A multilingual network of over 130,000 English language teachers and learners in China

English Online was a new British Council project that came from a government initiative to increase the number of English language learners. We set about helping them guide young Chinese students through key language-learning steps online.


The site needed to provide the latest in innovation and resources for teachers and students of the English language, as well as include features to promote community-based learning. It’s always nice to get that extra bit of extra motivation, and online communities are a great way to provide this. As well as the community element, the site needed to be an educational hub for students, with a variety features implemented to aid different learning styles.


The site had to be built in three different languages in order to support different learning levels: English, Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional. We enabled the multilingual capabilities of Drupal to do this. To aid sharing and community learning, we implemented social features such as discussions, comments and blogs. And, for on-the-go students, all of this was also available on a mobile site. The site achieved an extremely rapid growth in numbers after going live, well exceeding British Council’s expectations (proud faces all round!) Although the site is no longer live, we are happy to have been able to support the 130,000+ site members throughout the project’s lifetime.


  • English Online became one of the largest community learning portals within the education sector.
  • Press coverage was received from the BBC, Downing Street, Dries Buytaert's website, and more.
  • 10 million unique visitors a month.

Personalised profiles

Each profile has badges and gamification, and can also be personalised to suit its user

Downloadable podcasts with transcripts

Users can download podcasts and have the option to either listen or read along

Personal blogs for every English Online user

Each user can write their own blogs for the site, as well as update their profile with description and detail

Press coverage

The online community received positive feedback from the UK government and national newspapers

Our [community] site was built in Drupal - an open source CMS - and BrightLemon led the development which contained multilingual capacity as well as an in depth registration and customer relationship management system as a foundation for our community driven website for English learners across mainland China and Hong Kong. All of this has contributed to over 50,000 members in our first year since launch.

Andrew Newton

Project Manager,
British Council Hong Kong


registered users (and counting!)


unique visitors per month