Free Apps for Improving your English

Free apps to improve your English for the TOEFL and IELTS speaking exams.

by John Grant

I’m often asked by students which online resources they can use to improve their speaking skills in preparation for taking either the IELTS or TOEFL exam.

I base my recommendations on three criteria:

  1. Motivating
  2. Easy to use
  3. Free (mostly)

 

  1. Google pronunciation

This completely free (amazing !!) function in the Google search engine allows you to hear and see how a word is pronounced in both British and American accents. Also, it has a practice button allowing you to try to pronounce it with feedback to see what you are doing wrong. This is a real game changer! Just type the word and type pronunciation. For example, try to type ‘wonderful pronunciation‘ into your search engine. Try it now!

Note: This works best with Google Chrome.

 

Duolingo

The free version of this app is a must-have for mobile phone owners. Practice small discrete lessons based on topics to expand your vocabulary and improve your grammatical accuracy. The daily reminders and point system keep you motivated and you can finish a lesson in less than 10 minutes. Perfect for the commute!

Note: There is a paid version that eliminates the ads.

3 Drops

This beautifully designed app builds your vocabulary in a wide variety of topics with a clean interface. The constant repetition of vocabulary ensures that you won’t forget new vocabulary.

Note: The free version has a time limit for how long you can use it, but it is more than enough for daily use.

 

4 Busuu

A variety of lessons on common topics will keep you motivated with very natural conversations. This app uses cutting-edge AI machine learning to constantly improve the app! Also, it has a feature that connects speakers of other languages ​​to grade each other’s progress . This is a great source if you would like to move beyond textbook English.

Note: The free version limits access to the whole lesson so you may want to pay for the full version.

 

5 Ted Talks

This is a huge resource of lectures and talks on almost any subject imaginable. Use these lectures to practice summarizing skills that are so vital for the academic lectures you encounter in both the IELTS and TOEFL. Each lecture has subtitles in many languages ​​so you read along with the lecture in both English and Japanese! This feature also allows you to navigate the lecture easily so you can repeat sentences and phrases.

I will be back soon with more tips and suggestions!

 

More Fully Explaining Ideas in IELTS Writing Task 2

More Fully Explaining Ideas in IELTS Writing Task 2 – by Mark Feeley

Hi everyone, and welcome to my latest instructor blog! I hope your studies at AGOS are going well.

I’m Mark, and today, I’m going to be talking about the importance of more fully explaining your ideas in Task 2 essays, and how this can help you to improve your score.

In IELTS writing Task 2, candidates have to write an opinion essay. For example, describing the advantages and disadvantages of globalization. Although the actual ideas of candidates are not being evaluated, to get a higher score, you have to fully and clearly explain your ideas. Here is a typical part of an answer to a Task 2 question:

‘What are the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation?’

A typical answer might be:

‘One of the disadvantages is connected with food safety. These days, as a result of the globalization of trade, it is much easier to eat food from different countries. However, according to research conducted by Harvard University, over 99% of people are worried about the safety of food produced in different countries. Therefore, the safety of food is a major issue.’

A much better answer to this type of question might be something like:

‘One of the disadvantages is connected with food safety. These days, as a result of the globalization of trade, it is much easier to eat food from different countries. However, according to research conducted by Harvard University, over 60% of people are worried about the safety of food produced in different countries. Concerns that consumers can have include different regulations regarding the use of pesticides or artificial ingredients in the production of food, which can cause problems such as food poisoning or allergic reactions . Therefore, the safety of food is a major issue.’

As you can see from this example, not only is the answer more clearly explained, but the writer has used some examples of specific vocabulary (highlighted in bold). By more fully answering questions, you will also therefore be able to demonstrate to the examiner or grader the range of more specific vocabulary that you are able to use.

In addition, the writer has used a more realistic statistic of 60% rather than 99% to support their argument. This helps to provide a more logical and believable argument.

I hope you find this useful. Good luck with your studies at AGOS!

 

情報共有:「新型コロナワクチン電子英文証明書」

JAFSA事務局から以下の情報を頂きましたので、共有いたします。(アゴス教務部)

*****************************************************************

JAFSAダイヤモンド賛助会員の「日比谷クリニック」様より
『新型コロナワクチン電子英文証明書』のご案内をいただきました。
関係者・関係部署の皆様へご共有、ご転送くださいますようお願いします。

