Happy 2009!

Happy 2009

Hi friends,

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great 2009. We’ll come back next year with news for the blog, including more interesting resources, exercises and learning guides. We are also thinking about some competition with presents for our readers.

Best of luck and keep going with the learning of the English language for the next year.

Have a look to some funny videos of a pretty crazy elf that we found dancing in different places.

Get yours in ElfYourself
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The Sounds of English - Great Resource to Practise Phonetics

The Sounds of English

Do you have difficulties when pronouncing English phonemes? If your answer is affirmative, we present you today a website that will help you to improve your level of English phonetics. It is a Web page from the University of Iowa that contains flash animations of the phonetic sounds of English, Spanish and German.

With regard to the English language, the animations are available for the 44 English phonemes (divided into vowels and consonants) and explain with a video and a step-by-step description how to manipulate the different articulators (lips, jaw, tongue, etc) in order to pronounce English sounds.

These animations are really valuable because, apart from the audio video with the explanation about how to articulate the sound, you can also find words in context with the particular sound. Those words will act as extra support so you can consolidate your pronunciation.

In this Web page you will also find an interactive diagram showing the different components of the mouth and throat used to articulate the phonemes:


Visit The Sounds of English

Note: If you liked this post and you are looking for more free material to practise English sounds and improve your phonetic skills, don’t hesitate to visit our Phonetics section.
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Just For Laughs - Mexican Oysters


I hope that you enjoy that joke about the adventures of a Texan in Mexico.

A big Texan stopped at a local restaurant after a day roaming around Mexico. While sipping his tequila he noticed a sizzling scrumptious-looking platter being served at the next table. Not only did it look good, but the smell was wonderful. He asked the waiter: 'What is that you just served?' The waiter replied, 'Ah señor, you have excellent taste! Those are called Cojones de Toro. They are the bull's testicles from the bull fight this morning. A delicacy!' The cowboy said, 'What the heck… bring me an order.' The waiter replied, 'Oh, I am so sorry señor, but there is only one serving per day because there is only one bull fight each morning. If you come early tomorrow and place your order, we will be sure to save you this delicacy.'

The next morning, the cowboy returned, placed his order, and that evening he was served the one and only special delicacy of the day: Cojones de Toro. After a few bites, inspecting his platter, he called to the waiter and said, 'These are delicious, but they are much, much smaller than the ones I saw you serve yesterday.'

The waiter shrugged his shoulders and replied, 'Si, señor...

Sometimes the bull wins!'
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A Good Teacher on YouTube - Steve Ford English videos

Steve Ford

Steve Ford is another generous English teacher (remember Mr Duncan and mrthoth?) who prepares free videos to learn English online and then uploads them to his YouTube channel.

He speaks clearly in an American accent and many of his videos are subtitled, making them easy to understand. Moreover, the topics and contents of his videos contain some very pleasant surprises.

The videos in English are organized into three categories:
  • Peppy: videos to learn grammar and vocabulary. The majority of the videos have associated activities (e.g. a video quiz at the end for reviewing new ideas and concepts contained in each recording.)
  • Test Preparation: videos with very useful tips to prepare you for IELTS and TOEFL exams.
  • Business: you’ll find the videos in this category extremely valuable to help you get through a job interview (in English), improve your accent (accent reduction) and increase your vocabulary.
Please see below a sample of Steve Ford’s videos, with a variety of tips to prepare you for a job interview in English:

Apart from his channel on YouTube, Steve Ford maintains a number of other websites for learning English:

Podcasts about his videos

Free activities to do online

Don’t hesitate to visit the sites and take advantage of these wonderful online resources.
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Jollo - Welcome to Translation 2.0


Would you like to use several online translators at the same time? It’d be an advantage because then you wouldn’t have to visit different websites. That’s exactly what Jollo offers: an online resource where you can look for the translation of a word or a sentence up to 150 words or 1000 characters.

The online translators used by Jollo are WorldLingo, Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Yahoo Babelfish, SDL and Youdao. Another strong point of Jollo is that it also looks for the translation of the sentence in the Jollo community. These translations are made and proofread by the users of the community, which means that the translations are made by people and not automatically by a translator application.

Another advantage is that if you wish to translate a very specific sentence or word in English or your native tongue and you don’t find any convincing interpretations, you can request a translation in the Jollo community. This request will be answered by the community and the sentence will appear in the Jollo “Phrase book”. In order to ensure quality of content, users can rate the translations.

Many languages are supported by Jollo. However, the ones with greatest support are English, Chinese, German, French and Spanish.

Visit Jollo.com

Note: In the blog we have included other free resources that you can use to translate texts or look for words in the online dictionaries.
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Podictionary - Podcasts about the Origin and History of Words


Tired of listening to the same old podcasts? What if the podcasts were about the origin and history of English words?

That is what Podictionary offers: a very valuable Web page in blog format for word lovers.

In Podictionary you’ll find a new podcast every day with the origin and history (etymology) of an English word. Every podcast is in English and is read in a clear accent so it’s not very difficult to understand. Moreover, you have access to the complete transcription for each podcast. They can be listened to online or downloaded for later listening on your favourite player.

The average length of the podcasts is between three and five minutes. If you prefer, you can listen to or download a weekly podcast (of longer average length) with the compilation of five words that are discussed during the week.

You can also look up the archive that contains every word mentioned in the blog.

Visit Podictionary.com

Note: Don’t hesitate to visit our podcast section in order to see other websites and online resources where you can listen to and download your favourite podcasts.
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Just For Laughs - Taking Stock

It's incredible how things can change in almost 80 years. We present you another account about these times of crises. Look carefully at how "was said / were said" is used.

Back in the 1929 Financial Crash it was said that some Wall Street Stockbrokers and Bankers jumped from their office windows and committed suicide when confronted with the news of their firms and clients financial ruin. Many people were said to almost feel a little sorry for them...
In 2008 the attitude has changed somewhat:

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Improve Your Intermediate Level of English through Reading


In the blog we want to help everyone who may be learning English, whatever their level. That's why, after writing some guides for learning English from scratch, we present a guide for those people who have an intermediate level of English.

