The Fine Art of Learning English Grammar Online for Free
I was privileged enough as a child that while both my parents worked full time, demanding jobs, they could afford to have a babysitter every day after school for my sister and me. In a nutshell, I could describe her as maybe 30 years old, an immigrant from El Salvador with Spanish being her first strong language and English as a modest second, she loved to dance, eat food with too much lemon, and tell us stories about her parents back home. And even though she was paid for watching us, I swear I treated her like a second mother and strongly felt like she was my second mother.

The weird part is that I don’t even remember the language barrier. We did everything together for four hours a day for almost ten years, and I can’t remember a single memory where her speaking very little English and me speaking very little Spanish ever got in the way. And, even though this language barrier was unavoidable, my babysitter was constantly embarrassed by her accent and broken English. I understood the language struggle for a bit when I was older, all the Spanish I had learned from her and basic classes, I lost to the wrath of blushing cheeks and stutters—I couldn’t pick up the rolling r’s and my accent was unintelligible.

So my babysitter took night classes, she’d come to my sister and me for homework help on English conjugation and vocab practices. Eventually, though, it got to be too much. Trying to manage a household, work every day, and stick to strict class schedule was more than she had bargained for and didn’t seem to be making any progress. Really, if you’re out of school, it’s hard to find the time to enroll and attend a structured class schedule, so online courses are your best option. Below are some of the best resources and tips I’ve found online for English grammar help and that my babysitter found useful while working to improve her English.

TIP #1: Don’t use Google translate (or any translator for that matter).
You are trying to actually learn English. Using a translator isn’t going to help you learn anything, just act as a crutch. Tell yourself it’s cheating yourself every time you open it unless you are using it as a dictionary rather than a translator. Also remember that translators often incorrectly translate phrases so that they’re awkward and/or grammatically incorrect. Make sure to double check anything you’ve learned from a translator with someone who actually speaks the language if you can.

TIP #2: Find the sites that work for you and stick to them.
There are the more common ones, like Quizlet, that teach through repetition of flash cards, and more traditional, textbook-like prose. Know that these will not be enough, reading something and moving on to the next chapter does not mean you know that material. http://grammar.reverso.net/ is one of the best grammar sites, it provides grammar lessons, translate (which you shouldn’t use), a dictionary, English verb conjugations, and spell check. The best way to know if you are actually digesting the information that you are reading is to give yourself assignments. The biggest negative to online learning is that there isn’t an instructor who will hold you accountable for wrong answers. Hold yourself accountable to learn all of what you can. Take online quizzes and tests, write papers and give them to your friends to check over.

TIP #3: Make a schedule for yourself.
It’s easy to skip class and even easier to skip a day of studying by yourself. There’s no one who is holding this above your head, no reason to keep pushing forward besides your own motivation. You need to make a reasonable and practical schedule. Don’t expect yourself to learn the first section in an hour, but also don’t give yourself a week. Figure out a pace that works for you and your schedule and hold yourself accountable. Reward yourself with something if you do what you’ve scheduled yourself to complete. Writing down your goals on paper makes them easier to accomplish and more rewarding to complete.

Ultimately, learning a new language may be challenging and frustrating especially when you are motivating yourself with online lessons. You aren’t in this boat alone and there are plenty of people who are going through the same struggle as you. Know that it’s worth it at the end, to be able to speak in English with fewer mistakes, especially through online learning, will be one of the most rewarding accomplishments.


Photo Credit: Trevor

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