For those non-English speakers who are looking to learn or improve their English, either as an additional support to your English course, or because you prefer/have to choose an online option, the internet is right at your fingertips, and doesn’t cost a cent.
But, as with anything on the great worldwide web today, it can be hard to navigate and separate good quality from the other ‘noise’. And, let’s be honest, the sheer amount of choice can be exceptionally overwhelming sometimes.
In addition to the above, using the internet to self-teach means you are taking over a teacher role in your own learning by deciding what you will be learning and how. In other words, when a teacher enters the classroom they have prepared what will be taught and covered on that day. Will students be focusing on reading? What type of text will they be reading, and is it appropriate for the student level? What else can be done with that same text? Can a specific grammar element be taught in the context of the reading? And what vocabulary will emerge from the reading? Will students know all the vocabulary, or will some of it be new? These are just some of the many questions teachers address when planning their English lessons.
So, how will you be able to do this for yourself?
The first thing you need to know is your own English level. It will make no sense to you to do exercises online that are far too easy or difficult for you. You will not learn anything, and you will lose interest very fast. If you are not sure what your level is then there are a few online tests you could do to check. Try these:
Next, decide what you would like to do. Be as focussed and specific as you possibly can. Are you going to focus on improving your reading, writing, listening, pronunciation or grammar? While many websites will be able to provide some great exercises, tools, tips and lessons on all of the above, video is obviously best for listening, speaking and pronunciation exercises/lessons.
YouTube not only offers the possibility of concentrating on one specific element (such as pronunciation), but some accounts are entire channels dedicated to teaching one lesson per video. In some of these videos you can receive a full lesson as if you were in the classroom.
And while lessons are always good, remember that listening and pronunciation practice does not need to be a dull 3 hour long slide show of sub titles and repeating what the narrator says! Why not listen to some great music with the sub titles and learn the words to some of your favourite songs? Here are some other ideas for you to watch videos with sub titles:
- Watch a movie/ television show
- Watch a ‘How to…’ video (videos instructing you on how to make or build things)
- Watch a cooking show
- Watch a documentary (about surfing/history of a country/the coffee trade/ the animals of Madagascar, etc.)
- Watch promotional videos (such as city/country promotional videos)
- Watch and listen to a story in English (Beauty and the Beast, for example)
- Watch English news, live or inserts (including weather and sport)
- Watch news programmes (about money and finances, the past week in summary, etc.)
In English we say ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’, meaning there are many solutions to a problem. If you choose to improve your English using the internet, and YouTube specifically, this does not mean you have sit for hours watching boring English lessons. If you do not have the ability to join in an English course such as the one’s we offer at the UCT English Language Centre, don’t despair! Just remember to stay focused, be conscious of what your goal is and also remember to enjoy the process of learning. Taking pleasure in what you are learning is half the battle won!
You can also subscribe to the ELC YouTube channel where we show videos of our students doing fun things in class, share videos we think are great to help students learn English or to keep you motivated.
Happy Viewing and Happy Learning!