A Guide for Language Learning with Netflix

Netflix language learning can be a great tool for learners that know or can speak a language at an intermediate or advanced level.

The Netflix language learning extension available on Google Chrome called Language Learning with Netflix makes learning a language with Netflix a more productive experience for intermediate language learners.

Learning a language with Netflix may even be a great way to study for someone beginning a language if their target language is closely related to one that they already speak.

For instance, say a Portuguese native speaker wants to learn Spanish with Netflix. It will be much easier for them to keep up with the pace of the speakers in the movie or series since Spanish is already somewhat comprehensible to Portuguese speaks.

For an advanced speaker Netflix language learning can be a fun way to study or maintain a target language. It allows them the opportunity to explore the culture or cultures from which the language originates. This is true with any language, whether you’re learning English with Netflix or you want to learn Spanish with Netflix.

The Language Learning with Netflix catalogue at languagelearningwithnetflix.com/catalogue is a great place to look for Netflix language learning content available in your target language.

The sense of achievement you get from watching a series or film after spending months or years studying a language is a great feeling, going from a few lessons a day on Duolingo to watching your favorite series without subtitles is a language learner’s dream. Language learning with Netflix can be a great way to indulge in your progress and helps motivate you towards bigger goals.

As an English tutor I’ve had more than the majority of my students tell me they use Netflix for language learning.

The most notorious series that they watch on the platform is “Friends”. This makes sense, “Friends” has simple dialogue and is easy to follow. It’s a show I would recommend to those learning English with Netflix for the first time.

My students seem to use a variety of techniques, the most general of them being with English subtitles or subtitles in their native language.

Despite hearing many of my students tell me they use Netflix for language learning, it’s something that I mostly avoided until recently. The problem with it being that it often took the joy out of watching a series or movie. The reason I felt this way was likely because I simply tried to watch series at too low of a proficiency level.

The first show I watched to improve in a foreign language was the first season of the German series “Dark” 3 years ago. My vocabulary in German was not strong enough at the time to understand the full dialogue in the series so out of a desire to enjoy the show I watched it with English subtitles hoping that I would pick up new German vocabulary along the way.

Although I learned a few words here and there, it was hardly efficient. The following summer as I began to take my German studies more seriously, I tried watching the series “Babylon Berlin”, again with underwhelming success.

My last attempt, until earlier this year, was with a Brazilian series in Portuguese called “O Mecanismo”. After getting into only a few minutes of the first episode, throughout several attempts, I simply gave up on watching the series and Netflix language learning in general. I had only been studying Portuguese for a few months and it was simply too challenging.

The characters were speaking too fast and my vocabulary was not large enough for me to enjoy watching the series regardless of how many times I stopped to read subtitles. From this failed attempt, however, I learned about the Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension that I currently use every time I watch Netflix in a target language.  

Snapshot of the languagelearningwithnetflix.com catalog.

The extension has a wide range of options that creates a lot of flexibility in the way you can use it.

The key features that make this app so great are the built-in foreign language dictionaries and the ability to display the subtitles of both your target and native language at the same time.

A scene from the first season of the Netflix series “Dark”.

There are two methods that I like to use to get the most out of the Language Learning with Netflix extension.

The extension is set up such that you have a target language at the top in larger font as a primary subtitle and a second in your native language at the bottom as a secondary smaller subtitle, both in a black box on the bottom of the screen.

This is the first method that I like to use when watching series or films in foreign languages. As I’m watching, I focus on the primary subtitle of my target language. I’ll click on the words that I’m not familiar with to see a definition, then I’ll write them down in a notebook.

If the dictionary doesn’t yield a worthy definition, then I’ll simply look at the secondary subtitle in English to get a sense of the meaning of the word through either direct translation or interpretation via context. In the case that the meaning of a word is not clear then I’ll move on with watching the content without writing it down rather than guessing.

The notebook I use to write down words from Netflix series.

Writing words down serves two purposes. The first being that the words are more likely to stick to my memory if I’m engaging with them on a piece of paper and the second is that it keeps me focused and prevents me from getting discouraged when I go through a section of content that seems to have an endless series of words unknown to me.

The second method I like to use with the extension requires simply removing the secondary subtitles in English when watching a series or movie.

This is what I’ve been doing more recently. I like this because I don’t catch myself glancing down at the English subtitles while I should be focusing on those in my target language. There are times, however, when I need to turn on the secondary subtitles because the dictionary can’t translate a particular word, but after only looking at a single translation I turn it off. I still write down vocabulary, as it still serves the same purpose.

languagelearningwithnetflix.com current settings menu.

There is one more advantage to this second method. You learn how things are expressed and which words are chosen to express something in your target language rather than constantly looking at your own language as a contextual reference. It gives you a better sense of how the words fit into a cultural context within the language.

A scene from the second season of the Brazilian Netflix series “O Mecanismo”.

The Language Learning with Netflix Chrome extension is a great way to make the most out of Netflix as a language learning tool.

In general, advanced learners can use Netflix language learning as a relaxing way to maintain a language or pick up a few new words or phrases.

For those considered to be at an intermediate proficiency in a language, it can be a great way for you to grow your vocabulary through colloquial expressions at a time when you might feel like you’ve plateaued in your linguistic progress, this has certainly been the case for me.  

As for beginners who have a distant target language from those that they speak, I hope this article serves as motivation for you to learn a new language or continue with the one you’re studying now.

Being able to confidently watch content in your target language can feel incredibly rewarding and the nature of the task opens you up to a whole new part of a culture which can be a strong long-term motivating driver for learning.

You can install and find out more information about the Language Learning with Netflix extension at languagelearningwithnetflix.com.

7 thoughts on “A Guide for Language Learning with Netflix

    1. Hey, Hafiz! Thanks for commenting. I’ve never considered signing up for the Pro subscription because the current features that come with it are not something that I would be interested in using. However, if you’re someone that likes to keep a record of vocabulary to study with, the subscription may be worth paying for as you can save vocabulary on Pro. If you want a more direct translation of the dialogue the machine translation might also be of interest to you as human translations can be good at interpreting colloquial phrases but sometimes stray from the intended meaning of a sentence. Machine translation, as I remember, was free in the past but is now included in the Pro subscription. After reading through LLN’s website it seems they plan on adding paid features to the software in the future, keep an eye on this. They currently have a one week free trial that doesn’t require payment information, this could give you some insight as to whether or not you think it’s right for you.

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