When learning a language, the key to success is to turn studying into a lifestyle, constantly make discoveries, and practice. We have prepared a selection of 16 free resources to help you with this. By choosing one (or better, more) application or website from each section, you can develop all aspects of mastering the language: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and listening skills.
English Learning Sites
American English was created by the Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States. They are specifically intended for internationals learning English as a second language. It offers multiple courses, most of which are free. They are supplemented by quizes, interactive lessons and many additional materials. This site is especially useful for those who need to get deeper language knowledge in a specific professional sphere: it offers, for example, a program in "English for Journalism" and an “English for STEM students” course.
BBC Learn English is an educational resource from the British radio station BBC. The materials on it are sorted into courses so that you do not have to make up the study program yourself. The site is suitable for different levels, but most of the content is on A2 and B1 levels. There is also a guide with individual grammar topics if you are interested in something specific. The resource is additionally available in the form of an application.
Why use BBC learn English
Learn grammar. The site has the 6 Minute Grammar podcast, where lessons cover basic grammar topics at basicand intermediatelevels. First, you are given a little theory and asked to complete assignments, then you listen to a podcast or watch a video of the hosts practicing the topic you just have learned.
Learning vocabulary. The 6 Minute English program works in a similar way: you learn words by listening to short recordings — simple and interesting.
Flashcards are one of the most popular ways to learn new words and phrases. On one side of a card, you write a phrase in English, on the other — a translation. Of course, now you no longer need to cut cards out of paper or cardboard, there are many resources and applications for this. We will talk about two main ones.
Anki is a classic program with basic functionality: you are given a card and you have to say what is written on the other side. You can make sets of cards yourself or you can use the ones created by other users.
Initially, the program was created for language learners, but over 15 years students from a wide variety of fields of study have come to love it. There are four versions of the program: the desktop standalone version, the Web version, and apps on Androidand iOS. The application for iOSis paid, it costs 25 USD. The rest of the versions are free.
Spaced repetition system. The program uses one of the best ways to learn new words — spaced repetition system (SRS). This system is based on memory mechanisms. You repeat a new word in a minute after learning it, the next time in a few hours, then in a day, and so on. Thanks to this approach, words remain in memory for a long time.
Ready-made sets. The Anki already has a huge number of card sets with the words, so if you just want to learn irregular verbs or, for example, the vocabulary for a specific topic, like “traveling,”you do not have to spend time creating cards.
Lots of settings. In the program, you can customize the format of the cards and the repetition time if the standard settings do not suit you.
Can be used offline. The offline version of Anki isfree, so you can study anywhere and anytime, without connecting to the internet.
Complicated interface. Interface and design have long been outdated. It is not intuitive and borderline incomprehensible to new users. To figure out how to work with the program, you may have to watch tutorials.
Paid version for iOS. Anki for iPhoneis quite expensive — 25 USD. This is not a subscription though, the program will be yours to use forever.
Only one mode. Anki isessentially an electronic replacement for paper cards. There are no additional modes in the program. This can make memorization seem monotonous and boring.
No automatic syncing. The app and desktop versions do not sync automatically. You will have to do it manually.
The basic principles in Quizlet are the same as in Anki, but in Quizlet, there are additional modes. The program is available on all platforms, the basic version is free. You will have to pay to get access to advanced functionality.
Clear interface. Quizlet hasan intuitive and modern design. You just want to learn more in such an application.
Several modes of study. In Quizlet, in addition to the standard mode with cards, four more are used — “Learn,” “Write,” “Spell” and “Test.” Thanks to this, classes are more varied and interesting.
Ready-made sets. In Quizlet, as in Anki, there are plenty of ready-made sets of words.
No spaced repetition system. The main disadvantage of Quizlet is the lack of SRS. Because of this, training may not be as effective as in Anki.
Full functionality. To use the offline version and other important functions, you will have to pay 2.99 USD or 3.99 USD per month, depending on the tariff.
When learning a language, it is important to find opportunities to talk. Without this, you are unlikely to advance far. For offline communication in English, you can look for conversation clubs in any major city. There are online alternatives as well.
Tandem is an app for finding speech practice partners. Users "exchange" their languages: a native English speaker will speak with you in English, and you will help them master your own mother tongue. In the application, you can call, chat, send voice messages — in general, everything is like it would be in any messenger. The basic version is free.
Good design. Thanks to its modern design, the application is clear and user-friendly.
Many language partners. In Tandem, there aremore than one million active users, so finding a partner is easy.
Search for tutors. The app has an additional service for finding tutors. However, specialized services such as iTalki are better suited for this.
Bugs in the application. Users complain about frequent errors in the application that occur even at the stage of creating an account.
Not all partners take language learning seriously. Many people use the applicationas an alternative to Tinder. Therefore, it can take a while to find someone who is as serious about learning a language as you are.
