Tools & Techniques

Turbocharge your reading and listening


It’s no secret – reading and listening are the key to language development. The more you read and the more you listen, the more your English will grow. It’s that simple. But there are some things you can do to turbocharge (add energy to) your reading and listening to make it more effective.

Read More

How to read more: a lover’s guide


There’s no question about it. Reading and listening are essential for language development. You probably know that. But if you’re like a lot of people, sometimes you need a little nudge and a little encouragement to keep you going. This should do the job!

Read More

Who’s your (English) mama?


People who must learn a new language to work in another country often work with a native speaker, called a language resource person (LRP), to help them acquire conversational language. There’s a variation on the idea of LRPs – called language parents – that could do the same for you.

Read More

Fine-tune your reading for better English


Reading (and listening) is the key to language development. More specifically, the comprehensible input we get from reading and listening is the key to language development. Without it very little happens. With it, vocabulary grows, a feel for correctness emerges, and fluency increases. Comprehensible input is necessary and also sufficient to achieve your goal – better English.

Read More

Discover great reads by great writers


If you want to improve your English, there’s nothing better than a healthy reading diet of interesting, understandable English. And if you want to become a good writer, there’s no better way than to read the works of good writers. Byliner, a relatively new web site, simplifies finding and choosing good things to read and promises to help you “discover great reads by great writers.”

Read More

Writing lessons from the masters


Good writing comes mostly from reading what good writers have written. But quite a few good writers, like C.S. Lewis, John Steinbeck, and George Orwell, have also taken the time to write tips – practical suggestions – for good writing.

Read More

Something to listen to


If you’re tired of news and want something different to listen to to improve your English, Audiofiles may become your new best friend. Audiofiles is the audio version of longform journalism – what I have called “more than news, different than fiction.”

Read More

Lessons for better English


Lessons for better English is a collection of Successful English articles – organized like a textbook or course outline – for English students and teachers. Its goal – to help you improve your English by helping you understand and practice successful language acquisition.

Read More

Reading improves students’ writing


There’s strong agreement among the writers, teachers, and researchers I know best: good writing comes from reading. Many students, however, have trouble accepting this fact. In this article – a case study – I describe the effect that reading has had on one student’s writing.

Read More

A language teacher acquires a new language


Alex teaches English at an American university. He’s also the director of the university’s TESL program, where students learn how to teach English as a second language. When he wanted to learn Spanish, he began as many English learners do. And failed. He found success, though, when he applied a simple principle and found some creative ways to make it work.

Read More

Better reading – look for the clues


When you read to improve your English, you want to read for pleasure. You want to choose something that’s easy and interesting, that allows you to “get lost” in what you’re reading and forget that it’s English. But sometimes you must read to learn, for example, on the TOEFL exam. What do you do then?

Read More

Better reading – it’s in the chunks


What is reading? Very simply, reading is trying to make sense of a sentence, paragraph, essay, article, or book. It’s trying to understand what’s in the writer’s mind. And the key to making sense of what we read is in the chunks – groups of words – not individual words.

Read More

Revising for better English


“So what is good English?” asks William Zinsser. “…it’s plain and it’s strong,” he answers. “It has a huge vocabulary of words that have a precise shade of meaning; there’s no subject however technical or complex, that can’t be made clear to the ordinary reader in good English – if it’s used right.”

Read More

Making good choices


One of my students – let’s call him Bryan – recently asked me, “How can I be sure that what I’m reading (or listening to) is good for me?” Bryan wants to improve his English as quickly as possible, and he’s worried about wasting time.

Read More

Helping battered English learners


Students at a well-known Japanese college of technology were frustrated. They had studied English for several years, but their English still wasn’t good. The school tried using native English-speaking teachers, language laboratories, and computer-assisted learning, but nothing seemed to help. To make things worse, students were bored with studying grammar and translating texts. Then the school introduced a program that changed everything.

Read More