About LLS:

Throughout my career, I have received thousands of questions regarding languages and I have finally decided to answer them objectively with no strings attached. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave your comments below.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Watching movies to learn a language? You're doing it wrong!


It came to my attention while teaching, that certain students boast about their efforts to study a language with how many movies they have been watching lately. The problem isn't that I am complaining, but rather the way in which they do it.

I do believe that movies are a great way to get additional vocabulary and to hear the language in action. At the same time, there are some who don't do it properly by mixing two different languages; one for the sound and the other for the subtitles. No matter how hard you try to simplify certain things by putting your mother language at the bottom of the screen, you must understand that without struggle, there isn't much one can learn. Ideally, you should even consider having Google translate and a dictionary present as you watch your movie. The moment your auditory senses get confused about what the protagonist of your movie just said is the time where proper subtitles should cure your misunderstandings.


- Why watching a movie with subtitles in the same language helps?


1. Too much slang, expressions and informal language.

Often, movies have the tendency to use a lot of slang. Rarely do I come across a movie with formal language throughout the storyline. It doesn't matter how advanced you are, there are certain idioms, expressions that one must learn by heart.

Have a dictionary on standby.


2. They speak too quickly.

This is probably the major reason why someone can't watch a movie in the language that he is learning. In certain scenes where more than 2 actors start yelling at each other as they get into conspiracy theories starts putting a toll on your comprehension.

Try four people screaming at each other.


3. Different accents and different dialects.

I don't know about you, but even Americans have sometimes problems understanding the British and this due to some crazy pronunciation. I personally have watched hundreds of British movies and am well acquainted with them so far, but my beginnings were very mind bending.

In Snatch, even the lead actors had problems understanding "Pikey" Brad Pitt.


4. If you see and hear it, you double your chance of remembering it.

Seeing is believing! Don't try to figure out what they said on your own because you will end up cheating yourself. Ego or not, make sure that what you just remembered was validated by proper subtitles.

A language within a language.


5. You can pause your subtitles.

If you're having a hard time understanding anything at all, just slow down the pace and freeze frame in order to get the storyline.


We have them in movies!


It isn't possible to translate everything properly from one language to another for reasons which are quite clear; different idioms, expressions and slang fuel your confusion. It saddens me to say this, but if you don't watch a movie in its original language with subtitles in the same language to support your understanding, your progress will be limited. We are strictly talking about watching movies in order to improve a language and not for the sheer pleasure of it.


Peter.M

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LanguageLearningShortcuts! by Peter Masalski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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