#learnenglish: 6 Cool Ways to Learn English on Twitter
Do you tweet?
Tweet is the sound a bird makes, but it’s also the name of messages on the social media website Twitter.
Twitter has over 300 million users, and if you’re not one of them, you should be!
If you’re looking for somewhere to have written conversations with native speakers, learn about “real-world” English, find out what’s happening in the world, and meet other English learners like you, Twitter is the place for you.
- What Is Twitter?
- Essential Twitter Vocabulary in English
- 6 Cool Ways to Learn English on Twitter
What Is Twitter?
Twitter is a social media website that focuses on having conversations and sharing only very short messages with other people. You can use Twitter to meet and talk to new people, keep in touch with friends, promote products and blog posts, and so much more.
Most conversations are public and anyone can join them. That makes Twitter a great place to practice English with many different people, to talk about a variety of topics.
Twitter has a limit on the length of each tweet (message) you post. Twitter messages can only have 140 characters. That means messages can only have a maximum of 140 total letters, numbers, symbols and even spaces. Thanks to this very short limit, the website really puts the focus on conversations, short updates and thoughts.
Twitter might be changing soon, but for now there is still an 140-character limit. And Twitter is still an excellent place for English learners to communicate with native English speakers. You don’t have to worry about making mistakes or being left out of the conversation; everyone is welcome to join in!
If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can make a free one here. Make sure you set your language to English, by following these steps and selecting “English.” This way, you can learn English just from being on Twitter.
Essential Twitter Vocabulary in English
Because of Twitter’s short message limit, users have become creative about how they use it. That has led to a lot of new vocabulary words and abbreviations. Some of these new words are even used on other social media sites now (like “hashtag”).
Here are some terms you might need to know to learn English with Twitter:
- Hashtag: This is the # symbol followed by a word or phrase—with no spaces in between the words. Here are some examples of hashtags:
Hashtags are used like keywords, so your tweets are easier to find. They can also be used to talk about specific topics or at certain events (i.e. a conference, a sports game).
- Tweet: As a noun, these are messages on Twitter. (i.e. Did you see Beyonce’s latest tweet?) You can also use the word as a verb, which is the action of posting a tweet (i.e. I tweeted a lot today).
- DM: Direct Message. A private message you can send to someone that no one else will see. You can only send a DM to a user if both of you follow each other.
- RT: Retweet. Retweeting is when you share someone else’s tweet on your profile (to your followers). You might retweet a tweet to show you agree with it.
- Mention: You can include people in conversations by mentioning them. To do this, you write the @ symbol followed by their Twitter name.
- Feed: The list of tweets from all the accounts you follow on Twitter.
If you’ve never used it before, Twitter can take a while to get used to, but give it a try! If you already use Twitter in your native language, that’s fantastic. Now you can use the website as an English learning tool as well.
There is so much to learn on Twitter, so these eight tips will help you get started.
6 Cool Ways to Learn English on Twitter
1. Follow educational accounts
One of the best and easiest things you can do to start learning English on Twitter is to follow educational accounts. There are many Twitter accounts that post daily tips, tricks and vocabulary words. Many of these accounts also encourage you to practice right there on Twitter. This is a great way to try out new words, because it’s quick and you can get direct feedback.
Other educational accounts share their own and other interesting blog posts for English learners. You can use these when you have some more time to practice your English reading and discover some new learning tips.
Some educational accounts you can follow on Twitter are:
- @EspressoEnglish — Shares daily tweets with links to quick English lessons and vocabulary building pages.
- @WoodwardEnglish — Tweets words of the day, along with sentence examples of how to use them.
- @PhraseMix — Shares links to daily English lessons and tips.
- @LearnEnglish and @LearnEnglish_BC — Shares idioms, words and other vocabulary resources using Australian and British English.
Once you follow some English learning accounts on Twitter, you’ll start seeing tips and tricks in your feed every day. Now you’ll need to organize them.
2. Make lists for different kinds of learning
Making lists is a way to organize the accounts you follow on Twitter. For example, this could let you group all the daily vocabulary words together in a list, all the blog posts in another list, etc.
To make a list, just visit a Twitter account page, click on the gear icon (it looks like a circular flower) on the top right of the account page, and select “Add or remove from lists.” You can have as many lists as you want, and they can be public (shared with everyone, like this ESL list) or private (just for you).
Then, go to https://twitter.com/[YourTwitterName]/lists (just replace “[YourTwitterName]” with your actual Twitter username), and you’ll see all your lists in one place. You can also join a service like TweetDeck, which lets you create columns for different lists.
3. Enter casual conversations
One of the best things about Twitter is that you can jump into any conversation. You can enter conversations that your friends are having, talk to other English learners, or even ask for English advice from native speakers.
