Need Listening Practice? Try NPR

Robin, Level 2 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Robin, Level 2 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Listen up! Many listening students wonder how they can find resources for listening and speaking. For speaking, there is no better practice than speaking with a real person. Remember to speak constantly, to anyone who will talk with you.

However, maybe you just want to practice listening. There is no reason to ever run out of listening resources, and there are three reasons why: N-P-R. NPR means National Public Radio, and is some of the most high quality and realistic listening you could ever hope to find. The three benefits of NPR are: accessibility, variety, and authenticity. 


NPR means National Public Radio, and is some of the most high quality and realistic listening you could ever hope to find. You can listen in your car (on your way to school) on the radio at 89.9 FM. The Internet is also available. Go to to explore the big website.

which way

Speaking of big, the website has hundreds of options. You can listen to almost any topic you want, including news from your home country. Are you interested in gardening? Maybe you want to hear about a soccer match in England? has so many stories to listen to, you will never run out. What’s more, there are often transcripts to each story, which means you can read while you listen.

NPR is not a textbook, which means everything on the website is real. Real English can be difficult to hear sometimes, so it is important to practice whenever you can. NPR gives you chances to hear English from all over the world. You may hear British reporters, Australian interviews, or expert chefs from the American South. Real English is varied, so the variety on NPR is very useful for all learners.

Practicing your listening and speaking is, of course, very important. Knowing which resources to use is sometimes difficult. Many learners want to practice, but don’t know where to go. is a useful place to start. Explore the website, listen to the stories, and read along if you can. There’s no reason not to improve!


The Importance of a Clear Reference—Spring Break Edition


Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that they will have the most fun.

Uh oh. You may have noticed that my last pronoun—they—was not very clear. In the last sentence, who is “they”? It’s difficult to figure out, because I am writing about three different groups of students—it could be any group, right? It is absolutely essential, then, to make sure your pronoun references are clear.

pronoun reference

The subject of my paragraph was “students.” Writers will often repeat the subject of a composition by using pronouns, synonyms, or idioms. To refer to students, I used students, groups, younger students, hard workers, others, their, and they. Did you notice that I used so many different words to refer to the same people? Writers do this commonly—it’s good writing!


Fixing the problem in the first paragraph is easy. We just need to be clear about who will have the most fun. Will the hard-working students have a lot of fun? Maybe, but that’s doubtful. Will the students visiting families have a lot of fun? Very possible, but that’s probably not their goal. Since we know that people have fun at the beach, we need to think of a pronoun, synonym, or idiom to describe this group.

A pronoun, as we have seen, wouldn’t work very well. Idioms are a challenge to use, and might not fit well in a paragraph meant for other ESL students (but, just so you know, a really good idiom for this situation is “beach bums.”). So what’s a synonym for “students who go to the beach”? It takes some thinking, but beach-goers works pretty well. So, let’s revise the paragraph:

“Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that the beach-goers will have the most fun.”

Looks good to me! Remember this process when writing to make references and subjects clear for your reader. Happy writing! Oh, and have a fun break when it comes—especially you beach bums!

beach bum

Making Reading Easier

Robin, Level 5 Reading Instructor

Robin, Level 5 Reading Instructor

Greetings Reading students! The return of the new school term means the return of my favorite extracurricular program: Book Club. Reading students are encouraged to take advantage of this program to encourage reading for pleasure, rather than just homework or other requirements. In fact, reading is a must for language learners, and it must be done daily! In fact, there are many tips and tricks for ESL readers who may have a hard time reading because of a small vocabulary or limited access to resources.

If you are looking for simple, easy access to books, then the Internet is your friend. There1st picture
are lots of websites that provide access to free books of a variety of formats, subjects, and
levels of difficulty. One simple website is This website has compiled many English-language classics, and they are all free! If you want to browse for the perfect title for your level or interest, is a fine place to start.

