Britain has given us movie heroes like James Bond, actors like Laurence Olivier and Tilda Swinton, and fantastic film directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. Watching their films is always a pleasure – but as an English language learner it can also be a valuable way to study; films provide a unique and entertaining way to speed up English language learning.
Gregory’s Girl (1981)
Gregory is a normal, awkward teenage boy, trying to win the heart of Dorothy, the new girl on the school football team. Set in a Scottish high school, this quirky cult film really stands out from typical American high school movies, with their gorgeous cheerleaders and competitive jocks. Here the kids are average, with real struggles, real humour and beautifully realistic dialogue. It also gives you a great chance to hear the Scottish accent spoken clearly.
In the Loop (2009)
Directed by Armando Iannucci, this political drama takes a darkly satirical look at the events leading up to the Iraq war. The script pokes fun at political language and contrasts the language used by British politicians against that of the more bombastic Americans. Warning: it contains some very strong language – as we’re sure the real corridors of power do too! Britain really excels at political movies. If you’re interested in politics and want to learn some more political language check out Four Lions and The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer too.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Colin Firth stars in this period drama as King George who must battle to overcome his speech impediment in order to deliver a rousing speech that inspires his people to unite in battle. Because this film focuses specifically on speech you get a masterclass in pronunciation.
The Queen (2006)
The best way to learn ‘the Queen’s English’ is to listen to the Queen. Here played by Helen Mirren, this film is a historical drama documenting the British Royal family’s response to the death of Princess Diana. It not only gives a fascinating insight into how the royal establishment works, but the language spoken is incredibly clear and easy to comprehend. You’ll learn how the upper class accent differs from other accents in the UK.
How English films will help speed up your language learning
● Listening and comprehension skills – the visual element of film makes it easier for language learners to comprehend dialogue and follow the action. You may feel as if you’re sitting back, relaxing, and watching a film, but the whole time your brain is soaking up the new sounds of the English language. The more familiar you become with listening to English words and conversations the faster you’ll be able to speak English yourself.
● Authentic, varied language – British films present you with a wide range of accents and British dialects. A London accent is very different to a Scottish accent, a Welsh accent. Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow – all have their own sounds and pronunciations. ‘Posh’ characters in films talk very differently to poor or working class characters, just as they do in real life. English films help you get to hear real British English, with more natural dialogue than you may find in a textbook.
● Pronunciation – one area in which a lot of language students struggle is pronunciation. Playing back films allows you to quickly and easily compare your own pronunciation with that of native English speakers.
● An entertaining way to learn – without a doubt, learning language via film watching keeps you interested. It makes learning enjoyable and keeps you motivated – both are essential for English language learning success.
Movie watching tips
Use subtitles – most DVDs and online movies come with a range of subtitles. Subtitles allow you to follow the dialogue and help you comprehend words you might not understand yet. You can also choose to switch on English subtitles, rather than your own native language, for an extra lesson in reading and comprehension.
Replay – any words you struggle with can be replayed until you get the pronunciation just right. Try playing back the section in slow motion and watching the shape of the mouth of the character speaking, then copying this yourself to aid your pronunciation skills.
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