According to YouTube’s statistics, over one billion people all over the world use their video sharing website.
You’re probably one of those billion people, whether you watch videos every day or have just clicked on a few. But there’s something you might not realize about YouTube: It can be a powerful tool for learning English.
Below, we’ll look at some awesome YouTube channels that can help you improve your English skills. We’ll also check out some cool channels from native English speakers that will help you learn about a lot of other fascinating topics, too!
If you’re already a “YouTube expert,” then you may want to skip right to the list of recommended channels. But if you want to make your English learning experience on YouTube as effective as possible, here are a few general tips.
Quick Tips for Using YouTube to Learn English
1. Subscribe to YouTube channels
If you find a YouTube channel that you like, you’ll probably want to easily return to that channel in the future. You’ll also probably want to know when that channel makes new videos.
Just look for the “Subscribe” button under a video or on a channel’s YouTube page. Then every time you open YouTube, you can go right to your “Subscriptions” tab to quickly see what’s new in all of the channels that you follow. It’s a low-effort way to make sure you always have an opportunity to watch new English videos.
2. Like videos
Click on the “thumbs up” symbol on the lower right-hand side of a video to “like” it. That will also add the video to a playlist of your liked videos, which will let you easily return to that video again if you want to re-watch it.
Remember that subscribing to channels and liking videos can support the people behind those videos. By liking and subscribing, you’ll definitely encourage the people who are making the videos to keep going. But it can also affect the way that YouTube lists and recommends channels, since channels with more likes and subscriptions are often recommended more.
This is all great for the long-term success of YouTube content that helps you learn English!
3. Turn on subtitles
You might see a small box at the bottom of the video that says “CC.” “CC” stands for “closed captioning,” which basically means “subtitles.” So, if you see “CC,” you can click it and turn on subtitles.
Some people who make videos provide their own subtitles. If they do that, the subtitles can be really accurate and useful.
Sometimes the subtitles are “automatic,” when a computer decides what the people are saying—and the computer often understands wrong. So, if you click on “CC” and it says “automatically generated,” just be aware that there may be some errors. Even so, the subtitles can still help you understand in most cases.
Subtitles aren’t always perfect. But some people learn better by reading, so turning on subtitles may be a good option for you.
10 Fun, Cool YouTube Channels to Help You Learn English
Here are ten excellent YouTube channels that can help you learn and improve your English skills. We’ll start with a few that are specifically geared toward English learning, followed by six that are focused on more general topics (but still in English).
YouTube Resources for an English Learner Audience
As you can probably guess, “engVid” is an abbreviation for “English videos.” This is a great resource that’s actually a collection of different channels that can help you learn English. Each engVid channel is run by a different English teacher, and they focus on topics including grammar, idioms, pronunciation and especially vocabulary.
The channels all generally have a similar structure and format, and they try to copy the classroom experience. That means the videos usually involve a teacher standing in front of a whiteboard and explaining new vocabulary or other English concepts.
This format may be good for visual learners who like to see words written out or who like to take notes, and it’s especially effective for learners who like the structure of a classroom environment. But it obviously doesn’t include a lot of interesting photographs or graphics to illustrate ideas.
I’ve personally used many of these channels when teaching my English classes. One that I particularly like is JamesESL, which covers a lot of great vocabulary (like when to use in, on and at) and conversation topics (like religion or politics).
I’ve also used videos by Ronnie, who calls her EngVid channel “EnglishLessons4U.” She has some good videos with job interview tips and the questions you may need to answer in an interview, and she also discusses more controversial topics like sex, drugs and swearing.
Finally, I also have used videos by other EngVid teachers including Alex, who focuses more on grammar and the structure of English, and Jade, who talks about a variety of topics, but from a British perspective.
Yes, FluentU has its own YouTube channel that English students can use to learn the language!
If you want to get the most out of your YouTube experience, you should definitely check out FluentU. On YouTube, we have original English language lessons which teach you key topics on vocabulary and grammar—plenty for beginners and intermediate students to learn.
But FluentU is so much more than a YouTube channel. Accessible as an iPhone app, Android app or on the website, FluentU takes real-world English YouTube videos—like movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and transforms them into language learning experiences.
Each video includes interactive subtitles, so you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples. You’ll get exposure to authentic, native English content, with cool features like quizzes to help boost memorization. It’s an awesome option if you’re ready to take your YouTube learning to the next level.
If you guessed that our first channel was an abbreviation of “English videos,” then you can probably figure out that this is an abbreviation of “British English.” And that’s exactly what this channel is all about.
This is a good channel because these days, a lot of media, movies and even online English lessons are in American English. But it’s definitely important for English learners to be exposed to a variety of accents and vocabulary, and this channel can help with that.
Some videos that I’ve used include ones that cover pronunciation—I like the ones about the difference between “s” and “z” and about how to pronounce the “-ed” at the end of a past tense verb. They also have a lot of videos about phrasal verbs and idioms, including one video on idioms that’s over an hour and a half long! Just remember that a lot of the idioms are especially British, so you may not have heard of some of them before—some of them were new for me, too!
Yes, this channel is definitely made for kids, but it can also help adults learn English! KidsTV123 has a collection of songs that are about learning in general, but a lot of them focus on language elements that kids would learn in school, such as numbers, colors and the alphabet.
