Vox Pops Videos

The term ‘Vox Pops’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘voice of the people’ but in modern day English we use it to refer to videos made from short clips of everyday people being interviewed. It’s one of my favorite type of videos to include with course books because I like using them in my own classes. They are the simplest videos to create yourself and easy-to-use.

The general idea is that you ask different people a question and video their authentic responses. You can then show students the video both to act as a model of what you want your students to do and say and because it also exposes your learners to real English. Here’s an example of what I mean: We took a video camera into the streets of Lisbon for the World English series and asked people a few simple questions. Notice how varied the responses are in terms of length, accent, level of English, and personality.

As a coursebook writer I must have written many similar dialogues which were then recorded by actors but none of them can match the same level of spontaneity in a vox pops video. Showing students real people talking like this is very motivating and inspires them to talk afterwards. If I was going to use the video above with an A1-A2 class, I might ask them to watch it first and write down the three questions being asked. In this case:

– Where are you from?

– What languages do you speak?

– Where do you feel at home?

Then I’d put students in groups, play the video at least two more times, and ask the groups to note down the answers for each question so that students are collaborating on the listening task. Finally, students would work in pairs and ask and answer each other the three questions. What’s interesting about this final task is that because your students have watched other people answering the questions on video, they always seem more motivated to answer the same themselves than they would if they hadn’t seen a video.

Now let’s watch a different style of video – it isn’t strictly a vox pops video because it’s less spontaneous and the speaker is in a studio with a prepared script. However, it’s the same basic principle of asking someone to talk about something which is of personal interest. The video features the TED Talk speaker and author, Taiye Selasi. Taiye is someone who thinks the question ‘Where are you from?’ is too difficult to answer. Instead, she encourages people to ask ‘Where are you a local?’  Watch it now.

I hope you agree that Taiye’s talk is engaging and accessible and she manages to present quite a complex concept using language appropriate to an A1/A2 level. In other words, it’s authentic video aimed at smart students who happen to have a lower level of English. In class, students could watch it a couple of times and answer comprehension questions. Then you could give them the following phrases to prepare a one-minute presentation about where they are a local:

– Hello. My name’s is…

– My presentation is about the question: Where are you from?

– For me, it’s an easy/a difficult question to answer.

– I was born in…

– I grew up in…

– My parents are from…

– I live/study in…

Again, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make your own video like this by recording someone you know who is an expert on a certain topic for 2-3 minutes and then show it to your students. As an extension, you could ask your students to create their own vox pops video for homework with them talking to the camera about their own personal passion or interest.


The two video extracts in this blog appears in World English Level 1, Third Edition by John Hughes and Martin Milner (National Geographic Learning).

Author: John Hughes

John Hughes is a teacher, teacher trainer and course book author. He currently combines a variety of roles including part-time teaching, running online training courses, and lecturing on ELT methodology at Oxford University. He is an author of many National Geographic Learning titles including Life, a six-level general English course, Spotlight on First, Practical Grammar, Total Business, Success with BEC Vantage, and Aspire. He lives near Oxford, United Kingdom.

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