The Telegraph
| Thursday, October 31, 2013 |


Vocab wonder

The worldwide web is abuzz with innumerable websites today that offer specialised as well as generalised information on scores of topics. But how many of these websites personalise information as per the strengths and weaknesses of their readers? Our featured website this week is one of those few sites that tailor learning experiences to the skill-sets of its user. uses an adaptive learning system to help its readers improve their vocabulary.

Everything users do on the site adds to the Adaptive Vocabulary Instruction (AVI) model. It is like having a coach who monitors your work and suggests new words and exercises as per the success at each level.

Learning begins on with The Challenge, an interactive game in which the user is asked to define a series of words. A word appears in a box with four definitions. The user has to choose the correct meaning from these four options. Based on the answers that determine the strength and the weakness of the user's vocabulary new words are presented. Right answer means you move on to the next question, but if you get a wrong answer then the site pulls up the word from the dictionary and posts the meaning.

Once you sign up on the site you get a progress chart to check how you are learning on It shows the number of correct questions you answered and the number of points earned. You start as a novice but as you keep playing The Challenge you get badges and points that add up. A hundred million points mean you become a word czar.

The other important section of the site is the dictionary from where you can look up words. What's unique about this dictionary is that unlike other online dictionaries that list just the meaning, on words are explained in a fun way with etymology, examples and references. All these factors make it easy for the reader to recall words in future.

There are several other aspects of the site that will have you coming back for more. For instance it lets you create your own vocabulary list. You can add descriptions to the words, name your list and and share it with other readers. The site also has an alphabetical word list for SAT. Their definitions come with notes and examples. Several articles on the site help readers connect vocabulary learning with everyday life. "Sordid" and "blatant" are words you read often in newspapers. The site brings definitions of ten such words in news you need to know.

What is interesting about is that it is not only a great tool to improve your vocabulary but it also helps readers have fun in the bargain. Wherever possible they have included a story or an example to help you remember words. Most importantly, it assesses your language skills and helps you polish them by giving you suitable posers. It further connects vocabulary learning with other aspects of life, including cinema and current events.

For instance, the site has drawn a wordlist from President Obama's speech made in the UN and a list of words from Hollywood director Martin Scorsese's essay on reading the language of cinema. Don't forget to be part of their blog offering a host of posts on grammar, books and dictionaries. Here is a site you should definitely bookmark. However, for a new visitor at first the design can be confusing as the first thing that appears on the site is "The Challenge" and you could initially be at a loss about what's going on here. Relax and just play on.



A website that provides tailor-made vocabulary learning



The design can be confusing for someone visiting the site for the first time