Movies are a powerful tool to increase your abilities to understand native speakers. You can also improve your speaking skills and the way you express yourself in Spanish.
When I was learning to speak my second language (English) I used to struggle to understand real Americans when they talk in real life.
The problem was that I was used to the academic material that I had learned in school:
- Verb Conjugations.
- Fill in the gaps.
- Forced and unreal conversations.
- Stressful language tests.
To make things worse, my listening skills sucked. My ears only understood the fake conversations that came in a cd-room along with the textbook that we were using in class.
One of the best practices that I used to overcome this problem, was watching movies.
Of course, just like it worked for me, movies can help you a lot with your Spanish learning.
How can movies help you speak better Spanish?
Textbooks, worksheets, and traditional Spanish lessons have a very formal Spanish style that you never hear in real life.
That may be good when you’re just getting to know the language.
However, when you get to the intermediate level, that kind of material becomes useless and in the end, sticking to your textbook will only show you the formal and academic vocabulary that is not used in real life.
Movies, videos, or TV Shows, on the other hand, are a huge source of real authentic material meant for native speakers. This is the kind of material that you should be thinking to consume when you just feel that you can’t understand native speakers and express yourself correctly in Spanish.
When you see a movie in Spanish you will:
- See people using the language naturally.
- Hear daily real expressions that are not taught in textbooks.
- Listen to real Spanish.
- Hear and learn new idioms and real Spanish expressions.
- Notice how native speakers combine their speaking with body language.
How to watch movies to improve your Spanish?
Normally, when we want to watch a movie, all we do is to sit down, play the movie, relax and enjoy the story we see on the screen.
I wish I could tell you that if you do the same with a Spanish movie then your new language will improve magically, but no, I can’t tell you that.
I mean, you could just play a movie in Spanish, but most of what you hear when your listening skills are not well developed will be noise, and according to professor Stephen Krashen:
Comprehensible and understanding messages make language acquisition work.
That means that if you really want to acquire Spanish and make it your own language, you need to understand what you’re listening.
Now, movies are not always easy to understand because, as I said before, movies regularly go at a natural speed.
- Actors speak like they do it in real life:
- They use idioms.
- Phrasal verbs.
- Regional expressions.
- Their tone changes.
- They cry, yell, whisper
- They speak naturally!
So, how are you supposed to use movies to improve your Spanish?
You need to go slower, eat the movies, feel their taste and digest them.
How to “digest” a movie in Spanish
The following steps will show you exactly what you need to do in order to learn Spanish from a movie:
1- Select a movie you like:
Don’t just pick a movie, it is very important that you pick a movie that you really like, something that catches your attention.
If you enjoy the movie, then you will forget that you’re trying to learn Spanish. Instead of that, you will focus on the story that you watch on the screen.
2- It’s important to set the subtitles in Spanish:
Comprehensible Spanish is very important for your brain to learn the language.
The easiest way to make Spanish from a movie comprehensible is to turn the subtitles on.
In this matter, services like Netflix come in very handy because many of its movies and TV Shows offer accurate Spanish subtitles for the user.
3- Divide the movie into short segments:
As I said before, don’t just sit down and passively watch the movie. Instead of that, take the time to divide the movie into short segments.
This way, it will be easier for you to take the time to analyze the vocabulary from complete scenes, in fact, the most important thing is that you understand everything they say during the movie, so take your time.
If you divide the movie into segments, that means that you will take longer to watch the movie completely. So don’t worry, go slowly, do 15 minutes one day, 15 minutes the next day, and so on.
4- Write down the new phrases, idioms or expressions:
Remember, you want to take the most out of the movie you’re watching, so get a pen and a notebook and write down every new expression you hear or read.
Look up the meaning of the new phrases on the internet: Try to use a dictionary or google translator if you can’t understand the new phrases. At the end of the movie, you must feel like you understood at least 97% of the film.
5- Repeat the same segments several times:
When watching one segment of the movie, play it several times, this will improve your listening skills.
This way, You will be training your brain to get familiar with the new phrases that you hear in the movie, and don’t forget that repetition leads to mastery.
6- Make it a challenge for you:
You could watch the segment a couple of times with subtitles and then watch it more times without subtitles and see how much of the segment you understand.
7- Imitate the characters:
Become involved in the movie, imitate your favorite character. Mimic the way he or she talks, imitate their facial expressions and their body language.
Notice their intonation (when their voice goes up and when it goes down). Pay attention to how they show emotion, what words they use, what tone, etc.
8- Watch the movie again:
Finally, when you complete the movie by segments, set a day for a fun and relaxing time of watching the whole film without stopping it.
Watch the movie without subtitles if you feel like you’ve mastered the movie, and don’t forget to get some popcorn!
“The movie technique for learning Spanish”
The steps listed above could be thought as a “technique”. I know from my own experience that watching movies for language learning is an excellent way of improving and making progress.
Why don’t you give it a try?
Set a goal for yourself of watching a complete movie in Spanish using the “technique” that you just learned.
You could do a 5-minute segment every day for a month, and at the end of the month, you could try to watch the complete movie in full Spanish without subtitles.
Is there a movie you would like to watch in Spanish? Let me know in the comments below!
Would you like to learn more tips and techniques to improve your Spanish? Sign up for my 8-day free Email course and find the road to Spanish fluency.