So many excellent search engines have opened-up for business since I published last year’s The Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners — 2007, and I expect that trend to continue. I’ve been trying to keep that list updated, as I do for all of my “The Best…” lists. However, I decided to make this one the first I completely “re-did.”

So this list will include some, but not all, of the ones on last year’s list, along with new ones that have begun during the past year. I’d encourage you to look at the previous list, though, since you might find the ones that didn’t make it here still useful.

Here are my picks for The Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners:

Number eight is a tie between two search tools that are trying to implement the ideas behind a “semantic” search engine that would understand questions written by users more accurately.  So, if you ask a question (Who is the governor of California? What is a Roman gladiator?) instead of just showing you a bunch of links where you can find the answer to the question, it will show the answer itself. They both did pretty well in my experiments. One is the recently updated and the other is called True Knowledge. The second one isn’t quite yet open to the public, but if you go to their site I believe you can get an invitation to try it out quickly (Microsoft’s Live Search announced on October 31st that they were going to expand a similar feature called “instant answers” within a month, so it might be worth checking them out in a couple of weeks).

Number seven is the Sortfix Search Engine. I think it’s too complicated to explain here, but you can read my original post. It might also end up being too complicated for English Language Learners, but it’s intriguing enough to be worth a look.

Number six is the Carrot search engine. It returns search results divided into themes. For example, I typed in “Roman Gladiator” and, in addition to getting a list of typical results from a search engine, I saw a listed of thematic categories. These included “Ancient Rome,” “Movie Gladiator,” and “Collectible Swords.” These themes, I think, will be helpful to English Language Learners as they try to get through all the “clutter” of search engine results.

Number five is Quintura. It provides search results in a visual “cloud.” I’d characterize it as similar to the present version of Kartoo, the well-known search engine, but much less confusing.

Number four is Boolify,  a new search engine designed for elementary and middle school students that is accessible to English Language Learners. I think there are others that are more accessible, but this is a good one to help teach basic search strategies.

Number three is Viewzi, a new visual search engine. In other words, it shows search results in images instead of just text. This feature is obviously beneficial to English Language Learners. But Viewzi does much more than this — in fact, there are so many choices of how you want your search results displayed that it could be confusing to students, and there’s certainly not enough space to explain it all here. It’s worth a look, though, and definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Number two is Middlespot. It’s sort of a combination Search Engine and a little bit of a social bookmarking application. After you enter your search term and click “enter,” your search results appear both as images and short text blurbs. Obviously, showing these screenshots benefit English Language Learners, and several other search engines I’ve listed here and on my website under Search Engines have this feature. The unique tool offered by Middlespot is called a “workpad.” You can drag-and-drop the webpages you want onto your workpad, give it a title, and then Middlespot will give your workpad its own url that you can post on a blog or online journal, or email to someone else.

And now, my choice for the number one Best Search Engine For ESL/EFL Learners is… Search Me. (Unfortunately, it appears that Search Me is going off-line). It’s an excellent search engine that, like others on this list, shows snapshots of the webpages in addition to text information, which makes it very accessible to English Language Learners. In addition, though, you can now create “stacks” of categorized sites, images, and videos; embed them in a blog or website; and/or email them to a friend or teacher. You can also write some kind of description, or tag, for each site. The primary difference between Search Me and Middlespot is that Search Me also includes the ability to collect and tag images and videos, and has a much more attractive interface.

Mel Zoo is the newest addition to The Best Search Engines For ESL/EFL Learners — 2008 and is definitely near the top of the list.  It may  not have all the features of some of the other search engines I’ve ranked at the top, but its simplicity makes it very attractive for English Language Learners.

After you type in your query at Mel Zoo, you see what appears to be — more or less — the typical kind of text results you’d find in other search engines.  The key advantage the engine has — for both ELL’s and others — is that as you move the cursor down the text listing on the left side, the website itself is shown on the right side.  This capability  makes it very accessible to English Language Learners.

EyePlorer is a new visual search engine that I’m adding to this list It focuses on Wikipedia content.  You enter a query and then see categories in a round visual display. By clicking on the categories you see excerpts from webpages, which you can “drag-and-drop” onto a clipboard. It’s pretty neat, and accessible to English Language Learners.

Umibozu is a new search engine that is still working out “kinks,” but might very well have potential as a good search engine for English Language Learners.

You can choose to see the results in various formats. I particularly liked the one that showed thumbnail sketches and text descriptions of the results from three search engines (Google, Yahoo, & Live Search) in a matrix. Not only does the visual image help, but the ability to see which sites that are highly-rated by each engine could be a further help to determine which ones are best.  In addition, once you register (which is very easy to do), Umibozu allows you to bookmark your sites with a simple click. However, you can’t tag them or put them in groups yet, though I have emailed that suggestion.

Finally, users can also vote for sites they like, and you can choose to see those results, too.

Even with its present limitations, I’m going to add Umibozu to this list.

I like the new Molu Search Engine. Once you submit a query, your shown a text explanation of each result, along with a thumbnail image. Molu allows you to open the websiteinside the list of search results — you don’t have to leave that page.   Those features make it particularly accessible to English Language Learners.  In addition, Molu also provides you with a one-click ability to shorten url addresses and to also save web pages as PDF files in your computer.

As always, feedback is welcome.

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