Learn English Through the News | How-to, Tips, Links
Whether you are at beginner, intermediate or advanced level, you can always learn English through the news! In this study guide, we will show you how to find and use easy news articles, original newspapers and English news channels to improve your fluency. Let’s get started!
Learning English through the news is a great way to improve your vocabulary, listening and discussion skills. You can choose from written, audio, video and live TV news with options both on- and offline. English news is worth including in your study plan because:
Most journalists and newsreaders write and speak using Standard English and express themselves well. Their job is to give facts and summarise events for the public. English news can be easier for ESL learners to understand because it has a clear context and presentation. It also provides you with unlimited access to the modern language used by English native speakers today.
Modern news media is a constant stream of real-life English conversations and fresh information! Even the word ‘news’ comes from the Latin term ‘nova’, meaning ‘new things’. When you learn English through the news you have the chance to find out what is happening in the world right now and to interact with stories via comments, social media and discussion.
READ, WATCH, LISTEN
English news comes in many different forms and this gives you greater choice when learning the language. If you prefer reading, there are online newspapers and simpler news websites for ESL students. If you want to improve your listening and vocabulary skills, there are also TV news channels, YouTube videos, radio stations and podcasts. Popular stories often appear in all of these formats.
To find online news in English about a topic or hobby you love, try a Google search for: “topic/hobby + news”. E.g. “stock market news”, “IT news” or “football news”.
RELEVANT TO YOU
Fresh news is produced daily on every imaginable topic! Whatever your personal hobbies and interests, you will always be able to find news articles and stories that are relevant to you. All you have to do is look online! If you are not interested in politics and ‘serious’ news, why not focus on sports news or the latest from the music scene?
How to improve your English with news (7 study tips)
The news media can be your own “personal classroom” as it helps you to learn and understand real-life English. News writing is clear and uses sentences that are short and direct. This makes it easier to understand and use for reading practice. In contrast, literature and factual books use more complicated sentences and vocabulary, which makes them harder to understand.
Let’s look at some useful tips to help you improve your English with news:
Write down new vocabulary (but not EVERY word!)
When you read, watch or listen to English news, you will find lots of unfamiliar words and expressions. Keep a pen and notebook handy so you can write down the best and most useful vocabulary. It is a good idea to group sets of vocab together – e.g. politics, war/conflict, celebrity gossip (colloquial), sport, etc. Make separate categories in your notebook to learn words thematically: topic, word/expression, phonetic transcription, meaning in English, translation, and an example in context.
NOTE: Only write down vocabulary that you see repeated several times. If you try to learn every expression you find, you will not remember it! This is especially true for vocabulary that is rarely used in English.
Read news articles aloud or use “shadowing”
This is a speaking exercise that can help you improve your pronunciation and remember new vocabulary. Try reading a news article aloud and make pencil notes on paper whenever you find a new word that is unfamiliar in meaning or pronunciation. You can then look it up in a good online dictionary. If you are listening to or watching news in English, then you can try “shadowing”: get the text (transcript) and read along with the native speaker.
Make short news summaries
This is a great way to test your understanding when reading news articles in English. The exercise is to skim read a piece of news and pick out the main points. It is easier to do this if you print the article and then use a highlighter pen. Once you have your main points, you can rephrase them in short bullet points. Ask your teacher or study buddy to check your summary.
Watch TV news to improve your listening
Watching TV news regularly 100% improves your listening comprehension speed. The images on the screen tell the story and help you to understand what the newsreader is saying. Listening to English news is like learning to play the piano – you start by playing very slowly, but with practice your speed improves a lot!
Use the best mobile news apps
How many times a day do you check your phone? It is probably a lot! Start using your mobile to learn English on the move. All the top newspapers and news websites have an app. These make it easy to read English news anytime, anywhere. Check out this list of the 20 best mobile news apps!
Discuss the news regularly
For this exercise, you will need an English teacher, study buddy or small group of friends. Take it in turns to choose an interesting news article each week. Then arrange a time and place to get together to discuss it. Try to include a list of questions related to the topic of the article in order to expand on the discussion. You can also talk about any new vocabulary and practise it together during your speaking sessions.
To improve your English listening skills, why not try some BBC news podcasts? They are available to download via the BBC World Service or BBC News Report websites.
Participate in online news via comments
Everyone loves to give their opinion on whatever is happening in the news right now! Why not use this as an opportunity to improve your English? Find an article with a topic that you feel strongly about. Then read what others have written in the comments below it. Write down and learn any useful words or expressions from the thread. Now join the conversation by replying to comments from other readers. Debating is one of the best ways to practise your English!
5 Easy news websites for ESL students
Most learners of English have difficulties understanding original newspapers and TV news. If you current level is below Upper-Intermediate (B2), then it is a good idea to start with easy news websites that are made specifically for ESL students. Luckily, there are several good sites like this online! Their aim is to provide easier, shorter news articles or videos with vocabulary lists and explanations.
As the name suggests, this American English website presents news articles in 3 difficulty levels. Each article includes a short text of just several paragraphs, usually followed by a video clip with an audio recording. Any difficult vocabulary is highlighted in the text and is explained below the article. At Level 1 (easy news), the sentences are much shorter and simpler to help beginners understand. The Level 3 version has the original text of the article, and Level 2 is in between the first and last options. New articles are regularly added to the website and there is a useful videos section (also by level).
This website is part of the BBC archive from 2015, but it still has useful easy news resources for ESL students. Each article has a free PDF and audio downloaded for you to use offline. The online version has a video clip at the top, followed by the text of the news article. New vocabulary is highlighted in the text and explained below. Follow-up exercises with answers are provided at the bottom of each article.
