Choice to Speak - Learning Arabic with movies

Is Watching Foreign Language Movies a Waste of Time?

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“Watching foreign movies is a great way to learn a new language”, is it? In the world of language learning folklore, I often hear that watching movies or series is a golden ticket to fluency. Do you really believe that lying back and watching TV for 90 minutes would make you speaking Arabic over a sudden?

In this article, I would like to share the pros and cons of learning a language with movies and show you the right way to watch the movie in a foreign language that makes it works.

The Wrong Way to Watch Foreign Movies

Choice to Speak - Is Watching Foreign Language Movies a Waste of Time? Arabic

Watching movies is really exciting to do. Grab popcorn and coke, invite your friends and yalla to the cinema! This is what you would normally do to chill out and relax with your mates. But it doesn’t help with your language learning objectives. Lastly, you will end up being upset by not understanding the storyline and the characters, and tossing the whole idea of watching a movie in a foreign language in favor of tested flashcards.

Remember, there is no such thing like magic pills.

Watching foreign language movies can help you learn another language if you go about it the right way.

You can’t just watch a movie. You have to study a movie.

Here’s The Right Method for Watching Foreign Language Movies

By watching movies and TV shows in Arabic, you can enrich your vocabulary with useful phrases and words. And our experienced teacher will help you to work it out without cramming. Take a free introductory lesson and see for yourself.

Movies actually help us to improve our listening skills. One thing that makes real-world listening so hard is that textbooks and audio courses spoon-feed us a simplified version of the language. Sure, they make life easier at the beginning, but they don’t do a very good job of preparing us for how people actually talk. Which can lead to two things:

  • When we hear people speaking in real life, we don’t have a clue what’s going on.
  • When we talk, we sound stilted and unnatural.

To understand how you should study watching the movie, I will show you a detailed example of learning Arabic based on the short movie “1001 Inventions”. Before we start, remember 5 basic steps in approaching this type of learning.

1. Choose the right level movie

To enjoy learning the language, you should choose the right difficulty. Otherwise, it will turn into torment. For beginners, I recommend starting with cartoon movies. Personally, I prefer Arabian Fairy Tales. The Fairy Tales are in Fusha (MSA) with English Subtitles. Another useful source is BBCNews. The broadcasting is conducted also in Fusha. There are a few other resources you can peak up to your preferences.

Fairy Tale CartoonsFairy Tales in Fusha with English Subtitles
Islamic Cartoons and More VideosA plethora of Islamic Cartoons in Arabic (fusha) with English subtitles.
PlayalingA free service that allows you to view videos of people speaking Arabic. You can filter by difficulty and dialect.
Arabic Cartoon Network All of the cartoons are in Fusha. Videos that have real people speaking are usually in their local dialects.
Lion of the DesertThe famous movie dubbed in Fusha Arabic.
Lady Bug TVCartoons in Fusha.

For dialects, you can watch Netflix, for example.

Some of our students are asking which Arabic they need to start learning. Well, there are many different opinions, but I believe that MSA (Modern Standard Arabic or Fusha) is a good base to build your language further. Fusha is used as an official language in all Arab countries. You can hear it in the airport, news; all official announcements are also made in Fusha. Lately, you can learn any dialect much easier. If you have an opportunity to get exposure to the local Arab community, you can start understanding the dialect deference easier by interacting with locals and studying the MSA at the same time.

2. Break the movie into 10 minutes parts

As we discussed earlier, learning with the movie isn’t the same as going to the cinema having your popcorn and coke. Instead of a large screen, you should be equipped with a computer, and this time change the popcorn for a notebook, pen, and markers. Firstly, check the length of your movie, and decide how many days or weeks you should dedicate to this video if you, let’s say, will be watching 3-5 times a week ten minutes each.

3. Use our system to learn Arabic with movie

The following technique works perfectly with me, so I want to share it with you as well. I picked for you two videos. The first one I’ll use as an example to show you the technique. The second one tries to do yourself using the same approach.

