July 5, 2016
by Larry Ferlazzo
Last week, I wrote a short post headlined “American English” Site From U.S. Department Of State Has Developed Into Great Resource For ELL Teachers.
Over the week, Jennie Farnell, who is the assistant director of The English Language Institute at the University of Bridgeport, sent me useful more-depth review of the site.
Here it is:
http://m.binu.com/ae/ (app download)
Platform: Internet; formatted for mobile devices; Android app available
Age: middle school and up
Proficiency: beginner and up
American English is a website designed and maintained by the US Department of State. It’s a difficult website to categorize, since it has resources for both teachers and learners. It contains a sea of information and, although it has been redesigned and seems easier to use, it still can be challenging to locate all of the resources available. For teachers, there is a vast selection of resources, including lesson plans, some specifically developed for teen learners, professional development webinars and MOOCs, and research articles. There is an app available for mobile devices that run Android or Java (that excludes iOS devices and Windows phones). There’s also a Youtube channel and a Facebook page with as of the time of writing had garnered over three million likes (neither of which are easy to locate on the site – you need to go to the bottom of the page and click on the tiny link icons; both were much easier to locate by googling).
Currently, the Youtube channel seems to have slightly more resources for teachers than learners. The video content for both learners and teachers is high quality. For learners, videos offered include basic grammar, error correction, pronunciation practice, tips for learning English, and a grab bag of videos offering resources, instructions on using the app, business English, etc. For teachers, the videos mostly focus on professional development and include a plethora of information, from assessment practices to classroom management to methodology. The Facebook page is geared toward learners and includes quizzes, songs, grammar tips, etc. Finally, the app is designed for learners and includes e-books, audiobooks, songs, and a language game.
Pros: free; huge collection of resources for teachers and students; multiple methods of access (Youtube, Facebook, apps, and website); downloadable resources for offline use;
Cons: resources are difficult to locate; apps not available for iOS devices; strong focus on American culture;
Takeaway: American English is a an incredibly rich resource, although probably most useful for EFL teachers and learners. There is a strong slant toward American culture, which is logical considering the website is through the United States Department of State. The website can be accessed in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish as well as English. The Facebook page is probably most useful for overseas learners, while the cultural resources could be used for newcomers to the United States as well as for learners overseas. The YouTube channel is useful for all learners, regardless of location. The app is clearly designed with overseas users in mind, where Android devices are much cheaper and ubiquitous than iOS devices. The biggest challenge with this website is locating the various resources; it was much easier to google search for the app link and the Facebook / YouTube page than it was to find on the site. While American English can be a very useful resource, it is not one that is particularly user friendly. Students (and teachers!) may need support to access the multimedia resources, as they are not particularly obvious. However, if one has the time to dig through the resources, there is a lot to be found, and it does contain a wealth of easily accessed professional development content, which could be useful to teacher trainers and new practitioners.