The online world of English language learning


Although it is not the language with the most native speakers around the world (Mandarin holds that title!1), English has the widest geographic reach making it the most universal language on Earth. With 1.5 billion people worldwide who speak English, it has become the official language of global business. Many companies now require employees to be competent in English so that they are able to communicate with international colleagues or clients. A good command of the English language, therefore, is important for anyone who wants to work, or even travel internationally.   


But what’s the best way to improve your skills? 

Well, the best way is to simply talk to real people and practise in real-life situations. But this can be scary and for many reasons isn’t always possible. So, what’s another way you can refine your proficiency? Yes, just like with most things: the Internet. There is a whole online learning world at the grasp of your fingertips. Websites, apps, online study communities, translators and many other online resources can be great for enhancing your language and communication skills. 

What’s the best and worst part about learning English online? 

The best part? The endless amount of free resources available to you. You can learn English through videos, podcasts, music, blogs, online lessons and even interactive websites that help you practice all of your skills. What is more, all the material is available to you twenty-four seven. All you need is a computer, laptop or other electronic device and an Internet connection (and sometimes not even that if you download the app to use offline!). 

But the worst part about learning English online? Too many options! Anyone with access to a good Internet connection is spoilt for choice when it comes to independent study. There are so many materials available online, and so much range in quality. You can end up wasting a lot of time filtering through Google searches and testing new sites before finding one that works for you. 

The big question: How do you narrow it down and find what is most relevant and useful? 

Learning a language is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of thing: no single style of learning will appeal to all learners. Do visual aids and graphics hold your interest? Are you more drawn to listen-and-repeat activities? Or is it quizzes, scores and games that allow you to track your progress and compete with yourself or other learners that motivate you?  To make the most of your time and what is available to you, it is important to first figure out your preferred learning style, then identify your weaknesses with the language and target this area. Doing this will help you refine your online searches and reduce the amount of resources and websites you need to filter through or test out. 

Getting Started 

If you are learning English, you don’t have to use the Internet, but you really should. There are so many useful resources out there for you and if you ignore them you really are missing out! Check out TOP’s English Language Support guide HERE and discover a whole range of websites and online resources that will help you improve your language skills. 

Good luck, and don’t forget to get in touch if you would like some assistance. 

Caroline Thornton, English Language and Academic Skills Coordinator