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August 01, 2010

Word Clouds

Would you like to keep a visual record of how often you or your students use...

...a word?

Few things become more tiresome than hearing the same word too many times. Yet it is all too easy for us to form a habit of using particular words more than we should.

A key element of language fluency is a rich vocabulary. Word clouds can help you see if you overuse certain words. If so, it is definitely time to perk up your "word hoard".

Thanks to computers, it has become easy to track - and visualize - how often you - or anyone uses a particular word.

I have used these programs to alter word usage in cover letters and other pieces of writing. It can be extremely helpful - and perhaps a bit embarrassing - to see the results.

Tagcrowd is one website I have used. You can find it at - http://tagcrowd.com/.

Another site I like is Wordle at http://www.wordle.net/.

Both of these sites allow you to import text or "browse" to an existing file. I tried word-clouding one of my previous ESL posts but the format wouldn't allow it, but feel free to cut and paste a section - or even several separate posts - to see which words I tend to use the most.

I also encourage you to word-cloud any document - an article from a magazine or even a political or historic document, the Magna Carta or the US Constitution for example. Or perhaps the lyrics of a poem or song.

Some of these sites allow you to show your words in color - or even in motion. Either way, (literally) playing with words can be fun as well as memorable.

There is a wealth of information online. I encourage you to go to the websites of major universities and poke around. I am sure there are lots of resources for any learner.

On an unrelated note, I always urge my students to step out and pursue their passions. I have just recently had the opportunity to pursue one of my longtime passions. I'll be hosting an online radio program. You can hear my voice - and some of my stories about music - at tacoma.fm http://www.tacoma.fm/tfmdjssaturday.php. My program is on from 10pm to 2 am (Pacific Standard time) every Saturday evening. Hit the "Listen live" sidebar on the upper left side.

I hope you can listen. Please send me a note and let me know what you think.

We are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foreign foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at August 1, 2010 09:32 PM

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