Language learning

Watching movies in another language

The first time you watch a movie in another language is almost always completely overwhelming. It’s hard to understand what people are saying and it’s hard to follow along with the story. But it is a great way to improve your understanding of that language. Here’s a few reasons you should add movies to your language learning arsenal.

You’ll learn how people really speak. We’ve all heard the tapes from language classes – they’re slow, they use words we’re learning at the time and only utilise tenses we already know. That’s not how it works in real life and that’s not how it work in movies. Sure, you do get the occasional horribly written script. But for the most part characters in movies tend to speak how real people do.

You’ll hear slang and colloquialisms you wouldn’t otherwise know. If your target language is spoken in multiple places you’ll probably find people have different words for the same thing. Even within the one place there are often lots synonyms they don’t teach you. You’ll hear them all in movies. By learning these sorts of words your speech will become much more natural and native-like.

You’ll hear native speakers saying things in natural sentences. This will get you used to hearing different sentence structures and types of grammar you may not be used to. I’m sure you all remember when you began learning a language. Your sentences all would have been very simple and very similar – ‘This is my bike. I like to ride my bike. This is my pool. I like to swim in my pool.’ This is all well and good in the beginning but gets stale and boring before too long. This is one way you can learn to vary your speech and sound more natural in your target language.

A few tips:

Watch movies you’ve seen before. Every DVD has language options, so check your favourites for your particular language. Otherwise you should be able to download them. By not having to concentrate on the storyline, you’re free to focus on the language you’re hearing.

What about subtitles? If you’re going to use them, don’t use them in English! Use them in your target language if you feel that you need them. If you’re watching a new movie you haven’t seen before, I’d suggest using the subtitles. But after you’ve seen it once or twice and you know the story, try to wean yourself off them – not being able to rely on subtitles gets you ready for the ‘real world’ where you’ll be having conversations and you’ll probably find yourself put on the spot quite a lot. In these situations you’ll have to rely on what you can understand along with the context and other cues, so it can be good to practice that as much as you can.

There are also other options besides movies. You could find a TV series you like and watch that instead. Soapies are a great choice for this! If you have pay TV chances are you can find a news programme in your target language to watch. This has the added bonus of keeping you up to date with what’s going on where your language is spoken.

Do any of you watch movies in the language you’re learning? Any other tips for us?


2 thoughts on “Watching movies in another language

  1. Good suggestions, all of these. I like to watch foreign films because I’m interested in what other countries come up with. “Amelie”, “Run Lola Run”, “The Lives of Others” and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” are some of my favorites. And as you say, it’s a great way to get used to the way the natives of a country speak in their own language.

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