Channels for Basic / Beginner English
It can be difficult to find videos on YouTube that feature real people with real accents talking about real modern-life topics using simple English.
If you’re not interested in watching cartoon princesses with robot voices counting the fingers on their hands, try these channels instead.
British Council | LearnEnglish Kids
British Council is an international organization best known for creating the IELTS test, but it also produces some fairly good videos for young English learners, featuring slow simple English and accurate subtitles.
As a bonus, you can also learn some useful skills for impressing kids.
Learn English with TV Series
For young adults and teens, this channel from RealLife English offers short clips from popular American and British movies and TV shows. It features accurate subtitles along with helpful explanations about certain idioms, cultural references, and grammatical constructions that appear in the clips.
Another nice feature is that these language items are presented multiple times in each video, helping you to better understand and remember them — so they don’t simply go in one ear and out the otherin one ear and out the other: something that is heard but immediately forgotten.
Another great channel for relatively simple English is Easy Languages, which features brief interviews with real native speakers talking about common topics and answering typical ‘small talk’ questions.
The best thing about their videos is the wide variety of accents you hear — which is helpful if your focus is learning Conversational English or Travel English.
Equally important, it features accurate subtitles to check your comprehension.
Channels for Learning Academic English
If your goal is to learn more advanced English — especially the sorts of vocabulary and grammar that are common at English-speaking universities or helpful for the IELTS test— then the best channels to watch are those which focus on academic topics and have accurate subtitles.
Unfortunately, a lot of academic-focused channels have automatically generated (error-ridden) subtitles, and even worse, can be quite boring.
If you’re searching for videos that are both interesting and accurately subtitled, I recommend checking out the channels below.
Targeted at teens in high school (ages 14–18), the videos by Crash Course take up the difficult task of trying to make complex topics (history, physics, statistics, etc.) simple and exciting for young people (and old people too). As a result, the style of their videos is an interesting mix of academic vocabulary and informal English grammar.
A word of warning: the presenters tend to speak quite fast! Fortunately, there are subtitles and translations to help, and you can easily pause, slow down, and jump back with the ◀️ button.
The School of Life
In contrast to Crash Course, The School of Life takes the opposite approach. Instead of using ordinary English to talk about intellectual topics, it talks about ordinary topics using intellectual English. Their videos offer enlightening life advice with elegant English words like elude, disgress, and bland (as in the video above) and can be watched repeatedly without becoming tiresome.
If one of your language goals is to sound supersmart, I recommend studying their videos very carefully.
Learning Academic English from YouTube can be tricky: a lot of videos are intended for children and young people, which is why so many of them contain informal language and slang, or irrelevant details and jokes.
If you prefer videos with purely Academic English, I recommend Veritasium.
The presenter, Derek Muller from Canada, offers what could be considered Perfect Academic English: clear pronunciation at a moderate speed, concise sentences, carefully constructed explanations, and an entertaining blend of information and storytelling. He scripts his videos like an academic article, but delivers them to the camera with conversational rhythm and intonation.
Channels for Learning Business English
In many cases, the difference between Academic English and Business English is very small.
However, if you wish to master the ins and outs of Business English, it’s often better to read articles from the ‘Business’ section of various newspapers, magazines that focus in your particular industry, and invest in a textbook that explains the finer points of writing business emails etc.
You can learn a lot of more, and much more quickly, by reading than by listening — and to be honest, a lot of ‘Business English’ videos are quite dull.
Having said that, some YouTube channels do offer great videos for learning advanced language skills that are extremely helpful in the business realm. Whereas Academic English is often about clearly and logically explaining a particular topic, in business your goal is also to persuade and inspire your audience. In other words, you need to master the skill of public speaking.
TED is an initialism that stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and it is well-known among business people. Every ambitious entrepreneur or professional in the English-speaking world dreams of being able to speak as confidently and compellingly as the people who are featured in TED Talks.
TED also offers training and support for each speaker to ensure their presentation ‘connects’ with its audience (which often includes many rich and famous people). If you’re curious to know more about their approach, have a look at TED’s secret to great public speaking.
Another great feature: each TED video is subtitled in dozens of languages.
Speaking of rich and famous people, the YouTube channel English Speeches offers a great collection of videos by well-known and well-spoken individuals, with accurate subtitles.
They are especially helpful if you want to learn how to construct powerful and inspirational speeches, and are also great for studying the different rhythm and intonation of public, powerful, and authoritative speech.
Harvard Business Review
One of the tricky things about studying Business English is that businesspeople love to invent new words and phrases for particular concepts or business strategies — even if a word or phrase already exists in English.
Among native speakers, these are known as ‘buzzwords’. I don’t recommend using them in your writing or speaking, as most native speakers find them to be the opposite of persuasive and inspirational; they are irritating and boring.
Indeed, TED generally forbids their speakers from using buzzwords. Nevertheless, they are widely used in business books, business articles, business emails, and business presentations. If you want to speak the language of CEOs and MBA grads, you should learn what these terms mean. Helpfully, Harvard Business School has begun publishing videos that explain some of these popular terms and concepts as part of their Explainer series.
Three things that make their videos especially good: they feature elegant illustrations, accurate subtitles, and mercifully short runtimes.
Photo by NordWood Themes