Youtube videos with subtitles

Posted: October 26, 2014 in Listening
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This post is an attempt at crowdsourcing. As I wrote in my previous post on developing listening skills, one great technique that really helps students to improve their listening is focusing on just one frequent word or expression whose pronunciation in fast speech tends to be very different from its dictionary form. Listening to lots of instances of this expression in fast speech one after another helps students to quickly adjust to the way it sounds. The interactive transcript tool built into youtube is an ideal tool for this purpose (check out the post if you’d like to learn more about the technique and/or how to use the interactive transcript on youtube).

However, the problem is that this approach only works with those youtube videos that have human-produced captions (automatic captions contain too many mistakes) and it’s not that easy to find suitable interesting videos with accurate subtitles (long videos with few speakers, like interviews, work best, because all instances of the word/expression are consistently pronounced in more or less the same way). Initially I was hoping to find a list of subtitled channels that someone has compiled, but so far I haven’t been able to find one. I do have the feeling that I’m missing a big elephant in the room, but anyway – here is the list of channels that I myself have found – grouped by genres.

I hope that readers of this blog will share more links, especially because most of the videos that I’ve found are in North American accents, and other varieties of English, e.g. British, Australian, etc., are hardly represented. Please share links in the comments – I’ll check them out and add them to the post. Thank you! 

1. Interviews:

Talks at Google
Genre: Interviews with journalists, book writers, musicians, scientists, etc and lectures (both general interest ‘self-help’ style and technical / scientific). Many interviews feature general interest stories (though some mainly concern with the guest’s work and are not that interesting to the general public).
Length: 40-60 mins
Subtitles: All interviews have accurate subtitles
Accents & difficulty: Mostly American guests; I’ve used two interviews from this channel in class – I would’ve used more if my students were lower level (B1/B1+), as the interviews there are generally quite clear in terms of accent.

Toronto Public Library

Genre: Interviews with book writers, journalists, etc
Length: 40-60 mins, although most interviews are split into 4-6 videos, which makes searching within the interview a bit cumbersome
Subtitles: Most interviews have accurate subtitles, although I’ve seen a few in which the first two or three videos had subtitles produced by human transcribers, but the remaining videos were automatically captioned, so make sure you check for this before you start looking for interesting stories in the transcript.
Accents & difficulty: Mostly Canadian guests; I’ve used five interviews from this channel in my Listening course (so, somehow the accents here are more challenging on average than the accents in Talks at Google).

Conversations from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (search for the word ‘conversations’ in the list of videos).

Genre: Interviews with writers; some feature general interest stories but quite a few are mainly focused on the writer’s work
Length: ~20 mins
Subtitles: all interviews are transcribed
Accents: Mainly, American (Iowa)

Khan Academy Conversations

Genre: interviews (e.g. A conversation with Elon Musk)
Length: 30-70 mins

2. Stories:


If you haven’t heard of storycorps, do check it out! Their site features hundreds of transcribed interviews with Americans, as well as some great discussion questions. Their youtube channel features some 20 of those interviews that were turned into animated films.

Genre: cartoons with a voice over (i.e. interviews turned into cartoons).
Length: 3-5 mins
Subtitles: very accurate, including such features of spoken English as ‘uh’s, etc
Accents & difficulty: AmE; generally, very challening

‘Created and produced by, THNKR gives you extraordinary access to the people, stories, ideas that will change your mind.’

Genre: 10-min mini biographies of prodigy teens (e.g. 14-Year-Old Prodigy Programmer Dreams In Code); 1 min long videos about some controversial topics – probably could be used for a discussion club (e.g. Should You Spend More on Food?)

3. Talks:

TEDx Talks

Genre: Lots of TED-style talks
Length: 5-20 minutes (generally, 12+ mins)
Subtitles: available to most videos (especially the popular ones) in many languages


Genre: Talks about society (e.g. in this video journalist Malcolm Gladwell talks about how people who study in top universities consistently underperform and dare to achieve less in life than those who are top of their class in less elite universities)
Length: ~20 mins

Every Steve Jobs Video

Genre: what is says on the cover: all kinds of Steve Jobs video, ranging from news reports to interviews to presentations (e.g. Steve Jobs introduces the original iPhone at Macworld SF (2007))
Length: 3min up to over an hour
Subtitles: over 60 transcribed videos

4. Business English:

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Genre: Business English. Talks on Business topics (e.g. Sell your Ideas Steve Jobs Way), panel discussions (e.g. Top 10 Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs), interviews (e.g. Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership).
Length: over an hour

