Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your guide to English learning resources and free online courses

Your guide to English learning resources and online courses

Learn English with the BBC

BBC GCSE Bitesize - English

Learn English from English literature to creative writing and presentation skills using interactive audio, video and game content from Bitesize.

BBC Primary School - Literacy

Online resources to support learning English for kids: primary English and literacy for children aged 4-11 and their teachers including English activities and games.

BBC Skillswise - Words

Learn or improve your English skills online with games and quizzes on English grammar, spelling, reading, writing and English vocabulary.

BBC World Service - English

Online English learning resources for speakers of English as a second language through news, sport, pictures, video and audio resources. The site also offers help and support on how to learn English by specialist English language teachers.

BBC Class clips - English

Search and view a library of videos supporting the learning of English online with a variety of English subjects including poetry, drama, spoken language and writing non fiction.

BBC raw

Expert advice and inspiration to improve your English writing skills from how to write a summary to story writing tips.

BBC English learning resources from Scotland

Learn English with critical evaluation of non-fiction stories, novel and textual analysis, autobiographies and travel writing or download Scottish short stories

English courses

From evening classes and lessons to part-time college courses and university courses, search databases of the UK's leading course finders to help you choose the right English course for you.

Learn English online

Learn English - British Council

Portal linking websites for teachers and learners of English as a Foreign Language and providing fun language practice through themes and skill based English language activities.


Free online resources supporting learners interested in how to learn English: classic literature, drama and poetry plus detailed literature study guides, reference books, dictionaries, biographies and religious texts.

English Grammar Guide

Learn English online with these free English grammar lessons: English grammar exercises and explanations on English punctuation, adjectives, adverbs and nouns.

Google Book Search

Learn English by managing your personal bookshelf and share online books with friends with this comprehensive library of books covering a variety of subjects.

Poets & Writers

Learn English at advanced level with articles and advice on creative writing, including tools for writers and answers to the top ten issues they are facing, from this US online magazine.

Learn English - British Council

Free English teaching material and advice on how to learn English with classroom activities, lesson plans, quizzes and discussions.


Community of teachers sharing online English teaching resources, lessons and worksheets on topics such as essay writing, speaking and listening, drama and Shakespeare.


Start learning English online today with these free English language skills courses and assessment by one of the world's leading provider of free online courses.

Open University - English

Choose between two free online English courses from the OU: Start Writing Fiction, a creative writing course, and Essay and Report Writing Skills, containing helpful tips to plan, structure and write assignments or reports.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"The most popular language tools online": A good read

Since we are living in a world that is widely culturally diverse, the importance of learning other languages has increased tenfold. This is the main reason that it is so important that we all know at least one other language than our own native tongue. Having said that, if you want to learn another language for whatever reason, there are a large variety of language tools online to put you on the path to becoming fluent in the language of your choice.
Radio Lingua Network

The Radio Lingua Network give you free podcasts with which you can use for language comprehension skills. They offer teaching for over 20 different languages and each episode goes from just a few minutes all the way up to five minutes. They are kept short so that you can take in what you have just learned before moving forward with more information. For more information on this language tool go to

This free web software is perfect for practicing the vocabulary of the language you are learning and there is no actual effort involved in doing so. The software is quite unique in that it works by having flash card windows pop up at specific times on the desktop of your computer. At this time you either decide to study it or leave it be for later. When you do not click on it, it will eventually disappear. You can find out more about Popling at
Open Culture
This is one of my personal favorites! Open Culture if a free website that has podcasts for 37 languages. They cover almost any language you wish to learn from Yiddish to Arabic. The best part is that this language tool is fantastic for people at all levels of language study; beginners and intermediates. If this sounds interesting to you, go to
Digital Dialects
This online language tool give you an interactive learning experience for free. It contains language games in 58 languages that allow you to practice with new beginning phrases. It also introduces you to the vocabulary to help increase your language knowledge. The website is regularly undated so there is always new materials to work with. For more info on this site go to

Lang-8 is an awesome site that encourages you to practice the writing skills of the language you are learning. This is done by writing in the language that they are learning. You get writing assignments and when you complete them you can send them to a native speaker for corrections and feedback. There is also a community for exchanging where you get to read over that others have done in your native language so you can do corrections and give feedback. For more information on this, go to
These are just a few of many online language tools in my list. Others, are,LingroBabbelTranslation2SharedTalkTransparent and many more.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 ways to prepare for IELTS without having to spend money (English Ryan)

This is a very good video to watch, and it offers great advice!

See if you can understand English as it is spoken to you by a native speaker. Go here:

Success Secrets of Learning English (Genki English)

For many of your students, confidence is the only thing they lack. So I've written this book to give them a major confidence boost. It sometimes reads like a "get rich quick" scheme, but the style really works in getting you to want to pick up those English books or tapes.

This page is the International Version, but there's also a version for Japan.

There are also versions with a built in Korean Dictionary or Spanish Dictionary.
(Just hover over the words for the translation.)


Success Secrets of Learning English

by Richard Graham
Hello, my name is Richard. You are about to learn the secrets that will allow you to become fluent in one of the most amazing communication mediums on the planet, the English language.

