Dear English Language Students,
You can practice your English skills independently, even your Speaking skills! 5 minutes a day is always a good idea.
Remember, if you want to move your abilities up a level, you need 180 hours of class AND 180 hours of independent study!
Here are some free resources that may help you with your Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
1. Talk to a real person (to improve fluency/speed):
There are meetups for Language Exchange in Paris. You speak in English, and the English speakers will ask you to teach them a little French, too.
*TIP: Ask your partner to correct your mistakes. This is very important!
2. Read aloud (to improve accuracy):
Reading an English text out loud is a wonderful way to memorize the word order and word combinations that make up the English language.
Read slowly: in order to remember the word-order. Repeat sentences or phrases a lot. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! It’s ok if you only read 2 or 3 sentences per day. Quality is more important than quantity.
This is a great method, because you are practicing 3 skills at the same time: speaking, listening and reading.
TIP: Choose text that use vocabulary that you want to use. For example, if your goal is to speak during business finance meetings, select texts that have that vocabulary in it. If you provide customer service for a technical platform, read texts that use the vocabulary you need when you talk to your customers. If your goal is to use better English when you travel around the world, then read tourism texts about hotels, restaurants and transportation!
3. Watch a TED video and read the transcript (to improve accuracy):
Choose an interesting video on www.ted.com and turn on “CC: closed captions” to see the subtitles. Then, look for an interactive transcript.
Read the transcript out loud at the same time as – or immediately after – the speaker. This is great for checking your pronunciation and for learning whole expressions.
NOTE: You can also use this strategy with the transcripts to the podcasts listed below in the Listening section. Scroll down on this page for the links to 6-Minute English and News in Slow English.
4. Sing along to music (fun!):
If you want to learn English by listening to music, please remember that musicians sing *poetry*, so you are probably not learning perfect grammar.
Also, be careful! Musicians may also sing lyrics (and use vocabulary) that may not be appropriate to say at work, or to repeat to your boss.
However, it can be great for improving pronunciation and learning vocabulary! Plus, it’s fun! 🙂
Try using the app (or website) Deezer. You can read the lyrics *as you listen! Click on the image of the microphone to show the lyrics. Not all songs have the lyrics, so skip to the songs that do.
5. Pronunciation Resource (to improve accuracy):
If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, check this website, which offers the British (blue) and American (red) pronunciations of words.
6. Repeat sentences and expressions out loud:
Once you find correctly written sentences that you want to use again: practice practice practice! Repetition is the best way for you to memorize these expressions. It may also help you to re-write the expressions on paper.
It’s very important that you listen to things *at your level.* Have you ever seen a TV show that used very technical words (like Doctor House?), and your brain couldn’t understand anything? Don’t watch that kind of TV, it’s too difficult and won’t help you learn.
To improve your oral comprehension, you must have “comprehensible input,” which essentially means that it should not be too easy, or too hard.
1. Watch TV or Movies at your level *with English subtitles
If you are a level A or B, don’t watch Dr. House or shows with very technical vocabulary. Try watching shows that mostly use general vocabulary, like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, the Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, etc. They aren’t very intellectual shows, but as your level of English improves, you can move on to higher level TV shows.
Try this: Watch the episode a first time with subtitles: pause and rewind as much as you like. Then, watch the episode a second time (with or without subtitles), and without stopping. This will reinforce what you learned during the first viewing.
2. Listen to Podcasts
A podcast is similar to a radio show. You can listen to episodes on their websites, or through iTunes on your computer, or subscribe to the podcast in the Podcast App on your smartphone.
These podcasts are all for Adult English Learners, and they are also all available on iTunes.
