Be honest: how much time have you spent binge watching Netflix this week? Rest assured, you're not alone: internet traffic—for which video streaming is a major contributor—grew so much in Europe this past week that Netflix was asked to reduce its quality to avoid overloading the infrastructure.
If you're used to filling your days with work, study and other mind-expanding activities, all of that time spent becoming invested in the latest hit reality series or re-watching your favourite film for the 17th time might feel like time wasted—but it doesn't have to!
As many of our students have attested, Netflix can be an invaluable tool for picking up new lingo, and thanks to language student-targeted programs like Learning Language with Netflix (LLN), it can even feel like a proper language lesson.
The Google Chrome extension opens automatically when users log into Netflix, and allows them to view two translations of the program they’re watching: one literal, computer-generated version, and one idiom-conscious version created by an actual speaker of the language.
Using film and television to practice language skills is nothing new, and with its ever-growing portfolio of 'foreign language' series and films, Netflix is the perfect platform to utilize for practice. The streaming service already produces a number of popular series from around the world in languages including Spanish, German and Hindi, and the company hopes to soon reach 100 non-English programs. Other streaming services and TV networks have been following suit; HBO recently produced its first non-English series (My Brilliant Friend, based on the popular series of Italian novels), and the BBC has introduced its audiences to non-English programming by picking up existing series from foreign networks.
With or without the LLN extension, Netflix and other video platforms can be a great way for language learners—especially those that are at intermediate and advanced levels—to immerse themselves in a language.
Watching films and series alone probably isn’t going to make you fluent, but subtitled programs can be an invaluable resource for picking up new vocabulary and expressions. Instead of learning exclusively from resources designed for non-native speakers, you can absorb the idioms and slang of your target language, a feature that can be especially useful for those that don’t have much access to native speakers to converse with.
And it’s not just language students that can benefit from consuming media outside of their mother tongue. The 'foreign' label is often used to denote programming produced in any language other than English, a standard that positions the U.S. and U.K. at the centre of visual storytelling. The proliferation of popular media telling stories in other languages allows viewers of all backgrounds to experience new perspectives and stories.
Whether you're planning on using LLN or simply turning on plain old subtitles to boost your language studies, remember that (as much as we wish it was so), for real results, it’s probably not enough to turn on the captions and passively watch while simultaneously scrolling through Instagram or thinking about lunch. Repetition and imitation help, as does giving yourself time to absorb the words and phrases you’ve heard; watch the same episodes over again, speak along with the characters and pause to take down what you’ve learned when you can.
...or just do the passive thing. It might not be the most helpful way to learn, but it can’t hurt, and you'll get the pleasure of pure entertainment while also getting used to listening to your target language.
So grab the popcorn, pour yourself a cold beverage and settle in for a nice, long Netflix marathon. Your language teachers will thank you.