You could be a news addict who’s always on top of current events.
Or you might want to know about all the latest trends or tech.
Maybe you just catch the headlines on your way to and from work.
No matter what your interests, the news plays a big part in our everyday lives.
But what if you could start using the news not only to stay current, but also to learn English?
Sounds intriguing, right?
Breaking news, in-depth reports and innovative (new and original) stories can make the perfect materials for learning English, whether you’re a newbie learner or approaching fluency.
You’ll love the convenience of learning English through the news, with options for reading articles online, listening to news podcasts or watching news videos on an app—all on your own time and wherever you like.
Before we explore some great news sources for English learners, let’s take a quick look at why learning through the news can be so effective.
The Benefits of Learning English Through the News
Learn Relevant, Up-to-date Vocabulary
Reading or listening to news keeps you up-to-date with the current discourse (conversations people are having) in English. Not only will you pick up essential vocabulary for political, economic and cultural issues, but you’ll also gain exposure to (experience with) the way these issues are framed and approached in the Anglophone world.
For example, let’s look at the way feminist issues have been discussed in the news throughout history. In news articles from the early 20th century, you’ll find a major focus on women’s right to vote and you’ll frequently encounter the word “suffrage.” In the early 21st century, feminist issues including equal pay or abortion options have become more topical (talked about), and you’ll find headlines like these: “Feminism, Abortion Rights and the Women’s March” (The New York Times) or “Gender pay gap means women ‘working for free from now until 2017′” (The Guardian).
It’s interesting to see how issues and language evolve (develop or change) throughout history. During your lifetime, which term do you think you’ll hear and use more often in English: “suffrage” or “gender pay gap”?
Improve Both Listening and Reading Skills
The news is accessible in many forms: broadcast on TV, aired on the radio (or through podcasts), printed in newspapers or displayed on websites.
Printed and online news are useful for reading practice, as their content is relevant to your daily life. This means you can guess the meanings of words that you don’t know and remember them for longer. For example, if you check today’s weather section and see the word “downpour,” then go out and get soaked in the heavy rain, you’ll surely remember what “downpour” means in the future (and will know to grab your umbrella).
Similarly, radio and TV news is a great resource for practicing listening and picking up useful words. It’s also helpful for language learners because news broadcasters tend to speak clearly and slowly compared to conversational speech. Some TV news videos even come with subtitles, which means you can improve your listening and reading skills at the same time.
An Abundance of Free Resources
Many news publications and broadcasters have gone online to find a larger readership. Though some publishers ask for a subscription fee for premium or unlimited content (or appeal for some financial support through a membership program, like The Guardian does), you can choose to read countless pieces of news for free on the web, or get news delivered to your email inbox.
Whether you’re interested in entertainment, business or general headlines, you’ll have at least limited free access to many major publications. You’ll also be able to find entirely free magazines and newspapers. Popular news sources with free online access include Vice, BuzzFeed News and Fast Company.
You can also find subscriptions to many popular news magazines for discounted (lower) prices on Magazine Line. You can save 70% or more (off the original price) on some magazines. That makes them a whole lot cheaper! Plus, if you’re a college student, you may be able to save even more. Check out “Student and Educator Rates” at the bottom of the home page.
Learn English Through the News with These 9 Resources
E-News: For English Learners of Various Levels
This is one of those news sites built specifically for an English-learner audience. The site contains weekly news reports for English language learners of advanced, intermediate and elementary levels. For instance, you can read about the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” release in three different versions, with the vocabulary and sentence structures written for your level.
Language learners will find a list of keywords for each article and their meanings in context. Articles also come with audio files, with the speed quickening gradually from elementary to advanced.
When using E-News, don’t be afraid to go outside your own level. If you practice reading or listening to all three versions of the articles, you’ll get to know a lot of synonyms (words that have similar meanings).
News categories include politics, science, tech, sports, travel and culture. Plus, you can search quickly for a topic of interest using tags. On the whole, the site is nicely designed and user-friendly.
The Times in Plain English: Easy-to-read News Articles
As clearly stated on the front page, The Times in Plain English is about “clear writing” for “global reading.” Though not specifically built for English learners, it makes an effort to make news easier to understand for a worldwide audience. This means that English beginners can get their daily dose of news without having to pick up their dictionary once every five words.
The site takes articles from various publications, including The New York Tim FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.es, and rewrites them in short, concise sentences using common vocabulary. Topics include health, education, law, immigration, money and work. You can find a link to the source at the end of each article, for when you want a reading challenge.
