Instagram is a lot of fun. I prefer it to Facebook and Twitter because it is less political and more positive. Mostly, I follow photographers and people who work in places of natural beauty because I like to see stunning photos of our magnificent planet. However, there are many other ways to use Instagram, and some people use it for learning English.
Today, I wanted to give you a short overview of this and explain why it is potentially fraught with problems. However, I still think that there are a lot of very positive aspects to this. It is just important to understand the problems.
Can I really learn English on Instagram?
The simple answer to this is YES. Instagram is an amazing resource for sharing pictures and videos, which means that teachers can freely share lessons with millions of users across the globe.
There are loads of great teachers currently using Instagram to teach others. They share pictures that include useful vocabulary, grammar lessons, and inspirational quotes. Some of the best ones also feature videos. In these, the teacher will explain issues in English just like they would in a real classroom. It is a brilliant tool!
What is the problem with learning English on Instagram?
There are many problems, but the biggest one by far is that it is a lucrative business that attracts very dishonest people. In fact, most English teachers on Instagram can’t actually speak English very well!
Sadly, it is quite easy to beat the Instagram algorithm and get thousands of subscribers. When people get tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers, they can make money. Because of this, they use completely unethical tactics to build up their profile.
Let’s break this down into sub-categories to understand it better.
Problem #1: You will learn bad English
When you follow English teachers on Instagram, you probably assume that they are experts. This is especially true when they have a half a million subscribers!
However, many of these accounts are run by people who do not speak English. They simply steal posts from others and then use them on their own account. Aside from being totally immoral, this is a problem because they do not check whether the advice is true or not.
Take a look at these examples:
If you take advice from people who cannot speak English well, then you will learn bad English from them. You should immediately unfollow these people and choose better teachers. (See below for suggestions.)
Problem #2: Most of the lessons are useless
Some Instagram accounts are a little more careful and do include mostly correct English, but still they teach you things that are useless. What happens is these people find words in the dictionary that are quite obscure, then pretend that they are really important!
There are some accounts where they will just share a picture of some totally random thing and then give you the words for its component parts. This is not a helpful way to learn language at all. However, it appears useful and so people give it a LIKE and FOLLOW, perpetuating the cycle of pointless posting.
One way of identifying these posts is to look for common patterns. For example, the very worst English teachers on social media will constantly post unoriginal nonsense like “Don’t use the word ‘very’!” or compared “Normal English” with “Advanced English.” (There is no such thing!)
Here is another example:
How could any of this help you with IELTS preparation? 🤦♂️ The answer is: It can’t! This account just posts totally random nonsense and calls it “essential” for IELTS. Please ignore this sort of pathetic person. They will only waste your time.
This one isn’t even teaching English… It’s Italian!!! 😂
Problem #3: Most of these people are thieves
Unfortunately, most so-called English teachers on Instagram are just shameless thieves. They copy what other people post because they are too lazy and stupid to make anything themselves.
When you follow various accounts, you will soon see that the same idiotic post appears again and again and again… This is because people keep stealing it and their followers LIKE it, so others steal it. It is a horrible cycle.
This affects real English teachers like me because these shameless thieves will steal my work and pretend that they made it. I am happy for people to share my materials, but these people will remove the attribution and pretend that it is theirs. This is nothing short of sickening.
How can you identify bad advice on Instagram?
When you are studying English on Instagram, you can look for familiar posts. Is an account sharing something that you have seen fifty times before? Then it is a bad account.
Take this for example:
This stupid post has been shared millions of times on Facebook and Instagram. Only the very worst teachers share it. Someone made it a long time ago, and now thousands of dishonest people have stolen and repeated it. Some of the advice here is just absurd.
Here is another:
Actually, some of this is reasonable, but you can see that various unscrupulous, disgusting people have stolen the original post and tried to claim it for themselves by putting their logo on it! Not only are they thieves, but they are trying to stop other thieves from stealing it. 😒
What can you do to avoid bad teachers and bad English?
First of all, you should follow good teachers! I know it is difficult to tell, especially when the bad teachers have hundreds of thousands of followers. You can start by following me. 😊 You can also follow other good teachers like these people:
Unlike most English teachers on Instagram, they actually speak English and give good advice!
Next, you should avoid those accounts that just post the same material as everyone else. Instead, support independent creators. These people will produce the best English resources and deserve your support. They can offer you more help and will generally give more honest advice.
If you are interested in finding out which English teachers give good and bad advice, you can also check out my review page.
Here is a related video. This is about Facebook but most of the advice still applies: