How to improve your English by watching movies

Are your English skills getting better, but you’re having trouble with pronunciation? Do you struggle to understand Canadian slang words and casual speech? Movies can be a great way to refine your English accent, vocabulary, tone, and slang. A.J. Hoge has created a great video to show you how to use movies to improve your English on his YouTube channel. You can watch the full video at the bottom of this post (start at 19:47 for all the information you need), or read below for more of his advice.

Getting started

Movies and TV shows are a good way to improve your English because they can show you “real” English. If you are careful to choose a movie that takes place in the present day and in a country similar to where you currently live, then you can be confident that you will learn the correct accent and vocabulary. For Canadians, that most likely means watching recent Canadian or American TV shows or movies (you can find some great examples online on the CBC or CTV website).

Day 1

Choose a movie or TV show, and watch the whole thing, just to get used to it. You can even watch it with subtitles in your own language – at this point you just want to know what’s going on.

Choose the first scene to begin learning – it should be no more than 2 or 3 minutes long. Turn on the subtitles in English so that you can read along. Watch the clip – as you listen and read along, write down any words or phrases that you don’t understand.

By the time  you reach the end of the clip, you should have a list of new vocabulary or phrases to learn. Use your English dictionary to find the meaning of these phrases and words.

Rewind back to the beginning of scene 1, review your vocabulary, then watch it again, for a second time. The new words will pop out when you hear them. After the scene ends, pause again.

Quickly review your vocabulary list (don’t memorize it, just review it).

Play the scene again.  New words will pop out again. You’ll begin to remember new phrases, even after watching the clip only three times.

Repeat this a few more times, then finish for the day.

Day 2

Return to the same clip you watched yesterday. Play the whole clip again. Listen very carefully, then pause at the end of the scene, and review your vocabulary list. It’s ok if you forgot some of the words and phrases you learned yesterday.

Rewind the scene, and play again. This time you will probably remember everything. Your listening is getting better each time you replay the scene.

Repeat this process 5-10 more times.

Day 3

By now you probably understand everything happening in the scene. Now it’s time to work on your pronunciation. Play one sentence from the same clip you have been learning, then pause, and repeat what the actor just said. Try to copy the way the actors say the words.

Repeat this with the next sentence in the clip. Sentence by sentence, go through the whole scene. Try to use the same emotion as the actors, and listen very carefully to how they say the same phrases.

Do this 5-10 times.

Day 4

Start the same scene at the beginning again. Copy what the actors are saying, but this time without pausing in between sentences. Turning on the subtitles in English can be helpful. In a loud voice, say exactly what the actors are saying, at the same time.

Repeat this action 6-10 times.

Day 5

Repeat the scene again, this time without subtitles. Copy the same gestures, body movements, and facial expressions that the actors are using. Play the whole scene and speak at the same time.

Repeat this action 6-10 times.

Day 6

This is an optional step, but one that can be very helpful. Record yourself speaking along with the actors at the same time. When you get to the end, stop the movie and the recorder. Rewind the movie clip, and listen to the scene, without your voice – just the actors. Then play your recording. Compare yourself to the actors. How close are you? Do you have the same rhythm? The same pronunciation? Is the emotion the same? The speed? Of course you won’t be exactly like the actors, but pick up what’s different. This will tell you automatically how you need to improve.

Now you are finally able to move on to scene #2! Repeat this entire process.

 

If you use this procedure to improve your English, your speaking will be much clearer, and much more expressive. Your vocabulary, spoken grammar, your accent – all will improve from using this technique.