How to use movies to learn a language

There are brilliant movies in nearly any language but although it’s tempting to get your popcorn out and watch from start to finish, if you want to learn from it, we have some tips.

Learning a language through watching films can help with:

Native Speech Language in movies reflects authentic speech
Putting vocabulary into context – Scenes in the movie may reflect the situations phrases would be used it
Making it fun and enjoyable – It’s important to have fun exploring a new language

Here are some tips to help you learn a language while watching a foreign film;

Watch Movies with support – Translator app/book at the ready to look up words you might be unfamiliar with as you watch

Check the difficulty level and match to your understanding Genre’s vary on difficulty, for instance children’s movies or action frequently focus on visuals more than dialogue so they are easier to understand. But a deep, serious movie are usually harder to follow as a language student since they may lean more on subtitles.

Do a little research – Make sure you understand the theme of the movie, read the summary, understand the characters and their names, this can help give you content to fill in anything you miss

Split it into chunks – Don’t get overwhelmed, breaking a movie into chinks will ensure your listening practice doesn’t get overwhelmed and you can don’t overuse your focus and thinking. Rewatch sections and take your time

Don’t expect to understand it immediately – Set reasonable expectations, not understanding every tiny detail doesn’t reflect your overall knowledge, it takes time and lots of study. Keep watching and you will be enjoying entire movies in your target language before you know it.  

Language of the month is Polish so here are some Polish Movie and TV series recommendations:

1) Ida (2013), directed by Paweł Pawlikowski; 2015 Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards

2) Spoor (2017), directed by Agnieszka Holland, based on Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk‘s novel

3) The Pianist (2002), directed by Roman Polański, Oscar and other award winner

4) The Hexer or The Witcher (2001), directed by Marek Brodzki, based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy books

5) The Promised Land (1975) directed by Andrzej Wajda, Oscar nomination