Do you have an intermediate English level? How do your English reading skills influence your English?

Are you able to understand the main idea when English is spoken clearly and when normal or daily issues are discussed? Do you understand texts written in English about daily issues or related to your job? Do you know how to get by in almost any situation when you travel to an English speaking country?

If you answered yes, then congratulations! you probably have an intermediate level of English.

In this guide we’d like to help you progress in your learning and your command of the English language by reading texts in English to improve your English reading skills.

How to improve your level of English by reading texts in English

One of the best ways to make progress with your English is to read. When your English reading skills are strong, you will notice a difference in your English as a whole. Also, reading is an easy, fun and very affordable way to improve many aspects of your English. You can improve your vocabulary, comprehension and grammar all by picking up a book, or visiting a website.

Reading texts in English can help you in many aspects of your learning. When you read in English you learn new words and grammar structures. If you repeatedly see that new vocabulary you’ll learn it by heart and then you’ll be able to use it when writing or speaking in English.

It’s important to get into the habit of reading texts in English: books, newspapers, magazines or websites. If you read a minimum of 20 or 30 minutes every day, you’ll notice improvements in your vocabulary, oral expression and your English reading skills.

When you read a text in English, it’s a good idea not to look words up in the dictionary every time you don't understand a word. On the contrary, it’s better to try and guess the meaning of the new words “by its context”. When you use context rather than a dictionary to learn words, you will be able to remember the words more easily. (Not to mention it is very frustrating to refer to a dictionary every 5th word, so you might find that your confidence improves as well).

In order to help you enjoy reading in English, you can pick up a writer that you like a lot (I love Roald Dahl, author of Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many others), you can also focus on a topic that interests you: football, Internet, fashion, education, news … (as you can see the topics are countless) and look for magazines, books or Web pages that discuss those topics. If you are interested in improving your health, why not study different ways to improve it in English? If you want to visit Canada, why not explore your city of choice in English. Languages are much easier to learn when you use them in an interesting and relevant way for yourself.

Another thing that you can try is reading the same book, magazine, article or Web page more than once. If you read something and then you read it again in a couple of days or weeks, you’ll notice that the second or successive time that you read it you’ll understand more and you’ll be consolidating the new vocabulary and grammar.

If you are trying to do all of this on the web but your vocabulary is a little low, try using WordChamp to help you along. Its Web Reader makes reading online articles simple and quick and it allows you to study the vocabulary that you didn’t know before with automatically created flashcards. To look up the meaning of a word, you can also use any of the free Online Dictionaries already compiled in the blog.

Available resources in the blog and on the Internet

In the blog we have a collection of resources with interesting material to read in English. The resource topics that we have already mentioned are:


Euronews: contains the latest international news, the news is in different languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic).

List of American online Newspapers: a total of 33 free online newspapers with interesting material.


Lecturefox: free lectures in English from the top universities all over the world. Boost your English reading skills while learning something new.

On the Internet there are many Web pages and resources to read things you are interested in. You can use your favorite Internet browser to look for any of them. Diana recommends the Gutenberg project which has a large archive of free books (mostly the classics) that you can download or print.

This document has been written in collaboration with Diana Tower, an English teacher with 3 years teaching experience. She is also the author of the free Web page Helping you learn English.
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Improve Your Grammar with Learning English Central Grammar

Learning English Central Grammar

Would you like to increment your level of grammar of the English language? Although studying grammar is not the most exciting thing in the world, it is necessary to understand the structures of any language, English in this case.

We have a Web page for you that will help you to improve your grammar in a more pleasant way. Learning English Central Grammar provides brief explanations about the most common grammatical structures of English, as well as giving answers to your questions, and providing games to play while learning.

The page navigation is quite simple and the following resources deserve to be highlighted:
  • Grammar definitions’ archive: you’ll find useful explanations about articles, the conditional tenses, conjunctions, determiners, modals, prepositions, the present perfect, relative clauses and other important aspects of English grammar.
  • An archive of answers to previous questions sent by users: alphabetically sorted and with very valuable information. (The bullet points about common errors attracted a lot my attention).
  • Grammar games’ archive: the games also are alphabetically sorted and are ideal complements to consolidate the grammar concepts. There are more than 50 games and activities, so there is a big variety to choose from.
To conclude, just to mention that if you don’t know the meaning of a word, you can double-click on it and a new window will be opened with its definition, courtesy of Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Visit Learning English Central Grammar

Note: If you are looking for more free online resources to practice your grammar, don’t hesitate and check out our websites’ archive.
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100 Most Common English Words

100 Most Common English Words

Do you know what the 100 most common words in English are? Tough question, isn't it? We present you today an amusing online game where you can practice and learn the 100 most used words of the language.

This list of words was compiled using the Oxford English Corpus. A corpus is a collection of texts of written (or spoken) language presented in electronic form. These texts are used by the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary, which contains over 2 billion English words.

The way to play the online game is very simple: you have to press the “Start” button and then you have 5 minutes in which to type the words contained in the 100 most used words in English. If you are right, the word will appear in green and then you'll be able to type a new word. If you are wrong, the word won't appear and what you have written will stay until you modify it and write a valid word.

It's very hard to get them all right, but once you see the solution you realize that they truly are words used in almost every (but not all) sentence in English.

Try this game; we hope that you have a great time!

Note: If you are looking for more games for learning English while you have fun, you can have a look at our collection of websites with free online games.
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Euronews - Read news in Various Languages


Would you like to keep up-to-date while reading the news in English? Euronews is a free Web page that will help you because it contains the latest international news from a European perspective.

Euronews has recently updated its appearance and now it presents a more attractive, clear and intuitive interface. The news is organized in different categories and the information is easily accessible.

But, what’s the difference between euronews and the other websites for reading news in English, such as the BBC, VOA or the list of US online newspapers as presented in the blog? Well, in euronews the same news is in different languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic. So you can see the translation from one language to another (maybe to your native language).

