Learn a language through Netflix … really?

Learn a language through Netflix … really?

Our recent obsession with binge-TV viewing reflects the current situation of home confinement we find ourselves in. Which means people are spending more time than ever before on Netflix and similar streaming services.

At the end of 2019, Netflix had amassed 167.1 million subscribers, not to mention all those using their friends’ accounts. Which was even before home confinement kicked in. And Netflix estimates that most users view content for an average of 2 hours per day.

So, imagine if all this time was spent on learning a language!

Amazingly, it is claimed the two can now be combined. Did you know that many people are now turning to Netflix to combine active viewing with language learning?

We all know that watching and listening to people talk in a language you are learning helps to build your awareness of pronunciation, understand meanings, interact with the gestures and also experience contexts.

After all, that’s the way we learned as toddlers, by being immersed in the language used around us.

So, appreciating and absorbing another language through non-English TV and film is a great way to build your knowledge of that language (the target language).

Another option through TV is to watch a program in your mother tongue but to add subtitles in the language you wish to experience. This helps you see the situations involved and appreciate how the words being used relate to the target language words you see on screen.

Tools are now available to assist in learning a language through Netflix. The Chrome extension ‘LLN’ [Language Learning with Netflix] works with Netflix content “making studying languages with films/series more effective and enjoyable”, according to the 2 American creators. The plug-in, which is not an app, allows you to watch Netflix in the web browser Chrome, while displaying subtitles and translations of each line. You are able to pause the action and, if you choose, to click on the subtitle and replay or save word detail, and it even has a pop-up dictionary which breaks down each word.

As of May 2020, over 1,000,000 users had downloaded the necessary software, according to the Chrome Web Store, to add the subtitles in up to 20 languages. Maximum 2 different languages can be displayed in subtitles per Netflix broadcast.

But learn a language through Netflix … really?

Sure, you can stop the action, click on items in the subtitles, hear the word or look at the dictionary pop-up that appears on your screen. And true, you’re able to break things down in a certain way, mimic pronunciation and pick up context-based phrases.

But it is all very stop-start, purely screen-based, and needs a certain type of brain to put all the pieces together. You have no way of knowing the whys and the wherefores, nor principles involved as to how to build the language. To explain that simply, you are only able to dissect or inspect the phrases that occur in the content being viewed.

“A more accurate description would be to say this is language support through Netflix”, Graeme McLeish, Director of SEL Business Languages, said.

To become properly skilled in a language, you need to do more than just watch Netflix broadcasts with subtitles, which by definition is passive only. That is because you need to apply and build on the knowledge gained as well as interact with other humans in multiple scenarios. Thereby allowing you to practice regularly and improve, especially in speaking and listening together and, importantly, comprehending the replies.

Certainly, people are not able to learn a language through Netflix alone, but it is well suited to supporting or complimenting an existing knowledge of the target language. So, we wouldn’t recommend you drop the face-to-face lessons just yet.

At SELBL we transfer languages into other languages, for your commercial communications, via learning, translating or interpreting. Our team work in over 60 languages. Get in touch to discuss your commercial language needs.