Communication Resources

1. Academic: General English 

1.1 Reading 
1.2 Writing 
  • General Essay Writing Advice
  • Practical advice on academic writing (from University of Toronto): offers practical advice on many aspects of academic writing, including reading and researching, planning and organizing essays, using sources, and editing.

  • Reference materials on critical writing (from Colorado State University Writing Center): Short readable references on writing of all kinds.

  • Features of Academic Writing (from University of Hertfordshire, UK): A site that introduces six features of academic writing.

  • Ask Betty (from University of Washington): General tips on grammar in college writing.

  • Technical Writing
  • Style Guides
    • Grammar and Style Notes: Alphabetized list of grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage. (Written and hosted by Jack Lynch)

    • The Elements of Style: Many American writers swear by a book by Strunk & White called The Elements of Style. This is a link to the original 1918 version, which many writers still admire.

  • Online Writing Labs (OWLs)
  • Self-Learning Exercises
    • Write&Improve: Submit your own work or practice your writing with any of the suggested tasks. This site, created at the University of Cambridge, will give you instant feedback you can use to improve your spelling, grammar and vocabulary. (We recommend that you use Chrome to access this website)

    • Academic writing exercises on paragraphing: Many writing exercises for self-directed study on academic writing.

  • Literature Review Writing
  • Citation and Referencing:
    • APA style : APA style guidelines directly from the American Psychological Association

    • Purdue OWL: Comprehensive guide to different citation styles

    • Cornell University: Comprehensive guide to different citation styles

    • EndNote: Helpful tool to organize bibliographic references

  • Avoiding Plagiarism:
1.3 Listening 
  • Academic Listening (lecture and note-taking practice)
  • Academic Earth: This US website allows you free access to a collection of university lectures, delivered by world experts on a range of topics. Just choose the area you are interested in, or choose the university (most of these are from US universities), sit back and listen.

  • Justice: Listen to law lectures from Harvard University, US, given by Michael Sandel.

  • MIT Online: offers 12,000+ videos covering a wide range of topics.

  • Three Minute Thesis: from University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, challenges final year PhD students to present their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes using only one non-animated slide.

  • Using English for Academic Purposes (UEFAP): General English language resource.

  • News (adapted for English learners)
    • Breaking News: This website uses current news stories to help language learners improve their English. There are many interactive activities that can help you work on your listening skills, including dictations and gap fills. Particularly useful is the option to control the desired speed and level of each listening text.

    • BBC English Radio – English language teaching: The BBC English Radio home page. Look at “Words in the News”, an audio file and transcript of a news story that changes three times a week. There is also a three-year archive of past news stories.

    • Voice of America: If you feel that most English news is too fast, try this site which has slowed down the speaking rate and uses simplified vocabulary.

  • Entertainment
    • TED Talks: “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” … This is the slogan on this remarkable website which give you access to many interesting talks on almost any topic by experts and famous people from all over the world. You can download talks and videotaped presentations so that you can surround yourself in English all the time! Many of the talks also have useful, interactive transcripts to help you follow along.

    • The Moth: American podcast featuring “True stories told live, without notes” by amateurs and professional storytellers alike. Entertaining, insightful, thought-provoking all in one!

    • Radio 4 ‘A Point of View’: Listen to weekly thought provoking and often entertaining reflections current issues by a range of excellent speakers.

    • The Monthly: An Australian site with plenty of films of interviews and lectures on a range of topics that you can select from by topic, speaker or date.

    • Genius.com: Searchable database of lyrics – choose a favourite song, print off the lyrics and practice listening as you sit back and enjoy the music.

    • The Naked Scientists: If Science is your thing, then take a look at this page from a group of scientists and researchers from the University of Cambridge. They have a weekly radio spot that aims to help make science more popular and accessible. Take a look at this site to listen to them and download a podcast to listen to at your leisure.

    • How Stuff Works: At first sight, this one looks like another site for science buffs, but actually, it’s a site which will appeal to many people, with its explanations for a whole host of everyday phenomena. Go the Videos section for listening practice.