You will learn the skills, hints and tips, but more importantly the way of thinking that will allow you to speak English to whatever level you desire. If you wish to do business, converse with friends, or simply to enjoy meeting other people, whatever your background or experience, putting these simple steps into place will dramatically increase your English ability. They are the exact same ways of thinking that I myself have used to study Physics in French at a French university, and to speak in numerous TV shows and presentations in Japanese.

If you wish you could speak English better, or even if you know nothing at all and just want a head start, this book is what you have been waiting for, the key to making English something that you, yes you, can speak beyond your wildest dreams.

1. Realise that you can be good at English.
Anyone can become good at English. You can become good at English. Race does not matter. Millions of Americans speak fluent English, yet thousands of them are biologically exactly the same as you. Where you were born does not matter. Most of the English speakers in the World today learnt English as a second, or even third language. Even in your country there are many, many highly proficient English speakers. Where you live does not matter. Whilst going to live 5 years in Hawaii may make you fluent more quickly, in this age of the internet, TV and travel it's quite possible to get fluent at English simply by living at home. Just look at how many foreigner speakers get along so well here without speaking the local language at all! It's not where you live, it's how you think.

2. Realise that English is easy.
Do you think English is difficult? If you do you will never learn to speak well. But what are you comparing this to? If you think that English is more difficult than your own language, then how can you know if you don't speak English yet? The key to being good is to realise that English is easy. Is English brain surgery or quantum mechanics? No. It's simply a foreign language, something spoken effortlessly by millions of people everyday without a second thought. Truly great speakers of English treat English as a secondary thing, not something to think about, and certainly not to worry about, it's simply another skill, like riding a bicycle or driving a car. It is something you can achieve. And you can achieve easily. All it takes is a little effort and the right way of thinking. English is easy.

3. Do something you enjoy.

You must love to learn English. You don't see it as work, but as play. To achieve this the key is to do what excites you, but do it in English. Do you have a passion for fishing, or fashion? The latest stock prices or the hottest music? What about your family or children? What gets you going? What's the one thing that if taken away from your life would have the biggest influence on you? Now imagine reading, listening and talking passionately about that subject, but in English.

4. Set a goal

How good do you want to be? Without a goal, however hard you try you will never achieve anything. You need a decided, specific, written goal. Maybe you have one already? Maybe you need a certain level of English for a promotion or pay rise? Maybe there is a special girl or boy you want to speak to in English? Maybe you have a big business trip coming up? Set that as your goal. See yourself with that promotion, with that pay rise, with that boy or girl or talking effortlessly during that business meeting. Set the goal, work everyday towards it and you will achieve it.

What if you don't have a goal already? Remember the previous point, talk about something you love in English. Imagine how long you could talk about your hobby or passion in your own language. Imagine you are in a room with like minded people, all eager to hear everything you know about your passion. Now imagine the exact same scene, but this time you are talking just as much about your passion in English. This is your new goal. However much you can talk about your passion you can now do it in English.

5. See yourself in the future.

Or if you don't have a hobby or passion, try this idea. Close your eyes. See yourself in the future. You are fluent in English. You are talking to someone. Can you see? Who is this person? The American president? The president of your company? Britney Spears? David Beckham? You are laughing and joking. You understand everything they say. They understand everything you say. You are having a thoroughly enjoyable time. You are speaking fluent English. Look in the mirror. This is you. Keep this image in mind; this is your new goal. Work everyday to make it come true.

6. Don't mind what other people think

In my first couple of days in a new country I was out drinking with some English friends. There were some local people in the bar, and naturally we were keen to meet some of the locals and have a chat and maybe share a beer or two. We were quite lucky in that one of the guys in the groups was not only really fun and friendly, he also spoke quite good English ( well, I think the beer helped a little!). When we had finished it was decided we would go to another bar. So we all got on the train. The shocking thing was that this fun, friendly, English speaking business man suddenly told us not to speak English to him on the train. He was embarrassed that other people may hear him speaking English! Wow.

Now luckily things have changed a lot over the past few years. But some people still believe that they should not speak English because other people think of them as being a "show off". There is only one reason that people would think like that: they are jealous. Admittedly if you went around saying "I'm great at English, look how bad you are!" then they probably have a point. But people who say bad things about people who speak English are merely jealous that they cannot speak themselves. Secretly, deep down they respect you for speaking English and they indeed want to become like you themselves. Even the harshest critic really respects you for speaking English and wishes to be like you. So don't hide your lantern under a bushel, if you have the chance, use your English. This is your life and you alone decide how and when you speak and in what language. Don't let what other people think stop you achieving your potential. Speak up and be proud to speak English!

And don't think that "being shy" is OK. It's not. In every country we love winners and people who have special skills. Look at the Olympics when athletes win medals, everyone appreciates their special skills、applauds their success and wishes them well. Or when scientists win Nobel prizes, again everyone is proud of what they achieved, looks up to them and feels inspired to become great themselves. It's the same with you and English. If you can speak English and the people around you see this, then they will look up to you, admire and respect you. They'll be proud to know you and the people around you will be inspired by your abilities and want to become great speakers themselves. Be a role model, be an inspiration for others.

