Here is something new for you: an on-line dictionary for learners of English. Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary (click here for a link to the site) holds 3,000 of the most essential words a learner needs to get by as a second-language speaker. It also has audio of the word being read aloud. This can also be helpful for the native speaker who needs help figuring out the connection between how a word is written and how it sounds.
Users may look up any word they need and save it to their personal dictionary for future reference. There are several very nice things about this idea. First, there are some words a reader just keeps coming back to. For instance, I can't tell you how many times I have had to look up the word inchoate. It sometimes takes several repetitions to get a word down pat. And second, a learner can see his or her personal lexicon grow over time. Words can be added or removed from the learner's dictionary with the click of a button. Within a minute I had a personal dictionary that included the literal meanings of the words truth, bend and whopper, but also included the phrases to bend the truth and to tell a whopper. Mastering idioms like these two helps a second language learner sound more natural. Besides, it brings a lot of fun to language learning.
Additionally, the website will read aloud any words you ask it to. I like this idea for both ESL and basic literacy learners and for that matter, for tutors who need to settle arguments about how words are pronounced. I found, for instance, a good example for the pronunciation of the nearly unspellable words inchoate and ophthalmology.