1.4 Speaking (Only speaking) 

It may sound obvious, but speaking is inherently a social activity, so there’s only so much practice you can do without actually getting out and using it in the real world with real people. However, there are some resources to help facilitate these speaking opportunities, as well as supplement your speaking practice. And of course, always feel welcome to book a time with a CAES-CEDARS Peer Tutor or Communication Advisor to further assist your language learning!

  • General Speaking Resources
  • BBC Learning English: Articulating English pronunciation is crucial to get your message across more effectively. BBC’s Learning English website offers free videos on pronunciation, vocabulary, and common English mistakes to help with your general speaking practice. Apart from online lectures and learning tips, they also provide quizzes to facilitate your learning.

  • English Speaking Tips from Learn English Network.

  • Focus English’s introduction of some everyday English expressions on different topics.

  • Using English for Academic Purposes (UEFAP): General English language resource.

  • Our recommended resources on Pronunciation and Oral Presentation may also help.

  • Learn By Example
    • The TED talks website are examples of good presenters giving talks (3 minute to 1 hour+) related to technology, entertainment, design, business, science, global Issues.

    • American Rhetoric’s top 100 speeches from history. Includes text and video/audio for a majority of them.

1.5 Oral Presentations (the more difficult speaking)
  • Presentation Skills
  • Group Presentation Skills
  • CSS – Group presentation: This video was made by the CAs to illustrate some strategies you may want to use when giving an oral presentation. It highlights many of the aspects your teacher will consider for assessment.

  • University of Sussex, Skills Hub – Group presentations: The ‘making group-work work’ resource consists of 10 videos of a group of students followed through a project. It is designed to help both students and tutors understand and overcome the challenges of group work.

1.6 Postgraduate Theses
  • Thesis Writing
  • How to Prepare Research Proposals
  • Guidelines from HKU: Guidelines from the HKU School of Research Studies on writing proposals for funded research projects.

  • General Postgraduate Research / Advice
  • Insights from Expert Educators
  • Applications: 
  • Studential: Useful resource when applying for graduate school, apprenticeships, jobs, etc. Includes personal statement guides and interview tips.

1.7 Corpus-based Language Learning

A corpus is a large collection of naturally occurring texts, both spoken and written, gathered and presented in computer-readable format. You can use a corpus (or several different corpora) to help see new vocabulary words and phrases in actual context, and avoid using unnatural-sounding, tonally inappropriate or “Chinglish-y” phrases in your writing.

How do I use a corpus?
 

Some corpora are more complex than others, but the simpler ones (such as Word and Phrase, linked below) allow you to just type in a word or phrase, much like a Google search. The corpus will then give you a selection of sentences or paragraphs showing you the context in which that word appears, from a variety of different genres and sources. You can check our tutorial videos to learn how to use this great resource step by step.

 Seeing the results from your search can help you with:

 

  • Word distinction: ever wondered how a word like “continual” differs from the word “continuous”? A corpus can help you know the more subtle differences between two easily confused words or synonyms.

  • Collocation: this refers to typical word combinations. For example, although both “strong” and “powerful” refer to some degree of strength and are often used as synonyms for each other, we often say “strong tea” and “powerful car,” but not “powerful tea” or “strong car.” This tendency, for some words to combine more frequently than others, is called “collocation.”

  • Key word: this shows you which word(s) appear surprisingly frequently when compared with another body of text, usually a larger corpus. This exceptional high frequency may be a result of the characteristics of the text types in the searched corpus.
     

  • Online English Corpora

 

These corpora are chosen because they are all free-to-use and come with their own built-in web-based concordance (meaning the content of these corpora can be searched and extracted to display information that you need). Note that while different corpora/tools do the same basic things, they may have slightly different conventions. Most of the tools are straightforward to use, but you may have to refer to the users’ guide for individual programs if you want to use some advanced functions.

 

  • General Corpora

    • Word and Phrase: Designed at Brigham Young University to help students find detailed information on the 60,000 most frequent words in English.

