Have you ever sat in an English class feeling lost and confused?
When I was teaching English in South Korea, I spent most of my spare time studying the Korean language.
I had a stack of textbooks that I would read every night.
After a while, I started to get pretty good at holding a basic conversation in Korean.
Eventually, I decided to take my language skills to the next level by taking Korean lessons at the local university.
My excitement quickly turned into horror after the first day of lessons, when I realized that I couldn’t understand a single thing that my teacher was saying to me.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have a good understanding of basic Korean—it was that I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to talk about school in the language.
Fortunately, I had a patient teacher and I was motivated enough to study every night after class, so I quickly caught up with the rest of the class.
But this experience taught me something important—you have to practice talking about school in a language if you want to study it in a classroom setting.
This means that if you’re a student of English and you plan to go to an English-speaking university, you need to know your academic English.
If you’re the parent of an ESL student, it’s also a good idea to learn a little bit about educational English just so you can keep track of their progress.
Even if neither of the situations above apply to you, school is a subject that comes up frequently in English-language discussions.
In fact, school vocabulary is common in all forms of media, notably in movies such as this one:
In this video, the host explores the movie trailer for a movie called “Gifted” featuring Chris Evans. The movie revolves around a man (Evans) who cares for his niece (actress McKenna Grace) after the death of her mother. Evans’ character discovers that his niece is gifted (or “very smart”), and a battle takes place between Evans—who wants to give the girl a normal life—and her grandmother, who wants her to become a successful mathematician.
As you can imagine, there are loads of school-related words and phrases to learn in this video as well as the phrase ad nauseam, a phrase that originally comes from Latin but is used in English all the time.
In short, any English learner can benefit from learning some basic school-related vocabulary.
Luckily, we’ve got a great list of resources that will have you talking about school with your friends in no time.
8 Tools for Anyone to Start Talking About School in English
LearnEnglish Kids by the British Council
Best for: Young beginners
LearnEnglish Kids is a website that uses videos, stories and activities to help children improve their English skills. So this may be a good site to look at with your kids if they’re learning English.
Along with a number of other interesting topics, LearnEnglish Kids covers school-related subjects, including:
LearnEnglish for Adults
Best for: Pre-intermediate and intermediate students
LearnEnglish is also a complete website that uses interactive exercises and multimedia to help second-language speakers improve their English skills. But unlike the kids’ version, this site is designed specifically for adults and covers real-world topics that they can relate to, like business English and IELTS prep.
If your goal is to learn how to talk about school-related topics, take a look at these three activities:
All three of these activities have additional exercises at the bottom of the page (Task 1, Task 2, etc.). Click on each task for a new exercise, so that you’re able to get a little extra practice with each lesson.
Best for: Intermediate and advanced students
TalkEnglish.com is filled with free, in-depth lessons to help students improve their English conversation skills. In addition to a number of other interesting lessons, TalkEnglish has lessons covering school and education, including subjects like:
- Children and school (a lesson on public schools, private academies and homeschooling).
In addition to sample sentences and reading passages, TalkEnglish also has recordings of the English sentences and paragraphs used in every lesson. This is great for practicing your pronunciation and improving your listening skills while you learn how to have conversations about school.
English Conversation Practice with Mark Kulek
Best for: Beginner and pre-intermediate students
Mark Kulek’s YouTube channel is perfect for memorizing vocabulary words and learning how to use them in the correct context, in addition to learning basic conversational skills. Overall, this channel is designed to help ESL students speak naturally and learn how to communicate with native English speakers.
The nice thing about Mark’s channel is how he focuses on a variety of different topics, including subjects that can help you learn how to hold basic conversations around school and education.
Some of these lessons include:
- English speaking practice at school (in a 24-minute video that drills classroom vocabulary and teaches you how to use these words in short sentences).
- School supplies vocabulary, or vocabulary for the basic items found in the classroom and around the school.
- School rules, which is great for students taking English classes for the first time. This video goes over some of the common rules found in English-speaking classrooms.
Learn English with EnglishClass101
Best for: Intermediate students
EnglishClass101 uses videos to help students learn English and improve their general conversational skills. Here, you can listen to natural conversations between English speakers and learn how to talk just like they do. By signing up on their website, you’ll receive access to hundreds of audio and video lessons, along with PDF lessons notes and access to their learner community.
The channel features a number of different topics related to school, such as:
- 10 English phrases for going back to school, including a number of expressions that you’ll encounter when school starts.
- Talking about school subjects in English. In this video, you can listen to a conversation between two English speakers talking about different subjects in school.
- The question “Where did you go to school?” This is a three-minute conversation on school and education. There’s a British English version available as well.
“Making Connections” by Cambridge University Press
Best for: High beginners up to advanced students
“Making Connections” is a textbook series that helps students improve their academic reading skills so that they’re able to better adapt to (get used to) an English-speaking classroom. While the books don’t teach classroom-based vocabulary like the other resources in this list do, they’re great for learning academic English and preparing for English-speaking schools and university.
The book series has a total of four levels:
- “Making Connections” Level 1.
- “Making Connections” Level 2.
- “Making Connections” Level 3.
- “Making Connections” Level 4.
The books cover a number of interesting topics, like social studies, history, math and science. They come with a number of reading and vocabulary-building exercises to help you increase your understanding of academic material.
Memrise Graduate School English
Best for: Highly advanced students
Memrise is a popular language learning app available on computers, Android and iOS devices that uses flashcards to drill vocabulary words, grammar rules and commonly used idioms.
Along with your usual English vocabulary courses, Memrise has a section dedicated to ESL students enrolling in graduate school at an English-speaking university. These courses are for highly advanced students who are already able to speak English fluently, but need to learn technical or scientific terms in order to be able to talk about school-related topics in master’s and doctorate-level classes.
While there are a number of different graduate school English courses available, my favorites are Barron’s 800 Essential GRE Words and the GRE Math review course. Both of these lessons can help you practice your English skills while preparing for your graduate school entrance exam.
With the help of these resources, learning how to talk about education, the classroom and school as a whole can be fun and easy.
Whether you’re an ESL student who’s been struggling to understand classroom language, or you’re a parent who wants to know more about how your child is performing in school, these resources will help you get one step closer to speaking English fluently!