Did you know Netflix is available in almost 200 countries throughout the world? With hundreds of millions of subscribers, many cultures have a love for in-home movies in common! Apart from the convenience of being able to watch your favorite movies & TV in your pajamas in bed.
Netflix is great for another reason: language learning.
However, students sometimes think that by simply pressing "Play" on any show or movie in the language they're learning (the target language), they are automatically improving their skills. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Students need to use a learning-centered strategy when watching movies & shows in the target language to make Netflix your new favorite language tutor (or second favorite-- your first is obviously your Verbling teacher!).
Here are the 3 most common mistakes that students make when watching movies & shows in their target language & some suggestions to solve them:
MISTAKE #1: No subtitles
Even for my most advanced students, I ALWAYS recommend using subtitles when watching Netflix. Since movies & TV shows often have fast-paced talking, slang and a variety of accents, subtitles are always helpful. (I am a native English speaker and I even use subtitles in English-speaking shows when characters have strong regional accents, like in the show Ozark). Subtitles not only help you understand what characters are saying, but since you are both seeing and hearing the language, this helps learning happen even faster.
Choose a show or film in your target language that has subtitles in the target language too. The most options available are for English learners, but Netflix has subtitles available in over 20 languages. To search for shows & movies based on available subtitles, use this link: https://www.netflix.com/subtitles **Please see my note below about gaining access to subtitles in less common languages.**
MISTAKE #2: Subtitles in your native language
With this approach, there are several problems. The most common is that you will begin to completely ignore the target language audio and just focus on reading the subtitles in the language you know. It's much easier to understand that way, but not very helpful for learning anything new! And for those who are able to focus enough to truly listen in your target language and read in your native language at the same time, this becomes more of an exercise in practicing or understanding direct translation. And since you are probably focusing on overall communication, I would leave that work to the translators. Use the target language for both!
Same as above: choose a show or film in your target language that has subtitles in the target language too. However, if you are a beginner and feeling too confused, another option is to do a Google search for a plot summary (brief explanation of what happens) in either your target or native language online that you can read before you watch. Then you can watch it with the target language subtitles without being as confused, since you will already know the plot.
MISTAKE #3: No pen & paper
Even in a 30 minute TV show episode, you will see thousands of words and many of them will be new to you. To really take advantage of Netflix for learning, students need a way to record unfamiliar words so that they can find definitions (after they watch). The students that don't take notes will not be able to fully learn the new information.
If you want to use Netflix as a learning tool, take some notes. You do not have to write down every new word or even pause the video, but it is helpful to write down some words that you can find definitions for later. I recommend waiting until the end of watching before you look up definitions (otherwise one episode of Friends can turn into a 3 hour project!). If you would like to go more slowly, you can plan to watch your show or movie in smaller segments (10 minutes at a time) with frequent pauses to give yourself more time to recognize new words & write. Then when you're ready, you can find definitions, make flashcards and start learning.
Hopefully this article will help you make the most out of your next Netflix experience. Now go get some popcorn and start learning!
What are your favorite movies & shows on Netflix? Have you used Netflix to help learn a new language? What was your experience like?
***Note about access to subtitles: Netflix only displays 5-7 subtitle language options while streaming, or 2 subtitle language options for downloaded movies. However, there are often many more options. Netflix will only automatically show you subtitle languages that people in your region most commonly watch. If your preferred language is missing, follow the instructions here for "Change your subtitle language": https://help.netflix.com/en/node/13245