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Learn English as a Second Language (ESL) with Hundreds of Courses and Sites

Check out our list of free and paid online courses and sites to help you learn and improve your English.


How to Learn English

Although Class Central lists online courses (MOOCs) in 30 languages, the number of courses made in English outnumber all of the others by more than four to one. English is therefore a useful language to know, even though some MOOCs have subtitles in a range of languages.

Recently, we updated our list of courses that may help learners improve their writing skills (100+ Free Online Courses to Improve Your Writing Skills). These courses all assume some fluency in the language.

What if you do not know any English, or your English is very poor?

If you do not have convenient access to a teacher, the internet is a useful place to learn. Like many other skills, learning a language requires some memory techniques, plenty of practice, and learning from your mistakes.

It also helps if a friend or family member learns and practices with you. On the other hand, with available apps and online tools, you no longer need to have a learning companion.

If you are not a native English speaker, read on to find various online learning resources. Over 300 free and paid online courses to help you improve your English are also listed below, arranged into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced categories. Some of these courses are also listed in the Improve Your Writing Skills article mentioned above.

Why Learn English?

Here are just a few of the many reasons for learning English:

  • English is becoming the most common communication language worldwide (a world language or Lingua franca). According to FluentU, 1.75 billion people speak English and it is the fastest growing language in human history. Estimated numbers of English speakers vary from site to site on the internet.
  • If it is not your native language, learning English can help you communicate with others who have also learnt the language, for example, a Spanish speaker talking with a Chinese speaker in English.
  • You will have a more enjoyable travelling experience if you can communicate with the local people as you travel. Many tourist destinations have English-speaking guides and hospitality staff.
  • Enhanced opportunities to study in different countries.
  • Enhanced employment prospects worldwide.
  • More social opportunities.
  • More online resources become available to you.
  • Understand English-speaking countries’ cultures better and acquire a deeper understanding of your own culture.
  • Research shows that using the brain to recall and practice with different words and sentence structures can boost your brain health and may even delay the onset of dementia.
  • Improve your communication skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

English Tests

People wanting to work or study in an English-speaking country often need to prove their English proficiency by taking a test. According to Voice of America’s Learning English, there are three common tests for English proficiency. They are the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Various Language Sites

Duolingo: Duolingo claims to be the world’s most popular language learning site with more than 200 million users. Learn a language in a game format. Enjoy free access, including mobile apps, or you can pay a subscription to remove ads and access downloadable lessons.

The Mimic Method: Idahosa Ness uses listening and mimicking to learn new languages. He explains that different languages use different sounds. Some sounds are common to various languages, others are unique to specific languages. A big part of learning how to communicate is to listen to those sounds so you can discern them and learn to pronounce them yourself, progressing to reading and writing the language later. You can access some basic information for free, or sign up and pay for a self-paced in-depth course.

Forvo: Forvo is a pronunciation dictionary, with millions of words recorded and shared to the site by thousands of native language speakers of more than 370 languages. Free access, donations welcome. You can join for free and add your own pronunciations of words in your native language to help others learn. Forvo has more than 300,000 English speakers who have pronounced over 170,000 words.

Some Paid Options

Free content may be fine for your needs, but to really get your teeth into a language, you may need to pay for lessons. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of options.

Babbel: Founded in 2007, Babbel is a pioneer in online language learning, with more than 10,000 hours of content in 14 languages. You can try the first lesson in every course for free, then it’s subscription-based.

Rosetta Stone: Another site that emphasises speaking, Rosetta Stone also offers a mobile app. Rosetta Stone uses a speech recognition tool to give instant feedback on your pronunciation via your own device. It also has online native tutors, downloadable audio lessons, and phrasebooks of common phrases. Payment is subscription-based, with access periods ranging from three months to two years.

Yabla: The language immersion style interactive videos have dual-language subtitles. There are also games to promote learning and test your knowledge. Try out a few sample videos and games before subscribing. Yabla can also be used in schools and universities.

FluentU: Again, taught by videos with interactive subtitles. Try free for 15 days, then choose between a basic or a plus subscription. The plus plan also offers unlimited quizzes, flash cards, and spaced repetition reviews. Take a look at 10 Catchy English Learning Games to Improve Your Fluency the Fun Way.

Italki: Choose a teacher, select a lesson date and time, then connect for your personal lesson using Skype or other video chat software. Students purchase italki Credits which are stored in their Student Wallet. Credits are deducted from the Student Wallet when a lesson is requested. The italki Credits are transferred to the teacher’s Teacher Wallet after the lesson is completed.

Oxford Online English: A range of options and prices, from free pre-recorded lessons to 1-to-1 learning.

Independent Websites

There are plenty of independent language teachers such as Benny Lewis The Irish Polyglot who can converse in 11 languages and has devised a system to quickly develop confidence in conversational language.


