(reviewed Fall 2008)
Reviewer: Harumi Hirasawa
ESL Gold includes both a student section and a teacher section. The student section is designed for ESL/ EFL students and consists of many areas such as speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, business, pronunciation, TOEIC/TEFL, and idioms. Each section is divided into students’ levels: low and high beginning, low and high intermediate, and advanced. One of the sponsors of this site is Alta Book Center Publishers. It is unclear who other sponsors and contributors are. Students are able to choose the target category that they would like to focus on. The teacher section includes lesson plans, handouts, textbook and materials information, a TESOL job opening list and other information related to ESL/EFL teachers.
Both the student section and the teacher section offer audio tools. Besides English, the site is translated into 10 languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Spanish, German, French, and others.
Evaluation (Student Section)
Students are able to choose their learning target such as speaking, listening, writing, and other practice, depending on their proficiency level. In most sections, students can easily identify their comprehension levels by doing practice tests and checking their scores. Also, an audio tool is available enabling students to check proper pronunciation and to practice listening. For example, in the listening section, students are able to complete pre-listening exercises which ask simple questions about listening topics. After listening to the dialogues or stories, students answer the questions in the listening exercise part, and they are able to find which listening part they missed by checking their answers.
Many sections of the Web site integrate speaking, listening, writing, and reading, but some pages are not efficient for ESL/EFL students to use since the pages connect directly to the advertisement pages of textbooks or materials. For example, the textbook recommendations are shown and refer to the skill levels and availability of the teacher’s guide, CD or cassette tapes, and workbook. However, the description about the textbook is the same as the advertisement of the same book, so students are not able to decide whether that book is worth buying to improve their skills. Materials on the Web site seem to be strongly related to the companies that advertise on the site.
Also, there are many links available for practice exercises, yet the pages accessed often go to other sites which include more advertisements. Students need to carefully go to many sites in order to find materials that are appropriate for improving their skills.
Also, especially in the vocabulary section, there are some problems with the audio tools, so we find many pages that say, “The page is no longer available.” Thus, the site ends up not being as useful as we would expect due to all the advertisers trying to sell their textbooks. Also, the practice tools and instructions overlap in the student and teacher sections, so students may accidentally go to teaching sections by clicking the practice sections as students.
Evaluation (Teacher Section)
Lesson plans are available for five proficiency levels in the areas of speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar, so instructors are able to choose the criteria depending on their students’ level and language needs. Especially in the speaking section, many links to lesson plans and dialogues are introduced. The sections tips for teaching and teaching skills introduce many suggestions and much advice about running a smooth class.
As mentioned in the student section, many parts of the teacher section overlap. Teachers will accidentally go to the same page as students do although teachers have clicked on links to teacher materials. For example, when clicking on the teaching skill section, users end up in the skill practice sections (speaking, listening, reading, etc) from the student section of the site. Also, some parts of the teaching skills section are the same as the teaching tips section but shown as different sections. It’s so frustrating that we are forced to go to the same information that we had already found.
Furthermore, the lesson plan section directly goes to the dialogue, grammar points, and vocabulary, but does not describe ways of teaching or discuss the flow of a lesson. Instead, the same student dialogues for are introduced on that page.
Overall, I recommend the ESL gold.com with reservation. I recommend this site for ESL/EFL students to practice overall skills as the site contains a lot of learning tools and information. However, I do not recommend to ESL/ EFL teachers because it does not contain efficient instructions for teaching. Teachers have to spend too much time to choose which information is appropriate and useful for our purpose in lessons.
Subject Headings: ESL students, ESL teachers, ESL materials