Let’s put your English skills under a microscope.
What do you see?
Do you have the vocabulary you need to succeed in your field? How about confidence reading English research papers, or discussing the latest findings with English-speaking colleagues?
If you don’t see these qualities yet, don’t worry.
It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by English scientific speech and writing—even for many native English speakers! The most important thing is to find the right tools to build your skills, so you can do your work without worrying about language.
In this post, we’ll show you a range of resources that’ll teach you English across many different scientific and technology-related fields.
They’ll boost your reading, listening, writing and speaking skills so you can excel in your studies and your career.
Tips for Using English in School and Research
Are you learning English for science so you can complete your classes? Are you hoping to join a research lab in an English-speaking environment? Do you just want to read English research articles?
Getting comfortable with English in school and research settings will help you achieve these and many other professional goals. Here’s how:
- Learn how to overcome the biggest obstacles of learning English for academic purposes. This article will show you how, so that you’ll be comfortable using English in a university setting—which is important whether you’re a student or you’re hoping to work as a researcher with university funding.
- Learn key acronyms in the field. For this article, we’ll be using the acronyms STEM and EST.
STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” It’s a term used in reference to the study or discussion of any of these subjects.
EST stands for “English for Science and Technology.” It refers to the English a non-native English speaker must learn to study and talk about STEM.
- Learn English suffixes commonly used in science. A suffix is an ending that can be added to a word to show that it belongs to a certain category. Here are some examples widely used in science and technology:
“-ology” — This suffix refers to the study of something. For example, “biology” is the study of organisms, “meteorology,” is the study of weather patterns, “sociology” is the study of societies and so on.
“-onomy” — This suffix refers to a system of rules. It can also mean the body of knowledge on a particular subject. Some examples are “economy,” the rules of money and money systems and “astronomy,” the body of knowledge or laws behind space and the stars.
- Try these steps for self-studying English. These will help you engage with the resources listed below, and move forward on your path to learning vocabulary and grammar related to your field of study.
Eureka! The 17 Best Tools That Teach English for Science and Technology
Okay, now let’s look at some materials to help you read, listen to, write and speak about scientific topics in English.
MOOCs for EST and STEM
MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses. They’re typically affordable (sometimes free) and are created by top universities and institutions around the world. The material they teach is almost exactly what’s taught in university classrooms. That means you get a high-quality education—plus exposure to an English classroom environment—all from the comfort of your home.
There are also plenty of science-focused MOOCs for both English learners and native speakers. Some of them have class and assignment schedules you need to follow, while others can be completed on your own time. Some MOOCs also offer certificates when you complete the course, which is good to add to your resume.
Introduction to Scientific Writing for Publication
Hosted by: Canvas Network
Created by: The University of Oregon
Duration: Four weeks—course materials will still be available to Canvas Network members even after the course period
Topics covered: This course prepares your writing to be published in English-language science publications. You’ll work with the proper grammar structures and vocabulary used in scientific writing.
You’ll also learn about plagiarism (writing copied from other sources) and what you can do to avoid it.
English for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Hosted by: Coursera
Created by: The University of Pennsylvania
Duration: Five weeks
Topics covered: This course (designed for non-native English speakers) focuses on climate change and the current research and discussions around this issue. It also discusses technology that’s being used in relation to climate change and new energy systems.
The MOOC provides specific vocabulary for engaging with these topics. You’ll learn cause-and-effect language and practice making comparisons in English. There are quizzes, video lectures, readings and discussion questions to help guide you through the lessons.
English for Physics, Chemistry or Biology on Udemy
Hosted by: Udemy
Created by: English Teacher Daniel Owen
Cost: $50 per course, although significant discounts are often offered
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Topics covered: This series of courses focuses on specific areas of academic English for science. It’s perfect if you plan to study or work in the fields of physics, chemistry or biology (or related fields, such as medicine).
Each course comes with about three hours of video lectures plus lots of interactive practice material. You’ll learn hundreds of scientific vocabulary words related to the subject. You’ll also receive a certificate of completion after finishing the course.
EST Textbooks and Handbooks
These books have been written for non-native English speakers who are learning EST for the first time or for academic purposes.
“Essential English for Science and Technology”
From Oxford University Press, this book covers a general overview of basic scientific terms that would be used in the university classroom.