7. Take responsibility

We all start from different points in life. Some of us are born rich, some are born poor. Some have influential parents, some have no parents at all. Some have been seemingly been given great chances on a plate, some have had to work extra hard for everything they have achieved. This is life. And there's nothing to do but accept it. If we constantly say "yes, but he was born in America so of course he can speak English", or "Yes, but he went to the best university and had the best teachers" then we are blaming other people. Blaming other people is to make excuses, and making excuses is to open the path to failure. First we must take responsibility ourselves. How good you are at English is all up to you. There are millions of people in underdeveloped countries who have no food, no education and no resources, but they simply decided to learn English and did it. They took responsibility and took action. You are exactly the same, if you take responsibility and take action you will succeed. Maybe you feel you have no time? That you are too busy? But who decides how you spend your time? Don't blame other people. How you choose to spend your time is entirely decided by you. So take responsibility and take control, acknowledge that you control what, when and how you do things, and make the best use of your time to achieve your goals. Take time where you can, five minutes after taking the kids to school? A 20 minute commute to work? An extra 10 minutes while eating lunch? Your time is yours. Five minutes before breakfast? Your time is yours. Everything starts with you. You are the master of your destiny, only you can determine how good you wish to become. Decide today you wish to be brilliant. Take responsibility. Make it happen. Become a brilliant speaker.

8. Only think positive thoughts.

Just like driving a car, our thoughts are self fulfilling, whatever direction we look at when driving, or think about during the day, is the direction we will go. Successful language learners always look on the positive side of things. They see a language as something that can be mastered, one step at a time. If along the way we make mistakes, or lose faith, it does not matter as long as we continually look forward. See the goal in your mind and head towards it. However, sadly many people don't do this. Instead of focussing on the good things, they focus on the bad. They continually think of mistakes they have made, they worry that they may embarrasses themselves, they believe that English cannot be learnt, they believe they won't be understood. And true enough if this is what they think of everyday then this is what happens. But you are different. You think positive thoughts everyday and you head in the positive direction. When you make mistakes, you learn from them and move on. When you see a new challenge, new people to speak to, new words you don't know, you look forward to tackling them, you know that people will respect you for trying, even if you do make mistakes. You know that English is something you can do. You know that even if people don't understand what you say the first time, if you try often enough they will indeed understand. New things to learn are a challenge to be relished. You look forward to situations you cannot handle, so that you may learn how to make them your own. Thinking only positive thoughts, brings about only positive results.

9. A little a day

Research in other countries shows that instead of a big study session once a week, a little everyday is much more effective. Get in to a routine and don't allow your mind to forget what you have learnt. See everyday as a chance to add something extra to your English potential. Make it a routine. Like learning to play baseball or to ride a bike, or a little exercise, whatever you do everyday, you get good at it. Do a little English everyday and you will get good at it.

9. Listen to CDs in your car.

Get as many English Language CDs as you can. Listen to them all the time. "But I'm too busy!" you say, and I quite understand! That's why I recommend listening to them on your way to work or school, either in the car or on a portable music player. It's your time, use it. Do it everyday and you'll soon see how much you can learn.

Remember, if you listen to lots of CDs everyday, you'll get very good at listening. To get very good at speaking, make sure you speak out loud with the CDs. Which do you want to be? Someone who is good at listening to English? Or someone who is really good at both listening and speaking?

10. Be careful of "weird English"
When you buy your books or CDs, buy lots of different CDs from lots of different companies. The reason is that many CDs that are written by people who don't speak English and hence they contain lots of mistakes. But if you buy lots of different CDs and books, you'll soon figure out which bits of English are real, and which are not! Learn English that is cool, so that other people are so impressed they say "wow!" when they hear you speak.

11. Every step counts.
Realise that learning English everyday is like putting pennies in the bank. Every time you save a few pennies, the amount in your account increases and increases. English is the same, every time you do even just a little bit it adds and adds to how good you are. What if instead of 5 minutes everyday you did 10? What about 20 instead of 10? Every minute is a minute invested. Think how those minutes of study are building up, penny by penny, minute by minute to make you a wonderful speaker of English.

12. Work smart, not hard – part 1
One of the biggest shocks that people have about high school English is that although everyone has studied English at school, hardly anyone speaks it. I'm sure you had English classes for many years in high school, yes? And can you speak fluent English? Just imaging if you had studied your own writing for 6 years in Elementary School and couldn't write a single word! So why can't you speak English? Well, the reason is that you were working hard, but not smart. You had the wrong goals and targets in mind. Up until now the High School English system was built on ideas from the Victorian period. In that time the target wasn't communication English, because there was no-one to communicate with! The aim then was to learn foreign knowledge. People would read books in German or English or Dutch about arms, or medicine or engineering. They would dissect the grammar and translate it into for everyone to read and understand. If you think about your high school English, it was probably something just like that. And in that respect the world has succeeded. But it's not the Victorian period anymore, it's now about communication. Unfortunately the school system hasn't caught up yet, but it will! So realise that what you learnt in high school won't really help you. But don't feel bad about the time you spent, you were just working towards an unsuitable goal. And now things are different, now you have a new goal, a new motivation, and a new determination to achieve that goal!

