December 28, 2009

15 Free Resources for Learning Spanish Online

If you are interested in learning the Spanish language, you could spend hundreds of dollars on books and software to help you in your endeavor. Or you can learn online. There are many different websites, podcasts, and language learning networks that freely provide everything you can get from books and software. Here are 15 free Spanish language resources to explore: - With over 1,000 pages of free learning materials, is an excellent place for learners of all levels to acquire or improve Spanish language skills. The site offers help with pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and much more.

Spanish Language -'s Spanish Language Guide offers a comprehensive guide to the Spanish language. Site visitors can browse articles and blog posts, learn Spanish grammar and pronunciation, study Spanish vocabulary, and communicate with other language learners in a community forum.

Effective Language Learning - This site provides nine free Spanish language lessons that can be taken online. Other free offerings include language learning tips, course reviews, and background information on the Spanish language.

Spanish Language Exercises - Hosted by Ursinus College, this web page offers a series of Spanish language exercises. Exercises include the self-check variety in addition to instructor-check exercises.

Coffee Break Spanish - Coffee Break Spanish is a free, award-winning podcast from Radio Lingua Network. Episodes are aimed at beginner and intermediate students and last approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Cody's Cuentos - Cody's Cuentos visitors can learn or improve Spanish language skills by listening to popular fairy tales and children's stories in Spanish. Users who are having trouble with the translation can order transcripts and additional grammar exercises for a small fee.

Insta Spanish - Insta Spanish, a site that offers a popular iTunes podcast, provides eDocs, Spanish language software, forums, and many other free learning materials.

Lingus.TV - Lingus.TV teaches Spanish through a video podcast that is formatted like a television sitcom. The podcast is entirely in Spanish but subtitles, grammar explanations, and transcripts are provided.

Popling - Spanish language learners who lack the motivation to study may benefit from Popling. This free desktop app displays flashcards at regular intervals so that users can absorb a language while they work on other things.

Livemocha - This popular social language learning site is a favorite among people who want to learn a new language with free online lessons and a community of native speakers. Users can also test their foreign language skills by taking the Livemocha challenge.

iTalki - iTalki is a language learning social network for free language exchanges. Users can participate in group discussions, use self-study materials, and get answers to language questions.

LingQ - LingQ is a unique language learning site for people who want to increase their vocabulary. After signing up for the free membership, users can take an unlimited number of Spanish lessons, join live conversations, make friends in the community, and have writing corrected by native speakers.

Busuu - Bussu is a learning community for people who want to learn Spanish and other foreign languages. The site offers interactive web lessons and a place to practice new language skills.

Hello-Hello - Hello-Hello is a free social language learning site where people can learn to speak, read, and write Spanish (and other languages) while connecting with other people around the world. The site also offers courses and a free flashcard maker.

VoxSwap - VoxSwap is a social network for making friends and learning new languages. Users can connect with native speakers, chat in the forum, and watch free videos from the VoxSwap library.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online college classes for

December 21, 2009

15 Places to Find EFL Conversation Starters and Activities

Practicing English conversation is one of the quickest ways to learn the language. Students who do not have a native speaker to practice with can advance their skills online. There are a number of different sites that provide EFL conversation starters, EFL bots, communities of native speakers, and other forms of conversation practice. Here are 15 places for EFL and ESL students to explore.

ESL Partyland - ESL Partyland provides a large collection of materials that can be used to practice speaking English. Materials include conversation questions, complete lesson plans, and suggestions for using conversation questions.

Lesson Planet - Lesson Planet, a search engine for teachers, provides 14 lesson plans and nine worksheets that incorporate conversation starters. Materials are available for both children and adults.

The Internet TESL Journal - This Internet TESL Journal Project provides an extensive list of conversation questions for the ESL/EFL classroom. A guide is also included for students and teachers who will be using the provided resources.

Daily ESL - Maintained by Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab, this ESL site is devoted entirely to conversation starters. Students can practice conversations that they might have in the community, at school, at home, on vacation, at work, or during special events.

