How To Use TV Shows To Supplement Your Language Learning

Let’s be honest, you were gonna watch Netflix anyway.
woman watching TV on her computer in bed

If you needed an excuse to watch more television, we’re giving you one. You’re welcome! Streaming foreign language TV shows can be a fun and effective supplement to your other methods of language learning. But in order for it to work, you have to do it right. 

We’ve compiled a few helpful tips to make the most of your TV-viewing experience, as well as links to our TV show guides based on the language you’re learning. Sit back, relax and learn a language!

Top Tips For Learning With TV Shows

Find Shows You’re Interested In

This may sound like an obvious first step, but a vital one. If you start watching a show and think it’s a slog to get through, then don’t keep going just because you want to get the language practice in. Sure, not every part of language learning will be fun, but finding a TV show that keeps you actively engaged is important.

Read Up On The Show

Before you dive in and immerse yourself in any foreign language TV shows, it’s helpful to get a basic understanding of the show’s plot and main characters. It’s like reading a plot summary before going to see a Shakespeare play, so you aren’t totally lost in his older form of English. Once you read up on the series and know what you’re looking for, it can make it a lot easier to follow along in another language.

Study Relevant Vocab

Along the same lines as the previous tip, studying some basic vocabulary related to the show’s premise will go a long way in making your viewing more enjoyable and more effective for learning. Say, for example, you’re watching a crime procedural in Spanish. Whether you’re using an app like Babbel, flashcards, a textbook or another learning method, you should spend some time studying crime- and law-related vocab words and phrases. That way, you’ll be more likely to recognize them in the show and will learn how to use them in context.

Use Subs Not Dubs

This one is crucial. We are extremely pro-subtitles and strongly encourage you to turn off the (usually awful) English dubbing and turn on the subs instead. Watching a dubbed show defeats the purpose of trying to improve your language skills, but some streaming sites default to the dubbed version, so stay vigilant! You can learn more about the great subs vs. dubs debate here.

Watch It Again!

Once you complete a show in the language you’re learning, try rewatching it without any subtitles (or at least with subs in that language, rather than in English). This will truly put your language skills to the test, and because you already know what happens, you can focus on picking up new words, phrases and speech patterns that you didn’t notice the first time.

Foreign Language TV Shows To Stream By Language

Start season one of a new language!
Try Babbel