YouTube: A World of Languages

There have been many critiques of the Internet and what it’s done to our attention spans, our interpersonal skills, and our notion of reality.  Still, it cannot be denied that the Internet is the largest collection of human knowledge in history, and its potential as a tool for learning is limitless.  For example, if you’re learning a language—whether you’re at a beginner’s or advanced level—YouTube can be a valuable resource for learning alphabets, vocabulary, basic grammar points, or practicing your listening skills.

For the beginner, there are limitless introductions to languages on YouTube offering basic grammar, vocabulary, and useful phrases for social situations.  They function much like a textbook would, only in PowerPoint format, with a teacher—usually a native speaker who will teach you correct pronunciation, which not even all legitimate classes can offer—walking you through the fundamentals of the language.

For languages with non-Roman alphabets, such as Arabic or Russian, there are plenty of videos offering alphabet songs illustrated in a picture-book style—these songs are generally very catchy and geared towards children, making them easy and fun to learn.  You can find flashcards and vocabulary lists, many of which deal in slang and colloquial terms, giving the language a more immediate feel to younger students.  Some more popular languages even have an entire YouTube channel dedicated to them, with more lessons and resources than one person could conceivably view in a lifetime.

For those with an intermediate understanding of a language who want to practice their listening skills, or learn and reinforce vocabulary, YouTube has a wealth of songs, TV shows, movies, many with both subtitles and English translations to practice reading as well.  For those of us who grew up on Disney movies and essentially have them memorized, watching them dubbed in another language can be a very straightforward way to accustom yourself to listening and learning words.  (Also, the copyright police are much more easygoing when it comes to movies in a foreign language, so you can find Hollywood blockbusters as well as classics of foreign cinema if you know what to look for.)  Even watching TV shows in English while reading subtitles in a different language can help boost your vocabulary and help you associate words with their meanings.


The internet has a wealth of resources to aid language learning


If you’re looking for a more organized lecture experience, colleges like Yale and Columbia have started posting courses in foreign language and other humanities on YouTube.  It’s becoming more and more common for self-motivated students to become proficient in a language without ever actually enrolling or setting foot in a college classroom.

Of course, YouTube does lack the element of human interaction that in-class courses provide, making it difficult to practice speaking or to get an answer if you have a specific question about something.  However, to achieve a basic or intermediate skill-level at understanding a foreign language, YouTube can be an excellent way to prepare yourself for travel or a higher-level class.  You can do it in your spare time and at your own speed, making it a fun, easygoing process.

How do you use the internet to help you learn leanguages? We’d love to hear your tips.