November 3, 2012

There is a wealth of information on the internet but sometimes, when you want something very simple, it just isn't there.

My name is Jim and for the last 4 years I have been a volunteer English teacher in Mongolia. I found an old book called "First 400 Words" that had old poorly hand-drawn pictures with a word list that was in serious need of an update (the book included things like "hand grenade" and "rocket launcher"). It was really a great idea but it needed a lot of work to create something new. And, I would like to announce, that we now have that along with an online picture dictionary at

I have worked to make the website simple for children, or even adults with few computer skills. No ads and no distractions. Just wonderful pictures that not only inform but entertain. But this is just not a site for students both young and old wanting to begin their journey of learning English. We have things here for parents and teachers too.

For students:
Every day there is a new word to learn on the home page. Along with picture, and text, there is also an audio recording (courtesy of Google) so that the student can hear and see the language to make learning fun and long lasting. Or they can click on any letter to see all the words, pictures and audio.

For parents:
I believe that language learning is a personal journey, one involving communication between people. Because of that, there are also versions of the online dictionary to download electronic versions (PDF & iPad versions) perfect for any PC, laptop or tablet. It is formatted in landscape so it's perfect for any monitor. I haven't included any audio because I really want the interaction between parent and child or teacher and student. And the great thing is that it is free, no strings attached, no password needed, nothing to sign up for. Just download and it's yours.

For teachers:
I know first hand how hard it is to get quality materials for my classes at no cost in either time or money. For that reason, all the photographs that I have compiled for this book and online picture dictionary are available to download too. They are all from and used at "First 400 Words" under a Creative Commons license, meaning that all the photographers ask is attribution and that you don't sell their work. I have literally looked at tens of thousands of pictures so you don't have to, so you can spend your precious time using these pictures in your own projects.

For English as a 2nd language:
While the website is in English, the downloads right now come in two versions; English only, and English-Mongolian. It is my hope that others teaching English as a second language might help me create more picture dictionaries combining English with many more languages, expanding to other countries and cultures. If you like that idea, please contact me so we can help even more children, and adults, start their first steps to learning English in the right direction.

Pass the word:
To really make all this worthwhile, the information needs to get to the people who need it, who can use it, who want it - students, parents and teachers all over the world. Please pass this on to anyone you think might find useful or who might know of others or even organizations that could use this material to help others learn English.

Final word:
It is my hope in the future to find sponsors to help print these books to distribute to children free of cost. Your enthusiasm for what we have put together so far, will help me move closer to that dream. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I would be so happy to hear from you. And thank you again for your time.

PS. And remember to pass this on. Thank you.

Jim "bagsh"
ESL Teacher