I’ve written a post about how I don’t think that using film or television to learn a language is an effective means to go about it unless you already have a basic to intermediate foundation in the language.
In defense of using television to aid in language learning:
+ Television shows and movies can teach you a lot about the culture that is tied to your language
I think one of the best ways to fall in love with a language is to fall in love with the culture and television/movies from that region give you a great window into the culture without you having to actually travel to the country (ideal but not always affordable).
At the beginning, it’s sometimes easier to watch some of our favorite movies in our target language rather than foreign films. And although it’s fun and even beneficial to watch films you’re already familiar with in your target language, be sure to incorporate foreign films into your study time so that you get a bit of context.
+ Television shows use recurring vocabulary and so they help can with retention
This occurs less so with films, but with television shows, characters speak certain and consistent ways and there are themes that persist throughout a television series. This recurring vocabulary can really help make the language “stick” and you can pick up quite a few expressions this way.
+ TV and Movies give a good idea of how the language sounds in context
It’s one thing to go through audio lessons where the words and dialogues are said slowly and clearly, but the truth is, most people don’t speak this way in the real world. Through television and movies you’ll get a pretty good idea as to how people actually speak and how far you are from really understanding fully (or even partially).
If you plan on supplementing your language learning with film or television, be sure to actively watch and listen. If you’re spending your time reading the subtitles and not really listening, you’ll miss out on a really great learning opportunity. Try watching without the subtitles to see how much you understand. If you really need subtitles, try watching the movie with the subtitles in the target language. If that’s still too advanced, that’s okay. But try to push yourself before you settle for your native language subtitles.
The other thing you may need to consider is whether or not the vocabulary and conversation in the movie or television show you’re watching are way above your level. This article has a few great tips on how to pick the best foreign language movie/tv show for your level and how to get the most of incorporating this method into your language study strategies.
Things I’ve Learned Watching Mandarin Language Television
As I mentioned in my last language update, I’ve been watching Taiwanese television shows and movies to improve my comprehension. I love some of the new phrases and expressions I’ve picked up because many of the textbooks and resources I use don’t include many of them. Books often focus on the “correct” way to speak rather than the way the language is actually spoken by natives.
Here are a few things I’ve learned watching movies in Mandarin:
Hello/Hey – 喂 – wèi
This is a really informal way to say “hey,” but it’s also how to say “hello” when you answer the phone. The protagonist in “Palace” says this a ton.
Idiot – 笨蛋 – bèn dàn
An insult thrown out every so often. Hopefully this one isn’t too offensive.
Excuse Me – 对不起 – Duì bù qǐ
I heard this one a good number of times in the “Rush Hour” movies. It was often when someone would interrupt a conversation or when someone would attempt to pass on a piece of news to one of the villains and needed to excuse their presence (if that makes sense). It was along the lines of “Excuse me but there’s someone suspicious downstairs. Just thought I should warn you.”
Drink Up! – 喝啊！ – Hē a!
Cheers! – Gānbēi! – 干杯
I saw (or I should say “heard”) this one in “Love.”
Whatever – Suí biàn – 随便
I actually didn’t learn this from a movie, I learned it from my roommates in Ireland, but I thought I’d include it here anyway.
What about you? Do you like watching foreign films? Have they helped you with your language learning?