Before you read a text on The 6 best websites to improve your SPEAKING, read the following comprehension questions.
 

1. What does the phrasal verb sprung up mean in paragraph 3?

2. Which service lets you personalise your profile with a photo?

3. Which website asks you to switch to another language after a certain amount of time?

4. Which website has over one million users and more than a thousand teachers?

5. Which of all the recommended sites is the biggest network for language learning?
   

Now read the text and answer the questions.
 
One of the most common questions we get from students on our Facebook page is "How can I practise and improve my speaking?"

If you don't have English speaking friends, or the money to take a trip to the UK 2 or 3 times a year, this is definitely a problem.

During the last few years, many language exchange websites have sprung up offering you the opportunity of practising your English free online.Diccionario online

This sounds great, right? You can improve your English free by talking to other language learners and native speakers.

We tried and tested 14 of these websites and below is a list of the best ones we found.

Please let us know what you think of these services if you try them. Send your comments to mansionteachers@yahoo.es or @mansiontwit on Twitter.

1. Italki
Italki is an excellent site which offers paid lessons by professional teachers, speaking practice with a native English speaker (not usually an English teacher) and language exchange.
Italki uses Skype and has a large community of over a million users and over a thousand teachers. Can your local language school offer that?
Italki's been around for a long time, and we definitely recomend giving it a try.

7. Speaky 
Speaky is free but you need to give your email address or sign up with Facebook or Google+.
It has a matchmaking algorithm which means you can find people with similar interests and hobbies.
The site is also mobile friendly, so you can chat with your language partner on your phone.

8. Verbling
Verbling uses a system called 'chat-roulette', you are randomly connected to someone who is a native speaker of the language you would like to practice.
After 5 minutes, you are encouraged to change languages so that your speaking partner has the chance to practise the language that they want to learn. It's a bit like speed dating in another language, and we really like the idea.
At the moment, Verbling offers free practice of 11 different languages and they intend to expand to include more language options in the future.
You sign up to Verbling on the home page via Facebook, Google+ or your email address.
Verbling also offers paid group and private classes for learners of English and Spanish. If you are an English teacher, you can also earn money on Verbling by teaching private and/or group lessons.

9. Easy Language Exchange
ELE (Easy Language Exchange) has more than 100,000 users and is free to join.
If you're a learner, simply choose the language you want to learn and the language you speak as your mother tongue. You need to register with a username, password, email address and your location.
The website creates a profile for you and you can upload a photo. It's very easy to get online and start speaking quickly.
If you're a teacher, you can get paid to give lessons and ELE doesn't charge commission. Teachers can earn from $5 to $20 per hour to teach online.

10. HowDoYou.Do
This site boasts over 90 languages in more than 140 countries. You can do voice chat, video chat or simply communicate using written text messages.
When we tested it, we found it to be busy most of the time with several people available for discussion from all around the world.
Like Speaky, you have to sign up using Facebook or Google+ or with your email address and a password.
If you are a native speaker of English, you can earn money by working with HowDoYou.Do. Go to their sign-up page for more information.

11. busuu.com
We couldn’t close this list without busuu.com, the world’s largest social network for language learning (source: Wikipedia).
Busuu offers free and paid access to audio-visual courses.
You can Access busuu through their website or their mobile applications. There are courses organised around levels A1, A2, B1 and B2 at 12 different languages. You can study free or pay to be a Premium member.

Please let me know your opinion on all of these language services, and if you find any others that you think might be useful to students in our community, please  leave a voice message with your comments at inglespodcast.com
 

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Before you read a text on using SMART goals to improve your English, read the following comprehension questions.
 

1. What does the phrasal verb stand for mean in paragraph 3?

a) translate
b) replace
c) tolerate
d) represent

2. What are the problems with the following goal?

This afternoon I’m going to learn all the phrasal verbs

The goal is NOT

a) specific
b) measurable
c) achievable
d) relevant
e) timely

3. What is the problem with the following goal?

I’ll learn the difference between the single vowel sounds using the speech recognition software in my language app.

The goal is NOT

f) specific
g) measurable
h) achievable
i) relevant
j) timely

4. What is the problem with the following goal?

Next Saturday evening I’ll go to the cinema and watch the new Hugh Jackson film dubbed in Spanish and without subtitles.

The goal is NOT

k) specific
l) measurable
m) achievable
n) relevant
o) timely

5. What is the problem with the following goal?

I’ll work really hard and improve my English to C1 level this year.

The goal is NOT

p) specific
q) measurable
r) achievable
s) relevant
t) timely
   

Now read the text and answer the questions.
 
Using SMART goals to improve your English

SMART goals are used by successful businessmen and women, entrepreneurs and multi-million dollar companies.

They are arguably one of the most effective tools used by high achievers and they can often make the difference between failure and success. But, how can they help you improve your English?

Before we explain how, let's look at exactly what a SMART goal is.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym, and here's what the letters stand for:Diccionario online

S = SPECIFIC - Your goal should be focused and well defined, not vague and too general.

- An example of a specific goal: I'll learn more words connected to my hobby of photography.
- An example of a non-specific goal: I'll study some English.

M = MEASURABLE - You should make your goal something that you can measure.

- An example of a measurable goal: I'll learn 15 words connected to my hobby of photography.
- An example of a non-measurable goal: I'll learn a few words connected to my hobby of photography.

A = ACHIEVABLE (or ATTAINABLE) - your goal must be something you can realistically do.

- An example of an achievable goal: I'll learn 15 words connected to my hobby of photography this week.
- An example of an non-achievable goal: I'll learn 300 words connected to my hobby of photography today.

R = RELEVANT - Your goal should be relevant to your progress in English.

- An example of a relevant goal: I'll learn 5 expressions that I might need for a job interview in English.
- An example of an non-relevant goal: I'll learn 5 expressions that I might need if I go to Hollywood to appear in a Zombie movie.

T = TIMELY - put a time limit on your goal.

- An example of a timely goal: I'll learn 15 more words connected to my hobby of photography by Friday.
- An example of a goal that isn't timely: I'll learn 15 more words connected to my hobby of photography.

So, now you know what SMART goals are, how can you use them to improve your English?
We suggest making yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. Only you can decide what you goals will be. It depends on what you need English for and how much time you have to study.

Here are some examples of SMART goals.

YEARLY
Increase my level of English from B1 to B2 level before December 31. Take a level test at my academy in December to see if I have the B2 level so that I can take the FCE exam next year.

MONTHLY
Attend classes twice a week at my academy and study English for 30 minutes every day after dinner.

WEEKLY
Go to the language exchange evening on Tuesday and speak to a native speaker for at least 15 minutes.

DAILY
Review the language rules for the present perfect tense at the back of the course book and do 3 online exercises using time expressions with the present perfect.

Break your goals down

If you decided to run a marathon, you probably wouldn't go out tomorrow and try to do it.
The sensible thing would be to plan your training and slowly increase the distance you run over time. You build up to the goal of 42 kilometres by running 5km, then 8, then 10, then 15 etc.
Writing a book may seem like an incredibly difficult goal, but if you break that book down into chapters, and the chapters into pages and the pages into paragraphs, it doesn't seem so bad.
Then you can say, "I'm going to write two pages every day." If you focus on those achievable two pages, you'll be surprised how quickly you'll have written the first chapter.
Think of English in the same way. Learning all the phrasal verbs in English is not very realistic, but learning 15 or 20 new phrasal verbs a week is realistic.

We’d like to know if you have tried SMART goals and how they worked (or didn’t work!) for you. Leave a voice message with your comments at inglespodcast.com

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