The Power of Youtube and Movie Subtitles In Teaching English: Tips for ESL Educators

The Power of Youtube and Movie Subtitles In Teaching English

When talking about acquiring English language skills, subtitles in films are often mentioned as a helpful technique. However, effectively applying this method for optimal results is a challenge many individuals encounter. It may also be a concept that educators have not considered as a method to enhance their teaching.

How can an ESL educator use movies and YouTube subtitles to teach English?  Keep scrolling down as we delve deeper into this topic and discover how to create engaging and high-quality ESL lessons for your students.

How To Use Movies And YouTube Subtitles To Teach English

When incorporating video subtitles in an ESL class, it’s crucial to follow a structured approach that initially includes watching the entire film or video with bilingual subtitles to ensure comprehension of the main content. Once that is established, engaging in activities becomes essential.

How To Use Movies And YouTube Subtitles To Teach English
Learning English with movies is fun. Source: Unsplash

Here are some activities for checking student comprehension when working with separate scenes:

Choosing A Word

This lively and simple activity focuses on practicing and improving listening skills by repeating words from a movie or YouTube clip. Here’s how it works:

  • Before watching the movie, assign each student a word appearing in the video at least once.
  • While watching the video, students should stand up whenever they hear their assigned word and then sit back down.
  • After the activity, have students re-watch the video with subtitles to learn more about the pronunciation and meaning of the vocabulary.

Matching Vocabulary Meanings

Get ready for the foundation of a significant boost in vocabulary improvement! In this activity, a list of words featured in the video becomes invaluable learning material.

The student’s objective is to match each word in one column with its corresponding meaning in the other column.

Once completed, learners can review and correct their results by re-watching the video with subtitles, guided by the teacher. This allows them to grasp the correct pronunciation of the words.

Make Learning Fun Through GamesLet your students play games while learning. Source: Unsplash

Trying A Buzz Game

This activity is designed to evaluate the level of observation among your students; follow this guideline for a fun quality time together:

  • Divide the class into small teams.
  • Ask questions related to the video, such as “What does Peter say about his destination for the next holiday?”
  • Play the video clip without subtitles; teams should listen carefully to find the answer.
  • After a set time, replay the clip with subtitles and provide an explanation to check the results.

Ordering The Events

After viewing the entire video, the ESL educator supplies students with approximately ten cards (each outlines a specific event or scene from the movie).

The task is for students to arrange these cards in the correct chronological order, reconstructing the sequence of events depicted in the film.

This exercise sharpens memory skills and deepens students’ comprehension of the narrative structure.

Describing A Place/Scene

In this activity, each student gets the chance to select and describe their favorite movie scene, location, or character from the film or video. To ensure accuracy in English grammar, they can begin by writing down their descriptions.

To effectively organize this section, a valuable tip for you is to create a game involving different teams.

This way, team members can support one another in introducing new words and grammar usage. For example, determining the correct verb tense, simple or past tense.

By encouraging teamwork and fostering creative expression, this activity can both improve students’ language skills and add an enjoyable element to the learning process.

The Reason Why Using Movies and Youtube Subtitles To Teach English Are Good

The utilization of movies and YouTube subtitles as a tool for teaching English is backed by a strong rationale.

Our brains naturally seek pathways that facilitate information processing, making it easier to comprehend information in our native language than in another, like English.

Language Learning Benefits of Subtitles in Movies and on YouTube VideosUse of movies and videos works wonders for new learners. Source: depositphotos

That said, it does not mean using movie and YouTube subtitles to teach/learn English is useless. In contrast, it is a practical way, although students could find it difficult at the beginning.

When using English subtitles, students allow their brains to activate both speaking and listening parts. In this way, English words will “stick” to the brain for a long time.

Language Benefits

From a language perspective, it aids the brain in associating words with their meanings – this is what happens in our brains when we learn a new language.

The brain can assimilate the visual and auditory aspects of the language, contributing to improvements in reading speed, grammar, word recognition, and more.

Moreover, movies and YouTube videos use authentic language, including informal expressions, idioms, and colloquialisms.

By exposing students to real-life conversations and natural speech patterns, the tools help them become familiar with authentic English language usage.

Enjoyment Benefits

From an enjoyment standpoint, integrating movies with English subtitles injects an element of entertainment into the learning process.

If students do not find learning English exciting, it becomes harder for them to get the high effective result. Hence, this strategy is a suitable way to attract your student to the lesson.

Contextual Learning

Subtitles provide contextual cues that aid in comprehension and interpretation. Students can grasp the meaning of words and phrases by observing their use in specific situations and dialogues.

This assists in facilitating a deeper understanding of language nuances and cultural references.

Listening Comprehension Development

Watching movies and videos with subtitles encourages active listening and trains students’ ears to discern spoken English.

They can practice identifying spoken words and phrases while connecting them to the corresponding written forms.

Listening Comprehension Development Through the Use of SubtitlesHow to use movies & YouTube subtitles to teach English – Source: Wallpaper Flare

Flexibility And Self-Paced Learning

Subtitles offer flexibility for individual learning preferences. Learners can pause, replay, or slow down the video to focus on specific scenes or challenging parts, allowing for self-paced learning and personalized language practice.

Suitable Learners

While learners can attempt this method at any stage, it offers the most significant support to individuals at lower proficiency levels.

The impact may be less noticeable for advanced students, as it primarily serves as recreational time rather than providing substantial challenges.

ESL educators are strongly encouraged to apply this approach with beginner or lower-intermediate students, since it can produce remarkable advancements and ensure a captivating classroom experience.

Additionally, numerous beginner-friendly resources, such as Grammar Wiki, are readily available to assist learners in kick-starting their language learning journey.

Tips to incorporate english subtitle into language teachingTips to incorporate english subtitle into language teaching – Source: Pixabay


How to use movies and YouTube subtitles to teach English:  With these unique strategies and ideas for fostering an engaging language-learning environment, ESL educators can explore and develop their innovative approaches from now on.

How about you – what methods do you usually apply for your English class? For more exciting ideas for learning languages, feel free to share them with us.

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