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Learning to speak English by watching movies: does it really work?

 I’ve heard many English gurus give this insane piece of advice: watch some Hollywood flick to learn how to speak in English. But is that so simple. I don’t think so.

 Here is what you can and cannot achieve by watching movies:


1) If you already have some idea about English, your KNOWLEDGE or UNDERSTANDING of the English language can improve by watching movies. You can get a general idea of phrases, pronunciation of individual words and most importantly, intonation.

 2) Your vocabulary might improve a bit- say 10 words per movie. But even an average English class can fetch you those many words. Reading simple articles can give you a much better result.

 3) Common phrases and usages are easy to acquire by watching a movie. Learning that otherwise would require much more time.

 4) You can also understand how the natives use the language and how it is different from the English that we have learnt from schools.


1) Fluency. It will NOT improve beyond a point. Fluency is a much more complex thing by watching movies alone. Even a simple speech would require knowledge of 3000 words. More than the knowledge of the words, the interaction between them, how the words change with the tense and plurality. There is no other way but to learn them.

 2) Movies cannot correct the mistakes that you make. Sounds quite obvious. But think of this: Phrases that are suitable for a particular context can have a completely different effect when used in another context. But how are you supposed to know that? For example: the word “cool” can sound like a good word to be used in an informal context. But how often do you say that to your boss. Certain usages might be used only by that character of the movie. When used out of context, the usage might be seen as crude or inappropriate.

 3) Dialogues are just that: dialogues. Are they real conversations? I think not. How many times have you said this to anyone: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape”. Or how about stating your name like this: “I am Bond. James Bond”. You got my point, did ya? Even the most realistic dialogues, (remember those retarded ‘mumblecore’ movies) are scripted ones and have a dramatic effect that is unsuitable for daily conversations.

 4) Movies are not an EFFICIENT system of learning a language. Yes, a movie can IMPROVE your English proficiency, and yes, it can BETTER your fluency. But, there is a limit to that. Most of the linguists agree that anyone can become fluent in a language, without learning that language itself, just by being exposed to it through movies and natural conversations. But that would take a minimum of 6 months-1year, just for reaching a basic level. You can reach a much higher level, at a quicker rate, if you learn the language using the correct method, with the help of a tutor.

 Author: Jims Varkey
-English Quick Tips Page


  1.  I appreciate language learning experiences. The fact that i read so much, and so profoundly, demonstrates the high level of your English. 

    teaching big classes

  2. It is really an ideal thing that our children will have to learn all the basics of English language. It's because, this is the most number one thing that we will have to use for further communication.

    Best IELTS Score


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