RSS your way to better English


in Spotlight, Tools & Techniques

RSS can help you free up time for the reading and listening that will lead to better English. Today I have some suggestions for using RSS to bring reading and listening material to you automatically so it’s there, waiting for you, when you want to read or listen.

What is RSS

RSS – really simple syndication – is a way to have things you want to read or listen to, like articles and podcasts, automatically delivered to your computer. It’s similar to subscribing to your favorite magazine and having it delivered to your house every week or month.

If you’re not familiar with RSS, RSS in Plain English from Common Craft will give you quick, simple video introduction. A transcript – written copy of the video – is also available.

Using RSS

If you don’t already have a favorite RSS reader, I encourage you to try Google Reader – it’s convenient and easy to use. For a quick introduction, watch Google Reader in Plain English.

Getting Started with Google Reader – which includes another short video – will show you how to set up Google Reader. If you need more detailed information and answers to specific questions, check out Google Reader Help.

Using RSS for your reading and listening

Most web sites now make it possible for you to be very selective – to choose only the material that you want to receive by using RSS feeds.

I receive a lot of RSS feeds every day. And most of the time, I quickly scan the headlines and only stop to read those that look important. There are some feeds, however, that I want to be sure to read. When I set up Google Reader, I made a file folder called Favorites. The important feeds go into my Favorites folder. Whenever I open Reader and see something in the folder, I stop and read it first.

You can do the same thing with your English reading and listening. Here are some examples of RSS feeds from good sources of reading and listening material:

At the ESL Podcast, there is a feed for the Podcast and a separate feed for the blog.

VOA Learning English has a page of RSS feeds that you can use to choose to receive all of their stories or choose from feeds about the U.S.A., World, U.S. History, American Life, People, Places, and other areas of interest. You can do the same thing with the regular VOA news and features.

The Economist RSS page makes it possible for you to choose from nearly 50 feeds for news, blogs, audio and video, and a variety of subject areas, such as banking, corporate leadership, and the environment.

If you want to read essays from the New York Times, you can choose a feed that includes all of their columnists, or essay writers, or only one, like David Brooks. The Times makes it possible to subscribe to almost any page – here’s an example from the business and financial news page:

When you click on the RSS icon, the RSS feed address will appear in the URL window. If you copy it and paste it into the “Subscribe” space on Google Reader, all of the new business and finance news articles will automatically come to Google Reader where you can read them.

If you’re an advanced English learner, the RSS feed from TED will bring you a new 15-20 minute video every day. TED is one of my favorite video sources for exciting new ideas.

Simply your English acquisition process

Reading and listening are the keys to better English. Using RSS feeds can free up more time for you to read and listen, and it’s easy to do:

  1. Find a few good sources to “feed” your online reading and listening.
  2. Set up the RSS feeds from the sources and put them into  a Favorites or My English folder in your reader.
  3. Set up a regular time – every day – to go to your computer, smart phone, or iPad, open your folder and do the reading and listening that will lead to better English.

Related Reading: Spotlight – great ideas and academic English delivered to your desktop.

Warren Ediger

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