    • British National Corpus (BNC): The BNC is a 100 million word collection of British English. The texts represent both spoken and written language from a variety of sources.

    • Word Neighbors: This is a free and user-friendly corpus developed by the University of Science and Technology.

  • Specialized Corpora

    • BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English: The COCA contains more than 450 million words of American English texts, both spoken and written, from a range of genres. The corpus is updated regularly, i.e. new texts are being added to the corpus every now and then.

    • Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English: MICASE is a collection of almost 1.8 million words of transcribed speech from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. It contains data from a wide range of speech events in the academic context, e.g. lectures, lab sections, classroom discussions.

    • TIME Corpus: The TIME corpus is a subcorpus of the COCA, representing more than 100 million words of text of American English, taken from the TIME magazine.

    • CRA The Corpus of Research Articles: A research resource that is publicly available via the website of the Research Centre for Professional Communication in English (RCPCE) to benefit academics and students locally and internationally. The CRA enables users to investigate the patterns of language use in research articles from 39 disciplines.

 

2. Domain-specific English 

Are you looking for how to enhance your writing/speaking in a particular domain? Check out these info:)

 

2.1 Arts
  • Writing in your discipline
  • Collaborative writing

  • Discussion (oral)

  • Process writing:

 

2.2 Business and Economics
  • Written and Spoken Communication
  • Business English: A great place to start looking for business related materials. In this site you will find resources and practice exercises that can help you improve your vocabulary, presentation skills, personal communication, grammar and more.

  • Guide to Writing in Economics: Clear and comprehensive resource to help you understand the writing expectations of academic papers.  We suggest you to focus on the “6 Principles of Clear, Cohesive and Coherent Writing”.

  • Academic style – Writing and speaking academically: Not sure what to include or avoid when writing an academic paper? Check this skill guide created by the University of Melbourne to get started.

  • CSS – Paragraph Improvement: Short videos created by CAs that will help you learn some strategies to improve your paragraphs.

  • Write your business plan: This resource from the U.S. Small Business Administration offers templates to help you learn how to write business plans using two formats.

  • How to Write a Business Plan: Resources suggested by the University of Florida Business Library.

  • Writing a business plan: This detailed guide by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs lists 10 ways to ruin your business plan.

  • Introduction to Syntheses: Find useful techniques for developing synthesis essays.

  • Synthesis writing: Check this resource to learn more about the purpose, features and sections of a synthesis.

  • A Guide to Synthesizing Sources: Find tips, strategies and word lists to help you write an effective case synthesis.

2.3 Engineering 
Presentation Videos We Recommend: 
TEDTalks


TEDTalks are a great way to learn more about your discipline, enhance your vocabulary and learn some good presentation skills. Read our guide to TEDTalks and start listening to:
 

2.4 Nursing
Language & Lexis: 
  • Language skills for nursing: This video provides strategies to improve your verbal and written and communication skills. Pause the video and try the activities if you’re interested in building your vocabulary, improving your spelling and writing in a more academic style.

  • Hospital English: The Brilliant Learning Workbook for International Nurses: This book provides useful information to improve your English communication skills and to develop confidence when treating international patients. It also presents some personal survival strategies so you work, study and live without becoming overstressed.

  • English Resource Centre for Nurses: Practice medical collocations, sentence structure, word choice, articles and verbs by reading medical articles, completing online activities and playing games. Also watch animated videos of common dialogues among medical professionals.

  • Oxford University Press Nursing 1 & 2: Practice your grammar, vocabulary and listening with nursing-specific exercises and scenarios.

    • Medical Terminology

  • Global RPh – Medical terminology: Find definitions, prefixes, roots, suffixes, word building references, singular vs plural rules and exams to test your knowledge of medical terminology.

  • MediLexicon: Comprehensive database of medical abbreviations, terms, ICD9 codes, equipment, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, news, and publications.

