I often get messages from learners asking various questions related to English. I think their number has tripled since the British Council published my tips for remembering new words in the Voices Magazine (see Ten Ways to Learn New Words as a Language Learner). I usually refer them to the LearnEnglish British Council Facebook page where they can get help, join a broad community of learners and practise the language together. This question caught my eye though:
“I have good working knowledge of English but sometimes I’m not sure if what I say is correct. Do you ever have doubts?”
Well, who doesn’t? I see it as a good thing; a healthy dose of self-doubt may mean that you are open to learning. The key thing is to have some tools or information sources that will help clear up your questions.
I thought it would be a good idea to share a list of websites or tech tools that might come in handy in times of doubt.
Can I say …?
1. Do People Say: This website allows you to see a word or phrase used in different contexts, and their collocations, i.e. combinations of words which are more or less fixed. All you need to do is to type in a phrase or word and press “Search”.
I’m not sure I understand what this means. How can we put it another way?
2. Rewordify: This website is created for simplifying the reading level of a text. Just paste your text into the yellow field and click “Rewordify”. Rewordify will simplify the text to the reading level you need. You can raise or lower the difficulty threshold and choose how the text is displayed.
How do I pronounce this word?
3. YouGlish: This website gives you fast answers about how English is spoken by real people and in particular contexts. All you need is to type in your word or phrase and click “Say it”. You can also choose the accent you need.
- Is the spelling all right?
4. Grammarly: This app is a wonderful writing assistant that helps you find and correct various writing errors. All you need to do is to install the extension. Then whenever you start typing your emails or Facebook messages Grammarly will flag instances where it has a suggestion or correction.
- I can say it in my language. How do I put it in English?
5. Linguee: This website has a world of translations. Pick your bilingual dictionary, type in your word or phrase, click “Search” and see how other people have translated them before in different contexts.
These tools are all free and, in addition to giving you a helping hand when you need it, help you improve your English.
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What tools and websites do YOU use?