Language Power Tools

The web is full of resources that can be really useful for teachers and learners. Lots of websites and tools that we can go to in order to enhance our teaching and learning experience. And most of them are free. In this issue, we’ll take a look at two very useful web tools for in-depth analysis of language: Google definitions and Voyant Tools.

The latest update of Google definitions comes with a really useful set of information. Make sure you use and simply enter “define” and then the term you are interested in. Apart from the standard dictionary set of results (including terminology, pronunciation with voice, translation) you get some really useful information on the origin on the word that includes a nice diagram. Below that, you get a really useful chart of the mentions of the word in all books scanned by Google that dates back to the 1800s! This can come in handy when you are doing research or when you are trying to explain the origins of a word or how its use has fluctuated or how its meaning has changed over decades.

For example, if you google “define typhus” you get this result:

This gives you an idea of when the word was used most in literature and therefore when the disease was in its peak and when it started declining. You could, for example, ask your students to find relevant words that are linked to or even explain the graph, words like “antibiotic” or other related medical terms.

Voyant tools is a free web application that analyzes text. It can reveal not only the number of words used in an essay, for example, but also the number of unique words as well as the relative and raw frequencies of each word, displayed both in context and in the entire document. It also highlights where each word is located in the text, thus providing you with a way to get meaningful insights from the text. The information is displayed using interactive graphs and yes there is a word cloud too.

This tool can help you better understand your students’ use of language by monitoring and analyzing the word trends in their writings and therefore make it easier to help them grow and improve their vocabulary.

This post is part of the When EdTech Meets ELT series, my regular column for the TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece e-bulletin, and was originally published in March 2014.

Image credit: Mark Hunter


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