Learning A Language With Television And Movies–A Good Idea Or A Waste Of Time?
You are struggling to remember a particularly convoluted grammar concept while trying to decipher the pronunciation of a certain word when your teacher/trainer/study buddy tells you to practice some more by watching a movie or a TV show!
Isn't learning a language the way you do, enough? Why on earth would you want to add to your confusion by watching something that almost sounds like gibberish to your untrained ears?
You couldn't possibly understand what the actors on screen are saying, let alone follow the stories.
So why should you waste your time?
Yes, it is a tough task. And yes, you might not understand a word. You will probably have to resort to making up your own conclusions about the characters and stories because you cannot follow the dialogue.
But stick with it, and you will eventually reap your reward.
How, you ask?
My Reasons To Pick Up That Remote
Texbooks, videos and other methods of learning will generally teach you the correct way to address someone, both formally and informally, but they cannot prepare you for holding a conversation in the said language without sounding too stilted.
Slang words, which many teachers and academics consider to be too informal and sometimes offensive (if used with someone you do not know well), will be nowhere in sight.
A TV show or movie, on the other hand, has no such limitations. Slang words are used quite liberally, and informal phrases that have little to no meaning when translated into your language, are sprinkled throughout the dialogues.
Take 'Verlan', for example. This type of French slang inverts the order of which syllables are found in a word. So, 'fou' (awesome/crazy) becomes 'ouf' (awesome/crazy) after inversion.
This won't be commonly taught, as the verlan language is not an official language. It is just a secret language used by teens and young people.
Learning a language means you read textbooks, watch videos, read blogs or listen to podcasts. While this is certainly enough to pass an exam, most study materials lack that tiny bit of additional knowledge that assists you in conversing with native speakers of the language without sounding like you have swallowed a textbook.
With every new dialogue spoken by the actor, you hear a new word or phrase.
So you don't know the meaning. So what?
If heard correctly, you start to understand the context in which the word/phrase is being used.
Imagine watching a telenovela (what television soaps are called in Latin America), and hearing the actor say 'Lo siento' all the time. While you might not know what it translates to (it means 'sorry', by the way), the context in which it is said (usually after the person has committed some grave mistake–it is a telenovela after all), will gradually sink in, and soon, you will be able to utilise this phrase like a pro.
As you watch the movie/TV series, you are not just hearing words or phrases; you are listening to the dialogues, speech, cadence, and pronunciation of each word. While you may not be able to reproduce all of it on demand (let's be realistic), repeated exposure to the same words or phrases over and over again will ensure that they stick in your memory, thereby allowing you recollect them when necessary.
While many insist learning using a screen comes with plenty of distractions which make concentrating on the subject difficult, they do have to agree that it will never be boring. The vibrant colour, the trendy clothes, the gripping plot lines–all of these combine to ensure you have fun while learning the language.
According to studies conducted, around 60% of the people on the planet learn better when there are visual aids. They seem to grasp concepts easily, recall things weeks later and are much more interested in learning. And there is no better visual aid than the granddaddy of visual aids–the TV screen!
You can control how you learn. Pause, play, rewind–everything is at your fingertips–all you need is motivation (and a good television subscription).
Remember, learning a language is a slow, gradual process. There are no crash courses when self-learning any language. You have to watch the movie/episode of the TV show, watch it again, then watch it a third time and try to pick up different words, then watch it yet another time–it is time-consuming–so hold on to your patience with both hands.
It would be better to learn a language using multiple methods. Watch a video on YouTube to learn pronunciation, enroll in a teaching institute to practice with teachers and trainers, and finish it up by watching at least one movie or TV show a week.
What About You?
If you had to learn a language, which mode of learning would you prefer?
© 2018 Sanjana Shukla