Learning another language in adulthood is extremely difficult; doctors, teachers, and students agree that after puberty, the brain restructures itself in such a way that language acquisition becomes an uphill climb. That said, there’s a lot to be gained from this venture, both from a cultural perspective, and in terms of brain health.
For example, a Swedish MRI study showed that learning a foreign language during adulthood has a visible effect on the brain; it makes it grow larger in certain areas of the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. You can read more about the exact study here.
Unfortunately, the challenge of learning a language isn’t solely the process of actually memorizing words, methods of pronunciation, and grammar skills. It’s bigger than that: busy adults need to find the time and resources that allow for them to incorporate regular language lessons into their specific lives. For example, night classes might work for some people, but others may not have the time, funds, or means of transportation for that kind of commitment.
The internet, however, is changing the game. Not only are people from different geographical regions more connected than ever before and therefore more incentivized to learn how to communicate, but there are thousands of free online tools that can help those language learners along the way to fluency.
This particular article will discuss the options available to those interested in learning English, but it’s worth noting that the top two most-spoken languages are Chinese and Spanish, with English coming in third. Before I start categorizing all the possible English-learning resources you can use, I want to say that the best possible one is likely the BBC Learning English website.
Conversational English Tools
Classroom English often falls short when it comes to preparing for every-day speech with native speakers. That’s what makes online services like Elllo so helpful- with Elllo, users can listen to recordings of English speakers telling stories, having meaningful conversations and talking about their lives. Audio and video files are sorted by accent, so English learners can even listen to British and American accents as well as non-native speakers to advance their listening capabilities. For an even larger bank of listening practice, check out Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab.
Reading and Writing in English
Reading and writing comes much easier than speaking for some, while for others it’s the last thing to become polished. Often the difference comes down to whether you’re a more visual- or audio-prone learner. Regardless, there are plenty of ways for English language learners to hone their skills online. Check out the reading topics at ESL Gold, where you can pick from articles sorted by your reading level. You can also find a lot of helpful resources at The Academic English Cafe.
Perfecting English Grammar and Expanding Vocabulary
Those committed to learning to speak English correctly may be interested in navigating the treacherous in’s and out’s of English grammar, which unfortunately is more a matter of memorizing arbitrary rules and learning a system. Luckily, there are plenty of online resources for this as well: Check out The Study Zone, English Grammar In Use, and John Fleming’s ESL Grammar Help for guidance.
Free Mobile Apps
Finally, here’s a list of great, free mobile apps that can help you learn English whenever you have any downtime: Memrise, Duolingo, Lingua.ly, LearnEnglishGrammar, Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge, SpeakingPal English Tutor, MyWordBook2, Busuu, Fun Easy Learn English, and Phrasalstein.