Yesterday I learned about a website called WordSift, which turns out to be a useful tool for getting a quick overview of a text and its content. It works like Wordle, the word cloud generator, but looks more sleek and enables you to sort words by frequency or letter. There’s also a link to a visual thesaurus, and words can be marked by topic to stand out in the word cloud.

There’s a quick video tour:


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I am currently playing with WebQuests, exploring how I can use them for library inductions. I am very fortunate that one of the language teachers where I work has agree to let me use his students as guinea pigs.

I will ask students to write a short review about or guide to the library, suggesting certain topics to concentrate on if they wish, and encourage them to comment on each others’ work. To help them with the tasks, I will link the Quest to existing guides and resources that we keep on the university VLE, and suggest ways of finding out more about what the library does and how they can benefit from the services on offer.

One example that I liked when researching WebQuests is this one about ladybugs.

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If you are interested in languages and the future of language learning and teaching in the UK, you might want to join in with some upcoming Twitter chats organised by  the University Council of Modern Languages: #languagepolicyUK


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This week my MA module is all about blogging.

Having blogged for a while now, I felt that I could contribute to the discussion well, whilst being able to look at blogging from an outside perspective. I forgot that most people don’t blog, and that there are many different ways of doing it.

We had a quick discussion about blogging for language learning. I am in favour of this, having done it for about a year when learning Dutch. I found that blogging in Dutch enabled me to use (the very basic) language I knew, and even interact with native speakers from a very early stage. Some of these interactions were about points they corrected in my writing, but also about the content I was writing about. I mainly wrote about things I was experiencing, like going for walks, meeting friends, or seeing exhibitions. This helped me develop the vocabulary I needed to talk about my everyday life, rather than learn words to talk about the sick squirrel in the garden (as my text book encouraged me to do). I wish I had kept the transcripts!

I also read other people’s blogs in Dutch, about topics that interested me, for example librarianship. Twitter was also in invaluable source for ‘real language’ and tweets were short enough for me to follow discussions. I still follow some Dutch people from back then on Twitter and am in touch with some of the people I met on Facebook, even though my Dutch learning has stalled.

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When researching accents around the UK for a project at work, I came across You say potato, which is a great resource to use with students and source of fun. Other useful resources on accents and dialects are:

BBC Voices

International Dialects of English Archive

Sounds familiar?

If you have a strong regional accent and would like to help with our project, please get in touch. We’ll ask you to talk about a subject of your choice for about two minutes, then transcribe the recording and upload it to our university VLE.

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Handing in

This month I have handed in my first MA assignment. I found it difficult to create a logical thread to run through it for a while, and struggled with the reflective parts, but it all fell into place in the end. It’s all about my experience as a learner (with digital technologies), which sounds easy but when you teach others yourself it can become difficult to look at how you learn as an individual without trying to be objective all the time.

I have also handed in my FCLIP portfolio, which of course is full of reflection. I have worked on it for a while now, so I felt quite relieved when I had sent it.


So – fingers crossed!

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AULC conference 2015 #aulc2015

Last week I attended the annual conference organised by the Association of University Language Centres in the UK and Ireland (AULC). The conference programme was quite diverse again this time.

My colleagues and I presented how we use digital resources with students and teachers (presentation on parts: one and two), and I attended various other sessions.

My colleague Lucile has also blogged about the conference – a very interesting read!

If you are interested in teaching Mandarin, there will be an event for you in June: Chinese teaching in the Western world.

And we all like OERs, so have a look at Cambridge University’s Language Learning Resources.

Session notes: Promoting language and intercultural competence through blogging

  • blogs as ‘formal public spaces’
  • desired outcomes: language competence (writing skills) and intercultural awareness
  • three types of blog in this project: course blog for collaborative learning, personal blog for independent learning, project blog for specific topics or tasks
  • expectations that tutor  gives feedback to help with improvement of phrases and cultural awareness
  • benefits: improved communication skills – more opportunities to write, closer connections within cohort
  • blog needs to be integrated into classes – teacher guidance essential – time implications!
  • students should be encouraged to learn from each other – outside class as well
  • Byram‘s Model of Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) model
    • attitude
    • knowledge
    • skills of interpreting
    • critical cultural awareness
    • skills of discovery and interaction

Session notes: Languages for specific purposes (LSP)

The presentation can be seen on Benoît Guilbaud’s website.

  • LSP is not just something that happens for English
  • it’s about teaching the target language for academic and/or professional purposes: ‘specific purpose that group has in common’
  • LSP teaching needs to look at the wider context, not just work. For example, an engineer needs to also be able to talk to cleaners, clients, and at social occasions.
  • differentiating LSP: there is an infinite number of ways to do this, e.g. subject areas, different levels of complexity or specialisation, different audiences
  • subject areas have shared skills, so teachers don’t necessarily need to know the subject area in detail – teaching role is more that of a facilitator
  • socio-cultural dimensions need to be part of teaching
  • students can learn from each other as they share the same subject – and the teacher can learn about the subject from them
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Apple cake

What do you do if you have ten apples? You bake cake. The recipe I used is on the BBC Good Food website.


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Merry Christmas!


See the Scratch project I made for my course at http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/37670676/

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Not blogging

…about my studies as much as I had hoped but it’s taking up more time than I thought. In case you were waiting… ;)

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