Why Watching TV to Become Fluent in a Language works!

  • Most of the human population with the privilege to have access to a television or internet connection, consume hours of entertainment viewing a day. Don't get all self-cautious, if you don't do this then you are in the minority.

    I already went into how one can couch potato their way to language fluency by consuming various media - tv, movies, listening to music etc. And all the while gradually becoming more at ease within the target language.
    But here, I am going to go a little deeper into how and why this method works.

    If you don't like traditional studying, this is for you.
    Even if you do well with traditional studying methods -this is still for you.

    Last night, I went to bed at almost 5am. And yes, I had to be at my day-job early the next day....or that morning.
    But it was all good. And it will get even better because soon it'll be Friday, and like the language dork that I am - I can't wait to get back to doing what kept me up in the first place:
    Watching a telenovela - Yo Soy Betty la Fea, the entire weekend!
    And yes, I just wrote that with pride.

    While some others may prefer to go out to bars or clubs. I will be fixated on my laptop screen as I consume episode after episode of this series while munching on chocolate biscuits and drinking a ginger concoction (Introvert moment). Complete heaven!
    But you know what makes this pleasure not even one bit guilty?
    The hours I will pass being a vegetable will all amount to something - my Spanish language fluency!

    With each minute of this telenovela marathon, my brain will be absorbing and the Spanish language will be entering my system. This will happen both consciously, when I pause to look up a word or make a note of something I find useful, and unconsciously in too many ways to describe.

    But honestly, the best part is that I'll be having fun the entire time during this language learning process, if you can even call it that. In letting people know how I spent my time Monday morning I could say that I studied all weekend. I wouldn't be lying. Although this method of studying a language is fun, I actually think that it is more efficient than the awful traditional  laborious methods.

    But why does watching tv to become fluent in a language work so well?

    Because you are having fun, so you are not only open and receptive but also completely engaged in your activity. In addition, it is easier to motivate yourself to do something that you take pleasure in than something tedious or dull. If the storyline of whatever you are viewing is captivating enough - you will want to understand it all, and at all costs. So replaying a line over to be sure that you understood it, or pausing to look up a word or a cultural expression will seem like no effort at all - and will go a long way in your language learning.

    If you are learning the language on your own, it is the perfect way to work on your diction and accent - by listening to these native speakers speak naturally (which I find is even better than the overly stiff classroom style!). You get to hear words, phrases and pretty much everything said in various ways, and repeated over and over. In my opinion, that is the best way to grow your vocabulary because you get the added benefits of no only hearing the swords spoken by natives, but you also get see how the words are employed, and in various forms and contexts. This part of the learning process is so useful. And is similar to the way we learned to speak our very first language as children.

    Initially, when we start learning a language, each time we hear something or need to say something - for a while, each time will be the first time. Almost every part of the language will be new to us so almost every word or every line of whatever it is we are watching will be the first time that we get to hear it said aloud, even if we might have read it somewhere else before.  And if we repeat what we hear, it would be the first time we say the words or sentences.

    In consuming visual media, we give ourselves a chance to have our "first-times" in private, where we are relaxed and have the liberty to repeat the experience over again until we feel comfortable enough with it to keep going. Having this experience ahead of time in private makes it so much easier the second time we hear a word, phrase, expression, or others that are similar to them, in real life in-person situations. Because this time around, we will not be hearing them for the first time, but be recognizing what we've already heard. We will be less likely to  ask "could you repeat that" or draw a blank because we would have already heard so much of it before to be able to recognize and understand it spontaneously in the moment.

    Furthermore, as various movies and television series cover an array of topics, you could pick and choose what you would like to immerse yourself in based on topics and genres that interest you. Viewing such specific media would help you become more exposed and comfortable on certain subjects that are relevant to you. And you could live out various scenarios vicariously through your chosen media in your target language to bring the vocabulary and language to life (without even needing to move abroad). You could learn useful ways of saying things in a romantic context by watching a movie in the genre, learn professional law terms by watching a legal documentary or learn how to defend yourself by watching a scene in a tv series where the protagonist has an argument with her best friend. 

    With this method the possibilities are really endless, and the same benefits can also be gotten from listening to the radio and music in the target language. Go crazy and have fun while you steadily make progress and become multi-lingual.



1 comment
  • Emma Biggins
    Emma Biggins I just wanted to say that watching telly does work, I always advise people to watch telly and even put it on my blog.  When I first moved to Spain I avoided getting English TV and stuck with Spanish.  I have never been to a Spanish class, yet my Spanish a...  more
    January 20, 2014