There is also an official euronews channel in YouTube. There you’ll find videos about news in various languages.

Visit euronews

Visit its channel in YouTube

Note: The translation of the news between the different languages is not one hundred percent accurate. However, it’s really helpful to get the general idea. If you are missing the meaning of a word, you can use some of the online dictionaries that we have already mentioned in the blog. You can also use the wonderful tool provided by WordChamp to read Web pages in other languages and see the translation and pronunciation of the words.
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Freerice.com - Help Reducing World Hunger while You Improve Your English


For each answer you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.

Beautiful message, isn't it? This is what Free Rice offers: a Web page where you can practice your English (by learning new vocabulary and improving your grammar) while you do a good thing helping many people who don't have anything to eat.

There are different topics to choose from and increase your ability with English and other subjects:
  • Art: questions about famous paintings.
  • Chemistry: various lists with chemical symbols.
  • English: practice your grammar and vocabulary.
  • Geography: identify countries on the map and World capitals.
  • Language Learning: French, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • Maths: practice multiplication tables.
Every question is in English so whatever subject you choose you'll be practising your English. Moreover, in the "Language Learning" subject, you might be able to choose your native language (French, German, Italian or Spanish) and then be asked to translate a word from your mother tongue to English, thus improving your translation skills.

To be honest, the games are pretty addictive and this particular blog has already donated 1180 grains of rice. It's not much, but it's better than nothing! :) How many have you donated?

Take advantage of this website and practice your English online, and remember that for every correct answer, 20 grains of rice, which will help to reduce the hunger of many, will be donated.

Visit freerice.com

You can see a video (in English) where it's shown how they help and feed many people using the rice obtained in FreeRice.com.

FreeRice.com was discovered thanks to a comment of Satya Rao, author of the blog Best Tech News.
You have read this article Grammar / Quizzes / Solidarity / Vocabulary with the title 2008. You can bookmark this page URL https://apostolosmakrides.blogspot.com/2008/10/freericecom-help-reducing-world-hunger.html. Thanks!

WordChamp - Learn English Vocabulary with Flashcards


WordChamp is a language-learning network that offers very valuable and free resources to practice English.

The first thing that attracts one’s attention is the Flashcards, which include different activities to brush up your vocabulary through several exercises of: pronunciation, reading, dictation, grammar and other linguistic skills.


It’s also possible to look for flashcards among the huge collection available, as well as creating your own with lists of vocabulary.

Another interesting resource offered by WordChamp is Absolute Recall. With this resource you can keep track of every new word that you learn. The way it works is that you listen to a word in English and then you write it in your own language. The system saves your correct and incorrect answers, stressing the words that you got wrong.

Last but not least (indeed, it’s my favourite tool from WordChamp) you have the Web Reader that allows you to translate selected Web pages and texts.

The outcome of using Web Reader in a Web page in English is not that you should see the whole website translated to your native language, but that you can point to any word whose meaning you don’t know. The word is then highlighted in yellow and the translation to your own native language is given, as well as the option of listening to the pronunciation (in English and your native language). In the image below you can see an example of this from the New York Times Web page:

Web Reader

Visit WordChamp

Note 1: If you’d like to try the Web Reader but don’t know where to look for interesting content to read in English, you can look at our online resources to practice reading skills; you certainly won’t be bored! ;)

Note 2: WordChamp offers other interesting resources as a means to learn English. There is a section named Course Management, which is focused on English teachers and this allows them to create online classes for their students. These resources are not free of charge and for this reason they haven’t been mentioned before. However, we bring them to your attention now because someone may find them useful.
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How to learn English from scratch? - Music

Learn English with Music

A     proven way to start learning English is the use of English Music (though it can be used in more advanced levels as well).

Please consider translating this post into your native language with this “Google translator”, just in case you don’t understand everything.

How to use English Music?

Well, by listening to your favourite songs and reading the lyrics of those songs. Song lyrics are really useful for learning new words and expressions. Moreover, you’ll listen to how words are pronounced so your ear will get used to English phonetics. Also, if you sing the songs aloud you’ll be practicing your pronunciation as well.

When using Music to learn English put into practice the following tips:
  • First, choose songs or bands that sing clearly. A great band is “Cake”. When the lead singer sings, it is almost like he is speaking. His words are clear and they are easy to sing along to. Check them out and look for “Cake music” in YouTube.
  • Second, in the beginning it is best to listen to songs, while reading along with the lyrics. Once you know the words you can sing along without the lyrics. This way you will understand what you are singing before you start singing. (We don’t want you to be singing something offensive without realizing it).
  • Third, you can use specific songs to learn specific grammar. For example you can learn the second conditional with a song by the Bare Naked Ladies, “If I had a Million Dollars”. To listen to the song, read the lyrics and practice the second conditional visit the following link in Diana’s website.

Where can I get the Music, the videos and the lyrics?

We have compiled a series of free online resources to search for songs, lyrics and even videos with subtitles.

Web pages to look for songs:


This resource offers many free songs to listen to online with pretty good sound quality. There are lists of favourite songs, a song searcher and the possibility of creating your own playlists. If you select an individual song, it will likely (though not always) link to a video in YouTube with the video clip and the lyrics of the song.


More free online music with good sound quality. It offers different lists with the favourite songs grouped by country (France, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany …) or style of Music (General, Electro, Rock and Ambient). This website also has three online radios to choose from (Soul, Disco and French variety).

Web pages to look for the lyrics:


One of the best websites to find music lyrics! It has a list with the current “top” songs. It also allows you to search by the name of the artist or the title of the song. Furthermore, when you click on a song you can see the lyrics and also a video in YouTube.


Here is another Web page to look for lyrics.

Yahoo Music

This is a music service offered by Yahoo. You can search for the lyrics and watch the video clips of your favourite artists. By the way, the videos are pretty good quality. They also have a service for Videos and music lyrics.

AOL Music

Here you will find a music service offered by AOL. You can search the lyrics by the artist's name or by song title. Some of the songs can be played and listened to while reading the lyrics as well.

