Psst, I have a secret.
Do you wish you could learn English faster?
Do you wish you could learn English while being entertained?
Oh, and do you also wish that you could do all this without spending any money?
Then I have an awesome way to learn English that you are probably not using!
They are called blogs.
A blog, which comes from the old word weblog (a web log), is a website that is regularly updated with new posts (written entries).
Anyone can make a blog, so there are millions that exist today.
In fact, you are reading a blog right now.
Luckily, these websites happen to be perfect for eager English language learners like you.
Why Use Blogs to Learn English?
- Blogs are current. Since most blogs are updated (new posts are published) every week, there are always new posts to read. The posts could mention current events, so you can be involved in the news in a different way.
- Blogs are entertaining. While some blogs exist to provide information, many blogs are a source of entertainment. These blogs can be super funny and addicting, so you will have fun reading them.
- Blogs are authentic. Newspapers and magazines need to be more formal because they are owned by large companies, and words are printed on paper. But on the web, many blogs are run by a single person. The writer is a human just like you, so they will often use informal language and share personal feelings.
- You can join the conversation. Blogs are an interactive way to read and improve your English. Blog posts usually have comment sections where readers can write a message in response to the post. The author of the post (and other readers) can reply directly to you. Many bloggers use social media (like Facebook and Twitter) too, so you can tweet at them and be a part of the conversation.
How to Use Blogs for English Learning
Yes, you will want to read blog posts to learn from them. But how exactly can you learn the most English using blogs?
Here are several ways to use blogs for learning English.
First, if you find an awesome blog one day, it is easy to forget to check the blog for new posts in the future. One solution to this problem is to use an RSS reader, which is a tool that automatically gives you notifications when your favorite blogs have new posts.
Feedly is one of these readers. Its website and app are both free. Add the blog’s URL (for example: www.fluentu.com/english/blog/) to your feed, and you will start getting notifications!
Add any blogs that you want to follow. Now you only need to check one place (Feedly) to read all the newest posts on any blogs you have subscribed to. Feedly also lets you search for blogs based on your interests and browse blogs by category, so it is a great place to discover new blogs, too. Other RSS readers you could try include BlogLovin’, Feedspot and The Old Reader.
The other option, if the blogger offers it, is to subscribe to receive new posts by email. If you would like to get an email in your inbox that tells you about the new blog posts, this is a great option. If you do this, you do not have to remember to check the blog or a reader. Look for a box on the blog where you can write your email.
One way to actively learn from blog posts is to make predictions (guesses about what will happen) before actually reading the post.
First, read the post title. Then scroll down and read only the headings. Headings are mini-titles that divide the post into sections, and you can spot them because they usually have a larger-sized font or are a different color.
In this post, for example, “How to Use Blogs for English Learning,” “Subscribe” and “Make predictions” are all headings. You can see that the letters are bigger, thicker and darker than the other letters in the post text.
If there are any words in the title or headings that you do not understand, go ahead and look them up now, as they are probably important.
Also, take this time to look at any pictures or graphics in the post.
Then, using all of that information from the headings and images, predict (guess) what the post is about. You can do this mentally (in your mind), but it is best to write down a few of your ideas so you do not forget them. Then, after reading the post, be sure to go back and check: Was your prediction right?
Try to find the main ideas
After making predictions, when you read a post for the first time, just read for general context. This means to try and understand the main ideas. What is the meaning of the post? Do not worry about details, breaking down grammar or learning every unknown word.
When you do see an unknown word on this first time reading, use the context (the situation in the post) to guess what it might mean. Even if you are only able to tell that “this is an adjective that describes a person’s appearance,” for example, that is great! Then move on and continue reading—you want a smooth reading experience without many pauses.
Print a blog post and write on it
To dig deeper into a blog post, print it out.
Because then you can write all over it!
After printing out your blog post, pick a topic and then underline, highlight, draw—whatever you prefer—all over the blog post. Here are some ideas of what to write:
- Unknown words. After you have finished the post, use an English-English dictionary to look up the definitions of the unknown words you highlighted or underlined. Record these words using your preferred system. You might want to write down these words and their definitions in a notebook or on your computer or phone. Be sure to include the complete sentence from the blog post where you found the word. Remembering the context will help you remember the word.
