One of the problems using the Internet to improve language learning is « where do you start? » You can easily be overwhelmed with the number of language-learning tools and sites available.
Google has a number of tools that can help you get just the information you need for second language learning, and we will be posting some ideas of how to set up these tools to help your language learning.
I use Google Reader as a web page that I can personalise to bring the specific information I need for teaching and language-learning directly to me, without having to surf the web to look for it.
Let’s say you are a business English student trying to improve your language skills to get a better job. The first thing to do is to create your own Google Reader site. If you don’t have a Google account you will need to create one.
You have probably seen a little orange icon on many websites, often accompanied with the label ‘RSS’ which stands for ‘real simple syndication’ but you don’t need to know that (unless you want to impress someone in Trivial Pursuit!). This is the link that will allow you to subscribe to the content of a website or blog in an ‘rss feed reader’ such as Google Reader. The ‘feed’ is simply a data format used to provide users with content that is frequently updated.
Try it out with this blog. Click on the « subscribe » tab above and see what happens. You should land on a page that looks something like this. You can see that Google Reader is not the only option, so experiment to find one that suits you best. They all function in similar ways. If you select Google, it will return you to your Google Reader page, and Englishonthe.net should appear in your list of subscriptions:
What tends to happen with a feedreader is that it gets so filled up with subscriptions that information overload soon sets in. One way to avoid this is to organise your subscriptions into folders. As you study Business English you may discover some great podcast sites to help you with listening comprehension. A good example is Business English Pod. You could just bookmark the site for future reference, but then you have to check the site regularly to make sure you don’t miss any good new content, and this is time-consuming. So, subscribe to the feed in Google Reader following the instructions above. You can organise your study time better by separating your subscriptions into folders. You do this by selecting « manage subscriptions » at the bottom of your list of subscriptions. The following screen should apear :
Selecting « Change folders » will enable you to create an appropriate folder for your different feeds. For Business English Pod you may choose the title « Podcasts ». Select categories that correspond to your learning needs, and use them to organise a powerful weekly study programme, where you can select different areas to focus on each day (listening, reading, grammar, writing, vocabulary etc.)
In the next post in this series we will look at how to use Google News to improve your reading skills and increase your vocabulary.
Subscribe to Englishonthe.net for more updates on more language learning strategies with Google tools.
For fun listening exercise, you could also watch this subtitled video entitled RSS in Plain English.