The site is easy to navigate and you can also subscribe to a newsletter to receive new articles straight to your inbox.
FluentU: News Videos with Interactive Learning
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.Each video comes with interactive features including subtitles with translations and in-context definitions for any words you don’t recognize, plus quizzes to ensure that new vocabulary and language skills stick. It’s a great way to improve both your listening and reading skills while catching up on current events.
You can use either the FluentU website or app for iOS and for Android to access the real-world news videos. New content is also sent straight to your inbox, so you can easily check out the latest videos, such as “Vietnam, the New Startup Scene” or “Model Hired as a Food Editor,” as soon as they’re available.
The New York Times’ Times Minute: Short Videos of News
This video channel from The New York Times features short current affairs videos. They contain smart analysis from the Times reporters and editors. They don’t take long to watch, as most videos are within two minutes. Basically, they’re short and sweet—ideal for improving your listening skills.
The videos are accompanied by a related article, which makes for excellent, relevant reading material. Here’s a neat exercise to take advantage of both:
- First, read the article. Read at your own pace but give it your full concentration.
- Second, summarize the article based on what you read. Try to do the summary verbally in under two minutes, and ideally, use a voice recorder.
- Finally, watch the video. Compare your summary with the Times Minute’s video. The aim of this exercise isn’t to determine who did a better job, but to learn how to transform a story from a written format to a spoken one and pick out the core ideas.
theSkimm: News in Small, Fun Bites
theSkimm is a daily e-newsletter that claims to give you all the most important news you need to start the day. Every morning, you’ll get pithy (short but expressive) summaries and insightful commentaries regarding the day’s headlines.
The newsletter’s popularity is thanks to the writers’ ability to turn sometimes dry news into something fun and quick to read. Rather than having to visit various sites to get all the important news of the day, you can skim it all quickly right in your inbox. It’s a lot more convenient!
As a language learner, you’ll also benefit from the news being shorter and down-to-earth. As humor plays a large part in theSkimm’s style, beginner learners without much exposure to American culture might miss a joke or two. However, you’ll likely still find the newsletter engaging and will be motivated to keep reading every day. (I know I am!)
The New York Times’ Modern Love: Stories That Are Close to Your Heart
Modern Love is a very popular column in The New York Times. Its stories of love, loss and redemption (being saved or making things better) can stir up emotions that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. They’re beautifully written personal essays, which are engaging and not too difficult to read.
For listening practice, check out the Modern Love podcast, which turns the stories into theatrical reading performances. There’s also a short interview with the people mentioned in each story in the second half of each episode.
The column and the podcast make a great resource for language learners. You can work on reading, listening and even speaking skills. The podcast performances by professional actors provide excellent examples of the rhythmic flow of English speaking, which you can practice imitating to perfect your own.
To gain unlimited access to this valuable New York Times resource, you’ll need a subscription. You can still read a limited number of free articles each month without one, but if you really want to make use of resources like Modern Love, it’s best to have full access.
BBC World Service’s Global News Podcast: World News on the Go
This daily podcast from BBC World Service is ideal for improving your listening skills while commuting or doing chores around the house. On the podcast, a learner can listen to worldwide reporters who have various English accents (including American, British, Australian and Indian) or who speak English as a second language.
That makes valuable listening practice for English learners, because in the real world—the workplace, universities or social occasions—not only will you encounter accents from across the Anglophone world, but you may also rely on English to communicate with other non-native speakers who don’t share your mother tongue.
This American Life: Fascinating Stories and Investigations
This American Life is one of the first podcasts I ever subscribed to and remains my longtime favorite. This show provides everything from personal stories to investigative reports, always with powerful storytelling. You’ll find exciting, heartbreaking and inspiring insights into the lives of American people.
The stories from This American Life are ideal materials for advanced English listening. You’ll be exposed to natural conversational speech and a range of English accents. You can also test your understanding using episode transcripts available on the website.
If you’ve never heard of This American Life and feel overwhelmed by its large archive, I recommend starting with Serial, a spinoff podcast that went viral in 2014 and 2015.
The Guardian: High-quality Articles for Intermediate and Advanced Readers
The Guardian offers English learners a large collection of articles with views on politics, culture, business, lifestyle, travel and more. There are news reports and opinion pieces with high-quality writing, which often require an upper-intermediate to advanced level of English. The Guardian’s Long Read provides some exciting additional materials to improve both reading and listening skills.
Learning English through the news can be easy and exciting with so much to choose from for language learners of all levels.
Whether you want to improve your reading, listening or even speaking skills, these resources will help you move forward on your path to fluency.
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.