YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
In this video I’ll show you 5 ready-for-you tips for improving your English while you watch movies and TV.
Today we’re going to go over my top 5 tips for learning English with movies and TV. Many people successfully learn English this way, and the great thing about it is that you’re learning something in context, not isolated like in a vocabulary list. And this will really help you remember it. In addition, you’re learning from a native speaker, so your pronunciation should be much more accurate than if you’re learning from a book if you do it right.
But learning English from movies and TV does NOT happen automatically. Unless you’re using the tips I’m about to teach you, you won’t be learning as much English as you could. But if you DO make these tips part of your regular movie and TV watching habits, you’ll have a powerful new learning tool that’s always available to you!
Now, this is not about relaxing and unwinding watching TV or a movie, this is about learning. It’s an active experience, part of your studies. Let’s get started.
Tip 1: Work at your level. If listening comprehension is a big challenge for you, and you want to work on that specifically, start with a simple scene involving just a few people in a quiet environment. I really like dramas because I think in general the pace of speaking is a little `slower. HER is a great movie for this: slow pace, clear speech. What’s the rush? That was relatively easy to understand.
If your listening comprehension is very good and you’re just looking to pick up new vocabulary or phrases, or you want to challenge your listening comprehension, you can do this by trying a scene in a noisy room, or a scene where people are speaking with a non-standard accent.
It’s that or we both better go do something else, pal.
That was likely much harder to understand. So, work at a level that’s right for you – one that’s not so challenging that you understand almost nothing.
Tip 2: Use a video player that has the right tools: a toggle for subtitles and a way to easily skip back in the video. Both Netflix and HBO Go have these features, and no they did not pay me to say this. On YouTube, you can do a search on a topic that interests you, and filter it so you’ll only see videos with a closed captioning file. But the YouTube player doesn’t have a way to easily jump back a few seconds like Netflix or HBO Go, they have a skip back 10 seconds button and I think if you can afford a subscription to one of those services, it’s really useful.
Let’s go on to tip #3 to see why.
Tip 3: Use subtitles and the following method to learn. Step 1 is to listen without the subtitles. When you hear something you don’t understand, or a word you don’t know (and it’s okay if that’s pretty frequent), pause the player. Go back 10 seconds and listen again, pause it. Can you figure it out? Write down as much of the sentence as you can in a notebook that you have just for this purpose. Use an app if you like, but I prefer writing by hand. Then, turn on the English subtitles and go back and listen again. Listen and watch with the subtitles on.
Now, maybe the part you didn’t get is a brand new word that you’ve never seen or heard before. Great, this is an awesome way to learn new vocabulary. Write the word down, look up the definition, and write down the sentence you heard it in. Even write down the show or movie and the scene. Remembering this context will absolutely help you remember the word.
But maybe when you go back and watch with the subtitles you realize you know all those words. Why didn’t you understand it? That’s a very important question and answering it is the key to improving your listening comprehension. Perhaps the phrase was said very quickly and there were reductions in there that made it very hard to identify the word. Or maybe a word has a pronunciation that’s completely different than what you thought.
Write down the full sentence now and circle the words you didn’t understand. Then use the skip back button to listen many times – five, maybe even more. Something was pronounced in a way that you were not expecting. Study how the native speaker pronounces it. Importantly, say the phrase out loud yourself a few times, imitating the native speaker as precisely as you can. Write down the correct pronunciation in your notebook.
Maybe even take it a step further: Go to Youglish.com and type the word or phrase you didn’t understand. Hear lots of other examples of native speakers using that word or phrase, and pay attention. Is it reduced? Why was it so hard for you to understand the first time? This kind of work will really pay off. Youglish is a search engine for YouTube videos with English subtitles and you can filter it to American English, and skip from clip to clip. You can also move forward or backward within a clip to get the full context. It’s a great way to supplement your learning.
Just like in the movies, I did a quick costume change.
I bet that a lot of what gets in the way of your listening comprehension is reductions and linking. I have playlists for both of those topics – click here or in the video description to see those playlists. They’ll definitely uncover some of the mystery of listening comprehension.
Tip 4: Review it! If you’ve taken the time to do the work of watching, pausing, writing down sentences, vocab words, and the context you learned them in, then do yourself a favor and solidify that learning. Keep your English in Movies notebook close by so if you have a bit of extra time, waiting for an appointment, or on your commute, or during your lunch break, you can remind yourself what you learned yesterday. If you learned a new vocabulary word, try to come up with your own sentences for it now. Practice speaking your new words and phrases out loud whenever possible.
And Tip 5: Set manageable goals for yourself. Don’t try to learn 100 new words or phrases a day. That’s too many. Make it your goal to really really learn 5 or 6. When you learn them in context and review them for seven days, that will get you good results. Trying to learn too many too often means very little being remembered and leads to burnout.
This method I’ve given you is time-consuming, but it is concrete and you will really learn this way. If you’ve gotten 5 or 10 good word or phrases in the first few minutes of a show or movie, reward yourself! Close your notebook and watch the rest for enjoyment and pleasure.
There is a wealth of TV shows and movies that you can use to help you learn English and speak like a native. What’s your favorite movie or show to use to study English with? Let me know in the comments – that will give ideas to everyone else. And let me know which of these 5 tips was most powerful for you!
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.