English learners have a big advantage over other language learners: Hollywood is located in America and produces films in English. So if you know English and love movies, why not watch movies in English? You can have a good time, and at the same time, learn English.
Why watch movies in English?
If you are a movie lover, you may notice that they are much better in the original. Watching a dubbed movie will never be as complete as watching the original version. Why? Because in the original version, the voices of the actors are real. Everything is as the director intended.
Learning English by watching movies is learning through perception. First, you run a lot of correct English sentences through your head. Then you can play them back and build your own sentences. And isn’t that why you learn English – being able to make your own sentences? This is why watching movies (as well as reading books) is so helpful in learning English.
Of course, there are significant differences between movies and books. Together with the books, you teach how native speakers write in English. Together with the films, you learn how they speak it.
You learn what words they use. When speaking, native speakers use words and phrases that you usually don’t find in books. The spoken language is different from the “language of the book”. For example:
Book: The five dollar price was reasonable and I decided to buy it.
In conversation: It was like, five bucks, so I was like “okay”.
In many films, the dialogue is actually spoken English. Movies will also allow you to learn informal and slang words not yet found in English dictionaries. For example, in the movie, you might hear: Give me those freaking keys !, but you won’t find the word freaking in the dictionary.
You learn how they say these words. Movies improve your pronunciation, not just your grammar and vocabulary. If you listen to Americans or English speakers speaking English, you can learn to speak like they do.
You learn to understand spoken language. Films are made for native speakers, not English learners. Therefore, the actors speak quickly, the way native speakers speak in real life.
How can you make learning a language as useful as possible?
Difficulty watching movies.
You won’t benefit from a movie if you don’t understand it. You probably won’t enjoy it either. 🙁
One of the big problems with films: They are much more difficult to understand than books. If you do not understand a word in a book, you can easily find its meaning in the dictionary, because the word is written (and you know how it is spelled). In a movie situation, you sometimes hear something, but you don’t know what it is. Sometimes, you can’t even make out whether you’ve heard one word or two. There are other reasons why listening is so much more difficult than reading, and they are all based on one thing: If you want to understand the film, you need to know a lot of English words – and not only how they are spelled, but also how they are pronounced.
You can greatly improve your vocabulary by reading books, looking up the meaning of words in your dictionaries, and repeating them. But even if you read 200 books in English, you still won’t understand anything! You will always come across words that you hear for the first time. And some of the dialogues will be spoken very quickly and incomprehensibly. (You should be aware that even some Americans sometimes do not understand what has been said.)
What to do if you don’t understand something.
If you are playing a movie from a cassette or disc, you can stop it where you do not understand the sentence. You can then play the sentence many times and try to find the incomprehensible words in the dictionary (which is not so easy, since you have to guess what they are spelling!).
Subtitles can be turned on on many discs. With subtitles, it is easier to find difficult words in the dictionary because you know how they are written.
What else can you do to make better use of your films? The same things you should do when reading books:
Pay attention to interesting things: new words, phrases and grammatical constructions. Use your dictionary to learn about it. You can pause the movie and watch the meanings of difficult words. You can also write down all the interesting sentences and see their meanings later. But be sure to use your dictionary!
Where can I get films in English?
Obtaining films in English can be a challenge if you do not live in an English-speaking country. Most stores only have films dubbed into the local language. Dubbed movies help people who don’t know English, but if you’re learning English, they are your worst enemies. 🙂
How can I get original versions of films? Here are some ideas you can try:
Your cable or satellite TV may have English movie channels (eg HBO is a famous channel that shows a lot of movies; unfortunately it is not free).
You can purchase discs or videotapes from specialized sites.
In some countries, there are cinemas that show films with subtitles in the local language (and non-dubbed films). It’s a good idea to watch them, especially if you can get by without subtitles. 🙂