Improve English Proficiency with Voxy 2

Beginners Improve English Proficiency in 3 Months with Voxy

You might be wondering: How long does it take to improve my proficiency level with Voxy?

Based on our current research findings, 79% of 0-Beginners—or learners who have little or no prior experience learning English—are able to improve their proficiency level after just three months of using Voxy.

Depending on your current level, we recommend studying between two and five hours per week. For beginners, do your best to fit in about two hours. For intermediate to advanced learners, we suggest spending at least four hours on the Voxy platform every week.

Need some advice on how to fit practicing into your busy schedule? Visit the Learner Support Center and check out this special video for tips from Voxy experts!


3 Alternatives for Looking Up Words

Certain theories of psycholinguistics postulate that we store words in our minds much like dictionaries do. Linguists refer to this as a “mental lexicon.” There are some obvious parallels between our mental lexicons and the everyday dictionaries we are so accustomed to using. One is the fact that the words in our mental dictionaries are not stored at random.

We recognize words based on what they mean (the definition), other words that mean the same thing (synonyms), words that mean the opposite (antonyms), the function of the word (part of speech), as well as how a word is said (its pronunciation). All of these same pieces can be found in a traditional dictionary.

Where our minds differ (and what cannot be found in traditional dictionaries), however, are associations. One theory describes words as points connected with each other in our brains. Some believe that words are retrieved from our mental dictionaries through “spreading activation.” What this means is that we chronicle words via related or similar concepts.

While there are many different interpretations as to what kind of associations occur in our minds exactly, it is very likely that each one of us has an individual and unique representation of a given word based on our own life experiences and observations.

Given that associations are a plausible way by which words are stored and retrieved in our minds, it could be said that being exposed to such representations is also a helpful way of acquiring new word meanings. A learner may be more likely to remember a word when presented with a stimuli of various words related to a particular word’s meaning.

That being said, I would like to share a few non-traditional and alternative online dictionary options that may help facilitate your language (and particularly vocabulary) learning endeavors!

1) Wordnik

Wordnik is a dictionary community. It has some features that are not ordinarily available in standard dictionaries.

These include:
- Examples of sentences using the word embedded within a relevant and recently generated content (with a link for you to see that context)
- A list of words found in the same context
- A list of rhyming words (same terminal sound)
- A tag feature : user generated categorization of words (to get an idea of some of their associations, which could be similar to yours!), as well as tagging by Wordnik
- A reverse dictionary showing words that contain the target word in their definitions
- Lists (such as vocabulary lists) made by users that contain the given word
- When you scroll to the very bottom, you can also find visuals and sounds

2) Snappy Words

Snappy Words calls itself a “free visual online dictionary” where searching a word gives rise to a dynamic diagram.

Its features include:
- An interactive concept map that features color coded parts of speech as well as draws associations between words and concepts using parameters such as ‘is a word for,’ ‘is a kind of,’ ‘pertains to,’ etc
- The ability to search both one word items as well as two word items such as ‘lexical entry’or ‘Columbia University’

3) Panlexicon

This simple interface allows you to search a word which will then yield a list of other words related to it (as deemed by the Panlexicon algorithm). The cool thing about this search method is that once you search a given word, you can select another from the provided list and in turn narrow down your search for similar words related to both of those words.

Militza Petranovic
Militza is a Pedagogy and Research intern at Voxy. She is currently finishing up her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at Columbia University’s Teachers College and received her bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 2012. Militza is interested in researching all aspects of how web technology can help facilitate learning, particularly language learning.

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An excellent–and free!–resource for learning English.

If you’re reading this post now, you’re probably a pretty savvy Internet user. And you’ve probably heard of Wikipedia before. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that almost any person can contribute their knowledge to in writing. As of this year, it’s available in 285 languages, most likely including your native language.

Reading an English article on a topic that you’re interested in and that you know a lot about can help you expand your vocabulary quickly. Because you already are familiar with the concepts and ideas (for example, about your hobby or your professional field), you are able to translate that knowledge into the language you are trying to learn, if only you had the words and grammar to do so.

The best part is, Wikipedia’s translations even include a Simple English edition! The simplified sentences of this version are an excellent resource for English language learners and teachers.

