recreation, science, communications, entertainment, social sciences, and general interest.

Project Gutenberg - Project Gutenberg is the largest single collection of free ebooks on the web. Within this site, browsers can find and read over 30,000 online books.

University of Virginia Library - The University of Virgina Library provides more than 2,100 ebooks that are available free to the public. The ebook titles include classic American and British fiction, children's literature, American history books, Shakespeare plays, and other documents.

The Online Books Page - This library, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, provides access to free books around the web. The site houses listings for over 35,000 books that are readable online.

Bibliomania - Bibliomania offers over 2,000 free fiction books. The site also features reference books, quotations, dictionaries, nonfiction, and biographies.

Baen Free Library - This online library features a number of free online digital books. The books are viewable in a variety of ways, including HTML download, Microsoft reader, Rocket ebook, and Rich Text Format.

Bartleby.com - This site provides free online readable books for reference, verse, fiction, and nonfiction. The literature on this site is searchable based on type, author, subject, or title.

Internet Public Library - The Internet Public Library offers links to catalogs of books that are free to read on the Internet as well as magazines, journals, and newspapers from around the world.

ReadPrint - ReadPrint is a free library of books for teachers, students, and booklovers. The books are completely free, easy to read online, and feature thousands of stories, novels, and poems.

Stanford University - The Stanford University HighWire Press features a large archive of free full-text journal articles dating back to January of 1994.

Free Online Books - With over 5,000 free ebooks, Free Online Books is a good place to find the books you're looking to read. This online library of books features many genres, including children's, fiction, autobiography, nonfiction, and much more.

Online Books 4 Free - Online Books 4 Free features over 9,200 free ebooks for students, researchers, or just enjoyment.

PublicLiterature.org - PublicLiterature.org offers a way for users to read a collection of public domain books, poetry, audio, and tutorials. This site also features a modern book blog with sample works form great authors around the globe.

Page By Page Books - This free online book site features hundreds of classic books that are accessible free online.

Historical Text Archive - The Historical Text Archive features hundreds of high quality articles, books, and links to a wide variety of historical subjects. Founded in 1990, Historical Text Archive is among the oldest history sites on the web.

Questia - Questia offers free book profiles, encyclopedias, journals, magazines, newspapers, and books that can be read online.

Free-eBooks.net - Free-eBook.net provides ebooks, magazine articles, and other resources for download or online viewing. The categories featured in this digital online library range from advertising to youth.

ChestofBooks.com - This free online reading room allows you to read books online. The books can be searched or users can simply browse through the titles.

Many Books - Many books provides more than 24,000 free ebooks that are searchable by author, title, category, and language.

DOAJ - The Directory of Open Access Journals is dedicated to increasing the availability of scholarly and scientific journals. The site has over 4,000 journals that cover a wide variety of languages and subjects.

California Digital Library - The California Digital Library features over 8,000 journals, databases, and other online resources. The interface is a little difficult to maneuver through but once you get the hang of it you can find links to all sorts of free online journal articles.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online classes for OnlineClasses.org.

21 Oct 2009

Virtual Social Networking Conferences in November 2009

From November 5th to 8th, 2009, there will be an open-knowledge event, Social Networking, organized by AVEALMEC and ARCALL, two LatinAmerican associations, one based in Venezuela and the other one in Argentina, interested in promoting the use of ICT in the language classroom. It will be completely online and free, and its aim is to encourage practioners to reflect the role of communities of practice as social networks in ELT.

Many of the best ESL/EFL teachers and ELT professionals from different parts of the world have been invited:

All of them will be sharing their experiences and expertise with participants and will help us grasp abetter picture of how social networks can be used in the language teachingand learning field.
I think it will be a great experience to have the opportunity to discuss about the concepts and theories around social networks, communities of practice, the Web 2.0, experiences in the classroom, as well as about the use, advantages and drawbacks of social networking tools.

Docking at the Right Harbour

Have you ever had problems to find useful resources on the net for teaching English? Have you ever wonder what are the best ESL/EFL resources, the best Edubloggers in the English teaching field? Many times when we want to use Internet as an education tool, we get lost due to the great amount of information contained on the net. In order to avoid this, Gorka Palazio, professor of the University of the Basque Country, has developed two great sites: English Harbour and English Tube.

