How to Learn English with Movies or TV Series

Do you love watching movies and TV shows? If you’re like me, they are a significant part of your life, and a great way to learn about the American culture and language. Here’s how you can learn English with movies and TV!


If you prefer watching movies and TV shows in your native language, think about what it is about this form of entertainment that you love so much. Do you prefer drama, or comedy, or sci-fi? Is action more your style, or maybe documentaries? What genre speaks the most to you? What kind of stories do you like to see portrayed on-screen? You can take your love of television and film and combine it with your passion for learning English!


The United States is home to Hollywood, one of the most famous symbols of cinema in the world. There is almost no end to the quantity of movies and series you can watch! Find your genre, find actors you might already know about and like, and look for material that you will be interested in. Then, sit back, relax, and get ready to learn through entertainment!


A lot of people find it helpful to watch movies and TV shows with the subtitles on (this can be helpful if the actors speak quickly or they use a dialect you are not familiar with). Try first to watch the movie or show WITHOUT subtitles. There is no shame in using subtitles – in fact, I sometimes use them myself (in both of my native languages) to make sure I don’t miss any part of a storyline. However, you can use this opportunity to challenge yourself to really focus and try to understand the conversations on the screen.

If you’re able to, turn off the subtitles and see how much of the dialogue you’re able to understand. If you can manage to understand at least 60% of the conversations, that’s great! Can you manage 70%, 80%, 90%, or even 100%? That’s awesome!


Afterwards, whether in your mind, on a piece of paper, or on your computer, summarize what you just watched. A great way to motivate yourself to do this is to watch the program with friends, and then you can each write down your summary and discuss your observations! This is also a great opportunity to practice your speaking skills.

Once you’ve done that, and if you feel that you still need to work on how much you were able to understand, you can re-watch the program with subtitles (in English first, if the option is available, which is sometimes labeled as “Closed Captioning” or “CC”, and after that in your own language if the English subtitles were not enough). Pro tip: keep an English dictionary handy so that you can look up words you don’t understand as you watch!


If you can’t understand ANYTHING, you should then try watching a different movie or show. If that is still not helping your listening comprehension, you can dial it back and look for programs for children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out by watching shows and movies intended for kids! The verbal interactions in children’s programs are usually enunciated more clearly, sentences are usually less complicated, and they are spoken at a more reasonable speed. You’ll find that so many current programs for children are just as entertaining for adults (I know firsthand, because I’m a parent)!

Take a look at the link to Gabby’s video below, and make sure to read the comments section underneath the video (make sure you open the YouTube video in a separate tab), where lots of other English learners like you have typed in their suggestions!

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