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Improving your English language skills

While the English Practical Language Programme offers courses that target specific language issues, these courses are only the minimum amount of the time that you should invest to improve your language skills. Key to your success during your studies and in your career will be the time you spend developing your skills outside of class, for example by reading (e.g. British and U.S. newspapers and magazines available online), listening (e.g. English-language TV and radio programmes or podcasts, writing (e.g. blogs, correspondence, essays, short stories), speaking (e.g. at English Club events or with a tandem partner), and practicing grammar and vocabulary online or with other self-study materials. Below is a list of suggested reference materials and resources.

Reference materials

The following tabs with reference materials will help you build a good personal library or bookmarked list of resources.

Dictionaries

Both monolingual and bilingual dictionaries will support your language studies. Please keep in mind that bilingual dictionaries are generally not allowed in tests and exams. We recommend:

Monolingual Dictionaries

For students in all semesters

  • Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary – with a CD-ROM for a variety of other applications and exercises
  • Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English – with online access to a variety of other applications and exercises, e.g. the interactive form of the Language Activator (see below) and exercises for Academic Writing
  • Longman Advanced American Dictionary: The Dictionary for Academic Success – with online access to a variety of other applications and exercises
  • Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary – with online access to iSpeaker and iWriter

For higher semester students in particular

  • The American Heritage College Dictionary of the English Language
  • Fowler's Concise Dictionary of Modern English Usage

Bilingual Dictionaries**

  • Oxford German Dictionary
  • PONS Großwörterbuch Englisch

** Please note that it's important to buy the full version; the smaller school or pocket editions are not sufficient for our purposes.

Supplementary Dictionaries

  • Longman Language Activator – a dictionary combining word explanations with information on collocations and synonyms, including information on register and context-dependent usage
  • Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English – provides information on how a word is used in context, i.e. how words can be combined to use English naturally

Grammar Reference Books

Please note that the most recent editions are listed here, but earlier editions are also sufficient.

  • Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [ISBN: 9780521674393]
  • Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G. K. (2005). A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [ISBN: 9780521612883]
  • Biber, D., Conrad, S., & Leech, G. (2002). Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English Harlow: Longman. [ISBN: 9780582237261]
  • Sinclair, J. (2017). Collins Cobuild English Grammar. (4th ed.). London: Collins. [ISBN: 9780008135812]
  • Swan, M. (2016). Practical English Usage (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [ISBN: 9780194202437]

Grammar Practice Books

Please note that the most recent editions are listed here, but earlier editions are also sufficient.

  • Azar, B. S., & Hagen, S. A. (2009). Understanding and Using English Grammar (4th ed.). New York: Longman. [ISBN: 9780132464505]
  • Hewings, M. (2013). Advanced Grammar in Use (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [ISBN: 9781107539303]

Online resources for learning English

Try out the following free internet applications to improve your English:

Monolingual Dictionaries and Thesauri Online

All-skills Practice Websites

Listening

Pronunciation

Speaking

Grammar Reference and Practice Websites

Writing Support

English Student Journal

The English Department is issuing a Student Journal featuring articles and other contributions by and for students. For this journal we are looking for students interested in submitting articles as well as students interested in working as editors. For more information, contact the coordinator.

The English Club

Join us every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. for exciting events and the opportunity to practice your English in a relaxed atmosphere! You’ll find us at Klub der Kulturen, Thüringer Weg 3 (opposite Mensa Reichenhainer Straße) in 09126 Chemnitz.