- Verb tenses. Did you just learn the past tense? Or maybe you are having a hard time choosing between “will” and “going to” when you are talking about the future? Choose one tense (or two, if you want to compare) and search for it within the post. After you have circled, highlighted or underlined them all, take each verb one by one and make sure you are comfortable with (1) the conjugation and (2) the usage (why was this verb tense used?).
- Grammatical topics. Similar to the previous idea, what grammar topic did you recently learn? Is there one grammar topic that you are struggling with? Do prepositions cause you trouble? If prepositions are your problem, then you should try to circle every preposition in one paragraph, and then go back and think about the reasons why each preposition was used. Write the reasons down.
- Emotions and reactions. Did a sentence make you feel surprised? Write an exclamation point (!) in the margin (the side of the paper). Was a paragraph confusing? Write a question mark (?) nearby. Record when something made you happy, sad, curious, etc.
- Stress and intonation. If you are more advanced and working on your speech, try to mark where the stress falls in each sentence. Draw arrows up and down to show when the intonation (the pitch of the speaking voice) rises and falls.
Make a fill-in-the-blank exercise
After you have written all over the blog post, choose a type of word (new vocabulary, present progressive verbs, prepositions, articles, etc.) and “white out” many of these on the printed page using white correction fluid. This will leave blank spaces where these words should go. You could also “black out” these words with a black marker instead. The important thing is that you cannot see the words underneath the correction fluid or marker.
After you have made these white or black spaces, put the paper away and wait a day. The next day, try to fill in the blanks with the correct words.
This is a great way to test any new vocabulary you might have learned, or conjugating verbs. To check your answers, just open the blog post online!
Outline or summarize the blog post
After reading a blog post, write a quick outline by hand.
An outline is a short piece of writing that just shows the main points of a longer piece of writing.
This is a nice way to review what you read. As a challenge, use at least five new vocabulary words in your outline.
If you are more advanced, write a summary of the post and your personal reaction to the post, using complete sentences. You should also try to use new vocabulary words in your summary.
Read the blog post aloud
Depending on the blog post’s length (and depending on the amount of time you have to study), choose a paragraph or section and read it aloud. This would be great to do with your language partner, so that you can receive immediate feedback.
If you do not have that option, record yourself and then go back and watch or listen to yourself later.
To get more speaking practice, discuss the blog post with your language exchange partner or an English-speaking friend. What is their opinion on the topic? Can you share a similar story/experience? Did the post make you think?
Keep a reading log
Track what blog posts you read, when you read and what you learn from each blog post with a reading log.
If you like pen and paper, use that to write.
If you prefer technology, then use a spreadsheet on the computer.
Keep in mind that if your reading log is online, you can copy and paste the blog post’s URL for easy access at a later date. That is very convenient!
I recommend having columns for “Blog Name,” “Post Name,” “Date,” “Time” (the amount of time spent reading/learning with the post) and “Learned” in your reading log. In the “Learned” column, write down any new words or phrases you discovered, or the grammar topic or verb tense you reviewed.
Read the comments
One feature that sets blogs apart from other works of writing is that they are interactive. On most blogs, readers can comment on posts. Once you have read the post and written all over your printed copy, scroll down to the comments section.
Read several comments for understanding. On the Internet, people often use abbreviations (shortened versions of words) and make typos (typing mistakes) or grammar mistakes. Do you see any of these mistakes?
Make it a goal to write one comment on every post that you read. This comment does not have to be long! You could even tell the writer “I’m learning English, and I used your post as reading practice. Thank you!”
When people leave a comment, they can link their name to their own website or blog. So if you see a comment that looks interesting, click on that person’s name and you can find new blogs to read and follow.
Subscribe to newsletters
Several bloggers now send out weekly or monthly newsletters, which come as an email to your inbox.
The blogger will write an email that will never be published on the blog—only subscribers can read it. So if you like a certain blog, subscribe to the newsletter! This will let you know insider (secret) information about the blogger, and give you more exciting reading practice.