The International Center - The International Center in New York provides a list of topics that can be used to engage in meaningful conversation online or within a language class. Topics include ideas for cultural exchange.

ESL Flow - ESL Flow offers a large selection of conversation starters and conversation exercises for English students. The site also provides icebreaker ideas for large and small groups.

Conversation Exchange - The Conversation Exchange provides a nice collection of conversation topics that can be used to increase vocabulary and language skills.

Boggle's World - In addition to providing worksheets and other materials for the EFL classroom, Boggle's World also offers conversation starters, surveys, and icebreakers. More than four pages of EFL activities are available.

ESLgold - Students can find many different sample phrases and speaking situations on the ESLgold site. Materials are available for learners at every level.

English Club - The English Club teaches EFL students how to make small talk using conversation starters, practice conversations, and a small talk quiz.

ESL Fast - ESL Fast is the perfect place for EFL and ESL beginners to practice speaking English online. The site offers a robot tutor and a shopping tutor that are ready to practice 2,000+ English conversations on a variety of topics.

A.L.I.C.E. - After registering for an account, EFL and ESL students can have unlimited online chats with Dave the ESL Bot for up to one month.

EllaZ - The Ella bot is an award-winning robot known for being a very human-like computer. Ella is good at making small talk. She also does well with jokes and trivia.

Lang-8 - Lang-8 is a great place to learn and practice English and other foreign languages. Native speakers are available through the site to help you gain knowledge and prefect your writing skills.

LingQ - LingQ is another good place to practice English conversations and get your writing corrected. The site is home to a large worldwide community that can be accessed whenever it is convenient for you.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online schools for

December 16, 2009

10 Free Online Language Translators

Free online language translators can be very helpful when you come across a piece of text you are unable to translate on your own. These tools also make it easy to learn new foreign words and phrases. Here are 10 places that offer free human, text, and web page translation:

Lang-8 - Lang-8 is a unique site that allows you to learn a language from native speakers. You can write in any language you are learning and Lang-8's native speakers will correct it for you for free.

Babel Fish - This Yahoo! site offers free text translation for a wide variety of languages. Babel Fish can also be used to translate entire web pages. You can translate from the Babel Fish site or download the free toolbar to translate directly in your browser.

WorldLingo - WorldLingo's free online translator can translate up to 500 words at one time. The site also offers a free document translator, website translator, and email translator.

Foreignword - Foreignword is a language site with free online dictionaries and translation tools. Foreignword also offers free translation software, a language search engine, and a forum where you can chat with other language learners.

SDL FreeTranslation - This free translation website can translate text or web pages from one language into another. Completed translations can be emailed to yourself or your friends.

Freelang - Freelang is a good place to find free online dictionaries, fonts for foreign languages, and other useful tools. The site also provides a free translation help service that is supported by human volunteers.

WordReference - WordReference provides an easy-to-use English to Spanish dictionary as well as a Spanish to English dictionary. If you want to use WordReference in other places, you can use the WordReference app on your iPhone or imbed a mini version of the site on your own website.

Translation2 - This free translation site offers an online dictionary, a text translator, a text-to-speech translator, and an IM translator. You can use all of these tools on-site or download them for free to your computer.

Xanadu - Offered through Foreignword, Xanadu is a free language and translation software product. After downloading, you can quickly translate words, terms, or text from one language into another. More than 60 other languages can also be translated with Xanadu.

Livemocha - When an online translator isn’t enough, you can find real people to help you with translations on Livemocha. This social language learning site connects users with native speakers and other people who are fluent in the language you are learning.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree reviews for

September 8, 2009

20 Free Grammar, Vocabulary, and Pronunciation Resources for EFL Students

EFL students looking to increase their knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation can benefit from the many great resources on the Internet. There are quizzes, podcasts, lessons, activities, and much more--all available free of charge. Here is a list of 20 resources for EFL students to explore:

ESL Mania - ESL Mania offers a wide range of vocabulary and grammar resources for adult learners and teachers. Resources include grammar explanations, quizzes, and book recommendations. - This one-stop language site provides listening centers, flash games, grammar quizzes, word searches, and activities to help students improve their English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

ManyThings - ManyThings is a free EFL site that provides quizzes, games puzzles, and random information for improving your English. Within this site, students can find all the resources needed to improve and build vocabulary.

