Learning a Foreign Language with Movies

Person Watching a Movie

There is no denying the fact that listening comprehension is a crucial part of language learning. You may be able to speak Queen’s English, but if you do not understand your interlocutor, the conversation is bound to wane quickly.

Watching movies can help you immerse in the foreign atmosphere without leaving your bedroom. It is especially helpful for students who can hardly afford an expensive trip to another country. There is no need to feel disadvantaged anymore as the Internet has you covered.

However, one needs to be smart when trying this method of language learning. Your efforts have to be deliberate and goal-oriented. Simply watching a film without an exact strategy in mind is a waste of time.

How to Choose a Movie?

First of all, it is critical to estimate your level and the movie’s difficulty accurately. It is generally recommended not to start this practice until you reach at least a B1 and preferably B2 stage (upper intermediate or advanced).

Of course, there are miscellaneous adapted videos which you can watch on beginning levels. However, it is better not to attempt the original non-adapted versions as it can lead to frustration, disappointment and even abandonment of the language.

So, before embarking on a movie journey, read its description. Select a genre you find most enjoyable. For instance, if you choose thriller, while in reality preferring romance, it will be hard for you to stay focused on the plot till the end.

Is It Okay to Watch Series?

Absolutely! It is even better as series tend to be shorter which will provide you with a regular sense of accomplishment. Moreover, being engaged in the story and wanting to know what happens next is the best motivator to watch a film in a different language.

Being familiar with the protagonists and the setting can also make it easier to perceive the words from the context. It will make you more comfortable and confident, which is rather conducive to learning.

Moreover, TV series tend to have more dialogues and conversational words, which is what you need to become a good speaker.

Should I Turn on Subtitles?

Yes. Even if you are near native, there is still a chance that you miss some interesting word or expression, so, why risk it? The whole point of watching a movie is not to reaffirm your proficiency, but to spot weak points and learn something new.

It is more beneficial to have them in a foreign language. This way you can really enrich your vocabulary, and not just understand what is going on. However, if your level is not high enough, researchers suggest turning on the captions in your own language. This way you will not be discouraged from watching because of too scarce vocabulary.

Of course, it is really helpful to watch movies, especially the ones about daily lives, to brush up your lexicon and become more eloquent. However, at the initial stages it is good enough to listen to the foreign speech to develop correct pronunciation patterns.

Is It Crucial to Watch a Film in One Go?

No, it is not. You can separate a movie or an episode into shorter sections to make the experience less strenuous and more productive.

It is obvious that it is very disheartening to have hundreds of words written down after just one session. Even if you are diligent enough to learn them all, they are not going to stick for long, as your brain physically cannot absorb so much information in one sitting effectively.

Therefore, watch for 10-30 minutes, depending on your level and the difficulty of the chosen movie. Write down the unknown words and practice them later in the context throughout the week. Try to imbue them in your essays or conversations with native speakers. It is not about the quantity, but the quality.

How to Organize It?

First of all, get yourself a movie. The best source for English is of course Netflix, which offers thousands of films in all genres with subtitles. However, there are many videos to be found on Youtube and various language-learning websites, they are just a click away.

Secondly, find a quiet spot. It is hard to understand a different tongue without any distractions, but it will be simply impossible if you stay somewhere rowdy. If it is too loud in your room, go to the library. It is also better to use ear buds as the outside noise can also be detrimental to your understanding.

Finally, pick a movie you saw before. Being familiar with the plot can go a long way in helping you fill in the gaps in the plot as you would already know the context. Just get yourself comfortable (but not too comfortable), take a pen and a notebook and enjoy.


I just wanted to stress one more time the importance of adhering to “comprehensible input.” Movies can abound in idiomatic or colloquial vocabulary, and for the best result it is essential to choose a film which corresponds to your language level.

There should not be too much vocabulary for you to feel overwhelmed and simply stupid. Movies should boost your confidence, not stunt it. Therefore, you need to choose smartly and be honest about your abilities.

It has been proven that speakers who are widely exposed to such movies from the beginning find it easier to accumulate new information and speak fluently. So, do not miss out on a chance to enjoy yourself while also boosting your language skills. 

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