Can watching movies improve your language skills?

Today there are a zillion of different strategies to learn a language. There are systems, programs, audio recordings, apps, you name it. And it’s hard to say which ones are best because everyone is different. But if you want to learn a foreign language or improve your skills, watching movies is certainly among the easiest ways to do that.

Passive versus active learning

Any attempt to improve your foreign language skills can be put in one of two brackets: passive or active. When you actively study a language, you may take a text, translate, pick the words you don’t know. Or you can listen and repeat. While passive learning examples are adding songs of the target language to your playlist, or watching movies with subtitles. Some people even believe that they improve their language skills when they put on a recording and go to sleep. While there is little evidence to prove that, it cannot be completely dismissed.

One thing is for sure. Passive learning takes much longer but on the other hand, it is much more enjoyable. You put on your favorite movies, turn on the subtitles and the process of learning starts. What can be bad about that?

Learning languages from the movies

If you learn a language by watching movies, you have three options. Watch the entire thing solely in the target language (preferably, a movie that you have seen before), you can watch the movie in the target language with subtitles in your language or watch a movie in your language with target language subtitles.

Believe it or not, all of these ways help you learn but they do it in different ways. Ideally, you should mix all three ways of learning through movies. But to know which one should dominate think about your reasoning behind your new hobby.  So, the first thing you should do is to decide what will you use the foreign language for. If you plan on taking a trip to Italy or France, and would like to be able to talk with the locals, naturally you should hear how the language is pronounced.

Needless to say, it’s not only the pronunciation that matters. You should know what words are you actually saying. That’s why mixing in movies with foreign subtitles is also very useful in learning languages.

Having said that, I should also emphasize that nothing beats active learning. Watching movies, listening to songs is all well and good but to see results, you should also pick up book and study grammar and common words. This way it won’t take long until you feel confident speaking a foreign language.

Lastly, a word of caution. Unless you become extremely proficient in a foreign language, your skills will start fading away if not used. Ten years ago, I studied French, and even though I still remember a few phrases, almost everything I learned back then is wiped out now. Or perhaps it’s hiding somewhere deep in my memory. I guess I can only find out when I pick up French again.

Movies you must see in 2017

Despite the fact that once in a while it’s nice to go back in time and watch an old movie, every year there are dozens of fantastic new productions. Some get the popularity just because of well-run PR campaigns, some are sequels that people have been waiting for but only a few will survive the test of time and become true legends.

We are not claiming to know which 2017 movies will become all-time great, but the following titles have caught our attention.

Trainspotting 2

The first Trainspotting, created 20 years ago has won the hearts of millions of people around the world. Unusual. Shocking. Captivating. And here we are in 2017 with the sequel of the movie. Opinions on Trainspotting 2 are much more diverse. Some say a sequel was not needed, others think the director Danny Boyle did not do a good job and of course there are die-hard fans that loved the movie. Like it or not, Trainspotting 2 is guaranteed to be among the most-anticipated titles of 2017.

Star Wars: the Last Jedi

Hey, let’s be honest, slapping Star Wars on anything will make people want to see it. The 40-year franchise is way past the point of objective criticism. There will be people who love it, and people who hate it, but even if the sky falls down we guarantee Star Wars: The Last Jedi will again be the biggest record-breaker of the year, or even the decade.

Cars 3

Strangely enough, Cars have become a franchise beloved by kids as well as their parents. While the first part was a fun story with a good lesson, teaching kids the value of being humble and the power of friendship, this seems a bit different. At least what you can gather from the trailer, Cars 3 takes a slight turn towards a dark, Batman: Origins type of a story. Primary audience is still children but if you enjoyed Cars 2 as an adult, you probably going to love it even more.

Kong: Skull Island

Hollywood loves gigantic monsters destroying everything in their way. It’s hard to count all the Godzilla King Kong, dinosaur-themed movies. But this feels different. Much different. Instead of the old ‘King Kong takes on New York’ theme, the action takes place on an island in the Pacific which is riddled with a variety of never-seen before creatures. We predict that Kong: Skull Island will be among top 10 biggest movies of 2017.

Blade Runner 2049

Similarly, to Trainspotting, this is a bit of an unexpected return. The first Blade Runner (1982) was a masterpiece that won two Oscars. This year the new Blade Runner 2049 featuring a whole armada of stars (Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford) will try to replicate the success of the first. Let’s wait and see.

We could go on and on. This list only takes a fraction of the most anticipated movies coming out this year. What about Logan, John Wick 2, the new Pirates of the Caribbean, Guardians of the Galaxy, Kingsman, Transformers? Not to mention perhaps less-known titles that have their own die-hard fans – Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Jumanji, It, Power Rangers. Don’t know if 2017 is better for movie enthusiasts than any other year, but it certainly is not any worse.

