How to learn languages from movies and TV shows?

Learn languages from movies and TV showsThere’s nothing like learning Italian by watching a Fellini film! It’s the same with German. Or Chinese. Or whatever. You can learn languages from movies and TV shows. They make great language learning material. It’s fun and educating at the same time. The problem is that you have to know how to use this method correctly.

Have you ever been watching a film in your target language and pausing it every 5 seconds to check what that word means? Or watching with subtitles and feeling very little progress because you were just reading and not listening at all? We have. Many times.

We still learn languages from movies and TV shows. But before doing it we always ask something like this:

Should I use French dub and English subtitles? Vice-versa? French dub and French subtitles? No titles at all? Agh!

Choosing the right combination matters. It will decide whether you have any benefit from this method. So before we tell you WHERE to find suitable films and TV shows, you have to know HOW to learn from them.

How to learn languages from movies and TV shows?

Subtitles versus no subtitles.

This depends on your current language level. Skip the subs if you understand the language relatively well. (Unless you want to see how words are written. Keep in mind that you won’t learn how to write on your own in this way. To do that, you would actually have to write.) Just focus on listening. If you haven’t developed an ear for the way a language sounds, subtitles will work well for you. The important part is not to focus your attention on them. Don’t forget to listen to the speech. If you notice when the subtitles are not accurate you’re on the right path!

Combining two languages.

We understand very little when we start learning a new language. Does this mean TV shows and films can’t help at this point? You just have to combine the new language with one of those you already know! For example, watching a movie in your preferred language and using the subtitles of a new language. Sounds good? Even if it does, this is an almost useless method. That’s because you already understand everything without the subs. And the translated subtitles are usually going so fast, you have no time to compare them to what was said. It’s useful only in one way. You get to see how various words are written. This is especially useful for languages where sounds are written differently from the way they sound. Just like it is in English.


Another option to learn languages from movies is vice-versa from the previous one. The dubbing of your target language and the subtitles that you understand well. This way you can do your best to understand everything by listening. And if you don’t, you can check the subs. Of course, this won’t work if you’re just a beginner and you need to check them constantly. However, when you begin to understand a few bits on your own, you can make enormous progress. Spoken language is much harder to understand than a written text. So as a beginner you can use TV shows to get used to the way the language sounds. You can hear the pronunciation of various words and sounds. When you’re familiar with all that you will find that there’s no need to read all the time anymore!

If your level is higher, using subtitles of a familiar language can still be useful. They can help you understand the context without having to pause. Once again, don’t cheat and try to read them as little as possible! Otherwise, there will be no progress.

In short, try to watch movies and TV shows in your target language only. Remove the language that you know well as soon as you can. You will progress faster when you do it. And always keep in mind that for noticeable results a conscious effort is required.

They're speaking to you

Where to find movies and TV shows in your target language?

If Netflix isn’t available in your country, it might be difficult to find such content. There are no free sources where you could just choose any language and watch whatever you want. Well, except Bliu Bliu. You can’t upload your own videos to it yet. However, you can watch the ones that are already there. Including music videos, excerpts from TV shows or movies and so on. And they’re all available with a transcription below. You can see which words are already familiar to you and translate the ones you can’t understand.

Other than that, we had to find the useful content for each language separately. There it is:

German: You can find various local German TV shows and other programmes from the first Channel or NDR. For example, Rote Rosen.

Italian: Here are some Italian movies, some of them with English subtitles. Alternatively, you can watch Italian TV online. For example, Rai TV or archives from other TV broadcasters.

Lithuanian: You can watch many TV shows broadcasted by LRT television.

Portuguese: Many videos of various TV series are available right here. You can choose both English and Portuguese subtitles.

Sherlock Holmes

Russian: How about Sherlock Holmes in Russian? Unfortunately, only with English and Spanish subtitles. Star Media offers a lot of Russian TV shows, movies and other content with English and/or Russian subtitles.

Spanish: Watch various TV shows with both English and Spanish subtitles from Telemundo. Films and TV shows from TVE with optional Spanish subtitles are also available to the public.

Swedish: TV documentary Historieätarna is available online with English and Swedish subtitles. You can also find lots of content including TV shows on Swedish national television SVT.

If you want us to add another language to the list, let us know in the comments and we will do our best to expand it!

Remember what we told about choosing the right method and you will learn languages from movies and tv shows like a pro!

Have a good time watching!