English Harbour, a RSS website where you will find a selection of the best content for English teachers and students. This tool captures the last posts of top English edubloggers. Therefore, you can be up to date with these teachers' experiences in the classroom and with advances in new technologies applied to English teaching. But the advantage of visiting English Harbour is not only to read interesting post written by other ESL/EFL teachers or ELT proffessionals, but also to interact with those teachers who are interested in the same topics that you are. In this way, we are contributing to create a real learning virtual community, which can be expanded Twitter. The URL of Twitter is English Harbour.

However, if you are looking for new resources, English Tube can add visual spice to your University lessons mainly. After class, your students can continue learning English at home, in a cyber café or wherever they wish, watching videos on this site. The videos, which have been taken from the major video services such as Youtube, Blip, Vimeo, Veoh or Metacafe, are organized by level (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and by skills (grammar, listening, speaking and writing).

One thing I love about English Tube is that its content is really well-organized. Besides, it is an interactive site in which students can leave their comments on the videos they have watched. I hope that this is only the first step to expand and create a bigger English Tube full of videos for primary and secondary students, as well. A great idea would be that all those useful videos included subtitles, and there was an option to show or hide them depending on the student's English level.

3 Oct 2009

20 places to study english grammar online

If you are looking for a fun and interactive way to study English grammar, you can find almost everything you need on the Internet. There are exercises, tests, study guides, quizzes, and many other materials that make studying English grammar both simple and entertaining. Here are 20 resources to try:

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) - The Purdue OWL offers a wide variety of exercises in grammar, punctuation, and spelling for English students. The exercises cover everything from basic grammar rules to advanced grammar understanding.

Daily Grammar - The Daily Grammar site provides grammar lessons and reviews that make it easy to study English grammar. Reviews cover parts of speech, parts of sentences, and mechanics.

GrammarBook.com - This free online site for English usage rules has fun and interactive quizzes and videos for reviewing grammar rules. This is the perfect way to learn and refresh your English grammar skills.

FlashcardExchange - The FlashcardExchange provides several pre-made flashcard sets that grammar studiers will find extremely useful. This site can also be used to create and share original English grammar flashcards.

Chomp Chomp - This free grammar site provides interactive exercises for testing your grammar knowledge. The exercises include accompanying handouts to increase retention.

Online English Grammar - The Online English Grammar site provides a list of free online tests and games for practicing grammar. Most of the grammar tests and games are designed for intermediate to advanced users.

HyperGrammar - HyperGrammar, a University of Ottawa site, has free grammar lessons with an end-of-lesson review test for testing knowledge and finding the weak spots in your grammar knowledge.

Newroom 101.com - Newroom101.com provides thousands of free exercises for writers, students, editors, and other people who want to study or review grammar.

English Exercises Online - English Exercises Online has a collection of online grammar quizzes that can be used as study aids. The quizzes are mainly fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice and offer a guide for difficulty.

Oxford University Press - The online practice grammar guide from Oxford Press University features free online practice tests for basic to advanced studiers. The tests make it easy to figure out the grammar skills you have perfected versus the skills you still need to improve.

The Online Grammar Guide - This free online study guide is specifically designed for advanced English users. The guide, created by Jack Lynch, covers all grammar subjects from A versus An to Who versus Whom.

SpeakSpeak - SpeakSpeak provides advanced English grammar practice exercises for learning or studying grammar. Simply review the exercises and take the online tests to find out what skills you need to review.

English Grammar Exercises - These online exercises were written by an English teacher at College Claparede to provide grammar practice for advanced students.

Guide to Grammar and Writing - The Guide to Grammar and Writing features interactive quizzes and overviews for advanced English grammar study. The site also contains college level vocabulary lists and quizzes.

Quizlet - This free online flashcard site features 74 pre-made flashcard sets for studying English grammar. Users can use the flashcards to learn, familiarize, and test terms and usage.

Cengage Learning - This online study center features practice tests for learning and reviewing English grammar rules. Within this site users will find free practice tests for everything from apostrophes to subjects and verbs.

Learn4Good - Learn4Good, a free English study and exercise site, features grammar practice for SAT, PET, FCE, CAE, and more. The site lists and explains some of the more difficult grammar concepts and allows you to put your knowledge into practice with review tests.

Nonstop English - The Nonstop English site features advanced exercises for ESL students who are preparing for the TOEFL.

Activities for ESL Students - This site for ESL students provides a large collection of self-study grammar quizzes. Users can simply browse through the quizzes and pick the level that will challenge them.

The Tower of English - The Tower of English is a site created for ESL students to study and learn every aspect of English.
This post has been written by education writer Karen Schweitzer. She writes the Business School Guide for About.com and has been serving as an advisor to Business School as well. She also writes about online courses for OnlineCourses.org.

