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365 ESL Short Stories

http://www.eslfast.com/

Reviewed Winter 2010

Reviewer: Melissa Ordonez

Recommendation: Recommended with Reservations

Description

The site’s main audience is intermediate English language learners. The short stories are 200 to 250 words (usually 3 paragraphs). Stories use authentic oral language rather than academic language. Each short story has audio files with real and slow speeds for repeated listening. There are also links to an online dictionary (www.dictionary.com). Each story has several related activities like: vocabulary (with links to dictionary entries), fill in the gap, crossword puzzle, answers-key, and dictation/spelling practice through audio files. In addition to the stories, the site offers other interactive activities: sentence structure writing practice, dialogues with authentic language text and audio, and a virtual tutor (Mike) to practice chatting (communicating through text). There is also a section for beginners: easy reading and conversation. In this section the vocabulary is more basic and  repetitious. It also provides corresponding audio file. There are no academic articles in this site.

Evaluation

Information about the publisher is not found on the site. However, the author’s homepage can be found by clicking on the “popular sites’” link (http://www.rong-chang.com/). His name is Rong-Chang Li. He specializes in ESL and technology for language learning purposes. He has worked as an ESL professor in China and US, published numerous articles, and participated in several CATESOL conferences in California. There are no articles just different lists of stories, conversations, words, etc. There is no research information presented in the site. The site is for the public domain, free and does not require any type of registration. Some software may be necessary to use it. Links for the necessary programs are provided. There are neither hidden costs nor products for sale, it also does not have any corporate sponsor.

Some drawbacks of the site are its topic selection. Even though the stories are intended to be humorous, they can be disrespectful and culturally biased. In my opinion, some of the topics used such as: a gay dog, a fat boy, monkeys and people living together in India, among others; are disrespectful to learners/users and teachers. In addition, the language used in the stories and audios reflects a Californian, American English sub-dialect and sub-culture focus. Thus, the objective of the site is to expose language learners to authentic oral language and not academic language per say. I recommend this site but with reservations because the aforementioned reasons. Other than that, this site can be an excellent resource for self-study complemented with academic and regular courses to develop fluency.

Subject Headings: ESL students, reading

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