The best thing about learning foreign languages in 2021 is that you never have to restrict yourself to the classroom. We are now surrounded by amazing tools that can help us become more proficient learners in just about any field we wish, and that is certainly true when it comes to learning another language. One of the best tools you can employ is the ubiquitous film industry that exists within just about every culture and nation on the planet. In today’s blog, we’ll be looking at all the ways in which movies can help you learn a foreign language.
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While it’s true that some movie genres are characterized by the somewhat melodramatic and unnatural use of language, the majority of films use common, relatable everyday settings and situations in which people form dialog that demonstrates natural use of your target language.
It’s one thing to read purposefully written dialog in your language textbook, all of which is designed and shaped to reinforce a particular teaching point, but it’s another altogether to watch it play out between speakers on the screen. The script wasn’t written for the purposes of teaching language, thus it gives you the opportunity to see your target language used more naturally.
A film will invariably contain multiple cast members, all of whom typically speak with slightly different voices: cadence, pitch, speed, accent and more. This means you get a great opportunity to see your target language being spoken in different ways. The more different voices in which you hear that language, the sharper your listening skills can become.
A common trap language learners who rely on common textbooks and audio materials fall into is that they grow accustomed only to hearing the language in a very small number of very standard voices. A movie presents another more natural and varied assortment of voices to grow your auditory repertoire.
Besides there being varied voices among the cast members, movies will also offer a smorgasbord of different language types depending on what kind of vocabulary you want to hear in action. Science fiction movies widen your vocabulary to the realms of the hard sciences; romance movies may teach you how to speak more seductively; comedy movies will demonstrate how humor is best presented in that language...the list goes on.
With a full list of genres and a continuous stream of titles being created year on year, there’s no end to the amount you can learn from each movie. You can even match movie titles with content you are learning with your native speaker teacher, or ask them for recommendations on titles that will help you better understand content in your lessons.
Another great feature of the movie world is subtitles. No, we don’t mean turn on the subtitles in your own language, because that would just be cheating. Films in most languages come with subtitles of that film in the language in which it’s made. Don’t forget that subtitles are also there for those with impaired hearing so that they can enjoy their own culture’s productions!
You can use the subtitles in your target language to your great advantage. First, you can simultaneously increase your reading skills in that language while watching any film. People underestimate the power of subtitles to teach reading. Not only do you have to read and understand what the subtitles say, but you usually also have to do it at speed in order to keep up with the movie.
Another way subtitles benefit you is in the way they clarify how sentences are built and how to use vocabulary and grammatical structures. If you hear the sentences spoken naturally along with the subtitles’ reinforcement, it can greatly improve your comprehension of the fundamentals of that target language.
Vocabulary and Grammar Recognition
Linked to the above point is a broader point about vocabulary and grammar recognition. Whether you use the subtitles or not, a movie takes those lists of vocabulary and pages of grammar notes that you’ve been making and turns them into linguistic realities. This is the best kind of reinforcement, when you can see knowledge that you’ve noted down used in a non-teaching context. It helps prove that the words are real, correct and useful.
The more words we learn without hearing them used by native speakers, the more we can start to become skeptical and filled with self-doubt. Movies are a terrific way to reinforce our learning and realize that what we are learning has value.
Conclusion: Lights, Camera, Action
Therefore, dim the lights, get your popcorn ready and throw up as many movies as you can onto your screens. There’s virtually no limit to how much they can ultimately benefit you in your language learning journey.
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