Write your own comics

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Here are three web-based comic strip makers:

All three are free, though you need to register. You don’t have to draw anything, just click and drag! StripGenerator and ToonDoo let you choose from their graphics to tell your story. Comeeko lets you use photos from your digital camera.

This is a fun way to practice writing in English, and you can share your completed comic strips with your friends. Here’s a quick one I made at StripGenerator! You can post them in your blog, too. (Warning: Some of the other users’ comics are crude or stupid.)

Here’s a silly one I made just now at Comeeko, which has lots of special effects and other things you can add:

a comic strip!

Learning to learn

In my MA program, we talk about “metacognitive strategies.” These strategies are ways you consciously think about how to learn, use, and remember information or skills. One way to think about it is “learning how to learn better.” This article, Hacking Knowledge, lists 77 different ways to learn better. I don’t agree with all of them, but take a look. (You might want to scroll down to where the numbered list begins.)

Setting goals is one technique they mention. (I really need to do this myself!) Write down a list of your language-learning goals. Be specific: don’t write “become fluent,” but things like “have a long conversation with a stranger.” Discuss the goals with someone else to be sure the goals are reasonable. Then put the goals somewhere you’ll see them often, such as stored in your cell phone, in an open document on your computer, or pinned to your wall. Various studies have shown that having specific goals can lead to more accomplishments.

Have you ever tried this or any of the other 77 ways to learn? Did it help you? (Or do you have a suggestion that’s not on their list?)

Writing about food

I am at the annual conference for TESOL. TESOL is an international organization for teachers who teach ESL/EFL. Many of the teachers and those who are giving presentations are also non-native speakers. It’s a really fun, informative, international event.

Today I heard about an ESL class who wrote restaurant reviews and put them on the web. You can read the reviews at the page, Seattle Area Restaurant Reviews. These reviews are interesting for other readers, partly because the students wrote about restaurants serving food from their home countries.

You can do this too. You can start your own blog, your own website, or use a public reviewing service. If you live in the US, etc., you can write your reviews at Yelp, a popular site. For other countries, just type the name of your country, city, or region into a search engine along with “restaurant reviews.” You can also search for the name of area along with “food blog.”

If you live in a country with few English speakers, the foreigners in your country will really appreciate being able to read about restaurants in English. You will be helping international visitors and residents enjoy living in your country. (If you do this, please send me a link to it!)

Here are some other places where you can read reviews:

Free reading resources: comics!

Finding fun things to read in English is important. Trying to read textbooks all the time can make your head hurt and make you want to quit reading.

  • The Webcomic List is a list of mostly free online comics. Some may be hard to read, but spend some time looking around for something fun understandable. Even simple things like comics are a good way to learn English speech patterns and vocabulary.
  • Comics.com has many popular comic strips that are published in English-language newspapers. I know from reading Chinese comic strips that it can be hard to understand cultural humor sometimes. So, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or teacher to help explain the jokes.
  • MangaNews has links to Japanese comic books that fans are translating in English. You can download the translations. (These translations are unofficial, and if a publishing company decides to print the book in English, the fans will stop translating the series.)

When I have more readers, I would like to ask everyone what you like to read (in any language). That way I can post things that you’ll enjoy reading in English, I hope.

Free listening resources

One major theme of this blog is free resources that you can access online to help you study English. There are lots of good resources on the internet, but they can be hard to find sometimes. So I hope I can help you find resources that you’ll enjoy using.

Here are a few resources for listening that I have come across recently:

  • Podiobooks.com is a website full of free audiobooks, which are books that have been read aloud and recorded. Some books are by amateur authors, but there are also famous books. You can listen to these books on an mp3 player.
  • LibriVox also provides free audiobooks.
  • The English Listening Language Lab Online is a wonderful site that lets you listen to short podcasts (sound recordings). The speakers come from all over the world and talk about lots of interesting topics. If you want to, you can check your listening skills by taking a quiz afterwards! I highly recommend this site.

If you like any of these sites, please leave a comment. Also, please comment if you have some other site you would like to recommend.

Don’t forget to recommend Readable to your friends if you think it’s useful! It’s a new project and I am really hoping to have lots of readers. Thanks for coming by!

Introduction

I’d like to introduce myself and this new project to you. My name is Clarissa C. S. Ryan. I am finishing my master’s degree in English/TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). My bachelor’s degree is in history, with a minor in Asian studies.

I have studied two languages academically: Chinese and Japanese. Because I have experienced the struggle of studying languages that are very different from mine, I understand how hard it is to learn a language like English. I have also studied abroad (in Taiwan), so I understand how stressful that can be, too. Every English student I have ever met speaks English better than I speak Chinese or Japanese. So I really admire and respect my students and my friends who are learning English.

Most people my age and older learned languages using old methods such as the Audiolingual Method or Grammar Translation. These methods are stressful, slow, and don’t work well for most people. There is evidence that more realistic methods work better. These methods usually emphasize real communication and actually doing things using the language. These methods are also more fun, even when you’re working hard! What I really believe is

Memorizing grammar rules IS NOT ENOUGH to be able to read or write understandably.

Memorizing vocabulary words does NOT teach students how to use them.

Reading for fun DOES HELP students learn vocabulary words and sentence patterns.

Of course, you have to memorize some rules. But if you don’t use the language, you haven’t really learned anything. When I got to Taiwan, I couldn’t speak enough Chinese to get on the right bus. But I had studied Chinese for more than three years! I know many of my students and friends had the same experience when they came to the US. Even though they had studied English for years, they had never used it or had fun with it. So they had studied English, but not learned English.

I want to help you learn English as well as you want to learn English. I think reading is a big part of this, so you’ll see that I post lots of things for you to read. If you can read something in English for fun, you’ll learn faster and you’ll be less bored! Just remember, I’m not recommending fun things because I’m lazy or you’re lazy. I don’t think we’re lazy. I’m recommending these things because I think they can work, based on the research I have read. So I’m going to encourage you to do the things that researchers think work: reading for fun, experimenting, making mistakes, talking to people, etc.

I hope you will enjoy reading this blog and that you will tell your friends, family, classmates, and students about it! Thank you for visiting.