“The Handbook for English for Specific Purposes”
A comprehensive handbook that talks about English for all specific purposes. It also includes a section on EST and the grammar and vocabulary that goes with it.
“Cambridge English for Scientists”
This book focuses on multiple language skills by giving you prompts to speak about when you’re finished with the reading and listening exercises. It also comes with an audio CD.
Science and Technology Magazines and Blogs
These are magazines and blogs that cover only science and technology, in often fun and interesting ways. Each of these has articles that explore issues in science and technology from unique perspectives, which lets you think about and learn about them from different angles.
Read these to improve your English comprehension while staying up-to-date on the latest research.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Vocabulary focus: There are many topics covered in this magazine so you can target any vocabulary goal. Just go to the menu on the homepage and select the field you need to practice. There’s “Health and Medicine,” “Space and Physics,” “Environment” and more.
About: Discover will point you to research from essential English-language scientific journals. Since there are many different topics covered, it’s a great way to test your overall English and English for science knowledge. There’s even a podcast as well so you can also practice your listening skills.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Vocabulary focus: This is another great option for general science vocabulary improvement, but it’s especially useful for introducing you to essential technology vocabulary.
About: This magazine is great for staying on top of news from the science world. You’ll also get perspectives on other fields that use science research, like the military or technology retail.
Vocabulary focus: The natural world, animals, anthropology terms and words used to talk about ancient civilizations.
About: Known for its award-winning photography, National Geographic mostly covers natural science stories. It creates a portrait of the natural world, including human beings, beautifully. And because the magazine uses photography, the images can help you better understand the articles.
Vocabulary focus: Themes of psychology, psychiatry and sociology. Good for learning how to construct sentences using statistics.
About: As the name suggests, this magazine discusses psychology in a way that’s relevant to everyday lives. Most articles are well-researched and written by working psychologists, psychiatrists and doctors.
The Science and Technology Section
Almost all major English magazines and newspapers have a dedicated section for science and technology. The writing here will be best suited for beginners, since the magazines and newspapers are writing for a wide audience in plain language. The vocabulary focus will shift with every story, so it’s great for learning new words from many different fields.
Here are a few that are most notable:
The New York Times
This science and technology section includes commentary about the latest research studies. There is also news connecting science and technology to politics and economics.
In comparison with The New York Times, the science and technology section of The Economist focuses more on updates in research and how they might affect everyday life.
The BBC has tons of podcasts for science, technology and nature to practice your English for science listening skills. (If you plan to study or work in the U.K., this is a nice option for learning the British accent.) They also have a science section you can read and a technology section you can read.
Like The New York Times, The BBC is also mainly focused on news and updates in these fields.
Science and Technology Videos
Vocabulary focus: Physics, computer science, astronomy, ecology, biology and more.
About: Crash Course has short videos on many topics, but their science and technology videos review basic scientific concepts in an easy-to-understand way. The visuals will help you remember the vocabulary you learn from these short videos.
Level: Beginner to advanced
Vocabulary focus: Natural science, technology, coding, the environment, space travel and many other topics.
About: To master English for science, you need to learn more than the right words and grammar. You also need to learn how to use them the way native speakers do. That’s what will give you the confidence to give presentations, deliver lectures and debate with your colleagues. FluentU is an excellent resource for achieving those goals.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU 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.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Vocabulary focus: Chemistry
About: This is a channel about chemistry and, as the title shows, the elements. It also has videos about molecules, compounds of chemistry and experiments.
In the videos, the creators do their experiments while explaining them, helping you better understand the actions as well as the vocabulary.
Level: Intermediate to advanced
Vocabulary focus: Physics
About: Another aptly-named channel! This one discusses concepts related to physics in illustrated videos that are quite short—about one to five minutes long—so the narrator speaks quickly. This makes them a great choice for advanced English learners.
The illustrations help you visualize the concepts, but if you’re an intermediate learner, it’s best to watch with subtitles or repeat the video more than once.
Just remember, when you’re choosing your resources, think about the type of science you’d like to focus on and find material that’s the most relevant to that subject. Don’t try to learn everything all at once! Start with one topic you really like. Most importantly, remember to have fun. Science and technology are about exploring the world. So why not have fun while discovering something new?
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.