11 American English Books, Websites and Apps

To have a conversation with your new American friend, you’ll need to learn conversational American English.

Conversational English is casual and natural, and uses many common expressions and phrases. By learning these phrases, you can sound more natural when you speak, too—just like a native American English speaker.

You know the grammar. You know the vocabulary. Now it’s time to learn some conversational American English!

Contents

Forget Grammar: How to Have an English Conversation

What if we told you to stop worrying about grammar? Of course you still need to learn grammar so that you know the rules, but when you’re speaking conversational English, sometimes it’s better to be understood than to be correct.

Think about it: When you speak your native language, how often do you stop to think about the grammar? You probably don’t. In fact, there are probably times when you knowingly use incorrect grammar, because that’s how it’s actually used in conversations.

Imagine if an American came up to you and said, “Hey there, how’s it going?” How do you respond to that?

You can think back to what you learned about English vocabulary and grammar, and respond “I am doing fine, thank you.” Of course, this is not incorrect, but it doesn’t sound quite right.

That’s because the American is speaking conversational English.

For this reason, fluency is even more important than grammar in conversational English. Fluency is the ability to speak without having to pause too often. You can improve your fluency by listening to and reading a lot of English conversations, by learning phrases instead of single words, and by practicing as often as you can.

Just How Different Is American English?

American English is not that different from other types of English, like British or Australian English. One of the biggest differences you notice right away is the accent and pronunciation.

Aside from the pronunciation, American English does use many phrases, words and even sentence types that you might not hear in other English-speaking countries. Something called a “loo” in the UK is called a “bathroom” or “restroom” in American English. In Australian English you might say something is “bonza,” but in American English it would be “awesome.”

Even though these differences are small, they’re important for sounding really natural in a conversation.

11 Awesome Books, Websites and Apps for Mastering Conversational American English

Books

1. “McGraw-Hill’s Conversational American English”

McGraw-Hill's Conversational American English: The Illustrated Guide To Everyday Expressions Of American English (Mcgraw-Hill Esl References)

McGraw-Hill is a well-known textbook publisher, so you can expect good things from their book “Conversational American English.” The book is organized into themes and contains more than 3,000 common phrases and expressions used in almost any situation.

The themes in this book include conversational ways to say hello and goodbye, agree or disagree, and even deal with polite and impolite people. Each situation is followed by a list of phrases you might say in that situation. There is no explanation with the phrases though, so it’s probably not the best for a beginner.

2. “Speak English Like an American” and “Speak English Around Town” by Amy Gillett

Speak English Like an American (Book & Audio CD set)

Like McGraw-Hill’s book, Amy Gillett’s conversational American English books are full of many expressions for everyday experiences in both casual and professional settings.

Gillett’s books don’t just list the expressions, though. Each lesson has a conversation where you can see the phrases in action, followed by a list of the expressions, their definitions, and a few more examples. You can test your understanding of the expressions by doing the short worksheet at the end of each chapter.

3. “Common American Idioms: A Dictionary of the Most Popular American Expressions, with Etymology and Examples” by My English Routine

Common American Idioms: A Dictionary of the Most Popular American Expressions, with Etymology and Examples If you’re interested in learning a variety of American English idioms and expressions, this book is a useful resource with over 900 to learn.

 

Under each idiom in this book, you’ll not only find the meaning but also an explanation of the origin of the idiom as well as an example sentence so that you can see it in context. This is a great way to understand the background of common idioms as well as how they are used in conversations.

4. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green

Looking for Alaska

Educational books are a great resource for learning new phrases and expressions, but to really read about Americans having conversations, try reading a Young Adult (YA) novel. A novel is a fictional book, and a YA novel is specifically written for teenagers around the age of high school.

Many YA novels have realistic conversations and dialogues. Since the books are meant for a younger audience, they try to sound like younger people. And teenagers use a lot of expressions and slang! A few other Young Adult books that have natural-sounding conversations like in this book are Rick Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief” and Ann Brashare’s “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Websites

5. The Phrase Finder (American Phrases and Sayings)

Although this website is British, the sayings listed on this page are American. Clicking on any of the sayings takes you to a page that explains the meaning of the expression, as well as where it originally came from.

The site isn’t meant for English learners, so some of the language might be tough to understand (some of the definitions need definitions!). If you’re a more advanced learner, or are interested in where words and phrases come from, give it a try.

6. FluentU

For the more visual learners, you can find some great American English video content on FluentU.

This language program uses authentic videos—like music videos and inspiring talks—to immerse you in the language so you can learn and hear the language used in context by native English speakers. While watching the videos, you can find the definitions of the terms used plus audio pronunciation and example sentences by clicking on the interactive subtitles.

Click here to check out the website or download the iOS or Android app.

7. Real English Conversations

This website is like a podcast aimed at English learners. Here, you can find people having real conversations about different topics and themes. The speakers have a clear pronunciation and speak naturally, so you can pick up a lot of expressions about each topic. Each lesson also has some great tips and tricks for learning English.

Not all the content on Real English Conversations is free, but you can listen to a number of sample topics to see if this is the right website for you.

8. American English (United States Department of State)

The United States Department of State has an excellent website with resources for students and teachers of English as a second language. There are a few American English lessons and resources, like the one linked to above.

It’s a good idea to look around the website—you can find some great lessons here!

9. Learn American English Online

This website is a useful resource for American English learners of all levels.

If you click on the “American Speech” page, you’ll find a range of common American English expressions, idioms and even a vowel and consonant pronunciation page with audio.

This website will not only help you learn expressions used in American English, but also see how they are used in context with example sentences.

Check out this post to discover more English learning websites.

Apps

10. ELSA 

Available for: iOS and Android

ELSA is a great app for learners who would like to practice and improve their American English pronunciation and accent.

This app has thousands of lessons for English learners to choose from. You can record your pronunciation and receive specific feedback about each individual sound to help you start perfecting your pronunciation and work toward sounding more like a native American English speaker.

11. VOA Learning English

Available for: iOS and Android

VOA Learning English (Voice of America Learning English) is a news podcast with a huge number of topics for you to choose from—so you’re sure to find something you’re actually interested in. Although this is not specifically a learning app, it’s a good way to hear American conversations about whatever topic you choose.

As you listen to the news segment being read on the app, the text will be highlighted, allowing you to follow each section and pause the audio whenever you want. In addition, you can also increase or decrease the speed of the audio to adapt it to your level.

You can also access the VOA Learning English platform on your browser.

If you’re interested in learning English with apps, this post has the 23 best apps for learning English.

 

With these resources, you’re not just learning English—you’re learning to speak “American”! Now you’ll know exactly how to answer the next time someone asks you, “How’s it going?”

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

learn-english-with-videos

If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

learn-english-with-subtitled-television-show-clips

FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

learn-conversational-english-with-interactive-captioned-dialogue

FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

practice-english-with-adaptive-quizzes

FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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