Have you ever heard the English expression “looking for a needle in a haystack?”
It’s used when someone is looking for something very small in a big space. Imagine trying to find a tiny sewing needle in a huge bale of hay, and you’ll get the idea.
This is probably something you’ve encountered before—especially if you’ve ever tried to find the perfect English learning videos on YouTube.
YouTube is your hay. It’s huge and you could spend all day (even all year) searching through its videos. But would you ever find your needle—that perfect English learning resource for your needs?
It’s definitely possible if you know where to look!
This post will provide unique YouTube channels catering to different English skills and specific tips on how to get the most out of them.
Ready to find that needle?
What Makes YouTube an Awesome English Resource?
- The variety of learning materials: YouTube is the number one video platform out there. You can basically find anything on YouTube. As we said, if you know how to look, you’ll find English resources that fit your level, your study needs and your interests.
Of course, we’ll get you started with specific recommendations below.
- The free access: While not all YouTube videos are available to the public, the majority are. YouTube videos made for English learners tend to be totally available for free.
- The flexibility: You can learn whenever you want and wherever you are. You don’t need to go to a physical location for a class or follow a teacher’s fixed schedule. As long as you have an internet connection, you can check out some videos.
The Best Way to Learn English with YouTube: Enjoy 11 Fun English Channels for Learners
Watching funny English YouTube videos on your free time does help your English. However, you can learn more actively and become fluent in English faster.
We’ll show you YouTube resources for improving English vocabulary, pronunciation, listening and general speaking skills. We’ll also provide viewing tips to help you get the most out of these videos.
Using YouTube to Build Your Vocabulary
What to Watch:
This popular channel is perfect for learning vocabulary quickly, as the bite-sized lessons are easy to follow.
It’s an especially useful resource for advanced vocabulary, idioms and phrasal verbs. The host speaks slowly and clearly, making it easier for learners to understand.
Idiom Land shares short videos of idiomatic phrases in movies, so learners get to hear the expression used in the context of a story. It’s a great tool for committing new idioms to memory!
Idiom Land also has mobile apps offering (free) idiom cards to help you bring your vocabulary to the advanced level.
How to Watch:
- Watch the video without subtitles. Try to guess the spelling of unfamiliar words by writing them down.
- Watch the video with subtitles. Compare your notes with the actual spelling.
- Look up the new words in a dictionary.
- Make flashcards to quiz yourself on the words so you remember them. You can also use TubeQuizard to create quizzes of challenging words in a YouTube video.
If you enjoy this vocabulary building method, another resource you should check out is FluentU. Like YouTube, it provides access to authentic English videos (such as movie trailers, funny YouTube clips, inspiring talks and more). But these videos also come with innovative learning tools like interactive captions, flashcards and quizzes.
That means you’ll actively build your vocabulary with every video you watch. All while hearing English the way native speakers really use it! Plus, FluentU remembers what you’ve watched and suggests more videos based on that information. So you get a truly personalized learning experience.
Using YouTube to Improve Pronunciation
What to Watch:
Rachel’s English is your online American English pronunciation resource. All videos are subtitled to help non-native speakers understand.
The playlist “Sounds: How-To” is dedicated to helping you learn about mouth positions for each sound in American English.
More advanced learners will also find the playlist “Words that Reduce” useful as they can learn how native speakers shorten words when they talk.
You’ll discover how to do the same with certain parts of your speech and focus on stress words. The contrast makes it easier for native speakers to understand when you talk.
BBC Learning English is a helpful channel where you can get help on anything from studying for an exam to listening to the news. If you want to focus on British English pronunciation, there are a few playlists you should explore:
- “Pronunciation in the News:” These videos demonstrate how a word is pronounced in various news pieces.
- “The Sounds of English:” This is similar to Rachel’s English’s “Sounds: How-To” playlist, but the instructions are for British English.
- “Tim’s Pronunciation Workshop:” Tim looks at words, instead of sounds, and shows examples from other British English speakers.
This resource is a little different than the others. YouGlish isn’t a YouTube channel. Instead, it’s a tool that allows you to search through the YouTube database to find how different people say a word of your choice.
For example, let’s say you want to hear how to pronounce the word caught (past participle of the verb to catch). Type it into YouGlish and you’ll get tons of video demonstrations as well as pronunciation guides and tips.
