4 ways Hollywood movies help language learners

February 22, 2015

Hollywood and language learning

Hollywood and language learning

Pop-culture really is an incredible avenue for non-English speakers to learn, practice and improve their language abilities. Us English learners have one big advantage over learners of other languages: Most movies, at least the most promoted ones are Hollywood movies in English. So how can you use your movie watching hobby as a tool to improve you language abilities?

Well, to help you make the best out of every movie you watch I have compiled in no particular order 4 ways movies can help you improve and practice your English:
 

1. Quotes/Catchphrases

Quotes

Most people have used catchphrases from movies at some point during their lives. Every day people quote things they hear in movies and shows. You can incorporate or think of ways to use catchphrases into your daily conversations. Phrases you use don't have to be famous but rather memorable for you. When you are a foreign English learner - which I was/still am - it is very easy and oftentimes funny to sneak in a few words or phrases that stick in your head.

During the 2nd session of our language camp last year one of our campers from China would repeatedly greet us with "How you doin' ?" - it was great to hear it every day from him. And interestingly we found out later it was the way he learned to greet in English because his older sister loved Friends (the show) back home.

Use: Don't be afraid to use words or phrases you hear in movies. With time you will find that not only will you expand vocabulary (some times you will have to look up what that phrase means) but also you will naturally start using them.

2. Soundtrack

Movies and music have always gone together. In fact many now famous songs have launched to fame thanks to the movies they were showcased in and vice-versa. It's no secret that songs are a great way to expand vocabulary and practice. So when you associate good songs with good movies you are gathering a good arsenal of tools to help you in your English quest.

How many people in non-English speaking countries today know the words for Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On"? If it weren't for Titanic (movie) who knows were that song would be today. And did I also mention "I'm the king of the world!"? - Leveraging songs and catchphrases! 

3. Dialogue Practice

Dialogue

You'll be surprised how many people know movie dialogues by heart. What can I say, some movies are just too good and we watch them over and over. I've done it! One of my all time favorite movies because of its dialogues and witty comments is "The Trip", with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you should check it out.

Movies are great at making us think and replay scenes in our minds over and over. Take advantage of this when you're watching your favorite film and say those dialogues out loud. Practice intonation and pronunciation. The more you like that particular dialogue the more fun it will be to practice it.

Use: This practice will make you think in English. And even better if you start making up follow-up dialogues of your own! Thinking in the foreign language is a huge step in becoming bilingual and more importantly making you more comfortable with the language.

4. Subtitles

Probably the most obvious way to take advantage of watching movies in English is the use of subtitles. Granted, subtitles can be overused at times. But for language learners they can be a blessing. They can also be a double edged sword. You do not want to become dependent on subtitles. They can help learners follow along and aid in listening skills and grammar. But you want to get to a point where you stop using them because they have helped you understand and follow along dialogue.

Use/Practice: Try watching a movie you haven't seen with subtitles on. A different day or maybe after you've watched it a couple of times try watching it without the subtitles and see how much more you understand.

Don't get caught up in everyday activities where you can potentially lag in your language learning goals. There are opportunities everyday, everywhere. Use entertainment to your advantage. Do not just watch movies, listen to them and use them to help you achieve your language goals.

What are some of your favorite terms or quotes you've learned thanks to movies or music?

Until next time!