Learning a language through film

Some people can learn more quickly from reading in their target language, others from hearing it. Probably the best technique includes learning from both reading, speaking and hearing, since you use different parts of the brain for different activities. It’s quite common for students who have reached an advanced level of study in foreign languages to have difficulties in carrying out a simple conversation.

Especially if you are a beginning language learner, you will likely not understand much of the language when watching a movie. Native speakers talk rapidly, use slang, and often speak in accents or local dialects. Nonetheless, watching a foreign language film is a fantastic way to attune your ear to the sounds of the language. You’ll probably notice that by the end of the film, you’re able to understand bits and pieces of what you hear. Gather your friends together, make some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the adventure!

Movies with or without subtitles are a great way to hear the natural sounds of a language. You can close your eyes and listen or read subtitles to see how the translation differs from the original. If you have a DVD of the movie then you will have the opportunity to watch a few times, first with and then without subtitles, and you will be amazed at how much your comprehension improves.

Another important factor with modern foreign movies is the cultural insights you will have into another country and way of life.  Especially for people planning on visiting or working in another country and culture, you will be able to see the way people behave in different situations, and will be able to bridge the distance that separates you from the other culture.

Visit your local movie rental store and browse the foreign film section. Most films will be in the foreign language with English subtitles. Some university libraries have foreign videos that you can check out. Another alternative is to join an online DVD subscription service. Netflix has over 3500 foreign films available for rent—by far more than any other rental service. And some of the films are even available for download, so you can view them immediately upon joining Netflix .

Here is a short list of some recommendations from our teachers of good movies to watch in different languages.

French L’Auberge Espagnol (The Spanish Hostel)
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
Le scaphandre et le papillon (The diving bell and the butterfly)
Italian Il Postino (The Postman)
La vita è bella (Life is beautiful)
German Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run)
Das Leben der Anderen (The lives of others)
Spanish Diarios de Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries)
Cantonese Gong Fu (Kung Fu Hustle)
Mou gaan dou (Infernal Affairs – and the movie ‘The Departed’ was based on this)
Portuguese Cidade de deus (City of God)
Central do Brasil (Central Station)
Japanese Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai)
Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story)
Polish Popiol i Diament (Ashes and Diamonds)

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