Comment 1: If you don’t find a specific set of lyrics from the above websites you can look for it in google (or in your favourite web browser): “title of the song lyrics” or “title of the song artist lyrics”. For example: “disturbia lyrics” or “disturbia rihanna lyrics”.

Comment 2: If you are interested in watching a song's video clip, you can search for its title in YouTube and if you don’t find it, you can try the following in your favourite web browser: “title of the song video”. For example: “disturbia video” or “disturbia video clip”.

Web pages to look for Music videos with subtitled lyrics:


An online resource that offers videos in English with subtitles appearing at the bottom of the video. You can find subtitled musical videos in the Music category.


A website with many videos organized into different categories. You can see English subtitles for every video and you might see the translation into your native language as well. Yappr has a Music category containing more than 300 videos.


This Web page has a collection of subtitled songs to learn English in a fun way. It currently has 1313 songs so that you can listen to your favourite artists.

Multimedia English Classroom

This Web page has a section dedicated to Music with videos in English, complete transcripts of the songs, general idea and meaning of the song and explanations about a variety of language used in the song, along with the most important vocabulary.

Note: If you are looking for more learning guides to learn English from scratch, you can have a look to the guides that we have created in the blog and that will allow you to begin to study English from a null or a very basic level.

This document has been written in collaboration with Diana Tower, an English teacher with 3 years teaching experience. She is also the author of the free Web page Helping you learn English.
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Learn English with an Online Teacher - mrthoth


Do you remember Mr Duncan? He is an English teacher born in Stafford (United Kingdom) who generously uploads videos to YouTube so you can learn English online.

The thing is that Mr Duncan has a “competitor” (three cheers for competition!) known as mrthoth, a man from the US who also uploads videos to YouTube. The videos can really help you to learn and improve your English.

Mrthoth’s English videos are divided into two categories:
Every video has an average length of between four and ten minutes. They are highly recommended for furthering your understanding of English grammar and to get your ear used to the American English accent (bear in mind that mrthoth is from the US).

You can see an example of a video where he explains what a verb is, and conversely, what verbs aren't.

Visit his channel in YouTube

P.S.: It seems that mrthoth hasn’t uploaded any new videos for about seven months, which is a pity because the existing material is very valuable.
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Urban Dictionary - Slang English Dictionary

Urban Dictionary

There are several online dictionaries on the Internet where you can look up those words that you read or listen to and whose meaning you don’t know. We have already talked in the blog about some of them, such as WordReference or The Free Dictionary.

These dictionaries are very comprehensive, but they don't include slang. Fortunately, there is an online dictionary: “Urban Dictionary” that has a huge database with millions of definitions of slang words used by native English speakers.

Urban Dictionary is an online resource created by its users and its database is fed by the constant flow of definitions sent in by people. These definitions are proofread by the editors before they are published on the website.

When a new definition is added it is necessary to provide: the word, its definition, an example of use, some tags related to the word, a name (of the author), a location and an e-mail. It makes sense that for every word you need to provide a definition, but the idea of giving an example of use is really useful in order to see that word in context so you can get a better picture of the situations when the word is used.

Do you know the meaning of "lego hair"? Neither did I five minutes ago! ;)

Visit Urban Dictionary

Important: As it is an English slang dictionary, it contains every sort of word and not all of them are what you might call “nice”.

Note: If you are interested in more online dictionaries not about slang, simply look up definitions or translations from English to your native language or vice versa. You can check out the free online dictionaries' collection already existing in the blog.
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Cambridge English Online - Practise English Phonetics

Cambridge English Online

Is it hard for you to pronounce English words? Never mind, it’s very common. The pronunciation is a protracted subject in the process of learning the language. It’s difficult because the English language has 26 letters in the written alphabet, but 44 symbols in the phonetic alphabet.

However, there are free resources on the Internet for you to practise and improve your phonetic skills. We present you today the one offered by Cambridge English Online. On this website you’ll find tests, games, materials for teachers and even an application to download and record your voice.

So, what's available to you in this resource of Cambridge English Online?

The very first thing we suggest is that you do a test to examine the 44 phonemes of the English language. You have to listen to a phoneme and then choose its proper representation. After finishing the test and seeing what your level is, you can begin practising the phonemes and later on you can do the test again and see if you have improved.

The amount of activities and games that you can use to increase your phonetic knowledge is pretty big; some of the flavours that you’ll find are:
  • Phonemic Chart Puzzle: it’s a funny game where you have to put into order the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle while you see the phoneme, its sound and a word that contains it.
  • Which Phoneme?: a game where you have to listen to a word and then you have to choose among three different possibilities which is the proper phoneme that it’s been used.
  • Phonetic Pelmanism: a classic game where you have to match the phonetic spelling with the real spelling.
  • Phonemic Hangman: the game of Hangman where you have to read the phonemic spellings and try to spell the word before the stickman gets hanged.
  • Shoot-a-Symbol: a game where you have to look at a word and then try to shoot the phonemes in the right order.
  • Odd Phon’Out: in this game you are shown four words and you have to choose which word has a different sound to the other three.
This Web page also offers material for teachers:
  • A phonemic reader that will help your students to improve their phonemic spelling.
  • A poster (in pdf format) with the 44 English phonemes.
  • Different flashcards with more useful material.
It is also possible to download an executable application that you can use to record your voice, listen to the saved file and in this way polish up your pronunciation.

Visit Cambridge English Online – Phonetics Focus

If you are looking for more websites to improve your phonetics you can look them up in the available online resources in this regard.
You have read this article Phonetics / Quizzes / Teaching Materials with the title 2008. You can bookmark this page URL https://apostolosmakrides.blogspot.com/2008/10/cambridge-english-online-practise.html. Thanks!

Busuu.com - Excellent Language Learning Community


Busuu is a social network to learn languages (it’s possible to learn Spanish, English, French and German at present) with a very clean and easy to use interface.

This Web page is totally free and after the registration process and selecting your native language and the language(s) that you want to learn you can begin using it.

