ESL: Resources For Learning English

Our TOEFL tutors recommend that students draw on a range of resources to support their English Language learning. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites here. Whether you’re preparing for a TOEFL or IELTS test, or just working on your fluency, these resources will help you improve your listening, writing, reading and speaking!

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Readlang - Vocabulary

The Readlang Chrome extension is great for learning and practicing vocabulary. It allows you to click on words you aren't familiar with as you are reading and get an instant translation. These words are also automatically saved to your flashcards bank, where you can review and practice them at any time (using spaced repetition). The Readlang extension will work on any website and you can also input text from books or articles. Here's a quick video that illustrates how it works:

The Readlang Chrome extension is great for learning and practicing vocabulary. It allows you to click on words you aren't familiar with as you are reading and get an instant translation. These words are also automatically saved to your flashcards bank, where you can review and practice them at any time (using spaced repetition). The Readlang extension will work on any website and you can also input text from books or articles. Here's a quick video that illustrates how it works:

TED Ed - Listening

Ted Ed is fantastic for testing how well your listening comprehension is developing. It has a good stock of video clips, each with about ten comprehension questions. Watch the video and answer the questions as you go to see how well you're understanding the content.

For more advanced learners and those who are preparing for the TEOFL and IELTS exam, filter the videos to get the appropriate level by going to 'Discover > Lessons' and selecting student level 'College/University'.

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ESL Cyber Listening Lab - Listening

Cyber Listening Lab has a good selection of short audio clips (2-3 mins) of native speakers discussing a range of topics. This is a nice way to get some extra practice in if you are preparing for the listening section of the TEOFL or IELTS test. (There are three levels of difficulty available, but those preparing for TEOFL or IELTS will be best matched with the most difficult level.)

Cyber Listening Lab preps you for each clip by explaining any idioms or unusual vocabulary that are used in the clip. As you listen, answer the multiple-choice questions that accompany the clip. Once you've answered each question, you'll be shown the script for the relevant part of the audio clip.

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ESL-bits - Listening

ESL-bits allows you to listen to an audiobook (read in US and UK accents) while viewing the relevant page of the book. They have a pretty good selection and many audiobooks have options for listening speed. You could listen for a couple of minutes and then read to see how much you understood, or read along and practice your pronunciation.

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Macmillan Dictionary - Grammar

Macmillan Dictionary have some nice resources for grammar practice. For example, check out:

Irregular verb wheel game
Phrasal verb game
Common errors in English

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Dictionary and translator

Have a look at Deepl and Linguee. Many people find DeepL to be more accurate than Google Translate and Linguee will also show you translations in context. Good tools to have on hand when you're writing!

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Edpuzzle - Listening

Edpuzzle is similar to TedEd: it allows you to practice your listening comprehension by answering a series of multiple-choice questions while you listen to a video clip. Unlike TedEd, however, the clips on Edpuzzle have been created by individual teachers and tutors for their students. You can get access to these clips once you sign up for a free account. If you’re working with one of our TOEFL tutors, you can request some custom clips on topics of your choice.

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Podcasts - Listening

If you can get into podcasts, they can be a great way to practice listening comprehension. Here are some of our favourites:

People and Stories

Criminal
[US accents]
Content warnings are provided at the start of episodes that need them. A well-produced podcast about interesting crimes: stolen poodles, mysterious identity theft, escape from slavery, and death by owl…

Dear Prudence
[Mainly US accents]
Slate's weekly advice podcast with Danny M. Lavery. Listeners write in with their questions about relationships, work, and family, and Danny and his guest offer solutions and advice.

This is Love
[US accents]
From the team who make Criminal, this is a podcast focusing broadly on stories of love. Topics include a town ruled by cats, rare snail romance, an Italian ‘ugly club’, and a young wolf and his adopted father. There are 4 seasons.

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Psychology and Philosophy

Invisibilia
[Mainly US accents]
“Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.” Topics include surveillance, music and memory loss, how emotions are formed, and mirror-touch synesthesia.

In Our Time
[UK accents]
A long-running podcast from BBC Radio 4. Melvyn Bragg interviews experts about a huge range of topics within the history of ideas. Check out listeners’ top ten favourites, including Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems, Hildegard of Bingen, The Gin Craze, and P v NP.

Hidden Brain
[US and Indian accents]
Content warnings given at the start of some episodes. “Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.” Topics include implicit bias and police violence, the psychology of epidemics, BS jobs, and cultivating the imagination.

All in the Mind
[UK, US, and Australian accents]
“All in the Mind is an exploration of the mental: the mind, brain and behaviour — everything from addiction to artificial intelligence.” Topics include pseudoscience, sleep, nostalgia, and phobias.

Hi-Phi Nation
[Mainly US accents]
A story-driven philosophy podcast from Slate, which is more accessible than most philosophy podcasts. Topics include justice and retribution, moral luck, illusions, and “uncivil” disobedience. There are 4 seasons.

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Technology

99% Invisible
[US accents]
A great podcast for anyone interested in design, history, and technology. “Ever wonder how inflatable men came to be regular fixtures at used car lots? Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair?”

Reply All
[US accents]
A well-researched podcast focusing on technology and internet culture. Check out some of their most popular episodes.

Triple Click
[US accents]
Three long-time video game critics and reporters discuss all things game related. Are Mario and Luigi real brothers? Do video games glamorize cops? When is it ok to use a video game guide? Why do people love Final Fantasy so much?

Clockwise
[US accents]
Great for some quick listening practice - each episode is only 30 minutes. Hosts Dan Moren and Mikah Sargent and their two guests discuss topics like automation for social good, facial recognition tech, and WWDC.

Recode Decode
[US accents]
Kara Swisher hosts this Vox podcast on all things tech. Each podcast comes with a short article, so you can get an overview of the main ideas before you listen.

Radiolab
[US accents]
Long-running podcast bringing you a mix of science, technology, philosophy, psychology, and politics. “Created by Jad Abumrad and hosted by Jad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab has won Peabody Awards, a National Academies Communication Award “for their investigative use of radio to make science accessible to broad audiences,” and in 2011 Abumrad received the MacArthur Genius grant.”

The Missing Cryptoqueen
[Mainly UK accents]
This BBC-produced podcast tells the story of the rise and fall of the cryptocurrency OneCoin. Its founder, Dr. Ruja Ignatova, mysteriously disappeared in 2017 before she could be arrested. There are 8 episodes in the series.