The Ultimate Guide to Online English Speaking Lessons
Do you wish there were a more flexible way to study English?
Do you love modern technology?
Are you looking for new ways to improve your English?
Is time a problem for you?
Then why not try some online English lessons?
A great place to start is FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
With FluentU, you’ll have access to thousands of videos that have been specifically created to be fun and efficient online English lessons. Give it a free try and see for yourself!
But apart from FluentU, there is another type of online English lessons where you learn English on the internet. These are more traditional lessons in the sense that you learn in real time with a qualified teacher, but instead of having to travel to a language school, you can learn from anywhere!
You only need to have a device to access the internet and a good internet connection. You will have regular classes, and probably homework to do in your own time. So let’s start with the basics, and then look at some recommendations of the best online English lessons.
How Do Online English Lessons Work?
Different companies run their courses in slightly different ways. The end result is always the same though: You learn English! You will increase your vocabulary, practice grammar, gain confidence, learn how to structure your sentences and much more.
How Many People Are in the Class?
Online English lessons can be one-to-one, where you have private lessons. This type of class is likely to be a lot more personalized, which can help you meet your learning goals. There are also online group lessons. In this type of class, you share the time with other students, can do more group activities and the lessons are usually a lot less flexible.
How Will I Learn?
Different platforms are used for online lessons. For example, many companies offer lessons using Skype or other similar instant communication programs. Some students worry about not having enough interaction with this method. But stop and think about it: You have your teacher’s voice and if you use the webcam you can also see them.
The text box (where you can both type messages) is like having a whiteboard. You can each send files instantly through Skype, and you can also share your computer screens! You do have visual help in addition to a voice.
Some companies use their own specially made platform. These usually have the full range of communication tools too: voice and video, a text box, file sharing and options for highlighting and drawing.
There are also online language schools that operate in systems such as Second Life, where you enter an entire virtual world to learn. You have your own avatar (a computer-made character that represents you) that can actually walk around a virtual world. This is as close to a real-life setting as you can get online.
In fact, it’s perhaps more interactive than a lesson in a classroom! You can visit virtual stores, hospitals, offices, airports, and so on, to practice real-life situations with all the visual elements all around you!
When Will I Study?
Different companies run their courses in different ways. You will find those where you study with the same teacher on a fixed schedule. But there are also courses where you can set a time with any teacher when they are free.
You could even be in an online course where the teacher is not known until the class actually begins. No matter how it’s set up, all courses are designed to be very convenient for students.
Where Will My Teacher Come From?
Online English teachers come from all around the world! Many online schools offer classes with native English speakers, who are mainly from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
A lot of online schools also give students the choice of studying with an English teacher from their own country. This is very good for beginner students because the teacher can give full explanations in the student’s native language if needed.
Will I Have a Book?
A variety of different resources are used in online lessons. Some companies give students an electronic textbook to work through. Others create or personalize courses for each individual student, and use a wide range of different materials.
Do I Have to Use a Webcam?
If you do not feel comfortable using a webcam, don’t worry! You usually have the option of turning it off if you want to.
Or you could take a course with a company that does’t use webcams with the students.
How Do I Know What Type of Class to Choose?
More and more online English businesses are offering trial lessons to students. Sometimes they are free and sometimes there is a small charge. You can try a few sample lessons with different providers and see which you like best before you sign up.
I’ve Seen Advertisements for Free Online English Lessons, Are They Useful?
The majority of free online English lessons are not with a live teacher. They are often lessons that are sent by email, videos that you can watch in your own time, and exercises that you can do any time.
They can be an excellent additional tool for refreshing your English and practicing grammar and listening skills. There is often no feedback or corrections though; they are not a good substitute for lessons with a teacher.
With so many options it really is possible to find the type of online English class that is just right for you!
What Do I Need to Learn English Online?
There are a few basic requirements to learn English online.
Firstly, you will need a stable and reliable internet connection. Many companies recommend using a wired connection (rather than Wi-Fi), as this makes a better connection overall.
It reduces the chance of technical problems. If you only have a wireless connection though, this is still okay as long as you have a strong signal.
Many students have a better learning experience when they use a PC, laptop computer or notebook computer for classes. Some students do take lessons using tablets, such as iPads, and smart phones though.
But if possible, it’s better to use a computer rather than a mobile device. This is because the sound quality and image quality is often better on a computer. Computers are usually quicker too, and the screen is bigger!
A good quality headset is recommended. A headset is a piece of equipment with headphones and a microphone together. You plug the headset into your computer.
