Welcome to Plain English! We’re glad you’re here. Whether you’re thinking of signing up for Plain English Plus+, recently started a trial, or have been a Plus+ member for a while, we want to make sure you’re aware of the best Plain English Plus+ membership features, and how to make the most of them.
In this article, we’ll tell you about our most popular Plus+ features. We’ll also share some resources to help you stay motivated as you write your next life chapter in English.
Plain English Plus+ features
How is Plain English Plus+ different from the free membership? When you sign up for Plus+, you unlock valuable learning tools that can help you go from intermediate to advanced. Some of the most popular Plain English Plus+ features include: step-by-step video lessons, interactive exercises, the fast version of each lesson, translations, and more. You’ll also get personalized feedback on your own practice and connect with Jeff, JR, and fellow members on a live conversation call.
Learn more about the features available to Plain English Plus+ members below:
Each main lesson and expression is available in slower speed (similar to what you probably heard in a podcast app) and in a faster speed.
Here is the difference between the two:
- The slow speed version goes a little slower than normal speed and has a little extra space between most words. With the slower speed, you can focus on hearing and understanding every word.
- Just be aware that this is a learning tool and is not the fully authentic way we would speak in a real-life situation.
- This version is available free in podcast directories like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and other apps.
- The faster speed version goes at the same speed we would use when speaking to other native speakers. In the faster speed, we leave less room between words and, crucially, we connect and combine words together just like we would in a conversation.
- The fast speed version is available on each lesson web page and can be accessed via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or other third-party apps using your PlainEnglish.com login.
Intermediate English learners usually listen to both versions to compare and contrast. They listen to the slower-speed version first to understand the content and the fast version second to see how it sounds at full speed.
More advanced learners start with the faster speed version and use the transcripts to see what words they missed.
How-to video lessons
Some concepts in English are a little harder to use than expressions and phrasal verbs. For these concepts, we create how-to video lessons, showing you step-by-step how to use certain concepts in English. The videos all have captions, so you can easily follow along.
These videos are approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length. In the videos, we describe exactly how and when to use a given tool in English, we give plenty of examples, and then we provide you with two situations tailor-made for that concept. You can then write your own sentences that fit the situation and check your work at the end of the video.
Video lesson topics
What concepts have we reviewed in the past? Here is a sample of the kinds of lesson topics you’ll find in our library:
- Not only…but
- Even if
- Ever since
- Barely any
- Over the last
…and many more! In fact, we have over 200 similar video lessons in our library.
Studies show that you retain more of what you learn when you’re actively engaged with the topic. Our exercises help you practice your listening, speaking, and grammar after each lesson. By doing the exercises, you will become more engaged with the topics and you’ll remember more of what you learn.
Here are all the types of practice exercises you’ll find as part of each lesson set:
You’ll have two opportunities to do focused listening practice. You’ll listen to two clips from the main lesson at full speed. As you listen, you’ll write down all the words you hear in the dictation.
You can listen as many times as you need to. When you think you’ve got it, press “Check” and you’ll see whether you missed any words. And yes, spelling counts!
Simply reading English words out loud can help with your pronunciation, as long as you can also hear the correct pronunciation to make sure you’re saying the words correctly.
After each lesson, you’ll be prompted to record yourself reading a paragraph from the lesson out loud. You can then re-play the recording to hear how you sound. Just below the exercise, you can play an audio clip of the same paragraph from the lesson, so you can compare your own pronunciation to that of a native speaker.
Over time, this will help you improve your English pronunciation and gain confidence speaking…especially since nobody is listening except you!
Two things are consistently difficult for English learners: choosing the correct preposition and choosing the correct verb tense.
We select two paragraphs from each lesson and we delete the prepositions and verbs. It’s your job to fill in the blanks with the correct preposition and verb tense.
- For the verb tense exercise, we provide you with the verb in the infinitive and it’s your job to put the verb in the correct tense, based on the context of the paragraph.
- For the preposition exercise, you have to determine the correct preposition based on the context. We provide a list of potential prepositions.
After you’re done with each paragraph, you can check your work to see what you got right and what you missed.
If you’re ever curious about an answer, you can always ask about it in the forums and receive a personal reply.
How well did you understand each lesson? You’ll find out when you take the five-question quiz about the lesson material. You’ll want to listen to both the main lesson and the expression before taking the quiz. Out of the five multiple-choice questions, three are usually about the main topic and two are about the expression. As always, you’ll see your quiz results instantly and you can resolve your doubts in the forums.
According to the BBC, native speakers know between 15,000 and 20,000 words. But the secret is that only about 800 words are necessary to understand 75 percent of English conversations.