HiNative is different from the previous two applications. On this platform, you can ask native speakers about anything, but it is not intended directly for communication. When registering, you state your native language and the target language which you need help with. Points are awarded for good answers. Using them, you can move your question up so that more people can see it. Answers on HiNative come fairly quickly, sometimes literally within five minutes. But keep in mind that not all native speakers are proficient in the language. Therefore, it is better to double-check the grammar explanations on third-party resources. But on the other hand, there is no doubt about the "sense of language" that they have.
What you can do in HiNative
Check the text for errors. On HiNative, you can post sentences or short texts and ask native speakers to check them. They will tell you if the text sounds natural, if there are any mistakes, and how to fix them.
Check pronunciation.You can record your speech and send it to a native speaker for approval, or, conversely, ask them to pronounce a written phrase for you.
Ask a question about the country. You can ask questions not only about the language but also about life in the country and about culture. If you are going to the country, locals can tell you where to stay, which shops are cheaper, and how much transportation costs.
Podcasts are perhaps the best way to combine business with pleasure. By listening to podcasts, you will not only train your listening skills, but you will also learn something interesting. Often text transcripts are attached to them, so you can read through incomprehensible parts. Podcasts exist for every level, from an absolute beginnerto Advanced.
Voice of America Learning English
The website of Voice of America, an American broadcaster, has recordings of broadcasts specifically for foreigners and intermediate language learners. The programs have different themes: art and culture, science and technology, health and lifestyle, US history, and others. Each episode lasts 3-5 minutes, so you can listen to a dozen episodes in one subway ride. The announcer's voice is slowed down by one-third, so the information is easy to understand. The most basic vocabulary is used, and difficult terms are always explained.
This podcast is meant to introduce intermediate learners to intricacies of the language that they haven’t encountered prior. It teaches how to differentiate between similar words, discusses complicated colloquial phrases and even helps you understand where and why to change the speech tempo. The podcasts are completely free and all have clear titles — you won’t click "play" and wonder what you are about to hear.
All Ears English is a series of educational podcasts aimed at introducing the listener to real-life, authentic English speech. It has varied exercises, vocabulary practice and a competitive rating. The latter motivates the listener to not only develop for themself, but also to climb the ladder and beat the other users. The podcasts offer many different topics, allowing you to master talking about miscellaneous subjects in even the most unusual situations.
This American Life is the most-watched podcast in the United States. The number of downloads for each episode is over 1 million. The length of the episodes is different, from 10 to 20 minutes. The announcer reads unusual and fascinating stories from the life of ordinary Americans. With the help of the podcast, you can get acquainted with different American dialects, because people from all over the country take part in the show. The rate of speech is natural, so it can be quite fast. The words used by speakers are also sometimes uncommon and regional, so it is better to listen to the podcast once you are at the Advanced level.
TED is an American nonprofit organization. Twice a year it holds conferences under the motto "Ideas worth spreading." Famous politicians, artists, scientists, as well as completely unknown people, who want to share something important with the world are the speakers there. TED lectures are engaging, delivered in simple language, often with humor. That is why viewers love them so much: the most popular speeches have tens of millions of views on YouTube.
TED lectures can be great material for self-studies. With their help, you will enrich your vocabulary, improve your listening skills and pronunciation. The results will be better if you work with TED videos in the following order:
First, watch the performance without subtitles. Concentrate, try to understand as much as possible;
Watch the video again, but now with English subtitles. Pay attention to the parts that you did not understand on the first watch;
To practice pronunciation, read the words from the subtitles out loud after the speaker, copying all intonations.
Write down unfamiliar words and repeat them after a while. You can use cards for this part.
Google Translate is not always able to give an adequate equivalent of an English word, and this goes double for whole sentences. Dictionaries will come in handy: not only bilingual but also general and definingsimilar to general dictionaries, but shorter and typically giving only one meaning per word — they are perticularly useful to learners. ones.
Reverso Context is a corpus dictionary where you can see how a word is used in context. When you enter the word, on the left you are given excerpts with this word in the original language, on the right — in translation. Reverso Context is very useful because it shows different translations of the same word. It supports 14 languages and has a built-in “synonyms” feature.
Cambridge Dictionary — a set of Cambridge dictionaries, there are both bilingual and explanatory editions. An explanatory dictionary is the surest way to understand the meaning of a word, especially if it has a lot of equivalents.
Urban Dictionary is a dictionary of slang phrases and expressions. It will definitely come in handy if you communicate a lot with native speakers or, for example, love films by Guy Ritchie.
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy
Raymond Murphy's Textbook is the ultimate grammar guide for all English learners. It stands out from the rest of similar books for its simple explanations and at the same time a wide range of topics covered. All the grammar you will need up to the Upper-Intermediatelevel can be found in Murphy. The book is pricey, costing around 40 USD in paperback, but it’s definitely worth it.