Even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a full-fledged movie buff, most of us would admit to enjoying an evening out at the movie theater or on our couch at home, unable to tear our eyes away from the screen. Whether it’s drama, comedy, romance, or action, movies are chock full of entertainment value — but can you really learn a language by watching movies?
In fact, movies in your target language have a lot to offer to students who are learning a language. Here are just a few benefits watching movies can have on your language learning:
- Movies are made for native speakers, not for language learners. In any language, movies are produced for an audience that speaks that language fluently. What this means for you is that by watching a movie, you get to see the language used in its natural setting. As a result, listening to movie dialogue is an ideal way to study how a language is used conversationally, and how simple phrases and sentences are worded and inflected.
- Movies can help you learn slang, accents… and swear words. If you hear phrases you don’t quite understand, or that don’t make literal sense, they’re probably idioms — one of the hardest parts of learning a foreign language. Movies can help put them into natural context in a way that your textbook, well, simply can’t. Working on your accent? Consistent reinforcement by listening to the native speakers in a movie can only help you to commit the sounds to memory. Try repeating lines after the characters for practice! And about that last one… don’t be shy, we know you want to learn them! Swear words are, for better or worse, one of the most common topics our students inquire about. Movie characters often exclaim using swear words in intense scenes, so watching movies is one way to get around any timidity you may have at asking your instructor to teach you them!
- Movies offer cultural insights in “real world” settings. No, movies are not real life, but they do inherently provide a glimpse into the target culture. Watching the plot of a movie unravel gives you insight into the way people speak, work, go about their daily routines, and even date! You’ll get to see what friendships, relationships, and work environments can look like in the target culture; and observe interactions between characters of different age groups, seniority levels, and closeness to one another. These are all useful cultural qualities to understand and can save you from committing social faux pas.
- Movies show you places you may want to visit. Choose a movie set in a city or region you’re particularly interested in studying or visiting, and you’ll surely be able to see images of that place and learn a bit about the area through the movie. This can help you feel more comfortable if you ultimately are able to travel to that location, or at the least make you even more excited for the visit!
So go ahead — pick out a movie you are already familiar with that has been dubbed or subtitled, or one that is set in a region you are dying to visit, make some popcorn, and watch! You can definitely learn a language by watching movies — or more accurately, enhance your studies — as long as you are sure to make it an active learning experience.