Students will often ask how they can improve their English outside of class. I love getting this question because there are infinite possibilities for a student who is motivated to learn! The best way to keep your studies fun is to pick topics that are interesting for you and then to search for English-language news, websites, videos, and podcasts related to those topics. To give you some ideas, here are some of my favorite resources for learning English:
Resources for reading and listening practice
TED Talks – TED Talks are great for listening practice. I recommend short videos (5-10 minutes) and choosing topics that you enjoy. Try to set aside the time to watch them two or three times, in the following order:
1) First, watch the talks once without any subtitles – this gives your brain a chance to predict the overall idea, to guess at unfamiliar vocabulary and to observe body language. It’s totally normal if you don’t understand everything the speaker says, so don’t worry!
2) The second time, turn on subtitles in English to help check your comprehension and to add the skill of reading – note that when you are reading subtitles, it’s more difficult to use the skill of listening! At this point, you could also write down words that are unfamiliar in case you want to look them up.
3) The final time, feel free to watch with subtitles in your native language. This gives your brain the chance to put it all together and hopefully you’ll be more confident about what you’ve heard.
- A childhood friend of mine, Kimi Werner, gave a great talk about the importance of taking the time to slow down.
- A list of the most popular TED Talks of all time
TED Ed Lessons – TED Ed lessons are crafted around short videos (usually around 5 minutes or less) on interesting topics like Business & Economics, Pyschology, Mathematics, Health and even Philosophy & Religion. To the right of each video you’ll see links that say things like Watch, Dig Deeper, Discuss. These will give you ways to learn even more about the topics and vocabulary that you just learned.
- You can see all the lessons here, sorted by most video views.
- If you’d like to take your understanding a step further, try creating a “mini presentation” to summarize what you’ve learned. You can do this in writing (if you’d like to practice that skill as well) or if you have a native tutor on a site like Verbling or Cambly, you can give this presentation to your tutor for speaking practice. Challenge yourself to use any new vocabulary in your summary.
Reading Practice – sites like Engoo Daily News, Breaking News English or News in Levels take real news topics and break them into lessons that you can use to study on your own or with a tutor. You could even partner up with a friend who is also learning English and use them for discussion.
Listening Practice – 6 Minute English – The BBC Learning English website has a great section with a podcast, audio clips and videos that present six new vocabulary words for each topic. It’s quite engaging and there are great follow up exercises as well. (For American English, I recommend the Rachel’s English YouTube Channel.)
MMM English – Emma is an English teacher from Australia with a great library of YouTube videos that teach grammar, pronunciation, idioms and more. Her pronunciation is very clear (and different from my American accent) and she often uses food vocabulary for examples.
- If you love food, think about searching for recipes in English or learning to describe foods from your country in English.
- If you live in an English-speaking country, check out menus and restaurant reviews in English for vocabulary that you can use the next time you go out to eat.
- For advanced readers, I recommend the website Roads & Kingdoms for some delicious reading that will make you want to eat your way around the world.
Other ESL Resources
Are you trying to improve your English?
- For help with your studies and speaking practice, you can find me on Verbling so we can work together on your English learning goals! I’m happy to help you gain confidence in speaking, to study for immigration or exams like IELTS and TOEIC, to learn practical phrases for business, travel, and of course food. (I’ve even got a whole course designed around learning English through talking about food!)
- If you simply want to improve your conversation skills and don’t need structured lessons, try Cambly! This app connects you with native speakers so you can improve your fluency. You can find my current schedule on my Cambly profile if you’d like to make a reservation with me, or browse for any tutor who is available online! (Use the promo code ShoyuSugar or click here to get 20 minutes free to test Cambly out for yourself.)