mindblenderWhat could be more mind-expanding than sharing one's thoughts and ideas with another person, especially if that means penetrating the language barrier that separates us? Given that our languages play a large role in shaping our views of the world, being able to communicate in another language can give us insight into a different reality.

The website you are visiting was created for intermediate/advanced learners of English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) and their English instructors. In addition to its focus on general English, it provides an overview of the study of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). The author has tried to include challenging vocabulary and idioms and welcomes questions and suggestions. Anyone may contact me by e-mail at sdhanel@hotmail.com.

The site is completely free and you will never be asked to provide any personal data, neither your name nor your address. As far as the author knows, it is safe and virus-free.

This website is relatively simple. It contains links that are highlighted in blue and underlined. Click on these links to move to a new location. If it is not highlighted in blue and underlined, it is not a link. Occasionally, if a word is especially problematic, a link will lead to its definition. After having been connected to the link, the author recommends that you click the 'back' arrow of your browser to return to this website.

Links may point to targets that have become compromised and menacing. It has happened. When we become aware of risks associated with this site, the affected links are deleted immediately. Please remember that it's always a good idea to be cautious when navigating the Internet. Protect yourself.

Regardless of the language learner's level of competency, it is absolutely necessary to practice listening, speaking, reading and writing. Practicing a new language can feel threatening but does not have to be difficult. Take small steps. Try to remember that no one learns to use a new language without practicing, making mistakes and being corrected. Learning to swim and to ride a bicycle require practice. Why should learning a new language be any different? Please remember that without practice, the best instruction in the world is worthless. Be bold! Practice!

It’s important that we realize that it’s not always necessary or even wise to use grammatically perfect English.  Communicating in English is often easier and sometimes more accurate if audience-appropriate English is used.  English spoken by people around the world today can be very dissimilar and in some cases cannot even be uniformly understood.  Cockney, Punjabi and Cajun are all English but follow distinct rules of grammar and pronunciation. Grammar and language use vary over place and time. This website tries to emphasize reality over perception and actual use over usage. Authenticity is always preferable to artificiality.

What is important is that we adapt our use of English to fit our audience.   A private conversation, practicing classroom exercises or speaking to an auditorium filled with people may call for special accommodations.  In this way we can better communicate with each other.  Grammatical correctness and perfection are trumped by what’s appropriate.

The author recommends that, sooner rather than later, every language learner become familiar with the discussion of the verbs, to be and to do, in the grammar sections below. While the author generally prefers that the language learner explore the website at his or her own pace in any direction, understanding the role of the verb, to do, is critical to mastering English.

Please read the descriptions of language learners' interests and environments below and decide which applies most to you. Then click on the heading to see what the website has to offer.

We are not trying to use the English language perfectly;
our goal is to communicate with our audience
effectively.

English as a Second Language
Learning a second language generally takes place in an environment where that language is commonly spoken. Learning English in the United States, England or Australia for example, is learning a second language. There are many opportunities for the language learner to practice the new language. Native speakers are within reach and interactions by way of using the telephone, engaging in conversations and accessing the media are relatively simple tasks. In short, the learning experience extends beyond the classroom. There should be little if any need for role-playing as authentic language use is found everywhere. The opportunities for the language learner with a genuine desire to master the new language are enormous. Real incentives to raise one's level of proficiency are also present as maneuvering in a foreign environment without linguistic abilities can be overwhelming.

English as a Foreign Language
A student learning a foreign language as opposed to a second language, is faced with an environment that is not particularly conducive to practicing the new language. Learning English in Latin America, Asia or many parts of Africa presents the student with challenges that must be overcome if the learner is to progress beyond an elementary level. Opportunities to practice the new language are often limited to the classroom as the 'real world' language is not English. For this reason, classroom simulations may be necessary to approximate situations in which English is used. Role-playing is likely to be more common. Native English speakers may not be available for help with pronunciation and vernacular. Too often English language learners are taught what teachers and English text editors perceive to be English usage rather than what the actual English language is. Certain strategies, such as enrolling in supplemental classes, frequenting venues where English speakers congregate, dedicated reading and long-distance telephone calls may be useful to provide stimulation that doesn't occur naturally. At some point though, English language learners must become exposed to prolonged authentic English language if fluency is to be achieved.

Regardless of the environment within which the language is being learned (and taught), one thing to always keep in mind is the notion that learning how a word or phrase is used is much more valuable than translating that word or phrase from one language to another. Being able to communicate comfortably (not perfectly) in a language other than one's first language requires an enormous amount of practice. An EFL student once told me that she chose a specific construction (appropriately) because 'it sounded right'. Her classmates chuckled but that indicated to me that she had gone beyond translating words and manipulating grammar and was using the language rather than struggling to fit her thoughts into a foreign linguistic framework.

English for Specific Purposes
English for Specific Purposes is directed towards the English language in context. Its program is founded on a unique needs analysis and the ultimate functions to which English will be put.  It isn't a 'broad-spectrum' study but instead focuses on specific subjects such as business, the law, travel & entertainment, computer sciences, medicine and other professional areas.  ESP is primarily an adult activity.  It is not intended to separate the learner’s ‘real world’ experiences (including the L1) from the language learning process. The learner may be an expert in the content matter itself but needs to meld the English language with that professional knowledge in order to reach a more satisfying result.

One field of specialization in which ESP is vital is the control of air traffic. Both pilots and air-traffic controllers in airports world-wide are required to communicate in English. There can be no other example of a specific purpose for English more critical than air-traffic control.

There is no one thing called 'English'. Accents vary. Dialects, vocabulary and even meanings change from region to region. It is very important to recognize that in English, meaning is open to negotiation. That negotiation is oftentimes what conversation is about. Over time and distance, English evolves to meet its users' needs. The English spoken in Kingston, Jamaica a century ago is certainly distinct but no less appropriate than that spoken today in Little Rock, Arkansas. As an English language instructor, this website's author can only hope to help English language learners navigate around and through the indefinable common core of English.

Last Updated: May 5, 2017

Copyright © Scott D. Hanel, 2007-2017.  All rights reserved.