ESL in the 21st Century

What if you can improve your English, have fun and spend some quality time with your family and kids at the same time? Why don’t you mix several of your duties – yes, improving your English is a duty – in just one activity?
Many games are great to expand your vocabulary, grammar, spelling and pronunciation. Not necessarily created as ESL tools, they can be a great resource for immigrants of all ages.

Be advised that these are only recommendations. Remember, none of these activities could replace a proper ESL class.

Probably the most helpful educational toys for children are those designed for English Language Learners. A couple of months ago, Leap Frog introduced a toy-computer-learning machine called “ClickStart, My First Computer. You can connect this toy to your TV and your child can start working on a range of skills from phonics to letters and counting. Clickstart is a pre-school tool, designed for kids three to six years old.

For kids already in school (five to ten) you have the Leapster Learning Game System. With this toy your child can play action-packed educational games.
The interactive touch screen and pen allow your child to write, draw, and paint, while vivid animation teaches them letters, phonics, rhyming, spelling, numbers, counting, addition, subtraction, art and music in English; at adjustable levels. This is a great tool to improve your English as well. It will teach you how to pronounce those scary English sounds (like “g” or “th”) and it could be a great way to spend time with your kids during the winter. These toys are available in regular toy stores, like Toys “R” Us or even at Sears, Staples or Chapters-Indigo stores. You can look for a store nearby you at

Toys for grow ups

If you don’t like to spend much time in front of your TV, there are great classic board games you can try. Scrabble is an old board game for two or more players. Basically you have to build words from individual letters on the board, crossing them with other letters already set there. You don’t need to be an expert in spelling to play: you can use the dictionary to find words – to learn words – or set a topic in advance, reducing difficulty. For example, you can play with more letters, forming words about “things in a pharmacy” or “words you need to go shopping.” There are different kinds of Scrabble, at different prices. With careful shopping, you should be able to find one for less than $10.

Crossword puzzles are also excellent for improving your vocabulary. You can find cheap books and magazines, packed with crosswords, in bookstores or newsstands all around the country. Some of them are specially designed for newcomers, so you can complete them more easily than the common newspaper crossword. It could be a good idea to start with those and then move forward.

Be realistic though. In a world of computers, Playstations and 24 hour TVchannels just for kids, these games probably don’t look really exciting. You kids may be more interested in variations of these games that are available on the internet. They are also great if you don’t have somebody to play with. One great resource is In this website you can find jig words, match words, speed words and scramble words games for free, specially designed for newcomers. More games for ESL students are available at misspelled-words/index.htm, where you can find several quizzes to improve your spelling. There are hundred of websites like this. To find them you can Google the keywords “ESL games”.

There are numerous games that you can use to practice your English and improve it faster, and toys you can use with your children. A new start in a new country is just as difficult for them as it is for you. But it can be more fun when you tackle it together.