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Resources for English learners flourish on Internet

IF LEARNING English was once just a pastime like any other in Slovakia, then, my, how times have changed. Now it feels like everyone's studying it, at least in Bratislava, where some universities offer whole programs taught exclusively in English and many human resource departments now interview only job applicants who are already fluent.

The Internet has become an invaluable resource for foreigners eager to improve their English.
photo: TASR

IF LEARNING English was once just a pastime like any other in Slovakia, then, my, how times have changed. Now it feels like everyone's studying it, at least in Bratislava, where some universities offer whole programs taught exclusively in English and many human resource departments now interview only job applicants who are already fluent.

With that in mind, The Slovak Spectator has put together a list of websites that are particularly useful to English learners at all levels who wish to improve at their own pace, or to teachers looking for a fresh approach in the classroom.

newsflashenglish.com: This new, user-friendly website specializes in topics about Slovakia. Creator David Robinson, a TEFL-certified teacher with more than two years of experience in Bratislava and Prague, composes a new lesson plan each week that centers on a short article about business, culture, or breaking news and includes vocabulary-building and conversation exercises. The lesson plans are easy to download and print. "The students really enjoy reading about their own country," Robinson told The Slovak Spectator. "It's much more interesting and personal for them, and many of my own students have told me they didn't even know about some of the subjects I covered." The site requires no registration, and is free.

onestopenglish.com: An absolute staple for English teachers and learners worldwide. The site is operated by Macmillian Publishers, a well-established, London-based publisher with offices in more than 70 countries, and reports more than 420,000 registered users. It offers dozens of lesson plans and activities for practicing and teaching grammar, Business English, pronunciation and writing, and has a whole section devoted to preparing for the Cambridge or TOEFL exams. The links for young learners are divided by age, offering interactive games for children and topic-based activities for teenagers. Teachers will find the Teacher Support, Career Centre and Methodology sections particularly informative. All materials are easily downloadable and printable. Registration is free, but some sections and activities are reserved for users with staff room membership, which costs Ł24 (Sk1,200) a year.

Practical English - http://anglictina.hnonline.sk: A new website run by the Hospodárské Noviny (Economic Newspaper) and aimed at learners of Business and General English alike. The activities are grammar heavy, but include a large number of translations, which can help lower-level students build their vocabulary. Translations are also used to help more advanced students get a better grasp on English nuance, phrases and metaphor. Almost every activity includes a crossword puzzle to lighten the mood. The only weakness appears in some of the reading activities, which too often require students simply repeat verbatim the facts they read, rather than create their own answers through analysis. The site requires no registration, and is free of charge.

Dave's ESL Café - eslcafe.com: This award-winning website has been online for more than a decade, and is a favorite among teachers looking for information about jobs abroad. It's the brainchild of Dave Sperling, an American teacher whose qualifications include an MA in applied linguistics and ESL and more than twenty years of experience. As well as giving teachers a place to post their CV, the site offers job forums with invaluable information on contracts, salaries and working conditions, written by professionals already living and working in the country of your interest. For students, the site contains activities on some of the most difficult aspects of English, such as phrasal verbs and idiom, and a whole section on slang. It is also working on expanding its archive of podcasts (Internet radio shows) that would allow students to listen to interviews and language lessons. The site is free of registration or cost.

Grammar Girl - http:// grammar.qdnow.com: If you think learning about grammar is boring, just tune in to Grammar Girl, whose podcasts have been downloaded more than 3 million times since her launch last summer. In a warm, confident voice reminiscent of an elementary school teacher, Grammar Girl covers some of grammar's trickiest points in lessons that last five minutes or less. "I think people like that it's short," she told CNN.com. "It's sort of a low-commitment podcast. And yet they learn something that's useful that they can put to use when they write their next e-mail."

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