- 6-Minute English [Current events or interesting topics] (6 min each week) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pc9tn/episodes/downloads
- News in Slow English [News & Current Events] (5 min each week) https://www.newsinslowenglish.com
- All Ears English Podcast – Advanced Level [Discussion of interesting topics and specific English expressions] (12-17 min each) https://www.allearsenglish.com/
- Learning English Dramas [fictional stories] (6-10 min each) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pc9s1/episodes/downloads
- The English We Speak [Language lesson] (3 min each) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pc9zn/episodes/downloads
If your English level is near fluent, I recommend finding a Podcast on a topic that is interesting to you, and then listen to it every week. To find a podcast, search keywords in your smartphone Podcast app, or search Google.
NOTE: The websites for 6-Minute English and News in Slow English both offer transcripts to read as you listen. You can use this for your speaking skills to if you repeat what you hear the speakers say!
3. Watch TED talks
TED talks are fun and exciting presentations on a wide variety of topics. I love watching them, however sometimes the speakers talk quickly and use technical vocabulary.
Almost all of them have English “Closed Captions” (subtitles for the hearing impaired), which is excellent for English language learners like yourselves!
Write for your job, or write emails to friends. Write a personal journal. Find every opportunity you have to write.
2.Use a variety of tools to find the BEST word
- Google Translate website or app: this feature is improving every day, but be careful, because it is only correct for word-to-word translations about 80% of the time. The program makes even more grammar and vocabulary mistakes in large blocks of text (like paragraphs). https://translate.google.fr
- Word Reference website or app: This can be very helpful for word-to-word translations, but it is not 100% perfect. http://www.wordreference.com
- Linguee website or app: This is a great resource to see how other people have translated a word or expression, however there are some terrible translators out there, so this resource is far from perfect. https://www.linguee.fr
A very good translation requires use of all three of these websites, as well as additional research to find the truly perfect word or expression. It takes a lot of time and careful consideration!
You should never plagiarize someone else’s work (copy and say that it is your own)! Ever. However, when your colleague uses a really great expression in her email, you should feel comfortable copying the expression to use in your future emails. Sometimes your colleagues might make a typo or write something with a mistake, so be careful about that when you use this approach!
The best way to learn new vocabulary is by reading texts *at your level.* If it is difficult to read, you CAN succeed in understanding, but it will give you a headache (mal à la tête), and you will not help yourself to learn English.
How do you know if the text is “at your level”? Use the “5-finger rule” : If you find 5 or more words you don’t know in the first 10 sentences of the text, it is too hard. It is too easy if you know all of the words, or you only find one unknown word in the first 10 sentences. 3-4 unknown words is perfect.
1. Keep a vocabulary notebook
You MUST write down the vocabulary you learn in a notebook. Write down the word in English, and also the translation in your first language. Study this notebook and practice using these words when you speak and when you write.
2. Read Leveled Readers (novels at your level of English)
Books for adults in English are often too difficult for adult English language learners. As an English language learner, you need to read books at your level. “Leveled readers” are adult books that have been re-written in a simplified English.
The WHSmith bookstore (near Place de la Concorde) sells leveled readers. There are books on every topic and they cost between 5€ and 9€.
If you want your book delivered to you, look for books on theses websites, and then order the book on Amazon.fr! 😉
3. Read articles on the web
Remember to find articles at your level. The Huffington Post has several English language websites (for the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.). The US version has articles written at level B English, which is a good level for most adult English language learners. It also has articles about MANY different topics, so if you search the site, you will likely find an article that interests you. (US: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
If your level is higher (or near fluent), try reading blogs about topics you find interesting, or read the news at BBC.com, or other news sources you like.
4. Read “regular” books in English
Remember the 5-finger rule for finding books that are at your level of English. (See the notes under the heading “Reading Practice.”)
Non-leveled books are best for advanced English speakers (C1, C2 = very fluent speakers).
You can buy regular (non-leveled) English books at several book stores around Paris. Some of the most well known are: Shakespeare and Company (across the Seine from Notre Dame), Gibert Jeune Librarie Langue et Livres en V.O. (6, place St. Michel), WHSmith (near Place de la Concorde), and if you prefer secondhand books, visit Berkeley Books in the 6th arrondissement.
*Contact me if you have other ideas or questions!