English is the language of communication in IT – no doubt about this.
If you are a native speaker, chances are your English is good enough to use it as a means of communication, though I can think of dozens of victims of the US educational system for whom English is (almost) a foreign language. Anyway, if you are not a native speaker and you wonder if it’s worth the effort to improve your English, don’t think twice but do it because improving skills is one of the best ways to speed your IT career.
There are many ways to improve your English. Online courses are one of the top choices because they offer a systematized approach to learning, and you can take them whenever it’s convenient for you. However, if you are doing a self-study course, you need lots of discipline.
Beginners to Advanced
Even if you are not an absolute beginner in English, it won’t hurt to have a look at an English course that starts from scratch. You’d better first fill in the gaps in your basic knowledge of English, like basic grammar and basic vocabulary and then move on to more advanced stuff.
Get 120 Free English Lessons, Beginners to Advanced is a general English course. It lasts 18-weeks (A1- A2 level) and covers the fundamentals of English grammar and vocabulary. What I like most about this course is that it has lots of exercises and includes a lot of phrases you will need daily.
English Grammar Pro
English Grammar Pro is an alternative if you are looking for a general English course for beginners. It covers more than the first course, but it’s also harder to take. The course covers grammar and vocabulary and also stresses on spoken English (i.e., American pronunciation). If your purpose is to get a general English certificate, such as IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, FCE or CAE, this course is an especially good choice.
English Grammar Lessons
Videos are a fun way to learn a foreign language, and if you’d rather watch an English course than read a book (even though many of the other courses on this list come with videos, too), then head to YouTube and check 555 English Grammar Lessons – Full Course.
It starts from scratch and covers all the basic grammar and vocabulary.
Business and Entrepreneurship
If you are in IT, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need nothing but English for programmers/admins. Many positions in IT require a mix of technical and business skills. This is where a course, such as English for Business and Entrepreneurship, comes handy.
To complete this course successfully, you need to know the basic English grammar and vocabulary, so if you lack in these areas, first fill in your gaps there. This course is useful not only because you will learn how to express yourself in an English speaking business environment, but you will learn a lot about business and entrepreneurship per se.
The course isn’t massive – it takes about 25 hours to complete.
Write Professional Emails
There is hardly an office job that doesn’t require writing emails, and IT is not an exception. Writing emails does have its tips and tricks, and if you want to learn them, check the Write Professional Emails in English course. It is a relatively short course – approximately 13 hours, but after you complete it, you will become an email writing guru.
This isn’t a beginner course, so if you lack basic proficiency in English, first fix this. The course will help you to improve your written English, and it will teach you what to write in different business situations.
If you are looking for an in-depth, comprehensive course on business English to keep you busy for a long time, Business English is a must-try. With its over 500 lessons on topics, such as meetings, telephoning, presentations, job interviews, negotiations, and socializing, you will learn a lot, and you will improve both your spoken and written English.
There is also a separate business English vocabulary section you can use as a reference even without taking the rest of the course.
English for Business Communication is a 15-unit course on the British version of business English. It’s a relatively short course, but it includes the essentials of communication in various business situations, such as when socializing, telephoning, presenting, taking part in meetings, or negotiating. Similarly to the other specialized courses, this course isn’t for beginners.
To determine if the level is too high for you, you can download the free sample first.
Write to Ignite
One of the most useful skills you’ll need in a business IT environment is the skill to write sales copy and other sales/website texts. Write to Ignite – Master the Art of Sales Copy & Copywriting teaches you everything you need to know to attract (and retain) readers to your sales pages – i.e., how to write killer headlines, how to write a compelling story, even how to format your texts.
Again, this course is for intermediate English learners. Additionally, some prior marketing experience is recommendable.
While for some learners of English spoken English is easy-peasy, for others it’s a nightmare come true. If you belong to the second group, then the Speak English Professionally course is particularly useful to you. You will learn how to speak in person, online, and on the phone. The course will help you to improve your pronunciation and fluency, as well as learn some non-verbal communication, such as body language and the use of the inevitable cultural influences.
One of the most common cases, when you need to improve your English, is for a job interview.
Unfortunately, even positions that don’t require fluency in English can have a job interview in English. In this case, no matter how sharp your technical skills are, if you can’t demonstrate decent use of English during the interview, you might have to bid adieu to the job.
Even if your interview skills, including proficiency in English, are admirable, it won’t hurt to have a look at the English@Work: Advanced Job Interview Skills course. This course teaches you not only how to use English, but also what to say in the first place. If this stuff is too complicated for you, don’t worry, this is the advanced version.
There is also a basic version of English for job interviews, so check their site for the first part.
English for IT
Probably one of the courses that will help you most is a specialized course with a focus on IT terminology. The choice here isn’t huge, but there are some outstanding ones, for instance, English for Information Technology. It’s a self-paced course, so you can take it whenever you can. It covers major areas of IT, such as software engineering, tech support, technical sales, and most other IT careers.
You need proficiency in English to make full use of the contents of the course.
Vocational Course Book
English for Information Technology 1 (Vocational Course Book) is another resource to check if you are interested in IT English. It does require knowledge of basic English and vocabulary and some idea of IT. You will learn terminology from areas, such as computer hardware/software and repair, databases, networking, security, etc.
This course comes with lots of exercises.
If for some reason, you prefer to study the British version of IT English, then you may want to check the Oxford English for Information Technology book. It’s not the size of an IT bible, but still, it offers a lot in many IT areas. This course requires an intermediate to advanced level of English.
The texts are longer and more in-depth, and they are from various sources (textbooks, newspapers, popular computing magazines, Internet newsgroups, webpages, manuals, and advertisements). The comprehensive glossary of IT terminology is another nice addition to the book. This course comes with an audio CD with authentic interviews with IT professionals, so you can practice your listening skills.
English for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics is a 5-week course by the University of Pennsylvania, and it focuses on general STEM terminology. You will deal with terminology from areas, such as climate change, new energy systems, nanotechnology, etc. There isn’t much IT in this course, but still, it may be useful for you. The course is free to take unless you require a certificate.
The courses on this list will help you to improve your English. You might not become as fluent as a native speaker, but if you sharpen your English skills and your tech skills are good, your IT career will get a noticeable boost. Even if you consider your English decent, you still can have a look at these courses – just out of curiosity, or to refresh your English – there is no harm in doing it!