How to Learn English From Movies

By Tucker Cummings

Updated September 22, 2017

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One way to perfect your English is to watch lots of movies. By repeatedly watching movies with native English speakers, you will pick up slang terms that you are unlikely to learn in a classroom setting. In addition, listening to native speakers will help you to improve your accent, and will also help to train your ear. This technique can definitely work if you are willing to put in the time and effort. For example, famous actress Charlize Theron's first language is Afrikaans, and she learned to speak English by watching American TV and movies.

Choose a movie that interests you. Whether it is the story or the actors that draw you to the movie, watching a movie you enjoy will make you more likely to work hard to understand it.

Match the complexity of the movie to your comprehension level. Choose a movie where you can understand roughly 80 percent of the dialogue, and you will likely be able to figure out the rest due to context. If you are new to speaking English, try a children's movie.

Select a movie that will provide you with useful vocabulary. If you are learning English for business, watch a movie like Wall Street, Boiler Room, or Office Space. If you are learning English to communicate with a significant other, try a romantic comedy. If you are learning English in order to attend school overseas, watch a movie that ties into your coursework (Shakespeare in Love for English, Braveheart for history or The Abyss for science).

Watch each movie at least twice, back-to-back if possible. The second time through, turn off the subtitles.

Whenever possible, watch the movie with a copy of the script in English. You can often find movie scripts online or in bookshops.

Rewind the movie whenever you encounter a line of dialogue or unfamiliar phrase to help you fully understand it and master the pronunciation.

Use a program like MovieLearn. (see Resources) This program works with popular TV shows like the Apprentice and Baywatch. As you watch the show on your computer screen, you can access a translation panel that explains colloquial expressions used in the show, and translates each line of dialogue word by word. However, the number of shows compatible with this program is very limited, and it is suitable only for native speakers of Chinese, Thai, German, Korean and Vietnamese.