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Resource Guide: ESL on a budget


There are many free and low-cost options for those looking to learn English as a Second Language (ESL). Many of these free options are online. These kinds of resources require you to be organized and motivate. You must also know where to ask questions when you need help.

Below are some free online resources for adults and children who are ESL students. We’ve also included some websites where you can find a low-cost in-person tutor. At the very end, you’ll find our tips for being a successful ESL student.

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Free ESL Online

  • Top 10 Pieces of Advice for ESL Students: Before we begin, here are some tips to ensure you are successful in learning English as a Second Language.
  • Tips for ESL Students: Here are a few more tips geared toward those who are moving to an English-speaking country for work or school.
  • UsingEnglish: Whether you’re a teacher or student, you’ll find some great reference guides, articles and quizzes on this website.
  • ESOL Courses: This is a great place to break down your ESL learning, from beginner, elementary and pre-intermediate to advanced.
  • Rong-Chang: Check out this site for weekly updated links. They categorize podcasts, quizzes, business English, and more.
  • 365 ESL Short Stories: This free site contains enough short stories for daily reading for an entire year. The stories also include audio files to help you pronounce words correctly.
  • Train Your Accent: Learn how to shape your accent and how better to understand the speaking styles of different English-speaking accents.
  • Purdue OWL: The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides free short lessons and exercises on grammar, punctuation, spelling and more.
  • Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary: The famous dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster put together this website of practice words and vocabulary quizzes for more advanced ESL students.
  • Focus English: You’ll hear hundreds of audio files on this website followed by useful exercises and practical tips.
  • English Page: Check out intermediate topics here, including the use of verb tenses, conditionals, gerunds, prepositions and more.
  • Reading with Audio: Read the text as you hear mp3 recordings of people speaking about various topics, including America, animals, sports, history and more.
  • 50 Essential Resources for ESL Students: You’ll find all the resources you need from free online lessons to specialized YouTube channels for ESL students.
  • English Forums: Have a specific question? Ask it on this forum and get answers from other English-speaking users. You can also browse their articles about common mistakes.
  • ESL Discussion Center: You can ask questions or just read the forums on this website. The forums are broken down by topics such as food, family, opinions and more.

Especially for the Kids

  • ESL Kids Online Games: Make learning a second language fun with these games, flashcard apps, worksheets and song downloads.
  • EnglishSpace: This free resource is created especially for students 11 to 16. This website includes over 60 hours of interactive lesson materials.
  • ESL Games: Find both online and printable games as well as videos, exercises, and other tools sorted by level of competency.
  • ESL Games Plus: Here you can find games and printouts, as well as apps for your mobile devices, like an iPad or Android tablet.
  • Fun English Games: Here’s another free learning resource that’s especially designed for kids with videos, activities, games and other fun stuff.
  • Free Online Interactive Games: Even more games! This one is geared toward preschoolers with any language background to help them recognize letters and initiate early reading and writing skills.
  • Online English Writing Tutor: This is a free sample lesson plan designed for a private student. Use this 13-section website to work through a professionally designed curriculum.

In-Person Tutoring

  • Omniglot: Find a freelance tutor near you who specializes in ESL. Their rates may vary, and you should be able to negotiate if you can demonstrate financial need.
  • MeetUp: Find people in your area who are also learning English and practice your language skills together. Some communities even have teachers participating.
  • WyzAnt: This tutoring service is another place that allows freelance tutors to post their profile. Unlike other tutoring services that have a set hourly rate, you will be able to find a variety of price ranges here.
  • Tutor Matching: This in-person tutoring matching focuses more on college students, but they also allow high school students to book appointments through their parents. Again, this is a freelance network of college students, so their rates will vary.
  • Tutoring Club: One of the most popular in-person tutoring services across the United States now offers financial aid for those who qualify.
  • My Tutor List: Here you’ll find tutors from around the world advertising their services. Make sure to look for ones who specialize in ESL, and be sure to negotiate a fair price.

Ready to get started with ESL?

By reading, listening, filling out worksheets, taking quizzes and even playing games, the Internet can help you learn a lot. However, for some people it is very difficult to learn a new language without interacting with a native-speaking teacher, especially as you progress to more advanced levels.

If this happens to you, you’ll want to consider in-person tutoring. This can be a low-cost option, but you’ll need to avoid the companies that have a retail store front. Companies with a store front will almost always charge more, and there’s often no room to negotiate a lower price.

Instead, you’ll want to find a tutor who is willing to meet you at a public library or coffee shop. These are tutors who work freelance, i.e., they set their own prices. If you need to, you can negotiate a more affordable price with them.

To be successful in learning a new language, there are a few general things to keep in mind.

Be patient: You will not learn English overnight. This is especially true if you’re not currently living in an English-speaking area. It can take years to feel fully comfortable in your fluency, and even then you might need to work on your accent to make yourself more understandable to native speakers.

Practice Daily: Whether it’s reading, writing or verbal skills, you’ll need to practice with the English language on a daily basis. This doesn’t always have to include “homework.” Look for online games in the resources we listed above. You can even watch movies or television shows in English. The more exposure you get to the language, the easier it will be to pick up and the longer you will retain your new language skills.

Network: Find other people who are also trying to learn English. This could be a family member, friend or co-worker. The goal here is to feel comfortable. You want to be able to practice speaking English without fear of being judged or misunderstood. You and your ESL partner can also work together on more advanced lessons and worksheets.

Take Advantage of Free Resources: Remember that the title of this article is “Guide to ESL on a Budget.” Before you rush out and hire a private tutor, try to see how far you can get with the hundreds of free online resources. If at some point you have a hard time understanding the more complex material, you can then consult a tutor. But if you pay a tutor for the easy stuff, too, it will cost you a lot of money over the long run. Have confidence and patience, and you’ll get through intermediate level English using only free online tools.

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About Johnson Hur

After having graduated with a degree in Finance and working for a Fortune 500 company for several years, Johnson decided to follow his passion by embarking on a path to the digital world. He has over 8 years of experience with large companies setting marketing strategy.

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