Want to get a great two-for-one deal when you learn English by reading?
Read English-language books that have been made into awesome movies.
One of the fastest ways to learn and remember a language is by reading.
And one of the most entertaining ways to learn a language is by watching movies.
Put those two learning methods together and you have found something really special.
By choosing books which have movies based on them, you make both the book and the movie become more powerful learning tools.
You will understand the story, know the characters like old friends, enjoy every minute of study time—and you will be able to focus on learning the language, instead of trying to figure out what is happening.
You can do the same in smaller portions with FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
In the meantime, this post will give you specific techniques that you can use to learn English by reading exciting movie-star books.
First, let’s explore why novels (fiction books) make such great English reading materials in the first place.
Then, we will learn more about using the movie adaptations (versions) based on those books.
Why Do Novels Help You Learn English Fast?
You have probably seen children going to sleep with their “bedtime stories.” That is when they read books in order to fall asleep at night or when their parents read stories to them. Story time is a big part of how children learn their native language.
You are encouraged to (told to) read books as much as you can because that is what makes you smart. That is because reading educates you (teaches you) and helps you to have a larger vocabulary.
When you stop reading, it is much harder for your vocabulary to grow.
Reading novels helps you get a bigger, better English vocabulary faster.
If textbooks are your only English reading materials, your English may sound awkward and dry (very dull, or boring). The textbooks have a lot of structure and they choose when and how to teach you certain basic vocabulary. Novels constantly challenge you and introduce you to new vocabulary on every page.
Also, textbooks are not very fun to read. Novels have exciting stories in them that make you want to read more and more, faster and faster.
A benefit when you learn English by reading novels is that you pick up a wide range of words and phrases. Fantasy, mystery, young adult fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and biographies all use different types of sentences, vocabulary and grammar.
Each author has their own style, which is like an accent or a way that they talk. So these different English reading materials may help you understand the different types of people you may talk to in real life.
Also, books are a great way to make “small talk” (a short, casual conversation with someone you don’t know) with new people. If you read a well-known book you can talk about that with others. You can continue or start conversations by saying things like:
“I’m currently reading _____.”
“I’m reading _____ right now too!”
“I also read that a few years ago.”
“What did you think about that book?”
This is an easy way to start talking more with someone in English, especially in more formal situations where people are well-read. Even if the other person has not read the same book, if it is also a movie that they have seen you can still talk about it. (“I didn’t read the book yet, but I watched the movie. How is the book?”)
Being able to discuss popular books and movies is only one more reason why watching movies based on books is one of the fastest ways to learn.
Why Watch Movies Based on Novels?
When a book becomes a movie the lines (talking and descriptions), plot (story) and characters are all there together on your screen.
It is sometimes much easier to understand a movie than a book because you can see everything. You can read facial expressions to better understand what the character is saying.
Even if you are a beginner in a language, you can more easily guess what is happening in a movie.
When you read a book you are practicing your English reading comprehension, and with movies you can practice listening comprehension as well. It is also easier to remember names of plot points because they are mentioned more frequently in a movie than they would be in a book. This helps you remember the things that you hear and see.
When you watch a movie based on a book, you can hear the lines spoken out loud and you can understand the pronunciation of the words better.
How to Learn English with Books and Movies
There are two major strategies for dealing with these book-movie combos:
- Watch the movie first. When you have watched the movie first, you will understand what happens in the book much more easily. You already know some of the lines, you understand the story and you know the names and personalities of the characters. You know what is going to happen.
This means that when you read the book all of the difficult parts are taken care of, and you can focus on understanding the individual sentences and words in the book. It’s a great way to practice English reading comprehension without getting overwhelmed.
You also get a different look at what is happening in the book so it can be a fun experience!
- Read the book first. If you have already read the book first, then watching the movie after can still help. Maybe there are parts you do not completely understand, or there are words you cannot pronounce properly after reading. When you watch the movie you can figure these things out easily.
In case you are not sure what to read, I will list several different books that are also movies to get you started!
Learn English by Reading Movies: 7 Thrilling English Novels with Movie Adaptations
1. The “Harry Potter” Series by J.K. Rowling
Most people have already read “Harry Potter” books in their native language, which will make it fun to see how things are written in the English version.
