You can start learning English armed with a textbook and a dictionary, but eventually you’re going to need to hear native speakers so you can get a better sense of cadence, pronunciation, and intonation.
The three best ways to do this are to
- Talk to native speakers
- Listen to audio recordings
- Watch ESL videos
Talking directly to a native speaker is the best option because it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and be part of a conversation. However, if you’re studying English at home and don’t have a native speaker you can talk to, watching ESL video lessons is the next best option.
Here are ten high-quality (and free) video lesson services that can help ESL students develop their vocabulary and listening skills.
engVid is one of the best ESL video series online. The program currently has ten different teachers who take turns sharing videos on a wide variety of topics, ranging from using the past perfect tense to doing a job interview over Skype.
This YouTube series helps familiarize ESL learners with common idioms, expressions, and shortened words (such as “gonna” and “gotta”) that native English speakers often use. Rachel also offers glimpses into American culture in some of her videos, taking viewers on a road trip or going to the beach rather than just filming from her home.
The goal of Real English is to familiarize students with how English sounds in the real world, not just in a classroom (where teachers often speak more slowly and use short phrases). The series does this by filming interviews with people passing by on the street, some of whom are native English speakers and some of whom have learned English as a second language. The latest series of videos features interviews with people in Miami, Florida.
Although it’s not specifically an ESL program, students who are interested in US politics may enjoy practicing English by watching Barack Obama’s weekly address. These short clips come with a downloadable transcript, so students can follow along as they listen.
Great for beginner students, these videos are grouped by category, such as verb tenses, pronunciation of English vowels, and words of the day, so you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Another great practical resource, the Teacher Melanie videos familiarize students with everything from fruit vocabulary to the names of Hollywood actors and actresses. There’s also a series of basic pronunciation guides to help students improve their American accents.
This is one of the more entertaining video resources available. English, Baby! offers a wide variety of lessons from native English speakers, including celebrities teaching vocabulary related to their careers and English language teachers starring in a soap opera aimed at more advanced students.
ESLvideo.com offers fun quizzes that require students to actively listen and then answer questions based on what they’ve heard. The quizzes are based on videos that include a speech by Apple founder Steve Jobs and the popular song “Somebody That I Used to Know,” by Gotye.
Just as the name promises, this series offers one basic English lesson for every day of the year. These short video lessons are best for students just starting to learn English.
This video series includes lessons on things like grammar, vocabulary, and idioms, but it also includes lessons to help ESL students handle common language-learner problems, like learning to speak English with confidence.
Try several of these video series to find out which ones work best for you. If you’re a more advanced learner, challenge yourself to watch series in which native speakers talk at a natural pace and incorporate common slang terms and idioms. Listening to English spoken in a natural environment is the best way to improve your own speaking and comprehension skills.
If you find a video series or two here that you like, share this guide with a friend who might also appreciate these resources!