YouGlish gives you the flexibility to check the pronunciation of whichever words you want to learn and hear them in context.
How to Watch:
- Watch the video once or twice to get comfortable with the topic.
- Pick out three words or sounds and say them slowly while looking at a mirror. You can pause the video to look at the narrator’s mouth position, and imitate.
- Once you think your pronunciation matches the one in the video, practice speaking faster as if you’re in a real-life conversation.
- If the video includes any pronunciation drills for you to follow along with, complete those as well.
Using YouTube to Improve Listening
What to Watch:
National Geographic has 6.7 million subscribers because it’s a major destination for science news, exploration and adventure. Their videos are inspiring and educational. They tell stories that matter and inspire people to care about the planet.
Their videos are also ideal for English learners. The narrators, interviewers and interviewees in their documentary videos often speak clearly. It’s easy to follow even if you’re not yet at an advanced level.
Compare that to a TV show like “Game of Thrones,” which is also engaging but contains a lot of “err” moments when you’re not quite sure what was said.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s” YouTube channel has 21 million subscribers, probably due to Ellen’s sense of humor. In her many TV seasons, Ellen has interviewed celebrities, newsmakers and ordinary people.
You can learn conversational English listening to the interviews. Besides, these videos are funny, and you might even find some of your favorite movie stars on there.
On StoryCorps you can hear recordings of stories from all different types of Americans.
The videos are great to get you familiar with different American accents. You can follow people’s stories with the help of the subtitles and find more information in the description of each video.
How to watch:
- Play the video, but don’t watch the screen—just listen to the audio.
- Write down a summary of what you heard and predictions about what you expect to see in the video.
- Play the video again, this time watching and listening.
- If you need to, watch the video again with the subtitles on.
- Compare the video to your notes from before. Did you understand fully from the audio? Were your predictions correct?
The classic advice for English listening practice is to use materials in the field of your interest. If you like football, listen to a game commentary. If you like cooking, watch cooking shows like “MasterChef.”
Bonus: Using Your Own YouTube Vlog to Practice Speaking
Learning English on YouTube doesn’t just have to be about watching videos. You can create your own videos and practice your speaking skills along the way.
For example, have you heard of vlogs? They’re video blogs or video diaries where you can talk about anything that interests you. Below, you can find below some popular English-language vlogs on YouTube.
They make great learning resources because they’re inspirational and entertaining. The vloggers (the vlog narrators) speak naturally, just like they’re having a conversation with their viewers. They make great examples for everyday English discussions that you can copy and recreate yourself.
Vlogs to Watch for Inspiration:
JacksGap is focused on storytelling, with an emphasis on travel and informing others about the world.
You can learn from Jack how to construct a story of adventures around the world. It’s a good resource if you want to make a vlog about traveling.
Joey releases a new video every day covering everything from crazy cooking experiments to fun tech gadgets and more. Joey’s videos are very conversational, and they’re great to imitate if you want your speaking English to sound natural.
Pay attention to the rhythm and the choice of words and slang.
Grace does fashion reviews and other style or pop culture related videos and shares them three times a week. Grace’s videos are another type of storytelling, focused on giving tips and advice.
If you want to make a vlog about your experience and what you can help others improve, this channel is a good example.
How to Make Your Vlog:
- Decide on the topic you’re interested in. It could be something related to what you’re studying at school or your line of work. You can ask for suggestions from other people and practice talking about your interests at the same time.
- Create a YouTube channel. If you need help, here’s a tutorial.
- Record your first video with the webcam on your laptop or your mobile phone. Remember to speak slowly and pay attention to your mouth movements and pronunciation.
At the beginning, you can record a few sentences at a time, then watch the video. Check whether you sound natural, or if you made any pronunciation mistakes. If necessary, record again and again until you can’t hear mistakes.
You can also choose to speak with or without notes. When you talk without notes, it sounds more natural—more like everyday conversation. However, notes can help you feel confident. Thus, choose what works for you.
- Upload, share and get feedback!
YouTube is an entertainment center, but it doesn’t have to be just that. You can use YouTube to learn English. Using the right channels and techniques, you can improve your pronunciation, widen your vocabulary, practice listening and boost speaking skills. What’s more? You can learn for free and whenever you have five or ten minutes to spare. Have fun learning, everyone.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.