Stuck at home because of COVID-19? Five English self-study ideas

Are you stuck at home because of the COVID-19 virus?  Maybe your school has been closed.  Maybe you don’t have to go to work.  But, don’t worry, there are still many things you can do you to practice your English, even if you have noboby to practice with.

Here are five ideas of things you can do.  All of them are free and you don’t even have to leave the house.

Use special “learner” websites for reading and listening
If you’re studying alone, doing a lot of reading and listening is probably one of the best ways to improve your English ability. Not only will you improve your reading and listening skills, you will also naturally improve your vocabulary and grammar. If you want to enjoy reading and listening for long periods of time, be sure to use content that is interesting to you and not too difficult. For best results, use materials where you understand about 98% of the content (that’s 2-3 unknown words every 100). Also, try not to use a dictionary, just keep reading (or listening) and imagine the new words from the story. One useful and free learner website you can use for this is ER Central.

Write mini-movie reviews and check them online
Try writing short one-page passages on topics you’re interested in.  Maybe they’re about movies you saw or books you read.  Maybe they’re about trips you went on.   For each passage, take some time to plan your ideas before writing.  Then, after writing your passage, try to check it yourself for basic spelling or grammatical mistakes.  Then use a free online checking website to help check for more mistakes (eg. Grammarly).  Then Correct your mistakes and rewrite it.  Perhaps you can also turn your passages into short talks like below.

Continued below


Practice and record 3min talks about yourself
Prepare short 3min English talks (presentations) on topics you’re interested in.  For each talk, first, write down the main ideas you want to talk about.  Maybe you can also mark your pausing and thought-grouping (more on pausing and thought grouping).  Then practice your talks by saying them aloud to yourself.  After you feel comfortable presenting them, record yourself doing your talks on your smartphone.  When you’re finished, listen to your recordings.  Don’t worry, the grammar doesn’t have to be perfect.  But, ask yourself some questions:  Can you understand yourself?  Are you speaking too fast or too slowly?  Or maybe, how about your pausing and thought-grouping?  Try improving your talks and recording them again.

Do online language exchanges
There are websites that can help you find people to practice your speaking with using live webcam chat platforms (eg. Skype, Facetime).  One website called Mixxer helps connect you with language exchange partners to practice with.  A language exchange means you spend half the time speaking the language you are learning (eg. English) and your partner spends half the time speaking to you in the language they are learning (eg. Japanese).  You can also choose to do the exchanges by chat-mail or email.  There are also many websites that offer online lessons, however you generally have to pay for them (although some of them such as DMM are relatively cheap).

Explore large (and mostly free) English learning websites
There are many more websites that offer free online learning material for different learner levels. There are too many to talk about in this post, but three or my favorites are: BBC Learning English, British Council: Learn English Teens and VOA Learning English.


Extra tip!
If you have to stay at home for a long period, try breaking each day into smaller time units.  Then, make a fixed schedule for what you will do at each time.  Maybe some times are for English study, maybe some times are for doing something else.   But having a fixed routine will help keep you active and help pass the time more comfortably.  For example, 9-10:30am online reading or listening, 10:30-12:00 online language exchange (or lesson), 12-1pm lunch, 1:10-2:40 walk in the park, 2:50-4:20 writing & grammar.


Related links:

Recommended free vocabulary apps and websites (part 1)
Recommended TED Talks for language learning