Esther Liu
Esther  received her TEFL certification through the University of Cambridge and has studied Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, and most recently Python. Passionate about educational linguistics, instructional design, intercultural communication, and new media, she also loves alphabetizing, biking, farming, food, people, piano, theology, traveling, and ultimate frisbee. An incurable ENFP, Esther believes in tech startups and is stoked to be a VoxyTutor and blogger!

pumpkin pie

When is stress good? An important feature of English pronunciation

The more syllables there are, the more time it takes to say something. Right?

Not necessarily! While it is true of most languages in the world, the above sentence is NOT true for English. Unlike Spanish, French, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, and Italian,  English is NOT a syllable-timed language.

The stress-timed nature of English presents one of the biggest challenges for new speakers of English. Learners complain that English sounds very “fast,” or that several syllables are often blurred and smushed together.

Native English speakers do in fact leave about the same amount of time between stressed syllables, even if more unstressed syllables are added between them.

Try pronouncing these sentences about a traditional American dessert for next week’s holiday, Thanksgiving:

    • Kids eat pie.
    • The kids eat the pie.
    • The kids like to eat pie.
    • The kids will eat the pie.
    • Little kids like eating pie.
    • Everyone eats pumpkin pie.
    • The little kids like to eat pie.
    • The kids will like eating the pie.
    • The kids don’t like eating the piecrust.

Which syllables should be stressed in a sentence? How do you decide? These are extremely important in English, not just for sounding fluent and natural, but for conveying meaning. In the above examples, we’ve bolded the stressed syllables to help you practice.

The failure to learn and keep the rhythm of English is also one of the biggest flags that give a language learner away as a foreigner! Even native speakers can sound like robots when they don’t stress-time their speech.

What do you think of English pronunciation? Is it easy as pie? Or are you stressed about stress? Share with us.

Esther Liu
Esther is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Fall Associate. She received her TEFL certification through the University of Cambridge and has studied Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, and most recently Python. Passionate about educational linguistics, instructional design, intercultural communication, and new media, she also loves alphabetizing, biking, farming, food, people, piano, theology, traveling, and ultimate frisbee. An incurable ENFP, Esther believes in tech startups and is stoked to be at Voxy this fall!


Finding Meaningful Vocabulary in Daily Activities

If you think about it, simply memorizing words is a somewhat easy- I say this with caution- task. You’re smart and motivated and excited for that day when you get to have a conversation with other English speakers, but there are still many non-native English speakers who think that storing a whole bunch of words in their heads will help them hold a meaningful conversation. Unfortunately, language doesn’t work that way; memorization is only one way to study the vocabulary necessary to hold a conversation.

So then, what can non-native English speakers do to acquire more meaningful vocabulary? Simply put, the words that matter the most are the ones we hear and use every day, so it makes sense to learn from our everyday lives.

Even native English speakers continue to learn new words, not by memorizing a dictionary, but by doing normal everyday tasks.

There are countless everyday resources from which we can learn:

  • Books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Blogs (whether they’re about fashion trends or the hottest cars)
  • TV shows (even reality TV!)
  • Movies (take advantage of those subtitles!)
  • Facebook statuses
  • Conversations between friends
  • Interactions with service providers (like buying a bus ticket, ordering a coffee, or making a dinner reservation)

You get the idea- the opportunity to learn is everywhere! Yes, opening a dictionary and looking up definitions and reviewing synonyms is important- you can’t always expect to know the exact meaning of a word without ever looking it up- but the key to being able to communicate in English, or in any second language, is to know how words are used in context.

Studying vocabulary doesn’t always have to be a serious and dreadful obligation; it can be fun and should be interactive. Make an effort to gradually build your vocabulary through tasks that you enjoy. The world is filled with words—why limit your resources to just flashcards? Take what you hear, pay attention to how it’s being used, look up the literal meaning, use it on your own, and play around with it even. You’d be surprised as to how much you learn by just opening your eyes and ears a little more!

Rebecca Jee
Rebecca is a Pedagogy & Curriculum Associate and a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University pursuing a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics. Rebecca finds inspiration for her work in the way people interact with others and with their environments. Her focus is on sociolinguistic features of human interaction that can be integrated into the way people learn.