(Read this guest post by Jamie from Multilingual Mastery to hear about her own personal experience participating in the Language TV Club.)
Honestly, there are plenty of ways to learn a language by watching TV - both specific resources meant for language learners, and just jumping into Netflix and picking a show - but the Language TV Club is totally unique. Not only does Language TV Club help language learners of all backgrounds make connections and have deep, authentic conversations, but it’s also got a goldilock’s level of structure: not so structured that it’s boring, but not so flexible that you end up not using it.
So when there was a month of Spanish Language TV club where I had a few Spanish language learning friends already planning to join, I had no reason to not give it a shot for myself! Spoiler alert: I was surprised by how enjoyable it was!
In this post, I’ll take you through my own Language TV Club experience: what I expected, what really happened, and how to know if Language TV Club is right for you!
The language club for foreign language TV
I had been impatiently waiting for the Language TV club to offer Spanish for a month (since they offer a different language every month), so as soon as I got the email announcing a new month of Spanish Language TV club, I didn’t hesitate to join.
This month it was decided we were going to watch Desenfrenadas. Desenfrenadas is a show on Netflix about a group of 20-something friends going on a trip when they spontaneously pick up a stranger who changes their plans completely. The language in the show is super casual/informal/realistic which I loved; more formal language is great, but it’s not as interesting to me personally.
I was kind of worried because I’m most confident in Castilian Spanish (from Spain), but Desenfrenadas is Mexican! Suffice to say I was not confident in my abilities, but I decided to give it a shot anyways. I wasn’t about to let something like an accent get in the way of me enjoying my Spanish language learning, especially when I could easily use subtitles!
Every week we watched 2 episodes so that we could get through all of season 1 in one month. 2 really long (to me) episodes of a foreign language TV show is kind of overwhelming, but I decided to commit nonetheless! I tend to get overwhelmed easily, so this is definitely a personal obstacle that I face in most any language learning strategy.
Fortunately, every month Language TV Club members get a personalized Episode Guide to not only prepare you to watch the episodes, but to also prepare you for the weekly Zoom call with all the other language learners watching the show with you!
The Episode Guides are broken up into 3 sections: vocabulary that is likely unique/niche, the questions that you’ll be asked when you join the call that week, and interesting cultural notes to keep you engaged.
With the Episode Guide, you don’t have to just throw yourself into the show and hope for the best - you can get your bearings and go in having a general understanding of what you’re looking for. For example, if you read the questions beforehand (even if you have no context because you haven’t started the show yet) you can give yourself a bit of a primer of what may or may not happen, and start thinking about how you may want to talk about the show when you join the Zoom meeting that week.
And they’re unique for every week, not just bland “talk about what happened in your own words” questions. The host of the language club that month watches every episode and thinks of questions that are unique to those episodes and help you test a bit of your comprehension as well as form your own opinions. That way you get a bit of camaraderie as well as different experiences - like “which character do you relate to most?” or “would you have done that if you were in that situation?”.
Spanish Language TV Club Week 1
Honestly, the first week was hard. When you jump into it and you don’t recognize the different ways that different people talk, or the situation, or any context whatsoever, it can be hard to get engaged even with native language content. Plus with all the “qué pedo”s….I was definitely confused.
Qué pedo is a very common phrase in Mexican Spanish that can mean all sorts of different things based on context. It’s not a thing in Castilian Spanish, though, so that got a bit frustrating for me. Good thing it was mentioned in the Episode Guide! Thanks to that level of preparation, I didn’t have to let that phrase stop me.
Nonetheless, I watched the first 2 episodes and then joined the Zoom for the week. I really loved how not only did we get to watch the show on our own terms (so you can pause, rewind, take down vocab, whatever), but we got to connect with other language learners and exercise our conversational skills.
Thanks to the questions listed in the episode guide, I didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of not knowing what to talk about, nor did I have the anxiety of wondering if I would be able to participate in conversations. You go in knowing exactly what you’ll be talking about, and you can practice answering the questions yourself before meeting up, which can really help with the anxiety of speaking.
Plus, since it’s a group meeting, you don’t have the intensity of a 1:1. If you’ve never had a private conversation (either a language exchange or with a private tutor), they can sometimes involve a lot of performance pressure. It can sometimes get awkward, when you don’t know when to speak or what to speak about. My fellow introverts and anxious language learners know what I mean!
In the Language TV Club, it’s a small group of people who all have the same context, and get ample opportunity to speak…or not. There are no requirements and you won’t be put on the spot, so it’s a very safe atmosphere for the socially anxious.
My Language TV club experience
Considering how difficult the first week was (and my own obstacle of trying to understand a different accent), by the end of the month/season, I was honestly hooked. Instead of leaving the episodes to the last minute, I found myself WANTING to watch the next episode, and being genuinely engaged in the show!
Sure, some words would pop up here and there that I’d never heard, but you can either get a general idea of what’s going on based on context, or you can pause the show (without worrying about offending anybody, since you watch the episodes independently) and look up the words yourself.
Towards the end of the season, though, I had forgotten the struggle of understanding the different accent and was no longer worried about being able to understand. I was totally plugged in and could understand most of what was going on. I was entertained and invested in what was going to happen next!
And remember, Language TV Club hosts provide you with a list (and definitions and time stamps) of notable vocab beforehand, so if you’re smart(er than I) you can run through these words ahead of time, and then be excited when they pop up in the episode and you can get a better understanding of the vocabulary.
Using Language TV club to learn a language by watching TV
Throughout my month of joining Spanish Language TV club, I went from feeling really over my head and unsure about my commitment to having a blast! I was so genuinely surprised that I ended up finishing Desenfrenadas early - I totally expected to leave it to the last minute.
Not only was the show itself really good and sticking to my guns meant I eventually trained my ear to the characters’ particular voices and mannerisms, but it was so fun to hop onto the Zoom call once a week and discuss what we thought of what happened! We got to have fun predicting what characters were going to do, why we thought characters did something, what we would do, etc.
The Spanish Language TV club was a blast for me. Like any experience watching TV to learn a language, you do need to be at an intermediate level or above in the language, particularly with listening comprehension (or you just won’t be able to understand). Don’t worry about any particular accents, though - if you’re comfortable with the language as a whole, you get a hang of it!
Plus, the meetings are a great, low-key way to get some conversational practice without getting judged, without the anxiety of not knowing what to talk about, and without the pressure of a private conversation where you’re responsible for 50% of it. Talk as little or as much as you want with the guides of the pre-planned conversational topics outlined in the weekly Episode Guides!
Jamie is the language coach & influencer behind MultilingualMastery.com where she helps online language learners pick the resources that are right for them. When she’s not helping other language learners, Jamie loves thrifting, trying new foods, and holing up in her introvert cave.
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