How to learn everything you ever wanted to know for free

Have you heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?  One of the most remarkable advancements in educational technology is the availablity of free courses from high quality institutions.  Check out these MOOCS:

Learn more about MOOCs on my Pinterest Board.

Beyond Rosetta Stone: Online websites for language learning

While Rosetta Stone holds the biggest market share and name recognition, I’ve never enjoyed using it.  I actually find it a bit boring to tell the truth.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I located a whole bunch of other great programs out there!  There’s no reason to pay hundreds of dollars for Rosetta Stone when there are programs of higher quality available for free (or at least much less!).

Here are a few of my favorites:

Mango Languages

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Mango is often available free through your public library (you can check if your library has it here) and offers courses in ESL and 15 other languages.


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Livemocha is an interactive language learning site that rewards users helping each other in the language learning process.  Rosetta Stone owns LiveMocha, and this site shares a lot of similar features to Rosetta Stone’s software.  It’s free, and is available in 8 languages.

USA Learns (for English only)

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USA Learns is a government supported site designed specifically for adult English language learners.  It includes a full curriculum for students to work through.  Since it doesn’t start with the very basics, students should have know English in order to use this program.


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Memrise offers courses in a wide variety of languages as well as subjects like arts, maths, and geography.  It’s very easy to navigate and uses a points system that gives users access to exercises.

If you’re looking for language learning program, be sure to check out this article reviewing language learning software as well.  (It ranks Rosetta Stone as #9!)

Technology tools for teachers

Here are my newest favorite web-based tools that are a HUGE time-saver and help to teachers:

Jing:  Jing is a tool that lets you capture any image you see online.  It’s very helpful for creating worksheets and classroom activities.  Once you capture an image, you can also write or draw on it. It also lets you capture movies.

Evernote:  Ever surf the web and find interesting articles/resources only to later think, “Now where did I see that?”  Evernote is an online filing cabinet that lets you organize and categorize anything at all!  Michael Hyatt just published a fantastic article on “How to organizer Evernote for maximum efficiency” that’s worth filing in Evernote!
For even more ideas on webtools for English language teachers, see Sandy Millin’s article Easy Technology for the EFL Classroom.

Online dictionaries for language learning

While dictionaries have always been crucial in the process of language learning, online dictionaries are introducing a whole new world of accesible information!  Complete with forums, idioms, thesauri, and even encyclopedias in a variety of languages, these sites are a one-stop shop!

Here are a couple of my favorite that are particularly useful for English language learners:

The Free Dictionary

My favorite feature of The Free Dictionary is it’s industry specific dictionaries – it has medical, legal, and financial dictionaries.

Word Reference

Don’t let it’s plainness fool you – this is a powerful tool!  With dictionaries in 15 languages, this is great for a multilingual class.  It’s language forums are also very useful in dialogging about word meanings with native speakers.

Top Website: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day

This guy’s blog is absolutely fabulous!  He posts about everything in ESL, but particularly about top websites.  One particularly helpful page is the “Most Popular” tab – he posts everything from ‘The best websites for learning about MLK” to “Helping students develop self-control.”  Larry’s won quite a few awards and is an ESL teacher in California.  He also runs an English website for English language learners.

Best English language grammar reference sites

So just because you teach English may not mean that you understand it, especially if you are a native speaker and don’t have special training in teaching English.  Here are some great sites to look up all sorts of  rules and guidelines for the English language: ESL:  includes charts, quizzes and other related resources which review and introduce grammar.

The Basic Elements of English:  Guide to better understanding parts of speech, sentences, punctuation and word use.

Grammar Bytes:  Contains a wide variety of terms, exercises, handouts, presentations, tips and rules addressing English grammar.

Guide to Grammar and Writing:  Breaks down topics by word/sentences, paragraph, and essay levels

Oxford Dictionaries Online:  Good for teacher and student alike, this includes a dictionary, a guide for better writing, and puzzles and games.

Purdue OWL Writing Lab:  Containing a HUGE variety of resources for writing teachers, this site is packed with information for teachers, tutors, and students.

WordReference:  a multilingual (15 languages!), interactive, online dictionary.  The best thing about this site is the forums where you can ask specific questions about word use, etc.