People are often asking me for ways to practice English outside of the classroom. Recently I've had several requests for textbook suggestions, as well. Below are some ideas:
1) Movies & Television. You'd be surprised how many people I meet who tell me that they learned English entirely on their own by watching television! It really amazes me, but it's true. The people I've met who learned English by watching American TV speak really, really well, so I think this method is proven to work!
It's also a really fun and relaxing way to learn. Plus, the language is very realistic, unlike a lot of textbook CD's or recordings that are very "forced" or unrealistic.
I suggest you turn on the "caption" or "subtitle" option on your TV, so that you can read the English as you listen, at least at first. Then you can turn off the captions and listen again a second time.
2) Online Practice. The Internet has completely changed the world of ESL learning for the better! There are some really fantastic websites to help people learn (there are also a lot of really awful ESL sites, so be careful!)
One of my new favorites is BBC: Learning English. Someone recently brought my attention to this website, and I really like it. You can listen to short stories in English (with a British accent!), then scroll over certain words for vocabulary definitions and pronunciation, or listen to a story and then answer a question about the story at the end to see how well you understood. They also have all sorts of other fun things on this website.
Another favorite is English Central. This site has several features that I like. For pronunciation, you can listen and see visuals of where your tongue needs to move when you make certain sounds. They also have videos that are very helpful. And if you have a microphone on your computer, you can even practice making the sounds into your microphone, and it will rate you on how well you're doing! (please don't be upset if it gives you a poor rating... I think it will be extra-hard to have a computer evaluating you!!)
There are many, many other sites that are great and I've listed some popular ones on our ELLA website, so please click here to see more helpful websites and videos. If you have another recommendation that is not listed here, please let us know!
3) Books and Texts. Reading good fictional novels is a great way to learn. In a previous blog post (Summer Reading, 5/24/12), I listed some of my favorite novels. You might try some of those and see what you think. If they are too difficult, you might start with children's level books (I will make another blog post about some children's books soon!)
As for textbooks, these can be dry and boring, but some are helpful for getting the basic rules and answering grammar concerns. I made a list of some of the ones that I've used in teaching my classes. I've found these texts useful and helpful.
Click here for the list, which is at the bottom of the ESL Study Ideas page of our website.
4) Get out of the house, and talk & listen and talk & listen and talk & listen... you get the picture?
This is most important! Don't be shy :-) Regular daily practice hearing others and speaking with others is the best way to learn!
Okay, I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. See you soon, I hope.