☘️ Watch the video one time to cope up with the general idea.

At this point don’t expect to understand anything at all. It is simply to get you acquainted with the scene or movie fragment.

If the speech of the characters seems too fast and you find it difficult to understand, use the function of slowing down the playback speed. Almost every modern video player has this option. The sound is not distorted, but it will be much easier to understand what the characters of the video are talking about.

1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets

☘️ Watch the video a second time paying attention to unfamiliar words and note them down.

If you want not only to have fun, but also to benefit from viewing, work with a dictionary. When you encounter an unfamiliar word, stop the video, open the dictionary and write down the word with context and translation. In the future, try to use new vocabulary in the classroom with a teacher or in a conversation with a foreigner.

Just sort of worried.ولكني قلقة
That sounds like fun
(It is so much fun)
يبلو نلك ممتعاً
I’m going to failسوف أفشل
I’m going to get laughed at by everyone. وسيسخر مني جميع الطلاب
In his desire for peace the Caliph believed…بحكمته علم أن سر الر جاء والوئام
… that through acquiring knowledge prosperity could be achieved.هو الحفاظ على العلم والمعرفة على الدوام
Thus forthولهذا
Dear boy, nonsense! يا بني … هذا تخريف
We have no time to wasteليس لدينا وقنٌ بضيعه
I was right!أنا على حق
This is awesome!هذا مدهش

These are just a few phrases that I want to remember from the video at this point. Thus, you can hear more useful words to add to your vocabulary.

☘️ Think up your own story using the new words.

The thing is that our brain is really smart 😁. Everything that is directly related to us is easier for your brain to remember. As simple as that!

And, by the way, the more fun the story is, the easier you learn new words. Sometimes I make really ridiculous ones, and guess what? Of course, I still can recall all the phrases from those stories. I might share it with you 😊.

☘️ Watch the video one more time after 3-7 days without using your dictionary or notes.

If you come across a lot of new words in a movie or TV show and you want to remember them well, I recommend the following technique. Try to learn new vocabulary after watching, then wait 3-7 days and watch the video again. However, do not use a dictionary and subtitles this time. This technique will help you not only expand your vocabulary but also improve your listening comprehension if you cannot watch videos without subtitles yet.

There are different approaches to learning the language or in general new things. Thus, it is scientifically proven that we tend to remember only 60% of the new information we’ve heard after two hours. The next day you’ll remember only 50%. The graph below shows the forgetting curve as a blue line. That means that most probably no one remembers anything after school or passing the exam unless you repeat.

In Choice to Speak school, I implemented this approach for our language learners. I have created a vocabulary notebook that you can fill in and every day you know which words or phrases you need to repeat today.

If you are not a bookworm like me 😊, well, you can use online resources and apps that follow a similar algorithm. Here just a few of them:

1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets

4. Imitate native speakers

Do you want to work on your pronunciation? Repeat phrases after the movie character of the film or TV series. Try to imitate not only the pronunciation of sounds but also the intonation and manner of speaking. This is a pretty interesting exercise to do with friends. Try to act out a scene from your favorite TV series or blockbuster together. Both fun and useful! Watch how actor Steve Martin diligently imitates a French accent in the following video.

1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets

5. Focus on your interests

Forcing yourself to learn Arabic is useless and even harmful. Therefore, do not watch what you are not interested in. It is just a waste of your precious time. In addition to various films, you may be interested in news, TV shows, or creative commercials. Find yours and go for it!

AND FINAL: Speak Arabic as often as possible and try to incorporate new words and phrases from the video into your speech. And to overcome the language barrier, our course “Conversational Practice” will help you.

Choice to Speak is happy to help you reach new heights of knowledge. Therefore, I have selected the most effective and exciting techniques for learning Arabic (or any other languages) from movies and TV shows. Share in the comments your favorite films that you watched in the original, and also your funny stories from the above exercise.

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learning with movies

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