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Can You Learn a Language by Watching Movies? Only by Doing It Right

Are you in a search for a movie or a series to watch this week? If you are like me, sometimes it takes a rigorous research. Personally, I like to watch international history series because I learn about a country’s history and culture, and I can pick up some phrases in a foreign language. But before I get into my recommendations, here are a few tips on how to watch as a language learner and experience advantages of online learning by doing what you love.

How to watch TV as a language learner

If you watch an international series with the intention to learn a language online, I recommend turning on the subtitles of the original audio (for intermediate and higher learners). Sometimes, it takes a couple of episodes before you get used to characters’ dialects and their way of speaking. Write down phrases that you often hear and don’t know and ask your teacher how to use them in various situations. If you are beginner, don’t worry and put on English subtitles. It counts as well! Just listening to the language will help you with your pronunciation and native intonation, and you might recognize separate words comparing the English translation and the audio.

Now that you know how to watch, here are two series that I recommend for German and Spanish learners.


If you learn German, then you should consider yourself very lucky – Germany produces high quality television series. Disclaimer to teachers – don’t share the list with your students unless it is Friday. Or don’t count on them having their homework ready the next day. These shows are addictive.

My favorite German series is, without a doubt, Babylon Berlin. Streaming on Netflix, the show takes place in Berlin in the late 20s with a main character of a police detective who suffers from PTSD from the Great War. This show is like a soup – a detective plot with strong contexts of politics (early fascists, communist demonstrations, secret anarchist meetings), a bit of a psychological plot, and a bit of relationship stirs. Sprinkled with a setting of Berlin and beautiful costumes and music, we couldn’t ask for more. To my delight, we should get season 3 next year. Hopefully.


My favorite Spanish-speaking series is The Time in Between. The series is based on a novel, and surprisingly, I must say I like the series even more than the book. It takes place in Spain and Morocco during late 30s & early 40s. This is a story of war, love and secret service, and it definitely needs to be on your list. With beautiful characters, scenery, and language, it is easy to fall in love with this one. This one is my winner.

I hope that you find these tips useful. Happy viewing!

Author: Eliska Prushankin

Eliska has been teaching Slovak and Czech at ICLS for almost a year. Growing up in a family full of teachers, she fell in love with teaching at an early age. Teaching languages allows her to connect with people from different countries, something that she treasures. 

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