Tag Archives: efl

Meet the World: Part 3

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Meet the World is a set of three posts about sites where you can meet visitors to your area and speak English or another language with them. This is the third post.

Finally, you may have heard of Couchsurfing. Their main service is connecting travelers and people who have room in their home for sleeping. (That’s right: You let strangers stay in your home! However, like Hospitality Club, they have some safety features–you can only decide to accept people who have already stayed with other users, etc.)

But Couchsurfing also lets you just meet visitors for lunch, etc. When you register, there’s an option called “Couch Availability.” The question is “Are you able to host anyone now?” This is about whether people can stay overnight at your place. Your choices are “Yes,” “Definitely!” (meaning you really want to), “No,” “Maybe,” “Coffee or a drink,” and “Traveling at the moment.” If you’d just like to meet people, and maybe be their guide, choose “Coffee or a drink.” That’s fine!

When you confirm your account, you can choose to make a small donation to become “verified.” CouchSurfing uses that information to check your information and to send you a postcard. That proves to CouchSurfing and other users that your name and address are real. You don’t have to do this (I didn’t). Just choose “Continue to Edit Your Profile” if you don’t want to. You can also do it later, if you want to. When you use the site, you might feel more comfortable contacting other users who are verified.

If you don’t want your real name to be displayed to other users after you join, go to “privacy settings.” Change “Hide name” to “Yes.” It’s up to you. There are a lot of settings, so look at them all.

Couchsurfing.org is extremely popular, so if you really want to meet international travelers, you can try it without having people actually stay in your home. There’s lots of advice here. You can also change the language in the top right corner. (And here are messages from people who’ve tried it.)

To write this post, I registered for all three of these websites. So if you need help getting started, I can try to help you.

And remember, you don’t need to stress about your language level too much.

If you’ve already tried them, or if you know about a better site, please tell me!

Meet the World: Part 2

Meet the World is a set of three posts about sites where you can meet visitors to your area and speak English or another language with them.

The second site is Hospitality Club. It seems to be much bigger than Hi Everywhere!. People can use it to request guide services or or to ask to be able to stay at someone’s home. For that reason, they have more security features than Hi Everywhere! Here’s how to use it.

  1. You register. You give them information including your country, region (province, etc.), city, name, and address. You may not be comfortable with this, but they request this information so that members know that you are really the person they expected to meet. If they meet you, they are supposed to ask to see your passport to make sure it matches. You can choose to not show this information in your profile in general.
  2. In step 2 of registration, you fill out your profile. One part says “I can offer accommodation: yes, maybe, no” and “I can offer: show around town, have someone over for dinner.” If you’d like to be a guide only, then you choose “no” for accommodation. After that, choose “show around town”. You can also choose “dinner” if you’d like to invite someone to your house for dinner).

Meet the World: Part 1

I know that many English learners would like to meet other people to speak English with. It’s great to talk to other people from your country, Europe, and so on. Having someone to talk to is fun, can help you learn things, can make you want to learn more, and gives you a reason to really speak English. It can also be stressful and scary, but that’s part of learning!

Anyway, for a lot of people it’s hard to find someone to talk to. But there are ways…

shokunin_backpacker_on_a_phone from openclipart.org

As I said on the Improving Your English in Asia page, one way is to find out if your city or province (etc.) has a volunteer guide program, like Goodwill Guides. If you can’t do that, I recently found out about two other sites. (I already posted them to our Facebook page–remember to “like” it if you use Facebook!) I’ll introduce a third site, too, in three posts here. All of these sites are free to use.

The first site is Hi Everywhere! The site says “Hi Everywhere!” is a volunteer local tour guide exchange community.” Here’s how it works:

  1. You register. Your information includes a username (not your real name), your e-mail (not shown), the languages you speak, your city, and whatever you want to say about yourself.
  2. Travelers post information (requests) about where they are going and what they need. For example, a British woman is going to Japan for a month. While she’s there, she would like to go anywhere in the countryside. Even if she can meet someone for an hour, it’s okay.
  3. You look at the requests and decide whether you can help. If you want to be someone’s guide, you can click “Book it!” Or you can leave a comment to discuss it with the person.

