How Netflix can help you learn another language

How Netflix can help you learn another language

Amid lockdown, many of us have used Netflix movies and shows to cope with the abundance of our newly-found time. While there is nothing wrong with binge-watching Netflix all day, perhaps this is also the optimal time to use the streaming service to pick up another language.

Forget the days of cheesy and overacted “where is the library” and “can I go to the bathroom” scenes from high school classes, and take advantage of the excellent wide range of foreign content available on Netflix.

With that, not only will you be a step ahead of the game by focusing on real and current dialogue but you’ll likely better understand idiomatic phrases and slang.

Here are a few tips for enhancing your language learning with Netflix.

Make use of subtitles

With most titles on Netflix offering a diverse selection of subtitles, now is the time to turn those captions on.

If you’re a beginner, you can start with your favorite movies in your native language and use foreign subtitles to pick up sentence structure and vocabulary.

Watching foreign titles with subtitles has quite a few perks. You’ll quickly learn that some things just don’t translate well, or even at all, to other languages. You’ll also see that certain phrases and words are translated differently to make more sense in the destination language. On top of that, subtitles will give you a better grasp of grammar, structure and verb conjugation.

Because repetition is everything when learning a new language, seeing sentences written out and being able to compare it with your native language, will help you quickly grasp grammatical structure without having to think too much about it.

And, if you develop a habit of watching foreign shows this way, it will further help you understand word pronunciation and the language’s natural cadence. It’s one thing to read another language, but you’ll need to develop an ear for it if you want to speak it conversationally.

Embrace diversity

Aside from the fact that consuming shows in another language will open you up to a ton of new content, watching foreign titles is beneficial because it demonstrates how language varies across regions and countries.

For example, if you’ve chosen to learn Spanish, first you’ve probably had to choose between Castellano (from Spain) or Latin American Spanish. Though they are technically the same language, they have a lot of differences that make them very different to hear and speak.

Netflix offers a wide variety of foreign titles, but keep in mind their origin. Back to Spanish, if you’re watching El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), El Marginal or Frontera Verde (Green Frontier) – you should note that respectively, one is Mexican-directed but in Castellano Spanish, one Argentine and one Colombian. All three are in Spanish, but each possesses its own nuance that makes them unique beyond just the accent.

You may pick up a word in one instance, but its usage could be quite different in another country. For example, in Latin America most people will refer to a car as “carro.” However, you will hear the word “coche” used in Spain, and in Argentina, you may hear the word “auto” (short for automóvil) instead.

Aside from Spanish, this is true in most languages even if on a smaller scale. Just like in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, English varies widely across regions.

While this may sound like an added difficulty to an already intimidating trajectory, it will pay off in the future. By keeping your watchlist diverse and being aware of the language origin, you will make your learning more comprehensive which will hopefully help make the language become more intuitive to you.

Use an app

Several third party apps can also be helpful while using Netflix as a language learning platform, one of which is the Google Chrome web extension, Language Learning with Netflix. This free extension allows you to run two subtitles simultaneously so you can compare your native language side by side with a foreign language.

You can choose between machine and human translations, auto-pause at the end of each subtitle and on top of that, there’s a clickable dictionary built into the app.

Or alternatively, try Mate Translate. This app can translate 103 different languages. Simply click on a word in the subtitle to open a box that gives you definitions, synonyms, genders, phonetics and more. It allows you to save words for practice later and this lists syncs across all your devices for convenience.

Watching foreign titles will expose you to a whole new world of content you might otherwise have missed. Plus, you’ll be on your way to learning a new language with a more focused intention. And please, don’t watch anything dubbed.

The term “lost in translation” can’t be avoided when it comes to awkward, dubbed films. Sticking with the original language will always give you the best understanding of the title, even if you have to leave on the English captions.

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