Do you want to take learning a second language to the next level?
I just wanna make sure because there are many people out there who say they’d love to get that second language in the bag, but then never do something about it.
They always put it off for some other time, instead of getting in daily practice. And the tragedy is, the thing that they have to do isn’t really that difficult. It’s really not.
It’s as easy as watching a video.
If you’re gonna be speeding up the process of language acquisition, one of the things that you absolutely have to do is to watch clips, movies, telenovelas, series, newscasts, etc. And you should do that a lot.
Now, I know watching videos has been vilified by the pundits of the past saying, “TV is Evil” or “YouTube will obliterate culture.” You know that hasn’t happened. In fact, academics have changed their minds about videos, warming up to the possibility that it actually is the future of education.
In this post, we’re gonna pay homage to motion pictures by giving you best sources of language learning videos on the internet. Before we do that, let’s talk about some of the reasons why videos are so effective as a language learning tool.
Why Videos Work in Language Learning: The 3 M’s
Videos Make the Students Motivated
If there’s any doubt as to the motivating effect of videos on people, one only has to look at how students are responding to the games presented in video form—or the so-called video games.
The positive effect of games on learning is well-documented. But having those games in video form seems to take it to a whole new level where students actually get addicted to learning and make peanuts out of the lessons.
Videos have this effect of exciting and engaging the students in any activity. We all heard of kids who forget to eat or sleep because they’re so mesmerized by some video game, right?
Today, videos are being used in language courses to maximize motivation and minimize anxiety in learners. We will look at some of these sites later on in greater detail, and you pick whichever looks most interesting to you.
Videos Make the Lessons Memorable
Videos are moving to the forefront of education. They have been found to have positive effects on the medium and long term memory.
Videos generate visual stimulants that wake up the brain cells and demand focused attention.
How many teachers or audio courses actually get “focused attention” from their students? A video requires that you look at it. It demands that you listen and take stock. Because of these characteristics, videos improve learning outcomes.
But hold your horses just yet. There are probably billions of videos in existence, and not all of them are created equal. They have varying degrees of educational impact.
Content matters. A boring video, well, is boring. There’s really no way around that.
How the video integrates the different technologies available also matters. For example, captioned videos are significantly more effective in teaching language than uncaptioned ones. Later we’ll learn about how websites make their videos more interesting than the rest of the competition.
Videos Make the Culture Meaningful
Culture can never be divorced from the language that gives it expression.
Videos provide visual context for the lessons, allowing students to see not only what the teacher or native speakers actually look like, but also their facial expressions, animated gestures and even their fashion sense.
All of the little visual cues add up to give the student a bigger picture of what the culture is like. You don’t have this element with non-visual podcasts or audiobooks.
Only video really gives this type of peek into the culture of the language you are learning. And that’s why, if you’re gonna be acquiring your target language soon, you better open your eyes and your mind to the profound and subtle lessons of one simple, unassuming, video.
Ok. Time to get to those sites that use videos in their language learning programs.
The 6 Best Sources of Language Learning Videos on the Internet
Open Culture is, quite possibly, the motherload of everything free on the internet—that is, everything a modern thinker and lifelong learner would ever need. From free books, audiobooks and movies to online courses and free language learning videos, there’s quite the variety of content at Open Culture. Plus, not only is it free, but it’s also high quality. Open Culture curates only the best.
The site drops on you a massive list of resources where you can learn 48 languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. While many are in audio formats, you can find video lessons that can take you on the road to lifelong language learning.
Seriously, you can spend the rest of your life learning what is being offered in Open Culture.
If you want to find the premier platform whose sole purpose is to teach you a new language through real-world videos, it’s FluentU. This site is unlike any other. Let me explain:
The videos range from newscasts, inspiring talks and commercials to movie trailers and even cartoon clips—there’s just a huge variety of content. The difficulty of the videos spans from beginner to native, and the real-life context makes learning so memorable.
Every word comes with an in-context definition, image, audio and multiple example sentences. Vocab can be added to your own flashcard sets with a single click, but it doesn’t stop there.
FluentU is more than just subtitled videos and interactive flashcards—it’s an entire language learning system.
With FluentU, you learn real languages—the same way that real people speak them. FluentU has a wide variety of videos, like movie trailers, funny commercials and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn’t catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover over or tap on the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s “quiz mode.” Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
So sign up right now and let FluentU show you the better way to learn that second language.
Omniglot describes itself as “the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages,” and mainly deals with language profiles and their written forms.
It has a special video section aimed at teaching the languages to beginners. So if you want to learn how to speak (and write) languages like Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Thai and Esperanto, head to Omniglot for a prompt lesson. The lessons are quick and fun–ideal for students who want to get their feet wet and get a feel for the language.
The site also links to other useful languages learning videos from Easy Languages (learning languages from the streets of the world), Wikitongues (people from around the world speaking their native language) and videos from polyglot conferences from around the world.
BBC is far from just being a news company. It’s at the forefront of education, and its language teaching site, BBC Languages, carries 40 different languages.
It’s one of those places I’ve found that’s spewing highly radioactive, uh, I mean interactive material. The videos are well-paced, involving common social situations and ideal for beginners.
A perfect example, and one that deserves mention is the Spanish language video adventure titled “Mi Vida Loca.” It’s an interactive, first person, video lesson that won the 2009 BAFTA for Interactive Innovation.
In addition to award-winning video platforms, the site also links to various media outlets in the home countries of the language studied. So a student interested in French gets the French channels so he or she can get more practice by streaming videos.
Let’s just say, this site will be racking more awards in the near future.
