If you’re not using your phone to learn English, you’re missing out.
That’s right. Your smartphone is secretly an awesome English learning tool—and there are several more sitting right under your nose.
Accessories and gadgets that you already own can be used every day to pick up new English vocabulary and grammar or practice speaking and listening. You just need to know how to use them for language learning.
Below, we’ll explore how to make everyday devices part of your English study strategy.
Turn Your Favorite Gadgets into English Learning Tools!
1. Your Favorite Websites
Websites you enjoy visiting can be great tools for your English practice. I don’t mean the websites specifically made to help you learn English, like WordReference forums or BBC Leaning English. No, I am talking about the websites you already visit daily or almost daily for entertainment, to read news or to catch up with friends!
You may be reading the websites below in your native language. Why not switch to English and turn your time online into English practice too?
- Explore blogs. Blogger, LiveJournal and Tumblr are popular blogging platforms that contain thousands of blogs (online journals) on virtually any topic. Blogs are kept in many world languages, but the widest user base for these platforms comes from English-speaking countries.
If you subscribe to a few English-language blogs that interest you, you’ll always have something new and engaging to read, with lots of English vocabulary and slang. It’ll also improve your reading skills in general.
- Check out those Tweets. Twitter is a well known micro-blogging platform that limits posts to 140 characters, which means you can literally have a five-minute study session while you catch up on the news from your favorite Twitter personalities and brands.
Twitter offers a wide variety of content that updates every second of the day, so you’re guaranteed never to get bored while learning trendy vocabulary and appreciating the art of being concise in writing.
- See and learn with Pinterest. Pinterest is a social network you may not think of as an English learning tool, but it’s perfect for vocabulary-building. Learning new words through graphics and images isn’t new, but Pinterest is free to access and offers a wide array of beautiful images that you can search by keywords.
You can use it as a graphic dictionary by searching for an unfamiliar word and seeing what comes up as a result. Be aware! Pinterest is very addictive!
- Don’t forget videos! Not only are videos fun to watch, they’re also very easy to rewind and pause, making them ideal for building up your listening and comprehension skills. FluentU is a great source for video-based English practice.
2. Your Mobile Phone
Smartphones have become so commonplace that we don’t leave our houses without them. It’s a way for us to stay connected, to pass the time, to share on social media and even do work. There are many great apps for English learning available on smartphones, but you can also use your phone in a different way!
- Put your phone in English. Go into your device’s settings and change the language to English, so that your phone’s menu and phone commands will be displayed in English. If you think it’s silly, remember that the smallest details make a difference. You’ll get used to seeing more English every time you look at your phone.
- Use your phone assistant in English. If you own a newer version of an Android device or an iPhone, you likely have an automatic phone assistant built in. The iPhone’s Siri feature is the best-known, but Android has its own version. Since your phone settings are now switched to English, Siri will listen to you if you talk in English.
So start talking! Try saying simple things such as, “McDonald’s opening hours,” or, “what’s the weather today?” You’ll get to practice your pronunciation and use your phone’s capabilities to the max!
- Install a good dictionary app. This way, you can always look up English words when you’re studying. English-to-English dictionaries tend to be the most useful, but Google Translate will also do!
3. Your Music Player
Listening to music can be great language practice, so get groovy with some English tunes! Free Music Archive and Jamendo are excellent sources for free and legal music downloads. You can also get a lot of good songs for free on Amazon. Of course, iTunes and Google Music offer the widest music selection, if you’re willing to pay a few dollars for your favorite artists.
However, your music player can do so much more than just play music! In particular, it can store and play podcasts.
Podcasts are perfect for English practice. Think of podcasts like radio shows, but tailored to your interests and downloaded directly to your device, so you can listen to them on the go.
There are many podcasts targeted specifically at learning English (for example, Elementary Podcasts by the British Council and 6 Minute English by the BBC). You can also pick your favorite topic and simply practice English listening skills while keeping informed, entertained or both! TED Blog also has some excellent podcast suggestions.
Podcasts can also be downloaded to your smartphone or computer!
4. Your E-reader
If you’re a passionate reader, you may own an e-book reader like Kobo or Kindle. These portable devices make it easy to carry tens or even hundreds of books with you.
Guess what? Reading English books is a classic study tactic, and an e-reader is the perfect tool for it!
- If you’re a beginner learner, seek out books that are adapted for your level, with simple vocabulary and some words and expressions explained.
- If you’re an intermediate learner, popular fiction and detective stories can be a cool challenge for you!
- If you’re an advanced learner, take a look at American and British classics, which often have more complex grammatical structures and very rich vocabulary.
To start your e-reading journey, try Open Culture’s list of 800 e-books available for free (legally). Kobo offers a free e-books selection as well, and it changes every week.
Don’t own an e-reader? Your smartphone can handle e-books as well. Both the Apple app store and Google Books have thousands of books available for free download!
5. Your Notebook (Plus Flashcards!)
The old-fashioned yet trusted method of practicing English is using pen and paper. A portable little notebook is a flexible English learning tool that’s available to you anywhere, regardless of whether there’s a Wi-Fi signal or not.
Here’s how you can use it:
- Get a notebook. You’ll turn it into your own little English-language diary (journal). Make a habit of writing a short entry in English about your day (daily or every other day). It’s a great way to practice your English writing skills. You’ll quickly see some weaknesses in your grammar and vocabulary, and you’ll find areas for improvement right away!
- Make some flashcards. You’ll use them to study grammar concepts, difficult vocabulary or anything else you want to focus on. Any set of small blank paper cards will be fine for the task. Once the cards are ready, carry them in your diary.
- Get learning! Now you have your own study set for English concepts that matter the most. And it’s ready for you any time and any place, as long as you carry it with you.
Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to take a closer look at how you use your favorite devices and accessories. All of them can be excellent English study tools, when you want them to. They’ll also be there to entertain or distract you when you need a little break.
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:
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.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you 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? 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 FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.