How to download the ‘perfect’ ESL video on YouTube step-by-step

Find and download the 'perfect' video for your ESL lesson on YouTube

Find and download the perfect ESL video for your lesson on YouTube

Want to make your ESL students sit up and listen in class? Just announce ‘We’ve got a video today’.  A video, and especially a funny video, instantly perks up the most hard to inspire students. Learn to find and download that perfect ESL video.

It doesn’t matter what age group or gender, video is going to be more compelling for your students.  Research has shown that video is most effective when it is shown for not more than 10 minutes at a time and can show an educational relationship to the material being learned in class.

Don’t panic if you’ve never downloaded something from the internet or if the idea of using a video projector is scary. We’re going to go through it step by step.


There are two things to learn today:

  1. How to find the perfect ESL video to match your student’s needs (with subtitles!)
  2. How to download it onto your computer

In my last blog, ‘How to find ‘perfect’ ESL teaching materials online quickly and make a flash card game’ we used the example of finding a lesson on ‘How to give bad news’.

Let’s continue with that lesson idea and add a video.

By now your student has learned several common expressions so he’s ready to reinforce that by watching a video. Even if he’s a lower level, he should be able to follow the video since he will already be familiar with the expressions.

Step N° 1  Go to Google Chrome and enter the same search words as you did when you were looking for the text with expressions: type in ‘ESL giving bad news’. When the search is complete you’ll see the same listing of texts.

Now we’re going to look for videos.

Searching for videos in Google Search

Switch from a general ‘all’ search to a ‘videos’ search in Google

 Click ‘videos’ and you will see a long listing of thumbnail photos of videos to choose from.  Scan through the list to see which video seems to fit your needs.

The first video at the top of the list is for giving good and bad news. Click on it and view it.

Click on the video title to view in YouTube.

Click on the video title to view in YouTube.

A Youtube screen will open and just click the ‘play’ button for viewing.

You may have to click ‘Ignore Ad’ or wait for the advertisement to finish before you can view the video.

What do you think of the video? Frankly I don’t like the computerized voice and secondly we’re looking for expressions for ‘giving bad news’ only today.

But hey, in the column on the ‘right hand side’ of the screen are similar videos and the one at the top definitely looks like an ESL video lesson. It’s called ‘How to give bad news’ from Beta

English College. Let’s click on that and view it.

Let's try this video on giving bad news from Beta College of English

Let’s view this video on giving bad news from Beta College of English

I like it.  Let’s download this one.

Step 2: Download the video to your computer

Type the letters 'pwn' in the URL just before the word 'youtube'

Type ‘pwn’ in the URL just before the word ‘youtube’

  • Restart the video and then ‘pause’ it anywhere. Just make sure the ads are finished.
  • Look up at the search bar above the viewing window where the URL (or link address) is written.
  • Put your cursor just before the word youtub in the url and double click.
  • Then type in the three letters ‘pwn’
  • And hit ‘enter’.

This will take you to the video downloader and converter website called

See your video? Now click on program 'Save From'

See your video? Now click on program ‘Save From’

1) Do you see your video thumbnail photo and its URL? Just below, there are several programs you can chose from for downloading.  Click on ‘Save From’.  I like this program. It’s easy.

2) A new window will open.  Be patient while the video is being transferred to the website. Wait for the the blue dots to stop scrolling across the page.

Choose the format MP4 and click the 'download' button.

Choose the format MP4 and click the ‘download’ button.

2) Choose a format for downloading the file.  Choose the MP4 format.  Almost any video player can play this format and choose the higher resolution 720.

3) Then click the ‘download’ button. You will be prompted to choose the directory and folder where you’d like to save your videoEt viola!

4) When the video has been downloaded, you can watch the progress in the download bar at the bottom of the screen,  click on it to make sure that it opens and plays correctly in your media player.  (We will talk next time about a famous video player called VLC  which you can download.)

5) To return to YouTube to view some other videos: Just close the ‘tab’ for the Save  site and then click the ‘back’ arrow on the window to return to your video in YouTube.  You may decide to view and download some other videos listed in the right hand column.

TIP:  This is what I usually do: download two or three videos then choose the one I like best.  Or sometimes in class, you may decide to watch two or three short videos on the same theme with your student if he feels inclined.

How to find the perfect ESL video with subtitles for low levels

Lower levels will really appreciate having subtitles in English when watching a video in class.  But there are not as many videos with subtitles to chose from.  But hey, let’s give it a try.  You never know what you might find.

1) Click back to the Google Chrome search for  ‘ESL giving bad news’ and we’re still searching for videos but this time lets click on the ‘Search Tools’  drop down menu.

Click the 'Search Tools' button

Click the ‘Search Tools’ button

 and choose closed captions.

Click on Closed Captions to see only videos with subtitles

Click on Closed Captions to see only videos with subtitles


2) A whole new listing of videos with CC (closed captions) will appear.

I’d like to view the first one ‘Writing a bad-news letter’.

3) If you like it, repeat the same sequence to download and save to your computer:

  • type in ‘pwn’ before the word youtube in the URL,
  • chose the program ‘Save From’.  Wait for the blue dots to stop scrolling.
  • In the drop down menu for MP4, you will see ‘subtitles’ listed. Click on that.
  • Choose English subtitles.

    Choose english subtitles.

    Choose English subtitles.

    and save the ‘.srt’ file in the same folder you plan to store you video.  ‘.srt’ is the extension for subtitles.  That’s done.

    Save your subtitles file with the '.srt' extension

    Save your subtitles file with the ‘.srt’ extension

  • Now click the ‘download’ button in MP4 format to download your video.  Save the ‘.mp4’ video in the same folder as the subtitle ‘.srt’ file.

    Save your MP4 video file in the same folder as the subtitles file.

    Save your MP4 video file in the same folder as the subtitles file.

    This is very important that both files have the same name and are in the same folder.  Wait for the download to complete.  (Watch the progress in the download bar at the bottom of the screen).

  • Do a test to make sure the video starts and plays properly and that it has the subtitles.  Just click on the .mp4 video file in the download bar at the bottom of the page.  It should work fine.  In class with your student, just find your video file in its folder in your directory on your laptop and click it, don’t worry about opening the subtitle file. It will open automatically and synchronize with the video.

After several tries you will be a pro at finding and downloading perfect ESL videos.  There are certainly other means of downloading YouTube videos but this one has always worked for me.

TIP:  Sometimes you will watch a video on another website like CNN or BBC or TEDtalks.  This procedure described above only works for YouTube videos.  So take note of the video title and do a Google search for it in ‘YouTube’.  Just like we did above.  Maybe you’ll find it on YouTube where it’s not protected.

Next time we want to look at the cables and hardware you’ll need to connect your laptop to a flat screen TV or to a video projector.  And also choosing a USB plugin-speaker to augment your laptop speakers so the whole class can hear.  And We will learn how to download VLC media player.

Hope this was helpful.  Maybe you know of an easier way to download videos? Please share your experiences with using  ESL videos in the comments section below.

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3 Responses

  1. Ellen Dubois Ellen Dubois says:

    Hello Ellen,
    Thank you for your mail! I have already downloaded videos from Youtube nut I always seem to forget how to do it from one video to the other 😉 Your article will be very useful.
    I suppose you know about it, but just in case you don’t there are many very interesting videos on Ted’s talk .com If you go the their website you will find videos with subtitles in variour languages as well as scripts and even a few lesson plans. The number of topics is amazing and the conferences are extremely well done.
    I have worked on “weird or just different”
    or “photos that changed the world”
    but also speeches on exo-skeletons, or crowdfunding as well as a talk by James Cameron …
    Just be careful: if you go on Youtube you will have subtitles generated by voice recognition software whereas the website has “real” subtitles 🙂

    All the best,

    • Ellen Dubois Ellen Dubois says:

      Thanks Isabelle! I’ve used Ted Talks in the past and loved it. Thanks so much for sending these links. I was under the impression that we couldn’t download directly from Ted Talks, but we can and it’s easy. Ted talks download Weird or just different image And the tapescript was there too on the left. You’re right about the subtitles generated automatically by voice recognition. Full of mistakes. I’m in the process of learning how to download the .srt file and correct the mistakes. I’ll get back to you on that.

  1. February 9, 2017

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