Ideally, I’d recommend watching the video as many times as you need till you understand it close to 100% and be comfortable with the original speed. It may seem stupid, or boring, or unnecessary to listen to the same again and again, but this practice helps to create new connections in your brain and improve your speaking skills. (Here is a good video from a polyglot on this.)
Then I’d suggest you make a list of useful phrases or even interesting facts that would be helpful if you decided to tell a friend about this video. How you prepare this list depends on how you remember things better.
For example, I only remember something if I write it down. So I make lists by hand and only then can I transfer them to the digital format. It may take some experimenting to find out what works best for you.
Here are some other tips
- Don’t forget about the magic button ”Playback speed”. There’s no need to suffer if the speech is too fast. Slow it down, turn on the subtitles and then bring the video back to the original speed when you’re ready.
- It’s a good idea to identify the main parts of the videos first and make a plan (of a mind map of it) before you work with vocab. This way you can watch the video in parts and organise new vocab accordingly.
- Mention the title of the video in your notes. It helps to create associations between the topic and new vocab. Otherwise, in a couple of weeks you may forget where all this came from, which will make it more difficult to use new vocab correctly.
- With YouTube videos you can find the transcript (click on “…” below the video => “Show transcript”). It’s faster to look through it and look up some words with a built-in translator (Yandex.Browser has one, for example) than to do it with subtitles. Especially if there are just a few places which are not clear.
- If you like working with text, it’s a good idea to copy the transcript to a Word document. Then edit it, highlight vocab, organise it and add comments for yourself. I’d do it if I were interested in a subject-related vocab, like maths, physics or psychology.
- It’s also an excellent idea to read the transcript (or parts of it) out loud. You’ll practise your pronunciation and this practice helps your listening skills. Copy the intonation and rhythm of the speakers to make the most of it. You can do it in small steps of 3-5 seconds (watch, then repeat).
- As you highlight and note down new words and expressions, you can divide them into different categories (at least mentally). For example, “completely new to me”, “useful, I’d like to use it”, “nice expression!”, “key for this topic”, “like the sound of it” etc. All this helps your memory because you personalise the vocab and add an emotional dimension to it. Also you can use different colours for facts and useful language.
- Pay attention to the grammar used. Which tenses are used? What about conditionals? What do you notice about articles? etc. Because you may be surprised how simple the grammar in videos is (compared to language course books) and change your mind about how important it is.
- To get more practice, write (or record) a short summary of the video using some of the new vocab. To go one step further, do the same but try to paraphrase as much as possible.
- You can share the video on your social networks. For this, choose a quote or a fun fact that will interest your friends and prompt them to watch it, e.g. “Did you know that…? Here’s a video that says … Worth watching!”
- Or tell 2-3 people about this video. If you take it seriously and try to get your friends interested in this video, you’ll see that it’s boring to repeat the same, so with every time your summary will become more complex and detailed.
- Check the comments below the video — they also may provide rich vocabulary. And while the speech in the video may be scripted and polished before the recording, comments are good examples of more natural language and are close to speech (in the structure – long, not very clearly structured sentences, no paragraphs, no punctuation etc.)
- After you’ve clarified the video it’s time for reflections on it or discussions based around the topic of the video! What do you think of the topic? Would you like to learn more about it? If you were to discuss it with your friends, what would you ask? Asking questions is a skill and making your own questions for the video is good practice.
How much time will all this work take?
It really depends on how difficult the video is for you, how familiar you are with this type of work and how much vocab you find useful.
If I work with a 3-4 min French video (my French is B2) that is 70-80% clear to me from the beginning and I do it properly, it takes about half an hour. I’ll watch it 3-5 times. But I highlight a lot of vocab (minimum 15-20 items) and I tend to write out not just new words or phrases, but often whole sentences to keep the context.
When I’m lazy, I’ll watch twice and highlight maybe 5-10 phrases. Then it may be 10-15 min.
Which of the ideas would you like to try out?