Friday, August 31, 2007

MP3 Players: Using Them for Learning

Although people talk a lot about Apple's iPODs, one of the best MP3 I have seen is Creative Zen V Plus by Creative labs (see review at,127376/article.html:

One of the cool features is that it has line-in recording, built-in mic, and a FM transmitter. The line-in feature allows you to plug in a mic or record directly to your advice from any other audio device, including other MP3 players or an audio CD player. For language study, having the ability to add a mic or simply use the built-in mic can allow students to record their voice as a means of keeping a voice journal.

Share your ideas or suggestions on media players that can be used for learning.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Ideal Language Teacher

I asked the following question recently about the qualities that make an ideal teacher, and most visitors feel that patience is the most important trait in a teacher. Why do you think might be so? For you personally, what do you think? Can you share some personal experiences about a teacher from your past that made a difference in your life?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Driving Etiquette: What is appropriate?

In my travels around the world, I have noticed different behaviors in driving, some more orderly than others from my own experience. However, what would a visitor from another country finding interesting, different, or frustrating in trying to drive in your city? What behaviors are considered acceptable in certain situations? What are some unacceptable manners? What about honking, running lights, speeding, and parking illegally? Share your ideas and experiences.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Accent: A Source of discrimination?

A question I have often heard is whether employers can discriminate or not employ people based on their accent. We all have accents, but are they valid reasons why companies can legally or ethically choose not to hire people based on their pronunciation. Share you ideas on this topic because I am sure there are language learners that have some concern related to this issue.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Job or Family: You Decide

Listen and write your opinion on this topic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

English Only Policy in the Classroom

One of the greatest challenges as a teacher is to motivate students to use the language as much as possible in the classroom, and this is true both in the students' home country as well as overseas. In fact, although many students go overseas to study English, they often still use their native language with other students, and then really wonder why they aren't making progress in learning English. It doesn't take a math teacher to figure out why: If you attend English classes for four hours and then use your native language for the other twenty (or as many hours are you are awake), then it is impossible to learn English. Just being in the country is not enough, and unfortunately, the students' parents just assume their children are learning the language naturally.

Therefore, how can teachers and students encourage each other to use English more instead of falling back on the native language? Should the teacher reward or penalize students when they don't speak English? How about having students pay money each time they slip into their native language? Please share your ideas.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Poetry: How does this relate to you?

Listen and explain how the poem relates to language learning and culture.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Average English Class Size

My recently polled visitors on the average class size of English classes in their high schools, and interestingly enough, 37% of classes average over 30 students. In fact, 11% of classes have more than 50 students. The question I have is to what extent this has an impact of learning and ideas on what teachers can do to improve learning despite the numbers. In other words, teachers have little choice as to the numbers of students in their classes, so what can they do in such situations? Share your ideas.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Time Travel: Where would you go?

Time travel isn't possible, but IF you had the opportunity to go back in time, when and where would you go and why? Personally, I enjoy family history research, and I would probably go back almost 100 years ago to visit with a great-grandmother who died without people knowing much about her. I probably would go back to that time period, interview her, and find out as much as possible about her life so I could share this with my own posterity. Our lives and those of your ancestors are very much connected, and we can learn so much from their experiences. So, how about you? Where would you go and why? Share your ideas. Randall

Friday, August 17, 2007

Music Videos: Learning English Online

One way to improve your listening comprehension skills is to combine watching music videos with the lyrics to the songs. One important element of music videos is that learners can watch the visual cues or clues in the videos to help them piece together some of the meaning. Then, if you read the lyrics of the song before watching, you have music, words, and pictures to help the learner. One site to watch videos is Do you have any suggetions or comments on music and English learning?


Thursday, August 16, 2007

ESL Classrooms: What impacts your learning of English?

Listen and share your ideas on the topic.