Polyglot Club is a community of language enthusiasts from around the world. If you’re fascinated about how different people have different names for “apple,” “chair” or “book,” then you’ll find no shortage of kindred spirits on this site.
There are all kinds of videos in Polyglot Club. There are videos of tutors dishing out lessons on the rudiments of a specific language. You’ll find episodes of language shows, many of them subtitled in both English and a target language. You can also set up video conferences or chats with native speakers so you can not only practice speaking your target language, but you can also ask for travel tips or cultural insights from the people who live them every day.
Native speakers are the main advantage of the community/site. And often, you can find them in a state of readiness to help in your linguistic endeavor. If Skyping with a friend from across the globe sounds good to you, then give the Polyglot Club a shot.
YouTube, the window to the world. It’s not just a collection of sleepy kitties anymore. And it’s not just a place where dudes upload their car jumping epic fails and gals learn how to put on emo makeup.
Language teachers, learners and enthusiasts have taken the video portal by storm and are making their presence known. With this great number of choices, you can actually have your pick of teachers and lessons, and see what works best for you. Check out these channel and video suggestions for Chinese, English, French, German (more vids), Japanese and Spanish learners.
If you want cultural insights, YouTube has plenty of that too. You want a documentary on a country and its history? No problem.
You can even supercharge YouTube and make it fit your language-learning lifestyle. Here are some things you can do with it:
- Scroll to the bottom of the YouTube page and change the dropdown menus of “Language” and “Country.” Doing this will change the site’s interface into the language of your choice.
- Instead of being sent emails in English, change them to your target language. Go to your “Account Settings” and then to “Email” and tell YouTube to send you messages in the language of your choice.
- Make sure you’re making the most out of every video by turning on the subtitles whenever they’re available. Always be on the lookout for the “CC” symbol, then go to the “Settings” button found immediately below the video screen and pick the language from the available subtitles.
- For those wanting practice in their language of choice, why not type in the target language in the search bar? This will not only give you the chance to actually use your acquired vocabulary, but YouTube will send you search result videos made by native speakers of your target language.
- When you find a channel that you like, subscribe to it and be updated with its latest uploads.
- Read the comments section. This will give an honest-to-goodness peek at what native speakers actually sound like online. Join the discussion. It will be a good test of your written form. As always, be courteous to everybody.
Before long, you won’t even notice that you’re not browsing, reading and writing in English. How’s that for immersion, huh?
Used properly, YouTube can be a language-learning tool that goes beyond your cat’s wildest imaginations.
I’ve just given you the six most fertile sources of videos online. Next, we are going to talk about the different ways of watching these videos. Because there are different types of videos online, there are also different ways of watching them. That all depends on your purpose, which is what we’re going to talk about now.
3 Different Strategies for Watching Language Videos
1. Watching for Pleasure (Taking in the Big Picture)
This technique is usually done for foreign movies or series. The purpose here is not linguistic at all. It’s for entertainment. So it’s usually the method used when one initially approaches new material.
Let’s say you’re watching a short clip, episode or film. You watch it first just like any normal movie-goer would. If the video has English subtitles, then you turn them on so you can understand what’s going on.
This approach familiarizes you with the plot of the movie, for example. It introduces you to the characters, the basic conflict and the different twists and complications to the story. You’re taking it all in. You’re not thinking about vocabulary or grammar at this point.
Now, don’t belittle this approach and think it “superficial.” If you’re gonna milk a video, clip or movie for all it’s worth, if you’re gonna understand the nuances in the language later on, you’re gonna have to do this to every video that comes your way. Watch it for pleasure; take it all in.
Do this 3-4 times! ( You’ll thank me later.)
You’ll never understand context or why they are using a certain type of vocabulary if you don’t get the big picture.
2. Watching with Subtitles, Without Subtitles or Dubbed in Another Language
This is where you start to get linguistic in your efforts. Now that you understand the big picture, watch the whole thing again, but this time with the purpose of learning.
Watch it with the foreign subtitles. This is really going to help you with vocabulary, spelling and grammar. As you read the subtitles, you’re remembering the dialogues and you’re remembering the English equivalents of words. This becomes easier because you have the benefit of context to help you remember. (That’s why you need to watch the video over and over.)
Then you’re gonna watch it without the subtitles. This time, you’ll be doing a lot of listening. You’ll train your ears to listen to the tone, cadence and pronunciation of the words. And because of your familiarity with the material, you’ll probably be predicting the words and dialogue. (If so, practice speaking them out loud!)
Now, if by chance the material is dubbed in English, then watch it. This way, you will be approaching the subject from a different angle. And this will only strengthen your knowledge of the material.
Doing these three things will allow you to really get all you can out of a video. A single clip, movie or episode can teach you a lot if you have the patience to let it.
3. Watching with Intent (Pause and Play Method)
Now this is the most productive part of watching a video. You’re not only milking it, you’re really gonna mine it for all it has.
Watching with intent is when you don’t care about the big picture, you don’t care about the movie or the characters, plot or whatever is going on. You’re just watching it for the language gems you can mine.
You do this scene by scene. And a single scene you do line by line. So in a sequence of dialogue, you pause the movie after a series of lines. Then you study the lines and mine it for every grammatical, vocabulary and context lesson it presents. (The cool thing is, the more you know about a language, the sharper your eyes and ears are for these things. But for the true beginner, you’re gonna have to be content with what you can mine at the moment.)
When you’re done with the last approach, you would have watched the whole thing close to 20 times. You’ll be so sick of it, you’ll wish it had never been made. You’ll consider it the worst tragedy in the history of learning.
But guess what, who’s gotten better with the language because of it?
Yup, you. And you’ll be miles ahead.
It’s all worth it, so keep on going. Happy watching!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.