Helpful Tools for English Learners
English is the most commonly used language in the world, and it’s not because there are a lot of people who speak it as their native language. For every native English language speaker, there are more than two non-native or English-as-second-language speakers. Altogether, there are roughly a billion and a half people who are able to communicate with one another using the same language. And their numbers are growing. Even though the English language has found its way into the curricula of millions of schools around the world, another powerful force is driving the increase in the number of English language speakers. It’s the Internet, the place where video clips of kittens and puppies coexist with a number of tools that enable everyone to learn what is arguably the most important language of today. But the landscape of the Internet might be too chaotic to navigate, so we’ve chosen a few tools and resources that will be helpful along your way to becoming a proficient English speaker.
1. Lessons and Podcasts
You can go to YouTube, search for the term “learn English,” and find plenty of videos that might be useful to you. However, you should also be aware that there are established institutions that offer English language lessons and podcasts on their websites. For example, there’s the British Broadcasting Corporation—the BBC, or the Beeb as it’s sometimes called in the UK. BBC’s Learning English web page offers a wealth of content every English language learner should check out, from English lessons and short dramas to the news and pronunciation tips. The British Council has more than fifty podcasts that aim to teach everyday English. Their website also hosts plenty of “how to” videos that deal with the English language, as well as videos about the UK and its culture. USA Learns is a project of the Sacramento County Office of Education, and it has grown into a reputable resource for English learners. It hosts beginning and intermediate courses, as well as a practice and reading course.
2. Grammar Resources
While podcasts and lessons are great, especially when they are followed by a grammar and vocabulary review, English language learners can benefit from a more focused study of grammar. In fact, a lot of native speakers could benefit from a grammar refresher from time to time. Even people who write in English for a living need to look up grammar issues occasionally. Again, the British Council website is one of the best places to start. From lessons to quick tips, it contains most of the things an English language learner will need to learn proper grammar. This website, the one you’re currently on, is named Grammarly.com for a good reason. Yes, it does help writers proofread their work and enhance their style, but it also has the Grammarly Handbook, a great tool that can help English language learners understand grammar rules and learn how to implement them in writing.
3. Vocabulary and Translation
It would be hard to write about English translation without mentioning Google Translate. As an English language learner, you might not need the translate feature of Google Chrome to translate whole web pages from English into your own language. But for the words you know nothing about, Google Translate is one of the best tools on the web. Project Gutenberg offers over 50,000 free books, many of which are in English. There’s no better way of expanding your vocabulary than reading a lot, and on this website you can find English literary classics. Words by Grammarly is an online dictionary-thesaurus hybrid, which offers definitions of words as well as synonym suggestions. There’s also a handy MS Office plug-in, which integrates with Word and will greatly improve your vocabulary. Grammarly can also integrate with your web browser to give you definitions of words without leaving the page you’re reading.
4. Tests and Quizzes
You’ll need a way to test your progress, and more importantly, you’ll also need a way to learn and play at the same time. Activities for ESL Students is a website for grammar and vocabulary quizzes, bilingual quizzes, and crossword puzzles. British Council, again, has a number of English-language games on their website, as well as IELTS practice tests. The Cambridge English website has both tests and games that will help you measure your advancement and have some fun.