This is quite a difficult one – Out of all the films to watch and different worlds to get sucked into, it’s a wonder anyone is even able to settle on one film at a time.
The beauty of watching films in a language you are learning, is that it is never a waste of time. The hour or two you spend engrossed in the story is time spent listening and understanding – two parts which are essential in language learning. The thing to remember about films is that they are not staged to be understood by the EFL learner but imitate real life language use. The speed, pronunciation, language abuse, colloquialisms, and so on and so forth, are what make the learning process more fruitful as they give an authenticity to the language.
Not only would you be getting direct insight into the culture behind English-speaking countries, but you will have an enjoyable learning experience, without the sitting in a classroom inhaling grammar structures and boardmarker fumes. Of course, to have an enjoyable experience, you have to watch films you actually like. If you are not into science-fiction or any of that unrealistic mumbo jumbo, it is rather silly to try and sit through two hour sagas – in a foreign language – which you have a hard time understanding. What is the point in sitting through seven Star Wars films, when you don’t even like the genre? Yes, stick to what you know and like. You don’t need to make life harder on yourself.
If you don’t feel you can handle an entire hour and a half (let alone more), go ahead and stop the film after half an hour. There is no race against time or a competition on who has the highest pain tolerance level. Learning a language and watching a film should both be enjoyable experiences – of course this is always subject to the film you choose.
Don’t be afraid to watch a film you’ve already seen. It really doesn’t matter if you know the plot and know what’s going to happen. The point behind watching English films is to understand and to practice your listening. It even helps to repeat after what the actors say, keeping your pronunciation in check. You can use subtitles – whether in the foreign language or in your own language, it does not mean that learning is not taking place, or that you’re taking shortcuts. If you still have a lower level of English, subtitles in your mother tongue will not make you a cheater. You’re still listening but also understanding the plot.
Obviously, if you want to understand the story any foreign film is trying to tell you, don’t go for the deep, complicated, what is the meaning of life films. Stick to simple.
And here they are:
The Lion King (1994): Not only is it Disney, it’s nineties Disney. Classic children films are always a good starting point. The language is kept simple enough for younger viewers to understand. The beauty about The Lion King is that the language use is kept simple, yet not childish.
The Hangover (2009): Zach Galifiankis keeps you in stitches. This film is exceptionally funny and keeps audiences hooked to their screens throughout. What helps foreigners understand the film is the fact that audiences can easily understand what is happening from the character antics.
Home Alone (1990): Another nineties classic for all ages. Joe Pesci and Macaulay Culkin are magic to watch on screen. With language kept simple and clean, you are sure to find this film easy and fun to watch.
Ghostbusters (1984): Everyone knows Ghostbusters. If you don’t, what rock have you been living under for the past thirty-three years? Bill Murray carries the film and being an English language learner, you will find this film pretty straightforward to understand.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016): Tear-jerker alert! Based on a true story about Pfc. Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who, during the Second World War, fought through impenetrable odds to save his fellow soldiers. This film breaks your heart and makes you wonder about how such bravery has been lost over time.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): This film is timeless – Just look at the countless recreations of Audrey Hepburn’s opening Givenchy outfit for the better part of fifty years. Like in most old films, the English language is used beautifully. It is fluent and coherent, with very eloquent pronunciation.
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): Jack Nicholson is the eyebrow master. This film revolves around the insanity in a mental institution and keeps audiences bent over double with laughter. If you want to have a good time in English, watch this.
The Fault in our Stars (2014): Yet, another tear-jerker. This film is not for the faint of heart. Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) meets and falls in love with Gus Waters (Ansel Elgort). This sentence seems straightforward enough. However, audiences are brought to tears with the effects cancer has on both teenagers. The film uses a North American accent and makes it quite easy for foreign learners to follow.
(500) Days of Summer (2009): Nothing like a break-up that came out of nowhere to help you discover who you truly are. This is what happens to Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt), and most of us, really. Quite a raw reality vs. expectation film, let’s face it. The plot is simple and so is the English the writers use.
The Break-up (2006): This is a typical rom-com that features Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s characters going through a hard break-up. Using typical American jargon, foreign language learners who watch this film are kept quite entertained to learn about American habits and mentalities.
Bonus: The Malta Story (1953): And finally this historical romantic drama based during Maltese life during WWII gives audiences spotlight on the cultural traditions and past life of our tiny island. Not only will you catch a glimpse of Malta’s picturesque landscape but you will gain insight into the island’s affiliation with the English culture and language.