Website English level ratings according to Google

26 websites rated according to the Basic Level classification:

1 MTV 76
2 ESL Pod 72
3 Breaking News English 62
4 Sports Illustrated 56
5 VOA Special English 42
6 National Geographic 39
7 MSNBC 37
8 Business English Pod 37
9 Detroit Free Press 36
10 Wikipedia Simple 29
11 Fox News 28
12 USA Today 28
13 Washington Post 27
14 The New Yorker 24
15 Yahoo News 19
16 CNN 18
17 China Daily 15
18 Wikipedia 15
19 New York Times 15
20 VOA News 11
21 The Standard (Hong Kong) 8
22 People’s Daily Online 8
23 Wall Street Journal 5
24 Aljazeera News 4
25 Bloomberg News 2
26 Scientific American 1

26 websites rated according to the Intermediate Level classification:

1 Bloomberg News 93
2 Aljazeera News 91
3 Wall Street Journal 90
4 VOA News 87
5 People’s Daily Online 86
6 The Standard (Hong Kong) 85
7 Yahoo News 78
8 CNN 78
9 China Daily 78
10 Scientific American 71
11 Fox News 70
12 USA Today 70
13 New York Times 70
14 Washington Post 69
15 The New Yorker 68
16 Detroit Free Press 62
17 National Geographic 60
18 MSNBC 60
19 VOA Special English 56
20 Business English Pod 53
21 Wikipedia Simple 51
22 Wikipedia 50
23 Sports Illustrated 42
24 Breaking News English 37
25 ESL Pod 26
26 MTV 22

26 websites rated according to the Advanced Level classification:

1 Wikipedia 33
2 Scientific American 27
3 Wikipedia Simple 18
4 New York Times 13
5 Business English Pod 9
6 The New Yorker 7
7 The Standard (Hong Kong) 5
8 China Daily 5
9 Bloomberg News 4
10 People’s Daily Online 4
11 Aljazeera News 3
12 Wall Street Journal 3
13 Washington Post 3
14 Yahoo News 2
15 CNN 2
16 MSNBC 2
17 VOA News 1
18 Fox News 1
19 USA Today 1
20 Detroit Free Press 1
21 VOA Special English 1
22 Sports Illustrated 1
23 Breaking News English 1
24 ESL Pod 1
25 MTV 1
26 National Geographic 0

Benchmarking to a Moscow band

Sometimes you can take some aspect of a business and compare your business to that. The two businesses may be quite different but there may be some function of the business that can be compared. I do this, too.

In Moscow I had some friends who had a band. They were going to perform and invited me to a big concert. Many bands were going to perform. My friends looked good and sang and played well. I was impressed. After they finished, this straggly young guy got on the stage and I thought he was going to sweep it but he had no broom. I was surprised when he walked over to the microphone and called to the control booth to start the music. Then he began singing. His voice was not remarkable, it was suitable. But somehow he reached out and grabbed our hearts and minds and had us all clapping our hands and dancing in our seats. It was all in Russian and I didn’t understand a single word but he was the star of the show. I was thrilled!

How I use it:

Technical perfection is not the important thing. We can maybe look good and teach well and appeal to our students’ intellect. But I think a great teacher can reach out and grab hearts and minds. I think great teachers can distract students from all their distractions and capture students so completely that they fall under the spell of the lesson. That Russian singer is my benchmark for teaching. I am seldom successful at hitting this mark but I think even hitting halfway is beneficial to my students. Along with his spirit and enthusiasm that so moved me, I noticed how he got us clapping by showing us to clap. When we joined him in clapping we were no longer passive observers but we were active. From this I learned it is important to get my students’ bodies involved in the class. Make them get up and change partners, get up and join others to form a group, and they will be more active. I don’t let them pairwork with the person sitting next to them because their attitude and spirit will be too passive. My first task is to activate my students’ hearts and minds. If they are activated, they can learn anything. If they are not activated, they can learn nothing.

Ready for the iPad? Maybe not

I’m sure many teachers are wondering if they should make the jump into the iPad realm.

Sometimes you just have to try things out. Sometimes the path is not already prepared for you. You have to blaze your own trail trying out the technology and seeing if you can make it work for you in new ways that you never imagined when you set out.

Several years ago I bought a little Acer tablet computer. It was like a notebook but you could twist the screen and use it like a tablet. It cost much more than other notebooks, $2000, but I wanted to see how a tablet could affect my teaching. It didn’t affect it. Of course, tablets today are much improved. But sometimes you just have to try things out.

One problem I have with the i-Stuff is there is so much hype about it all. People are so gaga over it. Of course that should not turn you off to the idea of getting i-Stuff. We just need to consider what our real needs are and see if the technology can fit those needs. Or could that technology lead us down an interesting road. But that is a decision that we should make without the help of Apple’s excellent propaganda department trying everything they can to make us feel uncool for not joining their ranks. Current reports say that the primary use of iPads is for games.

There is a lot of celebration and hype about the millions of app downloads taking place but one thing Apple will never tell you is that 28% of the “apps” people download are only used once. And how many are only used two, three or four times and never used again?

I don’t want to completely dismiss iStuff for teaching. Maybe they’ll have something we really need. Of course, almost everything for the Apple is duplicated for notebooks and vice versa.

