Do you enjoy spending a relaxing evening on the couch watching your favorite show? Do you sometimes sit there and suddenly snap out of it as you realize that 2 hours have gone by and find that your leg is asleep, and your eyes are tingling from staring at the screen for so long? We’ve all been there, where we think to ourselves “I just wasted a couple of hours…”
Well I have good news for you. What if I told you, you could watch your favorite show and be productive at the same time? More specifically, what if you could learn a language at the same time?
How Movies Can Help You Learn French
Movies are a great way to relax and clear your mind, but they can also be a powerful tool to help enhance your mind and imagination. They have the power to make you feel like you’re in another world, another time, another galaxy, or simply another country for a few hours.
This means you can feel like you’re in France, or Quebec without even having to leave your couch. The virtual “trip” to these countries will teach you about French culture and help you become more interested in learning the language. But while you immerse yourself in the language with these movies, you will actually absorb some French as you watch too.
It is a form of passive learning that will improve your listening skills, your understanding of language structure, and expand your vocabulary. This is because the visuals on the screen and the stories told by movies makes it easier to understand the language and makes it easier to remember new vocabulary learned during the experience.
But the main reason why it is so effective is because it combines a fun activity with learning. This gives your binge-watching hobby a purpose, and makes language learning homework something to look forward to.
Perhaps the most important part is to choose the right movie. It needs to be a movie you’re interested in and one that you can understand well enough. But before that, you might be thinking, should I watch the movie with English subtitles or French subtitles? Which way will I learn more, and which way will be more enjoyable?
The truth is you don’t need to worry about that, because there is a free extension on Google that allows you to watch a movie with both English and French subtitles at the same time!
The extension is called Language Reactor and it can be added for free on Google Chrome. It seems simple, but basically if you’re watching a French movie, you can see the original French subtitles and the English translation directly below. This allows you to learn the language in real-time while you enjoy a movie or a show on Netflix. The extension works with streaming services such as Netflix and Youtube. You can add it as an extension below if you’re interested:
Choosing the movie…
Once you add that extension, it’s time to decide what movie to watch… With so much available on Netflix and other streaming platforms, it can be hard to decide what to watch. Here are a few recommendations on types of movies to add to your list:
Re-Watch Movies in French
A really good trick is to watch movies that you’ve already seen in English, but this time watch a French dubbed version (with French audio). You’ll be surprised by how much you understand when it’s a movie you’re already familiar with. When you know the story, you’ll be able to follow along better and decipher what they are saying using your knowledge of the movie.
Animated movies are a great pick too if you’re just starting. They are made for a younger audience and the language used is usually simpler and easier to understand. So, try watching some of your favorite childhood movies but this time in French. Some good options on Netflix right now include: Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon. etc…
Original French Movies
It’s also important to watch movies or shows originally in French too. The French are famous for their cinema and there are many great options out there. Watching these movies helps you learn about French culture, and it is useful to hear slang and different ways of speaking the language. The language in these movies is obviously more authentic and modern than what is heard in dubbed movies. Here are a few recommendations on Netflix: a must watch is a classic called Les Intouchables, and Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion is a great pick for the kids. Then for more mature audiences Lupin is a very popular show right now, and Family Business is a great show if you want to laugh!
Most importantly, you need to watch shows that truly interest you. If you’re not interested you will not learn as much, it’s as simple as that. If you pick the right movies you will be more engaged and you will keep coming back to learn more.
How to Learn
Now that you know what you want to watch, you need to understand how to learn from these movies. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just clicking “Play” and zoning out the whole time… You will need to pay more attention and make an effort to recognize words you understand, and you might have to re-watch parts you don’t understand.
Use the Extension
As I mentioned before, using the extension will show subtitles in both languages which helps you listen to the language while the translation is showing. This lets you easily follow the movie and understand the meaning of new words you hear.
Write Down New Words
If you really want to learn, it is important to write down new words or even sentences that you learn throughout the movie along with the translation in English so that you can remember the definition. Simply pause for a moment and write it down in your laptop or in a notebook. But you don’t need to write down every word you hear. Start by just writing words that you hear often or words that you think would be useful to know in the language.
Review Words at the End
By the end of the movie, you should have a solid list of words. Make sure to review them right after the movie and try to understand their meaning. You should be able to remember some of the words more easily thanks to the visuals and memories from the movie, making it easier to memorize the meaning of these words. To help with the review and memorization, try quizzing yourself with the words by hiding the answers, and see if you can figure out the definition just by looking at the French word.
After about a week or so, return to the list and see how many words you now know and which ones you still have trouble with. Quiz yourself again and try to understand every word on the list so that eventually when you review the list again you will be familiar with all the words.
This will help you add new words to your vocabulary with every movie you watch. It may seem difficult at first, but as you improve it will become easier and easier, and there will be less words that you need to add to your list.
Can You Learn French Just by Watching Movies?
Although it would be very fun and easy if you could just watch movies to learn a language, it is more difficult than this. Most people cannot absorb everything about a language just by listening and watching it being spoken.
To truly master a language, you need to start by learning the basics, and you need to practice speaking it. Movies are a great way to improve your skills and build on what you’ve learned in class or with a tutor, but without someone guiding you through a language, you would be learning it blindly. So, keep watching movies, but don’t rely on it as your only way of learning. You’ll need to combine it with other ways of learning to become fluent.
But you’re in luck, because we offer a wide variety of French classes here at Le Petit Écolier! We have classes for all ages and levels and you can learn Online, or at our Language Learning Centre if you’re in the area.
Sign up for a class today and start practicing with us and use some of the new words you learned in the latest movie you watched!