Series and learning a new language

Watching series represents one of the favorite ways to relax and fill leisure time for many people. So why not combine entertainment with productivity and engage in learning a new language while watching TV? Nowadays, a large number of series offer the opportunity to learn numerous languages – ranging from fictional ones to rare and widely spoken global languages. Although it is not possible to learn a foreign language solely by watching TV series, it does help in acquiring vocabulary and pronunciation, recognizing grammatical patterns, and understanding phraseology. In the case of having some prior knowledge of the language or concurrently attending a language course, watching a series in that language can significantly aid in improving and speeding up the learning process.

What are the advantages of learning languages through series?

There are numerous beneficial advantages to learning languages through series. For instance, by listening to native speakers, one can grasp the pronunciation of a foreign language and, in some cases, even dialects. Furthermore, it facilitates associating words with context. The visual elements (character movements, lighting, frames) aid in deciphering the meaning of unfamiliar words by placing them in a proper context.

How to choose a series?

When selecting a suitable genre, it is essential to consider several criteria. Ideally, it should be in a somewhat simpler language, especially if there is no prior knowledge. Hence, it would be best to avoid those abundant in scientific terminology or specific slang. It is also helpful to focus on familiar words and phrases, attempt to pronounce them aloud or write them down, and revisit parts that weren't heard or understood well. Watching with others or even trying to communicate with fellow fans online can be beneficial. Subtitles are also crucial in language acquisition. They enable an instant connection between sound and text. Initially, it is advisable to use subtitles in your native language and later switch to those in the new language. Subtitles enhance reading speed and comprehension and enrich vocabulary.

Best foreign language series

1. Dark – German language

This German science fiction series on Netflix follows the families in the town of Winden as they attempt to unravel the mysterious disappearance of a boy named Mads. Despite dealing with science fiction themes, it also portrays the main characters' daily lives, providing opportunities to notice common phrases and words. Starring Louis Hoffmann, Lisa Vicari, and Andreas Pietschmann, the storyline unfolds over three seasons.

2. El Inocente (The Innocent) – Spanish language

El Inocente is a Spanish-language series that revolves around the aftermath of a mysterious murder, adapted from Harlan Coben's novel of the same name. Protagonist Mateo endeavors to uncover the secrets hidden in his wife Olivia's past, facing various obstacles along the way and struggling to figure out whom he can truly trust. This Spanish drama consists of eight episodes, starring Mario Casas and Alexandra Jiménez. While mostly filmed in the Catalan capital, the script is Spanish.

3. Borgen – Danish language

The Danish political drama, Borgen, depicts an unexpected turn of events that leads Birgitte Nyborg, a virtually unknown politician, to become Denmark's first female Prime Minister. Over four seasons, the series explores the role of power and success in a politician's life and how they impact change and shape one's personality. The character of this fictional prime minister is portrayed by actress Sidse Babett Knudsen. This series will be particularly engaging for those with existing foundations in a Scandinavian language.

4. Lupin – French language

The series is inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise. It is renowned for its clever storytelling, thrilling characters, and the way it intertwines genres. Its international success is attributed to its gripping plot and the charismatic lead actor.

5. 1899 – English, German, Danish, Spanish, etc.

The series is set aboard a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the year 1899. Onboard, there is a diverse group of people from various cultures – an Englishwoman Maura with German Captain Eyck, a newlywed French couple, a Spanish priest and his brother, a mother and daughter from China, along with numerous Poles and Danes who serve as the working class on the ship. Characters in the series speak to each other in their respective languages, occasionally resorting to English. The creators of the series, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, aimed to showcase language diversity in Hollywood, something they felt was missing when they, as European children, watched television shows where only English was spoken.

Series Dark and 1899.
Left - Dark, right - 1899

Should we watch a foreign series?

Watching multilingual series not only provides entertainment through intriguing stories but also offers a unique opportunity to learn foreign languages. Series enables improvement in pronunciation by listening to native speakers, while visual elements contribute to associating words with context.

Choosing a suitable series is crucial for successful learning, especially for those without prior language knowledge. Advantages include authentic language material, connecting with series enthusiasts through online communities, and improving reading skills with subtitles.

Instead of the classic binge-watching in your native language, start your linguistic journey with series – and take a step towards expanding your cultural and linguistic horizons. Your language journey can be as thrilling as the plot of your favorite series.

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