By Sheekha Lodaria

26 October 2021 - 11:12pm

A man and a woman working on a computer

Learning English fluently involves learning the four skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking. It also includes vocabulary, grammar and several features of pronunciation. When we read and listen, we provide receive inputs in the form of words, sentence structures and sounds. Continuous exposure to these inputs helps us speak and write better. So, all these skills work together to better communicate our ideas and thoughts.

In my online classes, students always ask how can they learn the language on their own? What online resources can they use? I tell them that like everything else, learning English is now in your hands, I mean actually on your fingertips!  

Technology has made so many impossible things possible. Everybody is now comfortable with learning online and so many resources are easily available. One of the main advantages is that you can learn at your convenience from your home or on the go. You control the pace of your learning. If something is easy you can quickly glance through it. If something is difficult, you can redo it several times till you feel confident. There are lots of benefits of studying online but the challenge is selecting the right online resources and using them well.

Here are my top 8 tips and online resources to help improve your knowledge and skills.

  • Find out what interests you 

I have always liked reading murder mysteries, short stories and self-help books. When I was in college, I would finish the books I liked in a day. But I did not like reading about physics or chemistry.  It would take me hours to read a 3-page long chapter and I would not remember anything I read! I’m sure many of you relate to this.

I have seen many students trying to learn English through topics that don’t interest them. As a result, a few find the learning process boring. Many still push themselves but they find it very difficult to understand what they learn or even apply the language that they learn.

It is proven that we remember better when we learn through topics or things that interest us. So, you should first identify what interests you. Learning should be fun and relevant. In my experience, students remember and learn better when a skill or a language topic is important and relatable to them. Begin with identifying what do you like. This way you will be able to remember and apply all that you learn

  •  Set clear achievable goals

Be clear and specific about what you want to learn.

Saying ‘I want to improve my communication skills’ or ‘I want to improve my grammar’ or ‘I want to speak English fluently’ is not helpful.  Be specific about the topic you want to learn and be clear about language/skill area you want to develop. Most importantly think about how and where you will use it.

Instead say ‘I want to learn to useful phrases for giving presentations and use them at client meetings.’ Or ‘I want to learn the use and application of the simple present tense to talk about daily routine fluently’.  Be realistic about the amount of time it will take you to achieve it. So, a better goal would be ‘I want to learn to useful phrases for giving presentations and use them at client meetings over the next two months.’  Or ‘I want to learn the use and application of the simple present tense to talk about daily routine fluently over the next one week’. Set SMART goals!











Having specific goals is very useful, it will help you define your search for appropriate online resources. When I set my learning goals, I always remind myself – Less is more!

  • Use reliable resources

How many times have you searched for online resources but gave up because there’s so much to look at! The next challenge is to find the content online that meets your language learning goals. The next step it to develop your research skills so that successfully search for specific online resources. Like goal setting, here also you need to be specific and use specific key words / search terms. For example, if you type ‘Learn English’ it will generate millions of results.  But a specific search like ‘Practice speaking skills’ is more useful.

I’m sure you will now agree that having clear goals is very useful, it will help you define your search.  Remember those presentation skills or application of simple present tense? Try ‘Phrases for presentation’ or ‘Use of simple present tense’ and see what happens. Here are some resources that you can use to learn English speaking , English grammar

  • Next, you need to know which sites to trust

We all like to use the latest gadgets or wear the clothes that are in fashion. We do our research by cross checking with various sources and finalise the best and most relevant option. When you learn English online make sure you follow the same approach. Here are some things you could do:

  • Check several sources for the same thing so you can cross reference them.
  • Check when the site was updated, and check who has written the page – is it a well-known company?
  • Is there a biography of the author(s)?

Here are some useful points that you can keep in mind while you research

While we’re talking about trusted sites, please also be aware of safety online especially if you are looking for resources for young learners or children. Here’s a resource that recommend for young children  and for teens

Sign up for a free live demo session of our online English courses for adults!

