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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

10 Resources for ESL & Foreign Language Students

While writing about LangMedia yesterday I realized that I've reviewed a lot of resources for foreign language and ESL/EFL students and teachers over the last couple of years. Here are ten of the better free resources for foreign language and ESL/EFL students.

Smart.fm is a free service designed to help you learn languages, mathematics, and history independently. At it's most basic, Smart.fm provides a flashcard-like service for learning languages, learning formulas, and learning facts. You can hear the flashcards read to you, read the flashcards, and play games based upon the flashcards you're studying. Smart.fm takes the flashcard concept a step farther by offering a personalized repetition schedule based upon what you've learned and what you haven't yet learned. The schedule adjusts each time you revisit your account.

Vocabulix provides numerous free tools for learning Spanish, German, or English. Vocabulix can be used to create quizzes or take quizzes online. Vocabulix provides dozens of drills and activities designed to help students learn Spanish, German, or English. The verb conjugation chart can be used on the Vocabulix website. The verb conjugator code is freely available for use in third party blogs, wikis, or websites. As most new language learning websites do, Vocabulix has a social networking option that helps match native speakers with learners.

Forvo can best be described as an audio wiki for word pronunciations. One of the problems with learning to speak a language that is not phonetic is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Forvo hosts hundreds of recordings of word pronunciations by native speakers. Currently there are nearly 200 languages supported on Forvo. Along with word pronunciations, Forvo provides some basic demographic information about each language. Forvo's content is user supported and user generated so new pronunciations are added every day.

CAPL, Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon, is a project developed by Dr. Michael Shaughnessy at Washington & Jefferson College. The purpose of CAPL is to provide images that demonstrate the true meaning and intention of the words in a language. CAPL currently has collections of images for teaching and learning English (North American), German, French, Chinese, and Spanish. CAPL also has images for Japanese, Russian, and Ukranian. All of the images in the collection are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for re-use and manipulation for non-commercial purposes.

The Story Place is a children's digital library produced by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina. The Story Place features digital stories in English and Spanish for students of pre-school age through elementary school. The digital stories are arranged by age group and by theme. I looked at the pre-school story about firefighters and thought it that it is the type of story I would share with my pre-school aged child, if I had kids. Along with the digital stories are activity guides for parents.

Verbs Online provides foreign language students with a good selection of activities for practicing verb conjugations. Practice activities are available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. The practice activities deal with the past, present, and future tenses of regular and irregular verbs. Students can choose to do the activities in sets of ten through fifty practice items.

WordSteps is a resource for learning the vocabulary of your choice of nine languages. To start learning vocabulary with WordSteps select the language you are trying to learn then choose a set of vocabulary words in that language. WordSteps provides six types of practice activities for each set of vocabulary words. The sets of vocabulary words are called dictionaries by WordSteps. You can use the dictionaries made by other WordSteps users or create your own dictionary. WordSteps can be used without creating an account, but in order to create your own dictionary you must create an account.

Kindersay is designed for use by pre-K students. The user interface is easy to navigate using clear, kid-friendly icons. There are more than 500 activities that students can use. There is not any distracting advertising on Kindersay.


ESL Basics is a site that provides short video vocabulary lessons for beginning and advanced ESL students. For teachers, ESL Basics has a small collection of suggestions and ideas for teaching ESL. ESL Basics is adding new content on a regular basis.

Make Beliefs is a free comic strip creation tool that provides students with a variety of templates, characters, and prompts for building their own comic strips. Make Beliefs provides students with a pre-drawn characters and dialogue boxes which they can insert into each box of their comic strip. The editing options allow users the flexibility to alter the size of each character and dialogue bubble, bring elements forward within each box, and alter the sequence of each box in the comic strip. Students that have trouble starting a story can access writing prompts through make beliefs. Most impressively, Make Beliefs allows users to write their comic strip's dialogue in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portugese, or Latin.

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