Using Disney to Learn Foreign Languages

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The Mandalorian in Italian? Yes sir.

Learning languages requires a whole lot of input. Ideally one can take in constant audio and visual input so words and phrases just stick without actively trying to learn. It’s the trick companies use with jingles and catch phrases. They bombard us with varied advertising but the catch phrase or music is always at the end of the commercial or on the print. Eventually, we know it without realizing we know it.

This concept can be applied to learning languages. In normal conversation, the same group of words and phrases are always used. Greetings, weather, numbers, simple adjectives, nouns, and questions dominate most conversation. How many times per day do we use common question patterns like “Where is the____” or “When is ___” or phrases like “It’s cold today” or “I like __” ? It is rare to use terms like concatenation, for-loop, or global variable unless you are discussing computer programming.

Since language study can be pretty tedious if we rely on a text book, we need to vary it up. I’ve found that watching movies in the language I’m learning helps a lot with vocabulary and pronunciation. The only problem? Are there movies you want to watch in your new language? Fortunately Disney+ offers a ton of content with audio dubbing in several languages. I for one am a big fan of the movies and series on the platform so this works out well for me.

The Mandalorian in Italian? Yes sir. The entire MCU and National Geographic too? Thank you very much. The audio can be switched to a new language and subtitles can be turned on or off. I like to turn the subtitles off for movies I’ve already seen years ago since I know the plot points. This allows me to concentrate on actively listening to the grammar and vocabulary.

I’ve noticed I’m picking up common phrases quickly and understanding their usage in different situations. Since movies are produced for massive audiences, the common person’s language is the language of the script. This is a more accurate simulation of real life that is very difficult to replicate in a textbooks. Of course there is no substitute for actual reality, but the advantage here is the ability to rewind and listen at my own pace with no pressure to immediately respond.

Movies and shows are nice for building our internal language processor speed. The more we listen to the language, the better we become at comprehension in real time. In other words, in the beginning, everything we hear in a foreign language is noise; as we progress we can pick out individual words we know, then we understand simple concepts, and eventually we can comprehend complex structures.

I’m in Italy. I love drinking coffee. Regularly going out to coffee shops and ordering is one simple way to practice speaking casual Italian with no pressure. Watching movies in Italian lets me have the fun of entertainment while I pick up new words and phrases. I believe doing something we enjoy is the best way to learn.

*I am not paid by Disney in any way.

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