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5 Steps for Picking the Best Show for Learning X Language

Want to learn a language by watching T.V.? It doesn’t matter if you’re learning English, Spanish, Korean, or Swahili, here are 5 tips to help you pick the best show to learn X language (I don’t say “any” language here, because there are thousands of endangered languages out there that do not have t.v. shows or even writing systems in some cases).

woman sitting on couch with remote choosing best show to learn a language

1. Choose your streaming service.

There are quite a few streaming services out there, but how many offer multiple languages? According to the site What’s On Netflix, there are about 62 languages available (these are the primary languages of the shows or movies) on Netflix. There are more if you include the dubbing and subtitle options. Youtube is another great option, with over 80 languages supported for searching content (according to Omicore), and it is free! If you’re looking for more anime content, you may want to look into Crunchyroll. If you are focusing on an Asian language, such as Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Korean, check out Viki. A promising streaming service with focus on the African diaspora is KweliTV, though it does not seem that you can search for series by language here just yet.

The message here is that you should look into what content is available in the language you are learning before subscribing to a specific streaming service. Many shows are available on the free Youtube, so that is always a good place to start. If you want to find more of the popular series that people are talking about, Netflix may be worth the investment. Where do you watch T.V. already? Start there.

German tv show Dark on Netflix

2. Pick a genre.

This part is very important. Whatever series you choose, you want to WANT to watch it. For example, if you are not interested in cooking, I don’t recommend finding a cooking show to learn languages. You will learn a bunch of vocabulary words that you will rarely use (think dice, chop, saute, etc). You may want to shy away from heavy science fiction shows as well for the same reason of learning vocabulary you will not need or ever use. Considering shows for kids? I would consider it too, as long as it is still entertaining (I’ve actually heard Bluey is pretty good!). The main tip here is to pick a genre that you would normally watch in your native language.

anime character sitting on a chair

3. Get advice from other learners.

Don’t forget that there are tons of people out there who are learning languages just like you! Some of my favorite sites to visit for info on shows include:

Don’t forget to check Facebook groups, such as ours, Learn Languages with TV Shows | Facebook, or other groups with language learners. You may get some tips you didn’t expect!

group of men at the library laughing at computers, talking about their favorite shows for learning languages

4. Do some research.

There are a few factors you want to consider before choosing a show to learn a language. Once you’ve found one that you like, you’ll want to check a couple of things before getting hooked.

  • Dialect - some shows will have certain dialects included. If you are an advanced learner, and looking to become more knowledgeable about various dialects within that language, then go right ahead with the non-standard dialects. This may also be a great idea if you are planning travel to a specific region. If neither of these apply to you, you may want to skip the shows with regional dialects.

  • Time Period - in which time period does the show take place? If it is not the current time period, there is a chance you may learn some outdated language. This may not be your best bet. I usually recommend current, modern series if you are watching for learning the language. If you are watching just for fun, go for it!

  • Slang - this is similar to dialect, but different. Slang may actually be very helpful for you in real life, especially if you are younger. This is one of the things that makes learning languages with T.V. shows so great! It’s not often you get to learn these words in your language classes or textbooks, so watching a series to learn may just give you a leg up from the standard coursework. In saying that, it’s a good idea to check how much slang and vulgar language is in your series. You don’t want to make a habit of using vulgar language when talking to native speakers.

  • Speed - another important factor to consider. This is the speed at which the characters speak in the series. There are some options with some of these streaming services, such as Language Reactor, to change the speed of the show to either slower or faster. But if your streaming service does not have these options, watch a few minutes of the show to see if it’ll be too fast for you.

man and woman sitting on couch with bowl of popcorn getting ready to watch a show to learn a language

5. Try an episode.

Here it is! You’ve done the research. You’re ready to go. Now try an episode! If you like it, use our strategies to get the best out of your learning. If you don’t like it, go back to your list and pick another one. Want to watch with a group? Join us for a month of Language TV Club! However you decide to learn languages with T.V. shows, this is the fun part, so enjoy it and let us know what show you chose!


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