Free Vocabulary, Free Rice

Posted on 8 December 2007. Filed under: Blogroll, Interesting web sites, International | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

[Edited Jan 1 '07 to add this paragraph:] If you’re interested, then I have now also written about the FreeRice vocabulary game at my other blog. That post is partly fun (as is this one) but talks more about general poverty issues and why the free rice vocabulary game isn’t enough to fight hunger (though that doesn’t mean that it’s bad, just that it isn’t enough. In particular, it just isn’t a long-term solution. Which is what poor people need and deserve.) So please do check out http://tinyurl.com/255u9a.

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Some deaf people have great English skills while others struggle with it. Some deaf people might not care much if they never get beyond a certain basic level in their English skills–they just want to know enough to “get by.” But some deaf people do become very determined to “pull up” their English in all areas–in grammar, in syntax, in vocabulary, in reading comprehension, and in written expression.

I worked for a while at what was then called the English Works! tutoring center at Gallaudet University (now called something else) so I’ve seen students who were all over the map both in skill level and in motivation level. I have tutored graduate students and honors students who already had a pretty strong foundation in English and writing skills but who wanted to become even better. And I have had students whose English skills were much weaker when I first met them, but who were able to make a lot of progress with determination, commitment, and practice. And I’ve met students who only came for help because their teachers made them come.

I’ve been pretty busy lately. I have a full-time job; I’ve been taking a graduate class; and I’ve been stepping up my work on my other blog. That’s why I haven’t been updating this one as much as I like in the past few weeks. But recently I discovered a neat way to take a quick break from working on my take-home final exam, improve my vocabulary, and feed the hungry–all at the same time.

Yes, I, a professional writer who edits things written by hearing professionals on a regular basis, like to work on my vocabulary too. Because, guess what? There’s no such thing as achieving perfect English. A lot of the students I meet who have low confidence in their English seem to have this notion that there is somehow supposed to be a point at which you no longer need to learn anything more about the English language. So if there’s something they don’t know–a grammar rule they didn’t understand, or a vocabulary word that was new to them–they think it means they’re “dumb.” No. It just means you’re still learning. And that makes you no different from someone who writes, edits, or proofreads for a living. Because we’re still learning too. There’s nothing wrong with that.

For those of you who use screenreaders (and about two percent of deaf people have Usher’s Syndrome so there must be some), I’m not sure if the banner at the top of this post has an accompanying description. I suspect not, so let me describe it: at the left hand side is a picture of a brown wooden bowl with a little bit of dried rice in it. At the right it says: “Free rice: Play and help!”

If you follow the link to www.freerice.com you’ll find a vocabulary game you can play. If you guess the word right then 20 grains of rice will go to feed the hungry in developing countries. This rice is paid for by advertisers who put their banners at the bottom of the page. A new advertising banner is placed on the page every time you guess a new word.

The free rice site has 50 different levels of vocabulary words, from the very easiest to the very hardest. If you get a lot of vocabulary questions right then freerice.com will give you harder and harder words until you start to miss some. When you miss a question, freerice.com moves you down to something easier. So freerice.com can help people at all levels of English skills learn new vocabulary while feeding the hungry. What could be cooler than that?

An easy question to answer. The only thing cooler than taking a break from my take-home final to learn new vocabulary would be if I didn’t have to do the take-home final at all …. But, alas, I still do. So, I guess it’s back to work for me; ta, ’til later.

Edited an hour later to add: Thanks to freerice.com, I now know that gemsbok = oryx. What I don’t know is, what on earth gemsbok is. Or what on earth oryx is.

Freerice.com DOES help you learn vocabulary. What it doesn’t always do is help you understand what some of this new vocabulary actually MEANS :-)

(And, yes, I did actually get some work done on my final exam in the past hour too. I swear.)

Okay, I’ve gone to www.goodsearch.com (This is another neat web site: it’s basically a web search engine, like google.com–but every time you do a search, one penny will be donated to the charitable cause of your choice. If you use it regularly, it’ll add up quickly.) It seems that a gemsbok is a large African antelope. I’m shaky on my biological terminology, but it seems that oryx is, basically, antelope in general.

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6 Responses to “Free Vocabulary, Free Rice”

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