12 Aug 2009

SpellQuizzer - Help your students master their spelling

Today, I was contacted by Dan Hite, a corporate software developer, who talked to me about his useful educative programme for Windows, SpellQuizzer. SpellQuizzer helps students that need help learning their spelling and vocabulary words and it has very nice features.

SpellQuizzer was not designed with any one spelling curriculum in mind. In fact, it should compliment virtually any spelling curriculum since you create your own custom spelling lists. Teachers can enter their students spelling words into the software and record them by speaking into a microphone. After that, the students can listen the recorded words and type them. The software has a built-in spellchecker that recognizes both US and UK English spellings.

Another great feature is that the spellchecker warns the user when creating a spelling list if they enter a word that appears to be spelled incorrectly. Because of this safeguard it's reasonably safe to let students create their own spelling lists guided by the curriculum they are working on. If the teacher or parents creates the lists in SpellQuizzer, it's always a good idea to try to make the sound recordings amusing for the child. Funny phrases or voices make this tool funnier for the child and help to keep them engaged.

There is a video demo you can watch, click here. Besides, you can also find a page of free downloadable spelling lists with audio recordings for use with SpellQuizzer, click here. Finally, you can belong to the community web site which has discussion forums and a place where SpellQuizzer users can upload and download one another's SpellQuizzer spelling lists, click here, I mean, SpellQuizzer users can easily export and import SpellQuizzer spelling lists to share with other SpellQuizzer users. Because of this members of homeschool groups can share their lists rather than everyone having to record their lists individually (assuming everyone is on the same curriculum).

This software is not free, it costs $29.95 to download the software, but the creator has generously offered Sharing Learning readers the opportunity to get a free copy of the software to the first five people who contact him referring to my blog. To get your free copy of SpellQuizzer fill out the contact form, click here. Be sure to mention that you are a Sharing Learning reader and educator and use an email address associated with an education institution when requesting a free license. You have also the opportunity to download a 30 days free trial to know how the software works. After this time, you have to pay for the service. It costs nothing to try out SpellQuizzer and once you have purchased you can still request a full refund if you are not completely satisfied during the first 60 days after purchase.

I don't earn any money spreading this information, I'm just passing along this information for teachers who are interested in getting this useful software with their students or children.

11 Aug 2009

Speak N' Spell

If you students need help with pronunciation, listening and writing, Speak N' Spell can be the perfect software to recommend them and use in the classroom. How does it work?

The first time you open it, if you want to add a specific word list for your students you have to open the Word Maintenance, clear the table and add your own words saving your own list. Doing this, they can revise this dictionary (add or delete words), use their own set of words (clear the table and add words), or load a plain text file with words. They can also save the word list to a plain text file. Make such a file one word per line and save the file with a ".txt" suffix."

There are several levels of difficulty in which your students have to guess the word they hear:

  • Easy: words with three letters.
  • Medium: words with four to six letters.
  • Hard: words with seven to ten letters.
  • Hardest: words with more than ten letters.
  • Mixed: any word included in the dictionary can be pronounced.
How to use it in the classroom? An Speak N' Spell Game
1. You will need the Speak N' Spell Software, a computer or laptop and a projector to play this game with your students.
2. Divide your students into two groups and explain that they are going to play Speak N' Spell game. First, they will hear a word and then, they have to guess what word is it in turns.
3. The teacher, then, presses the new word key to listen it. The first student who guesses it correctly has to raise his hand, spell the word and make a sentence with it. This depends on your students' level. Sometimes it is difficult for beginners to create a sentence, therefore, you can give them the chance of just spelling it.
4. If the student's answer is right, his team win a point.
5. The winner is the team that get the highest score.

To Teach or Not to Teach Grammar? - That is the Eternal Question

This morning, while browsing around the net, I stopped on an ESL forum post that called my attention and made me think:

"I think that grammar is useless for learning to speak fluently...what do you think?" someone said.
This topic has been quite controversial for decades. Should or shouldn't we teach grammar? If the answer is affirmative, how and when should we teach it?

In the late 1970s, Chomsky, Krashen and others pointed out that the learning of a language should be like a child ´s natural acquisition. I mean, when we start speaking our mother tongue, we don ´t think or care about grammar rules. Besides, it has also been documented that teaching grammar step by step has had little effect on speaking production, that is, many people who have studied English learning grammatical rules, can ´t communicate effectively. We are not allowed to teach English to children at school because there is an age, until nine years old more or less, in which language is acquired in a natural way. But, does it work with adults who start learning a foreign language?

