March 3, 2015
I always encourage my students to expose themselves to as much English as possible. In my opinion it is important to practice and study for one hour at least 3 times a week and you have to practice all four areas, reading, writing, speaking and listening. Some of you have asked me for the best way to learn English online for free. Well, there are a ton of free resources for language learners on the web. The best free resources for learning English online are some of the same I mentioned for learning Spanish online, but here I will mention the resources for learning English.
Here are some good sites to get started. The British Council website has games, stories, audio and video activities grammar exercises and IELTS practice tests. The BBC Learning English website offers a free course for English learners. ESL Gold has lessons, podcasts, videos, tests, etc and it is all sorted by levels. English Baby has lessons based on American pop-culture, they also have chat rooms and forums to help you meet people and practice your English.
Free Language Learning programs
The first thing you should consider is whether or not you want to use a free language learning program. This is really only something I recommend for beginner and intermediate students. Check out Duolingo, Memrise, Busuu or Livemocha. They are a kind of all-in-one program to help you learn a language. They will definitely help you with your grammar, but they are not so useful for advanced learners and those who want to practice speaking.
LingQ, in another language learning program but it is different from the others. It has lessons and allows you to create flashcards of words that you don’t know from the lessons. You can than download the lesson and listen to it. The idea is to read, listen and review to help you learn a language (they have an app too).
Lang-8 allows you to post some writing in English and have it corrected by a native speaker. They encourage you to correct writings of others who are learning your native language. RhinoSpike is similar but with audio files, it allows you to post some writing in English that you want read aloud and then have it read by a native speaker, in exchange you must return the favour and read something in your native langauge.
Readlang is an amazing browser extension that allows users to translate words and phrases while reading a text or website. The Readlang website also allows users to share videos with the subtitles added by users as well as texts.
Conversation Exchange Websites
If you want to practice speaking and you can’t speak with anyone personally, you should use an conversation exchange website. These websites allow you to talk with someone from another country for free. A normal conversation could be 15 minutes in English and then 15 minutes in Spanish. You can use native speaker to correct your pronunciation and grammar (although they are not grammar experts). You can also talk about the things you are studying. Some of them connect through Facebook and others through Skype. There are a ton of these sites but some of the most popular are: SharedTalk, ConversationExchange, and Interpals
Reading and Writing Online
When it comes to reading, you should either pick a book and/or some websites to read. If you are into the news, read a newspapers website: some popular ones are The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and The New York Times. Wikipedia is well know online encyclopedia that you have probably heard of, but did you know about Simple English Wikipedia? This is a great resource for those who want to use Wikipedia but struggle with the vocabulary and grammar. English Online has free stories and articles written in easily understandable English, it is designed for learners.
A website I recommend not only for reading but also writing is Reddit. Here you can find any topic you are interested in and read about it and then write comments about it. Say you are interested in Canada, just go to the Canada forum (called a subreddit) sign up and read about and comment on the articles and issues affecting that country.
Lastly when it comes to listening you have a million resources the problem is you have to find one that is right for you. If you like watching The Simpsons in Spanish, watch them for free here in English. Pick a TV show, stream or download it and watch all the episodes in English. Watch the news in English. You should be watching movies in English too (use subtitles if possible). There are a wide variety of English podcasts. A few of the best English podcasts are: Radiolab, Third Coast, This American Life and Living out Loud from the CBC. The BBC website also has great podcasts.
You can also find English radio stations online and listen to them for example BBC radio or CBC radio. I don’t recommend listening exclusively to English music because it can be hard to understand and I don’t think you can learn much English from music alone. However, the more you expose yourself to English, through TV, movies, conversation exchanges, books and websites the more information you will retain and the faster you will learn.