What can you do in Busuu.com?

One of the very first things would be to select some of the available units about different topics (About me, Daily life, free time…) that will allow you to practice different skills of your English. Every unit is made up of five sections:
  • Vocabulary: the image-word association that speeds up the learning is used. You can also see a sentence where the new word is used in context.
  • Dialogue: an English conversation is presented and then there are a couple of questions about the dialogue in order to test your comprehension.
  • Writing: a variety of images is shown (the same images that were used in the Vocabulary section) and you have to describe what you see in the different images.
  • Talking: you can make contact with an English native speaker that uses Busuu and practice the new vocabulary that you have just learned.
  • Review: you have to do a small exam to evaluate what you have learned.
The amount of available units is pretty big (over 50) so there is wide diversity to choose from. It’s totally customizable; you select the units you want to work on.

As a social network, Busuu.com promotes collaboration and interaction with other members. You’ll be able to chat, talk, review exercises of other members and make new friends.

Something attractive about Busuu is the section called “My busuu.com language garden”. It’s an interactive image that represents your knowledge of the languages. You’ll see that for your native language/s you have a large tree, whereas for the languages that you are learning, the trees are small and are subject to a process of growth. By completing the units and showing that you are learning, these trees will increase in size. Moreover, if you show effort and willpower, you’ll get “presents” for you garden, such as dogs, rains … However, if you give up learning the language, the tree will reduce in size once more.

Busuu Garden

You can see that my “English tree” is pretty stunted and I have to practice to make it grow.

As matter of interest, we would point out that Busuu is a spoken language in Cameroon – according to ethnologic study carried out in the eighties, only eight people are able to speak that language.

Busuu.com is a social network to learn languages focused to users with basic or intermediate level of English. If you are an advanced user you might not find it interesting.

There is a video in YouTube with a tour about this online resource:

Visit Busuu.com

Last comments: If you are looking for more social networks similar to Busuu, don’t hesitate to have a look to our section about social networks and especially to Livemocha (both websites have a similar style). If you are interested in improving your English and have a basic level of English, you can use our guides to learn English from scratch and get some useful advices and free resources to help you.
You have read this article Social Networks / Vocabulary / Writing with the title 2008. You can bookmark this page URL https://apostolosmakrides.blogspot.com/2008/09/busuucom-excellent-language-learning.html. Thanks!

Just For Laughs – Curious way of investing in times of crises


An interesting and funny account, written in English by a person from the United Kingdom. It is always good to err on the side of humour during these times of crises.

By the way, look carefully at how the conditional tense is used in this text.

Thought for the day:
"If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it would now be worth £4.95, with HBOS, earlier this week your £1000 would have been worth £16.50, £1000 invested in XL Leisure would now be worth less than £5, but if you bought £1000 worth of Heineken Lager one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium re-cycling plant, you would get £150. So based on the above statistics the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle."

Please, don’t take above tip to heart. There are better ways of investing and that will produce more money and fewer health problems! :)
You have read this article Just For Laughs with the title 2008. You can bookmark this page URL https://apostolosmakrides.blogspot.com/2008/09/just-for-laughs-curious-way-of.html. Thanks!

List of US Online Newspapers - Read them for Free

Online Newspapers

Do you want to practice your English reading comprehension and don’t know what to read?

The following list can help you. It contains free online newspapers from the US. Every newspaper is written in English and apart from the news about different categories (business, national, sport, entertainment …) in some of them you’ll find videos, podcasts, comics and games (like crosswords) that will help you in different aspects of your English.

If you don’t know the meaning of some words, you can look them up in any of the available online dictionaries.

News about Atlanta
Video archive

News about Arizona
Video archive

News about Boston
Video archive
Podcast archive
Game archive
Puzzle archive

News about Chicago
Video archive

News about Houston
Game archive

News about Cleveland
Video archive

News about Los Angeles
Game archive

News about Dallas
Video archive
Comic and game archive

News about Detroit

News about Detroit

News about Los Angeles
Video archive

News about Miami
Podcast archive

News about New York
Video archive
Game archive

News about New York
Video archive

News about New York
Video archive
Podcast archive

The Wall Street Journal: Business News, Finance News, World, ...
Video archive
Podcast archive

News about Orlando
Video archive

News about Philadelphia
Video archive
Comic and game archive

News about Seattle
Video archive
Comic and game archive

News about Seattle
Comic and game archive

News about San Francisco
Video archive
Game archive
Podcast archive

News about San Diego

News from Minneapolis, St. Paul and around Minnesota

News about the US
Video archive

News about Chicago

News about the South or Florida
Video archive

News about South-Carolina
Comic and game archive

News about New Hampshire

News about New York
Video archive

News about the US and the World
Video archive
Game archive
Podcast archive

News about the US
Video archive
Podcast archive

News about Washington
Audio and video podcast archive

News about the US and the World
Video archive
Podcast archive

A total of 33 free online newspapers with interesting material from which you’ll be able to practice your reading, listening and have fun with the comics, games and quizzes.
You have read this article Podcasts / Quizzes / Reading / Videos with the title 2008. You can bookmark this page URL https://apostolosmakrides.blogspot.com/2008/09/list-of-us-online-newspapers-read-them.html. Thanks!

Verbbusters - English Irregular Verbs


How are you getting on with the irregular verbs in English? "See, saw, seen | read, read, read" etc. They are difficult, aren’t they? Along with the phrasal verbs and the prepositions they make up the "enigmatic trio".

We present you today a Web page that can help deal with them. It’s "Verbbusters", an online resource with a simple operation that will allow you to work with more than 170 irregular verbs in English.

Once on the website you’ll soon be practising the verbs. How? Just follow the following four steps:
  1. Input your name (there is no need to register) or continue as a guest.
  2. Choose the language (English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese or Turkish) in which you want the verb to display (the verb will be shown in the infinitive).
  3. Select the level of difficulty (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Difficult, Advanced, and Special).
  4. Press the corresponding button to begin the exercise.
The exercise for practising the irregular verbs consists of a round where you are asked for 10 irregular verbs (at random) and you fill in the present, past and past participle form of the verb. For each correct answer – and depending on your speed to answer – you get points. After finishing the round of 10 verbs, you get the final score. There is a performance report at the end of each round as well.

