Real English- listening and reading

Apr 11, 2012

Hi guys.

Hope you had a good Easter. Now it's time for some more English blogs.

Today we're going to talk a little about English materials. What are the best things to read/listen to outside of the classroom to learn English?

Well the boring answer is that it depends on what level you are and what your particular tastes are. From my personal experience of learning languages the first thing to say is that if you can make learning fun, then it's much easier to do it and it's easier to make yourself do it every day. If you enjoy reading newspapers, then do that, if you prefer documentaries to comedies, then obviously try and find documentaries in English.

In general, if you want reading material the obvious things to mention are newspapers, magazines, books e.t.c. but it's good to choose the right grade of language for your ability in English. For example, if you are intermediate level, then tabloid newspapers like The Daily mail or The Sun will be better than broadsheet newspapers like The Telegraph or The Financial Times. The same is true of books. I'm a big believer in Graded Readers. That means books for people who speak English as a second language. There's something very satisfying about reading a book where you understand nearly all the words. If you are a perfectionist and you want to look up every single word that you don't understand then you need to read a book that isn't too difficult. I spent 2 years learning all the words from a book in Spanish and then somebody told me that the book I was reading was difficult for Spanish speakers to understand and had a lot of words that they didn't really use. I had wasted so much time! After that I started studying children's books, because I knew that every single word I knew was basic. I'm not saying you need to start reading lots of children's books, but it's good to know what you're reading before you start learning from it.

As for things to listen to, BBC iplayer is great because it has up to date English with subtitles. Whatever it is that you want-radio, television, music, films, news, you can find it on BBC iplayer. Press s for subtitles.
Youtube is great too. You can find many English series on youtube, which is great because there aren't any American series there. The disadvantage of youtube is that you don't usually have subtitles of what you're listening too. But, on the other hand, there is a lot of variety of what you can get there. For example, songs. You can listen to the words, try to write them down, and then google the lyrics. is good for academic English or IELTS, FCE and CAE.
In general, you should try to listen to something every day, and it's really good if you can access a transcript or have subtitles of what you're listening to.
Anyway, that's it for now. Next time I'll recommend some specific things to read/listen to.

Good luck with your English!

Click here to enrol for English courses in London.

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