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Photo: Polyglot Club

At this particular time, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands at home. While you could easily let that slip away, we encourage you to take advantage of this time to improve your language skills! One of the most common methods to master a new language is watching TV and films. So, follow this article as Knowinsider would like to introduce to you some tips to enhance your language skills.

Do you know what the best thing about learning a language is—something you cannot necessarily say about learning almost anything else? You can watch all the TV and movies you want and actually learn—no need to feel guilty anymore!

Why watching TV and films to improve language skills?

TV and movies have something for everyone, whether it’s drama, romance, soap operas, nature documentaries or the news. And all this can help you improve your language skills.

Now, listen up. It is indicated by fluentu.com that the hard part is that a small amount of effort needs to be made in order to maximize learning potential, meaning you cannot plant your bottom on the couch, staring at the screen, switch off your brain and expect to instantly become a language expert. Nor is it particularly useful to watch something where you understand only 10% of what’s going on.

Some have suggested that, ideally, in order for it to be useful, we should be listening to material where we understand 90% of what’s said. Therefore, watching TV and films would be an ideal method.

How to learn a new language by watching TV and films?

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Photo: Spanish.academy

Watch videos in the original version

To new rookies, one of the most recommended tips by the sincerelyspain.com is to watch whatever you want in the original version first. And not dubbed ones. There are many people who don’t actually mind dubbed versions, but they can really mess with other’s brains when the shapes peoples’ mouths make don’t actually fit the sounds coming out of them. In addition, watching videos in the original version helps you connect to the actor him/herself and allows you to get a good feel for the person they are playing (as opposed to dubbed voices that might not fit the role as well).

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Photo: Sputnik News

Feel free to use subtitles

People are often afraid that using subtitles will diminish their learning because they will be too busy reading to follow along with the dialogue. However, we feel that watching with subtitles in the language you are learning (or even your native language if you are a real beginner) can help you catch things you might not get otherwise. It can help imprint in your mind the correct prepositions, verb tenses, and expressions to use in certain situations. It can also help you check that your understanding is as good as you think it is and warn you when you need help following the plot.

Watch Segment by Segment

There is a bottomless gold pot of words and expressions contained in films and series. Splitting an episode or film into small segments is the best way to focus on vocabulary and specific word sounds. Watch an episode or film with the subtitles in the original language switched on. As before, relax and enjoy! As you watch, jot down four or five short 1-2 minute sections that you liked or that had some interesting dialogue.

Once you’ve finished you can go back and focus on those sections. Turn off the subtitles and let yourself relax into it the first time. Since you now know the context of the film, you may catch 40-50% of what’s going on, and increasingly more as you practice. Watch it again, this time aiming to recognize more words or phrases.

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Photo: YTB

Record and Repeat

If are feeling particularly productive, you can go one step further and use digital recording tools—such as Audacity—to record segments from TV shows or films.

With Audacity, switch to record directly from your computer’s built-in microphone, or simply press the record button on your smartphone, to record the segment. Then, you can play it back anytime—while driving in the car, cleaning or taking a shower.

Practice Speaking and Pronunciation

Once you have your recording you can focus on imitating pronunciation. Repeat the same words and then repeat the phrases, focusing on copying the word sounds. “Word sounds” are combinations of sounds—how words sound when they are put together—which is not necessarily word-by-word, nor phonetical. English is a great example of this.

Once you’ve practised repeating those phrases, you can record yourself and compare it to the original and repeat until you are satisfied.


Repetition is the key, as always. It took me a good few months of Mexican soap operas before I really got into the flow of the language, so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come at first. It will, and you’ll see and feel the result in your understanding.

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