Language learning is the portal to new worlds, new ideas and new ways of life. There are many different ways to learn a language, and all methods (reading, speaking, listening and writing) should be exercised for this experience to be fully enjoyed.
One of the best ways to improve listening is to watch a movie!
I know what you may be asking my dear reader "how can I find a movie in a foreign language? how is this active learning?"
Ahhh my friends, while watching a movie in another language you enjoy it but you also incorporate specific strategies to make this experience a true learning experience
Find a Movie You Enjoy
What is a genre you enjoy? Romance? Drama? Musicals? Find what interests you and your ears will be in tuned. If you are not sure where to begin I recommend starting with a classic movie from a country that speaks your target language. You will learn alot about inner cultural references but also keep interested due to the nature of the topic. I found a series on Simon Bolivar (Bolivar: Una Lucha Admirable) to improve my Spanish listening, a French musical on the French Revolution (1789) and Polish movies on the Solidarity Revolution.
Keep in mind it may be hard to find movies in foreign languages: in many countries they have special copyright laws where you can't outside of your region. A German may not be able to watch a Chinese film easily, and an American may not be able to easily access Polish tv (I've run into that!) but its worth it when you finally find one you can access- its a treasure hunt!
Break it Up
Is there an interesting dialog scene? Repeat that scene. Is there particular dialog you need to hear again- repeat.
Repeat as often as you want, and take breaks to have your mind absorb the language little by little if it is a new language or a dialect you aren't used to. Feel free to pause as often as possible and try to mimic the actor's voices to get the pronunciation and the flow of the language.
The first time you are listening to a language I would recommend subtitles in your native language (in my case English) to follow the story line. The second time I recommend subtitles in the original language to get used to how the words actually appear and immerse yourself fully. Are you feeling brave? Ahh my dear language liberators- turn off the subtitles in that case!
Even if you are feeling confidence I would recommend some form of subtitles since in some cases a character may be speaking very fast or purposely in slurred or muffled speech.
Watch a Few Times
The more you watch a movie or short clip in your target language you will begin to notice new things about the rhythm of the language. Each language is unique and has a rhythm within each language there are countless dialects that have rhythms. Try listening to the same one as often as you can (works best with short youtube clips!) and later branch out to new dialects and new horizons.
Ahhh my dear friends, this is indeed part of the strategy. As a language learner you may feel tempted to overthink the grammar and phonetics and while these are vital so is the fun of language learning. Grab some Italian pastries while watching an Italian food, eat some French cheese for a French film, any Spanish films? take some coffee from a Spanish speaking country! Bollywood fan? Go prepare an Indian snack!
Do not fret about perfection! It will come to you in time, but language learning is a long process and if you do not have fun you miss out on the beauty of the culture you are learning about. Enjoy the story, although please do keep in mind that movies do not depict the reality of a culture since they are meant for entertainment. The purpose of a movie is to tell a story, and to have you learn a lesson from the story.
While movies can reveal principles a culture values such as family, honesty or justice- they also are there to convey a story and people may do things in a movie that people in reality may not do at all. Remember this is both an educational and fun way to improve your language learners.
I wish you all a productive and enjoyable language learning experience and remember you aren't "conquering" a language and trying to force it into your idea of a language, but you are "liberating" a language but growing with it and learning more about the cultures and people that speak that language. Viva les liberateurs des langues!
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