Tools to check whether language sounds natural or not, and to improve the level of a production

  • Dictionaries: some of the dictionaries I tend to recommend at B2 level and upwards are the Cambridge Dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/) and the Oxford Thesaurus (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/, choose ‘Thesaurus’ in the dropdown menu). Ideas on how to use a dictionary here to improve writing tasks here: https://natalialzam.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/how-to-improve-your-writing-tasks-b2-c1/  
  • Grammarly (https://www.grammarly.com):  Add-on which checks for spelling mistakes, and suggests possible grammar mistakes through Artificial Intelligence. Its suggestions tend to be accurate/useful. 
  • Fraze.it (https://fraze.it): A database of online newspapers and magazines which may come in handy when trying to make sure that a given collocation sounds natural. Type your collocation into the search box, and if it can find those words, it will yield real examples where this expression appears. Once there, you can also click for more context. If your collocation exists, you will find a list of examples; if it does not, or is not very frequent, no or very few examples will appear.
  • Flax (http://flax.nzdl.org/greenstone3/flax?a=fp&sa=collAbout&c=collocations): enter a word, and how words form into collocational patterns will be revealed by looking across different academic and social corpora.

The following links provide further ideas and resources on how to check whether the language produced sounds natural, or to widen the range of vocabulary used to meet the requirements of B2-C1-C2 levels:

Words in the news- Come what may, do or die

Listen to this clip from a news report about Boris Johnson’s take on Brexit. It contains some interesting expressions you may want to use:

Source

You can find the transcript to the clip below. Click on the links to find dictionary definitions or explanations for the words and expressions:

Come what may, do or die, and nothing ruled out in order to achieve it. Boris Johnson has been forthright in his promise to deliver Brexit by the deadline of October 31st, with or without a deal, should he become Prime Minister. And in recent days, Philip Hammond, who has long spoken of the risks of a no-deal Brexit, has become increasingly vocal [2nd meaning] in his warnings to a potential Boris Johnson government.

You can watch the interview where Boris Johnson makes these claims here (00’40”):

The first two expressions (‘come what may’ and ‘do or die’) are actually coming up regularly in the past few days in the media, in reference to Boris Johnson’s approach.

The Guardian

If you want a nicer context than politics to help you remember these expressions, you can also find the expression ‘come what may’ in the song by the same name featured in the film Moulin Rouge (2001):

Help!- recursos online para sonar más “natural” en una lengua extranjera

Publicado 2.5.2014, actualizado 20.07.2019

Todos los profesores de/en lengua extranjera, así como los alumnos, en algún momento desearíamos tener a algún hablante nativo al lado para poder preguntar algo que no sabemos decir, o que quizás podemos expresar de una manera gramaticalmente correcta, pero no sabemos si suena “natural” para los hablantes nativos. Para intentar paliar este problema, os propongo varias herramientas lingüísticas online gratuitas:

Diccionarios online: 

Pronunciación: 
  • forvo.com: diccionario “vivo” de pronunciación. Busca una palabra, nombre propio, marca, nombre de lugar…hablantes nativos se han grabado pronunciando ese término. Permite oír a alguien real pronunciando (no a un ordenador), y además, se puede mostrar a los alumnos (confiere cierta autoridad a lo que ha dicho el profesor: “¿no me creéis? Escuchadlo”. Acentos de diversas variedades geográficas y sociales.
  • YouGlish: busca términos en videos de YouTube. Ese video, además, aparece con subtítulos. Ideal para oír la pronunciación de términos, expresiones…y para buscar videos relativos a un tema. Disponible en inglés y francés.

Click en el idioma para cambiar inglés / francés

Expresiones en contexto:
  • http://fraze.it/: permite encontrar expresiones, frases hechas, en contextos reales online (fundamentalmente periódicos, revistas…), para asegurarnos de su uso,  qué preposición va con qué verbo, ejemplificar nuevo vocabulario…Disponible en varios idiomas (click en el idioma para seleccionar).