In the late 1980s another approach appeared, the Communicative one, which made emphasis on authentic materials instead of "traditional textbooks". This new approach, which was the product of the dissatisfaction of many educators and linguists with the audiolingual and grammar-translation methods, emphasized other really important disciplines like Pragmatics (negotiation of meaning, social context, interaction...) or cooperative learning. This is because learning a language is much more than communication, it also represents a cultural background. What is the role of grammar in this approach, then? Grammar plays an important role, as well,within this approach, but it is learned into a context, not explaining grammatical rules, since students motivations to learn the new language come from their desire to communicate in real life (travelling, at work, etc) fluently. Teaching is not essential any more, but learning. A strong point of the Communicative Approach is that it focuses on the student's process of learning and this is a great advantage. However, as the other teaching approaches and methods, it also has its disadvantages.

The Communicative Approach developed into the Task-based Language Learning Method (1990s), I mean, this method was within the framework of the Comunicative Approach and focused in the use of real language, allowing students to do meaningful tasks, like buying flying tickets in a travel agency, conducting an interview, etc., using the target vocabulary and grammatical structures. A task is " a piece of classroom work that involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is focused on mobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning, and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form. The task should also have a sense of completeness, being able to stand alone as a communicative act in its own right with a beginning, a middle and an end." (Professor David Nunan) Is it possible to integrate grammar in this method in an effective way? It is, but not focusing on form but inferring the grammar rules from the context.

There is not a "perfect method" for teaching or studying a foreign language. However, I think it is very important to give our students as many opportunities as we can to use the new language but without avoiding grammar all time since different people have different learning styles at different times. Therefore, as there are not quick recipes, why not to use the best of each approach or method to engage our students? We learn languages listening but we learn to improve our level, our communication style also via grammar. And what is the point of fluency if we do not set a context? How would you explain these situations?
  • Quarter of a Million Chinese Live on Water
  • Include Your Children When Baking Cookies
  • Stolen Painting Found by Tree
Listening, writing, speaking, grammar, pronunciation, meaning, context... Everything is important when teaching or learning a language.

10 Aug 2009

My English Images - when a picture is worth more than a thousand words

A lot of researches have been done over years on the importance of using visuals in the ESL/EFL classroom for our students' learning process since images allow them to infer, deduce and provide the context to clarify the meaning of written texts.

A great resource for teachers that I discovered three days ago is My English Images, a website created by F. Michael Kloran, an English teacher and illustrator living in Japan with a very personal style who has decided to create this site to make other teachers' life easier.

In this site you will find a collection of ESL resources, mainly pictures and worksheets to spice up your classes, which have been grouped into different categories:

  • Conversation
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronunciation
  • Games
  • Images
All the worksheets include and introduction and clear explanations about how to use them in the classroom. These materials are copyrighted but you can download them for free in PDF version. Beside, if there is something you cannot find here or you would like to make the author some suggestions, you can contact him in the e-mail address provided in the site.

1 Aug 2009

Language Social Networks - Don't Stop Learning!

Due to the globalized world we live in, many people decide to learn a foreign language for different reasons and purposes. The best opportunity to learn it is being immerse in the context the language is spoken but not everybody can afford to live in a foreign country. However, learning English has never been so easy, interactive and social since social networks appeared on the net! ESL/EFL students spend a lot of time surfing on the net, maybe more hours than they do studying therefore, why not provide them with opportunities to practice and learn real English with native English speakers or ESL/EFL students from other countries in a communicative setting?

Social networking can be an excellent reading and writing practice which can be completed with other communication tools like Skype, since Skype allows you to speak in real time. This is a great way of producing fluent speakers! Besides, with social networking students can learn more about English culture since they can be in touch with native speakers who can share photos, videos or audio files with them.

English Social Networks
  • Babbel: it is a language learning social network where you can improve your language skills chatting with other Babble users, many of them native ones. As it is said in this website "Babbel already has more then 250,000 users from over 200 countries that learn English, Spanish, French, Italian and German." You only need to register in order to start communicating with other learners. Besides, you can also choose an online course if you are interested in learning grammar or vocabulary.

  • Busuu: it is a free online community for learning languages where users have access to more than 150 highly audiovisual leaning units covering a wide range of day-to-day topics. The language material is currently available in French, Spanish, English and German but further languages will be added soon. Additionally, the users have the possibility to directly improve their language skills with other native speakers of the community. Via an integrated video-chat, users can practice their skills while being at home. They are a Madrid based start-up and launched the website in May 08. By now, more than 100,000 users from over 200 countries have joined this great website and they have been nominated Official Project of the UNESCO during the International Year of languages.

