learning French through movies

Learning Foreign Languages with Movies

Benefits of learning languages with movies and TIPS on how to do it:

Can you really learn French, Italian, Spanish, Russian or German  through movies? I think, it can be a very powerful tool and addition to your learning process for many reasons. Let's see in more details:

1. Getting a feel for the Rhythm of the Language you are Learning.

Watching foreign films helps to develop a feel for the rhythm and pace of spoken language. It is very important to train your ear from the very beginning, especially in French, where we use a lot Liaison and Enchainment, which make it difficult for a beginner to understand when one words ends and the next one begins.

2. Developing an Oral Comprehension.

Oral Comprehension might be one of the most difficult aspects of learning foreign languages. You can master grammar quite well and fast, and put sentences together without too much trouble, but when it comes to understanding someone speaking in a foreign language, at normal speed, it can be very challenging. Think about it as developing a muscle. It’s like you go to the gym to become stronger, same here, by listening more and more you will be improving your oral comprehension, there is no other way around it.

3. Authentic Way of Speaking.

No text book can keep up with new words and expressions that constantly appear in every language. The language is a living thing, it transforms, changes, grows etc. One of the best ways to keep up with all these changes is to either live in the country where this language is spoken or watch the most recent movies. And here I am not talking just about slang, profanity – although you will definitely pick up a thing or two if you watch enough crime dramasJ but also some everyday bad grammar, some references to current events and personalities. All of it combined together presents an authentic language that people are using TODAY.

Perfect example is French “Chais pas” – which is “Je ne sais pas” in proper French, menaning “I don’t know”. In conversational French, not only we skip the first part of negative “NE” but we also skip “E” in the word “JE” and the phonetic result is this real-life “Chais pas”, sounds like [ʃɛ pɑ].

4. Discover the Country.

Depending on the storyline, you might be able to learn a lot about the country of the language you are learning, different parts and regions, traditions etc.

5. Move at your Own Pace.

Moreover, watching French movies is a wonderful way to put what you have learned into practice in a relaxed environment at your own pace. If there’s something you don’t understand, you can go back, watch it again at your own pace, add subtitles, transcribe part of the dialogue, and decipher some of the phrases etc and all this at your own pace.

6. Gestures and Facial Expressions.

Yep… especially if you are learning Italian! Everyone knows that Italians can literally speak with their hands and express plenty without even opening their mouth. This is virtually impossible to describe in details in any book, once you see an Italian gesticulating in a movie, presented in the context of the storyline, you will be able to understand these gestures and hopefully also start using it.

HOW to Watch a Movie while Learning a Language

1. First of all, watch the movie WITHOUT subtitles.

The goal is to get the feel for it, understand as much as you can from the gestures, context, and vocabulary you know. If you are a beginner, then try to do this for at least 30 minutes.

2. Start working with first 10-15 min of the movie

Watch the first 10-15 min again, still without any subtitles, pausing if necessary and taking notes. If possible, write down, at least phonetically, the words you don’t understand. Try to find these words in the dictionary.

3. Add the subtitles but NOT English ones.

If you are watching a French movie, add the subtitles in French etc. Watch again same 10-15 minutes listening and also reading subtitles at the same time. Make corrections in your notes, check spelling of new words, if necessary and find remaining unknown KEY words in the dictionary.

4. Learn NEW words.

Depending on your level of proficiency, your list of new words will be a short one or quite longue. Start working on memorizing these new words as you usually do with new vocabulary. Separate article on HOW to memorize new words is coming up.

5. Watch the movie again.

Watch same 10-15 minutes you worked with before. You can repeat the same steps with the remaining part of the movie.

What Movies to Watch if you are Learning French

If you ask 10 people you will get 10 different opinions on BEST French movies. So I will give just a couple of suggestions, my absolute favorite ones, but the choice on Netflix and Amazon prime is unbelievable. Also, in my personal opinion, you can never go wrong with any movie starring Juliette Binoche, Cecile de France, Jean Dujardin, Isabelle Huppert, Marillon Cotillard or François Cluzet.

Check out OUR schedule of EVENTS as we have a number of foreign movies in the upcoming months, followed by a discussion.

At the end of the article, in the Comments, please share YOUR favorite movies in foreign languages. Merci, gracias, danke, grazie, thank you!

Here is the link to see the insane amount of all available movies in French, Italian, Spanish, German and Russian on Amazon, amazing choice! Just type "French movies" or "Italian Movies" and you will see the complete list of movies.

#1 My absolute favorite is “Dix Pour cent”, the title in English is “Call my agent”

Call my agent movie to leran FrenchI cannot tell you enough how great and wonderful and amazing and fun and witty and unpredictable this series is!!! The only problem with it is that I watched already all 3 seasons, 3 times may be… and now impatiently waiting for the new season. They are just not fast enough for me with producing the new season; this is how good it is!

