The next time you’re walking down the street, in a waiting room, or on public transport in Barcelona take a look around. What do you notice? Smartphones, smartphones, and more smartphones.

It’s not surprising – when people are stuck for something to do they take out their mobile and start chatting with their friends, reading the news, or playing games.

The thing is, we spend A LOT of time looking at screens. Some people spend up to nine hours a day looking at devices. So why not use some of this time to start practising English?

If you download the right apps and games, and visit useful websites, you’ll start to immerse yourself in English, practise different skills everyday, and even interact with other English speakers online. You won’t even realise how much your English is improving!

You are probably already familiar with Duolingo, Busuu and other language learning platforms but here are 5 other popular apps that you can use right now to boost your English.

 

1. Twitter

Twitter is a popular social media platform that lets people give their opinions, have conversations and share photos and articles. It’s been around since 2006 and with more than 335 million monthly active users – there are a lot of opportunities to use English.

So next time you are on Twitter here are some things you can do:

  • Follow trending topics in English: Twitter organises its content with hashtags (this symbol: #). By clicking on a hashtag phrase like this #trending, you can follow all the tweets, stories and conversations in English. When setting up a Twitter account you can decide which topics to follow and which locations interest you most. So make sure to set the language to English!
  • Learn “online” English: There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that people use abbreviated words, acronyms and slang online, so it can be hard to understand at first. The good news is that tweet are short – only 280 characters – so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all this new language – and once you’ve learned how people speak online it will get easier and you’ll start to have a lot of fun.
  • Engage in conversation: Twitter is built for sharing and conversation. It’s easy to click on a tweet and reply to the author. So ask questions, leave comments and start conversations. It’s perfect practice!
  • Follow websites and users that share interesting content: Many companies have a presence on Twitter. They tweet interesting blog articles, facts, advice and more. You can follow the brands that interest you and even talk to them and ask questions.
  • Share content and make observations: If you’re on Twitter, you should definitely start to share your own content, opinions or observations. It might be a bit scary at first, but you’ll soon start to get the hang of it. Tweet an interesting article you’ve read and make short statements in English about what’s going on in your life. Just remember, Twitter is a public space, so don’t share anything you want to keep private!

You can download the app for free on Android and iOS and also use it on a computer.

 

2. Akinator

Akinator AKA “the web genius” is a fun game you can play online or through an app. Simply think of a famous person or character (dead or alive, real or not) and Akinator will ask you a series of questions and then will guess who you are thinking of.

It’s a novelty, sure, but it offers lots of language practice, and it’s a fun game to play with your friends too. Even better, Akinator nearly always wins!

 

3. BBC Breaking News

The BBC is one of the world’s most trusted news organisations. It has an excellent app, that sends you the latest “breaking news” stories right to your phone.

Not only can you keep up with all the latest news around the world, but you’ll find vocabulary you have never heard of and read short, interesting stories. It offers an excellent way to practise and improve your reading skills on a daily basis.

Here is how we recommend using the app:

  • Read the headlines. If you are not sure what a word means, use an online dictionary like WordReference or Google Translate.
  • Click on the article and skim read it to get the gist.
  • Read the article carefully, note down words you don’t know and write them in a notebook along with their definitions and some examples of how they are used.
  • Talk about the news story (In English) with your teacher, a friend or classmate. Summarise what you read and share your opinion.

 

4. Netflix

Netflix is one of the most popular online streaming platforms. You can watch endless films, documentaries and television series for a monthly fee (less than €10 a month).

We recommend watching your favourite series and films in English, along with English Subtitles. This will help you get used to different accents, learn new vocabulary and the subtitles will help you when you don’t understand what someone has said.

Also, if you pause the screen, you can note down new words and spellings.

One of the benefits of learning English this way is that you see the language being used in “real life” which will help you remember what things mean.

Find out more ways you can use Netflix to practise your English.

 

5. Audible

Audio books offer another excellent way of practising your listening skills. Audible is a website and app from Amazon – it has a monthly fee, which will differ depending on what country you are in.

It lets you download and listen to a huge range of audiobooks and original audio content in English (and other languages).

Some tips for using audio books:

While pure listening practice like this is difficult, you can always pause and listen to difficult sections again. There’s even a little arrow that takes you back 30 seconds if you need to repeat something.

If you have a physical copy of a book, you can also read and listen at the same time. This will help you with pronunciation of certain words and phrases and will improve your understanding as you listen.

If you like Audible you’d probably enjoy listening to podcasts too. Here are seven podcasts to help you improve your listening skills.

Which apps do you use to practise and learn English? Let us know in the comments!

Glossary for Language Learners

 

Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Device (n): a tool (usually electronic) that helps you complete a task.

Immerse (v): to completely involve yourself in a specific activity.

Boost (v): to add to or improve something.

Monthly active users (n): the number of people who use a service each month.

Trending topics (n): stories or ideas that lots of people are currently talking about.

Tweets (n): short exchanges of information on the social media platform Twitter.

Acronyms (n): phrases that are shortened into words; e.g. LOL = laugh out loud.

Slang (n): very informal language.

Gist (n): the general idea of something.

Fee (n): an amount you need to pay.

Pause (v): to stop something temporarily.

Key

n = noun

v = verb

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