Watching movies is a great way to learn a foreign language. Movies let you listen to real conversations by native speakers and hear the way they interact in real life situations.
Most people use a kind of shorthand to speak to people they know, especially when they share a knowledge of a particular subject. This shorthand is difficult to reproduce in language manuals since it would take it too much time setting up the story.
Movies have time to set the scene. Since the setup, as well as the dialog itself, is in the foreign language, you get a very rich feel for the language and culture when you watch a movie.
But wait! The type of movie you choose is critical when learning a foreign language.
Find a movie that you will be able to watch over and over again. A lot of people get frustrated trying to understand a movie in a foreign language because the people in the movie talk too fast so the story literally gets lost in translation.
Here are the steps to get the most out of movies:
• Find a movie that you can watch repeatedly. If you haven’t already watched it in English and love it, don’t use it. Animated Walt Disney movies are great because they are relatively simple, they have been translated into every major language, they are easy to find and they are fun. But there are lots of other movies out there if you prefer something else.
Movies made in the foreign language are best, but you can also watch your favorite American movie in a foreign language, so you may not have to leave your house to start. Take a look at your favorite movies that you own. Most movies sold in the USA on DVD have three language tracks – English, Spanish and French. They also have subtitles in English. In other countries, there is usually an English sound track and subtitles along with other languages of that region.
It is better to start with a dubbed American movie using the foreign language audio track then to try to fight your way through a popular foreign language movie that you have never seen before. If you get stuck trying to understand the plot, you are probably going to leave and never return.
I can’t stress this enough: Pick a movie that you already know and love to start out. Repetition is everything in mastering a foreign language. If you only watch the movie once, you won’t improve your language skills much.
After you become more familiar with the language, you can challenge yourself and treat yourself to more foreign language originals.
• Watch the movie in your native language first, if possible, before you dive into the foreign language version, so that you get a feel for what is going on. If you can’t find it in your language, look for an edition with subtitles.
• As you watch the movie the first time or two in a foreign language, get comfortable with the idea that there will be lots that you won’t understand. This is normal. Enjoy the movie and pick up as much of the vocabulary and grammar as you can each time. The more times you watch it, the more you that will stick. Some of the things you pick up you won’t even be conscious of . Later you will be trying to explain something and a phrase will come to you, seemingly out of nowhere. That is because your subconscious was busy soaking up the language while you sat back and enjoyed the movie.
• Keep watching. You can rotate a few movies, but you need to keep coming back to the same ones until you forget it’s a foreign language. If you pick a movie you like, watching it will be fun and you won’t feel like you are sweating over vocabulary and grammar. You’ll be laughing at the funny scenes while your subconscious soaks up the language.
• Each time you finish watching take five minutes to explain to yourself or a language partner in the foreign language what you liked about the movie. This will sharpen your active speaking skills. If you are alone, talk out loud so you can practice your pronunciation at the same time.
After you use this technique for a few months, you will be amazed at how much more you seem to “know”, even when you don’t remember having “learned” it.
Whether you are studying English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese or any other language, this method will make learning easy and fun.
Enjoy the movie!