Helpful ESL Websites

There are a lot of ESL resources out there, and I encourage students to explore everything and anything that helps them learn. There’s a lot you can learn on your own, and it will help you make the most out of any classes or lessons you take. Here are some of my favorites.

Free ESL Self-Courses

The BBC Learn English site: This is a wonderful collection of programs, exercises, videos, articles, and podcasts designed to help learners of low-intermediate and intermediate English. It is easy to navigate, interesting, and very modern.

British Council Learn English site: This is another site you could browse for hours, with articles, programs, podcasts, quizzes, and a cute animated soap opera series.

Dictionaries This is a good, basic dictionary that gives short and clear definitions of words.

Merriam-Webster: This dictionary offers both short and more extensive definitions of words, as well as an option for English learners.

Online Etymology Dictionary: This dictionary doesn’t just define words, it gives the history of their evolution and usage, sometimes going back thousands of years. It’s not the best one for looking up words quickly, but it’s good for vocabulary building; you’ll never forget a word once you learn its life story, and you’ll see how a hard-to-remember group of words all share a common, easy-to-remember root.

Visual Thesaurus: This thesaurus doesn’t just give synonyms; it also makes a whole “word map” that shows multiple meanings and the relationships between meanings of words. It’s a dynamic way to look at language, and very good for visual learners.


Grammar Girl: Grammar Girl tackles common grammar questions, and makes grammar seem both interesting and natural. You can read her articles, or practice listening skills with her podcasts.

Perdue University’s Online Writing Lab: This is a very extensive database of everything grammatical, especially relating to punctuation and writing. They also have a section for English learners.

English Language and Usage Stack Exchange: It can be hard to search the Internet for a specific grammar question. Instead, this site lets you post a question to be answered by a whole community of writers, as well as browse through other people’s questions. This website has helped me find answers I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Pronunciation This website offers an extensive collection of English sounds, clear examples and explanations of when English pronunciation changes, and hundreds of lessons to help you practice.

Reading and Listening

The Times in Plain English: This is the New York Times, written for people learning English. They use simpler sentence structures and more common words than the regular NY Times, but still offer interesting articles. This is my favorite website for news, and my favorite source material for listening exercises. Their hosts speak well-articulated, well-paced, and natural English with American accents, and use a good mix of common words, high-level words, and slang. Best of all, they offer written transcripts of every episode.

Voice of America: Voice of America has been around for more than 70 years, helping generations of people learn English. Their best feature is that their radio hosts speak very slowly and clearly, making this one of the best places to start understanding spoken English.