Our exercises help you build your English vocabulary up to 800 and beyond, but we don’t waste time on words that you don’t need to know. We have two ways to build your vocabulary at Plain English:
- Match the words: In this exercise, you’ll take about five to ten intermediate-level English words and place them in the correct blanks in a paragraph from the main lesson. This will force you to find the correct place and context for each word. By thinking in this way, you’ll have a reason to remember the new words you place on the page.
- Flash cards: What would a language course be without flash cards? We choose five words from the main lesson and present them in Quizlet (which you can access from the Quizlet app) and at the top of the Exercises page.
- Prefer to use the Quizlet app? Just send us your username and we’ll add you to the private class.
Several of the Plain English Plus+ features are focused on active learning. For example, as a Plus+ member, you can practice what you learn and receive personalized feedback. Below each Expression, Lingo, and Video lesson, there’s a practice area just for Plus+ members. In that space, you can write your own examples using what you learned.
I’ll read your example and reply with suggestions for improvement, if needed.
This is a great way to be an active learner. By engaging with the content, writing your own examples, and receiving feedback, you’ll be prepared to use what you learn in everyday conversation.
Live conversation calls
Speaking of active learning, live conversation calls are an excellent way to put your English into practice. By joining a live conversation call, you’ll build your confidence speaking in English in a safe and supportive environment. Then, when you go to use English in the real world, you’ll have the experience and confidence that you need.
Time & location
Specific dates and times of the calls are on your dashboard and the events calendar here. We do three calls per month and we vary the starting times to accommodate time zones. In general, the calls are at the following times:
- Europe evening call: Tuesday evenings in Europe (afternoons in the Americas)
- Americas evening call: Tuesday evenings in the Americas (Wednesday mornings in Asia)
- Saturday call: Saturday mornings in the Americas, afternoons in Europe, and evenings in Asia
The calls are on Zoom and they typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. Each call has an agenda that is based on a recent Plain English lesson. You don’t need to listen to the lesson ahead of the call, but it does help.
The calls follow this format:
- Ice breaker: We introduce ourselves and answer a quick and easy ice breaker question
- Discussion: We move to a discussion of a recent lesson topic. Discussion questions are posted ahead of time so you can think about your responses before the call.
- Question of the Week: If there’s time remaining, we review some of the recent Questions of the Week from the forums.
We usually have about 6-8 members, plus Jeff and JR, on each call. As more people join the live conversation calls, we’ll add more to the schedule.
Tips for success
Here are some tips for success on the live calls:
- Make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer or phone ahead of time
- Find the Zoom link on your dashboard or the calendar
- Connect with earbuds or a headset for the best sound quality
- Try to minimize distractions in the background. (But if you need to leave for a few minutes, that’s okay too!)
- Be yourself! Don’t feel embarrassed and remember you’re among friends.
The transcripts of each Lesson and Expression come with instant translations of key words into nine languages.
The great thing about the translations is they let you understand every word without having to pause the audio to look up the definitions. This lets you put the focus on listening and understanding instead of on searching for individual words.
How to use them
To see them, just find the tab at the top of the transcript that corresponds to your language. When you see a highlighted word:
- Hover your mouse over the word if you’re using a computer
- Tap the word if you’re using a tablet or phone
When you do that, you’ll see that term translated into your own language.
What languages are included?
The translations are available into the following languages:
Tips for using Plus+ features in your learning
Learning a language is a long process. At Plain English, we hope to be a valuable tool in your English learning journey. Here are a few tips for how to use the Plain English Plus+ features to improve your skills:
- Take the review quizzes: Each week, we post a review quiz on your dashboard. It’s five questions and they cover words, phrases, and concepts we’ve covered in the past. Take the quizzes and follow the links to review any questions you miss.
- Save lessons for later: Chances are, you’ll see links to lessons that you want to review in the future. When that happens, just click the bookmark icon at the top of the lesson page. The lesson will be saved for you on your Dashboard.
- Don’t be shy: We get it! English can be intimidating. But that’s why we have a supportive community at Plain English Plus+. You can practice without fear or intimidation with us. Then, when you need to use English in the real world, you’ll have a lot more confidence.
- Don’t be a stranger: Plain English Plus+ has a lot to offer, but we’re really a small community. Send Jeff a message from your dashboard and join a live conversation call. We want to get to know you in English!
- Sign in every week: Set a learning goal! Try to sign in at least three times per week. You don’t have to spend too much time studying every day. But just a little bit each day makes a big difference.
That’s all! Whether you’re learning English to improve your career, enjoy movies and music, or enrich your travel experiences, we’re glad that you’ve chosen Plain English to help you along the way.