Home > Hobbies n Interests, Recommended For Students, Recommended For Teachers > ARE YOU (STILL) WASTING YOUR TIME WATCHING FOREIGN LANGUAGE MOVIES TO TRAIN YOUR FLUENCY?


Good English

It’s a new year term here in Indonesia (actually, it was started on last Monday and this week they are having 2 weeks of holiday before they come back to their class on August 4th). So, every student is in their new class today and their “level” of English will be one level higher, yeah!!! 🙂

Well, by the way, how many methods have you applied to boost your / your student’s English skills? And, which method you enjoy most? Pardon? Watching English movies? That’s awesome! I love it too. And really, watching English movies to boost our English skills is pretty helpful. I often get new sentences for particular condition, new expressions to express feelings, and even bad languages! But really, watching English movies always give me new experience and I am sure it works on you too. Am I right?

But wait, I heard that some people couldn’t agree with our joy of watching English movies. They said that watching English movies can’t really help us to improve our English skills, especially speaking. Does it sound mad? Why there is always opponent for a good learning method? Let’s get some thoughts.

Warning: Because this article was summarized from http://www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com/watching-movies-for-language-learning/ (with some words/phrases/sentences addition and deletion), you may find that you can’t accept the explanations. I suggest you to read the original text there.

Why don’t watch movie?

Interactions. Movie is not interactive. You’ll passively learn and your speaking skill will improve far slower than those who interacted with the real person. Moreover, when you are watching movie with the subtitles on, what you are actually doing is reading. OK, you can still hear the language being spoken, but it’s not the focused listening you thought it was. In brief, watching a movie is a passive experience with no interaction. Agree?

You are not really listening and you can’t focus. Maybe you can still hear the language being spoken. But, when the subtitle is on, what you are actually doing is reading. And movies are long. Are you really listening and paying attention to the whole dialogues? I bet you are not. During the movies, you are probably trying to spend a lot of time more focused on the subtitles and the story line. And, what other things would you spend during the movies without trying other things?

The language level is way too high for you to understand most of what goes on. If you are a newbie, watching a long movie will not be much effective since what you really need is a language in your “level”. Improving in a language requires you to be able to notice interesting features of the language from the people are saying. So, what you are really needed is a language that slightly above your current level. In fact, a movie (especially the long one) is usually too high for you to understand. You may rely on a dictionary, but how effective is it for you? And because movies are long, it’s really not effective to be applied in the classroom. If you plan to use video materials to help you to improve your / your students’ English skills, you can use short videos such as from http://twominenglish.com/. Short videos can be easily replayed and they often more practical for daily use.

But, isn’t there any benefit at all?

You might still disbelieve that movie is unhelpful. You might still so sure that spending hours to watch movies will give you benefits and your language will improve. But really, I myself do believe that movies are still helpful. Sometimes.

There are some good reasons for watching movies as a beginner in English:

  1. You might notice certain words and phrases that crop often, and it’s good. It will increase your exposure to the language. You’ll get used to the sounds and rhythms of the language.
  2. It helps to consolidate language that you have been learning elsewhere. For example, if you have learned a word or phrase in a textbook and hear it later in a movie, that might help it to stick.

But I am going to keep watching movies.

Of course. Me, too. But, if I were you, I will take some smarter approach than only watching movies. At any stage in learning English it’s important to spend our time to work on a good balance of the four skills. But when we are still a beginner, we must have specific concerns such as building our vocabulary (and commonly used words and phrases). And for this, we need materials that are not only at a level we can understand, but that give us the chance to explore the language in intimate detail. This means using fairly short texts that you can go over multiple times (read it more here: http://www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com/attacking-language-dialogues/), and ideally with the option of both reading and listening. And then keep repeating all of the above for some time as your vocabulary grows and your knowledge of how to use it improves. This is what will lead you towards becoming fluent.

What makes some language learners more successful than others? Ultimately, how you use your time is what will lead you to fluency or not. It’s all about “the balance”. If you are going to keep watching-movies habit, it’s better for you to:

  1. Watch the same movie over and over, rather than a new one. Or, try to find movies that you’ve already seen, but dubbed in English. The repetition will help you to notice the language and because the story line has been known, so you can be more focused on the language, not on “how’s the story going?” or something else.
  2. Repeat aloud words/phrases/sentences you understand.
  3. Turn off the subtitles, because it will be the biggest distraction on noticing new things in the language. If you prefer to turn the subtitle on, use English subtitle, not the subtitle on your mother-tongue language.

So, how have movies been working for you in your language learning ambitions?

  1. September 2, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Quite true. Watching movies is fun. And maybe we can pick up a word/expression or two along the way. But mastering a language takes much much more than that. We need to use it (speaking, writing, reading, listening) again and again and again.

    There is noway watching soccer every night (be it Barclays Premier League, Champion League or whatever) will make us another Lionel Messi or CR7. To ever be able to play soccer, one needs to go outside and start kicking. 🙂

    • September 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Exactly. I spent almost more than 8 years to learn “the basic” of English at school and college without knowing how to speak. But I didn’t know how I could finally “speak” quite fluently in 1 month only: through intensive debate training. I faced my sparing-partner friends, my teachers, even my trainers.

      Reading an English book, finishing all tasks in my “homework book”, didn’t give me anything but depressed mind, where a question often come: when will I master this language? 😀

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