You can block out all other background noises with headphones and concentrate on your class. An adjustable microphone is also good because it makes your voice clearer, so your teacher and classmates (if you choose group lessons) can hear you well.
If you want to use the live video in your lessons, you need a working webcam! Many laptops have these built in, but you can also buy ones that you can plug into your computer.
You will need to download any necessary software and programs.
Advantages of Online English Lessons
There are several advantages to learning English online:
You do not need to make sure that you are in a certain place at a certain time, you just need to go online. You can take your classes at home, in a friend’s home, at work or even in a quiet café if you want!
You don’t need to worry about being stuck in traffic or missing a bus. You could even use the time that you save to look at some other useful online resources, such as blogs, news reports and radio!
Because teachers live all around the world, there are no problems with times. If you want a class early in the morning before you start work, on your lunch break, when you arrive home from work, on the weekend or even in the middle of the night, there will be an online teacher somewhere who can teach at the times that you want.
You are not restricted to opening hours of a language institute or the limited schedule of a private teacher nearby.
There are thousands of online English teachers. This means that you can find a teacher who is perfect for you. For example, if you want an Australian teacher who can teach business English with law and finance and has an interest in rabbits, you’ll find one!
You are not limited to the teachers in your city or town.
Disadvantages of Learning English Online
Keep in mind that there are also several disadvantages of online English lessons:
More Chances of Technical Problems
There is always the chance that you or your teacher will have a power cut or no internet connection. Your (or their) computer might break. Emails may be lost or delayed. There are more things that can go wrong with online lessons than traditional ways of learning in a classroom.
You Must Be Good with Computers
Although most providers try to keep the technology easy for students, you do need a good working knowledge of computers. This can get in the way of English learning for some students.
No “Real Life” Communication
If you enjoy studying with other people and socializing together before or after classes, online lessons can feel a little strange. There are no chances to go for a coffee with classmates during breaks or arrange to study together outside of the lesson.
Of course, if you have online group lessons you can always arrange to chat with your classmates on Skype, for example, outside of your classes—but it is not the same as person-to-person meetings.
There are not as many opportunities for networking when you take lessons online. You need to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages before you decide if online learning will be good for you.
Are Online English Lessons for You?
If you are good with computers, like working independently and are motivated to learn, online classes might be perfect for you. If you like the thought of studying with classmates from all over the world, online group lessons may be ideal.
However, if you prefer face-to-face communications, are not confident with using a computer and like to have a structured routine (where you know you will go to a certain place to study), online lessons might not work as well for you.
Some students think online classes are not as effective as traditional lessons. If this is you, your own thoughts may hold you back online and you should probably stay with regular classes or one-to-one lessons with a tutor.
If you’ve decided that online English lessons are for you, now we need to find the best provider.
Finding Online English Lesson Providers
There are hundreds of online English companies out there. The internet is a great place to start looking! If you type “online English lessons” into a search engine you will probably be very surprised by the large number of results. You can work through the listings and see which ones you like the most.
Talking to other people is also a good way to hear about online English lessons. Your friends, family and co-workers may have some experiences to share with you. They might be able to recommend some companies.
There are lots on online forums too where students talk about their learning experiences. You can find dedicated forums that only talk about online classes.
To make the search easier, these are some companies that offer English lessons online:
English Study Online
English Study Online has a worldwide student base with teachers from a wide range of different countries. All teachers are qualified and are native English speakers. Online lessons are one-on-one, meaning that your course can be really flexible to meet your needs and requirements.
You can choose to focus on general English, business English and exam preparation. There is also the option to upgrade your membership so that you can also access pre-recorded classes and lots of extra materials.
In an online English lesson your teacher will use different tools to keep things interesting. You will also be given homework to practice and reinforce new topics and areas. You can book a class at any time of the day (or night!) and on any day. There is no software to download—all you need is your computer, a headset and a stable internet connection.
Kaplan International is a large American company that offers traditional classes in many different countries. They also have online English lessons that are available for students from all over the world. The classes are run through a virtual world in Second Life. This means you can communicate with your teachers and other learners just as you would in real life. Learning really is fun!
Make your way around the virtual world, picking up useful and practical English skills as you go. Want to know how to get the best bargains when shopping? Then pop into one of the virtual stores! Having problems ordering food? Then pull up a virtual chair in one of the restaurants and order yourself some virtual cuisine! There are many different areas where you can learn with visuals as well as just from speaking.
