Language learning with Netflix

When it comes to learning new languages, there are many different methods that people use. Some prefer to take classes in a school or community setting, while others may choose to study on their own with books or online resources. Then there are those who like to mix things up and use a variety of different methods, depending on the situation.

If you're looking for an interesting, fun, and easy way to start learning a new language, Netflix may be a great option for you. With so many different language options and a huge variety of movies and tv shows available, you can definitely find something that fits your interests and boost your learning skills by simply watching it in your target language.

But, will that really work? And if so, what should you expect, and how can you use this method best? Let’s discover the answers to these and some other questions together. Read on.

Watching Movies to Learn Languages: Pros

When it comes to learning languages, watching foreign movies with subtitles (whether on Netflix or some other platform) is a great way to improve your skills. Here are the main benefits of using this method:

1. It's fun and interesting.

Motivation is an essential part of any language learning process, but if you’re a fan of certain movies and TV shows, learning with them can be motivating enough. You won’t have to worry about setting a time every day to learn – you won’t even see it as learning, because it’s entertainment! Watching tv is nothing compared to boring language classes.

2. It boosts your vocabulary.

Just like reading books and watching movies has helped you learn new words and phrases in your native language, it would do the same for your target language. When watching foreign movies in the original language, you learn a whole new set of conversational phrases and idioms in context, which makes them much easier to master.

3. It improves your listening skills.

When learning a new language, the most challenging aspect of listening is understanding the language when it’s used by different speakers, at different speeds, and with various accents. Watching movies with subtitles allows you to quickly distinguish words and phrases in regular conversations and train your ears for this new experience.

4. It helps you learn grammar in context.

Watching a movie or show is a great method for language learners to master grammar by distinguishing verb types, tenses, and other grammatical constructions. And, even if you can’t understand all the grammar usage when characters on the screen speak, you can always hit that pause button and study the captions at your own pace.

5. It can help you better understand the culture.

When you watch a movie, you obviously not only get to learn the language but also understand the customs and culture of the country where it is spoken. This can provide additional context for the new words you’re learning and also help you understand the smallest nuances of the language.

Watching Movies to Learn Languages: Cons

Even though watching movies for language learning has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages that you should consider before starting.

1. It requires a lot of time and dedication.

Learning any new skill takes time and effort, and watching movies on Netflix is no different. You can’t expect to become fluent in a new language by just passively watching your favorite shows. You need to be dedicated and willing to put in the time to make it work.

2. You can only get a snapshot of the language.

One or even several movies in a foreign language can’t cover all its intricacies. Depending on the genre of the content you choose, you will get different types of vocabulary.

For example, if you turn on a classic romcom, you should be able to get familiar with simple, everyday language diluted by dating vocab. On the other hand, if you choose a medical drama, get ready to face the whole medical dictionary.

Language Learning with Netflix

3. It's not enough on its own.

Just like any other method, watching movies on Netflix should be just one part of your language learning journey. After all, it can often be nearly impossible to get the hang of a whole language structure by simply watching Netflix.

If you want to become truly fluent, you need to supplement your viewing with other activities, such as listening to podcasts, reading textbooks, or taking classes.

4. It can be overwhelming.

With so many different language options and programs available on Netflix, it can be tough to know where to start. And, if you’re not careful, you can quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated by the process.

But, if you get the hang of it, after some time, watching movies or tv shows with subtitles can become just another entertaining activity instead of a possibility to work on your language skills.

5. Some shows may not be appropriate for learning.

Not all TV shows and movies are created equal when it comes to language learning. Some may be too fast-paced or use slang that is difficult to understand. Others may be too slow or have too much dialogue for beginners. It’s important to carefully choose your content so as not to get discouraged early on in the process.

How to Use Netflix to Learn?

Of course, you can simply turn on Netflix with subtitles and start learning. But, before you do that, consider some ways to make this process easier and more effective.

Here are some methods that should help you master language learning with Netflix:

Without Additional Tools

Language Learning with Netflix

If you’re not a fan of downloading extensions or using additional apps, you can always start with just Netflix on its own. There are three basic ways to do so:

1. Watch with subtitles

Either in your target language or in your native language. This is the most basic and straightforward way to use Netflix for language learning.

