I know most of us enjoy watching shows on TV or on our laptops, and many of us do it in a language different to our own, like English. How many hours a week on average do we spend watching films or TV series? You probably know that watching films or TV shows is one of the best ways to learn English, but…are you doing it right? What I mean is, are you making the most of the time you’re spending in front of your PC screen? I suppose there’s no hard science on the subject, dictating what should or shouldn’t be done, but there are different things that you can do that will definitely improve your learning experience. Let’s see 5 tips to learn English, which are easy to carry out and certainly practical:
1. Subtitles. Subtitles are the best! Some people will tell you that if you turn on the subtitles you’ll focus only on reading and you’ll miss what is actually happening in the film. This might be true at first, but you will eventually notice how your reading speed increases (which is no easy task), and then you’ll see how you start associating the written words with what the people are saying, and that’s absolutely essential! Once you start recognising the sounds of written words, you’ll be able to turn off the subtitles comfortably. However, this only happens when the subs are in English (the original language, I mean). If the subs are in your language, let’s say Spanish, this association will be different, as it will be directly between the English sounds and the meaning (which is also great), skipping the reading benefits. If you think your level is not good enough for English subs, then try your own language. You can always move on to English as your level improves.
2. Don’t panic. If there are phrases and sentences you don’t understand, don’t give up. And also, don’t stop the film or show to look up every single unfamiliar word! It’s not necessary. You can do this sometimes, if you think it is essential to understand an important scene or something like that. But in general, it’s a good idea to avoid interrupting a fun episode all the time, otherwise you won’t enjoy yourself as much and you might even feel overwhelmed by the amount of new vocabulary.
3. Watch a show twice. Is there a show you particularly enjoyed watching in your own language? Come on! Who hasn’t spent hours watching Friends, The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother, or The Big Bang Theory on TV? If you liked them so much, why not watch them in English now? If you do so, you might not even need any subtitles, as you already know what’s going on! You already know what’s going to happen, so you can focus on understanding what they say in English! I know that their actual voices sound weird at first, but once you get used to them I assure you that you will like them even more! Plus, you’ll get to hear all those puns and jokes that were lost in translation!
4. Contextualise vocabulary. Watching shows in English is the best way to make sense of vocabulary. Maybe you have studied vocabulary related to Health and Illnesses, but you have probably never been to a hospital in England, have you? Let’s hope you never need to. However, if you watch something like House MD you’ll get to hear all those expressions you studied in your textbook in a clear context that will give real meaning to them. Besides, you’ll probably hear them many times, which is perfect if you want to memorise them.
5. Write down interesting expressions. I know in 2 I told you not to interrupt the show all the time, but it’s important that, if you hear a word or expression you’d like to remember, you write it down then and there. If you follow this advice, you’ll be able to memorise that expression more easily, as you will remember who used it, when it was used and why, which is perfect to understand some tricky expressions.
There are probably more things you can do to maximise how much you get out of English-spoken shows or movies, but these 5 are probably the easiest and most useful to do.
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