If you’re reading this, you know a bit of English. But how well do you really know it? Whether you’re seeking to improve your vocabulary, learning how to speak and converse in English, or helping someone who wants to learn it, these sites and apps will get you there.
MakeUseOf readers know that in our search for the best app to learn a new language, we usually concur that Duolingo is the best. Set it up with a language you speak fluently, and add the language you want to learn, and it will take you through every step to become an expert in your new tongue.
But you’ve come here looking for something more than Duolingo, haven’t you? You need an online course to tackle the basics or a neat app that gradually improves your vocabulary. Or how about a fun way to learn a language through the subtitles of your favorite Netflix movies and shows?
LearnEnglish by British Council (Web): Take a Test, Then Take Courses Accordingly
Since the British invented the language, you might as well turn to them first. The British Council has a tremendously helpful portal called LearnEnglish, which caters to all levels of English learners.
Start with the free English test, a series of 25 questions that judge how well you already know the language. This is a good quiz for those of you who think you’re experts. Try it out and see if you can get a perfect score.
Based on your test results, LearnEnglish will recommend different resources on its portal so you actually challenge yourself to learn. LearnEnglish also has an excellent podcast for those who want to hear the language out loud, as well as video instructions. And in case you are looking for specific lessons in the workplace, check the Business English classes to sound more professional and write better emails.
Do People Say (Web): Don’t Google Phrases, Search Them Here
Even if you already know the basics of the language, it’s difficult to find the right way to use a phrase. For many people, a quick way to find the correct way to use a phrase is to search for it on Google. But that’s going to give you academic answers, it won’t tell you how people use that phrase regularly.
Instead of searching websites, Do People Say searches Reddit comments to find how people are using a particular phrase. The search results also include a short definition from Wikitionary, one of the best ways to learn slang. Put together, it’s a simple page that shows you how regularly people use that phrase, the context they use it in, and the different meanings it can have.
This site is a perfect example of someone making a tool that fills their own needs, and in turn has been appreciated by several others. Google isn’t the ideal tool for looking up phrases, and Do People Say is easier and better for non-native English speakers.
Tinycards by Duolingo (Web, Android, iOS): Flash Cards for Several Things
Flash Cards is an old and popular method of memorizing what you learn by writing a question on one side and the answer on the other. You see the question, say the answer, and flip it around to see if you were right. Duolingo has turned that into an impressive app to learn words, called Tinycards.
Tinycards has a large collection of card “decks” created by community members as well as editors of the Duolingo team. For example, one deck can help you learn the names of colors in the English language. There is a deck of 100 beginner language words, as well as a tough deck of advanced English usage.
Decks can teach you words, grammar, or cultural aspects of using English. Tinycards is best used as a mobile app, but it’s also a really useful website to fire up during a break at work.
4Cards (Android): Learn Four New Words a Day, at Four Different Times
There is a growing number of people who believe the best way to learn isn’t with a crash course, but instead by learning in small portions every day. This idea of micro-learning with bite-sized lessons can also help improve your vocabulary.
4Cards forces you to take a pause in your learning. You can’t skip ahead in your lessons. Every day, the app will introduce you to four new words in the English language, giving you their definition, how they are used, and encouraging you to make a sentence with each word so the practice makes you remember it.
But here’s where it gets better. Those four words aren’t given to you all together at the start of the day. You get one each in the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. By slowing down the time between each word, you avoid information overload and get a chance to actually try out that new word for a few hours before moving on to the next one.
More than that, this method also makes 4Cards less threatening than other such apps to learn a new word every day. Try it out, you’ll fall in love with it.
Download: 4Cards for Android (Free)
Subtly (Chrome): Learn Words While Watching Netflix
Subtly is a cool Chrome extension for those with a Netflix subscription. Much like Kindle lets you look up words, similarly Subtly does that for Netflix. So while you watch movies or TV shows, you can learn new words.
Here’s how it works. Download the extension and choose a language you already know. In Chrome, start playing a video on Netflix with English subtitles. If you don’t know the meaning of any word, you can now click that word in the subtitles to find its translation in the language you know, as well as its meaning. There’s even an option to hear it pronounced correctly. It’s a really simple, interactive, and fun way to learn a language.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone use this unusual way to learn a language. But unlike the previously mentioned Lingvo, Subtly doesn’t require a phone and a TV or PC running simultaneously.
Download: Subtly for Chrome (Free)
For English Videos and Speaking Courses…
These five sites and apps are new and fun ways to learning the English language, eschewing the traditional methods used in classrooms. That said, they might not be for everyone, especially those who want to learn to speak the language, not just read or write it.
If you prefer a simple tutorial, then Udemy has excellent English-speaking courses to get a strong command on the language. If you prefer not to pay to learn, then try these YouTube channels that teach spoken English. Technology will help you with your English somehow.