Do you ever realise that you have the access to a magic portal to the whole vastity of human knowledge at your will? And you are likely to carry this wizardry in your pocket at all times. What am I talking about? The Internet, of course! What a time to be alive.
Do you also realise that there’s much more you can do with your magic devices than looking at cute cats and memes? I bet you never thought about that. This week, in fact, we skimmed through the wild jungle of the web to find the best resources and activities you can do to boost your English skills during your free time.
You can find the first part of the article here:
#1. Listen to Music
You probably didn’t need me to tell you to listen to music. Most people, in fact, listen to music multiple times a day. What I suggest you to do is to change your way you listen to music.
Before I had the chance to go live in a foreign country, music was my main source of English besides school. Music makes an effective language learning tool for many reasons: lyrics are actual instances of language, singers can teach you the correct pronunciation of words (at least, most of the times), and songs are structured in a way that make them easy to learn by heart. Start listening to the lyrics then! Learn what the meaning of your favourite songs is, translate them if necessary (which is always a good exercise itself), and try to use some of the structures in real conversations. Before you start, however, keep in mind that knowing what a song is actually about can ruin it for you!
I am sure I don’t have to tell you where you can listen to your favourite music for free but, in case you’ve been living under a rock since the Internet has come to existence, you should go check Youtube and Spotify. And if you don’t know much music in English, you can start by checking the Irish top 40.
There are also other ways you can improve you language through music. For example, the website lyrics gaps offers some exercises to improve your listening skill through music. The student, in fact, has to complete the missing lyrics while listening to the song. Simple but effective! The site contains several songs and the exercises have varying levels of difficulty.
#2. Make the most out of your Netflix
Netflix has surely revolutionised the way we consume entertainment. Now you can watch as many films and binge watch every tv show you’d like, and do it legally legally with a monthly subscription. You probably already do it, don’t you? What I am suggesting you, again, is to change the way you do it. First of all, forget about the dubbed version! Use English subtitles instead. And, just as with books, start with easier films (starting with some David Lynch would be quite frustrating: he is not understandable even if you’re a native). The Harry Potter series, for example, is a nice kickoff: the story is intriguing and it was meant for a younger audience, which means the dialogues are quite clear and understandable.
If you don’t have a streaming subscription, you can watch many public domain films for free online. You will mostly find oldies and classic, perfect for an Irish rainy Sunday under the blankets.
#3. Educate yourself with some documentaries
Another way of improving your skills is by watching documentaries, which will also give you the chance to learn something cool to show off at parties. It is very easy to find documentaries online, and most of them come with subtitles. Here is my personal pick:
- The school of life: a series of addictive 2 to 5 minute videos that “try to answer the great questions of life.”
- Vice documentaries: a series of high quality, usually short documentaries about culture, crime, art, parties, fashion, protest, the internet and other subjects.
- The Documentary Network – (probably) the biggest collection of documentaries available on the net. Free and legal. Enjoy!
- Ted talks: a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas in form of short talks (18 minutes or less).
#4. Read English Magazines
In the past, if you wanted to read articles in a foreign language, you had to get a newspaper or a magazine directly shipped to your house from abroad or hope to find a specialised newsstand. But now, in the digital era, articles in English are there out there waiting for you anytime you want! If you don’t know where to start, or don’t want to end up reading useless listicles about how celebrities looked like when they were young, you’ve come to the right place.
You are probably aware of the fact that all the major newspaper offer a free (however partial) online version. However, you are probably not aware of these other sources, tailored especially for learners of English:
News in levels – news written in different levels of English
The Times in plain English -The famous magazine The Times rewritten in plain and easy English
You can also give some of the major magazines’ kids version a shot:
Sport illustrated – if you want to keep updated with sports while practising your reading skills
National Geographic – read about animals and other interesting things about our planet
If your level is already high enough, or if you want to challenge yourself a little bit, there are some magazines that are exclusively web based that you could try out. This is a selection of magazines I read almost everyday:
Cracked – a website that defines itself as “comedy with a college education”. It unites incredibly interesting and intelligent news smothered in humour.
Big think – a “youtube for ideas”, also here you can find revolutionary ideas about many and interesting different subjects.
Vice – the vice network offers a different number of magazines for everybody’s taste:
Vice magazine, investigative journalism about different topics, from crime to arts; Creators, focussed mainly on arts and culture; Motherboard, focussed mainly on science, innovation and technology; Noisey, focussed on music; and many more.
#5. Participate in online communities
A way to interact with English speakers (both native and non native) without having to leave your room is to participate in online communities.
The most famous and well frequented is Reddit,also known as the front page of the Internet. Be careful though: Reddit is not subject to much moderation, which means you might find not very pleasant stuff in there (just as anywhere else on the Internet!). But it’s worth to give it a try. You don’t want to miss some of the things it has to offer, such as the AMAs, acronym for Ask Me Anything, in which people, often celebrities, university professors or just regular people, prompt for other users to ask questions about any topic.
#6. Participate in language exchanges
You want to improve your English conversation skills, but you don’t know any people to practice with. Well, guess what: there surely are some English speakers who want to learn your native language. You will be happy to know that someone has come up with the idea of language exchanges to accommodate your needs. Language exchanges are very simple: we speak for a bit in my native language and then we switch to your native language, so we can both practice in exchange for helping each other. An exchange of favours and, at the same time, a great way to meet new people. If you are in Dublin, there are many language exchanges you can participate to, like this and this.
If you don’t have the time to participate to any of these events, there is also the online version.