Language Learning Resources

photo from flickr-africatrip2039

Here in the Humanities Department, we recognize that words and language are the key to coexisting and communication. We try to foster a collection that recognizes the complexity of language, whether your intent is to acquire a new language or learn more about your native tongue.  You can find an abundance of English as Second Language (ESL) resources, as well as many types of books and media to help you learn Spanish, French, Japanese, American Sign Language and more. We also feature books about the history of language development, and a small but growing collection of novels in foreign languages. 

Translation Services

The Humanities Department is the home of the Translator File, a source for those who need translation services. We can provide contact information for many speakers of a variety of tongues who can negotiate a translation contract with you. For more information, please inquire at the Humanities Public Service Desk.

Note: Humanities provides the Translator File as a referral service only. We are not responsible for any fees that an individual translator may request.

For basic translation needs, try some of the links below, or search the LINC/211 database for local translation services.
  • TAPIT: The Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators acts as a professional resource for translators and those in need of interpretation, and is an advocate for the effective training and use of translators.


  • Language Line - The Language Line is an over the phone instant translation hotline that also provides document translation services. Although a subscription is required to use the service, the City of Memphis is a subscriber and the Language Line is available for use by non-English speaking library customers who need to communicate with library staff.


Local Resources

English as Second Language Resources

English as Second Language (ESL) resources can be essential for new Americans or anyone learning to speak, read and write English. The ESL collection in the Humanities Department has many helpful resources to help you accomplish that goal, whatever your native language.

Along with the Humanities department, Memphis Public Library and Information Center is host to several English as Second Language Resource Centers. You can find ESL Centers at the Cordova branch, the Raleigh branch, the East Shelby branch, the Randolph branch and the Parkway Village branch. MPLIC offers Citizenship Programs to help immigrants with the Naturalization process, prepare for the Citizenship Examination, and learn about their rights and responsibilities as United States citizens. We also host Naturalization Ceremonies. Call 901-417-2700 for more information.

The Cordova branch also hosts English Language Conversation Groups for nonnative speakers who want to improve their pronunciation and conversational ability. Call 901-415-2764 for more information.

The links below are an extension of MPLIC’s ESL Centers. They feature many resources to assist in pronunciation, grammar, writing, and listening, often with video and audio help.
  • Learning Express Library - Find U.S. Citizenship preparation help here (in English and Spanish), and courses that provide practice in listening to, reading, speaking, and writing English. Available through the MPLIC database collection, and Tennessee Electronic Library.

    • You will need to register and create a password to use this database, but after that you can log in as a returning user any time of the day. If you are not on an MPLIC computer, you can use Memphis as your username and Elvis as the password.

  • BBC Skillswise - A great source if you want to learn or improve basic skills such as typing, handwriting, word and sentence grammar. If you like this page, be sure to check out their Math help page  and their Webwise page too!

  • Learn English - Created by the British Council, this international site is an excellent source for vocabulary and grammar lessons, as well as a place to interact with other learners around the world all learning English together.

  • OWL at Purdue Grammar Lab - Review the basics of grammar at the Online Writing Lab.

  • Sounds of English - Using pictures, video, text and sound, this site helps the learner differentiate between similar sounds in English words. Includes lots of activities and exercises.

  • Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab - Randall Davis is an experienced ESL teacher, which is apparent in this excellent resource for English learners. He provides links to many conversations of various levels of difficulty alongside quizzes, vocabulary, and self-reflection exercises.

  • Activities for ESL Students - Bilingual quizzes, vocabulary and crossword puzzles. Brought to you by The Internet TESL Journal.

  • ESL Partyland - Language lessons for English learners and teachers about real life - food, music, travel, the internet, and of course, dating.

Foreign Language Learning Resources

In addition to the ESL collection, the Humanities department contains a variety of resources to help you acquire another language including dictionaries, grammar guides, and packaged sets of books and audio materials. We are also proud to introduce Mango Languages to our database collection - a free language learning program that you can access from your home computer.

The links below provide a variety of online resources to assist in foreign language learning. They can be a great help in supporting our collection.

English Language and Etymology

  • Repeat After Us - An online language lab to help users with both language and literature.