Type Learn English into YouTube’s search box and you will have access to a seemingly never-ending list of videos. Some teach general language learning skills relevant to learning a range of languages, not just English.

Websites and Mobile Apps for Chinese Students

Kaomanfen: An English education website from TAL group. It covers test preparation materials for TOEFL, IELTS, GRE and GMAT, mainly for Chinese students. Free or paid online courses and free test simulations for each test such as 50+ official TOEFL Practice Online are also provided by the platform. 7 mobile apps have been launched: KMF TOEFL, KMF GRE, KMF IELTS, KMF GMAT, KMF Vocabulary, GRE Vocabulary, KMF Courses.

Open Language: An English learning mobile application launched by the host of a popular podcast. It provides multiple English learning services including online courses, vocabulary learning, Open Language FM, online chatting, etc. The company was acquired by Bytedance in March 2018.

Yidian English: A mobile application that helps users practice English speaking with short videos cut out from TV series, movies, speeches, music videos, etc. You can learn new words, practice listening and speaking along with the app.

HelloTalk: A community of language learning through online chatting with people from different countries. You can find partners and exchange languages with them through the mobile app. You can also practice vocabulary, listening, speaking inside the app.

Baicizhan: A mobile application for English vocabulary learning by matching a word with the right picture. It covers different levels of English vocabulary resources from elementary school to college. You can also practice vocabulary by playing a series of mobile games like joining an online word match competition.

MOMO Vocabulary: A mobile application for English vocabulary learning with different kinds of learning statistics. Multiple English vocabulary resources from primary school to workplace are available.

Liulishuo: A mobile application for practicing English speaking by shadowing English conversations. You can get immediate feedback from the system after repeating each sentence by marking your weakness in word pronunciation. It also offers free and paid learning services like online courses, one-on-one real-person training and dubbing for videos.

Qupeiyin: A mobile application for learning English speaking through movie dubbing. You can receive timely feedback and guidance from the system about your speaking.

Shanbei: A series of mobile applications in English learning including Shanbei Vocabulary, Shanbei Listening, Shanbei Reading, and Shanbei Speaking.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Listen to podcasts, radio, movies and television shows in English, particularly any you are already familiar with. If subtitles are available, turn them on in English, not your own language. Reading the English as you hear it will help you learn more quickly.

Keep a daily journal in English. Even 5 or 10 minutes will help. Don’t be overly concerned with accuracy as you write. Write about your activities, feelings, hopes for the future, your memories, or any other topic.

Try to think in English rather than constantly translating from your own language.

Start Learning Today

Thanks to the internet, it is now more convenient than ever before to learn a foreign language. Frequent practice helps you improve more quickly.

Click to jump to the corresponding section and resources.

Beginner English as a Second Language (ESL) Courses

Inglés básico: conversacional y networking
Universidad Anáhuac via edX
Cumple tu meta de aprender inglés básico para utilizarlo de forma estratégica en los negocios e incrementar tu éxito profesional.
★★★★★ (44 ratings)

Basic English 2: Pre-Intermediate
King’s College London via FutureLearn
Develop your English for use in different everyday situations and build more confidence in your listening skills.
★★★★★ (3 ratings)

Tricky American English Pronunciation
University of California, Irvine via Coursera
In this course, you’ll practice the sounds of American English that might sometimes be confusing.
★★★★☆ (14 ratings)

ภาษาอังกฤษเพื่อการสื่อสาร (English for Communication)
Chiang Mai University via ThaiMOOC
การสนทนาในหัวข้อที่เกี่ยวข้องกับการสื่อสารในชีวิตประจำวัน ซึ่งครอบคลุมหัวข้อเกี่ยวกับการทักทายทำความรู้จัก การบรรยายลักษณะ การพูดถึงเหตุการณ์ในอดีต การใช้ภาษาทางโทรศัพท์ การบรรยายสถานที่ตั้งและทิศทาง การให้คำสั่ง การแก้ไขปัญหา การให้คำแนะนำ รวมทั้งการแสดงความคิดเห็น โดยเน้นการออกเสียงเฉพาะคำกับเสียงสูงต่ำในประโยคและฝึกแบบประโยคสนทนาเบื้องต้น
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Just Reading and Writing in English | 生活英语读写
Tsinghua University via edX
Learn how to read and write in English in the context of lectures and academic texts. 以读促写,以写辅读!掌握正确的阅读技巧和写作技巧,让你实现一次英语读写的飞跃!
★★★★★ (1 rating)

English for Doing Business in Asia – Speaking
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology via edX
Introducing strategies for developing your spoken English communication skills in the context of doing business in Asia.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

English for Common Interactions in the Workplace: Basic Level
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile via Coursera
In a professional environment, we’re often faced with the need to respond appropriately according to what the situation calls for, whether it be related to situations in daily life or the workplace.
★★★★☆ (3 ratings)

Basic English 1: Elementary
King’s College London via FutureLearn
Learn basic English for everyday situations and improve your listening skills with this online course.
★★★★☆ (4 ratings)

The Pronunciation of American English Project
University of California, Irvine via Coursera
In the final course of The Pronunciation of American English specialization, you will complete a final self-reflection project applying what you have learned in the first three courses about consonants, vowels, and the “music” of English. In preparation for the project, you will take a post-test, review all the sounds of English, analyze a speech, and share your advice on improving pronunciation with other learners.

