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How useful is watching films for improving your English?

May 3, 2018 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Good question:

How useful is watching films for improving your English?

Now, right off the bat…

I don’t think just passively watching TV and films is a very good way to improve your English abilities. It helps with listening comprehension a little… but honestly?

After the intermediate stage, it’s not going to do much.

BUT — that’s not the point.

The point is people who speak well have interesting stuff to talk about.


Let me use my work—Doing English—as an example:

One of the most important things I do is watch films and read books. For a long time, I didn’t watch films during “working” time, because years of corporate conditioning have made me feel guilty about taking “time off”. But really that thinking is stupid. Because films are a great source of inspiration.

When I watch films I learn about video work and get ideas for emails, lessons, videos and podcasts. I also learn about storytelling, get ideas for courses and learn about culture in places I’ve never been.

But it also gives me stuff to talk about.


Ideas and metaphors that people can relate to.

Take this month’s EES Gazette, for instance. I use a story from the film, “The Martian” to illustrate an emotionally very difficult idea. In my book, Master English FAST, I use a science from Captin America: Civil War to explain the best way to learn and improve grammar. In Fearless Fluency I use a scene from “The Intern” to explain the concept of internal-confidence. I wrote a whole series of emails using the film, “Karate Kid” as a metaphor for English learning… and I’ve written about scenes from Lost in Translation, Sliding Doors, Jurassic World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

You get the idea.

Clearly, then, watching films is very productive time use for me.

And watching films and reading books can be very productive for you, too.

Not as a language-learning material…

… but as a source of interesting stuff to talk about.

And honestly?

That’s half the battle.

A lot of people are worried that they sound boring when they speak English…

And yes, the words and phrases you use are important to sound interesting, but that won’t help if YOU are boring.


P.S. Films are great for content, but Extraordinary English Speakers is much better for learning the language you need – check it here.

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