TED Talks for Language Learners

TED Talks have become an incredible resource for learners the world over, and that includes those who are learning languages! Whether you choose to watch casually if you have some time to spare, or you turn viewing into a lesson armed with notepad and subtitles, there is a TED Talk for you. Here are some of the best TED Talks if you’re learning languages.



Here’s a few of our favorite TED Talks to jumpstart your language learning. / photo via Shutterstock


Erin McKean: Go Ahead, Make Up New Words!

There is a reason this TED Talk crops up on so many lists for language learners. Erin McKean: Go Ahead, Make Up New Words! discusses the history of the English language and most importantly shows how flexible a language it is. The talk focuses on how rapidly the language changes and how the things that are going on around us influence those changes every day.

This is a comforting talk as well as an informative one, since English as a language comes across sometimes as formal and regimented, filled with rules to learn. Erin McKean touches on all these points and then gives viewers six ways to make up new words in English to help learners express themselves better. Definitely worth a watch!


Learning a new language? Check out our free placement test to see how your level measures up!


Julian Treasure: 5 Ways To Listen Better

Anyone who is learning a language knows the frustration of getting to grips with listening activities. Julian Treasure: 5 Ways To Listen Better is all about general listening skills, the problems we face in a constantly noisy world, and how our need for quick information immediately has lost us our ability to truly listen effectively.

Treasure goes on to give advice on how to retrain our brains to become more effective listeners, how best to get the most information we can out of any situation. This is a short TED Talk that you can easily fit into your schedule, the techniques of which teach you transferrable skills for both your language studies and everything else in your life!


Photo 2.jpg

What’s your favorite language-learning method? / photo via Pixabay



James Geary: Metaphorically Speaking

If you’re fascinated by metaphors and plays on words then James Geary: Metaphorically Speaking is definitely one to put on your watch list. Any language learner will appreciate the struggle to sound natural when we speak in our target language. Metaphors are an important part of that process, but choosing where and how to use these words can have the opposite effect of making our language come across as stilted.

Geary explains how metaphors are used, why we use them, and how best to fit them into our regular language. This is a truly fascinating TED Talk, one you will definitely benefit from viewing with subtitles. Fit this TED Talk into your study plans!


John McWhorter: 4 Reasons To Learn A New Language

If you’re looking for a TED Talk that will inspire you to start your language learning, John McWhorter: 4 Reasons To Learn A New Language might be just the one to help. McWhorter’s enthusiastic talk takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the benefits of learning a language that you might not yet considered. He discusses why this idea we have as English being the only universal language is holding so many potential language learners back, and shows how by learning other languages we get to see so many other views of our world. If, in under ten minutes, McWhorter doesn’t convince you of all the joy there is to learning another language, we really don’t know what else could convince you!


man sitting on concrete block near tree during daytime

You can watch these TED Talks anywhere, even if you’re on the go. / photo via Unsplash


Lýdia Machová: The Secrets Of Learning A New Language

Our final choice of TED Talks for language learners has to be Lýdia Machová: The secrets of learning a new language. Machová is the ultimate polyglot, learning a new language approximately every two years. Her talk discusses how she goes about studying a language, and why it is so interesting to her. But what is possibly even more motivational is that Machová talks about how other polyglots plan their studies as well. This is a true wealth of information for anyone considering learning a language or those who are already learning but not sure if they can keep going. Let Machová rekindle your love of languages!

No matter the language you are learning, or however far you have got in your studies — even if you haven’t yet started — these talks will inspire you. The question is only which language are you going to start with!