13. Work smart, not hard – part 2

So what if you decide to work 20 hours a day on English. Will you get good? Well, what if you spent 20 hours a day practising baseball? In the beginning you might see some improvement, but after a while you'll simply get tired. Although every minute adds up, every minute has to count. Instead of simply focussing on the time, or seeing how many CDs you've listened to, work smart instead of hard. 5 minutes of good concentrated practice is worth more than a hundred hours of tediously studying grammar. You time is important, you'll never get it back, so work smart, not hard.

14. Take every chance you have.
Every chance is a gift; you'd be a fool not to take it. If you are asked to speak to some people in English, if you see someone lost on the street, if you are on holiday and want to order some food. Take the chance and do it. Speak English. Don't give into the easy path of being embarrassed or afraid. This is the new you and you take every chance you get. Who cares if you make mistakes, you will have learnt something from the experience. Taking every chance you get increases your confidence. And increased confidence leads to more chances and opportunities appearing. People will see how you are eager to help people, you will be asked to help out more and people will respect you for it.

15. Get an Electronic Dictionary
Buy an electronic dictionary. The key is to take it with you everywhere you go. Whenever you hear or see a new word, put it in the memory. Then when you have some free time, on the train or waiting to pick the kids up from school, test yourself with the "memory function". The dictionary will flash up an English word at random, and you have to guess the meaning. The best thing is that because you carry the electronic dictionary with you everywhere you go, you make emotional connections with the words. For example when you see a word you think "Oh yes, that's the word that I heard at work last week" or "Oh yeah, I first heard that word at the end of year drinking party!". This way the words become your own.

16. When you wake up in the morning...
This is another trick that I use to learn languages and you can use it too. You know in a morning and you wake up, you think to yourself "What time is it? Quick, I've got to get a shower, then some breakfast, then that meeting at 9 o'clock!". Well, I used to do that in the new language. Take a bit of time to figure out the things you want to say, learn them and then use them everyday. The best thing about this idea is that even if you make mistakes no-one will ever hear them! If you find one day that you want to say something and you don't know how to say it in English, just look it up. Either use your electronic dictionary or ask a teacher or friend.

17. Don't read at first
CDs or mp3s are always better than books to study from as you can hear the right pronunciation. If you see new words in a book, it can be difficult to know how to say them. Usually this means your pronunciation will be really bad.

Some people it's a "starting point", something to help you. It usually doesn't work as you usually never get the sound correct just by looking at the symbols. Some people say "but it's close to correct English". But that's still no good. For example, in math you wouldn't say "1+6=8", would you? Why not? Because it's wrong. But it is close! Most symbols is the same, it's close to English, but it's wrong. So at first don't read, use CDs! Practice everyday and you'll have no problems!

18. Going to bed at night.
This is another great trick that people have always used to practise writing. But here we'll use it to get your speaking to a fantastic level. All you do is grab yourself a tape player or audio recorder and speak into it all the things you did today. If you can't say something, look it up. It's great practise and is a great source of materials if you have English lessons, simply bring a copy along with you and get the teacher to go through it. Remember, a little everyday is your key to great English skills.

19. Be honest, don't lie.
If someone says to you "Wow, you speak great English!". Don't turn round and say "Oh no, I don't speak English well!". That's a lie! You do speak English well! Say "Thank you". It always surprises me that most people say they speak very bad English, but if I simply say "hello" in their language they start saying how well I speak it! I'm sure you can say much, much more than "hello" in English, so you must be good!

20. Get everyone involved
Of course learning English by yourself is fun, but why not share that fun with other people? Make it a house rule that from 7 till 8 PM people can only speak English. If anyone speaks another language by mistake they have to put some money in a special savings box. You can use that money for a special treat. Or if you have kids, if they keep asking for things like burgers or candy, only give it to them if they can ask in English. Or at work, make one of your daily meetings in English. If everyone is working smart at getting good at English, it's even easier to learn.

21. Speak as much as you can, but don't become a groupie!
Now that you're listening to CDs and speaking English everyday, you are getting really good. Now to get to the next level you also need to practice real English with lots and lots of people. Don't worry, it's easy! One way is to use the internet. Look online for "language exchanges".

Or see if you can help people in your town or city. When I live in other countries I usually can't speak the language in the beginning and it is hard to do even simple things like shopping or paying a gas bill. But there are always lots of people who help me out, even if the only English they can say is "hello". It really means a lot to me when people make an effort to communicate and help me.

In this way I make lots of really great friends, and you can too. If there are new people in town, go and visit and see if there is anything you can help with. Or ask at your community centre if there are groups or classes that help foreign visitors.

Or you could try offering free languages lessons to new visitors. I'm always looking for language teachers when I move to a new country!

The only thing I would ask is, don't become a "Groupie!". Just like with everyone else, talk to someone if you like them and want to talk to them. Don't just see English speakers as a free English lesson. We are people too! But if you put in a little effort, you can help people out, make lots of friends and learn lots of English.

