Learning English is a difficult and time-consuming pursuit, but on the plus side, it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you have the ability to motivate yourself, there are numerous free resources out there to help you improve all aspects of your English. Here is Knox English‘s guide to improving your English for free:
Language Learning Apps
Memrise is a fantastic app that uses flashcards to help students rote learn. There are hundreds of courses on Memrise, so you can learn from language-specific apps (e.g. IELTS vocabulary), or you can pick a topic that interests you, from capital cities around the world to names of yoga poses. There are lots of cool features, like the ability to make your own course and the option to compete against your friends, so it’s addictive as well as educational.
Duolingo is probably the most popular language-learning app out there, but its main drawback is that it’s aimed predominantly at English speakers. If you’re keen on learning French or Russian, you may be out of luck, but fortunately for us, this app is great for learners of English. The founder of the app noticed how people learn more when it’s fun, so he decided to give Duolingo a game-style format. Users amass points for correct answers, and the app sends you reminders when you haven’t hit your daily target. It can be pretty addictive, and with just 20 minutes a day, it’s possible to build up an impressive knowledge of grammar and vocabulary in just a couple of months.
Listening & Speaking
With hundreds of movie scripts to choose from, imsdb.com is a great place to improve your comprehension of day-to-day English – the kind of language you won’t learn in a text book. To improve your listening, play a scene from a movie and try to write down what the characters say. It takes a lot of rewinding and replaying, but try your best to write it down as accurately as possible without looking at the script. Once you’ve finished, correct your work with the script from IMSDb, then play the scene a few more times – first while looking at your revised script, then without it. Do this regularly, and you’ll soon notice your comprehension skills increase.
Movie scripts are great resources to improve your listening, but some of the most impressive speaking gains I’ve seen have been from students who memorised entire scenes from movies and were able to repeat them verbally. Try it. Take a one-minute scene and memorise the whole dialogue. Next, play that scene and take the part of one of the actors. Every time s/he comes on screen, turn the volume to mute and recite that character’s lines. Once you’re finished, change characters and try it again until you can recite every line accurately with the correct intonation. Trust me – this works.
4. Speaking 24
Speaking 24 connects ESL learners who want to improve their speaking skills online. All you need to do is fill in your details at the top of the page, choose a speaking partner, then the website connects you via Skype. The beauty of Speaking 24 is that it’s truly international, so you can make friends – and practice your English – with people from around the world. It seems to be most popular in the Arab world and Brazil, but I’ve seen students from countries as diverse as Sweden, Colombia, and Azerbaijan.
5. AZ Lyrics
With a database containing thousands of songs, azlyrics.com works much the same way as IMSDb. Most of the songs on AZ can easily be found on YouTube or Vevo, and by listening repeatedly, writing down what you hear, checking your answers then listening again, you’ll find a dramatic increase in your comprehension. On the downside, song lyrics don’t always follow standard grammatical patterns, but they are good for vocabulary, slang, and metaphors. Make sure you choose a song you like, that way you’ll continue your studies when you’re singing in the shower!
Reading & Writing
The English Test Store site looks a bit messy, but its reading comprehension section is excellent. Click here to find the reading section, scroll down to the part entitled Multichoice Tests, choose your level, then work your way through the reading passages. English Test Store caters for all levels, and it’s great practice for exam-style comprehension questions.
Reddit is the Anglosphere’s largest discussion board, which makes it a great opportunity for you to interact with native English speakers online. A little bit similar to Korea’s Pikicast, this is a website for users to post interesting videos or articles for others to comment on. Each post or comment can be upvoted or downvoted, with users collecting karma (their total number of upvotes). The best thing about Reddit as a language-learning tool is that it’s divided into subreddits, so you can find a topic that interests you (from Premier League soccer to K-pop) and join in the discussions. Warning: the internet has its own vocabulary, and it might be a good idea to study some internet acronyms before you start.
8. ESOL Courses
ESOL Courses is arguably the best free online resources for non-native speakers to practice English. It covers all aspects of language learning, from grammar and vocabulary to listening and writing. The writing section comes in a fill-in-the-blank format, with options for using texts, videos, or songs to study with. Although fill-in-the-blank questions won’t help you with your essay writing, ESOL Courses is great for improving your vocabulary and spelling.
A little bit different to the other websites mentioned so far, Grammarly is a plug-in that corrects your grammar whenever you write online – from Facebook to Naver. It works like Microsoft Word’s grammar checker but with higher accuracy and a more in-depth analysis regarding the mistakes you make. If you want to improve your essay-writing skills, installing Grammarly to your computer is a must.
10. Alphablocks (BBC)
Alphablocks is a BBC-made series that helps English learners improve their phonetic ability. Although it’s aimed at children (Series 1 concentrates on the alphabet), some of the songs, like the Y-song above, are seriously addictive. The first two series are great for complete beginners, and Series 3 and 4 contain phonemes that even more confident English speakers might not know.
Of course, there are thousands of websites that cater to English learners, but a lot of them are terrible. The above websites are fun, quirky ways to pick up a language without the stuffiness of the traditional classroom environment. Do you have any recommendations for good websites? If so, please let us know below.