Podcasting — In and Out

Podcasts and Podcasting is a great tool to develop your listening skills and your speaking skills.     In addition,  you need to use reading and perhaps in creating your own podcasts,  you will also use some writing.

PodOmatic (http://www.podomatic.com)  is a free and easy web tool for listening to podcasts and creating your own.   Explore it a bit.

This PodOmatic review in the form of a PodOmatic podcast explains the website.

Watch for more about podcasts coming soon to this blog.


Try this quiz

Go to Reading Quiz,   and take the quiz.    Watch your time and pay attention to the feedback based on your answers.    This quiz is designed to help you understand the main ideas of a short reading.

Don’t use a dictionary for this quiz.   Instead,  study the following key vocabulary. (Click the graphic to enlarge it.)


Word collocations

One of the difficulties ESL students have with words is knowing which words go together, particularly with phrasal verbs.     The more you read and notice, the more you will learn this, which is called collocations.

English Club has a good albeit limited website about collocations.  I encourage you to explore it.

Just the Word also will provide some useful collocations for any word you enter.

The point is that you cannot simply learn a word in isolation.   The reason students struggle with cloze exercises is because they do this — they learn words in isolation, simply reciting the word and its translated meaning.   Instead, they should be seeing the word in sentences and in different contexts.   They should practice writing the word in different contexts as well.   Remember this — one word can have slightly or radically different meanings depending on the context.   This is not the case for all words, but certainly for many.

Collocation Examples  (from About.com)

Try this quiz  (and other things from this website)


Learning and knowing collocations are simply one more approach (and aspect of vocabulary)  that will improve your vocabulary knowledge and ability.   Simply engaging in translating and reciting words is not an effective method.




The typical 20-year-old university student in Canada will have a vocabulary of about 20,000 words.   The typical 5-year-old will have a vocabulary of about 5,000 words.

The first 2000 words are the most important as they are the most frequent.  They will account for approximately 82% of the words in academic texts.

If you want to engage in academic study in English, it has been estimated that you will need mastery of the first 7-8000 words.    Mastery of the first 5000 is a minimum.  Otherwise in reading and listening there will be far too many words that you don’t know, which will seriously impede your comprehension.

The tests you have taken have indicated your vocabulary mastery of the different levels of vocabulary.   Mastery can be considered above 80% in the vocabulary levels tests.    This would mean a score above 31 on level 1 and above 14 in the other levels.    How is your vocabulary?

The next step is to plan your vocabulary study?   Are you effectively building your vocabulary?

A plea for clarity — writing the date


I find no end of confusion when it comes to written dates.    For example,  today could be written numerically as:

2012/7/6  (year/month/day) —  the ISO 8601 international standard or

7/6/2012  (month/day/year)  — as my Windows 7 computer indicates and is common in the U.S. and partially in Canada  or

6/7/2012 (day/month/year) — common in most countries

One can see how the latter two forms could be confusing.    The first format is recommended as being independent of language and is sensible as progressing from largest unit to smallest —  year -> month -> day.     However,  if you are like me,  it is easiest to recall many months by their name, not their number (unless you do this often).  There can be no confusion this way.    Hence, my recommendation as an English teacher is to write today’s date this way:

6 July 2012.     This provides full clarity.  There is no chance for error.    I would prescribe this format for international contexts where absence of ambiguity is desired.


Of course, in some countries like Thailand the year is a completely different matter as it is based on the Buddha’s life,not Jesus’ and is 543 years greater than our Gregorian calendar.   Hence today would be indicated thus:

6/7/2555  or using Thai characters for the month  6 กรกฎาคม 2555