Is Watching Dvds a Good Way to Learn a New Language?

By: Ken O'Brien

One of the easiest ways nowadays to get access to a foreign language is by watching DVDs. Many DVDs have multiple languages and can facilitate a learner in many languages. But is it really a good idea?

Yes and no. One of the positives of course is that you can get to hear the language spoken very naturally. You can hear inflexions, accents and the sounds. This is fine where the version of the language is clear and a standard example, but often films use different dialects or very colloquial language.

Here we begin to see the problems of the DVD and how difficult it can be. But it is still listening practice. Unless you are lucky enough to have regular contact with native speakers this is really as good as it gets.

Another difficulty of course is the length of a DVD. For elementary or less-advanced learners it can be very tiring trying to listen to a language they are learning. We miss a lot of words and often we find ourselves just switching to the subtitles and following those.

But even subtitles are not such a bad thing. We still benefit from listening to the sounds even when we are reading the subtitles. Think of how people who are not native speaker speak your native tongue. It usually reflects their own language and ways of saying things. By exposing our ears to the rhythm and sounds of the new language we can still get some benefit.

So what can we do to get the best benefit from it? Start with much shorter pieces. All DVDs now come with the option to choose scenes rather than play the whole film. Choose a couple of scenes at a time, even if it takes you a day or two to watch. By watching and listening to smaller chunks you stand a greater chance of understanding more, which is always a boost for your confidence.

You could also watch the DVD right through first with subtitles and then try watching sections of it again. At this point you are already familiar with the story so you can concentrate a little more on what people are saying.

Language learning takes a lot of time and we can't always understand everything but DVDs do offer us exposure to the language being spoken naturally. Rather than get frustrated at our inability to understand we need to think of it as an opportunity to learn just a little bit more.

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