English Resources

These are some of my all-time favorite resources for learning English as a second language.

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The internet is packed with information and resources to improve English. Do you feel like you’re on a boat, floating directionless in the ocean? Do you feel like you’re going to sink from overwhelm?

You’re not alone. 

If you’re like most language learners, you might pop from one site to another, taking advice from a number of different teachers and sources. A little vocab here, a little grammar there; "Voila! I’m studying!"

Don’t waste time. By using the best sources out there, you can optimize your time spent on and off the internet.

English Classes Online

There’s Verbling, Cambly (app), Lingoda and many other websites that make it possible to find language teachers for online English classes. (Lucas, my husband, and I met while I taught on Verbling!).

The all work well! Yet, it’s italki that’s the magnet. It’s where I got my first ESL teaching job online, it’s been a source of great friendships and experiences and allowed me to survive while overseas. 

Even today, when it’s time to take language classes online, it’s the first stop I make because it’s so dang easy to find perfect teachers (in any language), in my price range and exactly to my specifications. (Learn more about that here). 

  • iTalki: Find teachers of various experience, language partners, read articles and get text corrected for free. 
Read my article about Practicing English Speaking here
    italki: More than 10000 teachers available

    Practice English In Person

    There’s no quicker way to meet locals than to find a Meetup or Couchsurfing events.

    • Meetup.com is an American website which allows you to find like-minded people and events based on your hobbies (there are many language events as well!). If I were traveling to a big city and wanted to meet people, this is where I’d look.
    • Couchsurfing Events You may know couchsurfing as a style of traveling – however, it’s also a great way to meet travelers and locals to hang out and practice English. Meet foreigners visiting your city or other travelers while abroad!

    I’ve created four language meetup groups over the years in São Paulo, Berlin, Potsdam and Vilnius, and they enabled me to build deep connections and lasting friendships. For that reason, I WILL ALWAYS support these life-changing companies.

    Note: Facebook is still used for events! If there are no Meetups or Couchsurfing events near you, try Facebook. Type "language meetup in _____ city name" or "language event in _____ city name" to make sure you’re not missing out!

    Reading + Vocabulary 

    The more you read, the better your vocabulary will be. It’s that simple. The questions is, what should you read? Are you going to do extensive reading or intensive reading? 

    Extensive reading is the process of reading long texts over a period of time (novels!). You may not look up every word or understand every grammar aspect in the text because it would kill the fun of reading! Learn how to choose books for extensive reading and check out my list of Intermediate Book Recommendations.

    Intensive reading is the process of reading a text with the intent of understanding all of its bits and pieces. It’s a challenging exercise that requires focus. Ideal texts for intensive reading are somewhat short (news articles, magazine pieces, etc.). 

    • My 5-Minute English Course is all about intensive listening / reading. It’s called fluency one topic at a time because you’ll master vocabulary in one subject, one week at a time. There’s audio, quizzes, exercises and more, to make sure you master key terminology! 
    • Breaking News English is a website where you can read news articles, learn vocab and do exercises. If you have a language partner or teacher, I recommend trying these out with him / her.
      • Note of use: Beginners (levels 0 – 2), Intermediate to Advanced (levels 3 – 6). 
    • When I actively taught (before having babies), I created my own material for students AND occasionally used material found online. One course I used with them was the 1000 Collocations Course by Espresso English. Lessons in this course are short, fun and super useful. Check out one of the sample lessons on Family. 
      • Collocations are groups of words that natives often use together – they’re kind of a pain and awkward to teach without prepared material.  

    Grammar

    Some people hear the word grammar and want to run. Do you do that? 

    I assume it’s because some middle school or high school teacher turned grammar into a complex, frightening monster. It can be a monster if it’s taught poorly. Let’s avoid that and study with some high quality books and courses.

    • English Grammar in Use: Raymond Murphy. If you want a solid textbook that will clarify all of your grammar confusion, Raymond Murphy is your man. He does a solid job at simplifying grammar and then giving a plethora (a lot) of examples with pictures and exercises. It’s very straight to the point and simplistic; ideal for learners and ESL teachers.

    As a teacher, it has been my go-to reference book when students have questions about grammar. The cherry on top is that the author is British and he shares crucial differences between British vs. American English! Pretty wonderful, right?

    (All of the books listed below are great! Since I teach Intermediate English, I tend to use the Intermediate one most.).

    The Intermediate Course (Coming Soon!)

    If you prefer a course that teaches grammar with video explanations, as well as the exercises and quizzes to test yourself, hold tight! 

    I’m in the process of creating the Intermediate Course which aims at helping you move from an intermediate level to an advanced level in English. How? Through mastery of tenses and vocabulary required in storytelling and daily communication of complex thoughts and ideas.

    The course is not yet available, but sign up to be notified of its release.

    Accent & Pronunciation

    Deciding whether to work on accent is a personal choice. If it’s difficult to be understood, or if your accent affects your confidence, it might be worth checking out ways to improve it!

    Rachel’s English on YouTube has free lessons available to the public which you can work through at your own pace.  You can get your accent corrected for free using Judge My Accent on Reddit (I recommend doing max 2 minute readings), which isn’t a full-proof solution, but can often lead to useful feedback.

    I use Vocaroo to create the weblink of vocal recordings right on my computer – it’s too easy!

