Hello! The end of the semester is getting very close. And you know what that means: we have a lot of major projects, papers, and exams to deal with! This week, I would like to share a couple of tools that might help you organize your work and motivate yourself to be more productive: Trello and Habitica.
Trello (https://trello.com/) is a website that helps you create and organize to-do lists. It is especially designed for teams working together on a project, but people use it for personal to-do lists as well.
There are many ways to organize and prioritize your tasks on Trello. Here are two simple examples:
Habitica (https://habitica.com/) is a website that helps you turn your goals into games. As you study and complete assignments in real life, you earn rewards in the game. This is designed to help you keep your motivation high.
I hope one or both of these resources helps you to achieve your goals for the end of the semester. Good luck!
Some of you will go on to have careers (temporary or permanent) in an English-speaking country. You may find some of these resources helpful when looking for and applying for positions!
Résumé / CV: Everyone needs a short (1-2 page) résumé. If your focus is academic, you should have a full CV (curriculum vitae) as well. There are many websites which can help you create an attractive résumé, and many have a “free” option. However, you usually need to pay if you want a good-quality résumé. Here are some recent reviews of ten résumé building websites.
Coverletters: Most job listings require you to write a cover letter. The main purpose of a cover letter is to demonstrate that you are an excellent fit for the job you are applying for. Beyond that, expectations and traditions for cover letters are different in every field, so it is good to ask people in your field for advice. Purdue OWL has an excellent resource for writing your cover letter.
Business cards: Business cards are small cards that have your contact information on them. They are a very useful thing to bring to business meetings, conferences, and job fairs. There are many websites that can help you design and print business cards. Here is a recent listing of six business card websites.
LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is a social network focused on jobs and careers. It is a good idea to create a LinkedIn profile and to include the link on your résumé. LinkedIn is a good way to network and to make friends in your field.
Job listing websites: There are many ways to find good jobs. One of the best and most effective ways is through networking (“word-of-mouth”), when friends tell each other about open jobs. However, there are also websites that help you search for job listings in your field. Two popular choices are Indeed and SimplyHired.
Company reputations: When you’re considering a company to work for, it’s good to know what current and former employees think of that company. GlassDoor is a popular website that lets people review their companies and express whether they are good or bad places to work.
Salary ranges: Salary negotiation is often one of the most difficult and confusing parts of getting a job. GlassDoor is one place to find out what people in your field are usually paid. Many other websites also exist for this purpose, including PayScale.
Hello! This week, my suggested resource is a tool called a vocabulary profiler.
In your ELI classes, your textbooks and your teachers help you to preview vocabulary before you read a new text. But outside of the classroom, how can you preview vocabulary in the real world!?
A vocabulary profiler can analyze a text and show you which words you probably need to focus on and preview. The profiler finds all of the interesting or unusual vocabulary the text has. You can use this information to help you prepare to read (or listen to) a new text!
Here is a profile for a TED talk titled “How we can make the world a better place by 2030”:
On the left is the original text which I copied and pasted into the website. On the right is a colored text showing how common each word is. The most common and simple words are blue and green, while the least common words are colors like orange and people.
Here’s the important part:
In the middle is a list of uncommon English words that are used often in this text. For example, this text uses the word “capita” four times, “economy” 14 times, “forecast” four times, and “poverty” six times. If you don’t understand what those words mean, you will probably have difficulty understanding the speech! So you should review that list carefully and preview the vocabulary before reading or listening to the speech.
Give it a try: paste text from a newspaper article, magazine article, or TED.com into the vocabulary profiler and see what you discover!
This week’s post will highlight the importance of testing yourself when studying. It also contains useful resources.
To remember things, test yourself!
Vocabulary can be very difficult to learn and remember. The problem is that there is just so much vocabulary! To become a fluent speaker of academic or professional English, you need to know several thousand words. How can anyone remember that many words?
Scientists who study memory have found that the best way to remember information for a long time is to practice recalling or retrieving it. In other words, when studying, you should test yourself and prove that you can remember the information you need. You should not simply look at a vocabulary list or re-read a book chapter; you need to test yourself for effective studying.
In the experiment above, four groups of college students learned 40 vocabulary words from a foreign language. In two of the groups, the students studied the vocabulary by testing themselves over and over. In the other two groups, the students did not study by testing themselves: after they learned the words, one group reviewed the word list by looking at it, and the other group didn’t review it at all. After one week, the groups who studied by testing themselves remembered about 32/40 words, while the other groups remembered only about 14/40 words. Pretty impressive difference!
How can you test yourself when studying a language like English? If you need to learn and remember thousands of words, how can you find enough time to study? Well, living in an English-speaking country is a great way to accomplish this goal! All day, you need to speak to people in English and read signs in English. This constantly tests your English and forces you to remember the vocabulary you know.
Not everyone can go to an English speaking country, though. In addition, you will probably return home someday to a non-English speaking country. So what else can people do to practice lots of vocabulary?
Spaced Repetition Rehearsal Software
There are several computer programs designed to help you study vocabulary by testing yourself. A typical program uses digital flashcards. The program will analyze your correct and incorrect answers to determine which words you know well and which words you don’t know well. The program will test you often on words you don’t know well, and it will only rarely test you on words it thinks you know well.
The chart below demonstrates how this works. When you first learn a word, you are likely to forget it quickly unless you practice it soon (light blue line), so the program will test you on that word one or two days later (FIRST REMINDER). If you remember it successfully, your memory becomes stronger, so you will remember the word longer (red line). The program will now wait about a week before testing you again (SECOND REMINDER)… And then a month or two (THIRD REMINDER, FOURTH REMINDER)… And eventually, years! This is called spaced repetition, because the space becomes longer between each repetition of the vocabulary word.
By using software like this to study, you can confidently remember thousands of vocabulary words!
These programs are perfect for studying and memorizing lots of vocabulary, which is very helpful for listening and reading. However, flashcards typically do not help you to improve your pronunciation, grammar, fluency, organization, or other important speaking and writing skills. Vocabulary is important, but it is not the only thing you should focus on! Practicing speaking and writing in English is always important, too.
Spaced Repetition Rehearsal software
Anki is one of the most popular SRS flashcard program right now. You can use it on your computer, a smartphone, or a web browser. The iPhone app costs money, but other features are free.
Mnemosyne is the program that I used to use when I was a university student. It is also free.
SuperMemo is a non-free program that was first developed in 1987 and is still updated today. Its creator, Piotr Wozniak, invented the idea of spaced repetition rehearsal software.
Quizlet.com is a (mostly) free website which helps you practice vocabulary in many ways. Their “Long-Term Learning” mode is based on space repetition, and even their “Learn” mode now incorporates some aspects of spaced repetition.