These days, everybody knows about tablets: iPads, Kindles, Nooks, etc. Did you know that reading on these devices can make difficult vocabulary much simpler? One problem for
2nd picturelanguage learners is vocabulary: every time you see a new word, you want to translate or maybe open up a dictionary to find the definition. This process is too slow, and interrupts
fluent reading. So, it is important to know that some e-readers enable one-touch translation. This means that if you touch the word on your tablet, then the tablet will translate the word to your language! Even more useful, however, is the same function with a monolingual dictionary. Instead of taking seconds—or minutes—closing your book and opening a dictionary, you can instantly find the definition of a confusing or difficult word. Search the Internet to see the dictionary and translation functions of your tablet to make reading a better learning experience.

3rd picture

Finally, you don’t have to have an e-reader to make reading easier. You can get help from different tools online, such as web page translators to help you read English-language news, blogs, or . . . anything! There are lots of free programs, too. One example is Google’s web browser, Chrome. It is free to download and has an easy to use translation option:

“Google Chrome’s built-in translation bar helps you read more of the web, regardless of the language of the webpage. Look for the translation bar at the top of the page whenever you come across a page written in a language that isn’t one of your preferred webpage languages.”

With this browser, you can swap between English and your language easily. You can test yourself: read a page in English, and translate it to your language in your head, and vice versa.

Thus, browsing web pages in English can be easier. Google Chrome, though, is not the only software to help ESL students. There are lots of resources for the English language learner—free books, easier access to dictionaries, simplified translation, the list goes on. The Internet is your friend! Depending on your needs, it can make reading, and language success, that much easier.

Have you ever heard of the flu or influenza?

December signals winter in the United States. When you think of winter, it doesn’t take much to start thinking about getting sick. Here in Alabama, everybody starts to worry about the flu.

Coincidentally, the level four Reading and Discussion class is currently learning about epidemics. An epidemic is the name for a sudden and widespread virus which affects a large area. There are lots of historical examples that show the danger of a flu epidemic. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed more people than any flu epidemic in history, almost 50 million. The flu (or influenza) is a virus that goes around in any season of the year, but during cold weather people can catch it easier.

You may have heard and seen lots of advertisements about flu shots. Flu shots are a vaccine. They are meant to help prevent people from catching the flu. Luckily, they are widely available in the United States. If you are interested in getting a flu shot to protect yourself for the cold months, a quick Google search for vaccines in your area is enough to find a provider nearby.

The flu mostly affects very young and very old people.  Even if you are healthy, the flu may affect you, and you may be sick for one or two weeks! Being informed about your health and medical options is very important, especially in a foreign country. The flu shot does not guarantee you won’t get sick at all, though. Furthermore, many people who don’t get a flu shot never catch the flu anyway. But it is always a good idea to be informed about the health options for you, your friends, and family.

Robin, Level 4 Reading & Discussion Instructor

Robin, Level 4 Reading & Discussion Instructor

An Unusual Culture? The American Haunted Hayride

As we begin a new term, AUM’s IEP level 2 listening class will be learning all about unusual jobs: ice cream tasters, video game testers, lion tamers . . . quite an interesting topic!

In fact, it is the topic of the first chapter in our book. For this chapter we will talk about a lot of unusual things: jobs, people, holidays, even animals.

But culture can be unusual, too. For example, you may know about the American holiday of Halloween, but do you know what a haunted hayride is? It is a very fun, but somewhat unusual, tradition in the month of October.

So what is a “haunted hayride”?

For a haunted hayride, people get into a trailer for a short, scary ride. Trailers are usually used to carry hay (food for horses). However, in October these trailers take people into the woods at night, where lots of scary things happen! Ghosts, monsters, strange noises . . . anything can happen on a haunted hayride. Use Google to find hayrides in Alabama—but only if you are very, very brave.

Do you have haunted attractions in your country?  Americans love to be scared, especially in October.

If you are interested in learning more about haunted attractions for this special holiday, you can read this article: Haunted Attractions Article. It tells about some history, as well as many spooky kinds of haunted attractions.

Watch the video below for an example of how scary haunted hayrides (not to mention any haunted attraction) can be!

Robin, Level 2 Listening & Speaking Instructor