How to Start a Start-Up

Genre: an incredible series of 20 lectures organized by Y Combinator. The presenters are founders of very successful start-ups. I’ve heard someone say that these lectures are the best lectures out there for start-up founders. (My favourite lecture is How to Build Products Users Love (Kevin Hale)).
Subtitles: all lectures are transcribed
Length: over an hour

5. Entertainment and show business:

The Ellen Show

Genre: short interviews, occasionally music
Length: 1-5 mins
Subtitles: most videos are transcribed
Accents and difficulty: mostly AmE, medium difficulty


Entertainment Weekly

Genre: series recaps (e.g. The Bachelor Juan Pablo – Season Finale Part 2: After the Final Rose (TV Recaps))
Length: ~ 2 mins
Subtitles: only a few videos are transcribed
Accents & difficulty: challenging

6. Films:

Subtitled movie trailers

Genre: trailers (like films themselves, might contain inappropriate content)
Length: 2-3 mins
Accents & difficulty: varying, can be very challenging

How It Should Have Ended

Genre: short cartoons that mock popular movies and explore alternative endings (e.g. How Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended)
2-3 mins

Honest Movie Trailers 

Genre: voice overs mocking popular films (e.g. Honest Trailers – Frozen: ‘It’s been three years since the last Disney musical, and 18 years since the last good Disney musical. Now, the big D is back and adjusted for inflation, with two princesses, two goofy sidekicks and three different orphans.’
Length: 3-5 mins

7. News:

On Demand News

Genre: news items, some general interest stories (e.g. Flying Scotsman flies again: Steam locomotive returns)
Length: normally 1-2 minutes
Accents: mostly, BrE

8. Educational: (these are mainly voice-overs that are pretty simple accent-wise, so they could probably be used with lower levels).


Genre: short educational videos with a voice-over on a range of general interest topics (e.g. Can Video Games Make You Smarter?  or Can Music Improve Athletic Performance?)
Length: 2-7 mins
Accents & difficulty: voice-over, so it’s pretty easy – probably can be used with lower levels

TED Education

Genre: short educational videos with a voice-over on a range of general interest topics (e.g. What makes tattoos permanent?)
Length: 3-7 mins

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Genre: ‘Videos explaining things’. Beautiful animation! (here is a longish video about Gene engineering: Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR).
Length: normally 4-7 mins
Accents & difficulty: AmE; voice-over, so pretty easy


Genre: lots of ‘why/what if’ videos, e.g. Why we kiss?, What if everyone on earth jumped at the same time?, etc.
Length: 4-13 mins
Accents & difficulty: voice-over

Tom Scott

Genre: a channel featuring several series of videos: Things you might not now, Amazing places, and more (e.g. here’s a video in which a biologist from Oxford University talks about The Battery That’s Lasted 176 Years)
Length: most videos are 2-5 mins
: BrE

Genre: Mainly some educational videos about maths (e.g. Infinity paradoxes, although there are also some fun videos, e.g. The Scientific Way to Cut a Cake)
Length: 3-10 minutes
Accents & difficulty: voice-over

MIT OpenCourseWare

Genre: MIT lectures on a range of subjects
Length: normally over an hour

Khan Academy

Genre: videos explaining school and college subjects, such as maths, physics, chemistry, etc
Length: 10-20 mins
Accents & difficulty: voice-over

8. English for Specific Purposes
Information Technology / Software development:

Google Tech Talks or indeed any of the myriads of channels created by Google.

9. Videos for kids

Sesame Street

Genre: a legendary educational programme for kids. Fun videos and, occasionally, songs (e.g. Sesame Street: Grover Demonstrates Next to A Mailbox)
Length: normally, 1-3 mins
Accents & difficulty: AmE, medium to challenging

10. Politics

The Scottish Parliament

Genre: parliamentary sessions (e.g. First Minister’s Questions – Scottish Parliament: 30th June 2016)
Length: normally over 40 mins
Subtitles: over 100 subtitled videos over the past year
Accent: Scottish English

11. Documentaries

British Pathé

Genre: short videos on a broad range of topic (e.g. 8 Mysteries Never Explained | British Pathé). The channel description goes: ‘This new channel has been created as an alternative to what’s currently out there and aims to appeal to specialist audiences, like history buffs, royal watchers, cinema aficionados, and train enthusiasts.’
Length: normally around 5-8 mins
Accent & difficulty: BrE, rather easy

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m constantly on the lookout for more videos and channels that have good quality transcripts, so please share more in the comments. Thank you!

  1. […] a podcast or a talk show which comes with a transcript. Here are some links to youtube channels that feature interviews with […]

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