One of the topics I intend to talk about in my videoblogs is learning English via Internet. If you are watching this video you are doing it already, by the way :)
Although I believe nothing can replace a good teacher who guides you, consults with you, inspires you and motivates you, there are many ways you can improve your English on your own. You can be either passive, meaning you read and listen, or active – you speak and write.
Most students complain they don´t get enough speaking practice outside of class. I always motivate them to attend free English meetings in their town or find conversation partners online, or both. The more outgoing and talkative people happily follow my advice and gain a lot from socializing with others, be it in a café or on Skype.
However not everyone is like that. So what to do if you are one of those shy people, afraid to speak because you don´t have the confidence yet? Where and how do you develop that feeling of “I can do it, I can finally go out there and speak to people in the real world”? I believe I have an answer for you!
And the answer is: EnglishCentral.com – a fantastic website which I found about one and a half years ago through my online colleague, Mrs Brenda de Jong, an English teacher in Amsterdam. I immediately fell in love with it and so did my students.
This website plays a very important role in my students´ fast improvement of their speaking and listening skills during my group courses here in Brno, Czech Republic and my online courses which I conduct via Skype.
So what can this website do for you?
When you register for free you can watch thousands of short subtitled video clips on any topic you can think of: cooking, shopping, eating in restaurants, travelling, business meetings and so many more… You will find your favourite movies scenes, interviews with celebrities, tv ads, documentaries, lectures, famous speeches, you name it. When I first found this website I thought I was in heaven – they´re all subtitled!
And now comes the best part! After watching a video, you can record yourself, speaking the exact same lines. The speech recognition system gives you feedback on how well you pronounced the words, the sentences, and you can instantly compare them with the original speaker. After you watch a video you get a score, a grade, like at school, and the video is saved in the “Completed videos” file where you can easily find it for revision. So whether you´d like to practise a business presentation, learn how to explain a pizza recipe or have fun and try to impersonate Jack Sparrow, here is your chance.
After you´re done recording a video you can continue working with vocabulary from that video. Which, in my opinion, is the greatest asset of EnglishCentral – it makes you practise vocabulary in context, not as individual words or phrases.
The system also recognizes your weak points in pronunciation and suggests which sounds to focus on. And it offers a lot of instructional videos on pronunciation.
For me, as an English teacher, the website is a truly invaluable tool. Whether I am a private teacher or a school, I can set up a free account, I can invite all my students to join my online classes, I can divide them into different groups, I can suggest videos and vocabulary to them, I can set up different curricula for them, and different goals… I can even follow their improvement by seeing their score. And a new feature at EnglishCentral, I can listen to their recordings! I mean, how cool is that?
Here is what my students say about using English Central:
“English Central is a perfect website where you can learn a lot. Primarily it is for learning English but I learn there much more. There are interesting videos about amazing people, fashion, cooking and whatever you want to watch. After watching a video you can record yourself, learn new vocabulary or test yourself. The videos can be watched with or without English subtitles and you can choose from three levels – easy, medium and hard.” (Kristýna Stehnová, Czech Republic)
“You don´t have to be afraid about mistakes, which you have done during recording. Because nobody else can hear you, perfect for shy and introvert students. And if you are doing it carefully and compare your speech and try to improve your mistakes, it really works. Also, you can build up your vocabulary and find some useful phrases in videos. And when you feel better, you can go out and practise your English in real life.” (Tereza Seifertová, Czech Republic)
“I have to confess that listening is my biggest problem with English. When I have to speak, it depends on me,I mean, I have to decide what words I want to use for saying the things that I have to say; but when I have to understand the things that other people are saying to me, it depends on the speed of them, and I have no control. I know that movies would be a great instrument for improve my listening comprehension, but a movie is too long for me, so the shorter videos are ideal for that purpose. The great thing with English Central is the vast variety of videos, the ability to slow down the speed, to register your voice and verify your pronounciation. There is also a good tool to learn new words using the videos that you have been watching; and all those things make EC one of the most useful instrument for my improvement in English.” (Lorenzo Scontrino, Italy)
“I really love practising my English on English Central, I always spend so much time there by listening and speaking the videos which I am interested in! Since I’ve been practising my pronunciation there I became more fluent and I found out how to pronounce specific sounds, which I wasn’t confident in.” (Kristýna Kocourková, Czech Republic)
“I use EnglishCentral.com for practising English at least three days of the week. It is an essential part of our course “Kurz zážitkové angličtiny“. I like watching a video and after that practising English by speaking. Immediately I can hear and see my mistakes. You can choose video with the topic which you love or you are interested in. Learning is easier with the funny videos! It´s useful to practise some vocabulary or pronunciation there. For example if you learn vocabulary, you can use quiz with the unknown words.” (Renata Poláchová, Czech Republic)
“I´ve been using English Central only just for several weeks, yet I consider this source very useful for people who study English. I like the possibility to choose my level and even change it when I feel I chose too easy or too hard one. What I mostly appreciate and what I think makes EC unique is the possibility of recording myself while speaking and learn from my mistakes. Also studying of the vocab is made in a nice, useful way (by giving more examples of the words in other vids).” (Lenka Hrozková, Czech Republic)
“I think that the English Central page is the best page for me because I am still afraid of speaking with other people…. I love doing videos on this page. I think that is the best way how to improve speaking skills – mainly English pronunciation. It makes me happy if I can do the video with a lot of points. I appreciate that I can see which word makes me problem with pronunciation and the possibility to hear my recorded sentences. I think that there are so many kinds of videos that everybody can choose what she/he wants to do. I love the group of videos called – See Britain through my eyes. They are about different people – foreigners, who live and work in UK. These people are telling a story about their life, their experiences and success. It is very interesting for me.” (Iveta Pernicová, Czech Republic)
“English Central is the best way to learn English. I´ve never seen anything like this. If your pronunciation is not very good, they´ll reveal your weaknesses and they´ll teach you how to pronounce correctly. If you don´t understand the words, they´ll explain it to you in the short sentences and through helpful videos. Then there is an opportunity to take a quiz, so every word will be engraved in your memory. If it´s too difficult for you, you can choose lower level. And the best of all is, that you can see your progress, what stimulates you to further work on your English.” (Monika Kubánová, Slovakia)
And how about you, do you like English Central?