Practicing English in a Pandemic

Photo of Marlene Mark

April 16, 2020

By Marlene Mark

Categories: Collections

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding roles I have as a librarian is helping our English language learners.

The Library offers many resources and programs for non-native speakers. One of our most beneficial and community building programs is our ESL one-on-one conversation practice sessions, where Library volunteers provide free English conversation practice with ESL learners who live in Morton Grove.

These one-on-one sessions are not formal classes—we leave formal training to the experts at Oakton Community College—but they do offer an opportunity for ESL learners to practice what they learn with volunteers.

During this very unsettling time, everyone is learning new terms such as social distancing, shelter-in-place, and flattening the curve. Even native English speakers need to learn and practice these new terms in response to the pandemic, so I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for an English language learner to feel at ease with the amount of information we receive from daily news updates.

While the Library is closed, I still want to provide opportunities for language learners to practice and understand what is happening in the world. Here are resources, some available in multiple languages, that may help.

mango languages at home


Library resources

Through the Library’s Databases and Download & Stream pages, you can access these resources and more with your Morton Grove library card:

  • Mango Languages: Self-paced language lessons in over 70 languages, including English. App available.
  • PressReader: Over 7,000 magazines and newspapers from around the world in 64 languages. App available.
  • Hoopla: Offers downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks for learning English. Search “ESL” in the search bar for best results.


Other free online resources

Everyday Topics and Vocabulary Learning

  • Voice of America Learning English: A "multimedia source of news and information for millions of English learners worldwide." Provides beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of information.
  • News for You Online: This weekly publication for adult English learners is offering free access for a limited time. Use the courtesy password 22667F through June 30, 2020 to sign in.
  • Easy English News: A monthly newspaper for English language learners that is written in simple English. The April issue is accessible from home.
  • Breaking News English: Provides news with comprehension exercises in 7 levels of English, from elementary to advanced.

Reading and Listening

  • ESL-Bits: Offers an assortment of reading materials with accompanying audio. Choose from short stories, classics, and much more offered in a variety of levels.

Health News

  • Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers information and materials translated into other languages. Topics include emergency preparedness and response, diseases and conditions, data and statistics, environmental health, healthy living, travelers’ health, and workplace safety and health.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) offers health-related information in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Marlene Mark is an Adult Services Librarian at Morton Grove Public Library.