Does watching movies in another language help you learn?

Does watching movies in another language help you learn?

Learning a language is such an amazing adventure. And learning a language with films is a great way to have fun in the process. Therefore, if you want to add movies to your language program, we have compiled some advice and practical exercises for you in this article.

You might not know this, but watching movies is a great way to learn a language. This is so, for a variety of reasons:

  • Films generate great interest in students as the activity is perceived by the students as fun and entertaining. A good movie creates positive e motions and therefore motivation.
  • The advantage of watching a movie for learning a language is undoubtedly the aid of the pictures associated with the words and the storytelling.
  • The context and the story allow students to anticipate the subject matter, the possible consequences, and the story development.
  • Contemporary movies offer rich authentic content. The language is the ‘real’ language used every day, it is pronounced in an authentic way. Movies allow exposure to regional accents as well as ‘posh’ or ‘working class’ accents and language. Films also offer a window on the culture, habit and values of the society in question.

Therefore, considering how useful watching movies is for language learning, how can you use these as a student?

Watching an entire movie without guidance is usually appropriate for a student who has already achieved at least a B2+ level, so from a good intermediate to upper intermediate level. However, that does not mean that a student at any level cannot use movies or video material already and independently.

There are infinite ways to work on your language skills with a movie, we have listed a few that worked for us in our classes and for our students. You will easily be able to reproduce these at home, just remember that the key component of efficient learning is MOTIVATION.

Some questions you should ask yourself before you chose a movie to work on

  • What kind of movie do I like in my own language? If you don’t like horror movies don’t watch it in your target language, it’s as simple as that.
  • What topics am I willing to learn about? Carefully chose the topics according to your level and watch several movies about the same topic, repetition is key!
  • What is my mood? Am I too tired to take notes and just want to relax, or am I in a mood to be challenged?

In each of these cases you will choose subtitles accordingly:

Table to help you know when and how to use subtitles

At the end of this article you will find a few suggestions for Italian and French movies you could watch based upon your level.

Do you know your level of Italian? Take your test here.

Here are some exercises in detail that you can practise with today :

Are you a complete beginner?

Start with movie trailers and try this technique:

  • Mute your trailer and watch the clip once without subtitles. In fact, this first technique does not require subtitles until the last stage. After the first watch, say briefly aloud, to yourself, what you think the story is about. This does not have to be accurate as it is your first encounter with the film. So, don’t be afraid of making assumptions.
  • Now watch again with the sound. Can you add any further information?
  • Watch the trailer again. This time make a note of 2-3 words that you think are key to understand the plot. If you are unsure of their meaning, look them up.
  • Watch one last time with the subtitles. Were your assumptions correct?

This exercise will help you work on several skills: body language in your target language, express yourself out loud, start thinking in your target language to connect information; in addition, this technique is easily replicated at home and can be incorporated into your learning routine.

Are you an intermediate / advanced learner ?

First exercise:

First watch the full movie (if you have time) and choose a dialog you liked or got you confused. If you don’t have time, just randomly search “target language + movie excerpt” on youtube and choose one that motivates you (don’t spend hours doing this, it’s called procrastination 😉 ).

  • Watch the clip once without subtitles, with the audio on. After completing the first watch, ask yourself: can I identify the main characters? Where are they? What are they doing? What can I say about their relationship? Are they being formal or informal? And what about their body language? Are they happy, angry, nervous, sad?
  • Watch again and pay attention to the emotions expressed by the characters when relating to each other. Can you identify 2-3 key words to describe their relationship?
  • Now watch with subtitles and check if you were correct.
  • Take 2-3 words that are new for you and try to use them in sentences.

This is a great technique to improve your vocabulary and work in a focused way on your target language. As a bonus, you’ll deep dive into conversation and cultural use of the language, what a bargain!

Second exercise :

Take the same extract you worked with before.

First, be sure the extract is clearly understandable and you have checked the new vocabulary.

Choose one of the character, you will be his/her shadow.

Watch the first sentence of this character, press pause, and repeat in the exact same way, like a song; also repeat his gestures.

Do it again with the next sentence.

Record yourself with a camera or a microphone and compare your interpretation what could you change to be more similar to the character you chose? Choose ONE thing you should change (for example pronunciation of R, rhythm, etc.) and record yourself again. Do this exercise regularly.

This shadowing technique is a must to perfect your pronunciation and diction, as well as understanding the rhythm and develop some inner capabilities in your target language.

What to watch to learn French and Italian

French films you should watch according to your level

A1-A2 : La famille Bélier, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, l’Auberge Espagnole

B1-B2 : Le dîner de cons, Astérix et Obélix : mission cléopâtre, Intouchables

C1-C2 : Bienvenue chez les ch’tis, La père noël est une ordure, Un prophète

Get a list of 10 French movies that every French people know

Italian films you should watch according to your level

A1-A2 : La vita e` bella, Il postino, Pinocchio

B1-B2 : Habemus Papa, Pane e tulipani, Mediterraneo

C1-C2 : La grande bellezza, La dolce vita, Il sorpasso

Does Netflix have Italian and French films?

Yes, Netflix does feature Italian and French films and it has never been easier to use them for your learning whilst having fun.

These are a few Italian films on Netflix:

  • Il divo
  • Il capitale umano
  • La mano di Dio
  • La vita è bella
  • Perfetti sconosciuti
  • Benvenuti al sud
  • Il figlio più piccolo
  • La grande bellezza
  • L’uomo senza gravità

These are a few French films & series on Netflix:

  • Dix Pour Cent (Call my agent)
  • Family Business
  • Plan Coeur (see an exemple here)
  • Lupin
  • Patients
  • Comme des frères
  • Ensemble c’est tout
  • Un homme à la hauteur
  • Marie Francine

To conclude

If you are here, and got to the end of this article, movies are definitely your thing. The good news is you can use this passion of yours as a way for you to improve your language skills. And of course, you can add this easily to your self-study time.

Marion and Laura’s belief is that learning a language can be great fun. And this is definitely the case when you use movies.

The techniques described above are only a few of those used in their classes. Try these ones to start with and get in touch to let them know how you got on.

If you feel that you need more guidance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Marion (for French) or Laura (for Italian) as they are using movies in their classes regularly and Marion even hosts a Ciné-Club for French Language Learners.

About the authors

Laura Scaramella, Head of Parla Italiano : Laura is a teacher and teacher trainer with over 15-years experience in teaching Italian to adults. In 2006, Laura established her boutique school of Italian, Parla Italiano. Her principles in teaching are based on using authentic material, such as movies, articles, song as much as possible, teaching the ‘real’ language that student are able to use straight away. Parla Italiano offers high quality courses of Italian language at all levels, offers a conversation club and a book club. For more information

Marion, CEO of Clap Français : Graduated with Master on Cinema Technics, she is now fully teaching her mother tong : French; She learned 2 languages by herself and can speak fluently English and Portuguese. She is currently learning Russian, Slovenian and Spanish. Her academy Clap Français is teaching French to foreigners using mostly films materials. Clap Français is also hosting a Ciné-Club for French Language Learners twice a month : a place to discuss French movies and practice speaking skills. For more information

Laisser un commentaire

Besoin d'aide par ici ? 🙂