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Joseph M. Terantino

Emerging Technologies: YouTube for Foreign Languages

likely to remember the lesson after the fact. Foreign language students may be temporarily distracted or entertained by a YouTube video clip, but they will gain real linguistic knowledge and skills at the same time.


Building on the brief history of YouTube, the needs of the digital natives, and the benefits of using video clips, the focus of this article will now shift towards presenting YouTube as an instructional tool for foreign languages. The following is an explanation of several general methods in which YouTube videos can be utilized.

YouTube for Providing Content and Information

YouTube videos can serve many purposes for foreign languages; however, the majority of uploaded videos are used to provide linguistic and cultural content and information in and related to the target language. Many of these videos are created by individuals or instructional institutions. For example, consider a series of videos produced by Señor Mara to educate his high school students on the Spanish language, Conjugations Back and Cry Me a Verb. In these videos Señor Mara uses current hip hop songs with revised lyrics to demonstrate how to conjugate Spanish verbs. For those who teach foreign languages, these videos are a must see.

Utilizing YouTube videos in an informative manner is also beneficial for illustrating a concept, presenting an alternative viewpoint, stimulating a learning activity, and motivating the students (Berk, 2009). As such, these videos may be used for inspiring or motivating students to learn. Consider the video Foreign Language Study Benefits, which aims to encourage students to learn a foreign language by describing the potential benefits. Other videos may motivate the students by catching their attention, much like entertainment: French Man Tries to Say Hamburger, Learn Another Language, German Coast Guard - Lost in Translation, Paris At Last - I Love Lucy, One Semester of Spanish - Love Song. Each of these videos highlights the comedic value of language learning or linguistic misunderstandings.

Videos for Less Commonly Taught Languages

Perhaps one of the most advantageous uses of YouTube videos for foreign language education is for less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) for which some of these videos provide access to spoken samples, instructional units, and reading and writing practice. They provide users around the world with access to linguistic information for a specific target language that may not be accessible otherwise. See Table 1 for an overview of videos that are available for Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, Swahili, and more. This table is not intended to be an all inclusive list for LCTL’s. It is merely a sample of the types of videos that are available via YouTube.

Culture-Based Videos

In addition to linguistic and motivational purposes, another foreign language use for YouTube videos is to deliver insights into or representations of cultural information. Such culture-based videos serve as valuable resources for content courses, which may focus on culture and civilization. For example, Table 2 provides a general overview of the types of culture-based videos that are available via YouTube. These videos allow language learners to experience portions of other cultures including artifacts, history, and politics without physically traveling to the target country. Again, the videos listed here offer only a glimpse of what is available.

Many of these culture-based videos are documentaries posted by individuals, or short clips excerpted from larger documentary projects funded by companies such as ABC, BBC, NBC, or National Geographic. Regardless of how the documentary was produced it is important to encourage foreign language students to view it objectively. Last, other videos on YouTube are excerpts from live recorded

Language Learning & Technology


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