Can you learn a language by watching videos?

If a picture is worth a thousand words (popular English Idiom), then imagine the amount one can communicate via videos!

According to research conducted by Dr. Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there happens to be legitimate evidence supporting the use of multi-media platforms for learning & development.

Dr. Mayer suggests that people learn better from multimedia messages when they are designed in ways that are consistent with how the human mind works and are consistent with research-based principles.

The eLearning Industry reported that a large number of professionals in the field admit to videos being an entertaining and brilliant method to ‘stimulate the learner’s desire’ while passing on the required information.

Dr. Ismail Cakir, Kirikkale University, Turkey, states that the process of learning a language is rather intricate and in a world where society cannot be detached from technology, it is vital for trainers, and other providers of learning, to understand and implement the appropriate form of technology for effective learning to take place.

Language learning is no different from any other form of learning, therefore the use of videos to carry out the process isn’t novel. However, recent times and awareness among people has not only made videos a popular tool for language learning but also an effective one.

Andrew Wright, author of ‘Visual Materials for the Language Teacher’, states that various visual depictions and media platforms are valuable to any language learner, a notable fact that they have a positive influence on language learning if and when presented in the right manner and at the right time.

A video, whether representing facts and plain learning material or portraying information in depth through the use of film strips or so, is a visually attractive and attention grabbing tool for learning and teaching.

Dr. Cakir further comments that “non-native speakers of a language rely more heavily on visual clues to support their understanding and there is no doubt that video is an obvious medium for helping learners to interpret the visual clues effectively.”

With learning becoming more mobile due to the extensive needs of the learners, videos provide an excellent medium to learn without having to be physically present in a classroom. In the case of language learning, videos also come with the advantage of giving the learners the option to go back and review certain topics time and again to refine their knowledge and understanding.

Videos aid language learning by providing a complete sensory experience for the learners, in terms of accurate pronunciation and fitting cultural connections.

Rafael Salaberry, co-author of ‘The Art of Teaching Spanish’ points out that while it may take a teacher hours to search and find the perfect picture to illustrate a word, thing or situation, representing the information in the form of a video would take almost no time. In addition, videos are not only convenient but also an inexpensive way to learn.

eLearning solutions, such as Cudoo and incorporate videos in their online language courses to make the learning experience more visually appealing, effective and suitable for their users at costs far lower than generic classroom courses.

Research by Canning-Wilson, from The Center of Excellence for Research and Training, HCT, Abu Dhabi, suggested that students enjoyed learning through videos. It has been more than a decade since and the numbers are bound to have increased significantly, specifically because of the improvement in technology and more polished, updated content.

James York (2011) concluded that the ‘multi-sensory’ aspect of using videos would ease the mental strain and confusion when learning a new language; the more senses used to acquire the new language, easier the chances of the material sustaining in long-term memory. Apart from being aesthetically sound, videos have various other advantages:

Transmit messages faster and improve comprehension: There are times when a learner with no previous understanding of the language will require visuals to ‘connect the dots’ in order to obtain the right understanding and videos can be quite advantageous in from that viewpoint. 90% of information received by the brain is visual, and videos are the perfect platform to provide it.

Trigger Emotions: A large part of learning a language is to understand the emotion that comes with a word or phrase, the tone of the language. Videos, being audio guides too, deliver the emotion or tone that is required of the learner, as it varies from language to language and situation to situation.

Motivate Learners: Almost 40% of learners are more responsive to visual as well as textual information rather than just the latter. A mere remembrance of a picture to go along with a word can prove to be a huge motivation to recreate the experience mentally.

Resides in Long-term Memory: Visual presentation is said to last longer and better in the memory, thus proving to be a more beneficial method of learning

It cannot be disregarded that videos also offer various techniques to practice with once information is obtained as they deliver a ‘dynamic, immediate and accessible combination of sound and vision.” (Cakir, 2006).

This further helps a learner to place their knowledge in the right context and perfect their learning. Language learning can be quite a tricky task if not handled in a precise manner. Using videos as a tool to learn languages is beneficial for the learner as well as the trainer, not only in terms of efficiency of delivery but also the effectiveness of the approach.

In today’s world, a majority of learners are equipped with devices compatible with e-learning solutions yet they don’t have the time to learn (more so in the case of learning a language, especially busy professionals). Videos offer a fun, enjoyable and useful method to learn a language while seeing positive results as you go along.