We have to admit that the mix between activity, time and getting the highest number of points is pretty addictive and you usually “play” again, so you’ll be learning by heart the past and past participle forms of these irregular verbs.

Verbbusters also offers a complete reference list with 177 irregular verbs in English (to the moment), including its pronunciation, infinitive, past and past participle forms.

More questions?

Have a look at this explanatory video (in English) that gives you a guided tour through Verbbusters and shows you how to carry out the activity.

Visit Verbbusters.com

There is also a new version of Verbbusters.com, try it!
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How to learn English from scratch? - Livemocha

In the blog we've been talking about many free online resources to learn English. Now it’s time to take a step forward and create different guides with tips about how to use these Web pages and get the most of these free resources.

Please consider translating this post into your native language with this “Google translator”, just in case you don’t understand everything.

Where should we start?... What about the beginning? :) How to learn English from scratch? A difficult and seemingly impossible task. When you start to learn a language the key is to be patience, consistent and determined.
  • You have to be patient because learning a language takes a lot of time and effort. If you expect to be bilingual in a week then you will end up frustrated and probably quit.
  • Be consistent because consistency is the key to learning a language. If you vow to study for 20 minutes a day you know that you will improve over time. It might be slower than you would like but it will happen (remember…be patient).
  • Learning a language takes determination and effort. In our opinion most if not all language programs work, when the learner puts the effort into using them. Think about an aerobics video that someone buys to loose a couple pounds? It doesn't work well if the video collects dust on the shelf. Make the effort and you will see the results.

How do I know if this guide is for me? Is my English level elementary or null? Well, honestly answer the following questions:
  1. Translate the following English into your native language: hello, bye, dad, mom, brother, twenty-seven and yellow.
  2. How do you conjugate the verb “to be”?
  3. What are the days of the week in English?
  4. How would you ask someone’s age?
If your level of English is Basic, here you will find tips about how to use free online resources and start to acquire the basics of English.

You can begin with something fun and interactive by enroling in the “English 101” course from Livemocha.

Livemocha English Course

The course is free, has an estimated length of 50 hours and you’ll learn the basics of the English language:
  • The pronouns: I, you, he, she,
  • Negative: not
  • The occupations: police officer, student, doctor,
  • Plurals, “and” conjunction and words ending in “s”.
  • More lessons!
How does this course from Livemocha help you acquire the basics of English?
  • Starting with something fun, simple and easy is the best way to begin learning. Do not go out and buy a grammar book like so many people do. Start with fun interactive courses or websites and when you have a base of vocabulary and understanding start working on grammar.
  • As said above, the course correctly deals with the basics of English and it’s very important to start from this point.
  • The course is well-structured in units and that makes its execution easier.
  • Each unit has the same organization. It repeats the new ideas in different ways: Learn (an image is shown, along with the text and the pronunciation of the word), Reading (you read a word and choose the correct image), Listening (you hear a word and then choose the correct image), Magnet (you listen to a word or sentence in your own language and then you have to select the word(s) in the correct order to translate what you have heard into English, Writing (you are given a simple writing exercise to do), Speaking (short text in English that you can read aloud).
The course is made up of 16 lessons with an estimated length of 50 hours (personally we think that the real length is shorter). When you first start studying English you need to create your own study program. Meaning, you need to create time to study English every day. If you study for a minimum of 20 minutes everyday you will notice a substantial improvement in your English. A little every day is much more effective than 3 hours on the weekend.

Livemocha is a social network to learn languages where people help each other a lot. If you correct exercises (from people learning your native language) they’ll surely become your friends and then (if they are native English speakers or advanced users) they’ll correct your exercises too. In the future you could chat or exchange your Skype, msn … addresses to start talking a little bit. But that happens after a couple months!

Note 1: If you have any doubt about how to register in Livemocha, access the course, carry out the lessons or anything else, just leave a comment with your question and we’ll answer you asap (as soon as possible).

Note 2: In the coming weeks we’ll be explaining how to use other free websites to start learning English. So stay tuned!

This document has been written in collaboration with Diana Tower, an English teacher with 3 years teaching experience. She is also the author of the free Web page Helping you learn English.

Answers to the questions in the Basic English Test:

First question:
We don’t know which your own language is, sorry!

Second question:
I am, You are, He / She / it is, we are, you are, they are.

Third question:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Fourth question:
How old are you?
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Just For Laughs - Computer Help and Technical Support


The following are all supposed to be true. Enjoy them!

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?
Customer: A white one...

Customer: Hi, this is Maureen. I can't get my diskette out.
Tech support: Have you tried pushing the button?
Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.
Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.
Customer: No , wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....

Tech support: Click on the 'my computer' icon on to the left of the screen.
Customer: Your left or my left?

Tech support: Good day. How may I help you?
Customer: Hello.... I can't print.
Tech support: Would you click on 'start' for me and...
Customer: Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me! I'm not Bill Gates.

Customer: Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it...

Customer: I have problems printing in red...
Tech support: Do you have a colour printer?
Customer: Aaaah....................thank you.

Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?
Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me.

Customer: My keyboard is not working anymore.
Tech support: Are you sure it's plugged into the computer?
Customer: No. I can't get behind the computer.
Tech support: Pick up your keyboard and walk 10 paces back.
Customer: OK!
Tech support: Did the keyboard come with you?
Customer: Yes
Tech support: That means the keyboard is not plugged in. Is there another keyboard?
Customer: Yes, there's another one here. Ah...that one does work.

Tech support: Your password is the small letter 'a' as in apple, a capital letter 'V' as in Victor, and the number 7.
Customer: Is that 7 in capital letters?

Customer: I can't get on the Internet.
Tech support: Are you sure you used the right password?
Customer: Yes, I'm sure. I saw my colleague do it.
Tech support: Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer: Five stars.

