Vlogs for self-care and language study!

One thing that I’ve been enjoying recently, especially while recovering from a sharp depressive downturn, is watching vlogs — video blogs — in German.

(I’ve tried watching a few vlogs in French — actually mostly let’s plays, not quite the same thing — and I find them a lot harder to understand, even though my German is weaker. I’m not sure if the Germans making these videos just tend to speak more slowly or clearly than the French ones, or if it’s highlighting different strengths and weaknesses for me in these languages.)

I find the personal aspect comforting; at its most basic form, it’s just someone sitting casually in front of a camera to chat. I can’t speak to the popularity of the vlog in most languages, but certainly at least in German there seem to be vlogs on many topics and in varying episode lengths, anywhere from 2 or 3 minutes long to upwards of 30 minutes. Maybe your target language has some too?

If, like me, you’re interested in vlogs as a combination of language study with native materials and self-care/self-soothing, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: what sorts of topics might be upsetting or hit you in a vulnerable place? Are there any topics that might especially delight or inspire you?

For example, if finances are stressful, you might want to avoid haul videos, where people show off, and discuss, recent mass purchases they’ve made. Mostly I watch food ones (and obviously if you have triggers around food/eating or are dealing with an eating disorder, please watch with care, if you do at all). I’ve seen people lovingly discuss the huge bags of vegetables they just bought from Lidl, and enthuse about how much they love sweet potatoes or what kind of soup they’re going to cook that week. That kind of simple positivity feels good. And let’s face it, Lidl vegetables are cheap — believe me, I have a lot of thoughts about corporate agriculture and supermarket chains and the like, but at least watching a Lidl haul video isn’t going to enrage me like vlogs where people extol the virtues of 500€ blenders do.

A bonus is that, when I’m depressed, I tend way more towards the “not eating enough/at all” maladaptive style of coping, rather than “eating a lot.” Sometimes watching these vlogs stimulates my interest in eating or cooking; they remind me that food can be good and tasty and really, something I should pay attention to.

Needless to say, food vocabulary is very useful. If you like haul videos about clothes, well, that vocabulary is useful too! I’ve also heard that unboxing videos for iPhones and the like are very popular, if that’s more your bag. Vloggers may also do episodes showing them as they go through their day (either their daily routine or perhaps if they’re traveling) — can you find a vlog about a place you’d particularly like to visit, perhaps?

Try doing a search on YouTube for “vlog” plus the name of a popular chain store in a country with your target language, if you’re looking for haul videos, or maybe just “vlog” plus the name of a city or country, or a different topic-related phrase in your target language. You might be surprised at what turns up!

Finding a vlogger you like to watch is helpful in the same way that watching a TV series, as opposed to a bunch of different individual movies, is helpful: you start to build an understanding of that person’s particular vocabulary, accent, and way of speaking, which then can bolster your comprehension in general. If the vlogger also has an Instagram (on which they comment) or a blog or is on Twitter, so you can also take all this in via the written word, even better! And of course, like any social media phenomenon these days, vloggers love to namedrop each other: once you locate one vlog that you like, check out who they follow or link to. They might even do a vlog (by the way, that word is now sounding very strange in my head) episode about their own favorite vloggers!

The downside is that subtitles, at least in my experience, are nonexistent (there’s that automatic captioning you can get on YouTube but it’s dreadful). So, depending on your level, vlogs may be too frustrating. I’ll be honest and say there’s still an awful lot I don’t understand when I watch vlogs (one of my favorite vloggers especially speaks so fast), but I do think that with every one, I understand a little more! And as is so often true with depression, sometimes that tiny little triumph means quite a lot to me — hey, even if I’m stuck on the couch because I’m too anxious or depressed to do anything, look, I just watched some vlogs on my phone and I picked up a few new phrases and now I want to eat something for dinner…

Are there vlogs in your target languages? Does it sound like something you might be interested in watching? Perhaps you want to do a vlog yourself! (I admit I’ve thought about it before, but the obvious reduction in pseudonymity concerns me…)

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