The videos have simple, clear animations and the songs aren’t as annoying as some kids’ music tends to be. Believe me—I have a young son and I can normally only listen to kids’ songs for about two minutes before going crazy—but for some reason the songs on this channel don’t bother me as much. My son especially likes their songs about animals, such as “The Animal Sounds Song” and “At the Zoo.”
Speaking of which, if you have children of your own (or if you know young kids who are interested in learning English), you can watch the videos with them and learn together! I even used “The Animal Sounds Song” a few weeks ago in an advanced English class, just to review the different English words we use for sounds and animals.
Native Speaker YouTube Resources
These next six channels are all in English, but most of them are about other topics besides English. Because of that, the styles are different from the first three channels, but that can be a good thing. You’ll gain exposure to native speaker pronunciation and speaking rhythms while simultaneously learning about cool topics. Most of these channels also include illustrations and visual elements, so they might catch your attention more.
This is a gigantic channel. There are lots and lots of videos about different subjects, but most of them are under 10 minutes. They generally have three types of videos:
- List Shows. These videos, obviously, have different interesting lists including “41 Facts About Vegetables” or “35 Facts About Rock Bands.”
- Big Questions. These shorter videos focus on more specific topics, such as “What makes hair naturally straight or curly?” or “Why do we get songs stuck in our heads?” (You may want to watch that last video after you watch some of the KidsTV123 videos.)
- Misconceptions. If you don’t know what the word “misconception” means, it’s basically something that you think is correct, but that isn’t actually correct. These videos are all about confusing topics that people often misunderstand, from diseases to religion.
This is a relatively new channel run by a man named Paul. In these videos, he explores different world languages and talks about what makes them interesting and unique.
For an English learner, it might be interesting to watch his profiles of different languages or the videos where he compares different languages. There are also documentaries about different types of languages or interesting topics related to languages, such as “Is English Really a Germanic Language?” or “Polyglot Popes: What languages does the Pope Speak?”
Finally, there are about 10 videos of language study tips. As the name indicates, these are videos about how to improve your foreign language learning, such as “How to Speak Multiple Languages Without Mixing Them Up” and “How to Improve Your Listening Comprehension.”
This is another new channel started by Paul (the guy from Langfocus). The style of these videos is very similar to the videos on Langfocus, but here the emphasis is on geography and culture. It’s still new but it’s growing, and a lot of people who learn English are naturally interested in different people and places around the world.
The countries and places he talks about in these videos include big tourist destinations from Germany to Brazil, but there are also some smaller, lesser-visited places, such as Liechtenstein or Hong Kong, to keep things interesting.
Like some of the other resources on this list, Crash Course is actually a collection of different channels. Each channel presents a course through a series of videos. They use a combination of human narrators and animations, so they’re usually eye-catching and engaging.
The channel currently has about 20 courses, and most courses have around 30 videos each, so there is a lot of material to help you learn both English and other topics. I’d suggest just checking out the course list to see what interests you. Since I’m from the U.S., I enjoyed the U.S. History series, and I also liked the videos from the world history and literature courses. But if you’re more interested in science or other topics, they also have courses on biology, government and politics and even video games!
This channel is about science, but it may cover scientific topics that are surprising to you. It doesn’t focus on the kinds of things you might find in Crash Course. Instead, it has a lot of videos about unconventional topics that you might not have even known you were interested in.
For example, some strange and intriguing videos include “The Science of BACON!,” “This Much Will Kill You,” and “Could You Outrun a Fart?” My personal favorite is “Does Being Cold Make You Sick?” I found that one after getting into an argument with my students about whether people get sick from being in the rain (answer: not really).
CGP Grey is an American who lives in the U.K. and who posts a video every month or two. That’s not very frequent, but the videos are generally very well made and packed full of information—and that also means that he generally speaks really fast, especially in his earlier videos.
Because of the speed Grey talks, this channel is especially great for intermediate or advanced English learners. But even beginners can still pick up a lot of English from the channel because the videos generally have very good subtitles, so you can just re-watch them if you missed something the first time.
Some of his most popular videos are in the “explained” series. In those videos, he takes complicated and confusing topics and explains them in ways that make them easier to understand. Some of the most popular ones include the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England, the European Union and even Groundhog Day! And if you’ve ever wondered how Puerto Rico is kind of part of the U.S., but not actually a state, then the video “American Empire” is for you.
Finally, Grey also does two different podcasts that are posted to the channel (but they also have their own channels, too). They’re called “Hello Internet” and “Cortex,” and in both of them he talks with another host about current events, technology and society.
The podcasts episodes are loooong (some around two hours each) so if that doesn’t interest you, then don’t worry about them. But I personally think they’re very enjoyable, and if you’re interested in the topics they’re talking about, it could be another good way to practice your English listening skills.
Whether you’re interested in perfecting your English pronunciation or learning more about World War I, there’s surely a great YouTube video out there to help you. Keep exploring and learning and—most importantly—have fun!
Ryan Sitzman teaches English and sometimes German in Costa Rica. He is passionate about learning, coffee, traveling, languages, writing, photography, books and movies, but not necessarily in that order. You can learn more or connect with him through his website Sitzman ABC.
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