Do you like watching films? Who doesn’t?
Here’s something that you’ll like: You can learn English as a second language by watching a film.
You can watch films in the English language while following along with the subtitles.
Why Use Films to Improve Your English?
It’s a great tool for getting better at English, especially when it comes to training your ear and your listening comprehension. If you practise listening to spoken English, you'll improve your own speaking skills.
If you’re tired of learning English with books and studying English grammar and vocabulary, take a break from your studies and put on some ESOL courses courtesy of Hollywood.
You can also improve your English at the same time.
Let’s go back to our question: Why should you watch films to learn English?
English films aren’t made for language learners. They’re made for native English speakers. This means that characters usually speak like real native speakers.
The films use English as a native language. This means it’s great for hearing English vocabulary, expressions, and slang.
Films are fun: you can learn English while having fun. It’s like an enjoyable English language workout. You’ll learn without realising it.
Watching films in English also can give you a better understanding of English-speaking cultures. You’ll find out a lot more about historic places.
Finally, by listening to English, you’ll be able to improve your pronunciation in English.
Still not convinced? Here are some of the advantage of learning English by watching films.
Which Films Should I Watch to Learn English?
It’s not easy choosing an appropriate English language film to watch.
If your English isn’t great, it might be worthwhile looking at films you’ve already seen or even films for children (Pixar films are great in almost every language). This is good for learning new phrases, verbs, and tenses as you work towards becoming fluent in the English language.
If you’re at an intermediate level, you can watch more complicated films.
Try watching English films with English subtitles on so you can read and listen at the same time. This is a great way to learn new words and idiomatic expressions.
If this is too difficult, watch the film with the subtitles in your own languages. Once you’re familiar with the film, you can change the subtitles into English.
Don’t worry about having to watch a scene again and again. If you don’t understand, you can always rewind a scene.
Don’t forget to:
Evaluate your level,
Practice speaking English,
Work on your pronunciation.
4 Great Films to Watch in English
The Social Network: How do you feel about learning about the history of Facebook? This film covers the story of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg who went on to revolutionise the way we communicate with one another.
Why should you watch it? The script and the dialogues were written by Aaron Sorkin who’s known for writing funny and natural films. Everyone will understand what the films about and you can also learn specialised IT and social media vocabulary.
The Hangover: A story of 4 men who head off to Las Vegas for a Stag Party a few days before their friend’s wedding. This film covers the gang’s bizarre adventure.
Why should you watch it? On the one hand, it’s funny. On the other hand, it’s a comedy that gives the opportunity to hear English dialogues that use everyday English. This can help you improve your vocabulary and learn slang without having to travel abroad.
Toy Story: This animation is great for those learning English. The story follows a boy named Andy who loves playing with his toys, especially his cowboy doll, Woody. When Andy isn’t there, the toys come to life. For Andy's birthday, his mother gives him a new Buzz Lightyear doll which quickly becomes Andy’s favourite toy and Woody isn't happy!
Why should you watch it? It’s a very funny film for the whole family. In fact, the story isn’t hugely complicated and there are a few jokes thrown in just for older viewers.
Pulp Fiction: This film’s plot covers three different stories. You follow two killers around Los Angeles on their funny and gory adventures.
Why should you watch it? Tarantino mixes comedy with everyday dialogue from the west coast of the US.
Whichever film you decide to watch, you’ll be watching it for the same reason: becoming bilingual.
Historical Dramas: Learn Traditional English
The Young Victoria
This biographical film covers Queen Victoria’s early years towards the end of the 19th century. She’s a very well-known figure in the UK.
Julian Fellowes’ film brings attention to the taboos of the time and uses vocabulary and dialogue that seems very outdated in the 21st century. You definitely need to watch this in the English to fully appreciate the symbolic language of the UK at the time.
Pride and Prejudice
The 2005 film directed by Joe Wright was inspired by the famous Jane Austen novel, one of the most studied British novels around the world. This film includes famous British actors like Keira Knightley, Judi Dench, and Donald Sutherland.
From an educational point of view, Pride and Prejudice is a fine example of 18th century language. It also covers the problem of class and therefore Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy tend to use a lot of advanced and formal language. Learn more about traditional English while also enjoying one of the greatest pieces of British literature.
Learn English by Watching Comedies
The Inbetweeners Movie
This film is based on a comedy series that aired on the British channel E4. It covers the story of the four awkward teenagers Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil.
The series is very popular in the UK thanks to the way it accurately captures the lives and conversations of teenagers.
Not only will you learn British slang, you’ll also enjoy some fantastic British cursing.
Knowing this type of language can actually be very useful when it comes to moving to the UK and integrating yourself into British society!
This is one of the maddest American comedies of all time!
Against all expectations and with a limited budget ($20M), this film was a global success. Discover one of the earliest works of superstars such as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Emma Stone.
Superbad is popular worldwide thanks to its outrageous language and cheeky jokes. You can’t possibly watch a dubbed version and expect to have nothing lost in translation.
Get ready for some of America’s best teenage slang!
Learn Different English Accents
Learn a British accent thanks to British films.
The King’s Speech
If you want to learn to speak English, you should watch a film about speaking English!
The King’s Speech covers the story of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father, who had speech problems. The film was critically acclaimed and won 4 Oscars and a Golden Globe.
It’s very useful to watch this film in English as it covers the protagonist’s difficulties with stammering. With the help of specialists, George learns more about English phonetics and you can too! It’s the perfect film for working on your speaking!
Ireland is one of the Erasmus programmes’ most popular destinations. Why not learn an Irish accent through cinema?
