Brainglass app not even half full

Karaoke4English Reader is a program with a distinct niche:  English language learners who want to improve their English reading skills by studying “historical speeches of US presidents.”

Karaoke4English is from Swedish mobile app developer Brainglass, which touts it as being for “beginning English learners.”

The program combines synchronized text and audio so reader can follow along as the text is read aloud. Users can get instant definitions of English words in Spanish, German, Russian, French, and Italian. They can also make their own study devices, such as flashcards.

Speeches are an unlikely choice for teaching reading skills. Listening to speech is vastly different from reading material designed for silent reading.  Moreover, speeches of US presidents hardly qualify as material for beginning English learners.

I could find no list on the four-page Brainglass website of what speeches are available other than the 1960 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy.

Karaoke4English Reader may have a great future, but for the present, its value to ESL educators is minimal.

[2016-02-03 removed link to the Brainglass website. It appears that only the blog remains on line.]

645 meanings of the verb run

Let me run this by you.

Simon Winchester says in an op-od piece in today’s New York Times  that, according to Oxford English Dictionary lexicographer Peter Gilliver, the word run has 645 meanings in the verb-form alone.

If you teach literacy, reading comprehension, or English (including all its initialized formats: ELA, ELL, EFL, ESL), that fact should make you blink. Run is, after all, one of the most common words in our language. It is among the words students learn in their first encounters with reading and writing.

If there are 645 meanings of the verb to run, what does that say about the difficulty of learning vocabulary in context? And what are the implications of a 645-definition word for writing teachers?

Those are not trivial questions.

According to US census data a fifth of the population over age 5 speaks a language other than English at home. Of those, only 56.2 percent say they speak English “very well.” When you look at the ages of the people who do not speak English in their homes, you’ll see in every language group the largest segment of non-English speakers is school age.

Census data assumes that speaking only English at home means proficiency in oral English. I think most teachers would question that assumption.

However, even if it were true, the number of people who are fluent in oral English is higher than the number who are skilled at reading and writing English, even among people whose primary language is English.

For me as a teacher, these data mean I do not have the luxury of spending time on topics just because they are fun or just because students are interested in them. I have to choose teaching topics because they help me accomplish my learning objectives. Then I have to find ways to make the topics fun or relate them to something that already interests the students.

What significance do you find in the 645 meanings of the verb run?