How To Learn A Language From TVTotal read time: 6 minutes

Learning a language from a TV show is completely natural

As mentioned in my introduction, Korean was the first foreign language that attempted to learn after completing high school. In high school, I took 3 years of Spanish, but I wasn’t motivated and I didn’t have a why established. Consequently, I had no interest in watching Spanish TV shows or movies.
Korean, on the other hand, I found to be profoundly fascinating.

I clearly remember that very first time I had a strong learning epiphany moment while watching the popular Korean drama Boys Over Flowers.

boysoverflowers korean tv drama phillearnsalanguageIt was in a scene where one actress’ character was clearly angry at the male character. She told him or “ka” in Korean and down below the English subtitles displayed “Go away!” as the translation.

Now, prior to watching this drama, I had already been studying Korean for a few months. I knew verb for to go was 가다 or kada. But never once did the book ever show that kada can be said as just “ka” with no ending sounds attached. This is typical when we learning from a language book. We tend to only get exposed to the more formal ways of using a language. Whether it’s a formal sentence, or in the case of Korean, a formal and polite conjugation of the a verb.

Boom! Epic Language Learning Moment!

“Oh! You mean to tell me that I can simply say ka to mean “go” or “go away”? I don’t need to add any endings? I don’t need to add the word “away”? This is totally colloquial speech! Awesome!”

Clearly, the profoundness and magnitude of this realization isn’t coming out on this webpage as much as it did for me at the moment.

However, maybe you’ve had a similar experience before?

Japanese Urasai Shutup Annoying PhilLearnsALanguagePerhaps you learned that うるさい or Urasai means annoying in Japanese but then you saw on TV (likely an Anime) someone screaming Urasai! at someone and it being translated to “Shut up!”

Or how about watching a Chinese movie? You clearly just heard the actor answer the phone with loud or Wei. And without ever having studied Chinese before, you quickly made the realization that they must be saying “hello”. Suddenly new neural associations were made and now wei is engraved in your mind (likely temporarily) and how to say hello when answering the telephone in Chinese is now new knowledge known to you. :)chinesephonecall wei phillearnsalanguage

So we can easily see how we can learn words and word usage by just watching TV shows or movies. Better yet, it can be even more fun and rewarding than other methods of learning.

A Confidence Booster

Not only can we learn a new word or two, but I’ve noticed that if I were to successfully identify a few words or full sentences of my target language while watching this TV Show, I’ve gotten a huge confidence boost!

It’s like a pat on the back every time. “Good job Phillip. You’re doing well!”

Improving Listening

Much like the confidence boost, improving your listening is also easily accomplished if you were to intently listen to the dialogue and try to make out the words that are being said. Even if the subtitles were turned on, we’re still improving our listening.

On the flip side, there are those times where we mistakenly thought the character said “cat” but then the subtitles revealed they said “can”. We were likely just a single phoneme off. This too has profound positive effects on our listening. That instantaneous feedback provided by the subtitles helps build the neural associations needed and provides training to our ears to hear those pesky sound nuances a bit better every time.

Pure gold I tell ya!

Learn Grammar Naturally

Let’s face it, grammar is a bore. It can be a pain in the ass to study, learn, and comprehend grammar sometimes. Even in our own native tongue! Seriously, how many of us can explain the difference between “I will go to the gym next week.” and “I am going to the gym next week.”

yeah… about that… let’s move on 🙂
The thing is though, when it comes to a second language, most adult language leaners are attempting to learn grammar by reading all of these rules without context. Yet, if we were to just take a moment to stop and think about it, is that how we learned grammar as children?

I’m one to constantly compare adults to children, because we’re not, but at the same time there are those special times we can embrace our inner child.

Here’s a little story:
Just last week I was lucky enough to see my 6 year old niece. She’s constantly making grammar mistakes. It’s super cute! Parents may giggle about it but then they would happily, without looking down up the kid, correct their child. Even friends, or other family members will continue to accept and tolerate these mistakes from a child and happily correct them from time to time without frustration. Fast forward a year a or two and BAM! This child has rid themselves, with external help of feedback, of thier bad grammar habits. And never once does a 5, 6, or 7 year old pick up a grammar book to learn how to string their sentences together. Instead they’re listening and learning and mimicking.

It’s the same with us.

  • Learn a few vocabulary words on Memrise
  • Practice saying them and making sentences with your private tutor on iTalki
  • Then solidify your grammar by exposing yourself to numerous situations and occasions that are found in TV shows and movies.

Learn Culture

Culture and language go hand in hand.
A native may not say a sentence the way you said it. Even if it’s grammatically correct and might be understood. But if we truly want to improve our language learning game. We must embrace a new culture.

In all honesty, I personally find this to be the hardest part of learning a language.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to travel, explore new territory, see how different things are, see and participate and adapt to new cultures. I like the bowing in Korea and Japan, I like the way of counting to ten on one hand in China. And I like the putting of hands together for a formal hello in Thailand.

But when it comes to talking..
NO! I want to say it the way I want to! It’s who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change.

Has anyone else came across this or am I just being a weirdo?

I have to take a deep breath, say a little “woo sahh”, and then talk to myself to accept it. It’s just the way it is 😉

So there you have it,

How To Learn A Language From TV

Disclosure: This page contains external affiliate links that may result in me receiving a commission if you choose to purchase a product. All opinions are my own. I don’t receive payment for product placements or positive reviews.

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