Karaoke at home

Posted by on Apr 10, 2013 in Listening, Reading, Speaking, Videos |

Doing grammar exercises is not the only way to improve your English!  Sometimes you just want to have a little fun and sing a song.  Karaoke Party is a clever website where you can sing a bunch of different songs for free.  You can search by genre, year or keyword and you will see a flash video with or without the words and a representation of the melody (kind of like SingStar for the PS3).  You can already sing a few songs without registering, if you register you will get more.  There is a paid membership if you want access to all the songs but they have a nice selection for registered users already. Have...

Read More

Test your pronunciation in this game

Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Speaking |

Here’s a silly game for you to try: http://easywaytest.com/ Just pronounce the word on the screen (into your microphone), if you do it correctly you’ll see the next part of the cartoon.  The game understands the other things you say too, so be polite!

Read More

How to pronounce English names

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Listening, Speaking |

English names are notoriously difficult to pronounce when you can only read them.  For example, how many syllables are there in Loughborough or Leominster (these are towns in England)?  Two!  I know it’s strange, it’s strange to me too.  I come from the US, where our cities have normal-sounding names (that’s just a little joke!). So what can you do?  Here is one of those times when you just need to know the international phonetic alphabet (IPA).  Do you remember it?  Here’s a very nice interactive page from the British Council.  We need this because as we saw with Loughborough or Leominster, it just doesn’t make sense that these letters can all be pronounced in two syllables.  We need some way of communicating the pronunciation. I found these town names on this Wikipedia page of names in English with counter-intuitive pronunciations.  You’ll notice that all of the names are also written with the IPA so that you can easily pronounce them correctly.  What’s that?  You’re not an expert in IPA reading?  Then I have found exactly the tool for you. AT&T Labs have developed an IPA to speech program.  You can enter the IPA characters and the program will pronounce “exactly” what you put in (I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I think it is a good start).  The one problem is that you need to put the IPA inside a little HTML code.  Here’s how you do it. Copy the following code: <phoneme alphabet=”ipa” ph=”kæt”> </phoneme> Paste the code into the box on the AT&T Labs page Now copy the IPA you want read (this is the first bit of funny letters from the Wikipedia page, the second set of letters won’t work) and paste it inside the quotation marks where you see kæt in the original, like this: <phoneme alphabet=”ipa” ph=”ˈlʌfbrə”> </phoneme> Choose the speaker you would like to hear Click the “Speak” button! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work perfectly (sometimes the voice will read the punctuation), but “Crystal US English” is pretty reliable. If you want to type other words into the speech generator, you can use an IPA typewriter here. Have fun! I’d like to thank “Pablo” for his post on Yahoo! answers which told me how to use the AT&T Labs tool. Resources from this post: British Council IPA page Wikipedia page of English names with counter-intuitive pronunciation AT&T Labs text-to-speech demo IPA typewriter Yahoo answers post by Pablo (for more information about the text-to-speech demo and the html...

Read More

Find a speaking partner

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Listening, Speaking |

You can practice most things alone, but to really practice speaking you need a partner. And you can find native speakers to practice with at SharedTalk, LiveMocha or Conversation Exchange (REMEMBER: Always protect your privacy online). These sites will all help you find someone who speaks English and wants to learn your native language so you can practice in tandem. You might speak 20 minutes in English and 20 minutes in your mother tongue. Your partner won’t be a teacher, but they will certainly be able to help you with vocabulary and pronunciation while also helping you get more comfortable speaking English. And if you record or take notes during your conversation exchange (remember to ask permission before recording!), you will be able to identify things that are difficult for you and find ways to improve...

Read More

This American Life

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Listening |

This American Life is a 60 minute weekly radio program produced by National Public Radio in the US.  There is an incredible variety of stories on this show, just click the “Radio Archives” link on the top of the page, choose a year and start browsing.  The length of the program allows the presenters to speak at a relaxed pace and really explore their subject material sensitively and in depth.  One particularly good episode is The Giant Pool of Money, which explains and interviews people involved with the start of the economic crisis in...

Read More