Five Tips for Using Movies to Help Learn a New Language

Using movies for language learning

Almost everyone loves movies. From action and adventure seekers to comedy or animated movies, romance and westerns, there is a genre for you. You can follow the exploits of Indiana Jones and his quest for ancient treasures or a pair of robots making their way through the galaxy. You can enjoy an emotional love story or split up laughing at a variety of antics from men or animals alike. You can also use movies to help you learn a foreign language. Here are five tips to get started.

Tip 1 Try to imitate Select a character from the movie that you identify with; the handsome and daring hero or the pretty and flirtatious maiden in distress. Perhaps the secondary characters are more to your liking; the funny one, a cheeky father-in-law or a naughty young man Pick one, then practice speaking your lines in a scene or segment of the movie. Be sure to match the accent, tone, and expressions as closely as possible.

Tip 2 Use a movie DVD The most useful format for you will probably be one that allows you to stop, start, and repeat segments of the movie’s dialogue at will. If you don’t understand a sentence or phrase, stop, step back, and listen again. Do this repeatedly until your brain kicks in and “gets it” or try asking a friend, teacher, or native speaker for help if necessary. Using a DVD for this is less risky than using tape. Celluloid tape can ultimately develop wear and tear if a section is repeatedly rewound and played over and over again.

Tip 3 Use a scene or short segment Rather than trying to “make” an entire movie for practice, why not select a dramatic scene with lots of dialogue spoken by the character you are imitating? It will be much faster to repeat, easier to memorize, and easier to practice. You can try setting up the scene yourself, adding dialogue, asking questions, and even taking on the roles of other characters in the scene. Once you’ve “mastered” a scene, review and choose another from the movie. Then repeat the process to practice more. There may well be two, three, or even more scenes that can inspire you to practice frequently and help you learn your new language even faster.

Tip 4 Listen and repeat Remember that your technique can be simple, just listen and repeat. If you really want to take the process further, mimic your character’s body language, gestures, and movements as well. It is important that the timing, rhythm and intonation are as close to the original as possible. The rhythm of language with speed, pause and key is often well illustrated when using movies for language learning purposes. You should try to imitate the actions, gestures and speech of the character as closely as possible to achieve the maximum language learning effect.

Tip 5 First be him, then be her Practice being different characters to help complete your foreign language speaking skills. If you are male, don’t worry about practicing female characters. If you are a woman, do not neglect the practice of male speaking roles. In many film genres, there are scenes that involve extensive dialogue between a man and a woman. These can be especially useful for their rich dialogue content. First be him for multiple practice sessions, then be her for a few more practice sessions. Soap operas are particularly good at this and generally contain dramatic content to enhance dialogue. No slapping, fistfighting, catfighting, or violence, please!

Use movies for foreign language practice

Regardless of how you decide to go about it, using movies for language practice is a great way to deepen your cultural awareness, improve your use of idioms, expressions, and vocabulary in context. It’s also a great way to improve your listening and listening skills overall. These five tips can help you get started on the next movie you decide to watch.

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