After their trips, some users write journals about their good experiences. I don’t know how active the site is, but you can try it!

Don’t worry about your English level too much. If you’re not fluent in English yet, just tell them before you meet them. When international visitors come to your area, they will probably be happy to meet anyone who speaks ANY English. If you need help, you can find information about food, history, and so on in English in advance using Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and so on.

Here are the next two posts:

Blogging in English follow-up

If you would like English-speaking commenters and readers on your blog, please be careful about the service that you use. (Especially if you would like commenters who don’t speak your language!) I just tried to leave a comment on an English-learner’s blog. The blog is on Livedoor. My comment was rejected (it was not accepted and would not be posted). I was really surprised because I had entered a username and e-mail address. I thought I had done it correctly, but I got an error message in Japanese.

If you got that error message and you couldn’t read Japanese, you would give up, right? I tried to read the message, but it was pretty difficult. Finally, I realized that the blog’s settings automatically rejected any comment that did not have Japanese in it. If you write a comment in English, your comment will not be posted. The blog owner will never see it. Oops! I guess that’s a kind of spam control system. But it doesn’t work if a blogger is writing in English and would like people to answer in English.

There are usually also problems with things like “Comment” “Name: ” “E-mail: ” “Submit” and so on not being in English. That would make it really hard for English-speaking commenters to use.

Some blogging services let you control those settings. In that case, you can change it and it may be OK. Other blogging services don’t even tell you about those settings, so you can’t change them. (That’s too common–I commented on an English teacher’s blog once. His blog had a setting that limited comments to a very short length, so my comment was rejected. He didn’t know about the setting! Finally, he was able to find it and change it. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.)

So that’s why I recommend using Posterous, WordPress, Blogger, WordPress or Movable Type installed on your webhost, etc. You can probably find a guide to the blogging service in your language to help you. (If you have to use the blogging service in English, you’ll learn a lot of useful technology vocabulary.)

Of course, if your blog is basically a journal or diary for yourself, it doesn’t matter. In that case, you don’t even need comments. But many learners discover that they are more motivated, write more often, and write better if they feel like they have readers. (For example, on WordPress.com, even if people don’t have time to comment, you can see that you have readers.)

Again, if you decide to blog a) good luck! and b) tell me about it so I can read it!

TOEFL, TOEIC, and jobs


I want to talk about something that I have talked about on Twitter. On Twitter, it’s hard to explain an idea completely. So I’m going to talk about it here.

The TOEIC is a test that many companies
in Japan, Korea, etc. use to decide if someone’s English is good enough for a job. A few companies use the TOEFL, but this is usually a very bad idea. The TOEFL tests English for university study, not for business communication.

However, I don’t think the TOEIC is very good, either. It tests normal reading, grammar, and listening more than the TOEFL, but it’s still not perfect or very realistic. Also, its focus is business–it’s not a test of general communication. Actually, the TOEFL should be called the “Test of English for Academic Purposes.” The TOEIC should be called the “Test of English for Business Communication.”

I’ve taught many people who have taken the TOEIC. Some of them have even lived in the US for more than two years. Sometimes people with the same TOEIC score have totally different English abilities: One person is easy to talk to in English, and can write understandable and emotional English, even if it’s not perfect. Another person freezes every time she needs to speak, and writes strange-sounding sentences. But they have the same score (or the second person might score higher!).

Companies like the TOEIC because it’s easy to use. They don’t have to spend much time checking each job-hunter. But I think people shouldn’t trust it too much.

  • Test-takers shouldn’t trust it too much. If you think your abilities have gone up, but your score didn’t, don’t worry. Your skills probably did improve. The test does not measure everything.
  • Companies shouldn’t trust it too much. They should consider other measures of a job-hunter’s English abilities, because they want to find the best employees and provide good service in English. The ones with the best scores may not be the best English speakers or the best employees.