All right, you are ready to dig in (get started), so what blogs are out there? I will show you 10 below that I personally recommend, but remember that you can always do a Google search for “[topic here] blog” to find blogs you are interested in. For example, you could search “gardening blog” or “cooking blog,” and you will get many results!
9 Blogs in English You Should Start Following
These blogs are ordered by difficulty, from beginner to advanced. This means that as the list numbers get higher, the blogs become more difficult. The first posts are the easiest ones.
What My Daughter Wore is a very visual blog started in 2011 by an artist in Brooklyn, New York. Every day he draws a picture of what his daughter (or her friends) wore and gives the post a brief title.
The title is the only English you will be reading, so this is perfect for beginners—especially visual learners.
The titles often describe what the person is wearing, so it is a great way to review colors, clothes and personal descriptions. A fun way to use this blog is to try and figure out any unknown vocabulary in the post title by looking at the picture.
For example, in the post titled “Pink Scrunchie,” if you don’t know what the word “scrunchie” means, just look for pink in the image—after all, the title tells you that the scrunchie is pink! You will see that a scrunchie keeps the girl’s hair together in a ponytail. Other titles include “Orange Athletic Socks,” “Red Dress” and “Aqua Hair.”
Go through old posts and cover up the image with a piece of paper (or use your hands to cover the bottom half of your eyes). Read the title and guess what the picture will look like. Or, do the opposite: Cover the title and only look at the picture. Give the picture your own title, and later compare it to the actual title.
Maddie is a dog (a Coonhound to be exact) and her owner is a photographer from North Carolina. His blog is as simple as the title suggests: He posts pictures of Maddie on things.
Each picture has a caption that varies from just a couple of words to a paragraph. This is another great blog for visual learners. Here are a few recent posts to give you an idea of the content:
- “This dog is upside down” will quickly show you what “upside down” means.
- “When ya don’t need any answers there’ll be days like this” uses the informal slang “ya” for “you.”
- “When Maddie picks how many scoops she should get…” is funny, because the picture shows a dog dish that is overflowing (so full that it is spilling over) with dog food. The joke is that if Maddie could choose how many scoops of dog food she should get, she would want to eat a lot!
You can get some great writing practice and become comfortable with English prepositions using this blog. Look at a picture of Maddie and write a brief description that tells where Maddie is. (Is she on the sofa? Next to the coffee mug? Under the blanket? Etc.)
PostSecret is a community art project where people mail in a secret. They put this secret on the back side of a blank postcard and decorate it. Their name is not on the postcard, which means it is an anonymous secret. Anonymous means that there is no name connected to it, so you don’t know who made it.
The project was created in 2005 by Frank Warren, and every Sunday he scans and posts new secrets on the blog. Some secrets are funny, sad, silly, inspirational, thought-provoking (make you think) and others are shocking.
Frank receives so many postcards and the blog is so popular that he has also published six books of PostSecret postcards. In February of 2012, he gave a TED Talk about PostSecret, which you can watch here with English subtitles. Frank supports suicide prevention organizations with money made from his PostSecret books and talks.
A fantastic way to get involved with this blog is to make and send in your own secret—in English! The address is:
13345 Copper Ridge Rd.
Germantown, MD 20874
What you are reading right now is a blog post from FluentU’s English Language and Culture Blog. This blog is updated weekly with awesome posts that are filled with handy tips and the best resources for learning English. It is written especially for English learners, so it is easy to understand.
Posts cover language topics—like how to learn 21st-century vocab from popular memes, the best cartoons for learning English and powerful strategies for learning English pronunciation—plus cultural topics, such as America’s Fourth of July holiday and phrases found in pop culture.
If you think you are ready for a challenge, read our language-learning tips on FluentU’s General Language Learning Blog. These posts are written for native English speakers, so they are best for intermediate or advanced English learners. The bonus is that all of the content will only help you learn English better and faster.
5. Tiny Texts
Although the most recent post was February of 2015, this blog has years of posts for you to read. They are so useful that they definitely deserve a place on the list.
This blog was created by Annette from Scotland, who moved to Italy in 1992 and has taught English for over 20 years. She knows that students need to be engaged to learn, so Annette has done a fantastic job of choosing interesting topics and making the posts interactive.
