English as a second language

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The goal of this site is to help people learn English as a foreign language. Languages often have different meanings for words that seem the same. These are called false friends, an example are parents in English and parenti in Italian, which are a much broader group. For this and other reasons, learners may find it hard to establish the meanings of English words. Some teachers encourage learners to focus on whole sentences, rather than trying to understand every word.

When a learner tries to translate English phrases word-for-word into his native language, it is difficult to keep up with spoken speech, and such learners may find it hard to understand the rest of the conversation.

To avoid this, some teachers recommend focusing on key words in sentences. When you understand the meaning of the key words (usually nouns and verbs), you can ignore the other ‘unimportant’ words such as auxiliary verbs, prepositions, adverbs etc. and still get the main idea of the conversation.

Another very effective approach that works well with busy students who don’t have time to study as often as they would like to is the immersive method. The basic idea is: don’t study the language, live it! In other words, have fun in the language you want to learn. Find ways to include English in your everyday life: watch your favourite sitcom in English with subtitles (first in your native language, then with English subtitles), search for information online in English, set your homepage to an English news website, switch your mobile phone and computer to English, take notes in English. All these things will help you stay in contact with English and ‘revise’ the words and phrases you see and hear again and again even if you don’t have time to do your homework every night.

Breaking down words to learn their roots and development is a fun way to increase interest in and knowledge of English.

This page deals with developing resources for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

  • Teachers of English as a second or foreign language, please see Topic:TESOL

Resources[edit | edit source]

Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Pronunciation is the way a word or a language is spoken. The pronunciation of a word can be different for the individuals and groups who speak it. The way in which you pronounce a word can be different because of where you live, how you live, who you live with and so on. Someone who lives in the United States and speaks 'American English' will pronounce a word differently to someone who lives in England and speaks 'British English'.


Grammar[edit | edit source]

Apart from the popular drill method, there are a number of other options to practise and learn grammar. One of them is speaking from day 1, when learners are encouraged to use what they learned in speaking from the very beginning. Learners should ignore mistakes they make and actively try to use whatever little they know of the language. This not only develops self-confidence, but also helps to consolidate the grammar structures they are learning. Other approaches include task-based learning, when students are prompted to use authentic language almost subconsciously to achieve a specific, meaningful goal, or as much exposure to listening practice as possible.

Some vocabulary learning techniques work equally well with some grammar structures, e.g. learning irregular verb forms with the use of flashcards (see spaced repetition below).

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

Learners often mention remembering new words as the most difficult aspect of learning a foreign language. In fact, it is more effective to learn new vocabulary in phrases or sentences than as stand-alone words. Research shows that context, especially when it is connected to emotions, makes it easier to remember new words. So, instead of studying lists of random individual words, it is more effective to write down words the learner saw or heard used in a specific text. It is also recommended recording the words with the entire phrase or sentence. That will make it easier for the learner to use the word naturally when he speaks and thus achieve fluency, and the brain will also find it easier to remember the word with the context.

However, as Hermann Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows, the human brain tends to forget up to 80 % of what you learn as quickly as within one day unless you revise it. A strategy to overcome this is spaced repetition: exactly scheduled revision times with older and less difficult words being studied less frequently, often using flashcards.

Wikibooks[edit | edit source]

Other Resources[edit | edit source]

Learning Projects[edit | edit source]

Here are the current learning projects in ESL: