English as a Second Language Resources

Urbana-Champaign is especially rich in offerings for people starting their study of English and for advanced students improving their conversational skills. Native English speakers hoping to expand their horizons can interact with the local international community. Here is an overview of some of the opportunities available locally.

Resources in the Library

Urbana residents may obtain library cards to borrow the resources listed below. Champaign residents with Champaign Public Library cards may also borrow materials from The Urbana Free Library.

  • The Library has books, book and CD sets, and films to help with the study of English as a Second Language.  Many materials about this topic start with the call number 428.24.
  • For a more complete list, search CU Catalog using keywords “ESL” or “English language foreign speakers.”
  • Special DVDs feature on-screen displays of text to read-along, listen, or download as an MP3. Use the call number DVD / 808.83 to locate these materials in the Educational DVD collection (second floor).
  • Many of the LIbrary's DVDs provide closed captioning in English.
  • Many Books on Disc are also available in print format, so you can read-long as you listen.
  • The Library provides a collection of grammar/language texts and other volumes of simplified English in our special Adult Education Section.  The collection is located on the second floor between the 400 and 500 Dewey sections. 
  • Meeting rooms for group study or tutoring sessions are also available and may be reserved in advance. 
  • Cardholders from The Urbana Free Library have free remote access to Mango Languages, an online resource that offers courses in learning English for speakers of 21 different languages. Everyone can use Mango in the Library. The service provides multiple exercises as well as blogs, films, words of the day, and more. After you create an account, download the Mango Languages app, and take the lessons with you as you learn.
  • For more information, contact Adult Services at 217-367-4405 or reference@urbanafree.org.
Questions?  Stop by the Adult & Youth Services reference desk on the second floor or call 217-367-4405. 

Conversation Groups

These are informal groups of ESL students and native English speakers who meet on a regular basis both to practice speaking English and to make new friends.  Some of these groups are affiliated with the University of Illinois but all local residents are welcome at their gatherings. Call to verify times and locations.

ConvoPartners Program (Conversational Partners)
(for native English-speaking volunteers)
    University of Illinois Intensive English Program
English Corner:  Conversational English Practice
    810 West Oregon Street, Urbana
Global Partners

International Hospitality  Committee

International Women’s Connection
    Twin City Bible Church
    810 West Michigan Street, Urbana  
    Ruth Krehbiel 217-384-3085
Wesley Foundation, International Coffee Hour (ETC. Coffeehouse)
    1203 West Green Street, Urbana

Formal Classes in English as a Second Language

Free Classes

Parkland College Adult and Workforce Education
Basic communication skills for everyday life.
    2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign

Parkland College Project READ
    2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign

Urbana Adult Education
    211 North Race Street, Urbana

Weekday ESL classes
    First Presbyterian Church of Champaign
    302 West Church Street, Champaign

Fee-based Classes

The English Center
    University YMCA
    1001 South Wright Street, Champaign  

Parkland College International Center
    2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign   

University of Illinois Intensive English Institute
    616 E Green Suite 210 Champaign IL 61820

University of Illinois Special English Class
(for non-UI Students)
    3072 Foreign Language Building
    707 South Mathews Avenue, Urbana   

Other Resources

The Refugee Center
This organization offers a full range of services for the international community.  While they do not offer ESL classes, they are a good starting point for up-to-date information on classes, tutors, and translators.

Online Resources

BBC: Learning English

Improve English language skills with a wide variety of short courses, quizzes, grammar, vocabulary, audio, and videos.


Learn languages (including English) while playing online language-based games, quizzes, and challenges. In addition to Duolingo’s regular desktop web site, Duolingo also has apps for all
the popular mobile operating systems.


Learn English and other languages for free with 165+ video lessons by experienced native-speaker teachers, covering grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, TOEFL, and more.

New York Public Library

NYPL has compiled a comprehensive list of free services, sites, and online communities that are useful to ESL and other language learners.