You’ve likely heard several times that watching movies can teach you languages. We do agree that movies can be very helpful, but in order for them to be truly effective, you must use them as a learning tool. Simply sitting down and watching a movie in a foreign language likely won’t teach you much. In this post, we will show you how you can turn any movie into a language-learning tool.
Pick a movie you have already watched a few times in English and that you know quite well. The more you are familiar with the movie, the more you will gain from it. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it at least once in English to at least understand what’s going on. If you are working with a foreign-language movie, an English version might not be available, in which case, you can watch it with English subtitles.
Now that you know the story, you can watch the movie again in your target language. Just watch it from beginning to end, you should be able to learn quite a few words simply from the fact that you are familiar with the movie already.
If you type “name-of-the-movie script” in Google, for example “The Lion King script“, you should be able to find the complete script of the movie in both languages. You may have to find out the name of the movie and the word for “script” in your target language, but it should be pretty easy to figure it out. You can print out both scripts and read it as if it were a bilingual book. You can read the script in your target language and keep the English version close by as a reference when you don’t understand. At this point, don’t try to understand every single word. Just read through the script and you will learn quite a few words just from context. You may ask yourself:
“Why not just put the subtitles and read them as I watch the movie?”
This can be very effective if you’ve been studying for a while and you can keep up with the speed of the subtitles, but reading the script by itself gives you all the time you need to analyze the sentences and learn new words. Plus, it keeps all distractions away.
Now that you’ve read through the script, watch the same movie a few more times. Watching a movie many times may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually a lot more effective than watching many movies only once, especially in the beginning stages. You will understand a bit more each time. But at this point, if you wanted to save some time, you could download the movie on your phone and listen to only the audio while driving or taking a walk. If you already know the movie quite well, listening to only the audio is almost as useful as actually watching the movie. Once you have the movie on your phone, you can listen to the movie in your car many times instead of the radio and learn on the go.
You should now have learned quite a few words from the movie. But there are many words that will pop up at you that you won’t be able to learn simply by hearing or reading them over and over again. That’s why it can be a good idea to read the script again and look up the words you kept hearing but couldn’t understand in the dictionary. Now you may ask yourself:
“Why do this now? Why not the first time I read the script?”
It is important to learn as many words as possible from the context, if you read the script and look up every single words in the dictionary when you’ve made zero connections with the word, chances are that it will simply go in one ear and out the other. However, if you’ve watched the movie several times and kept wondering what that darn word you kept hearing meant, the word now becomes meaningful to you. This emotional connection to the word multiplies your odds of remembering its meaning when you finally look it up in the dictionary. Working on one scene at a time can work great. After you are done looking up words for a scene, read the scene again right away with the words fresh in your mind.
Listen or watch the movie once again. This time you should understand the movie quite well. This step will reinforce the words you’ve looked up in the dictionary. At this point, you can keep alternating between reading and watching the movie until you feel like you’ve learned what you needed to learn from it.
There are thousands of words in a movie, so taking the time to do these few steps can be very effective. This method works best with languages that are closely related to your native language, and if you are not a complete beginner. The key is to at least be able to understand some of the language in order to be able to learn other words from context. The first movie will be the hardest and longest challenge, but the knowledge you gain from one movie will make the next one easier to understand.
Fair Use: All rights to their respective owners. Some clips used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes.
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