Welcome to Learn English Online!

When I began teaching English at the end of the 1970s, the internet as we know it today did not exist. English teaching and learning materials were almost exclusively physical, i.e., books and audiocassettes, though of course we did have TV and radio back in those days! The videocassette recorder was the latest teaching technology, and I well remember organising an exchange with a French teacher in England. She would send me videocassettes of English programmes that she had taped off air, and I would do the same in French. In fact, I've still got those videocassettes. They are gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere in the school – even if we no longer have a VCR to play them on!

How times have changed. Nowadays, learners of English have access to an unlimited amount of authentic material in the form of online news, blogs, e-books, podcasts, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. Not to mention all the sites and resources specifically aimed at English learners. And you don't even have to be sitting in front of a computer any longer — mobile learning on smartphones and tablets has become commonplace. With this wealth of material, one might think that it would be much easier to learn the language. The problem is that the sheer amount of material can be overwhelming. How can you find the most suitable English-learning resources for your level and needs when a Google search for "English listening intermediate" (for example) returns over six million results? The good news is that I have done a lot of the work for you. Over the years, I have identified and tested hundreds, if not thousands, of sites. I have also reviewed many of them on my blog. And that is the knowledge that I am pleased to be able to share with you in this guide.


Guest Post — English Lessons Online vs. Lessons in Traditional Schools

Skype

These days, many more English students are choosing to take Skype English classes over lessons at private language schools because of better internet access and cheaper prices. If you are thinking about taking a course and you are not sure whether to learn English online or not, you should think about these three things: the location, time and your way of learning. This article discusses how learning English in a traditional school can be different from studying English on the internet, and how to make the best choice for yourself.

Where
One of the first things to consider is where you want to learn English: would you rather study in your pyjamas on the couch at home, engaging in the cyber world, or be in a conventional classroom sitting at a desk with a pen, paper and surrounded by classmates? Some learners feel more comfortable studying in the privacy of their home and are able to work without getting sidetracked by children, the phone, TV or other distractions. For others, saving a lot of time by not travelling to their lessons and back home is a big advantage. But many students can’t keep focused at home and need the motivation of the teacher and other students to make them study hard.

When
Another thing to think about is how often and at what time you want to take your lessons. Some students find it useful to go straight to English lessons after finishing work because they are already out of the house and in the mood to work. Parents might consider sending their children to English summer camps during school vacation or at the weekends to keep their kids in a set routine. However, lots of people who work full time or care for their family are not always able to follow a set timetable and prefer the flexibility that English classes over the internet can offer. It’s usually possible to choose your own hours and days of the week for classes because you don’t have to fit your timetable around other students. This also makes it easier to reschedule your class if something else comes up at the last minute.

How you interact
There are both pros and cons to learning English either online or in a traditional class depending on the type of person you are. For really sociable people who like to interact with others, sharing a class with many other students is ideal. You can work in groups and learn a lot about people from different backgrounds. It also gives you the opportunity to speak with those who share your English level, which can improve your confidence in speaking. When you study online, it’s much more common to work alone with a teacher. The advantage is that you have the opportunity to talk with a native English speaker and the lessons are more focused on your needs and desires, rather than those of a group. This type of learning is more intense, and may better suit a student who wants to improve quickly.

How you learn
Everyone learns differently, whether they are a visual learner (with images and photos), an audio learner (through listenings and songs) or a kinaesthetic learner (with movement), to name but a few. These learning styles apply to any type of learning, including English. Conventional classroom learning is more suitable for people who learn with movement because of the opportunity to touch, cut, paste, draw or play with objects in the classroom, be involved in physical activities or play games. These tactile types of learners might also prefer to use a textbook and notepad with real physical pages they can write and draw on.

Virtual classrooms over the internet might be more attractive to visual and audio learners who like to interact with the pictures and photos, music and videos that can be shared during their lesson. Tech-savvy students also tend to appreciate that lessons can be saved on their computer and that they can type rather than write things down.

All in all, whether you are considering taking an English course over Skype or at a language academy, don’t forget the most important part: your English lessons should suit your schedule and learning style. In the end, this is what will motivate you to learn English!

This post was written by Hannah Yurk Hannah Yurk, Online Academy Manager and Administrator of Break Into English, a company that specializes in online English classes via Skype.