Each blog post is a paragraph with some words written in bold font. Below each paragraph, you can listen to the post being read aloud. Each post includes a line that says “Read by: [the person’s name] (their accent),” so you know what type of English accent you will hear that time. Underneath the audio, you will see definitions of the bold words. Each post ends with a free link to “Download the Takeaway Test.”
This is the only blog on this list that has audio recordings of every post, so it is super useful for practicing pronunciation and listening. If you are not sure where to start, click the “Choose a Random Tiny Text” circular button on the right-hand side to read a random article from the blog.
We are now moving on to the next level of difficulty, as the final five blogs in this list are all written for native speakers and have longer, more complex posts.
100 Days of Real Food is a blog that was started by Lisa Leake in 2010 to document her family’s attempt to cut out (eliminate) processed food for 100 days.
For an interactive way to use English while improving your health, take the 10-day pledge. When you take this pledge, you will promise to follow the real-food rules for 10 days.
They believe that, if their family of four can eat real food for 100 days, then anyone can do it for 10 days!
Follow the five steps in the “How to Take the 10-day Pledge” section, which includes filling in a Google form to sign up (which is wonderful real-life English practice, of course).
Another fun way to improve your English with this blog is to use this “recipe index” to browse (look) for a recipe and then make it at home. Print out the blog post and bring it into the kitchen. Narrate (say) what you are doing while you are doing it, as if you were the host of a cooking show.
Oh, and if you have children, Lisa’s school lunch ideas are life savers—very convenient!
7. James Clear
James Clear is an entrepreneur, weightlifter and travel photographer.
His posts offer concrete advice on how to live better, make positive changes and create useful habits in your life. He publishes a new post every Monday, and you can receive these by email. Reading the posts directly on his site is also a very pleasant experience.
I have been reading this blog for well over a year, and it is one I recommend to everyone. Posts are very well-written, cite solid research (he cites his resources at the end of each post), are not too long and are easy to understand.
The best part is that I can apply the advice immediately to see improvements in my own life.
James gets many of his ideas from real people, whose stories are always interesting to read about. For example, here are a few posts from the blog:
You can use the tips from James’s posts to learn English faster and better!
There was a rap metal band from the ’90s called Rage Against the Machine, so this blog name is sort of playing with that band name.
Since families with many kids often have minivans, we know this blog is going to be about a family. The blogger is Kristen, a mother of four kids (via birth and adoption) who lives in southern California.
She warns readers on her About page that she is not your typical “mom blogger,” because you will not find amazing craft ideas, scrapbooking or stellar photography there.
Instead, she often “rants about parenting, poop, adoption, politics, race, religion, social justice, and various other subjects that her mother warned her not to discuss in public.” She is honest and funny!
If you are not sure where to start, try her “Best of” page, which links to several of her most popular posts.
Kristen also runs a series called “What I Want You to Know,” where readers write in and submit their own post telling a personal story. Kristen’s goal with this series is to bring “greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face.”
This provides an awesome challenge for advanced learners: Read several of Kristen’s posts over time and pay attention to her tone. Then, once you have gotten used to it, read a post from “What I Want You to Know.” Can you tell a difference? Could you tell that Kristen did not write that post? What differences did you notice in writing styles and tone?
Kim quit her job in 2012, sold her things and left home to write while traveling the world with her husband. She introduces the blog clearly in this handy “New here?” page, which is where I recommend starting.
Along with travel, Kim also often writes about following your dreams. She wanted to be a writer for so long, but she did not write. Now that she has followed her heart and is doing what she loves, Kim wrote a book about her experiences to help others: “Life on Fire: A Step-by-step Guide to Living Your Dreams.”
Sometimes it is difficult to pick up on (notice) tone when reading in a second language. So I will tell you from the start: Kim’s writing is beautifully crafted. It is an absolute joy to read, and she is a very talented writer. Read some of her posts and see if you can notice this. Comparing it to other blogs you have read, can you tell a difference?
After traveling for several years, life recently took a turn (changed quickly) when Kim announced that she and Brian are having a baby.
Follow along to see what happens!
Rebecca Thering is a writer, editor and English teacher who has lived abroad in Spain, South Korea and France. She helps English learners improve their language skills through a growth mindset at English with Rebe.
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