How will TV be different in the future?

Imagine a world with no TV’s, no computers, perhaps even without phones. No, I’m not talking about a world where technology was whipped out by World War 3. On the contrary, I think that is the world where we are exactly heading towards right now.

You may be thinking “who cares? No one watches TV anymore”. A great point which actually gives more proof to my position. TV is much more than just a device to watch the news. It’s a screen for Netflix, YouTube, gaming and video-chatting.

Answer me this: what is one thing people love about technology. My guess is accessibility. You want to watch, listen and read at home, on your way to work, in the supermarket and even while you are staying overnight at your in-laws. Even in our own homes we sometimes wish we wouldn’t have to pause when we go from the living room to the kitchen to make a snack or have to use the bathroom.

Now add that to the things we already know for a fact. Every year technology allows us to make lighter, slimmer and bigger screens without a cost on quality.

So, what’s the vision?

Based on current technological advances my only guess is that TVs, and smart devices in general will all get slimmer up to a point they replace wallpaper. In a not-too-distant future our screens will be everywhere around our houses. They will follow our eyes or our heartbeats and light up on the wall, table or a mirror no matter what room we go to. And actually, I don’t think that’s a big stretch. We always wanted paper-thin, foldable screens. That’s something that tech companies such as Samsung are already working on. With current trends in mind, it’s natural to assume that the next logical step is to apply this technology to screens at home and the whole smart-home movement.

Why this and not the domination of Google Glass-type technology? There are several reasons but most importantly because people prefer a cinema-like experience to watching shows through special glasses. Perhaps there is a place under the sun for everyone and while using glasses may be a good way to capture your happy moments, Google Glass or even VR doesn’t seem to be practical enough to replace TVs. Today, or in the future.

But in the end, who knows? 50 years ago we imagined to have flying cars by now and yet, we still drive the same old way. Similarly, no one knows for sure what kind of a gadget may pop-up in the near future that may prove to be life-changing for everyone. All I can say is, that I can’t wait to see. We have many revolutionary technologies being developed now like 3D printing, self-driving cars, all sorts of robots, etc. Never before has society been so close to seeing how things are developed while they are being developed. One idea may spark a revolution half-way across the globe. Who knows?


How do movies affect society?

Does the society affect the movies or is it the other way around? Most likely is that is it both. After all, we are all connected. Now more than ever before. Certainly, there have been some that showed us a new perspective which we were unable to see before.

Someone may argue that changes come in two shapes, good and bad. Similarly, the affect movies have on society can also be seen this way. Perhaps constant violence in movies has turned the society numb. Why aren’t we shocked and outraged after another report on the news about bombings, terrorism and the loss of the civilians’ lives? Perhaps we got used to seeing it so much on the movies? The Avengers ride into New York, destroy half of the city, presumably kill a lot of innocent bystanders and yet, in the end all that is matters that the team is ready to face another villain in the next movie of the series.

Movies mislead societies

The is also a case of changing societies through misinformation. ‘Based on a true story’ are five magical words that (filmmakers unanimously agree) help bring in more money. But ‘based’ does not mean a true depiction of the events. And yet, many people believe that what they see in the movies to be true. For instance, in the Imitation Game, Alan Turing and is team crack the Enigma machine but in order to hide that fact from the Nazis, they have to sacrifice a squad of soldiers. The truth is, it was the whole town that was sacrificed. Every movie has these details that are different from reality but in an hour and a half movie they are impossible to pick out.

The Bright Side of the Movies

But as long as there are bad things, movies can also transform whole societies in a positive way. Think about the movies like Philadelphia (1993) or Milk (2008). They may not change societies in an instant but they do inspire a discussion that may grow into a countrywide or even global discussion.

Let’s be honest, people find it really hard to see something from a different perspective. Heterosexuals versus homosexuals, men versus women, blacks vs whites. The list may go on and on. Movies and TV shows make the job easier. Now, when I watch Mad Men I am appalled by the standard of treatment women in the workplace in the 1960s. It’s not ancient history. On the contrary, when you hear that someone like Bill O’Reilly was fired for sexual harassment on numerous accounts, you understand the perspective of those women.

Similarly, transgender issues, slavery, the life during the World Wars, or any war for that matter. Without movies, it would be so much harder to imagine what a soldier endures when he comes home from 12-month deployment, what it is to feel you were born in a wrong body, where single-moms and dads struggle, etc.

Societies are not changes in one day. Research has proved that we still sometimes act based on primal instincts. But one day at a time, one movie at a time societies do change. Luckily, for most part in a positive way.


© 2017