22. Take your holidays abroad. It can be cheaper!
I always say this to people and they always say "It's too expensive!". Not always, check online and you might find some amazing deals.

If you can, try and avoid package tours. With a package tour, you are inside a kind of "bubble" where you don't have to speak English. What you should do is to just book a flight and hotel. "That's too scary!", you may say. But don't worry, that's what makes it fun! Don't believe all you hear about foreign countries being dangerous, they're not. For example, in England all we hear about other countries is of earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanoes. If you only read the English news you'd think the World was very, very dangerous place. But it's not like that really, is it? And it's the same with other countries. Just like being at home, as long as you don't do anything too stupid, you'll be fine. Enjoy the World, because it's a fantastic place. Plus now you have the confidence and English skills to enjoy it even more.

23. Forget writing
You don't need to learn to write. How much of your daily communication is speaking / listening? How much is reading / writing? That's the same balance you should use when learning English. For most people this means over ninety percent of the time should be speaking and listening. This is great news, because it means you can learn a whole lot more in a much shorter space of time. Just concentrate on the important points of speaking and listening.

24. For reading do phonics

If you do wish to read English, for example to read road signs or maps etc, there is a really easy way. It's called "phonics". Now this might sound complicated, but it's very simple. All it means is that instead of learning the names of the letters, for example "Ay, Bee, See", you learn the sounds the letters make. Have a play here ( and you'll see what I mean. Once you've done the basic sounds, which only takes a few afternoons, you'll be able to read eighty percent of English words. Which isn't too bad, is it?

25. Watch one TV programme a week in English

Thanks to satellite and bilingual TVs, as well as the internet & DVDs, it's now really easy to watch programmes in English. But don't start off by saying "right, I'm only going to watch TV in English from now on!". Just like swimming, you don't start by jumping in the deep end of the pool. Start off in the shallow water, just watch one programme a week in English, then gradually move on, and eventually you'll be swimming on your own, and be able to watch anything in the original English. Don't worry if you don't understand it all, I only understand 80% of some American TV shows. With practice, just a little every week, you soon figure out what the new words mean, and eventually you'll be able to watch any programme or movie you like in English, with no problems.

26. Set goals and do things one at a time

Earlier on we talked about goals. Can you still see the image in your mind of you speaking to that famous person in English? Can you still see you laughing and joking in English? Good. The thing is that you can only aim for one goal at a time. Some people say things like "Oh, this month I'll do English everyday, I'll exercise and lose 10 kilograms and I'll learn how to cook Thai food". But you can only do one thing at a time. Make English your number one priority. Then when you have achieved that goal, make all your other dreams come true.

27. You can do it!

Confidence is the key. You are special. You can do it. You are a very clever person, after all you've had the energy to keep reading right to the end of this book. It's not brain surgery, it's not genetic engineering, it's just English, and you can do it. Stay with it, just five minutes a day and you will become better than you every imagined. It's all up to do. Decide to become a great speaker. Believe it will happen, and it will.

28. Do it today!

So you're all geared up ready to be able to speak English today? Well, do it! Don't wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes! Don't think; do it! There's never been a better time for you to start. Whatever you are doing after reading this book, do it in English. If you are going to the shops, call in at a bookstore and buy some CDs. If you are in the house, put the TV on in English. If you are planning what to make for dinner, think about what you would like - in English. If you are listening to this book on CD, then let the English version play. The best time to start is right now! You are the new you, the new you speaks great English and the new you starts now!

Enjoy and be genki,


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Free English learning resources (1)

Did you know that you may be able to learn English online, completely for free? Following is a list of online learning resources to help you learn English, which I myself have used and found really great.

1. Connect with English

A video instructional series in English as a second language for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 50 fifteen-minute video programs and coordinated books.

2. Canergie Mellon Open Learning Initiative where you can find several courses, but I would recommend the American English Speech to anybody trying to improve their accent in English. You can go to the course here: This resource is really great for teachers of English.

(to be continued)


Saturday, March 9, 2013

"How to set up a language school" (1)

I got asked this question from a friend of mine who is starting a new language school.The reason he asked was that for him, language centers in Vietnam are many but good ones are few and far between. And he wants to establish a language center that can create the best opportunities for teachers to work and learners to learn, a language center with a difference if you may.

Being a lecturer of 30 years of experience in the field, this question however got me hesitate for a long while. For even though I believe I kind of know what a good language school look like and can recognize a good one when I see it, but to tell the truth I don't have a very clear framework in mind of the essential components of a language school. It's because in all of my training in the field of TESOL and education, I have never had an opportunity to learn anything about establishing and running a language school The only book of this kind that I have scanned through is entitled something like "Management in ELT" written in the 1980s, and it is not part of any training that I have received, but only stems from my personal interest.

Fortunately in this age of information revolution, as the saying goes in Vietnamese, "Trăm năm trong cõi người ta/Cái gì không biết thì tra google", I can always search the web for any information that I need. Below is an article that I found very useful for someone who is starting a new language school like that friend of mine. Only a framework, but that's just what I need now. I will look for more later.

