YouTube. It’s everyone’s favorite video sharing site.
But YouTube is for so much more than uploading videos of ill-advised stunts.
It’s also a language student’s dream come true.
An endless supply of free learning material? Yes, please!
With YouTube, you can learn virtually any language you can think of. You can learn English. There are channels to learn Spanish. You can become fluent in German, practice your French or take on Italian.
At the risk of getting repetitive, suffice it to say, you can learn an awful lot of languages. You can even get inspired to learn multiple languages with polyglot channels.
Types of Channels You Can Use to Learn a Language on YouTube
Whenever you use YouTube, you have some options for what sorts of channels you want to watch. Here are some of the top types of channels for language learners.
One popular type of language channel is one specifically for language learners. These channels focus on teaching you specific grammar rules and vocabulary. They offer material for beginning through advanced students.
If you’re looking to learn a language from scratch, language learning channels will guide you through the journey. More advanced students can benefit from targeted grammar lessons, thematic vocabulary lists and listening activities.
Other channels that are great for language learners are channels that offer subtitled films and TV shows in your target language. These channels offer authentic, real-world videos with the additional support of having the meaning right in front of you. These are great for intermediate language learners who are looking to practice their skills without getting in over their heads.
The final type of YouTube channel that’s great for language learners is native channels. Channels by native speakers of your target language and intended for other native speakers (and aren’t necessarily focused on language topics) are a useful tool for advanced students wanting to perfect their skills with authentic content.
5 Tips to Learn a Language on YouTube
Select a quality channel
Not all channels are created equal. If you’re going to invest time in learning a language on YouTube, it’s worth finding the best resources.
To determine whether a channel is high quality, look at comments and ratings. YouTubers can be pretty vocal, so if something is wrong with a video, chances are that users will post about it in the comments section.
You’ll also notice that videos from the best channels get thousands of hits. They also have a lot of subscribers, since others usually notice the high quality.
Consider including multiple channels in your learning plan
Remember: no one said you can watch only one YouTube channel. In fact, the more, the merrier!
Watching multiple channels will expose you to more speakers. This in turn will make it easier for you to understand a wide array of speakers in real-life settings.
Additionally, each channel offers a different approach and covers different topics, so channels often complement each other rather than compete.
Ensure you watch videos covering grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
In language learning, balance is key.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of watching just one type of video, but doing so will make your learning less complete.
Many channels alternate between different types of lessons to provide a well-rounded experience, allowing you to just watch videos in order without having to make sure your lessons are balanced. If you’re picking and choosing videos, though, you’ll need to pay attention to what sort of videos you’re watching to ensure your skills stay balanced.
Speak along with videos
Speaking to a video may feel awkward, but speaking up is the key to success.
One pitfall of YouTube videos is that they don’t always help you practice your speaking skills. Luckily, you have the power to transform these videos into speaking practice by speaking along with the videos.
For vocabulary and grammar videos, be sure to repeat what the speaker says. If you’re enjoying listening activities that focus on general discussion, you might try pausing and responding to the speaker.
If you’re uncomfortable speaking along with the video, you could also speak your thoughts on the video once it’s over. As long as you’re talking, you’re progressing.
Engage in the comments section
Writing is another skill that YouTube doesn’t always help you with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transform YouTube to get what you want from it (which is obviously writing practice)! Simply use the comments section.
Engaging in the comments section can not only help you practice writing in your target language, it can also help you connect with other learners. These other learners might be able to provide you with additional language practice and/or answer your questions along your learning journey, so participating in the comments section is a win-win.
FluentU is a place where you can find the best of authentic YouTube content in your target language, learn with it and keep track of how much you’ve learned. FluentU makes it possible to learn languages from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks in addition to learning from content intended for language students.
FluentU takes authentic videos videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The 4 Best YouTube Channels to Learn a Language
Innovative Language offers multiple channels covering multiple languages, and it’s updated frequently. You can’t get much better than that.
Beginning lessons teach you the basics, like the alphabet and how to introduce yourself. Other videos cover thematically-grouped vocabulary words. Innovative Language’s grammar videos and listening practice will round out your language experience.
Plus, Innovative Language has you covered whether you’re looking to learn a common language or even a less common one. With 34 language channels, you have options. These options include English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, among other popular languages. However, you also have less common language options like Thai, Indonesian, Afrikaans and Swahili.
Learn Languages offers vocabulary videos that focus on thematically-grouped words.
Topics tend to be very specific and include things like weatherproof clothing, types of wood and museum services. Since many YouTube channels focus primarily on broad, general terms, Learn Languages is a terrific resource for more advanced students looking to expand their vocabularies to more specialized, unique areas. Where else would you find a video for Italian warship vocabulary?
However, Learn Languages also offers videos for beginning learners looking to learn common words like numbers.
Learn Languages offers videos to help viewers learn English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean and Hindi.
Easy Languages provides useful videos to help beginners learn a language and to help intermediate and advanced students perfect their skills.
Easy Languages has several different types of videos. Some focus on introducing the alphabet, pronunciation and basic words and phrases. Other videos are on-location, whether that be on the street or in an apartment. These videos discuss topics like special events and everyday activities.
Videos are captioned in the target language and in English. Additionally, hosts speak slowly and clearly. This makes Easy Languages approachable for any level of language learner.
Easy Languages has loads of European, Latin American, Asian and African language options, so it’s likely they’ll have your language of choice!
Travel Linguist aims to equip travelers with the vocabulary they’ll need to enjoy a trip.
Because of this focus, Travel Linguist videos are intended to teach beginning students basic vocabulary. If you want to learn a few common words in a language to see if you like it, Travel Linguist is a good jumping off point.
Most videos are very brief, focusing on just one word per video. This will give you more time to memorize the word instead of focusing on multiple words in a single video. Plus, each one offers the English word, the word in the target language and audio pronunciation.
The vocabulary options focus mostly on fairly common words, but they also include some words that would probably never occur to you that you might need. For instance, if you’re going to France and you like to shop, the French word for shoe size will surely come in handy.
Travel Linguist offers learning materials for 15 languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Czech, Polish, Russian, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Tagalog.
So the next time you’re on YouTube, check out some of these language learning videos. Your language skills could go viral!