by Lindsey Jackson
ECentral is an app designed to introduce English Language Learners (ELLs) to authentic materials in the L2. The app description boasts over 10,000 available videos for users to watch and learn from, directions given in eight different languages, and a variety of activities learners can do in response to the videos.
Positive Features of English Central
- The videos are categorized not only by proficiency level but also by genre (Academic, Social, Young Learners, etc.).
- The videos are all subtitled and short in length, with most being under two minutes.
- Content ranges from topic-specific videos (e.g., “Objects in a Classroom”) to real-life videos (e.g., movie trailers, Super Bowl commercials, etc.).
- Videos can be set to play straight through or to stop after each line of focused text (“featured lines”).
- Videos can also be set to include all languages in the video (including other languages, nonsense words, etc.) or can be modified to include only featured lines.
- After watching the video, users go back through to learn and practice vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation. Unlimited attempts are allowed for all activities.
- The app encourages the idea of World Englishes (that is, not all videos are done by native English speakers).
- Users can set up a Skype session with a tutor to take a free language assessment test.
- The app is free to download and is compatible with most Apple and Android products.
Limitations of English Central
- Though users can watch unlimited videos, they can only access two lessons before having to share app content on some form of social media to have access to more lessons.
- When the videos are set to stop after each featured line, the lines cut off in the middle of a word, thereby inhibiting a user’s ability to hear correct pronunciation.
- When videos are not set to stop after each line, subtitles for the next featured line immediately pop up on the screen—even if there is a music break, a line in another language, or a gibberish word. This could potentially be confusing for users, who might not know when the supposed feature line actually begins.
- Speaking and pronunciation attempts of featured lines are given a grade. If given a low grade, users are encouraged to repeat the line but are given no tips on how to improve pronunciation.
I played with the app for a while to try to ascertain every available feature, and I also read reviews from both Android and Apple users. Despite its limitations, users (and I) seem to agree that ECentral could be a good supplementary resource for language learners looking to strengthen their language skills and increase their exposure to English beyond the textbook. Used in isolation, the app could end up being somewhat confusing for learners. But for those who want to be exposed to new vocabulary in authentic contexts, this app just might do the trick.
Lindsey Jackson will be graduating with a Master’s in English-TESOL from Missouri State University in May. She has an undergraduate degree in English Education from Evangel University and currently teaches English composition for non-native English speakers at Missouri State.