This series can and should be treated as a MANUAL of modern French language. Everyone who is learning French should be watching it non-stop, seriously.

#2 “Intouchables”

Besides modern French, and all learning aspects of this movie, it is just humanly impossible not to fall in love with the story and the characters. Movie is based on a true story, the acting is sublime and the views of Paris are there for you to enjoy. Two main characters come from “two different worlds and realities” and you will have a chance to hear and compare “two different French languages”.

#3 “Herisson” (in English “The Hedgehog”)

Inspired by the beloved New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, The Hedgehog is the timely story of Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) a young girl bent on ending it all on her upcoming twelfth birthday. Using her father's old camcorder to chronicle the hypocrisy she sees in adults, Paloma begins to learn about life from the grumpy building concierge, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko). When Paloma's camera reveals the extensive secret library in Renée's back room, and that the often gruff matron reads Tolstoy to her cat, Paloma begins to understand that there are allies to be found beneath the prickliest of exteriors. As the unlikely friendship deepens, Paloma's own coming of age becomes a much less pessimistic prospect.

What Movies to Watch if you are Learning Italian

#1 “Viva la Liberta” (in English “Long lives the Freedom”)

Italian I absolutely love Italian actor Toni Servillo, so any movie you can find with Toni Servillo, you will not be disappointed.

As the national election approaches, Enrico Oliveri has plummeted in the polls and his supporters and adversaries alike begin to acknowledge his impending downfall. Unwilling to face the failure of his party and his nation, Oliveri vanishes into the night. The party leadership tries to hedge for time by concealing Oliveris disappearance with a series of acrobatic sidesteps. In a desperate move, right hand man Andrea Bottini seeks out Oliveris look-alike twin brother, Giovanni Ernani, a prolific author and philosopher who is freshly released from an insane asylum. Slowly and steadily, Giovanni insinuates himself into his brothers public persona, impersonating Oliveris every tick and mannerism exquisitely yet slightly imperfectly. Giovanni quickly surpasses his brothers political prowess with an eerie talent for rallying the masses through fearless and heroic speeches. As Andò shifts between the failure of the sincere intellectual and the heroics of a madman, he probes the driving forces behind our contemporary global political reality leaving behind a rich web of questions in this unpredictable and provocative thriller.

#2 “Benvenuti al Sud” and “Benvenuti al Nord”

I would definitely recommend to watch this 2-part movie “Benvenuti al Sud” and “Benvenuti al Nord”. You will see two different parts of Italy and two different ways of speaking Italian. It’s just pure fun and joy.

Overwhelmed by his wife, a postal worker from Northern Italy feigns disability to request a transfer to Milan. When he's unmasked, he is sent to a tiny village near Naples for two years. He moves there alone, scared and full of the typical prejudice about the south. But he meets lovely people who quickly make him feel at home. Now the challenge is to explain this to his wife, so he chooses to make her believe that his life is hell.

#3 “Cinema Paradiso” or “Life is beautiful”

I can never choose which one I like better, both are just amazing.

What Movies to Watch if you are Learning Spanish

#1 Como Agua para Cholocate

Based on the bestselling novel by Laura Esquival, this tale weaves a true story that spans decades and through traditions. Set among an old conventional Mexican family, Tita—the youngest daughter—falls in love with Pedro, but they are prohibited from marrying because Tita’s duty is as caretaker for her aging mother. Tita’s heartbreak painfully increases when her mother allows Tita’s older sister to marry Pedro instead.

This movie has all of the melodrama a telenovella, but the graceful emotions of a beautiful romance. It will take you on a special journey into the expected roles of women during a different time in Mexico when traditions were enforced rather than expected. Read a book before watching the movie as an added Spanish learning bonus!

#2 “The sea inside” or basically any movie with great Javier Bardem

Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) is a Spanish ship mechanic and part-time poet who is left a quadriplegic after a diving accident. This film tells the true story of Sampedro's 30-year battle for the legal right to end his own life. He develops close relationships with his long-term lawyer Julia (Belén Rueda) and his friend Rosa (Lola Dueñas), who tries to convince him that his life is worth living. Despite his situation, Ramon manages to inspire those around him to live life to the fullest.








2 thoughts on “Learning Foreign Languages with Movies”

  1. I never considered watching foreign films in increments to help untangle the language. I absolutely loved this advice! Thank you-

    1. Multilingual Society

      Yes, short sections like this are much easier to “digest” and work with. Also, if you watch a series, like, for example, “Call my Agent” / the French title “10 pour cent” you will notice that the characters are using more or less same “favorite” words, same ways of speaking so it will be easier and easier to understand them with each episode

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