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June 2017

July 2017

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


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.

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.

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.


Read Listen Learn is a great resource for both teachers and learners. In fact, it's quite similar to the excellent 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 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.

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.