Have you ever thought about watching a TV series in its original language to try to learn something from it? Nowadays, more and more people take advantage of how easy it is to watch TV however and whenever we want and try to learn a language while doing so. In fact, there are studies that show that we learn more (and better) if we also have fun.
We aren’t saying you will learn a new language overnight by just watching TV, without ever having attended a lesson or opened a book; but we can say, with no mistake, that it is very helpful, as well as listening to music or reading books. A language is not just a bunch of grammar rules and an endless glossary; it also has its own life, evolves with society and contains much more than what you’ll find in class-books. Therefore, if you don´t have the chance to talk with native people in your daily life or go abroad to learn, TV series and movies can be a great help bringing a new language straight to your living room. If you’re thinking about it, here are 10 tips to learn languages by watching TV:
- Choose the correct TV series
The first and most important thing is to choose the right TV series so you can really learn. Look for characters who speak about daily events using “natural” language. A series about dragons or medieval wars may have a lexicon that you will not understand or be interested in learning. It is important to know your command of the language so you can find a series that you understand but requires an effort to be able to learn something new. If you start with crime fiction, or a series with very technical vocabulary, you probably won´t understand anything at all and give up soon. You should also keep accents in mind, since it´s not the same to watch a Spanish or a Mexican series, just like British and American series are very different.
- The length of each episode matters
Do not start with series with very long episodes, or you’ll get tired easily. Start with simple series with approximately 20-minute episodes; these will make it easier for you to meet your goals and understand a whole episode without giving up.
- Have everything you need by your side
It´s important to have some material on hand if you want to improve your understanding. Take that old dictionary you have at home to the couch to look up words or phrases that you don´t understand and a notebook to write them down, because chances are they will be repeated frequently during the series. It is also important to keep your remote by your side so you can rewind when you don´t understand something, instead of letting it pass.
- You will need to be focused
Don´t think it will be like watching any fo the series you watch ordinarily, it will demand much more effort. If you want to watch a series while checking your twitter account or flipping through a magazine, let me tell you something: that won´t work. Keep in mind that the purpose is to learn and although it can be fun, it also requires a certain amount of effort.
- Give yourself time
Don´t feel overwhelmed. You will probably find it difficult to follow the plot or understand the language for the first few minutes or even the first episodes, but you have to give yourself time to get used to the language or the accents, or both. Don´t give up at the first chance.
- Turn on original subtitles
Even if you are tempted to set the subtitles to your native language, don´t. You will end up paying no attention to the sound and find yourself only reading the screen. Another problem is that sometimes the translations are not very accurate (read the post: Audiovisual translation, a race against time) and you will get very confused. It is also not the best idea to turn off the subtitles. The best thing is to set them to the language of the audio so you can hear and see the same language. This will help a lot to learn the words you don´t understand very well and will also help to teach you how they are written.
- Start with series that you are already familiar with
If your command of the language is low, the best thing you can do is to start with series that you already know. A good option are comedies with 20-minute long episodes. Even if you already know what’s going to happen next you won´t get bored because that’s not really important and it is not essential to follow the plot from one episode to another.
- Music always helps
If you are doubting between two series and one of them has songs, go for it. Music is a good ally of memory and helps us remember phrases, since we keep them on our mind much longer.
- Look for series you can easily watch
Take the resources you have into account and choose a series that is easy for you to watch. If you are subscribed to Netflix, HBO or any other platform, take advantage of them and choose one of the series they offer or a television channel that carries interesting series. Don´t let the difficulty of getting them be an excuse later.
- Don´t forget about traditional learning
You will always learn much more if you reinforce watching series with traditional study methods. Series will improve your understanding of the spoken language, but it is also important to learn to write the language and, above all, to learn to speak the lnaguage freely, even with mistakes. You have many options, from signing up to classes to joining an informal group to practice oral skills, or simply taking notes and looking up definitions, reviewing glossaries or studying on your own.