English Only in the Classroom

How important is it for teachers and students to only use English, or the language they are studying, in the classroom? Does it promote better learning, or are their times when the native language of the teacher and students be used instead? Share your ideas on the topic?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Raising Children: What are the challenges?

Listen and share your ideas on the topic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reading: Extensive Verses Intensive

For many international students, their past experience in reading has been very intensive reading well beyond their abilities to comprehend and digest the material. In other words, teachers sometimes give students a newspaper article on some abstract topic, and then the students struggle with their dictionaries in hand looking up every other word to understand the passage. This is very discouraging and counterproductive. On the other hand, extensive reading is reading for pleasure at or below the level of students so they learn the joy of reading and are able to see vocabulary and grammar again and again for everyday use.

With this in mind, what materials have you found most useful in learning or teaching reading skills. For me, I created a website,, to help students see common expressions and vocabulary in common situations. Please share your ideas on the topic of reading.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Favorite Idioms

ESL students sometimes struggle with English because they don't understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers use. As students learn idioms, they will understand the language better and have a greater ability to express themselves with colorful expressions. One Website that focuses on idioms is Share your favorite idiom or Website that helps teach students this useful vocabulary.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Paying for a University Degree: What do you think?

Please listen and share your ideas on the topic.

Unusual Experiences in Learning a Second Language

Personally speaking, when I lived in Japan for many years, I had to learn Japanese out of necessity in order to survive. However, I didn't mind trying to use the language even if I made mistakes. One time when my daughter was sick with constipation (you might want to check a dictionary if you don't know this word), I had to go to a drugstore to ask for medicine. The pharmasist didn't speak any English, so I had to rely on gestures to explain what I needed. How would YOU explain the problem using gestures? Anyway, after about 45 minutes, we finally communicated. The best part about the experience is that I gained confidence in getting my meaning across even in difficult sitatuations. So, what about you? Share a difficult or unusual experience you have had in learning English or any other language, and what they experience taught you.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Dinner Date: What would you say?

Listen and write what you would do in this situation.

Monday, August 6, 2007

An English Test: What would you do?

Listen carefully and write your feelings on the topic.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

One Million Dollar Game Show

Listen carefully and write what you would do in this situation. I'm sure you have a number of unique ideas to share.

Bargaining at Stores: Okay or Not?

When traveling to a new country, you have to learn how to shop and buy the things you want and need. However, bargaining or trying to get the shop owner to lower the price is not a universal custom around the world. In some countries, you can try to convince the shop owner to give you a better deal on some jewelery or other items, and some of these exchanges can become heated. In the US, bargaining over the price of an item is rare, except at garage sales or some flea markets. In most cases, the price listed is the price you pay. So, what about in your country? What should visitors know about shopping? Can you haggle (bargain) over the price? If so, under what conditions and situations? Share your ideas.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Dating: A Difficult Situation . . .

Listen and comment on what you would do if you found yourself in this situation.

Popular Study Destination

In my latest poll, I asked you, my visitors, to select where they are most interested in studying English abroad. As you can see from the results, most visitors chose the United States as their first preference, followed by England, and Canada. Why do you think the United States is a popular destination for students? Why are students attracted to other countries as well? What do students consider when studying overseas (e.g., cost, safety, visa requirements, etc.)? Share your ideas on this interesting topic.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tipping: How common is it?

One of the most confusing customs is knowing when to tip for a particular service in the United States. For example, customers normally tip between 15-18% when dining at a restaurant, and how much you tip will depend on your feelings about the service. However, for large groups, the restaurant will automatically add the tip to your bill, so you don't really have a choice on how much you tip. Another place where tipping is not so uncommon is at beauty salon or barber shop. There is often a jar on the counter where you can drop in a tip for the stylist. What makes tipping sometimes confusing is that this is not a universal custom around the world. So, please share something about your culture when dealing with tipping? Is it a common practice at all? If so, when do people tip and how much do they leave? If people don't tip, do people do anything instead?