How To Set Up a Language School

Tips and pointers on starting, equipping and promoting an ESL school
By Lucy Pollard
The aim of this article is to give you pointers and ideas about which issues you should be considering. You might find that the article provides you with as many questions as it does answers! This is a good sign as it gets you thinking about your specific situation and will remind you of aspects you had possibly forgotten. I wish you luck with any project you start.

Things to consider here include choosing an area that is close to or easily accessible to your target market. Do you prefer to base the school close to your competition? Or do you prefer an area that doesn't have a language school yet? Also consider public transport facilities. If you want to work with young learners, parents also need facilities for dropping off and picking up children.

Consider how many students you will have in each class and plan the space needed in classrooms. You might decide to target business clients which means some of your classes will be taught in their company. The advantage for you is that less room is needed on your premises. Also consider how much room you need for teachers and resources. Admin staff need a work area, too. Furthermore, you need a reception area for receiving clients and giving them information.

Do you want to have a self-access centre for students to learn independently? (Also known as a multi-media centre). This can be a good selling point for the school. Busy clients might appreciate the opportunity to drop-by and study at times other than those set out for them in the traditional classroom setting. Teachers can be timetabled to oversee the centre which can be seen as a bit of "downtime" for them. You might decide that it can function without the presence of a teacher which makes it more economical. However, you'll need somebody nearby to solve technical difficulties.

What kind of teaching will you focus on? Do you want to be specialised in teaching business clients? Do you focus on exam preparation? Or is your focus children and teenagers? Remember the additional considerations when teaching children e.g. security in the building and supervision at all times for the younger ones. The type of work you do also contributes to your corporate image, you can start thinking about this now.

Think about where and how to advertise. How can you get your school known? The choice of publicity space will depend on your target market and the country you are in. What specialised press exists for your target market? Do you also want to contact Human Resource managers and/or training managers in large companies? Does the local Chamber of Commerce (or similar organisation) have a list of companies that you can target?

This is covered more fully in the article Marketing Your Language Program 101 by Sarah Elaine Eaton, available at

Teachers usually need access to a photocopier and a computer. You need to decide how much to invest in these items and whether it would be easier to rent them. If the equipment is rented, you might get quicker after-sales service. So look into this area. Also contact large computer manufacturers directly and ask whether they are willing to give you computers at a reduced price.

Explaining who your target clientele is might help you get computers at discounted price. The advantage to the supplier being that your students become familiar with the computer brand and therefore would be more likely to purchase one at a later date.

As for books, you need to decide whether you give the course book out to students. If so, this is factored into your course fees. The advantage here is that all students will have the book at the same time, making it easier for teachers. Alternatively, you can ask students to buy their coursebooks.

As supplementary resources, I suggest that at the very least you need a book that covers each of the skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) for each level. Grammar reference books and books that develop vocabulary and pronunciation are needed, too. Remember to buy cassettes and CD Roms to accompany coursebooks. Check with publishers and bookshops, they sometimes give discounts to schools.

If you decide to teach Young Learners, you'll need other resources such as card, scissors, glue etc. A large quantity of toys, eg puppets, plastic fruit and veg will also come in useful. Story books and activity books will also be needed with YLs.

You'll need to consider where to advertise and what experience and qualifications you consider desirable. I've written two articles on recruiting teachers; these are available at

You need to consider the job description of admin and support staff. What exactly will you expect them to do? Do you need staff who speak English? Or is the local language sufficient? What about cleaning staff - will you employ them directly or will you outsource this work? You'll also need to consider where to advertise for your admin and support staff and the same tips for recruiting teachers apply here.

You'll need to consider the legal aspects of work contracts in your country. I can't go into all the details here as labour law changes according to the country. If you are unsure about any aspect, get professional, legal advice. It is better to be safe than sorry.

 Aspects to consider in the contract include: are you offering full-time, part-time or hourly-paid work?

Is a trial period necessary before the contract is confirmed? What salary are you offering and what exactly is paid for, e.g. are planning and travel time paid and if so are they paid at the same rate as teaching? Will you pay for attendance at staff meetings?

Also consider what provisions you need to make for paying into pension schemes, health benefits, holidays and possibly luncheon vouchers.

You need to consider certain legal aspects of being an employer and providing a service. Your building will be used by the public so consider health and safety. This should be considered at the beginning, not later. It can be more costly to put something right once it is in place. Public use of the building also raises issues about insurance.
As for employees, you need to consider equal pay, maternity leave and the right to return to work. Think about issues concerning the termination of contracts. This may seem strange when you are about to recruit; but it's better to know how to end a contract before you enter into it.
Legal concerns vary from country to country. Get legal advice on any subject you are unsure about.

You need to think about your competitors and how to position yourself in relation to them. What is the added advantage of studying with you rather than a competitor? This is your selling point. Gathering information about other schools helps you fine tune which products you offer and helps you find a niche in the market.

Issues to consider here include: will individuals be charged the same rate as companies? Will evening classes be the same price as mid-morning classes? How will prices vary according to whether it's a group class or a one-to-one class?

You need to cover your costs, so factor in teachers' salaries, overheads such as rent and electricity. Also consider the cost of materials (books and handouts) and admin salaries.

