When using movies and television for language learning, choosing material appropriate to your current learning level is primordial. If what you’re watching is too far above your skill level, everything will seem like a giant blur and it won’t be effective. People learning a new language often have the dreaded they-speak-so-darn-fast feeling. As a beginner, it can feel like people are speaking at a rate of a million words per minute. Luckily, you can slowly go up the chain of levels and eventually reach the turbo (aka normal) language speed. Choosing material equivalent or a little above your current level will help you learn without that drowning feeling and won’t leave you frustrated. In this post, we will take a look at the 4 levels of content in movies and television.
LEVEL 1: Children Material
As a complete beginner, watching material that was written for very young kids is a lifesaver and a goldmine for learning new words. Television shows like Caillou, Sesame Street and Curious George were written with very simple dialogue, short and simple plots, and basic vocabulary and grammar. Plus, the pronunciation is often exaggerated and slow, which makes it easy breezy to understand. Now, you’re probably thinking: “but these shows are so childish“. Sure, it can feel a bit ridiculous to be watching these shows on your own, but the benefits are incredible.
Children shows often describe the images you see and are usually overly clear about the current situation. It’s quite effortless to draw conclusions about the words you hear. They will say something like “Caillou is angry“, as you see a large close-up of the little guy’s angry face. This image association is wonderful. These shows were specifically made for the education of young children learning their first language. You can take advantage of that. Unfortunately, television shows written specifically for adults learning a new language are practically non-existent. If you do find one, the budget and production value is likely to be very low because the market is simply not there. Time to bring out your inner child! Who doesn’t love watching a good episode of The Magic School Bus?
LEVEL 2: Family Material
Once you get past the very beginner stage, you can move up to family material such as Disney or DreamWorks animation movies. Yes, you are still watching cartoons, but these movies are a big step up from the young children shows. The language is a lot more complicated, the story line is over an hour long instead of 5-10 minutes, and the speech is considerably faster.
We all have a few movies we loved and watched non-stop as a child. Who knew those movies could help you learn languages as a grown up? You’ll be amazed at how much you learn by watching those movies again in your new language. Watch them several times in fact! It really works wonders. It’s also a good time to catch up with the family movies you didn’t watch in the past few years because you were “too old”. This time it’s for language-learning purposes, so you have a good excuse! (I’ve got to watch Beauty and the Beast again.)
LEVEL 3: Dubbed Material
Dubbed movies and television shows can be used as a transition to original material in your new language. Dubbed content tends to be easier to understand because there is often less mumbling and muttering from the studio actors. Another reason why they are often easier to understand is that the language used is often standardized. There’s less regionalism and specific accents, because they appeal to larger worldwide audiences.
Another great advantage of dubbed material is that you can watch movies you are already familiar with. You may have to get used to Leonardo DiCaprio’s new French voice, but since you’ve seen the movie in English before, it will help you understand and learn several new words. There are obviously lots of different types of dubbed movies, so the difficulty level will vary. You can watch the trailer to see if the story seems to be adequate for your current level. Some movies are hard to understand even in English; you might want to avoid those until you reach a higher level.
LEVEL 4: Original Material
Watching movies and television shows in their original language is by far the most challenging level. Translated material is usually well-spoken with proper diction and articulation. However, this is not always the way people talk in real life. If you watch movies and television shows in their original form, you will see a big difference. The speech is lightning fast, contractions are used regularly and there’s a lot of mumbling and muttering.
When you learn a language, you are taught the correct and proper way to speak. As you become more advanced, you’ll soon realize that native speakers don’t always obey the rules. They will skip words and syllables, and say thing that are not grammatically correct. How often have you heard “where you at ” instead of “where are you”? Everything is more native-like in original material. In upcoming posts, we will give you ideas of original content that you can watch.
Reaching this level is absolutely amazing. You are finally at a point where you’ll enjoy material that you would not have been able to watch before. You’ll learn about the culture, slang, regional accents, insults and swear words. You’ll also discover the way people interact with each other, interesting hand gestures, and exotic filming locations. It’s a whole new experience and it’s fantastic. Learning a language can be difficult sometimes, but if you surround yourself with learning material you enjoy and progressively increase the difficulty, progress is inevitable.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with your friends by using one the social links below. If you are looking for a language-learning method to improve your foreign movie watching skills, check out our website at Ouino.com. Thanks a lot! Until next time!
Image Attribution of LeonardoDiCaprioNov08.jpg used and modified in this video: Colin Chou [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. All rights to their respective owners. Some images used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes. Sesame Street graphics created by JoniGodoy and taken from deviantart.com.
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