Just like Newsinlevels.com, this American ESL news website has 3 versions of each article. Advanced level contains the original article, while Intermediate and Elementary provide easier versions. There is an audio recording for each news item and the speaker reads slower at lower levels. One great feature of this website is that if you put your mouse over any highlighted vocabulary, you can instantly see an explanation. Vocabulary is also listed below each post and explained in more detail.
This website takes original news articles from The New York Times, cuts them down in size and makes them simpler. Your reading level should be Intermediate+ to use this site. There are no video clips, audio recordings, vocabulary lists or explanations. However, the menu on the left does allow you to search for interesting articles by topic.
If you are looking for easy news articles with plenty of exercises and vocabulary, then this site is for you! Teachers use this site for their English classes so each post contains full activities for ESL students. Below each post, you will find an option to download the page as a printable PDF, which contains all the study material, exercises and answers! There are also 0-6 levels to choose from when reading the articles.
Read original English newspapers online
If you want to take your fluency to the next level, try reading some articles from original English newspapers. These generally fall into two categories – broadsheets or tabloids. Some newspapers charge you to read articles via their websites (paid subscription), but others use advertising to cover their costs. Below are some of the free options available to you online:
Broadsheet newspapers like The Guardian or The Independent are considered to be more intellectual in terms of style and content. They tend to have longer articles, more pages, and go in-depth on stories. Broadsheets are not suitable for lower level learners because they use more complex vocabulary and structure. Tabloids or news websites may be easier to understand if your English is below Intermediate level.
Tabloids like The Mirror usually have shorter articles and are written to entertain as well as to inform. Headlines are often provocative and may include inventive language to create humour (puns, homophones, made-up words, etc.). Tabloids are generally seen as less intellectual in style and content. They also use more informal vocabulary and slang, which is interesting if you want to learn how native speakers use “real” English.
Newspapers as we know them today have been around for over 500 years! However, the number of people reading daily and weekly newspapers is falling. More readers are going online and prefer shorter articles, video clips and on-demand news delivered to their mobiles via apps or social media. The future is definitely online!
ONLINE NEWS WEBSITES
Most native English speakers have a reading level that is in line with articles on the BBC News website. This could explain why it is the most popular online news site in the UK. It is factual, but not overly intellectual. BBC News has many branches and covers every imaginable topic – from politics to sport. It is a good starting point for any learner of English!
Buzzfeed is another example of an online news website. This site is very popular now on social media, especially with its funny posts and celebrity stories. It produces some serious, longer articles on current news events, but also has shorter posts for those who want a quick read (or just a bit of entertainment!).
Watch English news channels and videos online
Live TV news and video clips offer you the opportunity to learn English in a more visual way. Video news helps improve your listening skills, pronunciation and vocabulary so is a good addition to the written resources we have seen so far in this guide. You can access live news and clips online from anywhere in the world, but you need to know where to look!
LIVE TV NEWS
If you want to understand live English TV news, then you need to watch it every day. Just 15-20 minutes per day can help to develop your listening skills and vocabulary. If possible, it is always a good idea to watch the news with English subtitles. Newsreaders often speed quickly so transcripts are helpful.
To get started, go to Google and search for: “watch English news online”. Websites like BBC iPlayer do not usually work outside the UK, but you can still find live video streams of famous news channels like CNN and BBC News 24 on websites like freeintertv.com. Some news channels also offer live streaming via their YouTube accounts – for example, Sky News on YouTube.
YouTube news clips and videos often have subtitles, which can be turned on and off in settings with the “CC” button. English subtitles are useful because they reinforce your understanding of the audio version.
NEWS CLIPS & VIDEOS
If you go on YouTube and type in “news”, you will find the accounts of all the top English language news broadcasters. These have thousands of original news video clips to choose from, but they are not adapted in any way for ESL students. Let’s take a look at some websites that have special news clips and resources to help learners like you:
Voice of America has a special section of its website that is dedicated to news clips. These are very short and clear. The videos give information about the latest events in the world and provide vocabulary with explanations. This website is definitely worth a look if you are learning American English.
This is one of the BBC’s many programmes for teaching ESL through the news. It has short video clips with interesting current affairs stories. Under each clip you will find a transcript with highlighted vocabulary and explanations below. There are also PDFs and audio files that you can download free.
This YouTube channel pulls together a great collection of BBC learning English videos. It has everything from news clips to pronunciation guides! Try using the small search box under the “subscribe” button to find interesting videos by topic.
25 common words in the news
English news vocabulary can be quite different from what you are used to from classrooms and textbooks. Here is a list of some words and expressions that are commonly used in the news today:
Word or expression
Unfair or one-sided view of a story.
New information about an event that is happening right now.
A Television or radio programme, process of sending out info via TV/radio.
A larger newspaper, normally with more serious news stories. E.g. The Daily Telegraph or The Guardian.
Famous person, TV star.
Number of copies sold of a newspaper or magazine.
Causing or likely to create public disagreement.
Attention given to a news story by a newspaper or channel.
Important social or political events happening in the world now.
An item of news published before any other news organisations. Also known as a ‘scoop’.
A person who saw something happen and can describe it firsthand.
A longer than usual report or programme on a particular topic.
Section of a newspaper or magazine devoted to celeb gossip stories.
Main title of an article or piece of news.
A very detailed story.
Period of very high media activity over one story or event.
A person who presents the news on TV or Radio.
Famous but for a bad action or quality.
An opinion or news article that presents information without using personal feelings or opinions. (opp. subjective).
Photographers who follow famous celebrities, politicians and athletes and take pictures of them in their daily lives.
An interview given to journalists by someone who makes an announcement and answers questions.
Publically embarrassing action or event that is seen as morally or legally wrong.
A person, document or publication that provides information.
A smaller newspaper with more sensationalised and celebrity-based stories. E.g. The Daily Mail or The Sun.
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