TV - 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 through TV. There is a multitude of satellite channels available in a large number of languages.

So is it a good idea? It can certainly help. 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. What is even better is that it is usually a standard version of the language. What's more news stories tend to quite short and usually we can find the same type of stories in our own language, especially international stories.

The trouble of course is that if you are a beginner it is really hard work. In fact for elementary or less-advanced learners it can be very tiring trying to listen to a language they are learning. Subtitles of course can give us a support to help us more clearly identify what is being said. Unfortunately with TV subtitles don't always match exactly what the speaker says.

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 still get some benefit.

So what can we do? Here are some thoughts


  • Start with news programmes.

  • Use subtitles when you watch.

  • Record the news and watch replay of the stories. International stories tend to be better for this.

  • Read the same in your own language.

  • Pick some words out of what you have heard and find out what they mean.


Language learning takes a lot of time. Sometimes for every step forward we jump back a step or two as we learn new things. Either way anything we can do to help ourselves can only be good. So be patient and enjoy.