Learning any foreign language is based on four basic principles: reading, writing, speaking and listening/understanding. It is no secret that the latter is the most difficult. Recognizing foreign speech quickly and easily is one of the most important steps in mastering the language. You may have a considerable vocabulary, speak and read well, but ... absolutely not be able to recognize familiar words within a speech or conversation between foreigners, since surely the language you have been taught is the standard, and the one they are speaking is the colloquial or proper one in their area. English or Spanish, for example, are two world languages that are spoken very differently in Europe or America, but even in each of those continents you can find great divergences. And you don't have to reproduce them, but you do have to be able to grasp and understand them if that is one of the languages you have set out to learn.
There are many ways to "train your ears": language exchanges with native speakers, listening to songs in the language you are learning... but watching movies is the most effective and affordable way at the same time. A song, after all, is often made to rhyme, and can afford certain 'licenses' that are not in the usual speech. In a movie or series we find situations that put us in a context that can help us better understand what the characters are saying. But you have to get it right.
According to some estimates, the right approach to watching foreign movies provides quick recognition of almost 80% of the foreign words in everyday life. You will notice that watching movies in their original version is many times better than watching them in their dubbed version. Even though we have great dubbing actors and actresses in Spain, the dubbed version can make you miss the vocal performance nuances of your favorite actors. Anyway, this is not a debate about whether it is better to watch movies in V.O. or dubbed. We are talking about learning languages, and for that we are going to use those resources that we have at hand, in this case, the movies in original version.
It is true that sometimes it is difficult to find films and series in original version that are suitable for our learning. Cinemas do not usually program this type of movies and although it is possible to change to V.O. in platforms like Netflix, not all of us have Netflix, nor are all the titles available there, their offer is usually always new, and for what we need, it is better movies and series that we have already seen, the more times the better.
There is the possibility of finding a site to download movies in V.O (in spanish: descargar películas en V.O.). Downloading torrents (descargar torrents) of movies you have already seen and know makes you not worry so much about the plot, and you can concentrate on the way the actors talk. This is important because if you need to read the subtitles a lot, it won't help you to see the movie in its original version. Downloading V.O. series so that you have to spend your time reading will make this type of language training less effective, even more so if those subtitles are in your language. That's why it's ideal to choose to download series and movies (descargar series y películas) you already know. Another thing we recommend is that you run away from comedies. If your level of English is not very advanced and you try to watch a series like The Big bang Theory, you will most likely end up stressed out and not understanding anything, of course, forget about the fun. Jokes based on word games will disappear, becoming a horrible nightmare. However, if your level is high, we invite you to the opposite. Watching a movie like 'Rien a declarer' knowing French and being able to distinguish between the Belgian and French accents of France, with the jokes that this can bring, will further enrich your knowledge.
When I went to English classes, there was an old TV, video player and cassette recorder in our classroom (we didn't talk about DVD players, laptops or projectors yet). Electronic blackboards, what is that?). The English movies that our teacher got through some local English people were on videotapes and without subtitles (it is logical: why should an English person watch a movie in his native language with subtitles on it?)
We watched the film in 10-15 minute episodes. Due to the lack of subtitles, the students, of course, did not understand most of what was said. But thanks to the image, it was possible to capture the general meaning of what was happening. So, our teacher recorded the movie soundtrack on an audio cassette and, after watching the episode, played it back on a tape recorder for 2-3 sentences, until we analyzed the entire script down to the last word.
A native speaker came to the class on some occasions, who helped with complex slang or phraseological turns, as well as cultural phenomena. Needless to say, the film was American, and the English speaker, but he also knew enough about American culture to help with this task. I suppose that whoever reads this, with all the technological advantages of today, will have given thanks for not having to live in that 'stone age'. But the truth is that it wasn't so horrible, in fact it was fun. And the second truth is that, if with everything you have at your disposal today you don't know English, it's because you don't feel like learning it, that's for sure.
We are not suffering from a shortage of movies in English, and almost everyone now has a computer or better yet, a smart TV, both with an internet connection and the ability to connect to each other. Furthermore, by watching a foreign movie in its original version, you not only learn the language, but you also learn about the culture of the country of the language being studied, which is important, since language is an integral part of it. And, in any case, watching movies is interesting and fun, especially if you are in company. However, as we have already said, you do not enjoy, much less benefit from the film if you do not understand it.
So, let's summarize the tips for watching a movie and learning a language at the same time:
1) Before watching the movie, arm yourself with a piece of paper and a pen, don't forget that if you watch a movie in a foreign language it is to learn it. Write down what you think you need to learn and memorize.
2) To begin with, if you are new to the language, select the movie you have already seen and remember the story, otherwise it won't work as you simply won't pay attention to the language, or the movie.
3) Advanced students can choose any movie, however, do not choose one that would already be a torture for you dubbed into your native language, because we assure you that in V.O. it will not be better.
4) Make sure the movie has subtitles. If you watch a movie completely without subtitles, you are unlikely to learn anything. This applies to students of all levels. If you download subtitles, make sure they are synchronized with the movie's dialog boxes, otherwise it will be terribly annoying and useless. From the intermediate levels onwards, the subtitles should also be in the original language, and act only as reinforcement in case you don't fully understand what the characters are saying.
5) Don't watch the film in one go or opt for series with short episodes. In other words, don't saturate yourself. It is better to stop and try to understand what happened. If you notice that your attention span decreases, stop!
6) Use the dictionary when necessary. Pay attention to situations where you pronounce phrases you don't know: if it's about situations at the airport, store, bank, you can write complete sentences, so that you can use them in real life in such situations.
7) Don't worry if the first few minutes of the film take longer than expected: you need to get used to the characters' speech: intonation, rhythm, accents. After the first 15-20 minutes, everything will be easier. In a series where you already know the characters, you will see how you get used to the way each one of them talks.
8) Don't worry if you can't watch the whole movie at once. Sometimes it can take you longer than the length of the movie itself.
9) Movies you have already seen once with subtitles can be watched after a while in English without subtitles (especially if these are the movies you like). This will update the same words and phrases and give you maximum enjoyment from watching the movie without having to stop.
10) Finally, if you don't like movies, watch TV programs. You may also find them available for download, although the subtitles are already more complicated.
Don't forget that in order to understand the movie, you must have a wide vocabulary. It is very important to know how to pronounce words correctly, otherwise it will be difficult for you to recognize them in the flow of speech.
Translated from an original spanish post