Resources for improving English language skills


The VALIDATE team often receive queries about what non-native English speakers can do to improve on their language skills, something that can be key to progressing a research career. We have compiled a list of ideas and websites that might be of use to help members achieve a better standard of English.



Useful websites:

  • www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish - choose from a variety of levels, learning methods, and topics

  • learnenglish.britishcouncil.org - designed for adult learners, with a section specifically for building research skills

  • www.duolingo.com - particularly useful for learning and practicing vocabulary

  • TED Talks on Youtube - when watching a video click on the three dots to the right of the video title and select "Open transcript". Transcripts are often auto-generated, but tend to be fairly accurate. The transcript will automatically scroll through as the talk goes on and you can skip back to replay any part that you my have missed or need to hear again.

Other learning ideas:

  • Read as much as possible - news stories, books, magazine articles, journal articles; anything that you find interesting. If something is too hard to read at first, find something simpler, then gradually build up to academic works. If reading online there are many browser add-ons that will allow you to look up the translation of a word by hovering over it, but always check reliable dictionaries for anything particularly complex. Make sure to note down any unusual or interesting vocabulary

  • Find out if there are any courses offered in your local area, or through your organisation

  • Practice speaking with English speakers (either native or fluent) - there might be visiting students or researchers at your organisation, or English conversation groups in your area

  • Identify a reliable two-language dictionary, either online or hard copy - as you progress to higher level practice materials you will come across some words that need more explanation than a simple word-to-word direct translation

  • Watch British films, TV shows, video clips, the news - anything to practice listening to natural spoken English

  • If you get the chance to go on a training course or lab exchange in an English-speaking country find out if you can add a language course to your training, and make good use of your exposure to so many native or fluent English speakers!

  • Don't forget grammar - not having a grasp of basic English grammar rules comes across very clearly in written pieces, so remember to learn and practice some rules alongside building vocabulary, listening skills, and speaking confidence