These are essential aspects and ones that differ from country to country. You need to understand the systems in your country and where necessary get advice. You need to find out about tax benefits and about anything you can write-off against your taxes. You also need budgets for different areas, e.g. training, resources.

It's wise to have a medium-term development plan. Think about your objectives over the next 3 or 5 years. You might need to produce such a plan in order to get a bank loan. It will act as proof that you have thought out your project thoroughly. It's also beneficial to you as it will keep you focused on your priorities.

You need to decide what sort of test to use for placing your students in classes and consider how students pass from one level to the next. Also, what is your policy on repeating a level? If you're working in Europe, you need to think about the work being done by the Council of Europe to standardise language testing across the various member states.

You need a way to store information on your students. Essentials include name, address, contact telephone number (useful in case a class needs to be cancelled and a number for a parent is essential when teaching YLs). You also need a record of the entrance test score. Useful info includes profession, age and known illnesses (e.g. epilepsy, essential if teaching children). Remember that the information you store will be covered by a data protection law and deal with it accordingly.

The information provided in this article is intended for guidance only. We can only provide general information as contexts vary from country to country. Situations also vary according to the individuals concerned. cannot be held responsible for any decisions you make based on the information provided here. It is your responsibility to gather information about your particular situation.

Things Needed

  • Business plan
  • Capital
  • Classroom space
  • Teachers
  • Teaching resources


When establishing your fee schedule, consider both your teachers' compensation as well as overhead costs such as rent, electricity and teaching supplies.

"What makes a good teacher?" - More on a very important topic

What makes a good teacher?
I believe a great teacher is one who creates a classroom environment that makes their students 1.) 'curious', 2.) want to 'explore' ('investigate') and 3.) allows them to 'discover'. I think instilling and encouraging these three elements in students makes a great teacher.
Is 'curiosity' valued in your classroom? A great teacher creates a classroom environment that makes the students 'wonder' about the things they're teaching? You can tell if they are asking questions. Or are they just 'consuming' information?
Do the students want to explore and investigate the topics being taught? A great teacher creates an atmosphere and motivates their students to want to explore and investigate, for example, through experimentation.
A great teacher encourages and guides their students to 'discover' answers, information, solutions. 'Discovery' makes students happy.
Happy students think they have a great teacher. And they learn better and retain more when they 'discover' by their own efforts, rather than just being 'given' information.
And yes, teachers can learn to make their students 'wonder', want to 'explore', and 'discover', and thus be 'great' teachers.
Scott Gannon, Bangkok, Thailand

1. Total commitment
2. Love for her job
3. Respect for her students
4. Full of energy and life to transmit
5. Willing to accept new things, ideas to improve herself and her teaching.
Carolina Ruiz

Sense of humour, organization, professional knowledge, local language knowledge and versatility.
Robin, Israel
I think that flexibility is often forgotten + empathising
Nic Van Grootel

A teacher needs to have an attitude of "withitness". This is a skill that a teacher develops through experience and is having social emotional competence. Basically knowing the students characters, interests and how to engage them in learning the topic and with each other so that the teacher knows what is happening at all times in the classroom with the students.
A teacher with self-efficacy confidence is able to promote student's learning and achieve instructional goals which involves the teacher's expert power in the curriculum. The student's are less able to become bored when they can see a difference in their learning.
Classroom management skills are imperative in order to keep the students engaged and on task through the CALM model.
The art of teaching can be both creative and scientific that entails good organizational and instructional skills for delivering the the intended learning outcomes.
Donna Webster

My five suggestions for how to be a good teacher are:
1. PATIENCE - sometimes the student is not receptive or tired or not catching on quickly, hard to be patient, so have to dig deep and find the patience somewhere to get his/her attention back and go more slowly.
2. CREATIVITY - I am not one to follow a schedule strictly. Sometimes, during the lesson, I think of something from the work we are doing and create an exercise to get that point across. I also make my own worksheets with the help of the Internet and my own creative ideas. I find it easier if I can use my brain to make different worksheets and the students pick up on your initiative.
3. GET SOME REST BEFORE A LESSON - I find if I am tired at the start of a lesson, it becomes a very difficult time and I lose patience and just want it to end! It is difficult to dig deep especially in one -one -one sessions if you are tired. I have to concentrate so much harder and put in so much more effort if I am feeling tired and lazy. Sometimes I don't feel like going to a lesson, but I drink some cold water and once I am there, I am fine.
4. KEEP THE LESSON INTERESTING AND TRY TO USE THE STUDENT'S HOBBIES ETC. IN THE LESSON - I find if I can relate the lesson to something the student understands and is excited about, he/she is more receptive and stays focused. The worst thing is when you feel that the student is losing interest and getting bored. So keep the lessons exciting, bring in an activity when you see the student fading and give homework, e.g. Comprehension relating to something the student is doing in his/her life. (Of course this is for one on one or small classes). I once taught 3 Indian Computer Programmers English - I was so educated by the end of the course in Programming, I could have written my own programme! I used computer stories, jokes, examples etc. so that they could relate to the content.
5. REWARD AND PRAISE - with younger students, rewarding is important. If they feel that they are getting somewhere and that you are happy with their progress, they will be much more keen on keeping their attention on the lesson. Use starcharts, Snakes and Ladders for points (let them read flashcards and have a turn at the Snakes and Ladders if they get the word right), Scrabble, stickers etc. For adults, just praise when they do a good job of an exercise, even adults like praise! Never get cross when they do something wrong, just point out and guide, but when they do an excellent piece of work, praise and encourage.
Janine Goodson - South Africa

