How to Learn a Language by Watching Films and TV Series

Learning a language solely through a textbook or while focusing only on grammar can be tiring, boring and uninspiring. Now, I’m not saying that this kind of studying shouldn’t be done, because it’s still essential. What I mean is that alternating study with moments of relaxation and fun (but equally “didactic”) activities, such as watching a film or TV series, can be very useful.

Learn Italian by watching Films and TV Series

I get so many questions on the matter…

How can I actually learn by watching films or TV series?

How much should I watch per day?

Can I use subtitles? In which language?

Do I have to pause every time I don’t understand a word?

Do I have to watch a scene again if I don’t understand the meaning of what was said?

Should I take notes during or after watching?

Completely legitimate questions! Which I have decided to answer once and for all in this article!

First of all, keep in mind that in order to make the most of these resources, you should consider your own language level. This way you can learn at your best, since each level has its own strengths and points to work on.

1. Lingopie

Before going into detail about how each person should study, according to their level, by watching films and TV series, I want to tell you about a tool that I’ve found to be very useful for this kind of learning: Lingopie, the sponsor of this video.

It’s a platform that offers a wide range of content in several foreign languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese and Korean!), aimed at anyone who’s learning one (or more) of them. 

As I said, films and TV series are a great way to support study, as they make it more dynamic and fun. Lingopie gives you the opportunity to fully immerse in their content and make the most of it in order to learn new things.

Once selected the language you’re learning, you’ll gain access to lots of content in that language, which is updated and increased every week: TV series, films, documentaries and much more!

Unlike usual streaming platforms, this one is perfect for studying! For example, it offers interactive subtitles: all you have to do is click on the word you don’t know and it’ll show its translation.

Or, you can set subtitles in two languages, for example in your mother tongue and in the original language of the video you’re watching.

Needless to say, you can adjust the speed of the video (making it run slower if you need more time to read) or you can automatically replay a sentence by clicking on the appropriate button.

On the side of the screen you can also find the transcript of what is being said: some useful words that you might not know based on your level are already underlined.

Or, you can click on any word you’re interested in learning and add it to your own flashcards

Then, you can review all the words you’ve saved via flashcards whenever you want, and test your knowledge with interactive quizzes, which (and this is very innovative in my opinion) also include pronunciation review! So the platform will give you a score based on how your pronunciation.

If you want to try Lingopie for your Italian learning (or any other foreign language), you just need to click on the link below to receive a 55% discount and the opportunity to try Lingopie for free for 7 days:

2. Beginner level

Especially at this level, you have to keep in mind that films and TV series cannot replace structured study (books, grammar, lectures), but are rather an extra support.

In order to make progress and appreciate watching even more, knowledge of grammar and language structure is essential.

A key point to focus on at this level is to keep motivation high. Because when you start to see difficulties and mistakes, there’s a risk of wanting to give up.

TV series and films help us awaken our interest and keep it high, giving us a good reason to keep studying hard: to be able, with time and practice, to follow the story even without subtitles; to be able to understand jokes and so on.

In order to study in an interactive and entertaining way, the points a beginner should work on, through watching films or TV series, are: pronunciation, “rhythm” of the language, and a few, simple words.

For example, you should try to recognise terms and expressions that you’ve encountered before and imitate their pronunciation. Perhaps pause, read the subtitles, locate the word, pronounce it several times, restart the scene and listen to how it’s pronounced by the actors, then pause again and repeat it a few times. This method is perfect for words that you think will come in handy in your life and learning path.

Lingopie offers great support in this sense, because it underlines useful words that are appropriate to your level, so you can check which ones you already know and which ones you need to learn.

Also, at the beginning, it’s better to choose films or series designed specifically for those who are still learning the language instead of those that are meant for native speakers.

If you wish, you could also watch children’s shows: they might be a bit boring at times, but surely the sentences and words are simpler, are pronounced more slowly and therefore can help your learning process.

Also, my suggestion is to always watch the same episode or film twice. The first time with subtitles in two languages, and the second time with subtitles only in the language you’re learning, so that you only focus on that. If you have time, you can also watch it a third time with no subtitles at all, for full immersion.

3. Intermediate level

In this case, the aim is to learn whole sentences and see how they’re used in context.

Once you’ve learned the sentence, you can then concentrate on syntax (the structure), grammar and fixed expressions, as well as some words that you don’t know yet.

At this level, you should only use subtitles in the source language, without a translation of whole sentences, to test your knowledge. If you need the translation of a single word, with platforms like Lingopie you can simply click on it and find it.

Now, depending on the amount of free time you have and how you feel, at an intermediate level you can work with films and TV series in two ways:

  • Qualitative approach → select a single scene or a small part of the film (10 minutes max.) and actively work with that: note down all the words/structures you didn’t know, then watch the same scene again and try to repeat the whole sentences with the same pronunciation, accent and intonation as the actors in the film. Now that you finally know everything that is being said, you can watch the scene again for the last time without subtitles just to appreciate it in its entirety.
  • Quantitative approach → it’s a more relaxed but also more “immersive” way of watching, perfect for when you’re tired and don’t feel like writing or speaking: choose the content you want to watch, start it up, and watch it without dwelling too much on the details, without interrupting the video too often, concentrating only on grasping the general sense of what you’re watching.

Another exercise you can do is to talking to yourself, in a foreign language, about what you’ve just seen/what has just happened in the scene, even when you didn’t understand it perfectly.

In this way, you’ll get used to telling in your own words and discussing films, should you have to do so with other people.

Even if you don’t remember the exact words, you can explain what you mean with a sentence describing them.

4. Advanced level

If you’re at this level, then you certainly can understand almost everything that is said and happens in the film or TV series.

The goal here is “immersion” and the assimilation of more specific, niche vocabulary, as well as colloquial expressions, idioms and jokes to speak like a true native speaker.

At this stage, you should turn off subtitles completely and finally enjoy the film or series to the fullest.

At this level you can also try “shadowing“, the technique I mentioned in the intermediate level. Of course, it’s up to you to make things more complicated by choosing films, and even scenes and dialogues, that are more complex!

The trick of talking to yourself about what you’ve seen is still valid, perhaps you can also record yourself. At this level, if you listen to your recording, you should be able to find the mistakes you made and correct them!

Did you know these tricks? Now it’s up to you to put them into practice!

Did you know these tricks? Now it’s your turn to put them into practice! And don’t forget to discover the most interesting facts of the Italian regions: very useful if you’re thinking of traveling to Italy!

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