When you are starting to learn English, it is important to get a lot of "input" — that is, listening and reading, as well as learning grammar. Don’t worry, beginners can learn at home too!
"Many Things" for Level 1: This is a good place to start for students who need help with English basics like spelling and literacy-related topics.
Mango Languages: This free resource is interactive and helps students track their progress. It is good for complete beginners. If you learn well with technology, and have a library card, try "Mango Languages" available at https://www.bpl.org/resource/mango-languages/
USALearns: Use this free resource to improve English skills while learning about civics related topics.
Voices of America: Free videos introduce English through conversation (they have intermediate and advanced levels too!)
Grammar Test: Choose the “easy” option to test grammar skills.
ESL Listening Lab: For practice with basic listening skills. Choose the "easy" option from “Listening Activities”. Don’t miss the “self-study” link.
At the Intermediate level, a good way to practice speaking skills is to look through a magazine or website with pictures, and record yourself describing what you see. Then go back and listen to yourself and see if you can correct mistakes or tell pronunciation problems.
Watch students at the Intermediate level do this by watching FCE exams on Youtube! This is an example: Sample FCE speaking
Practice reading and learn new vocabulary with current news stories, especially great in this time of changing news!. Even better, there are comprehension quizzes.
https://learningenglish.voanews.com/p/5610.html (this is the Intermediate level section)
LearningExpress Library: This library database provides practice with reading and grammar skills in the Adult Core Skills section (you will need a BPL library card and PIN to access the database from outside the library)
Internet TESL Journal: This wonderful website has leveled grammar quizzes. Choose your level and test away!
Dave’s ESL Cafe: Nice explanations of different levels of Intermediate grammar.
ESL Listening Lab: Choose “Intermediate” or “Difficult” from “Listening Activities” and practice listening!
Sounds of Speech: This resource is a website and an app (both free) that teaches the different sounds in English, and shows students how to make each sound. There are lots of helpful diagrams, as well as examples of each sound in words. *Note: focuses on American pronunciation
A good way to improve your speaking is to use exams, specifically the TOEFL, Cambridge Advanced Exam, and Cambridge Proficiency exam. By reading the rubrics and watching sample videos, you will see what makes a B2 versus C2 level speaking ability. Try yourself by finding some prompts online, or simply opening a magazine and describing some pictures. It helps to record yourself so you can go back and listen, and strategize ways to improve even more. Links to start exploring are listed above.
Improving your listening in this age of the internet is easier than ever before. Watching videos on TED.com with subtitles is a great start. Choose any topic you are interested in. You can also listen to news on npr.org and follow along with the transcript.
If you're interested in more academic listening improvement, TOEFL tests' listening sections work well. They will train you on details and main idea listening. You can find many practice tests online, or in the library's LearningExpress Library database.
What better time than a “staycation” to practice this skill!
The most important thing you can do is read everyday. Anything counts, even Twitter, although there are far better options! Newspapers and higher level publications are your best bet, such as:
**USE YOUR LIBRARY CARD TO LOG IN AND SEE ALL THE DATABASES THE LIBRARY HAS, AND READ NEWSPAPERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WITH PRESS READER**:
These publications will have challenging vocabulary, and a sufficient range of topics for everyone to find something. A good tip to improve is to spend 5 minutes after each article writing a short summary of what you read.
If you'd like to measure your improvement and target main ideas and details, try the Cambridge Advanced Exam readings and the verbal section of the GRE (links at the top of this page).
As with reading, it's important to write often. To begin, at the end of each day, write down what you did, and how you're feeling. Push yourself to write longer pieces, like essays. The best tip to become a better writer is to be a good reader. Read high quality non-fiction and literature, and try to imitate the syntax.
Sounds of Speech: This resource is a website and an app (both free) that teaches the different sounds in English, and shows students how to make each sound. There are lots of helpful diagrams, as well as examples of each sound in words. *Note: focuses on American pronunciation.
In addition, Advanced learners ought to try tongue twisters! https://www.mondly.com/blog/2019/08/23/71-best-tongue-twisters-to-perfect-your-english-pronunciation/
Reading Skills for Today's Adults: Created by Southwest Adult Education, this website has a wide selection of readings divided into 16 reading levels. Readings have pre and post-reading questions, as well as audio recordings of the readings at 3 speeds. *Note: this website is still being updated and there may be a few stories with an incorrect recording on the page.
Reading Skills for Healthcare Workers: Created by Southwest Adult Education, this website provides multi-level readings on topics in the healthcare industry for staff in training. Readings have pre and post-reading questions, as well as audio recordings of the readings at 3 speeds.
Center for the Study of Adult Literacy: This student webpage provides readings in three levels. Students select readings in topics of interest. Click the yellow bar at the bottom of the reading for an audio recording. *Note: if story link brings you to another website, go back and choose a different story.
LearningExpress Library: For help preparing for the HiSET or GED exam, check out this database available through the library with your library card number and PIN. Provides practice tests, tutorials for both the exam, as well as specific skills, such as math and reading. For a tutorial on how to use LearningExpress Library, go to https://my.nicheacademy.com/bostonpublic/course/465.
USAHello Course list: Provides written tutorials, quizzes and practice tests for the GED's four subjects.