Here is a technology that could take our jobs (it’s coming soon to the other phones):

Project 400 – Backstage Fashions

A large percentage of our students get jobs at foreign trade companies. Backstage Fashions is a woman’s fashion exporter doing business in several countries in Europe and in the USA. One of my former students works there.

As part of the 400 Project, I visited my former student and her boss. In the photo, I am talking to the manager of Back Stage. I am learning (1) what kind of English do companies need (2) what kind of English we taught our students that they use at their jobs (3)  what kind of English we taught our students that they do not use at their jobs (4) what kind of English our students need but were not taught.

From this research, I am learning how to prepare our students to find jobs easier and to do great at their jobs.

In search of comprehensible material on the web

Students can learn vocabulary and grammar from extensive comprehensible input. In fact, even if students memorize some definitions of words they will only have a very shallow understanding of the meaning of those words unless they can be exposed to many usages of those words. Where can teachers find materials for their students that can provide extensive comprehensible input?

The graphic above shows Google’s rating of websites at Basic English level. When I rated a website that I use with my students it rated at 100%. As you can see, ESLPod, rates at 72% which is very good. USA Today, a newspaper that is supposedly written at an American 5th grade level, is perhaps the easiest mainstream newspaper for students to understand. The New York Times is more complicated. That little blue box at the top of the graphic is Bloomberg business news at 2%, very difficult for our students.

If we think of this material as a stairway to proficiency, our students can climb up to greater and greater complexity. You will have to select appropriate materials for your students according to their needs and interests. The materials listed above, for example the MIT university website, are not suggested reading materials. They are only shown to display levels of difficulty.

If you have suggestions of useful online materials, please use the comments section below to tell us.

Project 400 – McDonald’s logistics company

McDonald’s sells millions of hamburgers in China. All of that food has to be sent from the companies that make the food to every McDonald’s restaurant. The food has to be kept in a high-quality condition, sometimes kept cold or frozen, and sent to each McDonald’s restaurant when the restaurant needs it. Taking care of that food and moving that food is the job of McDonald’s logistics company called Havi, an international American company operating also in Guangzhou.

The accounting manager and human resources manager explained to me how their American company uses English, what kind of English students need to learn and what kind of English students do not need to learn to work at their company. These managers are also my English students and we meet every week to talk about business innovation and management concepts while improving their English.

Our students may not get jobs at American logistics companies, but this research helps me to have a better understanding of how business English is used in China and how our students may get jobs in American companies.

Project 400 – Chuck and Ace, Business Management Majors

As part of the 400 Project, I am visiting students to see how they study and spend their time.

I joined Chuck and Ace for lunch and then they invited me to their dorm room so I could see more about student life. They talked to me about student life, their studies and how they spend their free time. What they told me was very interesting and helped me to understand my students better.

Project 400 – What kind of English does Mercedes Benz need?

As part of my Project 400, I am talking to company managers, HR managers and company staff to learn how English is being used today.

Teachers should teach students the English they will need when they use English. So let’s start with the question, Why are students learning English? Although most students will say they want to learn English to travel and to make friends, the most important reason they will say is for their jobs.

If that is true, then the next question is, What English do they need for their jobs? We can answer this question by studying the English used in companies right now. When business people in today’s companies in our city use English, how do they use it?

The number one way English is used in companies today is in Emails. I have studied company Emails for almost ten years. They are short. They are informal, almost friendly. They are almost always written to people who are known, not to strangers. They usually use company special words correctly but there are mistakes in sentences. Here are some examples of real Emails from Benz. Please note the mistakes and corrections.

From these sample Emails, you will see that the main mistakes are with small errors in grammar. This is what students need to improve.


Kindly I’d like to inform you that yy has invited xx to be the speaker of OOC touch point seminar.
The seminar will be held on July 27 in the evening ( Pls see the attachment for the detail detailed rundown).
On yy’s introduction, we have invited xx. xx is a very very good speaker and he can speak fluent mandarin Mandarin, too. He is a world class speaker.
We think it’s maybe a good opportunity for agency promotion(,). we We wonder whether you need to invite him too?
If yes, we should inform yy of the schedule today.
Your reply today will be highly greatly appreciated!


The under insured’s leaflet has finish finished it’s final design, I’ve submit submitted it to bb for her comment.
I’ll attend an HR training this these two days, dd will forward the confirmed design to you ASAP.
If there is Anything anything urgent pls contact zz or aa.
Thank you!

400 Project – Listening class with Victor

As part of the Project 400, I visited Victor who was doing a listening class at the college.

Victor was doing a listening exercise about a woman from Finland applying for a job at a British restaurant. The students were first taught 36 new vocabulary words and then listened to the dialog five times.

It was very informative to learn how the lesson was conducted and how the students responded to it.

Project 400 – Oral English with Lenny

As part of the Project 400, I am visiting other classrooms to see how English is being taught.

Lenny, an American teacher at a Chinese college, invited me to attend his lesson.

Lenny was new to the school but seemed to have gotten off to a good start. He gave students speaking activities to prepare and then students were chosen to perform them in class. This was something that I observed Martin, a Canadian at another campus for this same school, doing as well with good affect. Lenny had some students do presentations and dialogs for a trade show. Afterward Lenny staged mock job interviews.

It was interesting to see how Lenny spoke to and interacted with the students. It was useful to hear what the students thought about this teaching and how they reacted to it.