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5 Ways to Improve Your English Skills Using YouTube

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If you are learning English as a foreign language, YouTube can be a great and totally free resource to complement your language lessons. Are you struggling with something like idioms, pronunciation, test prep, grammar, or listening skills, you can find a number of videos to help you. Just make sure to include “ESL” or “English for beginners/intermediate/advanced” in the search so that you can find a video that is focused towards non-native speakers.

After some searching, find a channel that you like. At first it may be a little overwhelming as there are hundreds of channels choose from, but if you like the sound of a certain speaker’s voice, or like something particular about the style of the videos, it’s more likely that you’ll remember the information.

There are some suggested video channels in this article broken down by goal, but feel free to explore ad nauseum in search of something that matches your needs. Keep in mind that there are thousands of different videos, and each teacher will have something a little different to say.

That’s OK! There is no harm in using multiple channels or teachers and you might even retain more information that way.

Idioms

Conversational English is riddled with idioms. However, it’s hard and sometimes downright impossible to derive meaning from context upon hearing one. Maybe you can go home and type the phrase into Google to get a written translation, but you still may not fully understand the context. Luckily, you can turn to YouTube for clarification.

There are some great YouTube videos that explain what the idiom is actually trying to say, how to use the idiom in conversation, and clarify when you might use it. It may help to start by watching videos that are focused more toward children as they have wonderfully animated visuals that may help you remember when, where, and how to use an idiom.

Listed below are a couple of channels you may want to look at – both have pictures to accompany the idiomatic expression:

  • Espresso English – This channel has a lot of videos with a variety of different topics but also has a good collection of videos explaining idioms and common American phrases.
  • Britlish- Free English Lessons – This channel is specifically for British English, but has a great hour and a half long video discussion about common idioms

Pronunciation

You may have noticed having to repeat yourself when using a certain word or are having trouble telling a waiter your food order. Pronunciation is a difficult yet important aspect of English.

There are ESL video lessons taught in every English accent imaginable. For example, if you find yourself working in America, but learned English from an Australian teacher, there will be words that don’t sound very much alike.

When looking for help on YouTube, make sure to pay special attention to the videos that are spoken in the English accent you’re trying to achieve. If you can’t discern the different accents yet, include the region in your search. For example, instead of typing “how to pronounce vowels” try “how to pronounce British English vowels”.

Test Preparation

YouTube is full of videos that will help with test taking strategies no matter if you’re planning on taking IELTS, TOEL, TEAs, or any other test. It’s best to be specific in your search, i.e. “Reading comprehension IELTS tips American English”.

A good test prep video will have a quiz at the end and the quiz should be written in a similar format to questions you may come across on the actual test. The quiz will also test your listening abilities, and ultimately strengthen them.

Here is an example of a good test prep video as it gives you bullet point tips and comes complete with a quiz at the end:

Grammar

Grammar rules are best remembered with repetition. It’s often hard to know if you use a wrong tense or make some other small grammar error as not everyone will feel comfortable correcting your mistake. The only way to get better is to practice—have your friends and colleges correct your errors and never feel bad about making them—they help you to better learn the language.

When looking for a specific grammar question, begin your search with “English grammar…” and fill the blank in with whatever topic may be troublesome such as “English grammar tenses for beginners” or “ESL English grammar subject verb agreement”. Make sure to include “ESL”, “beginner” or “basic English” in your search to make sure you will find videos designed for English as a second language rather than native speakers.

  • JamesESL English Lessons – A 48 video playlist with all videos discussing a different grammar topic, specifically created for ESL learners

Listening

You don’t have to stick with only educational videos to improve your listening skills. Watch any video that interests you: a music video, a documentary on a subject that interests you, or an interview with someone you admire.

As you’re watching the video, pause when there’s a word or a phrase which you don’t understand. Write it down. At the end of the video, look up the words and phrases that you wrote down. Not only will this improve your vocabulary, but you’ll be more focused on what the person in the video is saying as you try and derive meaning for the unknown word or phrase.

There are listening techniques that you can try as well. Here is a playlist to get you started:

  • Clubenglish – ESL listening comprehension videos with questions to help you focus

Speak Up!

Using the language is the only way to learn. Speak often, have your peers correct little mistakes, and ask questions whenever you’re confused! Speak along with videos to practice saying words, especially the pronunciation videos. You may feel silly talking to yourself, but it will pay off.

About the author:

quincyQuincy Smith is a former teacher and the founder of ESL Authority (eslauthority.com), a site dedicated to providing jobs, resources and advice to both online and classroom ESL teachers.

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