Some useful hashtags to know for entering casual conversations are #twinglish, which is a place to practice your English, and #grammarhelp, which is a way to ask for help in correcting your grammar. You can also tweet at (or mention) a specific account in your tweet; many of the educational accounts are happy to help English learners.
Another great way to enter conversations on Twitter is to find something you’re interested in—like a hobby or a recent movie—and find other people talking about it. To do this, use the search bar to look for the title of a movie, the name of a celebrity, a general hobby or anything else that you’re interested in.
After you search, you will be able to sort through all the results by various categories, like photos, videos and accounts. The “Top” section will show you the most popular recent tweets, while the “Live” section will give you all recent tweets about your search. All these results will show you what people have to say about your interest—and give you some potential conversations to join.
Finally, keep an eye on (look at) the “trending” list on the left side of your Twitter page. These are hashtags that are currently popular on Twitter. The list will have terms that are popular in your current location. You can change the list to display popular terms in an English-speaking city or country by clicking on the word “change” on top of the trends box and choosing a new location.
You can join the conversation by writing your tweet about that topic and including the hashtag. If you’re not sure what a hashtag means or why it’s suddenly popular, click on it to see examples of what others are writing, or search Google for it.
4. Join professional English discussions in your field
Twitter is not just a good place for casual conversations. It’s also a great place to connect to and learn from other people in your field. Even though people often use casual language online, you can learn some professional English on Twitter just by following news, finding blog posts and articles, and joining conversations in the field or industry in which you work or study.
For example, if you’re interested in working in a hotel or any other part of the hospitality industry, you can find some interesting articles by searching for #hospitality. If you hope to someday be a hotel manager (or already are one), you can find advice for leaders at #leadershipadvice.
You can find Twitter communities and hashtags for your industry by just searching Twitter for a hashtag, or using a service like Rite Tag, which lets you search for hashtags.
5. Ask questions to native speakers and experts
Don’t be afraid to tweet at someone on Twitter. Remember, Twitter is all about conversations! Of course, not everyone on Twitter responds to all their messages, and you don’t want to ask too many questions to the same person.
You can tell if someone responds to messages often by checking how many replies they post. Simply visit their account page and select the “Tweets & Replies” tab at top of the page.
Some English experts who would be happy to help with your English learning are:
- Benny Lewis is the founder of the website Fluent In 3 Months. You can ask him for study tips, recommendations and other questions about English learning resources.
- Terry Fredrickson is a former ESL teacher who now adapts news articles for English learners on Bangkok Post. He welcomes discussions about the articles he posts, so read an article and share your opinion or question.
- Grammarly is a grammar help website. They can help you find learning resources or answer grammar questions.
If you’re not sure if someone can help you, just ask. See if they’d mind answering an English grammar question, for example. Many times if someone can’t help you, they’ll give you the account name of someone who can.
6. Explore your interests
We mentioned before that you can use Twitter to keep up with things you care about or are interested in. This is an important and incredibly fun part of using Twitter. So many people use Twitter that you can find people talking about anything and everything.
Your favorite brands, celebrities, comedians, actors and even politicians are probably on Twitter. Your local coffee shop might be on Twitter. Some accounts use Twitter to stay in touch with their fans. Some use Twitter as a diary, posting their thoughts about the world or their day. Others use it to just be funny.
As you use Twitter more, you’ll find accounts that you enjoy reading and visiting. Here are a few great accounts to get you started:
- If you enjoy interesting facts, follow @qikipedia, which posts interesting trivia and facts.
- Many popular singers are on Twitter, like @Adele and @katyperry. If you want to know where your favorite singer will be performing next, or to see their photos and thoughts, you can follow them.
- Some government officials and agencies are on Twitter too, like the American space agency @NASA and even the President of the United States, @BarackObama.
Keep in mind that many tweets, even by celebrities, can have incorrect grammar and spelling. In some cases the tweets are formal and proper (like Adele’s tweets), and in other cases the tweets are very casual (like Katy Perry’s tweets).
Since Twitter has a lot of slang and cultural references, it’s great for learning about English pop culture (and what’s currently trending). Each tweet is also very short, so it’s much easier to understand than a full-length article in English.
In order to confidently understand and participate in such tweets, it can help to stay up to date with what’s going on in English culture and language. You can prepare and get some insight by consuming other English media, like books, magazines or TV shows.
English-language videos can also show you the language in action while informing you about different topics. One video resource is the language learning program FluentU. It takes short authentic English videos, like music clips and news reports, and combines them with tools like interactive subtitles, flashcards and quizzes. This lets you learn English words and slang in the context of different themes and issues.
As you use Twitter and other apps to learn English, keep your learning goals in mind. Remember that even native English speakers can (and do!) make mistakes. Find accounts that interest you, and accounts that you love learning with.
And most importantly… have fun!