Site of the Day — Read Listen Learn

Reading is one of the four main skills that learners of English need to improve (the others being Listening, Speaking, and Writing), but it's not always easy to find interesting reading material at the right level. Most of the main EFL publishers have a range of graded readers (see here and here, for example), but they are usually physical books and not available in digital form (plus you have to pay for them). Which is where Read Listen Learn comes in ...

Read Listen Learn is a free website that offers digital graded readers for English teachers and learners. There are currently over 180 readers and they come in two forms: short stories adapted from works by over 50 authors, and articles on history, science, crime, sport and more. The readers are graded at 5 different levels for English learners and they all come with audio versions so you can listen while you read.  Each reader also has a glossary. And once you have registered (using Facebook), you can create you own personal library of readers.

Readlistenlearn

MY THOUGHTS
Read Listen Learn is a great resource for both teachers and learners. In fact, it's quite similar to the excellent Dreamreader.net website, which I reviewed here. The readers vary in length from 250 words to over 5,000 words, and the audio versions vary in speed according to the level. However, it would be nice to have some different voices, and comprehension questions would be a welcome addition (it's something that Dreamreader.net already has). The navigation could also be improved — to see a list of all the articles you currently have to click on the My Library button on the homepage, and then on Find Articles, which doesn't seem very logical. Co-founder Simon Dalton tells me that he's in the process of updating the software, so hopefully these minor problems will be ironed out soon. Apparently, an app is on the way too, which is good news for mobile learners. By the way, you can read an interview with the other co-founder Mark Bartholomew here. I'm adding Read Listen Learn to the Reading page on the Learn English Online website.


Everday English for ESL — Lesson 4 — Airport Check-in

Here's the fourth lesson of in my Everyday English for ESL course on YouTube. In this lesson, a passenger checks in at the airport. You can download the PDF file for this lesson, and view the course description below.

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Do you already have a basic knowledge of English, but want to improve your ability to communicate in real-life situations? And do so in a fun, enjoyable way? Then Everyday English for ESL is just the course for you! Each lesson begins with a fully-animated dialogue, which presents the vocabulary, grammar, and expressions you need to know in order to communicate successfully in English in a wide range of everyday situations. The situations include: 

• ordering food in a fast food restaurant 
• checking-in at the airport 
• making an appointment on the phone 
• returning goods to a shop

The dialogue is presented with and without speech bubbles, and is followed by: 
• a listen and repeat activity to help you improve your pronunciation and intonation 
• a listening comprehension passage related to the topic of the lesson 
• a series of questions for you to answer about the lesson topic

All the audio material has been recorded by professional voice actors with British or American accents, and each lesson comes with a ten-page downloadable PDF, which contains: 
• a full transcript of the lesson 
• language notes, explaining key grammar and vocabulary points 
• a word list 
• a series of language exercises 
• a crossword, 
• a word search puzzle

Several of these activities can also be done online, and the extra resources include Quizlet flashcard sets featuring the vocabulary used in each lesson.

At the end of the course, there’s a Final Quiz, to test what you have learnt.


Site of the Day — Gif Lingua

Everyone is familiar with GIFs. A GIF is basically an image file format that is animated by combining several other images or frames into a single file. GIFs are all over the Internet on blogs and social media, and are part of what makes news and entertainment sites like Buzzfeed very popular. And now they are also being used in language learning by Gif Lingua. Gif Lingua is a site created by David Deubelbeiss, who is also a key person behind the excellent English Central. Gif Lingua has over 3,000 'books' at different levels, although they aren't books in the traditional sense, or even e-books. A Gif Lingua book consists of a number of pages (usually 20 or fewer), each with a sentence in written and audio form, illustrated by a GIF. The site has tons more features, including quizzes and videos, and works on any device. There's even a web app. New books are added every day, and users can create their own books too.

Gif lingua

VERDICT
Gif Lingua is a really original site that makes reading fun. Definitely worth checking out!


Everyday English for ESL — Lesson 3 — Hair Appointment

Here's the third lesson of my Everyday English for ESL course. You can download the PDF file for this lesson here, and view the course description below.