ESL Galaxy - This impressive ESL site offers over 2,368 worksheets for activities and lesson plans. The worksheets within this site can be used to improve grammar, vocabulary, conversations, and pronunciation. -'s Guide to ESL provides a number of vocabulary builders for EFL students. Beginner to intermediate students can find idioms, vocabulary lists, and vocabulary quizzes as well as tools for grammar and pronunciation.

BBC - BBC offers a unique feature to help students increase grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation through the news, video, recording, and quizzes.

English Interactive - This interactive site features vocabulary builders through audio practice. English Interactive also offers links to reading and writing resources.

Eflnet - Eflnet is a site that offers tools for increasing your grammar, vocabulary, listening, and reading skills. The grammar page provides exercises, tutorials, and activities.

VerbaLearn - The VerbaLearn site provides free vocabulary studying techniques. Students will find study saving resources such as audio, video flashcards, puzzles, and review.

ESL Pod - ESL Pod provides free podcasts for improving your English. This site also helps improve your pronunciation and vocabulary through everyday phrases and expressions.

Dave's ESL Cafe - This online cafe offers EFL students several online language learning opportunities. Students can find a help center, hint-of-the-day, phrasal verbs, pronunciation power, quizzes, and idioms. - The offers opportunities for students to increase their grammar and vocabulary through English and bilingual quizzes. This site also provides interesting puzzles and informative podcasts.

Radio Lingua Network - The Radio Lingua Network offers an innovative podcast for practicing phrasal verbs. This is a great way for EFL students to boost understanding and pronunciation.

Using English - Using English offers a large collection of grammar resources for students and teachers. Just a few of the resources students will find useful include a grammar glossary, irregular verb reference, and phrasal verb practice.

Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab - This free listening lab provides 20-minute vocabulary labs for intermediate level learners.

English English - English English provides links to some of the best grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, and speaking resources.

English as a Second Language - This site, created by Rong Chang Lee, Ph.D., offers a huge collection of podcasts, quizzes, games, and dictionaries for EFL students. A good pronunciation builder is the pronunciation page of this site which includes videos, exercises, tongue twisters, and software. - offers printable and interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises for EFL students. These fun and easy resources provide the perfect opportunity for EFL students who are learning on their own. - The offers free audio pronunciation builders. This language site also features grammar, vocabulary, listening, speaking, reading, and reference resources.

ESL Resource Center - This site, designed for English learners and teachers, offers lessons and exercises for improving grammar, reading, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, and listening skills. Students can also find resources for converters, games, and articles.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes for

September 4, 2009


After several months without baeing able to blog due to time constraints, I'm glad to say I'm back!

With so many possibilities of online dictionaries, it's simply impossible to write a blog post that is not extremely limited, so the following tips are based on my own personal opinion and more ideas, tips and links are more than welcome!

What I like about this one is that fact that it gives you the definitions of up to 10 different online dictionaries on the same page. Like most online dictionaries, you can also hear the words and see phonemic transcriptions. With the same style, you can also access

This online dictionary gives you a beautiful visual diagram of words definitions and their relations, like synonyms and antonyms, collocations, related words, derivation and much more (not to mention how cool it is to see the diagram being formed). With the same approach, there is also Lexipedia and Visual Thesaurus.

A very popular and easy-to-use speaking dictionary. If like this one, you might also enjoy Oddcast Text-to-Speech tool and Kako Messenger Text-to-Song tool (this last one is really funny).

Finally, here are two dictionaries that can be easily embed to your website, blog or wiki. Accessing their websites you can get the html code and the dictionaries will look like this:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

February 24, 2009


It's easier to give training sessions to people already involved with Educational Technology because you can start your presentation showing the tools and making people enthusiastic by being an enthusiast.