  • Add variety to your studies

Imagine eating the same food every day three times a day for the rest of your life. Oh no! you don’t have to do that to learn English online!  Variety is the spice of life.

The beauty of studying online is that there is a wide range of sites and media to choose from. Some of us like to watch and listen and we learn faster that way. A few of us learn by doing. Find out how you like to learn and add variety to your studies. 

A person wearing a headset and typing on a computer
  • Plan your study time and practise regularly

    We are all guilty of saying that we don’t have enough time. Find some time in your calendar where you will not be disturbed. Look at your diary or calendar. Find the free spaces. How much time is that a week?  Try and find at least five free spaces of 30 minutes to an hour. This is because learning happens best in short, frequent bursts.  For example, it is better to spend one hour three time a week rather than spending three hours once a week to learn something. You could even achieve a lot in just 20 minutes every day. Now I’m sure you have that time available! And remember, you are investing in a career and life-enhancing skill by learning the language.

    You can use technology to help you with time management. Use the calendar or diary app on your phone or computer to schedule your study time and set a reminder. When the alarm goes – make sure you start! And because online learning is so flexible, it doesn’t matter where or when you do it – you could be on the bus, in a café or on your lunch break. Do remember to focus when you study – turn off all notifications on the phone that could distract you. Inform you friends, family and colleague that you should not disturb you for the next 30 to 40 minutes. This way you will achieve a lot is less time.

  • Make notes

    It is important that you take notes while you study so that you can revise and remember what you have learned. I prefer to use the traditional pen and paper method. Some of my students use a note app on their phone or simply type in word file on their computer. Use what works for you.

    Be creative with your notes, you’ll remember better. Making notes more visual and colourful can help you to remember. You could also create flashcards to remember facts or new language. A flashcard is a small card or a piece of paper. Write the word on one side and on the other side it’s meaning and your example sentence. Do this on paper or online. Use pictures, words and phrases to test yourself.

    You can even create your own vocabulary bank! Maintain a small notebook and each time that you come across a new word or idiom, write it down in that book. Make sure to write it’s meaning, and an example sentence too.

  • Recognise your progress and reward your self

    Now that you know what interests you and you have set a clear and specific goal it is very important that you acknowledge your success by setting yourself a reward for achieving this goal!   Recognise every small progress you make. A compliment by a friend or colleague on improvement in your speaking skills, a positive feedback by your teacher or boss are signs that you are making progress.

    Do talk to your family and friends about your achievement. It will help you realise how far you have come.  Motivation and rewards make us work hard towards achieving our goals.   So, reward yourself with a small piece of chocolate or a movie after completing your weekly activities. Don’t eat too much of that chocolate or cake!

  • Use it or lose it

    You decide to learn baking, so you join a class. You bake 3 or 4 cakes over a week and never do it again! After 4 to 5 months your friend requests you to bake a cake for a party. I don’t know about you, but if I were you, I’d sure will have a panic attack!

    So, when you learn a skill or a language topic in English, utilise every opportunity to use that. Speak to friends, family at a social gathering. Volunteer to host a friend’s party and compere. The more you use what you learn, the more confident you will get.

  • Reflect and Review

    When you start learning something new it’s important that you stop, evaluate and review. This will help you understand if you are on the right track or do you need to make some changes in the learning process or search some new online resources.
  • How much can I remember?
  • Am I using what I have learned?
  •  Do I have any questions? This is really important for learning, so don’t be afraid to ask.  For example, you could use the comments section on the British Council Learn English site, this is found at the bottom of most activities, or ask us on our facebook page ‘English in India’

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The last but the most important tip is –Don’t give up!

Rome was not built in a day! It takes time and continuous effort to learn and master a skill. Remind yourself of the first time that you rode a bicycle and fell off! You didn’t give up, instead you got up, wiped that dirt off your face and hands, and got on that bicycle trying to figure out how to balance.  That’s how you learn a skill, you try, sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed. But you keep trying. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Remember it’s a part of the learning process. Do let us know if you found these tips and resources useful.

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