Inglés- online collocation dictionaries:

Intercambio de idiomas: 
  • http://polyglotclub.com/: registro gratuito. Puedes escribir textos, o hacer preguntas a la comunidad. Hablantes nativos corregirán ese texto, o te dirán qué suena más natural. A cambio se solicita que tú, como hablante nativo de tu idioma, también corrijas a otros miembros que aprenden tu idioma materno como lengua extranjera. MUY ÚTIL

Así, por ejemplo, si queréis practicar la expresión escrita, podéis copiar vuestras redacciones, y hablantes nativos os las corregirán, no solo desde un punto de vista gramatical, sino que lo harán desde el punto de vista de “qué suena natural”. De este modo además tendréis varias posibilidades, ya que es un foro abierto. Y en muchas ocasiones tendréis comentarios de por qué os cambian vuestro texto original.

Para acceder a esta opción, pinchad en vuestro nombre de usuario, y allí os saldrá la opción “mis correcciones”. Allí podréis escribir vuestro texto, o corregir el de otras personas que aprenden español.

polyglot1

polyglot2

Además, la comunidad de polyglot club organiza reuniones en ciudades, así que de vez en cuando podéis ver que hay un “polyglot club meeting” en vuestra ciudad, por si queréis practicar la lengua extranjera que aprendéis con otras personas que también están aprendiendo.

  • http://lang-8.com/ (similar a polyglotclub).
  • https://hinative.comEs un servicio derivado de lang-8 (puedes usar la misma cuenta, registro gratuito). Permite hacer preguntas sobre el idioma, cultura, o cualquier cosa que quieras preguntarle a un hablante nativo de un idioma de cualquier parte del mundo. Tú también puedes enseñar cosas de tu lengua o tu cultura. Aunque no preguntes, también es interesante leer lo que otros han preguntado. 

hinative_screenshot1

* Aviso: en alguna ocasión, si planteáis estructuras gramaticales poco frecuentes, demasiado académicas…puede que la solución que os planteen estos hablantes nativos sea que digáis algo mucho más sencillo. No porque vuestra opción sea incorrecta, sino porque les suene demasiado “academicista”, poco frecuente…y en ese caso esa recomendación no os sería de gran ayuda. Es algo que os puede pasar, especialmente en niveles C1-C2. Probad a encontrar algún ejemplo similar al vuestro en fraze.it, por ejemplo (ver explicación más abajo). 

 

online collocation dictionaries

What do we mean by ‘collocation’? Collocation refers to how words go together in real language use. For example, you can say in English that you take a picture/photo, but you don’t *do* a picture/ photo. Maybe theoretically you could say that, but real speakers don’t. (More information and examples here).

What tends to happen with students of English at an advanced level is that they look words up in the dictionary for their writing tasks, or even look for synonyms in a thesaurus (excellent, that’s what they should do); and yet, sometimes they may end up producing certain combinations of verb + noun, or adjective + noun…that sound unnatural, because they don’t collocate together. Maybe they should, but the resulting expression is not in actual use.

To avoid this, what you can do is to check whether this expression exists or not by using one/some of these resources below. Teachers can also use them, to decide whether this collocation they find unnatural or unheard of in their students’ writing actually exists or not:

Database of online newspapers, magazines…type your collocation into the search box, and if it can find those words, it will show you real examples where this expression appears. Once there, you can also click for more context.

If your collocation exists, you will find a list of examples, like this:

As you can see, there are many examples showcasing “take a photo” together.

However, if the words do not collocate, you will find something like this:

You do find the words, but in different parts of the sentence, not together, which means it’s not a collocation. Some other times the search may yield no results whatsoever, which makes your collocation even more unlikely.

Fraze.it is also connected to YouGlish, (click on ‘pronunciations’), so it also provides you with videos featuring the pronunciation of the word/collocation (as well as giving further evidence that the collocation actually exists).

