There is no doubt that for learning languages, textbooks, grammar books, vocabulary lists and worksheets are great – they give you heaps of useful words, essential grammar constructions and verbs that are conjugated in every possible tense. However, while knowing the “facts and figures” of a language is essential to be able to correctly express oneself, there are many other resources out there for learning languages – such ones that allow you to learn what the textbook doesn’t – slang, idioms, expressions, nuances, accents, humour and emotions, which in many cases are more impressive to a native ear than hearing you correctly conjugate a verb.
Firstly, don’t give up after your first film! We know that during your first viewing of a Spanish film you’ll probably feel a little discouraged as the Spaniards natter away at the speed of light – you may feel that all your Spanish learning efforts have gone to waste. But there’s no need to fret, while it may seem impossible at first, little by little you’ll pick up on words, followed by expressions, sentences, dialogues, until you easily understand a whole scene. Don’t be afraid to activate the subtitles in Spanish – it’s not cheating, it’s intelligent learning! Soon you won’t need them, but while you do, they’ll only help your listening skills as you can see exactly what is being said.
Likewise, when you hear a new expression that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to write it down and look it up in a dictionary or online. When you write words or expressions down you’re much more likely to remember them and use them again. Yes, it may not be as easy and relaxing to watch a film in a foreign language as it is in your native one, but I can guarantee it will be much more rewarding after you have watched it a few times, paused it for some dictionary searches, written down some fun new expressions or jokes and you can now say that you understand a good portion of the story.
Not only can you vastly improve your Spanish language skills through watching films, but you can also increase your cultural repertoire, learning about historical events, customs, food and lifestyles from many different Spanish-speaking countries.
So why not complement your structured Spanish classes with some laid-back learning to enhance your colloquial Spanish comprehension and oral skills. Start with an unforgettable “El Laberinto del Fauno” or “Mar Adentro” from Spain, a classic Mexican film, “Como Agua Para Chocolate”, or a Colombian masterpiece “El Carro”, among hundreds of others. Get into the habit of watching a film in a foreign language as often as you can. You won’t regret it!