Communicate in real time, take part in lots of fun and useful role-play exercises, get feedback from your teachers and learn from other students too. If you want to learn more, why not order their free brochure?
Based in Russia, Englex is mainly for Russian students. Classes are one-on-one through Skype, and most students set a schedule with a particular teacher. You know, therefore, when you will be studying. It is also possible to have a flexible schedule, where you arrange each lesson separately. You can, of course, change your teacher too if you want to.
You can have a free trial lesson with a teacher before you choose to study with them. In addition to native English speaking teachers, there are also some Russian English teachers. Russian English teachers are perfect for Russian beginning students who need a little bit more help.
General and business English courses are available, and you will receive a workbook and student book that is appropriate for your level. Your teacher will use the book in class, as well as additional materials.
You can also choose a specialized course where materials are chosen just for you. This includes online English courses that focus on a particular job or industry, for example the legal, medical and engineering fields. You can also take lessons to prepare for different exams and English language proficiency tests, such as IELTS and TOEIC, plus for job interview training.
Teachers use webcams, although it is up to the student whether they also use the video or not.
Based in the United States, you can study English with qualified American teachers at Open English. There are live group classes all throughout the day and night. You will study in small groups with students who are at a similar level to you.
You can interact with your teacher and classmates just as you would in a real classroom. Courses are available from beginner level and upwards. If you are interested in discussing your options you can arrange for a friendly and helpful advisor to call you.
Avatar Languages offer individual private lessons. Classes are carried out through a variety of programs, including Skype and Second Life. Programs such as Google Drive are used for sharing files.
You have complete flexibility over your schedule and all teachers are skilled, professional and native English speakers. The payment system allows for even more flexibility because you pay for the total time, not a set number of classes. You can then split this time as you like. Whether you want to use 30 minutes, an hour or longer, it is completely up to you.
The aim is to use a wide variety of different materials and make classes as practical and useful as possible, so don’t be surprised if you’re reading the news one day and talking about current affairs, and then looking at Google Maps and giving directions another day! You will be given homework tasks for further practice, and you can even go on a virtual field trip with a teacher to a variety of online locations!
If you want to interact with other students and practice your English in an informal setting, you can arrange to meet up in Second Life or have a group Skype chat. A free demo lesson is offered.
Based in France, the majority of Live English’s students come from European countries. You can take classes by Skype or by telephone with native English speakers from various countries. Why not try a low-cost trial lesson to see if you like this way of learning? There is also a free English language level test that can be accessed through the website.
After you buy a package, you can reserve your classes whenever you like. You can also sign up for lessons with different teachers. You will have access to an online calendar that shows availability for all the different teachers; simply choose a slot that works for you and your lesson is booked!
Different courses are available, including a general spoken English course, business English, exam English and job interview preparation. There is also a specialist writing course.
Lessons are one-on-one and are personalized as much as possible to help you to meet your language goals. The company recommends that learners be at least pre-intermediate level to get the most from their classes. Bilingual teachers are also available in French and Spanish.
italki connects students and teachers from all over the world. It’s like a matching service that allows students to browse a list of teachers. You can see reviews of different teachers left by other students to help you make your mind up. You can look at the available time slots for different teachers to find times and days that suit you. Then, choose a teacher and start your one-on-one lessons!
If you contact the teacher beforehand and tell them what your learning goals are, they will prepare lessons that meet your wishes. Lessons are done through Skype. It is also possible to have your written work corrected and also to chat with other students from all over the world.
British Study has traditional centers in the United Kingdom, and has expanded to provide online lessons to students from anywhere in the world. The teachers you will meet online are the same professional and experienced teachers that work in the language centers.
The courses follow a structure to help you build and develop your language skills, and you will learn in small groups with other students. The classes use Adobe. A wide range of materials are used, including videos, images, articles and audio clips. You will also be expected to do some self-study from the e-learning system.
Private lessons are also available if you want to practice even more. When you complete a course you will get a certificate. There is a choice of three main areas: general English, business English and exam preparation. Focusing on adult learners, British Study students should be at least 16 years old to sign up.
Those are all of the companies we’ll look at here, but remember that there are many, many more online English class providers!
Here’s one final tip to help you find the best online English class: Find an online school that is based in your own country. The administrators will speak the same language as you, which makes arranging your schedule, paying for lessons and other administrative tasks a lot easier. It can also help to resolve any technical difficulties quicker.
And now you’re ready to further your English skills with some awesome online English lessons. You never know, online English classes might just become your favorite way to learn!
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.