To be a great teacher you need:
1. patience
2. a loud voice
3. commitment
4. understanding
5. knowledge of your subject
Kerry Lambourne

1. Tons of patience, perseverance, and determination
2. Loads of love
3. Knowledge of students - their learning needs, problems and preferences
4. Good sense of humour
5. Strong belief in the inherent potential of each student
Law Yekulan
Persistence to keep trying when the going gets tough
Optimism to believe that learning is happening
Reflection to consider how to teach better next time
Energy to keep giving out what students need
Good humour to keep things in perspective.
And about another zillion skills, qualities and characteristics which we strive for!!
Suzanne Weiss, New Zealand

1. sense of humour
2. knowledge of your subject
3. prepared to admit that you don't know it all
4. ability to make your students relaxed
5. empathy with your students about the challenges of learning
The Rosmans, Australia
    Manage your time wisely.
    Understand that teaching is hard work.
    Plan effective lessons. Be organized and prepared.
    Learn to recover quickly.
    Teach students at their level.
    Observe other teachers.
    Refrain from lecturing.
    Refrain from "Textbook Teaching"
    Focus on Student's Strengths.
    Allow and encourage students to work cooperatively.
    Avoid homework overload.
    Make learning fun.
    Encourage active student participation.
    Challenge students to think critically.
    Use authentic means of assessment.
    Vary your teaching strategies.
    Make decisions on what's best for students.
    Maintain a positive reputation.
    Choose your reactions.
    Be the best you can be.
    Dress like a professional.
    Be a role model for your students.
    Avoid acting when angry
    Do not allow your personal problems to spill over into the classroom.
    Celebrate the uniqueness of your students.
    Light a spark in your students.
    Give your students more credit than they deserve.
    Make every student your "favourite".
    Set the stage for success.
    Provide positive feedback.
    Have positive expectations for ALL students.
    Encourage improvement, not perfection.
    Remember that little things make a big difference.
    MA. Eshter Linares, Spain

1. wisdom
2. knowledge
3. love
4. method
5. enthusiastic about teaching
Mamie Flower, China
 Linguaenglish offers English language courses abroad all year round

  • These are from "Teachers of English as a Second Language List" (TESL-L@LISTSERV.CUNY.EDU)
In my own opinion, there is very little actual guided practice teaching going on in most teacher training programs which accounts in part for why so many teachers can’t teach. I remember a former professor I had in graduate school (after I had taught for many years) saying that any teacher trainer who did not go back into the ESL classroom to teach regularly was a fraud.
It wasn’t until I got overseas and saw the British CELTA model of teaching ESL that I saw truly good teaching, especially at beginner and intermediate levels. Student teachers are put before a class almost immediately, given interactive role plays of difficult classroom situations, and shown specific techniques which make their teaching more effective.
In contrast, many US universities concentrate on theory. Students attend many hours of lectures on various aspects of second language acquisition, but are shown few actual skills and methods for engaging and teaching students. It’s interesting that many of the professors teaching these classes have not taught ESL for years or even decades.
Yes, theory is important in understanding how to teach, but neophyte teachers need instruction in specific aspects of teaching and they get these skills best from good teachers. For example, when I was teaching English overseas, I noticed that other teachers used the blackboard in a consistently organized way rather than the haphazard ways that I had observed my teachers and other American students doing. Use of the blackboard wasn’t even addressed in any of my classes. I copied the organized method. Before class, the left third of the board was marked off for an outline of what the class would cover that day. The middle third of the board was marked off for explanations of the points covered that day. The right side of the board was marked off for a list of new vocabulary. This is a simple example of a classroom skill which can easily be taught in teacher training classes and is more valuable than theory for new teachers. It takes a teacher trainer who has a lot of hands-on experience with real (not theoretical) students to prepare a new teacher for success in a classroom.
Lesley Woodward MA, M.Ed. TESOL, Cleveland, OH

After more than forty years of working in different fields of EFL (teacher trainer, materials writer, course designer, communication consultant) I find myself back in the schools as a volunteer tutor. And I am saddened at what I see: L2 learners floundering in reams of disorganised pages or discouraged by over busy course books with half finished exercises or baffled by lists of rules incorrectly and incompletely copied from a whiteboard. Their lack of belief in their ability to succeed incapacitates them. They are afraid even to try.
And it occurred to me that while we have spent some weeks discussing the interesting topic 'What makes a good teacher?', we might more profitably be listing 'What makes a good language learner?'. I know there is research on what makes a good language learner. The question is: Do we ever share this information with the learners themselves? Can we offer them strategies which will enable them to break out of the cages they've built themselves into? Is there anything we should be telling them to ensure they never get into those cages in the first place?
Lola Katz, Israel