Amelie, now 28, says she learned English from the lyrics of rapper Eminem. Many adults probably feel the same way. Through “television” via streaming platforms, a similar phenomenon has emerged: English or other languages are learned virtually incidentally by watching the series in the original. Does this really work and does it also work for children?
The foundations for language learning are laid in early childhood. If your child hears foreign languages at an early age, it may be easier for him to learn languages later in school. Watching favorite movies or series like Harry Potter for older kids or Peppa Wutz for the younger ones can be a way and combine learning and fun.
Most children can already understand whole sentences out of context. Pictures and sounds help. Translating individual words is not necessary. This makes it easier for them to watch movies in other languages. If their favorite show is in English, children often don’t even realize that they’re not listening to their native language. They also like to watch episodes and movies endlessly. By already knowing what is happening, they understand the content better in another language and learn English words virtually along the way.
On most platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or YouTube, it is possible to watch movies and series in the original language – often English. You can usually change the audio language in the bar below the video, where you can also pause the video. The language can be changed before or even during the movie.
Often you can additionally display subtitles, e.g. in German or English. This can help teenagers or adults with comprehension if you don’t understand every word spoken. At first glance it may seem more complicated, but the brain quickly gets used to reading along. If the subtitles are also in English, you perceive the “foreign” language with different senses (hearing, seeing), which makes it even more memorable.
Some children have an easier time with foreign languages than others. Once your child has learned some basics at school, watching movies and series in English can help reinforce the new language. It can also be an incentive and motivation especially for young people to increase their own vocabulary in order to watch English movies in the original language even more “relaxed”. For many, it’s even “cooler” to watch the hot series in the original.
Of course, your child should only watch series and movies that are appropriate for their age. Info on how to guarantee this can be found at the parent guide here.
Watching movies in English should be seen primarily as a tool and (unfortunately) does not replace vocabulary cramming. Also, make sure that your child enjoys it and that it does not turn into a chore that is done unwillingly.