 

  • Medical Dictionaries to use: 
  • Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary

  • Dorland’s Medical Dictionary

  • Taber’s Medical Dictionary

  • The Merck Manual

  • Pronunciation Dictionaries

 

  • Writing:

 

  • Podcasts for nursing: 
  • The Nursing Podcast by NRSNG: #1 Nursing Podcast. Find episodes on confidence in nursing, real life nursing stories, life hacks for nurses, anatomy and physiology of diseases and interviews with nurses and authors.

  • A. Davis’s Nursing Communication: Schuster & Nykolyn’s (2010) work on the development of comprehensive, professional communication skills to prevent errors in the nursing practice is summarized in 5-minute-long episodes.

  • Real Talk School of Nursing: Current nursing students talk about real problems they go through.

  • The Nurse Keith Show: This podcasts offers career advice for nurses. The speaker’s voice is quite calm and slow.

  • Presentation Skills

  • Pronunciation

 

  • You can visit TED-Ed to find lessons around a TED talk or YouTube video. You can filter videos by content, level of difficulty, duration and available subtitles. Some recommended videos for nursing students are:

2.5 Science
  • Reading Strategies

 

  • Popular Science Writing

 

  • Scientific Writing

 

  • Scientific Presentations

 

3. Professional

3.1 General Professional English Resources
    •  A CAES-created website devoted to enhancing professional writing skills. Includes resume/cover letter tips, lists of action verbs, guides for how to write at work, and more.

3.2 Job Searching
  • Centre of Development and Resources for Students Career and Placement, (CEDARS): Offers sessions on preparation for resumes and job interviews and a Help Desk for individual advice. Also runs career talks and mock interviews at relevant times of the year. Students should check out this page more often if they are looking for a job. Both part-time and full time jobs are available. (Service restricted to HKU students only)

 

4. Social

4.1 Language Exchange & Meet-up Resources
  • HelloTalk: iOS- and Android-compatible app for language exchange and conversation practice, with a variety of useful features. Simply set up a profile, list the languages you know and the languages you want to practice, and start practicing with others! Simply, easy to use, and flexible.

  • My Language Exchange: A platform for language exchange outside of HKU. Worth trying!

  • Meetup Hong Kong: Website for interest-based meetup groups in and around Hong Kong. Find a group that fits an interest of yours and get talking!

4.2 English Through Film

Films are a great way to practice your listening and learn new vocabulary, but the important thing is to be active in watching. Check out some of the suggested activities and visit the links below to get started!

  • Interactive Exercises

    • Lingual Net: Using a variety of documentary, drama, animation, comedy and music to learn idioms and vocabulary. A good listening game as well.

    • Learn English Feel Good: Listening comprehension exercises with answers for popular films..

    • Film English: Intermediate to advanced ESL teaching material using films, including English expressions, adjectives, and narrative tenses. There is also a good film language glossary.

  • General activities (for any kind of film)

    • First of all, you should learn the language related to movies:

  • Movie Genre (style): action, animation, children, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, musical, romance, sci-fi, thriller, western or any combination of them.

  • Character: protagonist, antagonist, the evil one, the fool, hero, heroine, supporting role, the underdog, etc.

  • Setting: time and location of the story.

  • Plot: the story-telling, development, flashback, foreshadow, transition, surprise/open ending, etc.

  • Scene: opening, action (such as a car chase), love scene, ending, etc.

  • Film Glossary: green screen, special effects, sound design, costume, set design, score/soundtrack, cinematography, etc.

  • Suggested Listening Comprehension Activity

Watch an English movie that you have watched before or one that does not have a lot of dialogue so that it is easier for you to follow. Watch the movie with the English subtitles so that you can understand what the characters are saying. For more advanced learning, switch off the subtitles and focus on understanding the dialogue. If you hear some expressions or phrases that you like, you can make note of them.

Another way to do this activity is to watch a short segment of the movie (1-2 minutes) without the subtitles and write down what you hear. Replay that segment with the subtitles on and check if you have missed anything.

You can find some internet sources that provide listening comprehension worksheets along with the videos in the Internet Resources section of this site.