お問い合わせは直接「日比谷クリニック」様へお願い致します。
————– 以下 案内文———————————-

JAFSA会員の皆様

平素よりお世話になっております。
海外渡航者・留学生を対象にした医療機関・日比谷クリニックでございます。

海外に渡航される方々へ、新型コロナワクチン接種記録に基づき、英文(和文付き)で証明書(電子認証されたPDFデータ)を提供するサービスのご紹介になります。

■新型コロナワクチン電子英文証明書のメリット
1 何時でも何処でも簡単に提示できる
 2 スマートフォンで携帯可能
 3 お申し込みから2営業日以内に電子署名されたデータがEメールおよびショートメールで届く
 4 海外製のワクチンを接種された方のご利用も可能です

新型コロナワクチン電子英文証明書の詳細および、お申込みは下記URLよりお願い致します。

詳細:https://hibiya-clinic.com/covid-19_denshisign/  
お申込み:https://business.form-mailer.jp/fms/7708a3d3146398 

■お問合せ先
日比谷クリニック
担当:佐久間・宮田
TEL:03-3212-0105(受付平日9:00~13:00/14:30~18:00 土曜10:00~13:00)

====================以上

【配信元】特定非営利活動法人JAFSA(国際教育交流協議会)


Writingセクション攻略のために(その2):英“借”文を意識して書いていく— by 米田

皆さんは“英作文”を学校の授業などで習ったことがありますか? 日本語で〇〇という内容が指定されていて、それを習った文法に基づいて、与えられている英単語を使って順序正しい英文にしなさい、的な問題を通して学習してきたと思います。お手本となる英文があって、そして部品となる十分な英単語が与えられていれば、練習を積んでコツを掴めば書きやすくなったのではないでしょうか。つまり、TOEFLにしてもIELTSにしても、自分の中で思い浮かんだ内容を自在に英文にしていけるようになる前段階として、「書きたい内容」を自然な英文に落とし込むためには、“パーツ”である単語の知識に加えて、“フレーム”とも言える自然な英語構文を十分自分の中に蓄えておく必要がある、ということです。その為に、アゴスの受講生の皆さんが熱心に取り組むのが“英借”です。

例えば、TOEFLのIndependent Taskではよく自分の体験談を用いて理由を説明する、ということがありますね。そういう時には場面設定の文から書き始めることが多いかもしれません。


・サンプル元;During my freshman year at Osaka University in 2012, I took an English literature class.


上記の文を言わば“ネタ元”として、“パーツ”を状況に応じて、また自分の書きたいこと
に応じて書き換えていくこと、その練習をするのが「英借文」です。


・英借文の例;During my junior year at Nagoya University in 2009, I took a Japanese art history class. 

*赤字部分が書き換えた“パーツ”です。

仕組みは単純ですが、この調子で良質なサンプル英文、つまりネイティブにとって自然
な英文の構造を自分の中に蓄え、それをサンプリング(=英借)して様々なアレンジを加
えていく練習を積むこと、これが英語として自然なEssay作成の素地を養うことにな
ります。アゴスのライティングの授業では、TOEFLでもIELTSでも、この“英借”演習
を非常に重視しており、しっかり取り組んだ方は、出題されるトピックが様々でも、落
ち着いて対応出来るようになり、「書きたいことが書ける」ようになってきた、と仰い
ます。

何となく「暗記勝負」というイメージを持たれるかもしれませんね。でも実は、単に英文を丸暗記する訳ではなく、サンプル元となる英文を構造を意識しながら暗記はしますが、それに基づいて自分なりの“パーツ”で書き換えていくので、ネイティブにとって自然な表現や構文を自分のものにしつつ、オリジナルな内容を書けるようになります。そして、元になる英文がしっかりしていれば、英借の範囲内で書くことによりミスが減り、シンプルでクリアな印象を与える文が書けるようになっていきます。
では、折角なのでもう一文。


・サンプル元;How much and how deeply you can sleep differs depending on your age.

「〇〇は■■によって変わってくる、次第である」という意味合いの文です。青字部分を基盤として、それ以外を自分の“パーツ”つまり“書きたい内容・表現”で書き換えます。
授業で上記の文から、以下のように英借して下さった方がおられました。


・例;How much money you are able to earn differs depending on your job title.

皆さんもご自分なりに一文、英借なさってみて下さい。

How Can I Improve My Speaking Part 2

How Can I Improve My Speaking Part 2

by Mark Feeley

 

 

Hi everyone, and welcome to the instructor blog! I hope your studies at AGOS are going well.

I’m Mark, and in my previous blog, I discussed the importance of using a wider range of tenses, and how this can help you to achieve higher scores in the IELTS speaking tests. In this blog, I provided an example of a good Speaking Part 2 answer. The reason why this answer was better is that the speaker has added more background details to the talk, which has given them an opportunity to use a wider range of grammar (marked in bold in the example). This includes:

 

Relative Clauses

–‘which is my smartphone’.

 

Present Perfect

–‘listen to the latest tunes I’ve downloaded’.

