Lights, Camera, Action! – Learning English with Movies and TV
Want to know something I truly love? TV! Movies! I must confess this is a minor obsession for me, so I’m relieved (phew!) that I can finally do something useful with this fun little habit of mine. And if you’re an English student, so can you.
I’d like to share a few tips on how you can make TV and movie watching a real tool on your journey towards mastering English.
First, find a show or movie you really enjoy. Don’t force yourself to sit through anything that doesn’t hold your attention. Life is much too short for that! (See below for some of my absolute faves!)
Second, don’t hesitate to put the subtitles on. The characters on the screen are not going to slow down for you, which means you could end up missing the entire plot. How is that useful? If, after a few minutes, you don’t understand 40- 60% of what is going on, I suggest you watch and listen to the piece with subtitles on. English ones! If you’re still struggling, then try watching with subtitles turned on in your native language.
Then, after you’ve watched it all the way through, start again. This time with the subtitles off. Since you’ve already seen it once, you’ll be able to catch so much more, and all the vocabulary you don’t know yet won’t stop you from understanding the story.
And, what about all those new words and expressions you’re hearing? There’s no need to get stressed out. This is actually a perfect learning opportunity. First, don’t go running to your dictionary. Just stay focused on what’s happening in the scene and try to work out the general meaning of the word, phrasal verb, or expression from the context. Let your inner Sherlock Holmes take over.
Take this example. A young girl comes running into her home with a piece of paper in her hand and a huge smile on her face and says to her mom, “Hey, I passed with flying colors!” Now, if you think that this idiom means she did really well on a test, you’re correct!
What if the same girl comes slowly into the room with a look of complete despair (sadness) and says to her friend, “I can’t believe I bombed the exam.” What could “bomb” mean here? If you said it is “to drop weapons of destruction on a building or city in wartime” then you’re not paying attention to the context. (to bomb something- to fail at something)
Also, while watching your show or movie, make sure you stop once in a while to summarize what’s going on. Who are the characters? A doctor, a police officer, a little lonely alien stuck on planet Earth who is trying to get home? How are they related to each other? Siblings, spouses, enemies, neighbors? Who is in trouble and why? What might happen next? Of course, this is easier and more fun to do if you’re watching with a friend, but you can do it alone too.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, have fun. Make some popcorn, get cozy on the couch and pick a movie or TV show that you love. Learning a language can sometimes be tough, so take the time to enjoy it when you can.
If you don’t know where to start, here are some of my faves:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Little Miss Sunshine
Life Is Beautiful
Orange Is The New Black
Game of Thrones (for Advanced to High Advanced students)
The Dragon’s Den
My list is quite short, so I’m hoping you can help me by adding your favorite show in the comment section. I’d love to hear what’s got you hooked! (hooked on something- addicted to something)