How to Choose a Free English Course Online (And Why)


Serious students of English want a free English course online to help study and improve their English. But if you are thinking about one of these courses, you might ask yourself why are they so good, and what are the bad points?

One of the good points…
One of the good points about a free English course online is that it is reliable. The internet is available 24 hours a day, without stopping. You can choose your time to study, and the English course in Spain will be available. If you have a laptop, and wifi, you can even access your course from a variety of public areas such as coffee bars and bookstores these days.

And one of the bad points…
On the other hand, the content may be less than reliable. You have to trust that the content is correct. Incorrect content can harm your English studies. This can include spelling, grammar, correct usage of the vocabulary and expressions, even punctuation. Or something simple like the ‘kind’ of English that the site contains. There are many varieties of English. High school chat English, ghetto English (there are many ghettos, and each one may have a different set of peculiarities), and generational English (older generations) are a few that come to mind. Of course, British English and American English are two generally accepted standards, but even they have many, many varieties.

…happy to repeat…
You can also repeat the course again and again. That’s the great thing about using computers for learning. They are happy to repeat things for us. Again and again. Of course that’s one of the keys for deep learning. Repeat and repeat. Again and again.

You can also specialize a lot with these courses. Just like English Listening World. Specializing in targeted listening practice. Great for intensive listening. Then you find a different source for extensive listening. Choose from one of the many great podcasts.

Of course, now you get into the next point: choosing. You have to choose which sites to include in your free English course. This is difficult for some students. But it is better to do it that way. You get a tailor made course that helps you achieve your own goals. And you use the metacognitive skills that you need for great learning. The more aware you are of your own learning, the more responsible you can be for it. So choosing your own internet resources to make a free english course is a great thing, even if it is time consuming.

…you have to know…
It can be time consuming because you have to decide what you need to learn, what skills you need to practice. As an ESL learner, you have to know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. Many students tell me that they have trouble listening. They want listening practice. After trying listening practice they often find there is no change in their skills.

You can change how you do listening practice to improve your skills. You need to find a site that can help you develop listening skills. Do things like increasing your English capacity, or helping you learn how to listen to fast English. After you find a site that helps with these things, add it to your list of sites that make your free English course. Then you can add the sites that will help you learn vocabulary, or grammar, or other areas of English. You have to be selective about the grammar sites.

When you look for a grammar site, you need a good balance of simple clear explanations and lots of practice. Many sites have complex explanations. Many sites have 10 or 20 practice questions and then stop. Look for sites that go deeper than this.

I highly recommend…
I mentioned vocabulary too. I highly recommend the vocabulary sites that have automatic flashcards using a spaced repetition system. One example is Anki, another is mnemosyne. Depending on which site you choose, you may have to enter your own flashcards, or you may be able to use a set of cards somebody else made.

Choosing a set of sites to make your own free English course online is time consuming but well worth it. You take responsibility for your learning. You get a tailor made course. You can choose from many different resources. You can put more grammar in it or less, more listening practice, or less. You can decide what kind of vocabulary you want to learn (based on your own needs).

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