Podcast: How to Understand Movies in English!

August 30, 2017 - Priscila Pereira

1 Comment

Hey, friends!

Teacher Prix here with another podcast for you! Today we are going to talk about the challenge of understanding movies in English! Oh, one important thing: at the end of this podcast, I will ask you five questions about it, ok? So pay attention to the information you listen to and leave your answers in the comments.

The reason why I chose this subject is because I know many of you have problems to understand movies in English. I also imagine that because of this, you may think your English is bad or that you will never achieve fluency.  So the first thing I want to demystify right off the bat is that not understanding movies does not mean your English is bad. When we face difficulties in English, we have a tendency to generalize.  The more you generalize the more difficult it is to understand your real difficulties.

Now, I would like to point out 3 main reasons why understanding movies may be a challenge not only for you but also for native speakers! Yep! Native speakers also struggle with movies every now and then.

1. You are unfamiliar with the topic

I believe this may be the biggest reason why you catch yourself losing the plot during movies. Enjoying a genre of movie does not make you an expert, that is to say,   even when you like and frequently watch that style of movie will not make you an expert of the subject. There may always be something new for you to learn or something you won’t be familiar with.  That’s when we may get confused. This gets even worse when we are watching a genre of movie we hardly ever do.  It is not just about language deficiency, but also because you haven’t prepared yourself for that specific kind of situation.

I don’t really dig Sci-fi movies, so whenever I watch them,  I get a bit lost too. What do I do? I watch it again, I rewind, I watch it until I feel comfortable enough to move on. Does that mean my English is bad or that I’m not fluent? Nope! It just means I need to watch more sci-fi movies, that’s all.

2.  Rapid speech

A problem native speakers have, so imagine us, non-native speakers!  Some actors, especially teenagers, have a tendency to talk a mile a minute. Yes! They speak so fast, it is hard to catch up with them. Does that make you a bad listener? Not really. You do have to prepare yourself for this kind of situation, but just like in your country, there are some people who speak more rapidly than others. Now, we are not totally bothered by that when we are speaking our own native language. However, when we watch a movie or TV show where people can’t seem to catch a breath before they say the next line, we tend to feel that we are the ones to blame when it is not.

Use these situations as opportunities to improve your listening, but don’t feel discouraged by them. Chances are this will keep happening, whether your listening is on point or not.

3. Background sounds

You are trying to pay attention to what the characters are saying when suddenly all you can hear is the sound of bombs, sirens, people screaming, a background music starts to play really loudly or any other crazy special effect that will prevent you from understanding what people are saying. Has this ever happened to you? Understanding movies is not just about understanding the words being said, but also the sounds revolving around each scene.

Sometimes the most important message is not in the words spoken but in the actions. We have to learn to tell the difference.

How to improve it?

Well, I’ve told the 3 main reasons why I believe you are having trouble to understand movies, but how do you improve that? Practice makes perfect and it won’t be different here. Now, I will give you 5 steps to help you understand movies

Step 1: Buy good headphones. Yes, I’m serious! Headphones play a huge difference. If you have poor audio quality, you will not be able to fully understand what people are saying.

Step 2: Define your purpose: If you are watching a movie to learn English, grab your notepad, a pen and start working. Pause, rewind, repeat, pause and so on. Dig into the movie and really study it.  If your purpose is only entertainment, stop only at parts you felt you didn’t understand anything at all

Step 3: Now that you have decided that you will study and not just watch the movie, it is time to get your hands dirty. Watch the movies in small chunks (small parts). Watch a 10-minute part and then stop. Take notes, write down what you understood, rewind, watch it again, check if there are new words, check their meaning.  Once you feel confident about this part, move on to a new part.

Step 4: Have realistic goals. Don’t expect to understand 100% of the movie all the time. Start with a realistic percentage. Try to understand 70% of the movie the first time you watch it and then 80 to 85% the second time and so on.

Step 5: Repetition is key! The more you watch the more your ears will grow used to that kind of speed. You may think this will not help you in different movies, but it will, I promise you!

Well, these are my tips for you if you want to understand movies in English. Now I have 3 questions for you:

  1. What are the 3 reasons why you don’t understand movies in English?
  2. what are the 5 steps you should follow in order to understand movies in English?
  3. Explain the following words and expressions:
    1. Right off the bat
    2. I don’t really dig Sci-fi
    3. To lose the plot

I hope to see your answers in the comments!

Thanks, guys

Teacher Prix.

Priscila Pereira

Starbucks and TV Series lover: juggling with teaching, blogging, and a YouTube life! I’m teacher Prix and I want to help you talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime in English! This blog is for English speakers who are looking for an effective blog. Get inspired by hundreds of different posts for all English levels, so that you can finally learn English easily and effectively on the internet.

One thought on “Podcast: How to Understand Movies in English!

  • Thomas

    October 28, 2017 at 02:37

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 bluj1


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