Free Internet Videos for ESOL Self-Instruction

by Lynne Weintraub
Summer 2004 issue
  Can ESOL students extend their classroom learning effectively using a lab or home computer? Can wait-listed or homebound students be referred to effective Internet sites for ESOL self-instruction? I believe that it’s possible, but you can spend weeks searching for a few well-designed sites.In compiling a list of suggested links for my program, I look for sites that present everyday American English, include interactive practice exercises, and feature topics relevant to adult learners. To me, the most important criteria is use of multimedia technology to provide audio and video content, so students can learn by listening, and through visual cues, rather than through print alone. Effective video instruction does exist on the web, but so far such sites are few and far between. Below is a short list of sites that do a fairly good job of it. It should be noted that students will require a fast connection and a good deal of computer memory to access the videos smoothly.

English for All
English for All has five exciting video sequences about workplace situations. After watching a video segment from the story, learners practice vocabulary, grammar, listening comprehension, and “life skills” based on the segment. There’s a simple way to get a native language translation of any word in the lesson. You can also print out video scripts and exercises.

Real English
Real English uses authentic videos (of interviews with ordinary English speakers on the street) to teach basic listening, vocabulary, and grammar skills in a meaningful context. Each interview video is accompanied by a series of related short audio or video segments that are used in matching, sentence completion/construction, and other exercises. The registration process for this site is a bit cumbersome, but the quality of the videos and exercises make it worth the trouble.

The California Distance Learning Project
The California Distance Learning Project has news stories (some recent, some not), and information about a wide variety of topics that learners can hear on audio, and sometimes see as video recordings, while they read along. After they listen to/read each story they can try a variety of reading comprehension and vocabulary exercises.

Learning Resources
The Learning Resources site uses video or audio clips of CNN news broadcasts along with the written story (you can choose to read the original story or a simpler, “abridged” version) to teach reading and listening comprehension. Each news story has vocabulary and comprehension exercises to go along with it. Learners can also write down their thoughts on the issue and send them in to share with other readers online. (Recommended for advanced levels.)

Sounds of English
The Sounds of English site offers pronunciation instruction. It explains how each sound is made and offers audio and video examples with exercises.

Lynne Weintraub coordinates the Jones Library ESL Center in Amherst, MA, and is the author of Citizenship: Passing the Test (New Readers Press). She maintains a list of self-access ESOL Internet links at and a citizenship educator resource page at As a member of the LINKS Core Knowledge Group, she also nominates and reviews sites for the NIFL ESL Special Collection.

  Originally published in: Field Notes, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Summer 2004)
Publisher: SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright 2004.
Posted on SABES Web site: July 2004

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