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How To Use Youtube Videos To Learn A Language

As someone who has learnt multiple languages, I cannot stress enough the value of using YouTube. Why do I stress particularly the importance of YouTube and not Netflix? I do think it is equally as important to use Netflix as a language-learning instrument, but there is one difference I intend to highlight: When you watch a TV Show or movie in a foreign language, that is excellent, but at the core of the script, audio, characters and cinematic editing, it is a rehearsed and calculated product.

That is not to imply that the said series or movie is intrinsically unrealistic, not at all. However, these two categories will always have a mix of actors and characters and you rarely get close-ups of people’s improvised facial expressions that come naturally to them as a native of X language, as well as hand gestures and the lot. Part of being a fluent speaker, especially when native in any language, is the hand gestures and expressions that come with it. When you want a sit-down conversation with a native where they do all the talking and you do all the listening, turn to YouTube.

Once you are ready and you feel you know just enough of the language for this step, I recommend writing “Story Time in X,” into YouTube. For example, you may write “Stroy Time en español,” into the search bar if you’re learning Spanish. The same goes for any language. The reason I advise using Story Time videos is often the person speaking improvises a real story that happened to them as if they were speaking to a friend.

Pick one Story Time to watch. Any. Replay that video a few times until you feel familiar.

  • First, the aim is to just understand this conversation.

  • Secondly, the aim is to absorb said person’s way of speaking and hand gestures.

  • Next, you can use an exercise where you write the script of this Story Time.

If there are some words there that you do not know and cannot decipher, write them phonetically. Nine times out of ten, you can gather the meaning with context. Write a long script, pausing and starting the video. Over the next few days, reread the script time and time again, even replaying and relistening to said video time and time again. This exercise helps with your listening and speaking skills.

Moreover, it is excellent to watch one person’s channel religiously and be an actual subscriber. The reason is that, if you watch one person again and again, their voice and way of speaking will sink into your head and when it comes to you speaking, you will eventually speak like them or have their influence.

I enjoy True Crime so I watch an Italian True Crime video-maker and, now that it’s been almost two years of watching her, even in writing, I can come up with more expressions she would use. It is also very beneficial to watch lifestyle Vlogs as you will get a window into the regular lives of the native speakers in your target language.

For years, I watched a specific Russian vlogger, and now when I speak Russian, I sometimes imagine her speaking as I speak so that I sound more like her and so that my Russian appears more confident. Videos can be a part of your life. You can make set windows of time for them, but you can also watch on the train or bus. Good luck and see what the power of YouTube for learning languages can do for you!

About The Author: Nadya is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Hons Italian & Spanish, University of Manchester.


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