To learn to speak fluent English, you need lots of exposure to spoken language coupled with opportunities to use what you’re learning. Many learners think that going to a traditional English course is the best way to learn. But you can also learn English very well on your own, without spending a lot of money. Before you sign up for a course, why not make the most of the audio and video resources for English learning that are widely available online?
There are many advantages to using audio and video compared to going to a traditional English class. Here are just a few:
- You can go at your own pace, and do as much or as little as you have time for.
- You can choose content that matches your needs and interests. You don’t have to do boring textbook lessons.
- If you don’t understand something while you’re listening, you can just press pause to give yourself time to think.
- You can rewind and listen to the same passage over and over again if you need to (and nobody will get impatient with you).
- You aren’t dependent on a teacher — you’re 100% in control of your own learning.
English is such a widely spoken language that the possibilities for finding great content are practically limitless. In that way learners of English are really lucky. It’s a lot harder to find good material if you’re learning a language that isn’t so widely used. So, dear English learner, make the most of your good luck! Here are some tips to get you started.
INSTALL A LOOPING AUDIO PLAYER FOR LISTENING PRACTICE
Do not skip this step. Seriously.
Using a good looping audio player will make it much easier and more efficient for you to learn from the audio resources that you use for listening practice. Make sure to install a good audio player on your computer, phone, tablet, or wherever you plan to do your listening practice. Take the time to learn how it works.
There are many apps for A-B listening, but I found most of them super frustrating to use — so frustrating that I wanted to throw my phone against the wall! So have some patience while you are testing them (don’t throw your phone, you’ll regret it). The time you spend finding a good player will be totally worth it.
Here are the looping audio players I am currently using myself.
Language learning audio players that don’t suck
For Android, I like Repeat Player the best. At the time of writing, it is free and has no ads.
On iOS, I think Speater is the simplest and easiest to use. There is a lite version so you can try it for free. The main limitation of the lite version is that you can only set repeats for the first 2 minutes of audio.
THE TWO BEST PAID AUDIO AND VIDEO RESOURCES FOR LEARNING ENGLISH
Now that you have your audio listening system set up, let’s find some content to learn from.
Most learners are interested in free options for learning English, which I’ve listed at the end of this section. But if you have a little bit of money to invest, there are a couple of paid sites that are worth spending money on.
Both of FluentU and EnglishClass101 have basic free accounts with limited functionality, so you can “try before you buy” or just continue using the free stuff. But the paid premium accounts are not expensive, and give you everything you need to take your English to the next level.
One great advantage of these sites is that they offer a structured path to English fluency. When you’re all on your own, things tend to get a bit chaotic, you get easily overwhelmed, and it’s hard to create a structure for yourself from the endless sea of free material. Following an online course can help you structure your learning and make faster progress.
My only real criticism of EnglishClass101 is that even premium members still get audio files with ads for — you guessed it — the premium service. I am a premium member on the EnglishClass101 sister site, DutchPod101, for my Dutch learning. The ads in the audio files get really annoying. Why do premium members still have to hear the ads for the service they’ve already bought? It boggles the mind. But the benefit of having a structured course keeps me coming back despite the annoying ads.
I understand you might not be able to invest money in your English learning, so here is a list of some great free resources for learning English on your own.
FREE AUDIO AND VIDEO RESOURCES FOR LEARNING ENGLISH
Video – watch and listen for English learning
Videos of native speakers having conversations on many different topics. Transcripts and quizzes provided.
Behind the News
Australian educational video webcasts from Australia’s ABC-TV. Transcripts available. Designed for children, but the topics are interesting for adults as well.
The directory of available videos at CNN. So far the ads aren’t that intrusive. Lots of resources here for you to practice your listening comprehension.
CNN Video Podcasts
Video podcasts at CNN – lots of news and stories to help you practice your English listening.
BBC Video Nation
Short video clips on all kinds of topics.
BBC Comedy clips
Video clips from various BBC comedy series – laugh and learn!
BBC Film network
A collection of short films in various genres. Some of excellent quality. No exercises – just watch, listen, enjoy and learn.
Australia Network – Living English
Excellent videos, exercises and learning materials about general English – for beginning to intermediate learners.
Australia Network – The business of English
Excellent videos, exercises and learning materials about Business English – for intermediate to advanced learners
English language audio and podcasts
Some of these have video as well
Podcast directory at the British Council. Varied topics, transcripts available (PDF format). At the site you’ll also find quizzes and exercises.
Voice of America – Special English.
News and stories in Special English. Special English is English that is simplified and read slowly. Lots of great listening material here and many transcripts.
Podcasts at CNN – lots of news and stories to help you practice your English listening.
Breaking News English
Listening, exercises, and even lesson plans for teachers. Updated fairly regularly with current news stories.
BBC World Service – Learning English Home page.
Something for everyone – videos, listening, business and general English, grammar. Many listening activities have transcripts you can download so you read along as you listen.
NPR (National Public Radio, USA)
A wide variety of news, reports and broadcasts. Best suited for upper intermediate to advanced learners.
The BBC Online offers several channels to listen to. Wide range of topics. There’s something for everyone here.
Put your learning into practice
If you do focused study of lots of audio and video material and then make sure to practice what you learn an English teacher or speaking partner, your English speaking skills will improve dramatically in a very short time. That is, provided you are consistent.