Tech support: What anti-virus program do you use?
Customer: Netscape.
Tech support: That's not an anti-virus program.
Customer: Oh, sorry... Internet Explorer.

Customer: I have a huge problem. A friend has placed a screen saver on my computer, but every time I move the mouse, it disappears.

Tech support: How may I help you?
Customer: I'm writing my first e-mail.
Tech support: OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer: Well, I have the letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the circle around it?

A customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.
Tech support: Are you running it under Windows?
Customer: 'No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine.'

And last but not least...

Tech support: 'Okay Colin, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter 'P' to bring up the Program Manager.'
Customer: I don't have a P.
Tech support: On your keyboard, Colin.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech support: 'P'.....on your keyboard, Colin.
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Teachitworld - English Language Teaching Resources


Are you an English teacher? Are you looking for interesting material for your classes? New ideas? Teachitworld.com is the Web page that will surely help you. It contains hundreds of innovative ideas and documents in English for your classes, which will surely capture the attention of your students.

We would point out that not all the material from this website is free. However, all the pdf documents (more than 1000) are free, along with the newsletters, the teaching ideas and diverse articles. Moreover, it’s not necessary to register on the Web page in order to access these free resources.

The design of Teachitworld is a simple one and the information is easily accessible, containing:
  • Resource library: hundreds of useful documents organized according to the level of the student (A1-Breakthrough, A2-Elementary, B1-Lower Intermediate, b2-Upper Intermediate, C1-Lower Advanced, C2-Upper Advanced) and the linguistic skill (Reading, Speaking, Listening, Writing, Pronunciation, Grammar and Vocabulary). There are also resources about exams with information about the IELTS, the FCE and the PET [see this post (Exam English) for more information], as well as material for young learners, teenagers, Business English and American English.
  • Audio: activities on different topics for your students to practise their listening skills. The text documents to prepare the classes are free. However, to access the sound files (.mp3) it is necessary to pay a subscription.
  • Topical lessons: a variety of modules based on different subjects, which will help you to produce lesson plans.
  • Whizzy things: numerous tasks to carry on with the students.
  • Teaching ideas: new ideas and inspiration to augment your teaching resources.
  • Newsletters: sign up for free newsletters and updates sent direct to your email box.
  • Image bank: many useful images for the student of English.
  • Become a contributor: become part of the community sharing ideas, resources and knowledge and you can earn money as a result.
As you can see, there is a lot of very interesting material for English teachers. Furthermore, if you are preparing for any of the English exams: IELTS, FCE or PET, have a look at the exam resources as there is some useful information to assist you in this regard.

Visit Teachitworld.com
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Lecturefox.com - Free Online Lectures


Free lectures in English from the top universities all over the world, it sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what “Lecturefox” offers. It consists of a web page with links to more than 500 free lectures from prestigious universities such as: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Clatech, MIT, UC Berkeley, Edinburgh, Boise State, Princeton, Rice and a large etcetera.

These lectures in English are in a variety of formats (video, audio and text) and are organized mainly in 5 categories:
  • Physics: with lectures as attractive as, "Fundamentals of Physics", "Introduction to General Astronomy", "Exploring Black Holes", "The Atom Chip", "Einstein's General Relativity", "The Sounds of Music", and hundreds more.
  • Chemistry: it contains 12 very interesting lectures (to present); "Principles of Chemical Science", "Teaching the Second Law", "Thermodynamics and Kinetics", and so on.
  • Computer Science: more than two hundred lectures about the very latest topics such as, "Understanding Computers and the Internet", "Practical Aspects of Modern Cryptography", "Software Breakthroughs (Bill Gates)", "The Semantic Web (Tim Berners-Lee)", and more. Moreover, for those interested in learning about programming and coding, there are lectures about: "Introduction to Algorithms", "Programming Languages", "Data Structures and Advanced Programming", "Introduction to Computer Science (Java)", "Introduction to Symbolic Programming", "HTML, CSS, Javascript (Screencasts)" and much more.
  • Mathematics: hundreds of lectures about many fields in maths, "Linear Algebra", "Introduction to Statistics", "Differential Equations", "Solving Cubic Equations", " Mathematical Methods for Engineers I", "Calculus I", "Fourier Analysis", etc.
  • Faculty Mix: many lectures from a mix of faculties, Psychology ("Positive Psychology", "Introduction to Psychology" ...), Religion ("Introduction to the Old Testament", "Death” ...), Sports ("Tennis", "Scuba Diving" ...) and much more besides that you’ll surely find interesting.
Remember that every lecture is in English, so you’ll learn while improving your level of English.

Long live free education! visit Lecturefox.com
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Multimedia Classroom to Learn English

Multimedia English Class

Don’t know how to improve your English? Don’t worry … we present you an online resource that has very interesting material to practise almost every linguistic skill. Multimedia English Classroom is the web site that gives us that opportunity.

Multimedia English Classroom is made up of various sections, among which stand out:
  • Videos: about different categories, with transcriptions and explanations of the most interesting vocabulary that appears in the video.
  • Music: video clips in English from your favourite artists, with complete transcriptions for the songs, general idea about the meaning of the song and explanations about the variety of language used in the song, along with the most important vocabulary.
  • Listening: multimedia exercises to practice and improve your reading comprehension.
  • Lessons: video-lessons about different topics: grammar, vocabulary; with explanations of the prominent points of the video in English.
  • Slideshows: Power Point with beautiful pictures and texts to practice your reading.
  • Jokes: in English playing with the language, and associated explanations just in case you don’t understand the British humour.
  • Activities: different multimedia activities targeted at all English levels.
  • Phonetics: material to study phonetics with sounds – very useful to get your ear use to the sound of English. (Contains mostly British English.)
As you can see, there are very valuable resources to be had here. The only bad point about this web page is its interface because it is not very user-friendly and intuitive. However, don’t let the appearance put you off; just take advantage of this complete online resource.