In fact, it is very likely that you already know the plot and that you may have even already read or watched “Harry Potter” in your native language. This makes understanding easier, so you can focus more on growing your vocabulary and mastering English grammar.
In fact, the strength of the “Harry Potter” series is that it is available in multiple languages and in multiple formats.
As explained by our host on FluentU’s YouTube channel, you can read “Harry Potter” as a book, listen to the audiobook and watch the movies with subtitles in English and in your native language. This makes it easier for you to understand, and you can grow your English language skills while enjoying Harry Potter’s world!
Check out the video for more “Harry Potter” learning hacks, and don’t forget to subscribe to the FluentU YouTube channel for more insightful language learning videos.
The books were written for children, so they’re great English reading practice for beginners—however, as you read more of the books, the difficulty level goes up.
You should also know that the original British English book is a little bit different from the American English version. Think about which type of English you need to learn before buying the books!
Plot: “Harry Potter” focuses on an orphan boy, with a scar that looks like a lightning bolt, who finds out he is actually a wizard (can do magic). After being taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to study magic, he goes on adventures with his friends and eventually has to fight the dark (evil) wizard, Lord Voldemort.
English reading level: Beginner to intermediate
2. “How to Train Your Dragon” by Cressida Cowell
This is another children’s book series that has been adapted into an animated movie series. The books talk about different kinds of dragons and what they can do. This makes it easy and fun English reading practice for beginners.
Plot: The story is about Vikings and a small boy named Hiccup, who becomes friends with dragons even though they are supposed to be dangerous. He tames his dragon, named Toothless, and helps end the fighting between dragons and humans.
English reading level: Beginner
3. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
This is a trilogy of Young Adult fiction novels (“YA Novels”) that is very popular—almost as popular as the movie version! You will find action, romance and political issues discussed in these books.
Plot: The Capitol hosts an annual “Hunger Games” competition for entertainment and political reasons, where two children from each district (area of land) have to fight to the death. The heroine, Katniss, enters in place of her sister and is teamed up with the baker’s son, Peeta.
English reading level: Intermediate
4. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
This novel takes place in current times and is another YA novel with romance, comedy and a serious story. There is a large fan base for this book and movie so many people know about it.
Because it is not fantasy, there are many everyday phrases used in it—you can practice English reading comprehension with the type of language you’d need in real English conversations.
Plot: Two teenagers have both been diagnosed with cancer and meet at a support group. After they fall in love, they fight their illnesses together.
English reading level: Intermediate
5. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
The movie based off of this book was directed by Stephen Spielberg and has won lots of awards. It is suited best for mature readers because of the serious plot. The English in this book is older and comes from the American South, because of the time and place it was written about.
Plot: The story focuses on the life of Celie and the struggles she goes through while living in the American South. It has themes of racism and abuse in it, and it is also considered a classic American novel.
English reading level: Advanced
6. “The Shining” by Stephen King
If you are more interested in horror/thriller books and movies this is a popular choice. The book is very long, like most of the novels that King has written, but you will be happy to read this book for a long time.
This may be the most famous of all the novels by this well-known author. It is very entertaining and, for many, it is a very scary story.
Plot: A family moves into a hotel as the father tries to get over his writer’s block (when a writer has no new ideas). However, he slowly goes crazy in the mysterious hotel.
English reading level: Advanced
7. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
This is considered to be one of the most beautiful love stories of all time. Because it was written in 1813, the language is very old and sophisticated.
If you plan to attend college in an English-language environment, it would be great to learn English by reading this book. Almost every native speaker had to read it in school, too.
There are always several adaptations to watch when you read something by Austen. Everyone tries to make these classic books into movies!
There are even very modern movie versions of this particular story, like “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”
Plot: Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy and his friends when they move into town. Although Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are attracted to each other, they first need to deal with issues like class, manners, family, society and money in order to be together.
English reading level: Advanced
You can find hundreds of movie adaptations if you want more by looking online, or you can choose a movie that you already love and read the book.
After you finish the book you can then watch the movie again to deepen your understanding even more.
Now that you have English reading materials with several genres, levels and combinations to choose from, it is time to go learn English by reading!
Christine McGahhey is an American writer currently living in South Korea who has volunteered for several years to teach students and adults English.