What can you learn from your all-time favorite movies?
As it turns out, they might just be your new favorite Spanish learning tools.
Right now you might be saying, “but…they’re all in English!” Well, thank goodness for Spanish dubbing.
Luckily, the lively Spanish language opens a huge door to tons of fun materials and activities.
That should come as welcome news to you busy learners who feel that, at the end of a long day, you just don’t have the time or energy necessary to study a language.
You can improve your Spanish skills without the hassle of actually studying. After sitting at an uncomfortable desk and flipping through endless flashcards, why not sit back, relax on your couch and watch a dubbed movie? You’ll immerse yourself in Spanish without going abroad.
Believe it or not, you can learn just as much from dubbed movies as you can from flashcards! The language learned from dubbed movies could actually end up being new flashcard material. And what’s more, the knowledge you gain from these movies might be more functional anyway, since you’ll learn the right contexts for when certain words and phrases are used by natives.
If this is totally new territory for you, you can consult these tips for learning Spanish from movies.
The benefits of watching dubbed movies are nearly limitless.
For one thing, if you choose a movie you’re already familiar with, it will make it easier to understand the dialogue in Spanish. If you miss out on understanding a word, sentence or whole chunk of conversation, you can simply fall back on your knowledge of the English-language version to fill in gaps in the plot.
Additionally, you should consider that foreign films often have distinct styles. While Spanish language films are great, if you’re not quite fluent in the language yet, the different cinematic style may be too much of an obstacle to overcome. If you watch an American-style movie in a different language, the language is the only unfamiliar aspect you’ll encounter, and soon you won’t even notice the language difference.
So, to practice your Spanish skills when all you want to do is chill out, close that textbook and open your laptop.
8 Simple Steps to Learn Spanish with Dubbed Movies
1. Find dubbed movies
This is the most obvious step, but it’s worth exploring! There are a few different ways to track down the right Spanish dubbed movies for your learning progress, and each way has its own benefits.
- Choose movies that are rich in dialogue. If you want to improve you Spanish, you’ll need to hear the characters speak frequently. While an action movie might be fun, there might not be as much dialogue as a drama, comedy or romance. Since exposure to language is key, you’ll want to find something entertaining with a lot of dialogue. Comedy is particularly fun, since you might also learn some word play. One of my favorite dialogue-heavy movies is the classic “The Princess Bride,” and it’s every bit as enchanting in Spanish.
- Netflix. Netflix isn’t traditionally known for its dubbed movies, but you might be able to find a few lurking in the recesses of its library. Looking for them is like navigating your way through a labyrinth, but it will be well worth the effort. Click “subtitles and captions” under the “watch instantly” tab. Then, select “Spanish.” Select whichever movie you want and hit “play.” Then, using the scrolling bar at the bottom or top of the screen (depending on your device), click the second to last icon (the audio icon) to switch to Spanish.
- Buy DVDs. You can buy DVDs that offer dubbed versions of the films. Your existing DVD collection probably contains quite a few! However, not all DVDs offer dubbing in Spanish, so be sure check what languages are available when making your selection. If you’re selecting a DVD in person, the available languages are generally listed on the back of the container. Otherwise, you can find DVDs that are dubbed in Spanish from Amazon. To confirm that they’re available in Spanish, look at the information on each DVD’s main page. Scroll down to “product details” and look at what’s listed under “languages.” When you insert the DVD, you’ll be able to change the language by accessing the main menu. From there, you can usually change the language in either an “Options” or “Settings” menu.
- Buying internationally. Tempting though it may be, this generally isn’t the best idea. All DVDs have regional coding that prevents them from being played in other regions. So, for instance, a DVD produced to be sold in Spain, Mexico or South America is unlikely to be playable in U.S. DVD players. That being said, region-free DVD players that can play all discs are available, so if you prefer to purchase DVDs internationally, you’ll want to see about purchasing one of these players.
2. Watch in English first
Yes, you read correctly. Don’t bother with the Spanish at first, especially if you’re relatively new to learning Spanish.
If you haven’t seen the movie before, go ahead and watch it in English. “How will this help me learn Spanish?” you might ask. Well, consider this the groundwork to learning. If you watch the movie in English first, you’ll know what happens. You’ll know what each character is like. You’ll know what each scene is about. This familiarity with the movie will make it easy for you to follow the movie even once it’s in Spanish.
3. Experiment with subtitles
Some DVDs offer subtitling in addition to dubbing. This is a helpful way to get the most out of the movie.
- Watch the movie in English while reading Spanish subtitles. This is a helpful way to practice your Spanish reading skills.
- Watch the movie in Spanish with English subtitles. If you can’t quite understand a word or phrase, you can glance down for a quick translation. Just keep in mind that the translation might not be literal.
- Watch the movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. This will help you practice your reading and listening simultaneously. It’s also great for making sense of the words being pronounced by speakers.
4. Jot down notes
As with any activity, putting in a little more work can lead to faster results.
- Write down words and phrases. If you want quick results from watching dubbed movies, you might want to jot down some notes on key words or phrases you don’t fully understand while watching. You can also make note of words that you’ve heard before and understand but really want to reinforce until they’re committed to your long-term memory.
- Look up words and phrases afterwards. Keep track of unknown language, but don’t interrupt your movie viewing experience to look everything up right away. This kind of active listening will ensure that you understand the precise meaning of the vocabulary.
5. Sit back and enjoy
A more relaxing learning option is to just sit back and enjoy the movie. Don’t take notes. If you don’t understand something, don’t worry about it. Just try your best to enjoy the film.
This type of passive listening (where you’re not actively trying hard to pay attention and make sense of everything) is still very useful, too. While you might not know the precise definitions of some individual words, you’ll have a better understanding of how the spoken language sounds in general. This will help you improve as a speaker, and it will also help you to get more and more comfortable and confident understanding spoken Spanish.
6. Learn one scene at a time
Try not to stop there! Push your learning even farther by learning one scene at a time. Pick a scene you really love—or one that you really struggle to understand, if you want a little challenge—and use the following learning tactics.
- Watch the scene. After watching it once, stop and rewind to the beginning of the scene.
- Watch it again and jot down the words you don’t understand. Look them up.
- Watch the scene again and again until you understand every word in context. This will help improve your vocabulary and your listening.
7. Try saying the lines along with the movie
Once you’ve learned a scene, try saying the lines along with the movie. This will help improve your speaking and pronunciation. It will also help you remember not just what the word means, but how to use it in context.
8. Make it a daily activity
With language learning, repetition is always key.
- Daily viewing. If it’s a movie you love, go ahead and watch it every day.
- A little a day. If you don’t have the time or energy for that, try watching a little each day—perhaps a scene with rapid dialogue or one you find particularly challenging.
- Background viewing. You can always leave the movie on in the background while you’re busy doing other things. This is very helpful for passive listening, as you will hear the words and sounds without even having to pay full attention to it.
With these eight tips and tricks, you’re ready to start learning Spanish by watching Spanish dubbed movies.
So, what will you learn from your favorite film?
And One More Thing…
If you like learning Spanish with videos, then you’ll love FluentU. It’s a perfect resource for Spanish learners of any level, as you’ll get closer than ever to authentic Spanish as it’s spoken by native speakers from all over the world. How?
FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, movies, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into Spanish learning experiences. Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
Pick a region of the Spanish-speaking world, and you can bet we’ve video featuring native speakers from that region. Want to speak like a Spaniard? An Argentinian? An Ecuadorian? We’ve got you covered.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the App from iTunes or the Google Play store and bring FluentU’s innovative language-learning experience to your iOS and Android device.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.