In this article I would like to share with you some essential resources for online English teachers and students that I have discovered over the years. Whether you are an online English teacher or student, or are thinking about teaching or learning English online, you are sure to find some of these interesting.
There is a 19th century proverb you may have come across. It says if you give a man of fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life. What have fish to do with English teaching? Let me explain.
Students are constantly asking English teachers questions about the use of English. It’s our job to give them the answer. However, there are many essential resources for online English teachers and students freely available which can help a student answer their own questions.
I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some of the tools I have found over my years of online teaching. These are the tools that I point my students towards when they ask me such questions.
The most obvious source of answers for the student of English is of course the dictionary. If your students are at a level of intermediate or above you should encourage them to look up their words in a monolingual dictionary. I’ve yet to find a bilingual dictionary which provides accurate answers 100% of the time.
And allied to the dictionary is, of course, the thesaurus. Some students habitually use such adjectives as nice, or good, which don’t really say anything, do they? You should be urging these students to extend their vocabulary. A thesaurus helps them do just that. There are several free online thesauruses, but one of the most useful is at the aptly named thesaurus.com
Another dictionary well worth having is a collocation dictionary. A collocation dictionary shows the words that are habitually juxtaposed with other words. It can quickly and easily answer such questions as, “Can I use X with Y?” Unfortunately, there are not many collocation dictionaries available online, but a reasonably useful one can be found at Just-the-word.com.
With the Internet accessible from just about anywhere, online English teachers should be pointing their students in the direction of useful online resources. I always recommend Google’s Ngram Viewer and the British National Corpus. Advanced students looking to increase the range of their vocabulary will find both of these tools extremely valuable.
The first of these, the Google Ngram Viewer, allows you to search through millions of books in order to find trends in the use of lexical items. The user gets an instant visual insight, from the graphs it produces, into how words and expressions have become popular or have lost popularity over time.
The second tool, the British National corpus, BNC, is a fantastic tool for students to use when they want to know what words come before and after a word or expression. There are several ways to access the BNC online, but for my money wordandphrase.info is the best. Students can use the BNC to search for individual words or expressions. The designers have built comprehensive search parameters into the search engine, too.
There are many other essential resources for online English teachers and students. I’ll be looking at them in future articles, so please bookmark this page.
Going back to the fish proverb, I think we can rewrite it to be relevant to English teachers and their students. If an English teacher answers a student’s question, the student is satisfied for a moment. If, however, an English teacher shows their students where to find the answers to their questions themselves, then the student will be satisfied forever.