 

Past Perfect

――’I’d wanted to buy…’.

–‘I’d sat down…’.

 

Past Perfect Continuous

–‘I’d been standing…’.

 

Past Modal Verbs

–could

 

Conditional Tenses

–If I didn’t have a smartphone, I wouldn’t know what I’d do to pass the time.’

 

When you are taking the IELTS speaking test, therefore, try to use a wider range of tenses. A lot of students however, ask me how they can improve their speaking. In this blog, I will give you some ideas of activities that you can do outside of the classroom to help you improve the range and accuracy of the tenses you use when you are speaking:

 

–Writing

To help improve your ability to use different tenses, practice writing sentences using verb tenses such as the Past Continuous, Past Perfect and Conditionals. This will help you to become more confident when you use these tenses.

In addition, try to write a regular diary about your daily life. When you are writing your diary, try to use a variety of tenses.

 

–Recording your speaking

In addition, try recording your speaking when you are answering questions, and try to use some of the verb tenses. After you have finished, listen to your speaking and make a note of the tenses that you have used. Then, record yourself speaking again and try to improve.

When you listen to the recording of your speaking, you can also write down exactly what you said. This will give you extra listening practice, and provide an opportunity for you to examine more closely the accuracy of the grammar that you have used. In particular Develop a bank of answers so you can detect your common errors such as `missing articles, prepositions’ or the` s’on plural nouns’.

 

–Ask a classmate or friend to help you

You can also ask a classmate or a friend to listen to the recordings, as they may be able to notice mistakes that you can’t.

Alternatively, try to describe a picture to your friend and see if they recreate it. Tell a story to your classmate and see how many details they can remember!

 

–Don’t be afraid to take risks

One final piece of advice is to come out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Even if you do make mistakes, simply trying to use a wider range of grammar can help you to achieve a higher score.

 

I hope you find this useful. Good luck with your studies at AGOS!

TOEFL Essentialsテスト(ETSの新しい英語能力評価テスト)が始まりました

掲題について、TOEFLテスト日本事務局のETS Japan、TOEFL事業部から下記のご連絡を頂きました:

******************************
米国の非営利教育団体であるETS(本社:米国ニュージャージー州プリンストン)は、2021年8月21日に新しい英語能力評価テストであるTOEFL Essentialsテストの実施を開始いたしました。

ETS Japanでは、日本国内の英語学習者の皆様を対象にした日本語のWebサイトを公開しております。



TOEFL Essentialsテスト受験者向け日本語Webサイト トップページ

https://r31.smp.ne.jp/u/No/6793387/i35l2aH7ci0D_0/toeflessentials.html



テストの特徴、受験料金、申込方法、受験当日の流れ、スコアスケールなどから、他の主要な国際基準の英語テストとの違いや教育機関での採用状況なども掲載しています。

既に公開されている英語のTest Takersサイトに加え母語での情報収集により、テスト詳細の理解促進にお役立ていただければ幸いです。



TOEFL Essentialsテスト 受験者向け日本語Webサイト公開のリリース

https://www.toefl-ibt.jp/release/20210811.html

******************************************


A Wider Range of Grammar in IELTS

Hi everyone, and welcome to the instructor blog! I hope your studies at AGOS are going well.

 

I’m Mark, and today, I’m going to be talking about the importance of using a wider range of grammar, and how this can help you to improve your score in the IELTS speaking test. A lot of test takers in Japan struggle to use a wide range of grammar in the IELTS speaking interview, especially tenses which can be harder to use, such as the Past Perfect, Past Continuous, or Conditional sentences using ‘If’. However, using these structures can help you to achieve higher scores in this test.  Take the following example.

 

Here is part of a typical IELTS Speaking Part 2 question:

 

‘Describe an electronic device you use every day’.

 

A typical answer might begin as follows:

 

‘I’m going to talk about a useful electronic device I use. This is my smartphone. Actually, I bought a new smartphone last year and I use it every day. I bought my new smartphone because my previous smartphone was old and I accidently sat on my phone and cracked the screen, so I needed to buy a replacement. I take the train to work every day, so I use my smartphone to check the news, listen to music and send text messages to my friends, and …. er’.

 

The problem with this answer is that the speaker only uses a limited range of grammar, especially tenses. In this part of the answer, apart from ‘going to’, the speaker only uses the Present Simple and Past Simple tenses.

A much better answer to this type of question might be something like:

‘I’m going to talk about a useful electronic device I use, which is my brand-new smartphone that I bought last year. Actually, I’d wanted to buy a new one for a long time, but I was always working overtime and could never find time to go to the shop and buy a new one because it always takes ages. However, last year, while I was commuting to work on the train, I accidentally sat on my phone and cracked the screen. You see, I’d been standing for a long time, and because I was tired, I slipped my phone into my back trouser pocket and forgot about it until after I’d sat down. It’s very important to me so I was crushed. 