The 2002 film Bloody Sunday was directed Paul Greengrass and covers the events of the 30 January 1972 where 14 people were killed in a peaceful protest in Derry. This tragic film is considered to be a masterpiece of Irish cinema due to its authenticity and honesty.
This is a great opportunity to hear native Irish accents and see the difference between Irish English and British English. Bloody Sunday is a great film to learn more about Irish English and the history of the Emerald Isle.
Learn an American Accent with American Films
This American film is based on the book of the same name by Winston Groom and is a classic.
The film was critically acclaimed when it came out in 1994 thanks to its blend of comedy, drama, and romance. Throughout Forrest’s story, spectators can enjoy modern US history from the days of Elvis Presley to the founding of Apple via the Vietnam War.
Forrest’s physical abilities take him on a journey across the US and its many different accents. The film is therefore a goldmine for those wanting to learn about American accents and history in 142 minutes.
Gone with the Wind
This historical romance is considered one of the best films of all time!
This film is based on Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel of the same name. The story of Scarlett O’Hara, a young upper class ingenue who falls in love with the shadowy Rhett Butler.
Scarlett’s family earn their money through cotton plantations, a profitable industry before the Civil War, and participate in social conflicts at the heart of the aristocracy of the time. This film is recommended for English students wanting to discover the southern United States as well as the Alabama and Louisiana accents.
Learn an Aussie Accent with Australian Films
This biographical film is based on Saroo Brierley’s book “A Long Way Home” and came out in 2016. It follows the story of Saroo’s life from his childhood in India to living in Australia.
Viewers can discover the Australian accent of Nicole Kidman and the Indian accent through Dev Patel’s character. Learning about the different Commonwealth accents is particular useful if you’d like to travel around the world.
Why not discover them by watching an Oscar-nominated film?
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max is THE Australian film to watch!
Mad Max, one of the greatest action films of all time, was back in 2015 with a sequel. With an incredible cast and breathtaking action scenes, the film was nominated for 10 Oscars and was critically acclaimed around the world.
This film was filmed west of Sydney and features incredible natural Australian landscapes. It also includes Australian actors such as Courtney Eaton and Nathan Jones so spectators can enjoy genuine Australian accents. Mastering the Australian accent is a great idea for those wanting to work Down Under!
Learn a Canadian Accent with Canadian Films
Learning a Canadian accent could be your ticket to integrating into this huge country’s society.
Don’t forget there are also 9 million French speakers in the country, too!
This 2007 film directed by Guy Maddin is a fantastic documentary that blends realism and fiction. This meta-fictional documentary is about the city of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, Canada.
The film plays around with Canadian stereotypes like the never-ending winter and making fun of Canadian taboos and traditions. My Winnipeg is a great film to learn about the lesser-known parts of Canada and their geography!
Tips for Learning English through Film
Choose a film you already know
If you are just starting out or your English isn’t great, you should start by watching a film you’ve already seen in your own language.
Why? Because you already know the story. That means you can focus on the language being used rather than the events taking place.
Using subtitles isn’t cheating when it comes to learning English. You can use them to help you learn better.
If your level is low, start with subtitles in your own language until you get comfortable enough to watch the film with English subtitles.
If you have an intermediate level, get out of your comfort zone and put the English subtitles on: you don’t need to understand every word. Use the subtitles to get the gist of what’s happening in films where the characters are speaking quickly, for example.
The subtitles could help you improve your writing in English.
Start off easy!
Are you sure you’ll be able to focus on a film in English for 2 or 3 hours? If not, choose a shorter film or a film whose language is better suited to your level.
If you watch a film that’s too complicated, you’ll not understand anything, you’ll stop paying attention, and you won’t focus on the language as much as you should.
Break the Routine
If watching a film in English makes you tired, why not watch it in blocks of 30 minutes, for example?
Once you’ve watched 30 minutes of a film, have a break, get something to eat, check your inbox, or chat with English friends. This can really help you to concentrate before you sit down to watch another half hour.
Listen and Repeat
The advantage of watching a film in English is that you can take breaks whenever you want to look up vocabulary, make a note of some new grammar, or learn the conjugation of an irregular verb.
Feel free to stop and repeat new expressions aloud whenever you come across something new.
By repeating words aloud, you can improve your pronunciation and English accent. You can do exactly the same if you’re listening to podcasts.
Watch Films you Like
It may some obvious to some but if you enjoy a film, you’ll learn much more English from it. Choose the genres that you like (romance, horror, adventure, drama, etc.)
Watch Films with English-speaking Friends
If you have friends who speak English, ask them if they’d like to watch a film with you.
You can always ask them about parts of the film you don’t understand and practice speaking English with them.
Put Your Knowledge into Practice
In ESOL courses you learn lots of vocabulary that you don’t ever use in everyday life. Watching films in English can help you when it comes to everyday situations. You can also talk to your friends about films.
Watching films is in English is a fantastic way to learn. You’ll learn new vocabulary and discover typical English, American, or Irish expressions, for example. You’ll get used to the different English accents and practice speaking.
Once you’ve started watching films in English, you’ll never go back to dubbing again!
Learn English with Free Films
Watching the latest films can be great for your English.
There are plenty of different genres of feature films and shorts:
There are plenty of different directors to choose from, too!
In short, watching films is a method unlike any other when it comes to improving your English.
You’ll be able to speak better thanks to listening to English conversations, words, and grammar straight from the mouths of your favourite heroes.
That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
So get the popcorn ready and get ready to improve your English with the silver screen.