Five ways to use video to study English

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One of the most important things for people who are learning English is to develop an independent routine of studies, and video is one of the best tools for that.

Below are five simple strategies for apply when using videos to improve your English:

Don’t start with long feature films or tv series

One of the most common mistakes made by people who are starting to use videos for studying is to (want to) start off with full long feature films. This might not work really if your English is not advanced. You might have to stop multiple times to look up new words and since the story in a feature film is supposed to take 1.5 to 2 sometimes 3 hours to be fully told, it might become boring and/or time-consuming. The best way to start is with short films with subtitles in English, especially something with dialogues.

I especially like the Goalcast page on Facebook and Jay Shetty’s videos:

The acting is dreadful, but:

I. the themes are common to many people and easy to understand;

II. in most cases there is a dialog between two people;

III they are all short and subtitled in English

Here’s how you can use them:

a. cover the subtitles and see how much you can understand. You can then replay the video and check.

b. play the video but don’t look at the screen, just listen and try to guess what’s happening. Replay it and see if your guess was correct.

Here's a list of my favorite ones:

Jay Shetty


I Am Happy.


Smile with Markian

Laugh Therapy

As they are all short and have every day themes, it is easy to follow them and catch on, even if you are a beginner. And the best thing of all? The kind of language used is the same we find in movies and tv series, but in bite sizes.

If you still want to use movies, no problem: you can take short clips from a film and practice using that. If you are still a beginner and therefore are finding it very hard you may watch a dubbed snippet of the movie and then replay it in English with subtitles in English. That can help a lot, as you will know the context when you hear and read words.

Use youtube as a support tool

Because youtube is free and there is so much amazing content available, many people are now trying to learn English using nothing but the platform. However, we must bear in mind that in order to learn a language we need a pedagogical organisation of contents we cover which we might not be able to put together alone. In fact, a lot of the time learning English through YouTube means you are covering disconnected content and you might not be associating the great ideas from the videos properly.

On top of researching the videos that have the most likes and whatever your favorite Youtubers have posted, a really good way to use the platform is as a support tool. You can look up the themes you have already covered in class, or if you are learning independently you can try and find video lessons on the topics you study. This is really easy to find on any book. It’s the syllabus/map of the book/table of contents:

Choose carefully

Another common mistake that frustrates many people is to select subjects that are too dense or complex. If you know nothing about law, medicine and astrophysics in your native language, it will be much harder for you to keep up with the discussions on the screen. Also, sometimes the characters may have a thick accent andor regionalisms, which means it might be hard for native speakers to understand them too. The best themes to start with are everyday ones, as well as documentaries of any kind.

Read the synopsis

I rarely read the description of the episodes of the tv series and movies I watch in Portuguese. Are you the same? Well, the problem with that is in our native tongue and the ones we are fluent in the road to decoding what someone has said is pretty quick. We hear things and immediately understand them. If you are still learning a language you longer to process, as some of the words will be new and you will reflect on them. One thing that helps a lot if reading the synopsis and looking up any words you don’t know. This can give you a general idea of the theme that will be discussed and spare hours of frustration.


A great thing to do with videos is recording yourself. Below are a few ideas: ma ideia bem legal com videos é tentar gravar a si mesmo. Seguem algumas ideias:

I. read a dialogue from your book and try to memorize it. Then close the page and try repeating the conversation while recording on your phone. eia um diálogo do seu livro didático, e tente repetir essa conversa gravando um video no celular. You can then watch the video and see how much you remembered.

II. Listen to a monologue or a dialogue in a video in your earphones. While you do that, record yourself repeating what you hear. Then compare.

III. you can also ask your teacher take notes on your mistakes in a sheet of paper while you record yourself speaking in class. She should write down the INCORRECT sentences. Once you’re done, she can give you feedback and explain what your mistakes were while you correct the sentences. Later you can watch your own video with this paper and compare what you have said to what you should have said. This has definitely help my students become more aware of the mistakes they make when they are distracted. Here’s a sample:

Screenshot 2019-06-16 at 21.58.23.png

I typed all mistakes while she talked and I recorded. I then used my magic pencil to work on the corrections with her. For homework she is going to watch her video again looking at this correction sheet.

Have fun studying!