Language Through Film

This week's turn is for Film; what if Netflix and chill™ were Netflix and learn a language? No? Just me? Okay...

What I'm saying is that like any other art form, Film is a gateway to a culture, and there is a variety of ways in which you can employ them to not only learn a language, but to fall in love with them. Today I'd like to present you with my favourite flicks which take place in a foreign land, or maybe just show you how different people see life through the lens. 

But how can your foreign language acquisition profit from watching movies? Have you learned nothing, young Padawan? 
In a post a couple weeks ago I mentioned input in the target language as being essential, and films are a great way to fill your input quota, apart from giving you tons of new vocab, they get your ears used to how the language itself sounds.

When you're starting in the language, try watching a film you already know in the target language, with your subtitles in your mother tongue, or a language you already speak well. This is the way a lot of children in Latin America learn English, by sheer exposure through media. While you will have to read the subtitles, try to pick up words you recognise in the new language, and think about the sounds you encounter which are not present in your native language; you'll feel like a linguist!

When you're farther up ahead, change the subtitles to the target language, in this way; all of your information comes from the source language, (either from auditory or visual input) which is close to what we want. At this point, I try not to pause the film every 13 seconds to translate a word I don't recognise, do this only if the understanding of this word is vital to the plot (Imagine you don't understand what "computer" means, in Terminator, or what "car" means, in Cars!). A lot of the learning you can do from films is passive, so relax! The eventual goal should be getting through a new movie without subtitles, it takes a while, but you'll get there!

Without further ado, here are some of the films that I'm sure will be well received by you linguistics aficionados:


Pixar's Coco:
I admit I'm very biased towards this film, in part, it's the reason for which I decided to write this entry. You see, my 7-year-old brother watches this on repeat, and it is inevitable that eventually, I'll have inherent knowledge on Pixar's go at portraying Latino, specifically, Mexican culture. Which is precisely what happened.

I absolutely love this film, I am a big animation fan, and Pixar is the king. What I like the most, however, is how well they did their homework concerning Mexican culture, every little thing has a reason for being there, the music sounds authentically Mexican, and the depiction of the life and traditions of Mexico show extensive research from the producers (as confirmed by the Director's Cut with commentary).

I urge any Spanish learner to give Coco (in Spanish) a go, not only it's fantastic visually, but you'll learn a lot about the culture of a massive Spanish-speaking country, the music is honestly unique and authentic, and the plot deals with broad, heartbreaking themes. Orale!



I promise it's the last of Pixar! (for today) But Ratatouille is, in my opinion, another great film. It takes place in Paris, and the main character is, well, a rat; this shouldn't come as a surprise since Paris is full of them!

A big theme, if not the central one, is cuisine, and how significant a role it plays in French culture and society. The main song; "Le Festin", off which most of the score is based, is sung by Camille, a lovely Chanson singer from Paris. 

This film romanticises Paris in the most amazing of ways, an example of animation at its best. It makes me (yes me) want to improve my French, I mean, that Rat speaks French, and it cooks too! There's two things I gotta work on... Stupid rat making me feel insecure...

Inglorious Basterds:
I hope you're not marathoning this films since this Tarantino action-packed war extravaganza contrasts quite sharply with a movie about a cooking rat in Paris. Nevertheless, this 2009 release loosely based on a true story, is a polyglot's MUST!

The plot follows the journey of an American faction of blood-thirsty Jewish soldiers who are stationed in Germany in World War II, they're called "The Basterds", hence the name of the film. What makes this movie so special, is that the dialogue occurs in  3 languages (4 if you count Brad Pitt's attempt at Italian); English, French, and German. What's even better, is that these languages don't only serve an ornamental purpose; instead, the usage of all of them are pivotal to the development of the story. 

Wanna know what a fabulous polyglot sounds like, look at Christoph Walz portray the charming, yet sociopathic SS officer. He not only speaks fluently all of the languages, but acts fantastically in all of them, delivering an Oscar-worthy multilingual performance. Hats off!


L'Auberge Espagnole:
This one I watched while researching just for this very entry. It's the most "language-heavy" out of them all. This French student is moving to Barcelona for his ERASMUS exchange programme. We see him arrive in an entirely multicultural atmosphere, where he deals with culture shock and a merely chaotic lifestyle. 

Languages featured include English, French, Spanish, Catalan, Russian, Chinese, and I'm sure there are a couple more I'm forgetting.

A film like this makes me realise how awesome Europe is. Buy a 20€ Ryanair flight, 2 hours later (actually 3 since Ryanair is usually delayed) you're in the middle of a completely different country, different culture, language, people, food, traditions! The next day you can be back home eating frozen pizza... We're truly blessed!



As always make sure to check out Glassbow's evergrowing bilingual book collection, especially the massive Spanish bundle deal going on right now, 19 books for $9!

Which film should I put on my list? Let me know!
Happy Weekend!


Juan V.Comment