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Do you already have a basic knowledge of English, but want to improve your ability to communicate in real-life situations? And do so in a fun, enjoyable way? Then Everyday English for ESL is just the course for you! Each lesson begins with a fully-animated dialogue, which presents the vocabulary, grammar, and expressions you need to know in order to communicate successfully in English in a wide range of everyday situations. The situations include: 

• ordering food in a fast food restaurant 
• checking-in at the airport 
• making an appointment on the phone 
• returning goods to a shop

The dialogue is presented with and without speech bubbles, and is followed by: 
• a listen and repeat activity to help you improve your pronunciation and intonation 
• a listening comprehension passage related to the topic of the lesson 
• a series of questions for you to answer about the lesson topic

All the audio material has been recorded by professional voice actors with British or American accents, and each lesson comes with a ten-page downloadable PDF, which contains: 
• a full transcript of the lesson 
• language notes, explaining key grammar and vocabulary points 
• a word list 
• a series of language exercises 
• a crossword, 
• a word search puzzle

Several of these activities can also be done online, and the extra resources include Quizlet flashcard sets featuring the vocabulary used in each lesson.

At the end of the course, there’s a Final Quiz, to test what you have learnt.


Site of the Day — Write & Improve

Write and Improve

DESCRIPTION
Write & Improve is a free service from Cambridge English for learners to practise their written English. Submit your written work and receive feedback in seconds, covering spelling, vocabulary, grammar and general style. There are a number of free writing tasks at Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced level, as well as an IELTS workbook. You can create a profile to see many more tasks.


Learn English Online Promo Video

Here's a promo video for my new Learn English Online site.

DESCRIPTION
Learn English Online (http://www.learnenglishonline.net) is a directory of the best resources available on the internet for learning English as a second or foreign language. You will find over 700 annotated links listed in 34 categories, as well as tips and advice on how to improve your English. But that's not all. For news and reviews, check out the LEO Blog. And visit the Store to find out about my publications. To receive regular updates, free learning materials, and lots more, sign up for the LEO newsletter. As a special welcome gift, you will receive a free copy of Learning English Online, a 45-page PDF ebook version of the site!


Everyday English for ESL — Lesson 2 — At the Doctor's

Here's the second lesson of my Everyday English for ESL course. You can download the PDF file for this lesson here, and view the course description below.

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Do you already have a basic knowledge of English, but want to improve your ability to communicate in real-life situations? And do so in a fun, enjoyable way? Then Everyday English for ESL is just the course for you! Each lesson begins with a fully-animated dialogue, which presents the vocabulary, grammar, and expressions you need to know in order to communicate successfully in English in a wide range of everyday situations. The situations include: 

• ordering food in a fast food restaurant
• checking-in at the airport
• making an appointment on the phone
• returning goods to a shop

The dialogue is presented with and without speech bubbles, and is followed by:

• a listen and repeat activity to help you improve your pronunciation and intonation
• a listening comprehension passage related to the topic of the lesson
• a series of questions for you to answer about the lesson topic

All the audio material has been recorded by professional voice actors with British or American accents, and each lesson comes with a ten-page downloadable PDF workbook, which contains:

• a full transcript of the lesson
• language notes, explaining key grammar and vocabulary points
• a word list
• a series of language exercises
• a crossword,
• a word search puzzle

Several of these activities can also be done online, and the extra resources include Quizlet flashcard sets featuring the vocabulary used in each lesson.

At the end of the course, there’s a Final Quiz, to test what you have learnt.


Cartoon: Playing with Fire

This cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times relates to the the tragic fire disaster in a London tower block, and illustrates a common English idiom: to play with fire.

London fire
COMMENTARY
The cartoon shows a number of tower blocks (or blocks of flats) as matchboxes. The message is clear — they are a great fire risk and a disaster waiting to happen. We won't know the cause of the London fire for a while, but it seems that residents' fears about the safety of the block were ignored. The expression 'to play with fire' means to take a risk or to do something that could cause you trouble later. • You're playing with fire if you try to cheat on the test. 

ALSO SEE
London Fire Newspaper Headlines (BBC News)


Video: 26 Ways to Learn English for Free

Here's a great video from Simple English Videos that I'm adding to the How To Learn English category. You can find the resources mentioned in the video, including free Readers and Audiobooks, here.