Getting Started with Self-Study

For Very Beginners

In the beginning it is good to focus on lots of listening to train your ears. If you can't hear a sound, you won't be able to pronounce it correctly. Focus on the sound by listening a few times without subtitles. Reading is great for building vocabulary, but it is best when accompanied by audio in the beginning.

Super Simple English YouTube Channel

YouTube is a great free place to start. Super Simple English and Scratch Garden have lots of cute songs to train your ears with.

Do You Like Brocolli

Ten in the Bed

The Ants Go Marching

Comprehensible Input for Beginners

According to Stephen Krashen, comprehensible input is the key to acquiring a language. Basically, it is content that you can mostly understand even if you don't know all the words. There are channels that specialize in comprehensible input for beginners. Also, cute videos for children can be an entertaining source of comprehensible input.

If you are learning on a computer, check out Language Reactor to get the most of out of subtitles on YouTube and Netflix. You can use it to display bilingual subtitles, lookup words with one click, easily repeat lines, and to save words for later review.

Here is a list of some videos for children that you can search for on YouTube: Noggin, Bluey, Bing, Paw Patrol, Nick Jr., Blue's Clue, Curious George, Peppa Pig, Disney Jr., and Netflix Jr., and Nat Geo Kids.

The Next Step

Once you get a little further along, a Netflix or Disney+ subscription is very useful so that you can immerse yourself in enjoyable content for hours at a time. I like to find series with lots of dialogue. Try not to be dependent on subtitles. You can always watch the show twice, once with subtitles and once without them, if you can't stand missing details.

Speaking & Writing: This is where classes and travel really come in handy, since it is much harder to do on your own. However, a solid foundation in listening and reading will greatly accelerate the process once you do get a chance to practice speaking and writing. There are apps for finding language exchange partners, such as HelloTalk and Tandem. If you are willing to pay a tutor to speak with you, check out iTalki.

Graded Readers

Also, you want to start reading books designed for your level. These are often called graded or leveled readers. These books are quite easy to find in English through regular bookstores and libraries.

Epic is a great source of leveled reading materials too. It isn't free, but it is much cheaper than buying paper books. Books range from ABC's to teen novels.

Let Read Asia has a lot of free children's books.

LingQ is well worth the money at this stage too (~$15 / month). It is a reading and listening app that helps keep you motivated by tracking your progress as you consume content. The app and webpage have lots of quality content and you can easily import your own content from YouTube or websites as well.

Bilingual Books

These are books in both English and your native language. There is some debate around the value of these books. It is probably more efficient to read or watch material that is at your level and work out the meaning from context. However, if you get frustrated or bored with English-only content at your level, you may want to try some of these.

Tip for Free Books:

There is also a huge selection of English audiobooks on YouTube. You can use the auto-translate feature to turn these stories into bilingual stories. Language Reactor also lets you export them as PDF files.