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Learning A Language With Television And Movies–A Good Idea Or A Waste Of Time?

Updated on January 30, 2018
Sanjana Shukla profile image

As a content writer and a couch potato, this article combines two of my favourite things. Let me know what you think.


Picture This:

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!

What! Why?
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.

On a fait un truc d'ouf hier! (We did something crazy awesome yesterday!)
On a fait un truc d'ouf hier! (We did something crazy awesome yesterday!) | Source
  • 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.

Fed up with black-and-white? Choose colour!
Fed up with black-and-white? Choose colour! | Source
  • 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).

Pause, play, rewind–and choose subtitles. Or not.
Pause, play, rewind–and choose subtitles. Or not. | Source

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?

See results

© 2018 Sanjana Shukla


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    • Sanjana Shukla profile imageAUTHOR

      Sanjana Shukla 

      10 months ago from Mumbai, India

      I think you cannot learn a language simply by watching a movie or listening to music. A combination of different modes of learning seems to have been more effective for me. That said, I think you should try out different methods of learning (virtual training, app-based learning, television,/movies or music), and stick with whichever one(s) helps you best.

    • Nilufar Inoyatova profile image

      Айгуль Раззакова 

      10 months ago

      I strongly agree with your article and i want to add my own idea. If you know nowadays there are a lot of ways of learning foreign languages and i think the best way is by watching tv shows, movies and so on. In my point of view before watching english film or another foreign movie, person should watch this film in his mother tongue then watch in foreign language because it is more effective way for understanding what this movie about, what actors talk about, their pronunciations and gestures . Also for beginners movies or shows should consist of subtitles in order to read and understand exactly. If there are subtitles you can easily understand if not you can stop and reread or make some notes. For instance my friend studied the english language from movies and tv shows with subtitles at home and now he has not perfect but better speech and pronunciation than me. Moreover, listen to foreign music and read its text and sing with singer helps to improve pronunciation, understand slangs and somehow to write some abbreviations. What do you think by watching foreign movies or shows, can we learn to speak? Or should we find another way for speaking? If you know some effective ways, share with us please. Thank you for your attention.

    • JanisaChatte profile image


      11 months ago from Earth

      A good suggestion is also kids' cartoons. The vocab is simpler and the episodes tend to be shorter


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