However, whenever I am going to deliver some session to the general ELT public, I try to begin showing them that there is no need to be afraid of technology. There are always those reluctant teachers who think those tools work only with you because you are young, you know the technolgy, etc...

To help these teachers feel a bit more confident, I try to show them that there has always been and there will always be "technology". The thing is that we don't see the technological appliances we use in our daily lives as technological anymore, we simply "use" them, and the same can happen with webtools, as long as we are not afraid and reluctant about trying them.

Here is a video I usually show in the beginning of my training sessions because it
humorously expresses this very idea:


My colleague Karenne Joy Sylvester has written a very insightful post about this topic too, illustrating these ideas with a personal story of her childhood.

February 13, 2009

Getting serious on Twitter

I created my twitter account last year, but didn't really pay much attention to it. One of my new year's resolution, though, was to begin twittering more seriously, so here is a little report on my first month tweetering more seriously.

Getting (seriously) started:

What helped getting serious about twittering was downloading a desktop application. It is definitely not convinient to keep updated with your twitter by trying to be connected to the website all the time. Also, the desktop applications have more feaetures and with easier and faster navigation. 

Ironically, I got application suggestions using twitter. @carlaarena suggested twihrl, and @dudeneyge recommended tweetdeck. I tried both, liked both, but ended up choosing the latter, which made my following life much easier and more active.

An important detail: before downloading any of these applications, you have to download and install Adobe Air.

Extra connection:

Something that can also add extra connection is syncronizing your tweets with your facebook status. On facebook, search for the twitter application and allow it, then every update you post on twitter is automatically sent to your status on facebook. 

This way, I could get two partners for an online project who read my tweet on facebook and commented on my status asking how to get involved.

Twitter in education:

In this one month twittering more seriously, I could learn about many tools, watched many interesting (and amny funny!) videos, got some ideas and could share and help a little too. 

There were two tweets so far that particularly called my attention: one from @sethdickens, sharing this 50 ideas on using twitter for education blog post; and another retweeted by @tweet4education, sharing this Nineteen interesting ways to use twitter in the classroom presentation.

You're no one if you're not on Twitter:

Finally, what inspired my to write this blog post was a link to a youtube video sent via twitter by @jamesclay, from which I listened for the first time to the song "You're no one if you're not on Twitter", by Ben Walker, which is very funny and so true.

So listen to the song, read the lyrics and, if you're still not on twitter, I suggest you begin seriously thinking about becoming someone...

I you would like to join my Twitter network, I'm ronaldojunior there.

February 6, 2009

Hornby Summmer School - Sán Nicolás Argentina

The British Council, through the Hornby Educational Trust, funded one more Latin America Regional School, held in Sán Nicolás, Argentina, between Jan 21 and Jan 30, and whose topic was Mind the gap: new technologies and teacher training.There were almost 30 participants from 7 different countries in Latin America, all enthusiastic about learning more web tools for language learning/teaching.

The 10 days of hard work were wisely led by Gavin Dudeney and Nik Peachey and I was glad to be a participant and presenter, which was a great role: learning a lot and also sharing.

I delivered a session about blogs, wikis and google docs and was happy to see many participants creating their blogs and wikis and sometimes including them in their final Action Plan. Here are some of the blogs and wikis created by Hornby 2009 participants:

Besides exploring web tools that can be used to enhance language learning/teaching, the participants were able to build/expand their networks. I am hopeful that many projects will be developed due to these 10 days spent together in Argentina.

I would like to thank the British Council for this opportunity and complimment the BC office in Buenos Aires for the impeccable job organizing this Hornby School.

Read more about Hornby Regional School 2009 in Argentina.

January 27, 2009

Screencasting with Screentoaster

I have just learnt about screentoaster with Nik Peachey and here is my first screencast experience. The video has a very basic tutorial intended to help some of the participants in the Hornby 2009 Regional School in Argentina.

Screentoaster creates a flash video which can be shared by url or embedded. They are currently working on a possibility of uploading the video to youtube and downloading it in avi format.

The biggest advantages for me, though, are: you don't have to download anything, all the recording is done online and everything is free.

So enjoy!