Sites to Practice Writing

Obviously Facebook and Twitter are great places to practice writing and interacting with other people, if you stick to English.

  • Live Mocha is a place to find IM chat friends.
  • Live Journal is a great social blogging tool because it’s very easy to start a blog and make a friends page that has all your friends’ blogs.
  • Tumblr; is another blogging tool although if you want to practice writing, I’d focus more on the writing part, rather than the videos and images part.

Causes of Happiness and Effects of Money

This is an awesome cause and effect article about the relationship between money and happiness. Note the details, the examples and the way the article tries to make it interesting by playing on our assumptions. A really great model of how to write good body paragraphs!

Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.

Feel free to leave questions or comments about this article here (or on the New York Times site!)

Example Essay: Grammar

Learning a foreign language is a process which requires the development of multiple abilities such as writing, speaking, listening and reading. Most second language learners tend to develop one skill better than another. Other learners rank their skills for instance, in some South American countries second language students focus on their speaking and/or listening ability more than the others.

The idea of focusing on speaking probably comes from a cognitive theory which indicates that native speakers learn to speak before writing or studying grammar, therefore there is a large number of second language learners who consider that learning a foreign language should focus on speaking and/or writing more than grammar. Although there is still a debate about this theory, I personally believe learning grammar is as important as developing other skills when acquiring a second language.

Opponents of learning grammar claim that teaching grammar is unnecessary because there is hardly enough time on speaking. Even though some educators and learners agree with the previous statement, it is important to take into consideration one of the bases of cognitive learning to rebut that idea. According to Jean Piaget, one of the most important influences in Education and Psychology, the process of learning involves several stages which go from the essentials to the complex. In language learning one of the essentials abilities a student has to learn in order to get a good command of a foreign language is learning grammar. It is impossible to get a good command of speaking, one of the most complex stages, if learners do not have a good command of the basics: the grammar.

On the other hand, some language learners agree with the following statement: “writing is a representation of the speaking”; therefore, most of them consider that speaking is the “real language”. For that reason, they believe that it is only necessary to learn a small percentage of grammar in order to speak/write a foreign language fluently. However, opponents of grammar do not take into consideration that speaking is full of slangs and false grammar that cannot be used in academic and labor contexts. Consequently, learning proper grammar is not only essential to improve a foreign language but also to succeed in different personal areas.

The final argument advanced by opponents of learning grammar is that it is unnecessary to focus on grammar because native speakers do not use it correctly when they speak and write. Nevertheless, opponents do not take into consideration that speaking and writing imply the good command of grammar in order to improve it upon to get a better command of the language. What is more, a grammatical error could change the meaning and create a bad impression in daily situations.

It is evident that opponents of learning grammar do not have strong arguments because, as shown by my earlier arguments, it is obvious that grammar is important in itself and is critical for developing other language skills such as speaking, listening, writing and reading. Therefore, in order to get a perfect command of a foreign language, learning grammar should be considered essential in language acquisition.

Example Essay: Internet Dating

 In the last decade, the Internet has become a part of our life. More and more people use it for work, entertainment, and finding friends. Some people even meet their girlfriends/boyfriends through Internet. However, I can not agree with this way to meet girlfriends/boyfriends. In my opinion, it is not only a weird but also an unrealistic way.

 Some people may say that they can meet many people all from over the world and the Internet enlarges their social circles. I agree with this point when we talk about enlarging the social circle; but, why can it be right when we are talking about meeting girlfriends/boyfriends? How can I know the person whom I met on the Internet enough? Before I get together with my girlfriend, I need to know her characters, tempers, interests, and even the appearance. Therefore, we need to talk face-to-face and hang out for a while to start a wonderful love story.

 Besides, people who meet their girlfriends/boyfriends on the Internet always say that it is very fast and convenient. They can meet their lover without going out, and just need to spend some time in front of the computer. In fact, this kind of instant love seldom last long. In addition, I wonder the loyalty of the instant love through the Internet. For example, if it just takes few minutes to meet a girlfriend/boyfriend on the Internet; similarly, it is easier to meet another. Hence, I think it is not a good way to meet girlfriends/boyfriends for long-term relationships.

 Finally, many online dating websites, such as Match.com, have become more and more popular nowadays. They declare that the website can help you find the best match for you when typing some keywords just as hobby, height/weight, or skin color, etc. It seems very fancy and convenient. Nevertheless, I think that the most of people search by the appearance at the first time through the profile photos. It seems to encourage people to choose lovers by appearance instead of inside characteristics. Furthermore, how can I tell the truth of the profiles? According to many news reports, more and more frauds occur in the dating website. Some outlaws of the Internet criminals take advantages of people who misunderstand the coming true love, and cheat their money or even bodies. In other words, it is a high risk and an unsafe way to meet girlfriends/boyfriends on the Internet.

 In my opinion, I believe that only through face-to-face talking and hanging-out can I know the person enough to get along with. Although the Internet is convenient to meet people, it is unrealistic and unsafe for a long-term relationship. To sum up, it is not a good place to meet a girlfriend/boyfriend.

Sites for Learning Vocabulary

Apps for Learning English

Some awesome apps for learning English on your phone

  • For Vocabulary

    • My Word Book is a vocabulary notebook on your iPhone, with a quiz mode. I love that it allows you to save not only the word and definition but also pictures, sentences and audio clips!
    • WordLayer which is a dictionary, but words are defined with pictures! Nice way to brush up on or review some vocabulary, though obviously not every word can be represented in a picture
  • For Grammar

    • Grammar in Use Apps with tests and exercises related to the awesome grammar books from Cambridge University Press. What I love about the books is that they do in fact present grammar IN USE, very close to how we talk. Well, how British people talk for the most part, init?
  • For Speaking

    • Speaking Pal is great for practicing pronunciation, but not much else. It provides fun, silly little dialogues. You listen and them perform one half of the dialogue. The app will only let you move on if it can understand you!