If you’re just starting out, you may want to watch shows and movies with subtitles in your native language. This can help you follow along more easily and get a better understanding of the content. On the other hand, watching Netflix with the original language subtitles is a perfect tool for visual learners who need to read the words to get the hang of what is going on.

Whichever type of captions you choose, make sure to look for content that is appropriate for your level – it’s best not to start with medical or legal dramas if you’re a complete beginner.

2. Watch content in your native language with dubbed audio

If you want to get more exposure to the target language but find subtitles too distracting, you can try watching content created in your native language with dubbed audio in the language you’re learning. This might not be a suitable method for beginners, but if you’re an intermediate learner, you’ll be amazed at how much you can understand.

And, this method gives you a perfect excuse to rewatch your favorite movies or tv shows for the thousandth time (but with a new, engaging challenge).

Language Learning with Netflix

3. Watch original content

And finally, if you’re feeling confident, try watching original content in your target language without changing the subtitles. This is probably the most difficult method, but it’s also the most rewarding. At first, you may not understand much of what is going on, but if you stick with it, trust us – you’ll get the hang of it.

Moreover, the accuracy of original content leaves no room for translation errors, so apart from learning, you also get an opportunity to understand the smallest nuances of the plot.

With Chrome Extensions

Now, if you want to try some helpful aids for learning with Netflix, there are several of them on the market. The most popular are Chrome extensions that allow you to adjust the watching process a bit.

Here are the most common ones:

This is probably the most famous and the most extensive set of tools designed to help you learn new languages while watching shows and movies on Netflix. This free Google Chrome extension makes your journey of learning foreign languages with Netflix much easier.

Thanks to this tool, you can get captions both in your native and the target language and learn the translation for any foreign word by simply hovering over it. By clicking on the word, you enable a pop-up dictionary with even more information, such as pronunciation assistance, synonyms, and usage examples.

Apart from that, language learners will enjoy the keyboard shortcuts that allow for precise video control, as well as helpful learning features such as highlighting rare words or the possibility to save and review new words.

For now, Language Reactor is available only on Google Chrome, but the developers are working on Firefox and Edge extensions as well. Moreover, even though this program started as a tool to learn with Netflix, today it also works with YouTube.

Flixlingo is another language learning tool that speeds up the process of learning by automatically translating and subtitling movies and shows on Netflix into over 20 languages.

It offers similar features as Language Reactor, such as video playback control and dual subtitles, but also has a few different ones. With Flixlingo, for example, you can adjust the speed of the dialogue or repeat it automatically for better understanding.

The Flixlingo extension doesn’t have a pop-up dictionary, which can be a disadvantage for beginning learners, but this approach also allows you to figure out the meaning of the words by yourself using the context, which can be great for intermediate and advanced learners.

  • Subadub

This tool might not be as extensive as the two previous ones, but it’s a good alternative for learners who use Mozilla Firefox instead of Chrome (although it’s available on Chrome as well).

Subadub offers subtitles in multiple languages for Netflix content, and, most importantly, they are selectable. This means that you can copy and paste words for further study – or even save them as plain text documents.

While this might be the simplest of the tools out there, it also offers the most naturally-looking view, which can be beneficial for more advanced learners who want to focus on the watching process but still need a quick aid.

Bottom Line

Language Learning with Netflix

All in all, using Netflix for language learning can be a fun and rewarding experience – you can enjoy tv shows and movies while boosting your language skills at the same time. This approach can help you learn new words and phrases in natural contexts, and subtitles allow you to understand the plot better.

Additionally, with so many different tools and programs available, there is something out there for everyone. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of this method before deciding if this is the right option for you, and to choose the tool that best suits your needs. Remember: learning languages with Netflix can be exciting and effective, but only if you do it right.

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Beata Hardzei

Beata Hardzei loves languages and shares this passion through her writing. Speaking English, Polish, Russian, and French, she explores the nuances of foreign languages, aiming to make learning feel more like a journey than a task. Beata's background as a teacher and translator enriches her insights, helping you see language learning as an accessible, enriching experience.