Inglés Básico para Principiantes: Una sólida base, hablando.
via Udemy
Inglés “URGENTE”. Hablar en inglés, sin parar, hasta dominar todo lo básico en cuestión de horas, no años.

Intermediate ESL Courses

Understanding IELTS: Reading
British Council via FutureLearn
Find out what you need to know about the IELTS Reading test and learn techniques and strategies to improve your test performance.
★★★★★ (754 ratings)

English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development
British Council via FutureLearn
Discover how very young children learn English as an additional language and how you can help them progress.
★★★★★ (1231 ratings)

Language and Culture
British Council via FutureLearn
This course for learners of English looks at British culture and examines English in use to help you improve your language skills.
★★★★★ (757 ratings)

Upper-Intermediate English: Business and Technology
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Take your English language skills to the next level.We will discuss technological innovations as you enhance your English vocabulary and grammar and learn how to write a business plan.
★★★★★ (34 ratings)

Inglés empresarial: ventas, gestión y liderazgo
Universidad Anáhuac via edX
Este curso en línea te permitirá aprender inglés y tener una inmersión del idioma en los negocios para sobresalir en tu carrera profesional.
★★★★★ (59 ratings)

Upper-Intermediate English: Business and Industry
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Take your English language skills to the next level. Learn how to write letters, use appropriate verbal tenses and enhance your vocabulary and grammar, all within the context of business.
★★★★☆ (57 ratings)

TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide
ETS via edX
Prepare for the TOEFL® test and learn how to improve your score and English language skills from the experts who create the exam.
★★★★★ (6 ratings)

TESOL Certification Program (K-12/HE)
via Canvas Network
Learn to teach English, upgrade your teaching skills, and become an accredited TESOL Certified Language Teacher.
★★★★★ (4 ratings)

English for Career Development
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This course is designed for non-native English speakers who are interested in advancing their careers in the global marketplace. You will learn about the job search, application, and interview process in the United States, while comparing and contrasting the same process in your home country.
★★★★☆ (24 ratings)

Conversational English Skills | 生活英语听说
Tsinghua University via edX
Learn how to effectively communicate in English and improve your conversational language skills. 你想与native speaker无障碍交流吗?让中外老师和50多位美国、英国、爱尔兰、加拿大、澳大利亚、哥伦比亚的朋友,带你领略一次不一样的英语学习之旅吧。
★★★★☆ (12 ratings)

Advanced ESL Courses

Understanding IELTS: Writing
British Council via FutureLearn
Find out what you need to know about the IELTS Writing test and learn techniques and strategies to improve your test performance.
★★★★★ (476 ratings)

English for the Workplace
British Council via FutureLearn
This course for learners of English helps you with the language you need to find a job and successfully function in the workplace.
★★★★★ (1217 ratings)

Academic Writing Made Easy
Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich) via edX
Struggling with writing an academic text? This MOOC will ease the pain – and make your writing shine.
★★★★★ (36 ratings)

English for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This course is designed for non-native English speakers who are interested in improving their English skills in the sciences.
★★★★★ (9 ratings)

English for Business and Entrepreneurship
University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
This course is designed for non-native English speakers who are interested in learning more about the global business economy.
★★★★★ (7 ratings)

Business English: Planning & Negotiating
University of Washington via Coursera
In this course, the context is hosting an event and finding an appropriate venue for it. You will learn language and strategies for successful negotiations culminating in a written announcement for an event.
★★★★★ (5 ratings)

Writing in the Sciences
Stanford University via Stanford OpenEdx
This course teaches scientists to become more effective writers, using practical examples and exercises.
★★★★☆ (17 ratings)

Perfect Tenses and Modals
University of California, Irvine via Coursera
In this course, you will learn about important intermediate verb tenses, including present perfect, present perfect progressive, past perfect, and past perfect progressive. You will also learn about common modal verbs used in English.
★★★★★ (6 ratings)

Upper-Intermediate English: Business and Globalization
Universitat Politècnica de València via edX
Learn how to write letters, use appropriate verbal tenses and enhance your English vocabulary and grammar, all within the context of globalization.
★★★★☆ (28 ratings)

English Composition
Arizona State University via edX
Learn to develop and express your ideas effectively for a variety of personal and professional purposes, audiences, and occasions in this comprehensive introduction to English composition credit-eligible course.
★★★★☆ (9 ratings)

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Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 100+ MOOCs completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:

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