People are often asking me for ways to practice English outside of the classroom. Recently I've had several requests for textbook suggestions, as well. Below are some ideas:
1) Movies & Television. You'd be surprised how many people I meet who tell me that they learned English entirely on their own by watching television! It really amazes me, but it's true. The people I've met who learned English by watching American TV speak really, really well, so I think this method is proven to work!
It's also a really fun and relaxing way to learn. Plus, the language is very realistic, unlike a lot of textbook CD's or recordings that are very "forced" or unrealistic.
I suggest you turn on the "caption" or "subtitle" option on your TV, so that you can read the English as you listen, at least at first. Then you can turn off the captions and listen again a second time.
2) Online Practice. The Internet has completely changed the world of ESL learning for the better! There are some really fantastic websites to help people learn (there are also a lot of really awful ESL sites, so be careful!)
One of my new favorites is BBC: Learning English. Someone recently brought my attention to this website, and I really like it. You can listen to short stories in English (with a British accent!), then scroll over certain words for vocabulary definitions and pronunciation, or listen to a story and then answer a question about the story at the end to see how well you understood. They also have all sorts of other fun things on this website.
Another favorite is English Central. This site has several features that I like. For pronunciation, you can listen and see visuals of where your tongue needs to move when you make certain sounds. They also have videos that are very helpful. And if you have a microphone on your computer, you can even practice making the sounds into your microphone, and it will rate you on how well you're doing! (please don't be upset if it gives you a poor rating... I think it will be extra-hard to have a computer evaluating you!!)
There are many, many other sites that are great and I've listed some popular ones on our ELLA website, so please click here to see more helpful websites and videos. If you have another recommendation that is not listed here, please let us know!
3) Books and Texts. Reading good fictional novels is a great way to learn. In a previous blog post (Summer Reading, 5/24/12), I listed some of my favorite novels. You might try some of those and see what you think. If they are too difficult, you might start with children's level books (I will make another blog post about some children's books soon!)
As for textbooks, these can be dry and boring, but some are helpful for getting the basic rules and answering grammar concerns. I made a list of some of the ones that I've used in teaching my classes. I've found these texts useful and helpful.
Click here for the list, which is at the bottom of the ESL Study Ideas page of our website.
4) Get out of the house, and talk & listen and talk & listen and talk & listen... you get the picture?
This is most important! Don't be shy :-) Regular daily practice hearing others and speaking with others is the best way to learn!
Okay, I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. See you soon, I hope.
Hi everyone! I wrote about some of my favorite hikes in the area in a previous post, but people have been asking about camping sites that they could drive to, rather than hike to, so here is a list of some nice camping sites.
We are so lucky to live in a state with so many beautiful options. There are literally hundreds of beautiful, forested campsites that you can drive to. Some are "first-come, first serve," but at many you can make a reservation in advance. Then it's as simple as parking your car, setting up your tent, and you're ready to light your campfire and enjoy dinner and s'mores! (okay, does everyone know about s'mores?? They're my favorite part of camping! First, you take a marshmallow and roast it on a stick over the campfire, then you put the toasty marshmallow between two graham crackers along with a piece of Hershey's chocolate... mmmmm... it's a delicious treat!)
Okay, back to the campsites. Below is a list of a few good ones. You can click on the name of each place listed below, and it will take you to the park website. Then click on "Camping" or "Reservations" to find more info or make a reservation:
1) Fort Flagler - We camped here a few years ago with two other families. We had so much fun! It's a beautiful area. The camping area is on a high bluff, overlooking Puget Sound. You camp surrounded by beautiful forest, but the saltwater shoreline is just a short walk away. There are also some historic remains from a military fort that you can visit. It's fun to explore the old, abandoned fort. Fort Flagler Campground is about 2.5 hours drive from Bellevue.
2) Deception Pass- This is a really beautiful area along the strait of water connecting the Skagit Bay with Puget Sound. There are breathtaking views from cliffs overlooking the water. A beautiful bridge spans the straight. Deception Pass is 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Bellevue.
3) Alta Lake- This is a camping area located beside an alpine lake. Some people like to fish for trout in the lake during the summer. The area is on the border of where the forested, lush green Western Washington meets the drier, more desert-like Easter Washington. Alta Lake is about 3.5 hours drive from Bellevue.
4) Cape Disappointment- Don't let the crazy name of this park scare you away! This camping area is not a disappointment at all!! It's a beautiful spot along the Pacific Ocean, at the southwestern tip of Washington State. There is a charming lighthouse that you can see high on a bluff. There are plenty of reservable tent sites, but if you don't want to camp in a tent, you can reserve a "Yurt" or cabin at this park. Cape Disappointment is about 3.5 hours drive from Bellevue.
Camping in Mt. Rainier National Park:
The following two campgrounds are located in Mt. Rainier National Park. These are beautiful, of course, but extremely popular, so you will need to make a reservation well in advance. Both of the campgrounds are approximately 2.5 hours drive from Bellevue.
1) Ohanapecosch- This campground is located in the southeast corner of the Park. It has beautiful old-growth forest and the area offers views of Mt. Rainier and surrounding mountain ranges, as well as many hiking trails.
2) Cougar Rock, near Longmire- This campground is 2 miles from Longmire in a beautiful part of Rainier National Park. I'll be camping here later this month, so I'll let you know how it is!!
This is just a very small sample of the many wonderful places to camp in Washington State! You can explore many more opportunities on the State Park Website. Also, if you are not quite so brave about camping in a tent, many of the parks offer Yurts, Cabins, or Platform Tents (click on the tab that says "cabins/yurts" on the website link above).
These accommodations are rustic, but not quite as rustic as sleeping in a tent ;-)
So... hopefully the sun will come out soon and the temperature will warm up so we can enjoy these summer activities!! Contact me if you have questions about any of the information in this blog. Also, if you have a favorite campsite that you'd like to share, please let us know!