  • Suggested Speaking Activity

Find a segment of the movie where you have transcribed the dialogues (by ear or from the subtitles), loop the segment and mimic the pronunciation, intonation and stress.

You can find a partner to speak the dialogues with you; you can also record yourself to compare your pronunciation with the one in the video. To make it even more interesting, you can find a few friends and reenact the scene, record yourselves and hear your pronunciation, intonation and stress.

  • Suggested Reading Activity

Many film scripts are available online, they are interesting to read and you can identify the language used in dialogues or how books are adapted into film scripts.

Film reviews are also fun to read and you can learn how to express your opinion towards a movie in English.

  • Suggested Writing Activities

You can practice your writing by reviewing a movie or TV show, translating a movie scene of your mother tongue into English or transforming a script extract into a narrative. By doing so, you will learn how the relevant writing skills for these activities. You can ask the English Advisors at the Advisory Zone to give you feedback on your writing.

 

5. Test Prep

 

5.1 IELTS
  • Official Websites

    • The Official IELTS Website: An essential site with all the information you need to know for the IELTS. What are the tests like? Can I access the handbook online? What organisations recognise IELTS?  We recommend all students who are planning or going to take IETLS to have a look before you sit in the exam.

    • IELTS – International English Language test – British Council: The main British Council IELTS site providing information on the what, why and where, around IELTS exams. Taking an IELTS test helps to open doors to international education and employment all over the globe. Moreover, candidates with high scores are particularly sought after by universities and employers in English-speaking countries.

  • Unofficial Websites for Advice and Preparation Materials

    • Write&Improve + Test Zone: Submit your own work or practice your writing with any of the suggested tasks. This site, created at the University of Cambridge, will give you instant feedback and an IELTS grade, so you know exactly what you need to do to get the grade that you want. (We recommend that you use Chrome to access this website)

    • PolyU IELTS Preparation Site: The Polytechnic University’s excellent IELTS preparation website, with more tasks and simulated tests.

    • IELTS Advantage: Features a variety of detailed, clear advice on the various parts of the IELTS test.

5.2 TOEFL
  • Discover Business – How to Study for the TOEFL: Comprehensive and well-written guide on how to study for the TOEFL exam (for US exchange programs). Covers the exam’s different sections, scoring system, the types of questions, and additional study tips. A must-read for potential TOEFL takers!

5.3 GRE
  • Official websites

    • ETS GRE – Find information about the test’s content, structure, fees, registration and preparation tools.

  • Unofficial Websites for Advice and Preparation Materials

    • Majortests.com – find more information about the test and practice questions and mini tests.

  • CrunchPrep – find the top 101 high frequency GRE words to help you prepare for the verbal section.

  • Magoosh – popular prep website offering study plans and a practice app.

    • GMAT

  • Apps

  • The Official GRE Guide – this app was created by ETS, the designers of the GRE test.

  • Manhattan Prep GRE – find tips for each question type, customizable flashcards and thousands of practice questions.

  • Ready4GRE – this app offers a lot of content for free and a friendly format that makes it feel more like a game than a prep app.

  • Magoosh – check the additional Magoosh flashcards, vocabulary builder, and idioms apps for extra content.

5.4 GMAT
  • Official websites

    • GMAT – Find information about the test and additional resources for prospective business students.

  • Unofficial Websites for Advice and Preparation Materials

    • Majortests.com – find more information about the test and practice questions and mini tests.

    • London Business School – Sign-up for free micro, mini and full tests.

    • Magoosh – popular prep website offering study plans and a practice app.

  • Apps

    • Manhattan Prep GMAT – find tips for each question type, glossaries and thousands of practice questions.

    • GMAT Veritas Prep – get an overview of the test, access instructional videos and practice questions.

    • GMAT Pocket Prep – find a variety of material (flashcards, practice tests, answers rationales) and track your progress over time.

    • Magoosh – check the additional Magoosh flashcards, vocabulary builder, and idioms apps for extra content.