In this article, I would like to share how I continued studying English during a tough period of time with a chronic illness.

Also, I will introduce YouTube channels that helped me enhance my listening comprehension. 

I wrote about my illness in this post:
Diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Reasons why I “listened” to many YouTube videos

In 2012, I finished my corresponding translation course from a vocational school. And I started searching for a way to become an online English tutor in 2013.

In February of 2013, I was about to apply for some ESL schools when I suddenly came down with a cough, dizziness, sensitivity to light and also my headaches got worse. 

I did not have any other choice, but to stay in bed due to all those symptoms. Applying for a job was out of the question.  At that time, my English skills may have been sufficient to become an English tutor, but I wanted to study to improve my English as much as possible before I started working. 

However, my dizziness made it impossible to sit up to study at my desk, and my cough and sore throat made it impossible to practice reading aloud. In addition, I was not able to look at my computer or TV screen for 10 minutes before my eyes started to hurt as if a great number of needles stuck in them due to the sensitivity to light. My headaches got worse because of that. 

That's why I started listening to as many YouTube videos as possible. I chose video blogs that had dialogue or narrations so that I could understand the contents without looking at the screen. Also, I listened to many videos that explained English grammar rules. All the days I felt better, I took notes of useful expressions that came up in those videos while in bed. 

▲This is my clipboard.It is very useful because you can take notes while in bed.

I ended up taking notes on about 15 sheets of A4 paper. I studied in this way for three months. I finally got over my cough in May and I continued to get better. At the end of July, I became an online English tutor at long last. 
In these three months, I could not have been more frustrated and stressed out due to the severity of my symptoms. However, all these YouTube channels that I found during this period of time were extremely helpful to improve my English, and they still are as a tutor.

In addition, the fact that I managed to improve my English while I was in bed certainly enhanced my teaching capability.  

Changes that happened after the 3-month YouTube listening

・I learned many expressions regarding life in Japan and Japanese culture through video blogs from Canadian and American YouTubers. 

・Also, the English grammar has become not as much trouble as it used to be. To be honest, the English grammar was the last thing I wanted to learn. However, as I learned English grammar by watching lots of ESL videos, I came to understand the structure of English. I found that it was so much easier to understand when it was explained in English rather than in Japanese.
I became able to use the present perfect and present continuous much more comfortably and confidently than before.

・To my surprise, it was my speaking ability that improved more than listening comprehension. One reason is that I increased my vocabulary to a great extent. Another reason is that my grammar knowledge helped me understand English just as they were. (I stopped translating Japanese sentences in my head into English when speaking.)

In fact, this was not the only time I felt my speaking improved this much. I watched an American drama called The OC for about six months. As I was watching it, I took notes every time I came across useful expressions. And read them aloud until I could say them by heart. I passed the Eiken pre-1 grade a few months after I started this practice, so I must have been at the right level for this.   

Recommended YouTube channels for listening practice

▲“Chika’s English Lessons”
One of the most popular YouTubers in Japan. She has some 1.2 million subscribers. She introduces natural expressions that native English speakers use in a variety of situations such as daily live and travels. Also, she has written some books for English learners. From her books, you can learn English as a tool of communication, rather than study.  


A Canadian YouTuber / blogger who lives in Fukuoka, Japan. You can enjoy videos on foreign language learning and life in Japan from a Canadian’s perspective. She is very expressive and talkative, and speaks English clearly. I have been learning various expressions from her videos. This video that I'm sharing is about the cultural differences between Western countries and Japan when speaking. It blew my mind when first I watched it. Enjoy!  

▲“Rachel and Jun”
This channel is run by a married couple. Their videos are about international relationships and marriage, life in Japan from Rachel's viewpoint and how Jun learned English without studying abroad. I am sure that their videos will help you learn more than just the English language. 

▲“Hapa Eikaiwa”
The English learning channel run by Jun. He is a half American and half Japanese from California. He features natural expressions that only native English speakers can share such as “What do you say when somebody knocks on your bathroom door?” He explains the nuance and connotation in fluent Japanese, so you can learn without looking at the screen. (In fact, I did not watch this channel back in 2013, but I found it so good that I thought I would share.)

A Canadian ESL channel. Their videos cover a wide variety of topics from grammar, pronunciation, formal writing to expressions for casual conversations. All teachers speak plain and clear English, so it’s easy to understand. 

An ESL channel. It mainly features grammar and pronunciation that many English learners have problems with. The video I have shared here helped me learn the correct usage of the past continuous. I never understood how to use the past continuous no matter how hard I tried by reading English grammar books written in Japanese, but it took only one video to become able to use that tense correctly. For me, it was like a missing piece was found.


I had the Eiken pre-1st grade and a TOEIC score of 755, but my English was absolutely not good enough for an English tutor when I started to work. I had many days when I could not answer my students’ questions.

It would have been even harder if I hadn't had these three months of intense listening. It never was the way I wanted to learn English, but now I am glad that I had this listening practice. 

There were many days when tears welled up over frustration. I thought to myself: “Why do I have to go through this?”, “Why can't I just study?” etc. But you have to know there will be the day when your efforts pay off unless you give up. 

I will keep studying for my TESOL course and the Eiken 1st grade as much as I can in time with my physical condition.  

▼The Japanese version of this article.

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You might also want to read:
How I Learned English —Until I Became an English Tutor

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