If you or someone you know are struggling to learn English, the good news is that there are lots of online resources – many of them free – that can help you with English vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, comprehension, and overall fluency.
Different people benefit from different methods of English language learning, so here we have included a wide variety of helpful resources.
As well as free ways to learn English online, you may wish to consider meeting someone in-person, whether it’s a private tutor or a community group. There are also many good English learning resources that are not free, but can be worth paying for if you are keen to improve your English quickly.
Ways to learn English online
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to learn English is with the wealth of online ESL resources, tools, and communities that are available globally.
Online courses offer a flexible way to learn English, allowing you to study on your own schedule. These courses typically offer a combination of video lectures, interactive activities, and quizzes to help you practice your skills. Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced English learner, as long as you have an internet connection, you can learn English this way.
While even the best online English courses are generally more affordable than traditional classroom lessons, learners can end up with a lot of theoretical knowledge of the language and not much confidence using it.
However, online courses do have the benefit of letting you learn at your own pace and re-visit a lesson or topic as many times as you like. If you are learning English for a job, you may be able to find a course specific to your profession, too.
Some online course providers, such as Alison and Duolingo, offer free access to limited, ad-supported content. These can be a good place to start, but you may find it worth paying for a premium option as your learning develops.
Alternatively, you can access a free one-month trial with a program such as Gymglish. Their courses are ad-free and each lesson is adapted based on your previous progress and mistakes, so this can be a more efficient way to retain the knowledge you’re learning.
There are also many options for finding English courses near you, if you would prefer to meet in-person. Read our full guide to the best English courses for more recommendations according to your needs and preferences.
If you like the idea of a structured classroom environment but finances, time or location prevent you from attending classes locally, online English classes could be the solution.
These typically operate in an online classroom environment, where the teacher can share materials and interact with students. You can join a group class with other students or opt for a private, one-on-one class.
One benefit of live classes is that they help you learn English by listening and practicing your speaking, with live feedback from your teacher. You have an opportunity to ask questions and receive personalized help. This can be invaluable as it will help reduce the time it takes to learn English.
Because there are native English speakers around the world offering online classes, you can access them anytime – day or night – to fit your schedule.
If you want a free way to learn English, how about an online language exchange? These apps and websites let you find a language exchange partner who can help you learn their language in exchange for you teaching them yours. You’ll need to invest more time in this as you are teaching as well as learning, but there is no cost for the basic membership on most platforms.
Speaking to a native in this casual environment, whether you’re sending text messages or voice notes, can help you learn new vocabulary and understand how the language is used in the real world. You might also make some new friends in the process!
Plus, you’ll get to learn about other people’s cultures and countries. This is just one of the many benefits of learning English with other people.
Via platforms like meetup.com, you can connect with like-minded individuals and organize online events. Not only is this a fun way to learn English; it’s also a good way to make new friends around the world and learn about different cultures at the same time.
You could simply join an English-speaking community with an interest in a particular hobby or sport. This way, you can practice your conversation skills outside of a formal learning environment. Nobody need know that you have a hidden agenda of improving your English!
Podcasts offer English learners the chance to listen to authentic, natural language spoken by native speakers, with exposure to different accents and dialects.
Not only do they convey interesting information, but you can listen to a different one every day as you commute, work out, or do chores. This makes them one of the easiest ways to learn English.
It’s important to choose a podcast that suits your English learning level, because without interactive features or visual cues, podcasts are a real test of your listening comprehension.
Some good podcasts for learning English as a second language include:
- “The English We Speak” by the BBC: Short episodes that explain everyday English phrases and idioms.
- “6 Minute English” by the BBC: Six-minute episodes that discuss a range of topics, from science to culture, and focus on vocabulary and grammar.
- “The Moth”: Storytelling podcast featuring true, personal stories told live on stage, with a focus on spoken English.
- “All Ears English”: Focuses on natural, everyday English conversations, with lessons on idioms and phrasal verbs.
- “ESLPod”: Offers a mix of lessons on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, along with cultural insights and real-life English scenarios.
- “Learn English Podcast” from British Council: Just like the materials that accompany their English classes, British Council’s podcast is helpful and well-presented. Various materials accompany each episode to enhance opportunities to learn.
- “Something Rhymes with Purple”: Explores the origins and meanings of unusual and forgotten words in the English language, and delves into the history and stories behind them.
If your English is already intermediate or advanced, you may wish to jump straight to some podcasts about topics that interest you, rather than those specifically tailored toward English learning.
Language learning apps like Gymglish, Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone offer a gamified approach to language learning. They offer a fun and engaging learning experience, with personalized learning plans and goals to help you stay on track, and the ability to learn on-the-go.
