Life is full of choices.
You know you should hit the gym but those video games are calling out to you.
You know you should eat a healthy snack, but all that candy looks so sweet and delicious.
You know you should study your Spanish, but YouTube is just so darn addictive!
As you can see, while it’s easy to see the right choice, it’s not always easy to do the right thing.
Luckily, we have a little secret about that last choice: You don’t actually have to choose.
You can watch YouTube and study Spanish at the same time!
But there’s a catch: You can’t just watch the videos. You need to learn from them.
While learning Spanish on YouTube is a terrific, free way to improve your skills, it’s not without its pitfalls.
Avoid making rookie YouTube learning mistakes: Follow these seven easy steps for YouTube-based learning!
Some Things You Should Know About Learning with YouTube
YouTube is an amazing resource but there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind as you dive into YouTube learning.
Not all YouTube videos are created equal. Low-quality videos may have bad audio, making it difficult to hear words clearly even in your native language.
When you’re trying to understand in a second language, bad audio can make watching the video much harder than it needs to be.
Additionally, low-quality videos usually lack a certain appeal, so you’re less likely to want to keep watching (and learning).
Anyone can upload videos to YouTube, and there isn’t anyone checking the content for accuracy. Because of this, when you’re learning with YouTube, you need to find channels that are reliable.
After all, you don’t want to spend all that time studying Spanish on YouTube only to find out the YouTuber was just making things up.
There are established teaching methods for a reason. Some YouTube educators are well-versed in good teaching techniques, but others may not be.
Also, if you’re watching authentic material, how well you’ll learn from it varies wildly based on what you’re watching and how you’re watching it.
Between authentic material, subtitled authentic material and learning videos, there is a wide variety of different options.
Because there’s so much variety, it’s important to be careful in order to select the content that’s best for you.
Consider an alternative first!
For all the pros and none of the cons of YouTube, give FluentU a try. FluentU uses real, curated YouTube videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU hand-picks videos that are accurate, informative and engaging. Plus, with interactive subtitles, video flashcards, custom vocabulary lists and many other features, you’re sure to improve your Spanish in no time!
7 Easy Steps for YouTube-based Learning
1. Assess your skill level.
First, it’s important to be aware of your own skill level so you can select level-appropriate videos.
For instance, if you’re a beginning student, authentic content without subtitles will be too overwhelming.
Transparent Language’s Spanish proficiency test is a helpful way to see where you are in your Spanish education.
If you discover you’re at a beginning level, you may want to focus on learning videos designed to help you build your vocabulary and basic skills, such as Spanish and Go’s “How to Make Small Talk in Spanish.”
Intermediate students might start to try listening activities designed to transition towards a more advanced level, like SpanishPod101’s “46 Minutes of Intermediate Spanish Listening Comprehension.”
Advanced students might try diving into authentic material, like Yuya’s “5 peinados para escuela/trabajo” (“5 Hairstyles for School/Work”).
2. Consider specific topics/skills you want to work on.
Before you delve into YouTube learning, you’ll want to consider what specific skills or topics you want to work on.
Brainstorm for what areas, grammar concepts, vocabulary, etc. you want to improve and write your ideas down. Think about what concepts you find challenging, what language points you think you need to work on or just whatever interests you about the language.
This way, when you want to search for useful videos on YouTube, you’ll have a clear idea of what you’re looking for. After all, going into YouTube directionless will almost always result in watching hours of cat videos!
For instance, some common issues you might want to consider focusing on include:
- Specific conjugations you struggle with
- Tricky words (for example, por and para, both of which can mean “for” but are used in different contexts)
- Expanding your vocabulary
- Pronunciation (if you haven’t gotten trilling your Rs down, YouTube can help)
- Regional slang
You can also focus on getting in some valuable listening practice or just hearing authentic speech in action.
3. Search for videos relevant to your skills and goals.
Use the ideas and goals you wrote down in the last set to come up with relevant search terms for achieving your language goals.
For instance, you can hone in on tricky grammar or vocabulary rules that you struggle with by watching videos like The Spanish Dude’s “Spanish Past Tense: Preterite vs. Imperfect, Rule of Thumb.”
If you struggle with a particular verb conjugation, the name of this conjugation and “Spanish” will likely yield results. For instance, searching “Spanish pluscuamperfecto” (“Spanish past perfect”) yields over 3,000 results, including MaestroKaplan’s “Past Perfect, Pluperfect, Pluscuamperfecto in Spanish.”
You might also consider focusing on topics that just aren’t covered enough in your other coursework with videos like Andrea Espada’s “Mexican vs. Colombian Slang!!! Which Spanish Is Better?”
4. Pay attention to ratings and comments.
Since anyone can upload videos to YouTube, be sure to pay attention to ratings and comments. This can help you filter out low-quality options without having to watch them all yourself.
Take, for instance, CultureAlley’s Lesson 1 in their “Basic Spanish” series: “Introductions & Greetings.”
If you look at the statistics, you’ll notice that it’s been viewed over two million times, has over 27 thousand likes and has only around 1,000 dislikes.
If you look at the comments section, you’ll notice that there’s not a lot of negativity. Instead, the comments focus mostly on Spanish-learning methods.
All in all, this is a good sign. Not only are people watching and enjoying the video, the comments section doesn’t seem to be pointing out errors or issues, which many people enjoy doing on YouTube. Therefore, you can assume that this is a quality learning option.
5. Make a playlist.
You can make a playlist to watch when you have time or just to keep track of what you’ve already seen.
Even if you’ve watched a video, add it to your playlist so you can access it again as a refresher.
Learning Spanish requires repetition. You might think that you’ve learned all you can from a video, but you may want to revisit it down the road for a refresher. Saving your favorite videos to a playlist will make them easy to find down the road.
You might also peruse existing playlists. This is an easy way to access a nice array of learning materials, but you can also use existing playlists to inspire what you’ll include in your own list.
For instance, “Aprender idiomas y cultura general con Rodrigo” (“Learn Languages and General Culture with Rodrigo”) offers a well-organized playlist of the channel’s lessons, which acts like a free beginner’s Spanish course.
6. Engage with other YouTubers in the comments section.
A lot of videos have a very active comments section, which is a great tool for Spanish students.
When watching learning videos, the comments section is often full of other learners, so you might discuss tips and tricks for learning Spanish.
For instance, in the comments section of Polyglot Pablo’s “Learn Spanish: 300 Spanish Phrases for Beginners,” in addition to general discussion of the video, there are offers to help practice Spanish and comments about techniques used to study the video.
Authentic videos, on the other hand, offer terrific colloquial reading and writing practice. You can connect and interact with native speakers to discuss the video at hand.
For instance, Craftingeek’s “¡Este es mi nuevo estudio!” (“This is my new studio!”) comments section is a good place to discuss the room tour, the channel or crafting in general.
7. Make your own Spanish-language videos.
If you want to use YouTube for an exciting new challenge, you can also create your own Spanish-language videos, either about learning the language or just using the language.
Creating videos about learning Spanish can help improve your own learning, too. After all, explaining rules or sharing vocabulary with others can help reinforce what you’ve already studied.
You could also try creating a channel in Spanish. Whether you’re vlogging, crafting, cooking or engaging in some other hobby, creating videos in Spanish can give you helpful speaking practice.
And don’t worry! If you mess up, the comments section will let you know.
With these easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to learning Spanish with YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.