Learn English online in a funny way – visit Multimedia English Classroom
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Learn English Reading News - CNN Student News

CNN Student News

Does “CNN” sound familiar? … “Cabel News Network”, better known as CCN, is a television channel from the US founded in 1980. At present, CNN is the most viewed news channel in the United States. And what has this got to do with learning English?

Well, CNN offers a free service called Student News with very attractive material for practising English online. On this web site you’ll find:
  • Videos (in an American English accent) accompanied by a quick guide and a complete transcript. The content of the videos is very diverse, updated regularly and includes interesting news: the Democratic National Convention, severe weather warnings, America the Beautiful, etc. An example of a video is:

Moreover, CNN has a huge collection of audio and video podcasts about a big variety of topics: News and Politics, Business, CNN TV, Sports, Technology, Health, Entertainment, Comedy, Education and Specials. You’ll be able to listen to the podcasts of the legendary Larry King.

It is also possible to listen to the online radio which is updated News 24 hours a day.

Visit CNN Student News
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Totlol.com - Excellent Videos for Kids


Are you looking for an enjoyable way in which the kids can learn English? Why not try funny videos in English?

Totlol is an online resource where you’ll find what you’re looking for. It is a community-moderated facility where users upload videos (found in YouTube), and the community members are the ones who decide if the videos are suitable for kids under the age of 13.

By doing this, Totlol allows kids to watch entertaining videos in English, giving peace of mind to their parents about the content.

An example of a video that you’ll find:

A very good idea for the youngest learners to enjoy online videos while learning English and having fun.

Visita Totlol.com
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Find Great Podcasts on Listen to English

Listen to English

Are you looking for interesting podcasts to practice your English with? There is a huge variety of podcasts on the Internet: about football (languagecaster.com) , from the BBC, from VOA news, from ESL podcasts and more.

Today we present you with a new web page, listen-to-english.com , in blog format that contains very interesting podcasts about different topics: Music, Phrasal Verbs, Better, Stonehenge, How much does the Queen cost?... and much more.

In every blog entry you’ll find a podcast with the complete transcription (the text in the entry) plus exercises with the related vocabulary, grammar explanations or games.

The podcasts, whose average length is between 3 and 5 minutes, are written and produced by Peter Carter, an English gentleman from Birmingham, who speaks clearly in British English.

An online resource highly recommended for learning English, improving your vocabulary, pronunciation and listening skills.

Visit listen-to-english.com
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Learn All the English Grammar Secrets

English Grammar Secrets

Would you like to learn the secrets of English grammar? We don’t have a magic formula to share with you (we wish we had!), but we can introduce you to the English Grammar Secrets web site. It is an attractive online resource with many useful lessons, facilities for proofreading and be able to clear up doubts related to English grammar.

To mention some of the lessons that you’ll find: Present Continuous, Present Simple, Past Simple, Past Continuous, Present Perfect, Past Perfect, The Future, Shall, Reported Speech, First Conditional, Second Conditional, Third Conditional, Question Tags, and a large etcetera.

Every lesson has a grammatical explanation, examples of use and numerous exercises to assimilate new concepts and ideas.

A very interesting web page courtesy of Caroline and Pearson Brown.

Visit englishgrammarsecrets.com
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Examenglish.com - Free Practice Test for Official Exams


Did you know that there are different exams that can certify your competence in English at international level?

In examenlish.com you’ll find a collection with the sort of exams that will endorse your English level and thus help you continue with your studies, improve your CV, and get a new job …

I would say that the interface of the web site is not wonderful; however this web page contains interesting information about these exams.

What we most like about this online resource are the free tests that are offered for each of the exams. These tests give us an idea about what we can expect when doing such assessments. The web page also allows us to gauge our English level and calculates the equivalent of the official exam that we would have passed.

Let’s have a look at these exams and their official web sites:
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System). IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It measures ability to communicate in English across all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – for people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). The TOEFL® test is the most widely accepted English-language test in the world. No matter where you want to study, the TOEFL test can help get you there.
  • TOEIC(Test of English for International Communication). The global standard for measuring English language skills for business.
  • CPE (Certificate of Proficiency in English). CPE is Cambridge ESOL's (English for speakers of other languages) most advanced exam. It is aimed at people who use English for professional or study purposes.
  • CAE (Certificate in Advanced English). CAE is an exam for advanced users of English. This exam is aimed at people who can use written and spoken English for most professional and social purposes. It is widely recognised for work or study purposes.
  • FCE (First Certificate in English). FCE is an exam for people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an upper-intermediate level. It is an ideal exam for people who want to use English for work or study purposes.
  • PET (Preliminary English Test). PET is an exam for people who can use everyday written and spoken English at an intermediate level. It covers all four language skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking. Preparing for the exam is a popular way to develop and improve your language skills because it provides practical language practice in a variety of everyday work, study and leisure situations.
  • KET (Key English Test). KET is Cambridge ESOL's exam which recognises the ability to deal with everyday written and spoken English at a basic level.
  • BULATS (Business Language Testing Service). The Business Language Testing Service (BULATS) is a language assessment service specifically for the use of companies and organisations. BULATS is for organisations which need a reliable way of assessing the language ability of groups of employees or trainees.
  • ECCE (The Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English). The Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE) is a high-intermediate level general EFL exam. The ECCE emphasizes communicative use of English rather than a formalistic knowledge of English, and it is aimed at students who are able to function and perform communicative transactions in all four skill areas of the language (speaking, listening, reading, writing).
  • ECPE (The Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English). The ECPE is a test of advanced English language proficiency, reflecting skills and content typically used in university or professional contexts. The ECPE assesses linguistic, discoursal, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic elements of the English language. Receptive and productive skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) are evaluated through a combination of integrated and discrete tasks.
  • LTE (London Tests of English). London Tests of English are designed to reward positive achievement in English language learning. These examinations - aimed at adolescents and adults - are offered at six levels to enable candidates to enter at a stage that suits them and rise through the series as their English language skills improve.
Have you done any of these exams? How did you find them?
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