Most language apps offer a free version with the option to upgrade to a paid membership for more features or advanced content.
Apps do lack the interaction with a teacher or other learners that helps build speaking and listening skills, but they can be a great place to start learning English.
There are thousands of YouTube channels dedicated to helping people learn English, for example:
- EnglishClass101: Lessons in English for beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners, with topics ranging from grammar and vocabulary to conversation practice and cultural insights.
- BBC Learning English: A range of videos for learners of all levels, from beginner to advanced, covering topics such as grammar, pronunciation, and idioms.
- EngVid: Over 1,000 free English video lessons covering a wide range of topics, including business English.
- Rachel’s English: A certified American English teacher who provides lessons for learners of all levels, focused on accent and pronunciation.
- Learn English with Emma: A native English speaker who teaches English through fun and engaging videos.
- Easy English: Short and simple English lessons for beginners, covering topics such as grammar, vocabulary, and basic conversation.
Watching videos is an engaging way to learn English, plus you get to hear real speech in a range of accents. Do this alongside other learning methods so that you don’t neglect your English speaking skills.
When you’re learning English as a second language, it’s very helpful to be able to browse specific topics at your own pace. We have compiled a separate list of the best websites for learning English, and there are some true treasure troves of useful resources for you to discover.
Also make use of the many ESL news websites out there – these publish news stories written at different levels, so you can pick whichever one best suits your ability in terms of vocabulary and grammar comprehension. Some are accompanied by audio and have exercises to help you get the most out of each article.
Whether you prefer online games on your phone or board games that you can play face-to-face with others, there are tons of fun games to learn English.
Learning English face-to-face
Online resources will only get you so far with learning the English language. If you wish to become more confident with your speaking and sound more fluent, try meeting up with other learners and native speakers.
You can find in-person meetups in your area with meetup.com or by searching on social media or local marketplaces.
A face-to-face setting is an ideal place to practice your conversation skills. Whether you are just starting to learn basic English, or you’re working toward fluency, you can hopefully find a friendly community that’s ready to walk with you on the journey.
Do be prepared to make time to join regularly if you want to get the most out of these meetings.
Local courses and classes
On-site English classes are usually available at community colleges, adult education centers, and language schools. Some facilities may offer free classes for English language learners, but others charge a fee.
It’s worth looking around to find a course that suits your level and budget. Also be sure to check whether the classes are open to kids, adults, or both. If you need to improve your English quickly, consider an intensive English program.
Possibly the best way to learn English effectively, but also the most expensive, is with a private tutor.
With private English lessons, your learning can be fully tailored to your current level and your personal English learning goals. You’ll also cover a complete range of skills, from English pronunciation and grammar to spelling and writing – all things that can make English difficult to learn. And, importantly, your tutor will be able to answer questions about anything and everything related to your studies!
You’ll need to commit to regular lessons with your tutor, but if you’re short on time, see if they can meet wherever is most convenient for you.
Other resources for English learners
Textbooks and self-study workbooks
Textbooks provide learners with a structured way to learn English grammar and vocabulary, and to practice reading and writing in English. This is a good option for people who prefer self-directed learning, but some may find textbooks dull and unengaging because of the lack of interaction on offer.
You can pick up English textbooks in bookstores, or search second-hand marketplaces to see if you can find a good deal from a student who has finished with theirs.
Read our guide to the best books to learn English for some inspiration!
An ESL dictionary is a very important tool for anyone learning English. Whether you prefer to access one online or have a paper copy that you can flick through, this resource will not only teach you new words but also clarify tricky grammar and more.
Check our recommendations for the best ESL dictionaries here.
If you love reading, why not dive into some English fiction books? Once you are at intermediate level, you should be able to make your way through a story and make a note of any new words you encounter as you go.
It may be slow progress to begin with, but it’s a great way to expand your vocabulary – and you have the motivation of wanting to finish the book.
If movies are more your thing, watch some English language films with subtitles turned on. Exposure to natural spoken English in this way can help you learn new words and develop your comprehension.
This shouldn’t be your main source of learning if you’re serious about improving, but it all helps!
What is the best way to learn English?
As you can see from the range of options in this list, there are many different ways to learn English, ranging from traditional classroom learning to cutting-edge apps.
You’ll probably find that the best way to learn English is a combination of several of these things, especially if you want to learn English fast. It all depends on how you learn best and the time and budget you have available. You should also consider which skills you want to focus on, and your goals and purpose.
After considering all of these things, you can decide whether to learn English online or in-person. If you’re unsure about spending too much up-front, look for special offers or free trials that you can use before you commit to anything longer-term. Also make use of the many English learning resources available online for ESL students.