How to use Twitter to improve your English, 5 mins a day

Here's one that we posted on our Spanish Teacher Training blog last week, with other ideas in the same post for learning vocabulary independently [content in Spanish], outside class.

I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter but recommend it as a useful tool both to language teachers and to language learners.

As shown in the video, above, I suggest to my learners that they "follow" people of personal interest to them (celebrities, singers, footballers, street artists, whoever…) and see how much language they can learn from them.

Instead of following celebrities, following particular issues or interests like the environment or news stories is an alternative.

The language a learner should look for on Twitter
What I'm looking for in the tweets I read (5 minutes a day, waiting for the bus or wherever…):

  • words or phrases (especially the latter!) that I recognise and vaguely remember (for learners perhaps language we've seen in class)
  • new language that I can work out from context
  • link to articles that interest me to give myself some reading comprehension practise (and improve my vocabulary further, see previous two items)
  • videos so as to get some listening practice
  • words or phrases — or entire tweets — I don't understand at all

Yes, there's lots of French that is going to puzzle me on Twitter and lots of English that will puzzle my learners. They need a certain level (I'd suggest B1 or above) but being puzzled by language is a good thing — especially if they favourite* what they're interested in but don't understand, and then go back to their favourites and work out meaning, perhaps with the aid of an online dictionary.

Wanting to know what words and phrases mean, and wanting to understand someone — isn't that one of the keys to language learning?

And yes, it's true: people don't write gram. (?!) correct, perfect model sentences on Twitter, and abbrev. (?!) whatever they can.

No, it doesn't bother me.

Not if my learners are actually motivated and learning.

See also How to keep your account private on Twitter

Footnote ||| *On Twitter, "favourites" are now, ridiculously, called "likes", aren't they? For language learners, calling them "Puzzles" would be so much better 😉 !

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4 Comments

  1. Cool! But is liking a few tweets going to be enough to actually learn the words? BTW Yvette says your French sucks ,-) !

  2. Haha, thanks (?!) for that Kim, and Yvette. It's been a long time since I went to class!

    @KIm I've learnt a surprising amount but haven't kept it up as I should have done. Enough, it's not, not on its own. Though it does provide lots of practice.

    Key is to spend some time not just reading tweets but to favourite and then transfer to some kind of vocab. notebook.

    @Yvette When you pass FCE, we'll talk 😉 !

  3. Y says you owe her dinner:she passed FC in June!

  4. Yvette, Paris is regrettably far for dinner but a crate of heineken is heading your way 😉 !

    For anyone who has reached FC and is finding progress suddenly seems to get slower, I highly recommend the idea of using Twitter in this way.

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