In the US, if a company wants to hire someone who speaks another language, sometimes they ask for test scores. But sometimes they do something that’s better: 1) Someone in the company who speaks the language talks with the job-hunter for a few minutes in that language. 2) The job-hunter is asked to do an example of that kind of work. For example, write an e-mail to a company, translate part of a letter, make a simple advertisement, or something like that. This kind of thing lets the company see if you can do the work they need you to do. It takes more time, but it’s very practical. It also helps the job-hunters, because not everyone is good at taking tests. It gives more people a better chance to show their abilities.

I don’t know how much other countries use this kind of measurement. I know that in Japan, sometimes part of the interview is in English. (That sounds really stressful, but if you need to speak English for that job, at least it’s more realistic than just the TOEIC!) I hope they use other measures sometimes. If you need to speak and write English for a job, it’s good if you can find a company who does this kind of thing. It means they may truly care about finding good employees and providing good service.

Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest! (<--idiom meaning "to finally tell someone about something that has been bothering you")

P. S. I have extended the deadline for the contest! That means that you have more time to enter. There are not enough entries yet…Please think about a way to study English that works well for you. (Even if it’s for the TOEIC!) Talking to people in cafes? A favorite book? Watching TV shows? Listening to music? Karaoke in English? Traveling to Australia every time you have a vacation? Is there a hobby that made you really want to learn English? It can be really specific or really general. If you can write about it, take a picture of it, make a short video about it, or do anything like that, you can enter the contest! Just e-mail me (Tweet me or contact me for my e-mail address) or comment with your entry! I will send a postcard to EVERYONE who 1) enters the contest or has already entered the contest 2) sends me their name and a postal address through DM, e-mail, or the contact form 3) in the NEXT THREE DAYS (till November 14th, US time). English learners who read this blog only! (People who are both English learners and English teachers are fine!)

A New Way to Read

If you do not live in an English-speaking country but you really want to read a lot more English, there is a new way to do it. Amazon.com has an “e-reader” called Kindle that lets you read books electronically. It’s very nice because the screen is very clear, like paper. It’s easier to read than a computer screen.

However, the old version had some problems. One of the problems was that it only worked in the USA. Now Amazon says there will be a new kind of Kindle, the International version, which you can use in a lot of different countries. This is pretty cool because you can buy and download English books to it very quickly.

The Kindle uses cell phone networks, not wifi. You don’t need to be in an internet cafe to download books–you can be almost anywhere. For example, if you are waiting on a train platform and you decide you want to read a book on the train, you can quickly use the Kindle to buy and download the book. In 5 minutes, you can start reading it. Of course, most of the books aren’t free. (Some books are free–just look up “free Kindle books” on Google to learn how.) When you use the Kindle, Amazon will charge your credit card for the books you buy. Because it’s so easy to buy books, you should be careful!

Also, some people have problems because the Kindle’s USB connection doesn’t work well with some computers.

You can use the Kindle to use the internet, but only on really basic, text-based sites like Wikipedia.

I don’t have a Kindle because I can buy English books cheaply since I live in the US. But if you want to improve your English and English books are expensive where you live, the Kindle might be a good idea for you. Remember, reading a lot is one of the best ways to improve your grammar, use of articles, use of prepositions, use of idioms, overall fluency, understanding of English-speaking cultures, and add to your vocabulary. If you are already advanced, then you can buy lots of regular English novels. If you’re still learning, you can find many books such as Staying Together, a Level 4 Cambridge English Reader, for Kindle. You can also subscribe to Simple English News on your Kindle, which is a newspaper that you will get every month.

If you see a book that you want that isn’t available yet, you should click below the book’s photo, where it says “I’d like to read this book on Kindle.” That will tell Amazon and the book’s publisher that people want a Kindle version to be made. They are adding Kindle versions all the time.

This map (move to the right to find Asia) shows where you can use the Kindle International Edition. In other countries, it won’t work wirelessly. It includes many countries, but not all of them. It should work well in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, France, Italy, Spain, and many other places.



Have you tried a Kindle for reading English? What did you think? Would it be useful for you?

(Note: If you buy a Kindle or something else from Amazon after clicking on these links or the Readable Bookstore link, Amazon gives me a small amount of money. It doesn’t change the price for you, however.)