Type a word in the search box, and the database will suggest adjectives, verbs, nouns… that are usually found ‘collocating together’ with that term, as well as some examples. You can also find suggestions for similar words.

enter a word, and how words form into collocational patterns will be revealed by looking across different academic and social corpora.

Look up a noun / verb/ adjective… The website will suggest nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, that tend to go either before or after your word.

Works in a very similar way to ProWriting Aid.

 

You can also read:

 

New Year’s resolutions-exercises

2019 has already begun, so it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Or is it?

There are lots of idioms related to New Year’s resolutions. You can practise some of them with this exercise. To check your answers, visit the original blog post here.

Is language learning one of your New Year’s resolutions? You may be interested then in the recommendations this spokesperson from the British Council gives in this interview:

You can also listen to these three women discussing their views on New Year’s resolutions on BBC Radio Oxford:

You can find some interesting expressions related to New Year’s resolutions in this infographic and video from BBC Learning English:

Link to tweet with video

You may be considering ambitious New Year’s resolutions like these Scotsmen…

(Captions available)

Or perhaps you are settling for more realistic, short-term goals– Forget resolutions: Try something new for 30 days.

In any case, Happy New Year!

Cómo grabar “Pasapalabra” con TouchCast Studio para repasar vocabulario

En este video cuento cómo se puede “grabar” un programa de Pasapalabra con los alumnos, para repasar vocabulario, conceptos clave:

Las veces que he realizado esta actividad les he propuesto a los alumnos que concursaran por equipos, y que ellos mismos eligieran las palabras y escribieran las definiciones, para que otro grupo de la clase tuviera que adivinarlas. De ese modo, el repaso es doble, porque al elaborar preguntas también están revisando sus apuntes.

Si tenéis iPad y la aplicación gratuita TouchCast Studio, no os hace falta fondo verde para crear el efecto croma. Resulta muy cómodo, ya que no hay que montar ningún fondo, o llevar a los alumnos a otro aula. Si no, se podría grabar con cualquier otra aplicación de efecto croma (ChromaVid, GreenScreen by Do Ink…más información aquí), pero se perdería la posibilidad de ir marcando sobre el video las respuestas correctas e incorrectas.

Using ads for teaching/learning English

Ads (both print and TV) can be a helpful tool to teach/learn languages. Basically, because businesses want you to remember their product or service. That’s why they use a whole range of strategies, to make an impact on potential buyers. In the field of language learning, we can use those strategies to our advantage, to help us remember key vocabulary/collocations, and associate pictures to words.

First of all, TV ads tend to be short, so the same ad can be watched several times, and at different points in time, to reinforce relevant vocabulary, pay attention to stress and pronunciation…

On top of that, they create a context, or a short fiction: that context may be helpful to remember dialogues, slogans…

Last but not least, advertising campaigns tend to have a catchy slogan, sometimes playing with alliteration or rhyme, which can help us remember words/expressions. Besides, the same slogan is used over and over again.

These websites can be useful for both teachers and students as resources:

  • http://www.tellyads.com/: Comprehensive website for UK TV ads since 2006 (although it does have some vintage ads as well). It tends to be updated daily. You can search by brand name (alphabetically), or just have a look at the 20 most recent ads.
  • You can also use http://tvadvertsuk.com/

World ads:

Some of my favourite TV ads:

 

Specsavers (Opticians)- Should’ve gone to Specsavers (a good way to practise perfect infinitives with modal verbs)

 

 

Sainsbury’s- Mog’s Christmas Calamity

 

 

 

An activity I’ve done some times is to play some ads to students: then, ask them to identify certain strategies which feature frequently in ads, as well as write down interesting / relevant vocabulary / collocations.

Exercise- associate ad- strategy used – vocabulary

The objective was twofold: Ss were expected to be able to analyse the kind of persuasive strategies and language that advertising uses to entice consumers into buying; later, they were asked to write and perform their own ads, using some of those strategies, and trying to use language they had seen in the ads.