  • Italki: is a social networking site that helps people learn languages in a fun and interactive way by connecting members for language exchange. The site initially went live in December of 2006 (making us one of the earliest players in this space), and has experienced tremendous growth such that we now have about 440,000 members from more than 200 countries, speaking over 100 languages. One of italki's earliest and most popular features is "Answers", where members can ask questions about learning languages and other members of the community respond. Many students have used italki to get help with their homework and to find recommendations on textbooks and other study materials. In May of 2008, italki added "Knowledge," a publicly editable wiki of language learning content, which we hope over time, will become just like a free public textbook.

  • Livemocha: Livemocha, with more than 2 millions of members offers a great number of languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hindi, Japanese and it is the most popular language learning site! Students can write or speak about a topic and receive feedback from native speakers on the network. According to Shirish Nadkarni, chief executive of the company, the name Livemocha refers to the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop, the perfect place for chatting with native speakers while drinking a cup of coffee at home.

  • Palabea: it is another social network for practicing, communicating and learning foreign languages which uses audio and visual tools as learning aids (podcasts, videos, etc). Palabea has created virtual classrooms where all users can upload or create content, I mean, if you are a teacher you can record videolessons, podcasts or create documents. However, if you are a student, you can search for a language course or communicate with speakers from all over the world in audio or videoconferences.

However, if you are interested in creating and customize a free social network for communicating with your student, Ning makes it easy. You can create your own social networks just in a few minutes, adding the content you want and have your students participating and learning. In EFL Geek 3.0 blog you will find very useful information to know how it works.

20 Websites to Practice and Learn the English Language

Some students need extra practice outside of class. Fortunately, there are many different websites to practice and learn English online. Here are 20 free sites to recommend to your students:

Learn English

Livemocha - Livemocha is a popular language learning site used by millions of people around the world. Students can learn from online language lessons and chat with other language learners.

VerbaLearn - VerbaLearn is an excellent place to learn and practice English vocabulary. Students can customize the way they learn and receive mp3 study lists.

English as a Second Language - This About.com site provides thousands of free ESL resources to help people learn English. Resources include free English courses, grammar and vocabulary practice, tests, quizzes, and other English learning tools.

Transparent Language - Transparent Language offers a number of free resources to students who are trying to learn English, including an overview of the language, learning software, and online quizzes.

The English Club - This site offers free lessons, videos, games, stories, quizzes and other helpful resources to students who want to learn English for free. Students can also chat online and practice their English with other club members.

Learn English - Learn English has been a valuable resource for EFL/ESL learners for more than ten years now. The site teaches students English vocabulary, grammar, and conversation and then tests their knowledge with quizzes and games.

Learn English Online - Learn English Online offers a free 52-lesson EFL/ESL course for beginners. Each lesson includes writing and pronunciation practice.

Fonetiks - This site offers free audio pronunciation guides for nine varieties of the English language, including American English, British English, Irish English, Scottish English, Welsh English, Australian English, Indian English, and South African English.

Merriam-Webster - The online version of Merriam-Webster is an excellent place for ESL students to learn new words. The site offers a search feature, a "word of the day," and fun word games.

Babel Fish - This free online translator from Yahoo! can translate single words, a block of text, or entire web pages--a great way for ESL students to learn new English phrases.

Practice English

ManyThings.org - EFL and ESL learners can practice their pronunciation with the free audio games on this site.

ESL Fast - Digital robots help ESL learners practice their English on ESL Fast. Visitors can practice conversations for hotels, apartments, college, transportation, travel, employment, entertainment, shopping, and daily life.

ESL Forum - This online forum is the most popular ESL forum on the web. It can be used by both students and teachers who want to practice writing and discuss ESL learning.

Dave's ESL Cafe - Dave's ESL Cafe offers a wide range of resources to ESL students and teachers. Students who want to practice their English writing and communication skills will especially enjoy the large student forum.

ESL Flashcards - ESL students can practice their English with this enormous collection of free ESL flashcards and printables.

Online Books Page - Students can practice their English reading skills with the free books found on the Online Books Page. There are more than 35,000 books to choose from in all.

Bibliomania - Like the Online Books Page, Bibliomania offers a large selection of free English literature. The site also provides study guides to popular books as well as other learning materials.

IPL - The Internet public library is another good place to practice English reading skills. This online library offers free books, magazines, newspapers, and other reading materials.

