The ESL Commando

Top Secret Tips for English Success

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The ESL Commando

Top Secret Tips for English Success

Five Free Ways to Improve your English Now!


Many times, we want to do something important, like lose weight, exercise, or learn a skill, but we put it off for another day. One day becomes two, then three, and a year later, we haven’t even started. That’s the reason why I wrote this post. I want you to start improving your English today! This post is focused on giving you steps that you can take right now to help you achieve your English goals and your career goals.

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1.  Entertainment: What kind of movies/TV shows do you like?  Crackle is a service by Sony that has all free full length, high-quality, legal movies to watch. They have an app on Android and Apple as well.  I would recommend Crackle if you don’t have access to Hulu or Netflix, or can’t spend the money on those services right now. Choose one show/movie and commit yourself to starting to watch the entire movie or season/all episodes, starting today. This will greatly expand your vocabulary and knowledge of idioms as well.   Use the subtitles to increase your reading and listening abilities. When you feel that you are confident enough, drop the subtitles.

Crackle Watch Free Movies Online – Full Length Streaming Movies

If possible, sign up for a pay service like Netflix, Hulu, or some other movie/TV show streaming service. They have newer content, better phone apps,  and more features to their sites. Use the subtitles to increase your reading and listening abilities.

If you are interested in how to watch media sources like these to improve certain areas of your English, please check out this post on How to Watch Movies to Learn English. Other sites like “Daily Motion,” “Vimeo, ” “PBS Video” or “Short Film of the Week” are great to watch movies and films in your interest area.

chess black2. Gamify your English:  How many people have you heard say, “I just love learning English. It is so fun!”? I bet  you haven’t heard too many people say that. I sure haven’t, but it doesn’t have to be that way.


Some students may think that language learning has to be boring. It doesn’t! Great sites are available to learn English in a fun way. Try apps like Memrise, Duolingo, and Babbel to help you to be motivated. Each one of these has its benefits. I find that Duolingo is more for phrases and general language knowledge, but Memrise is more about learning the rules of the language. Babbel has both a paid and free service. Another great free site is Games to Learn English.

My favorite site to show my students  and to use with them is Quizlet, which is a free service (for students) that has thousands of flashcard sets that students can use to study their English.

So, start with a site like Duolingo,  Quizlet or Memrise today, and see how it motivates you to study harder.

3. News:  If you commonly check the news, change the way you get your news. Place an English site as your homepage in your browser today. If you usually get news from a site in your country, change the language in your browser settings. Also, try out some really great resources like Readlang, a chrome app that allows you to click on any word for a definition and create flashcards from each word clicked. See a sample below from English to Spanish.

whitehouseSites like also have features that allow you to be able to click on text and change the language. Another great upcoming site is, a site that creates quizzes and practice from CNN news stories every day.

4. Podcasts:  Use  services like iTunes or Castbox for Android to download podcasts on your

preferred topics in English.  The great thing about Castbox is that you can download your podcasts with a Wifi Signal, then listen to them later while you are on the go. Also, you can slow the speed down if the speaker is too fast. Listen while you drive to work, walk through town, or when you are in a boring class (just kidding!).


The most important thing in choosing a podcast is to find a subject you enjoy or can be useful to you.  Also, if there is a story you know in your language, find the English version on an audio book service like Audible and listen to the story in English. Your familiarity with the story will allow you to pick out a lot of new vocabulary and phrases in English.
One very interesting Podcast I enjoy is called “Hardcore History” by Dan Carlin. Another popular one is called the “Walk,” which is a story in which the listening is the main character and “walks” through Scotland on an adventure (I don’t know if I can fully recommend it as I just heard about it). Let me know if it is any good.
5. Conversation Apps:  It is one thing to learn rules and grammar in a language, but it is an entirely different thing to be able to have a conversation. However, that is the main point of why many people want to learn a language. There are a few free apps like Tandem and HelloTalk that allow speakers to pair up with native speakers from all over the world. Many times these speakers want to learn your language as you practice theirs, so it is a good exchange. Both Tandem and HelloTalk are available through the App stores in Google Play and the Apple Store. Download one of them today!

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We have a saying in English: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This means that in order to achieve a big dream, you have to take an action in that direction. So, I encourage you to watch a movie in English on Crackle, download one of these apps, find a great podcast, but do something!

Please let me know below any other ideas of how you improve your English below in the comments section.

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