I take the train to work every day, so I use my phone to catch up on the news, listen to the latest tunes I’ve downloaded and send text messages to my friends. If I didn’t have my smartphone, I wouldn’t know what I’d do to pass the time.  Anyway I was very happy to get a new one.’

 

This is a much better answer to this question, and in my next blog, I will analyze why.

スピーキング攻略 (TOEFL iBT®/IELTS):徹底的に準備をしよう! — 柳澤洋美

Speaking Sectionでは、聞かれたことに自由に答えられて、相手に納得してもらうこと…それが理想です。大した準備もせずにTOEFL iBT®で20点、あるいはIELTSで6.5以上を取れるような帰国生の方などは別として、純ジャパにとって、自由に意見を言って高得点を狙えるまでには、かなりの道のりがあります。

スピーキングの試験対策の王道は、TOEFLであれIELTSであれ、過去問を使って準備するのが最も効率的な勉強方法となります。

その効率的な勉強とは…

①トピックのリストアップ:過去問を見て、どんな内容が良く出るのか研究してみましょう。「教育」、「健康」、「テクノロジー」、「経済」…あたりは一般的です。IELTSでは「犯罪」系の問題も多いです。

②スクリプト化:トピック1つに対して過去問5~8つを選んで書いてみます。文字数にすると120語(1分間)※が目安です。

○さて、スクリプトを書くコツとして、まずは主張のポイントを述べて、それをサポートする具体的な話を入れる。日本語的に考えると、ポイントをズバッと言わないことが多いので、話が分かりにくいと判断されて(低いスコア)しまいます。

○ピカッと光る単語を2,3個を書き入れる。例えば、高齢化社会についての問題で、barrier-free(バリアフリーの)、 feel isolated from society(社会から孤独していると感じる)、average lifespan(平均寿命)などを入れて、採点官に語彙力のアピールをします。

自分が得意としないトピックでは徹底的にスクリプト化をしましょう。準備したお題が出る可能性は低いとしても、きちんと準備すれば、そのトピックに関する一通りの英語表現が出てくると思われます。同じネタや表現を使って答えられるはずです。

※河合出版:『かなり詳しく学べるTOEFL iBT®テスト スピーキング・ライティング 演習編』より

IELTS Listeningの語数制限 ― by 土橋

IELTS Listeningの空欄補充問題には、解答に対する語数制限が設けられています。例えば問題文に以下のような指示があった場合、解答として何単語まで書いてよいか、分かりますか?

——————————————————————————
Complete the notes below.
Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.
——————————————————————————

この場合、各設問に「二単語以内」で答える必要があります。言い換えれば、それぞれの設問に対して「一単語」もしくは「二単語」で解答するということですね。

IELTS初学者の中には、この“NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS”という表現に、一瞬戸惑われる方もいらっしゃるかもしれません。ちなみに、英和辞典で意味を調べると、“no more than ~”は「(数量が)~しかない、たった、わずか」といった定義が出てきます。

さて、上記のような指示があった場合、その制限語数(この場合は二単語以内)を超えて解答すると誤答扱いになります。

例えば、ある問題の正解が“leather boots”(革のブーツ)だったとしましょう。これを“boots made of leather”と書くと不正解です。どちらの表現も意味するものは同じですが、後者は語数制限違反となります。

せっかく正しい内容を聞き取っているのに、誤答扱いとなっては悔しいですね。空欄補充問題では、語数制限を必ず確認しましょう。

A new type of TOEFL Task 2 campus conversation (Part 2): How to answer it

In a previous post, I introduced a new type of Task 2 campus conversation in which the student agreed with the basic idea of the plan to close down the computer lab because students had their own laptops, but she didn’t like the idea of adding more books to the library. If you haven’t seen the first post, please go back and look at this new type of Task 2.

How should we organize our answer? It could look something like this:

The university is planning to get rid of the computer lab in the multimedia department because they argue that most students have their own laptops, and it will give them more space to expand the book section.

The woman mostly agreed with this plan. First of all, she said that most students in the multimedia department had their own laptops because they were quite inexpensive and everyone needed them for homework. As a result, the computer lab was hardly ever used these days.

However, she didn’t think it was a good idea to expand the number of books as published books in the multimedia field are typically soon out-of-date.  She suggested that the space would be better utilized as a meeting area for groups working on projects.

So, it’s not widely different from what we are used to. We can add ‘mostly’ to ‘agreed’ and use a contrasting linking word to introduce the second point, such as ‘However’.

In conclusion, you are still more likely to see the old pattern, but please be aware that this new pattern above is possible.