    The combination of free video lessons and free accent correction is a great way to see if you enjoy working on accent. If you do, you will benefit from  structured lessons (and lesson progression!) and constant specialized feedback. If you’re interested, consider signing up for the:

    • The American English Accent Course – is a course that teaches pronunciation sounds as well as grouping, linking, reduced forms, word and syllable stress, and other fundamentals of the American English Accent. Do a lesson, post your recording and get direct feedback from me.
    • The ELSA – Pronunciation App  – teaches American English pronunciation and makes practicing it a game. Not only do my students love Elsa, many of my colleagues recommend it for its ease of use and simplicity. For the best deal ($6.25/month), check out this page: ELSA PRO – 1 year US$6.25/month – BEST DEAL!
    The American English Accent Course

    Listening Comprehension

    At an intermediate level, you’re at the stage when you can start listening to podcasts entirely based on your interests. Here are some topics that you might be interested in! 

    If you want to listen to live conversations and participate (do it, do it!), try Clubhouse.

    Flashcards (for memorization)

    If you love flashcards, I can’t think of any better flashcard apps than the following:  

    • AnkiApp – A lot of my language-learning friends love flashcards and those who do are advocates of AnkiApp. Their system with spaced repetition was developed by a neuroscientist to insure you don’t waste time. 
    • Memrise is a great way to have fun while learning vocabulary. There’s a heavy focus on the gamification of vocabulary and memory technique to assist with mastery (mnemonic devices, imagery, etc.). Not going to lie, I briefly dipped my toes into Russian and Chinese and it was so fun I actually remember a lot from the experience!
      • Example: To teach the  Russian pronunciation of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie = Brad’s face was in a piece of bread and the Angelina Jolie was in the jelly – Bread Pitt and Angelina Jelly! 🙂
    • Quizlet – Some say this is the simplified version of Anki. The interface is simple and so easy to make the cards. It’s free, unless you want to add your own audio.

    My tip: On each site / app you can access pre-made sets (flashcards created by other users also studying English). Yes, these are nice, but also make your own flashcards with your own words. When you do, you’re more invested in the terms, in their meanings and to top it off, you’re practicing repetition! Repetition = retention. 

    Writing

    Learn effectively by utilizing all of your language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

    After you listen or read (input), write or speak about it (output). My go-to activity is to write 10 original sentences with new vocabulary words from a podcast episode OR write a summary of what I heard. It’s not only a great way to review, but a good habit to adopt because you’ll always reuse vocabulary you just heard!

    They say repetition is key for memorization, but did you know you will memorize new words faster if you use them? 

    If you’re looking to write and get corrected, check out the following:

    • Get Topics: Ielts-exam.net has good topics to write about in English. Each topic includes an example assignment by a native speaker. Even though this site is intended for test prep, it’s generally relevant.
    • Free Writing Correction: If you have an important writing assignment or cover letter, I wouldn’t rely on free writing correction sites / features. For quick corrections and occasional confusion, the iTalki Notebook and HiNative (formerly Lang-8) work wonders. You can also casually chat with other learners and natives using the HelloTalk app; correction functionality is embedded into the platform (for audio + writing!).

    Why do people correct for free? Well, many people really do it out of the goodness of their hearts, others do it to get recognized as teachers / translators (depending on the site). You don’t need to purchase their services after they help, but don’t forget to thank them!

    writing

    Business English

    I don’t teach Business English because, in all honesty, it’s incredibly important and I don’t find it interesting enough to make a course about it. However, some of my colleagues care greatly about the topic and have created top-notch courses to teach the subject. 

    Here’s what I would do: There’s a lot of vocabulary to be learned in Business English from email etiquette to professional complaints, etc. To optimize your time, I would purchase a business English course to learn independently and take online classes with a business English specialist to solidify the newly learned information.

    Once again, always speak or write about (output) what you’ve listened to or read (input) to improve your ability to remember new terms.

    I’d purchase the following course and find your teacher:

    • Step 1: Business English by Espresso English. The creator of this course, Shayna, is extremely well-spoken and has clear explanations geared to intermediate English learners. What I like most about Shayna’s courses isn’t the design, it’s the quality of words, structure and intelligent progression of lessons. I’ve used a number of her lessons in my English classes and my students love her content. Do a lesson, take a class and talk about what you’ve learned.
    • Step 2: Find the teacher (see image below)- Go onto italki and filter for:
      • Teacher is from: United States / Native Speaker /  Lesson Type (optional) – interview, presentation, business etiquette, negotiation, meeting.

    IELTS Exam

    You want to live overseas, but don’t know what to do first. Chances are preparing for the IELTS exam is a logical first step. The IELTS exam is an internationally recognized test that is accepted at most universities, government institutions and the U.S. State Department for immigration purposes! 

    Proof of having taken this exam is great to have in your pocket – that is, as long as you have a decent score. 

    Scoring high on the exam is a matter of hard work, strategy and a study plan. The 3-Keys IELTS Course is my go-to recommendation to students wanting to take the exam because it provides strategy and a study plan. You come, follow the instructions given by Jessica (a former IELTS examiner of 12 years!) and test. They have some solid money-back guarantees if it doesn’t work out, but according to thousands of successful stories – that scenario doesn’t seem likely.

    Yes, it’s pricy, but believe me it’s much pricier to fail and take the test again + waste time doing that. 

    Use my link for a $50 off coupon.

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    Why is this list so short? The following sources have been gathered since 2011; some sites + apps have stayed on this list while others got knocked off when I no longer saw value in them. This list has been filtered and what you’re seeing is the cream of the crop (the best of the best). If you think a site or service is missing from the list, please let me know! Write me on instagram @americanenglishpodcast.

    I’ve partnered with my favorite services because I trust them and their products. The affiliate links on this page help support me as an independent content creator.