Ohio University Department of Linguistics - Ohio University has assembled a nice collection of links to online English language tests. ESL students can use these tests to assess their knowledge level and determine where they need practice.

Peterson's TOEFL Quiz - Students who want to practice for the TOEFL can take this quick online quiz from Peterson's. The quiz tests reading comprehension and can be scored with the click of a button.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes for the Online Colleges Database at OnlineColleges.net.

7 Jun 2009

Improve your English and be supportive!

Today, David García, from Aprende Inglés Online (Learn English Online) sent me an e-mail inviting me to participate in the great campaign he is carrying out to fight hunger through FREE RICE. Freerice is a simple and well-designed website where you can practise English vocabulary and grammar but also other subjects such as Art, Geography, Maths, Chemistry, French, German, Italian or Spanish.

Each time you guess a question, the UN World food program donates money to buy 10 grains of rice. Up to now, we have got 65,230,828,950 of grains. Your time can save lives, don't forget it!!
Did you know that, according to the United Nations, 25,000 people die from hunger every day, most of them children?

These news are not on TV every day, politicians haven't been able to solve this problem up to now, but people together can do much more to help solving this terrible situation. Do you think that you can donate a bit of your time for a good and worthwhile cause? How much rice have you donated today? Let me know!

14 May 2009

Considering ESL teaching in Asia? 3 great places for ESL teachers

The need for ESL teachers is growing throughout the world, particularly in Asia, as English is quickly becoming the international language of choice; if you’re interested in pursuing this profession and moving abroad, check out these three great places for ESL teachers:

1. Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong can be one of the most difficult ESL teaching markets to break into, the rewards are great—particularly financially. Hong Kong offers some of the best ESL teaching wages in Asia; monthly stipends can reach upwards to $5,000.
Not surprisingly, many of the highest paying positions require previous teaching experience, but there are also spots open for beginning ESL teachers as well.
Hong Kong also offers a unique cultural experience, seamlessly blending East and West from exotic foods in street markets to excellent public transportation.
And if you’re worried about not speaking the local language, you shouldn’t be. As an official language of Hong Kong, English is widely spoken and understood, so you’ll have plenty of time to adjust to Cantonese if you so desire (and as someone who has moved to a foreign country, I highly suggest you do so!).
Teaching English in Hong Kong

2. South Korea
South Korea is another Asian country that offers great ESL teaching opportunities, but note you will be required to provide proof of a four-year degree from an accredited university; English must also be your first language.
Many new ESL teachers in South Korea find work in “Hagwons,” private schools that cater to kindergarten and elementary students, but there are also opportunities for teaching at the university level and for private lessons.

South Korea offers competitive pay within great compensation packages, which often include airfare and lodging. Moreover, since the cost of living and tax rates are relatively low in South Korea, you can feasibly even pay off student loans and save money while teaching there.
When choosing a location in South Korea, remember that the country is more than just Seoul—there are several major cities that can offer the teaching and cultural experiences you seek.
English isn’t widely spoken throughout the country, but grocery stores and public transportation usually have signs in English.
Teaching English in South Korea:
3. Taiwan
Just as in South Korea, ESL teachers in Taiwan are required to be native English speakers and to have university degrees—be sure to bring your actual diploma (not a copy) with you in order to get your work visa.
ESL teaching positions are available in all levels of education in kindergartens, chain schools, international schools, and universities; many teachers also take on private lessons and easily manage to save money while teaching in Taiwan.
Again, the cost of living is relatively low for the potential monthly earnings of an ESL teacher, so if you work hard, you’ll also be able to afford to enjoy all the cultural offerings of Taiwan and still live comfortably.

Main stops for ESL teachers in Taiwan include Taipei (the capital city), Kaohsiung (southern port city), or Taichung (third largest city); English is spoken in some parts of the country, but, again, you should definitely take the opportunity to learn Cantonese while you’re there. Not only will you learn an increasingly useful language, you’ll also feel more connected with your surroundings.
Teaching English in Taiwan
A Final Note on Choosing a Location

In choosing where to go to pursue a career as an ESL teacher, remember there are ESL success stories and tales of horror just about everywhere. You should always be honest with yourself about your own qualifications and personal and professional needs when choosing where to work before picking up and moving abroad; moreover, some schools require year-long contracts, so be completely sure about your decision before signing anything.

Guest post by Michelle Fabio, experienced ESL teacher in southern Italy, who also shares online education tips at OnlineEducation.net.

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