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How to Learn English on YouTube: 15 Fun ESL Games

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YouTube is an excellent platform for learning a second language.

YouTube is an excellent platform for learning a second language.

Learning English as a Second Language

Second language learners of any level of proficiency will struggle with English at some point. Especially, students who were never exposed to the language while growing up can find it very challenging.

Moreover, if textbooks and course materials are not interesting, then learners often become even more complacent when studying English.

Utilizing authentic learning materials is an effective solution.

Authentic Audio-Visual Materials

To improve the learning experience, teachers must select engaging, dynamic, and authentic content. With better learning materials, students will become more motivated to learn and absorb the language naturally.

Creating fun ESL games with authentic audio-visual content will familiarize students with natural English dialog, fluency, and pronunciation.

Streaming Content Providers and YouTube

Today, most learners have access to a computer and an internet connection. With advances in technology, students now have a plethora of language learning materials at their fingertips. For instance, authentic videos and podcasts are excellent tools for developing English skills.

Paid streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus offer quality English programs for all ages.

If students want to watch free videos, YouTube is also a great option

Tips on How to Learn English on YouTube

Of course, there are many English lessons and training videos available on YouTube. However, there are other methods for using the platform as a learning tool. It is loaded with authentic content that caters to students’ specific interests and language abilities.

First, find videos that match the learner’s skill level. Second, select videos that students will find interesting. If the speaking is too fast or the accents are too unfamiliar, then students will get discouraged easily.

These are two essential factors to consider before you start.

Select interesting YouTube videos that match language abilities.

Select interesting YouTube videos that match language abilities.

15 Fun ESL Games for Learning English with YouTube and Authentic Video

Let’s highlight a series of fun ESL games and activities that can be used with YouTube videos. Many of these tasks can be accomplished in a classroom environment or individually for autonomous learners. Each activity can be adapted based on students’ unique language needs and skills.

1. Notetaking with Q & A

Students take notes while watching a video. After the notetaking sessions, ask the class questions about the video. They can refer to their notes and try to answer the questions.

2. Movie Words

Cut out individual words or short phrases from a movie script. Give each student about 5 words -- each word on a small piece of paper. Then, students watch the movie scene and listen for their words. When they hear the word they can repeat the pronunciation and try creating sentences with the new vocabulary.

3. TED Talk Transcripts

A lot of TED Talks are available on YouTube or on the TED website. If you go to, you can download transcripts of people’s presentations and students can read along while the speakers talk. It is a very useful way to improve listening comprehension and vocabulary skills.

4. Inside the Actors Studio

You can find many of James Lipton’s celebrity interviews on Youtube. Select an interview with an actor or actress that you like. Next, students listen to the end of the interview and write out the answers to the 10 questions that he asks the actor/actress. Then, students ask their classmates the same 10 questions.

5. Song Lyrics

Find the lyrics to a favorite song and delete some key words. Play the music video. Students listen and try to fill in the missing words in the lyrics. It is a fun blank fill activity that all ages enjoy.

6. Weather Forecast

Search for a weather forecast video. Students listen carefully and take notes about what the meteorologist says about the weather. Then, students discuss what was said and review any difficult vocabulary.

7. Script Dialog

Download a movie script and print out a good scene from the film. Cut out the dialog sections individually on different pieces of paper. To complete the task, students watch the movie scene and try to rearrange the dialog into the correct chronological order.

8. Movie Idioms

Find a scene from a movie or TV show that includes some idiomatic expressions. Write out the idioms on the board and elicit their meanings. Then, students watch the scene, listen for the expression and write out the dialog. This way, they can see how the idiom is used in context. Learners can also recite the dialog to practice their pronunciation and create sentences with the expressions.

To get content and ideas for this activity, check out the Movie Idioms website. The site has a large collection of idiomatic expressions in movies and TV shows that students can use.

9. Funny or Die

Search for Funny or Die episodes on YouTube or on the Funny or Die website. Students then watch the series of video clips and rank how funny they think it is (on a scale of 1 to 5). After ranking the videos, they explain WHY they thought each one was or was not funny.

10. Scene Predictions

Students watch one short scene of a movie and then discuss the situation. Then, they predict what they think will happen in the next scene. This process repeats for the entire film. Short episodes of TV shows work particularly well for this activity if you have time constraints.

11. Movie Trailers

Create a list of columns on paper. Each column should have a heading, such as a movie title, genre, actors, predictions, similarities, etc. For the task, watch a collection of movie trailers and fill out each column for each trailer. To conclude the activity, students discuss their answers with classmates and the teacher.

12. Captions and Subtitles

Play a movie scene on mute so that there is no sound. Students then attempt to create their own dialog based on what they see characters do in the scene. It works well for a writing activity. They can also collaborate in groups and act out the scene later.

13. News Report

Watch a news report from common broadcast networks, such as CNN, BBC, CBC, etc. Students listen, take notes, and write a summary of the news stories that were covered. They can present it to the teacher afterward and share personal opinions of each story.

14. Scene Prepositions

Movies are also useful for practicing prepositions. Play a scene from a popular film or TV show. At random intervals, pause the movie clip. Students then must try to describe what they see in each still frame using different prepositions. They should attempt to describe the objects, the characters, and the background as accurately as possible.

15. Sports Comparatives

Find some recorded sports highlights. Video clips that include stats comparing athletes or teams at the end of the highlights work the best for this activity. After watching the highlights, pause the video on the statistics. Students analyze the numbers and make comparisons.

Integrating listening, writing, and other language skills will improve comprehension.

Integrating listening, writing, and other language skills will improve comprehension.

Other Fun ESL Games for Kids and Adults

Do you need extra ideas for learning English?

Visit the ESL Expat website to access a complete database of ESL Activities, common English idioms and phrases, and other free language resources.

More Tips on How to Learn English on YouTube

Do you have other ideas for learning English on Youtube, Netflix, or other websites?

Please leave your feedback in the comments section.