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Can you learn English from movies?

What's the best advice on the internet for learning new words in a language?

Raise your hand.




Can't see any hands from here but I'm pretty sure you know the reply:




Am I correct?


I know I am. And you know what... This infuriates me.


Because it is actually the WORST thing you can do.


If you're watching movies in English hoping to boost your vocabulary you are simply wasting your time.


There are a few valid reasons for that.


Let's see what they are and understand what you should do instead to grow your vocabulary fast.


The problem with movies


Honestly, how much can you understand when you watch any movie or TV series in English?


Be honest!


(I'm assuming you're not an advanced English speaker or you wouldn't be here)


Probably not much.


Unless you turn on the subtitles.


Ok, fine. With subs perhaps you can understand a little more.


But how much of that vocabulary will you actually learn?


Probably not much.

Don't worry. This is completely normal. You're not a slow learner.


The reason is that subtitles alone are not enough. There is much more work you need to put in to learn new words.


Did you read that? I said "WORK".


I bet when you come back home from the office every day and sit on your sofa to watch your favourite series after dinner, the LAAAAAST thing you want to do is WORK.


You see...


The problem with movies is that they're just not efficient to learn vocabulary:


  • They're too hard to understand

  • They are a relaxing activity


Let me elaborate on that.


The 2 types of vocabulary


In a film there are 2 types of vocabulary:


  • The words you can learn

  • The words you can't learn

Can you learn English from movies?

The words you can learn are vocabulary that you recognize after watching the movie for the first time.


You understand how they are spelled so if you want (nobody ever does that) you can look them up in the dictionary AND LEARN THEM.


Sometimes you can even recognize a few more words after watching it multiple times but usually the gain is very little.


On the contrary, the words you can't learn are vocabulary that you don't recognize even after listening many times.


Now, it doesn't take a genius to understand the following...




In summary, movies are too hard for you to learn anything meaningful.


The problem with subtitles




I know what you're thinking you smart cookie:


Nick, I've got subtitles!


Sure. But what are subtitles?


"Dumb question" you'll think. They are text that you must read, of course.






I guess you start to get the point here.


In essence, whenever you turn on subtitles the film becomes A READING EXERCISE.


Suddenly you have to switch your attention to reading and inevitably miss most scenes (how annoying is that?)




Don't get me wrong. Reading is great! Probably the best activity ever.


But do you really think you can pause a TV series every 3 seconds to take the time to read ALL subtitles and understand EVERYTHING??


Come on. Let's be honest.


So, can you learn English from movies?


Well, it could actually be possible if:


  • You're already advanced so you don't need to pause every 5 seconds

  • You know the right method and are willing to work hard.


Can't help you with the first point, I'm afraid.


As for the second, subscribe to Mindlingo's Fluency Lab and you'll find all the step-by-step strategies you need to become an efficient learner.




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