Learning fluent English from Youtube: DO’S and DON’TS

As a teacher, one of the questions I get asked most often is ‘How can I learn English for free?’ 

There are dozens of ways to learn English grammar, spelling, 

One of the best ways to learn English speaking now is by using video media.

You can go onto Youtube right now and find a whole crowd of online English teachers, lecturers and ‘personalities’ who all want you to learn English with them. Some of these are great free resources, some might be a waste of your time. Even if you find the best ones, you’re missing out on one of the best learning resources on Youtube. 

Youtube is full of English users who speak English naturally. 

So, how can you make use of this resource? We made a list of the most important things to do and what to avoid. 

DO- watch a variety of content- Youtube is so full of content of all types that it would be a mistake to stick to one. Webseries, reviews, podcast-type channels and even cat videos. You can learn English from all of them! Each type of content has its own rewards for watching. Some might have particular accents you can learn or unique and interesting vocabulary to note down. Some might be simple and easy to understand, which can help you build your listening confidence. And of course, there are also a huge number of channels devoted specifically to learning English on Youtube. However, this brings me to my next point…

DON’T- stick to the English teachers- Now, learning English from a Youtube teacher can be very useful. In particular, beginner and elementary- level students can benefit a lot from a teacher who speaks slowly and clearly, with the goal of being easy to understand. 

However, if you only watch these channels you’re missing out on all of the other super-useful content Youtube has to offer. Also, if you’re only watching English teachers you can get over-confident in your ability to understand  people talking in a normal way. I have a lot of students who listen to a lot of English-learning channels and shows who struggle to understand people in everyday conversation because they don’t have enough practise listening to people talking normally. So, by all means, watch the English Youtube teachers, but don’t limit yourself to them. 

DO- take notes- Taking notes is one of the best habits to get into when you’re learning just about anything, but it’s especially useful if you’re learning a language. If you’re using Youtube to learn then the best thing you can do is sit with a notebook and pen in hand, ready to write down interesting or useful words and phrases, take a note of a particular video or time that you want to remember, and write down the most difficult part of what you’re trying to learn. 

DON’T- watch with subtitles, especially in your native language- I know, I know. It’s easier to watch anything with subtitles. But learning isn’t always meant to be easy, and if you watch everything with subtitles you’re really practising your reading, not your listening. No subtitles is the best way to watch anything in your target language, even if you have to watch the same video several times to really get it. 

If you really must watch a video with subtitles- if you’ve tried listening a few times and there are parts you just don’t get at all- use english subtitles. When it comes to learning English, a good rule is to never use your native language unless absolutely necessary. 

DO- watch things that you like/ enjoy- It’s common for English learners to say “I tried using videos to learn but it’s so boring”. Most of the time these students are choosing boring videos to watch. 

Grammar explanations can be really useful. As a teacher I genuinely admire those people who make ten-minute long videos explaining in great detail how and when to use a mixed conditional. But honestly? If these videos are the only things you watch, you’re going to get bored. Watch things that you like, subjects that genuinely interest you. There’s something for everyone. If you learn English while also being entertained or educated about something else, you’re winning the game. 

DON’T- forget you’re there to learn English- On the other end of the boredom/fun spectrum we have the students who forget their purpose. It’s important to enjoy learning, but don’t forget the learning part of the equation! Keeping notes helps with this. If you’re laughing at a video so hard that you forget to write down any useful language, it might not be the best choice of learning material. 

If you follow these simple tips, you’ll have a great and fun new resource for learning English that’s free! Enjoy!