Why and how to watch films and series in French?

Today, thanks to streaming platforms, it has become very easy to access foreign series and films. Nothing better when you learn a language! 🙂

I find this a great way to improve your oral and written comprehension (when using subtitles) and to learn new words in context. ⚠ But beware (spoiler alert 😜): no, you are not going to learn to speak French by watching only films and series in French. Why is it not enough? Simply because when you watch TV you are passive. Don’t forget that in order to learn to speak a language, you have to … speak 😏 Hold on! Don’t immediately remove French series from your favorites list! Watching French series and films has several advantages, and it is useful to know what you can learn and how.

1. Discover French culture

Learning a language is also learning a culture. A French series or film has been made with a French point of view: it is therefore full of references to French culture and reflects the mentality of the country. What is interesting in a movie, and even more so in a series, is that we follow the story of the characters in several situations of everyday life: we see them at work, with their family, with friends, at the restaurant etc… It’s the perfect opportunity to see how the French behave, their values and customs: What is considered rude, normal or cool by a French person? From one country to another, it can be very different! I’m thinking in particular of the way of greeting (la bise), the use of « vous » (instead of « tu« ), of family relationships. In a series like Dix pour cent, we discover the great French actors (who we then find in the films), in Marseille, the world of French politics; and in Plan cœur, the lifestyle of young people.

2. Train your listening comprehension

We often think (wrongly in my opinion) that the ideal way to watch a foreign series or movie is to select everything in the language we want to improve. In this case: put the French version WITH the French subtitles. But this poses several problems. First, subtitles are rarely an exact transcription of the dialogue, so they can create some confusion and frustration when you don’t read what you hear. Secondly, being focused on comparing what we hear and what we read prevents us from really enjoying the movie, which is a shame because the primary goal should be to relax and have a good time. 💡 My advice: as subtitles don’t really transcribe the spoken language (filler words, informal syntax), I don’t advise you to put the subtitles in French if your goal is to improve your oral comprehension and expression. Ideally, you should focus only on the sound and not on the writing. In this case, if your level is beginner or intermediate, you can put on the French version with the subtitles in your language to test your oral comprehension and memorize the sentence constructions. If you feel comfortable enough or if you want to challenge yourself, you can watch the movie or the series without the subtitles in your language, but remember, this moment must above all be a pleasure!

3. Improve your spelling

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced student, putting the subtitles in French can help you enrich your vocabulary and, above all, learn the spelling of the words. And this is never useless in French! 😅

The advantage of watching a series is that you’re bound to hear (and read) the same words and phrases several times: repetition helps with memorization. Plus, you have the pictures and context to help you better understand the meaning.

💡 My advice: if you are a beginner, you can adopt the opposite logic of the one for oral comprehension: you listen to the movie in your language and read the subtitles to focus only on the written words and see directly the translation in French. You can also do this for non-French films and series that you like! If you have an intermediate or advanced level, you can of course put on the French version with the French subtitles as a support to learn new words and check your knowledge. But in my experience, when you already have a good level, it quickly becomes confusing to constantly switch from one to the other.

To conclude:

As with all learning, you really learn by doing, and in the case of a language, by speaking. However, watching movies or series in French can help you improve your language level (pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary) but also your knowledge of the country. Above all, it remains (and should remain) a moment of pleasure and relaxation: if you have trouble understanding the original version, don’t feel guilty if you need subtitles or if you need to put on the dubbed version in your language. Know that you always learn something by watching a foreign movie or series and it is also a way to maintain contact with the language and the country on a daily basis. And that’s not bad at all 😉

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Alice Academy

Alice Academy

Bonjour !

I’m Alice, a native French teacher, travel enthusiast ✈ and language lover 💬

With Alice Academy, I want to share my passion for French culture and language 🇫🇷.